Ten Most Memorable 2015 K-Drama Scenes (Part 1 of 2)

I’m enjoying the end-of-year wrap-ups at Dramabeans, but the new format this year got me thinking about the 2015 K-dramas that won’t get a mention. While my favorites Kill Me, Heal Me, I Remember You and Healer get plenty of love, there were a few mediocre shows that also came up with memorable scenes. I don’t want to forget the things that did work in these dramas, even if they won’t make my all-time favorites list.

The building block of the Korean drama is the individual scene. Whereas American series still tend more towards tightly constructed individual episodes (despite recent changes), K-dramas have loosely structured episodes. That makes it important for individual scenes and sequences to stand out. Fans don’t talk about episodes. We talk about scenes: Healer’s elevator rescue scene. Kill Me, Heal Me‘s “10 p.m., the time I fell for you.”

A good scene follows its own narrative arc. We know what’s at stake, and the conflict gives us insight into the characters. We can watch a good scene again and again, enjoying every dramatic pause and subtle expression. And a scene that yields striking screenshots can draw us into the most simple-minded shows (exhibit A: The Lover‘s amorous-looking Takuya and Joon-Jae, pictured above).

Here are ten scenes that grabbed my attention this year. Scenes that made me glad I watch K-dramas—even the shows that weren’t otherwise stand-outs. I admit I have yet to watch a couple of the year’s best, including Twenty Again, so please don’t be mad if I omit a favorite of yours!

I’d like to include clips, but my site can’t handle too many video clips, so instead I provide time details and links to Viki. Enjoy! And let me know about your favorite scenes of the year in the comments.

hwajung episode 10 han joo won lee yeon hee large 4web 2015 k-dramas

Ten: You’re a Woman?!,” Hwajung (Splendid Politics), Ep. 11, first scene.

We’ve seen women disguised as men in plenty of K-dramas. Here, as often happens, the heroine is unmasked by the hero’s best friend, who can immediately see what the hero can’t—that man is a woman!

So far, so Sungkyunkwon Scandal.

But the scene plays out almost realistically. This isn’t a comedy, after all. No weird plot devices occur at the last minute to re-confuse the hero and hide the heroine’s identity again. Hwajung gives us the unmasking scene I’ve always wanted to see—one in which the heroine just sighs and says, “Dammit.”

Perhaps because our heroine is a dispossessed princess who has already survived assassination attempts, capture by pirates, slavery in a Japanese sulfer mine and at least one volcanic eruption, her expression suggests all this gender nonsense is a distraction from the important things (revenge, etc.). If the hero is going to make a big deal of it, she’ll find someone else to work with.

The hero gives us a hilarious double-take, but it’s second lead Han Joo-Won who really shines here, as the hero’s best friend. (Confession: I stopped watching Hwajung partly because the heroine didn’t pick him. What was she thinking?)

Han Joo-Won is a relatively new actor, whose only weekday drama appearance prior to Hwajung was as second lead in Joseon Gunman. But this scene highlights his chemistry with Hwajung’s lead actress Lee Yeon-Hee. With his unusual gravelly voice and man-of-the-world swagger, he’s front and center as his character goes from suspicion to sly knowingness to bafflement.

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Nine: Teen Sex, Heard it Through the Grapevine, Ep. 1, 30:00-33:00

For me the most memorable scene in this series comes in the first episode, when its teenaged hero and heroine get together and (accidentally) make a baby.

Heard it Through the Grapevine wasn’t as artsy and emotionally minimalist as this director-writer team’s previous outing, Secret Love Affair, but this scene showcases their distinct style. The camera lurks at a distance at first, showing the couple voyeuristically. The bare hallway of their study camp dormitory is empty and echoing. The heroine’s small dorm room looks cozy and inviting.

The dialogue and acting are low-key and undramatic, inviting us to notice different things about the characters every time we rewatch. Sometimes I find it touching, the way the lonely, virginal hero (Lee Joon) begs for a little more time with his girlfriend (Go Ah-Sung). Sometimes I find it disturbing, the way the normally confident heroine goes along with her boyfriend. Is this boy a little pushy? Yes. Is he also pathetic? Yes.

The mix of awkwardness and affection in this scene engages us in the hero and heroine’s lives without asking us to approve of their decision. Korean society, like most societies, generally disapproves of teen sex and sex before marriage. But here, we get a straightforward portrayal—a small, intimate window into these two lives.

high society episode 10 park hyung sik one perfect man tear

Eight: Bad Break-up Weather, High Society, Ep. 10, 49:00-55:00

Another scene that takes a familiar trope and gives it a new spin. Park Hyung-Shik and Lim Ji-Yeon played second leads in this disappointing summer romance. As the lead couple played by Sung Joon and UEE grew more and more boring, these seconds leads earned more and more screen time.

Here in episode 10, the couple almost break up. Only they don’t. And by the end of the scene, they’re on their way to a hotel together. The real tension in their relationship isn’t that they want to break up, it’s that they want to sleep together.

This is a standout partly because of two masterful man tears from Park Hyung-Shik. The young actor plays a conventionally arrogant chaebol heir, but gives the part a certain amount of depth. Here, as his girlfriend tells him they should break up, he coldly agrees. But he’s struggling to look cool, and eventually a couple tears sneak down his face.

The deliberately banal dialogue, the mix of emotions on Park Hyung-Shik’s face, the light indie music as the rain starts, and finally, the sexy kiss in the car at the end—it makes for a great scene in an otherwise forgettable show. And a reason to be glad Park Hyung-Shik is making the move from supporting characters to leading roles.

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Seven: Our (Fictional) First Kiss, Ex-Girlfriend Club, Ep. 5, 42:15-49:10

This under-rated drawing room farce was more comedy than romance, but it had a heart underneath the zaniness. We see the heart clearly in this scene.

The hero Myeong-Soo (Byun Yo-Han) and heroine Soo-Jin (Song Ji-Hyo) were once best friends, but never dated. Now, the heroine is producing the movie version of the hero’s memoir about his ex-girlfriends. Thanks to various hijinks, the hero and heroine have lied and told the movie’s director that they’re dating. In this scene, the director (a delightfully snarky Do Sang-Woo) interrogates them about how they started dating.

But the director’s suspicions backfire. He wants to make them squirm (and they do), but then Myeong-Soo flips the tables by revealing a very personal story. As he speaks, we see in flashback just how close he once came to telling Soo-Jin he cared about her. And now, hearing Myeong-Soo tell his story for the first time, Soo-Jin realizes her crush on him wasn’t as one-sided as she thought.

There are several levels of irony in this scene, but it’s unpretentious and sweet. Here we see average, insecure people who would rather not make grand love confessions. Ex-Girlfriend Club was ultimately a K-drama about two people who didn’t want to be in a K-drama. That paradox is most obvious when Myeong-Soo declares his love semi-honestly by lying about a first kiss that never happened.
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Six: Rooftop (Foot)Prints, Healer, Ep. 3, 30:00-33:00

Even though Healer ultimately annoyed me by cutting back on plot to make room for fan service, the show delivered a lot of K-drama joy on a scene by scene basis. For many fans, the favorite scenes are doubtless romantic. But the scene that really sums up what I loved about Healer isn’t romantic at all. It’s this scene halfway through episode three, in which our hero (Ji Chang-Wook) channels his inner Douglas Fairbanks and spends three minutes just running across rooftops.

Because really, the most distinctive thing about Healer was the parkours-style running stunts and the rooftop settings. The hero spends a lot of time on rooftops—not just for his day job on the fringes of the law, but because he likes the distance from people. Healer’s emotionally rich romance gets its electric charge from these high-up settings and the hero’s alienation from street-level society.

In this scene, the hero is following someone who is traveling on the ground by car. I’m not sure if running across rooftops is really the most practical way to cover territory. Ostensibly, I think he’s trying to avoid Seoul’s ubiquitous CCTV cameras. But the best excuse for him to travel by rooftop is that it looks like so much darn fun. It sure is fun to watch.

He leaps, he swoops, he does forward rolls and flips. He balances on cornices and charges full tilt down precarious tile ridgelines. He literally climbs walls. And he makes it look easy (with the assistance, presumably, of a few energetic stuntmen). These rooftops are everyday places—laundry hangs on clotheslines, weeds sprout from cracks, we see families eating dinner. But with that cheerful Healer theme music playing, our hero turns these out-of-the-way spaces into his playground.

All of the fun energy of the series is in this exuberant dash. Does this scene tell a story? Well, maybe not (arguably, the series eventually gave up telling a story as well). But damn, it’s joyful. And somehow he keeps up with that car.

I’ll post my final five tomorrow, in time for the New Year. Meanwhile, what were your favorite scenes this year? ♥

4 thoughts on “Ten Most Memorable 2015 K-Drama Scenes (Part 1 of 2)

  1. Totally agree with #8. I just finished watching that show today-and that scene was probably my favorite. I love how Park Hyung-Shik’s character goes against convention and admits he loves the girl and wants to be with her. I enjoyed his performance and definitely look forward to seeing him in future projects.

    • He was also great in Nine Time Travels, a very different kind of show, where he plays Lee Jin Wook’s younger version. Fingers crossed for more PHS in 2016!

  2. This is my second year watching Kdramas, but the first year I actually feel like I’ve bitten off a good chunk of what the year had to offer, instead of just playing catch up with the contemporary classics. So it was fun voting for my favorites in the annual Dramabeans poll and reading the reviews. My top five dramas this year were (because I can’t resist sharing):
    1. Healer
    2. I Remember You
    3. Oh My Ghost
    4. Sassy Go Go / Cheer Up
    5. Twenty Again

    Apart from Healer, I haven’t watched the other dramas you listed Odessa, though I do agree with you about the rooftop running scene in Healer, I wish there’d been more of that in fact. My favorite scenes this year are as follows, though I can’t remember the actual episodes unfortunately:

    Scenes from Healer: (My favorite scenes were of the romantic variety.)
    1. The Elevator Rescue and Rooftop Kiss: I know I’m going for the obvious here, but why lie, I loved that scene; it’s such a swashbuckling rescue and the kiss is so swoony and romantic despite being so restrained.
    2. The Morning after They Make Love: I love how he can’t get enough of her—staring at her like she’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen, getting into her space while she’s cooking, and giving her a gazillion back hugs. This may be called fan service, but I’m definitely not complaining.

    Scenes from I Remember You:
    1. The Brothers Take a Selfie: This was definitely the bromance of the year and this scene encapsulates it. My favorite part is how they have to try a couple of times before they get the smiles just right.
    2. Dinner of Schizos: The three resident schizophrenics having a civilized dinner, with subtext served as the main course, was brilliant. I also loved how they teamed up to save Jang Nara’s character, using their own killer instincts to help them find her.
    3. Plus Alpha: Because it says it all in three syllables or less.
    4. The Hand Twitch: When Jang Nara’s character confront’s Seo In Guk’s and tells him she doesn’t think he’s a monster as she holds his hand, then he withdraws it and the camera zeros in on the hand twitching, this signals the moment when she breaches his emotional barriers and he starts to thaw. It was such a Darcy moment (referencing the Mathew Macfadyen version of P&P, when he holds her hand for the first time, to help her into a carriage, and his hand twitches, informing the viewers that our hero has been moved) and, since I’m a diehard fan of P&P, I loved the call-back (not sure if it was intentional, not sure I care). Cheesy yes. but I love cheese.

    Scenes from Oh My Ghost: (This was my most laugh-out-loud drama this year.)
    1. Ghost and Pal Just Skipping Along: When the girls (possessor and possessed) finally agree to work together and they bond, holding hands as they skip across the bridge, until they merge. This was such a beautiful moment and I wish the show had focused more on developing the relationship between the two girls.
    2. Every hilarious seduction attempt: I normally hate aegyo, but Park Bo Young is so adorable that she muted my knee-jerk cringe and made me laugh instead. My favorite has to be when her and Chef are having dinner together and she starts to play footsie with him, only to see another couple kissing, which prompts her to get up and cozy up to him, but he of course immediately tells her to go back and she springs away with a hilarious deadpan affirmative.
    3. Every fabulous kiss: This drama had some amazing kissing, seriously, the melt your screen, oh-my-God-their-lips-are-actually-moving kind of kissing that dramaland tends to not have in abundance. Thank God for cable. My favorite was the towel kiss, when Chef is drying her hair and then brings her in for a swoon-worthy kiss. I love how the ghost steps out (was it this kiss?) to give her friend that moment and you see the toll this sacrifice makes on the ghost’s face in the background.

    Scenes from Cheer Up (otherwise known as Sassy Go Go, which is a horrible title):
    1. The Red and Green Gummy Bears: This is probably my favorite scene of 2015. It’s so beautiful and understated yet rife with emotional resonance. Ji-Soo’s character sums up his entire relationship with the girl he loves and the reason why he’s grateful to her using two gummy bears, and I defy you to not have your heart stolen in that moment.
    2. The Second Best Bromance of the Year: Ji-Soo’s character and Lee Won Gun’s had such a wonderful friendship; they actually talked, and hung out, and goofed off with each other, and shared their problems, and saved each other, and even snuggled on a stage together. That is so rare in dramaland. Favorite scene was the snuggling … obviously.

    Twenty Again (SPOILERS):
    1. The Final Picnic Scene: Such a wonderful way to end the story, because it’s a call back to an earlier moment in the drama when Ha No Ra had witnessed a similar scene and been reminded of everything that was lacking in her relationship with her husband. As a viewer, you’re so glad for her that she finds that level of caring and consideration in the end.
    2. The Romeo and Juliet Scene: When Lee Sang Yoon’s character stares up at Ha No Ra as she stands on a skywalk above him, haloed by the sun, and you see his heart in his eyes. No Shakespearian speech necessary here.

    Scenes from Kill Me, Heal Me: (Though I don’t share your level of love for this drama Odessa, I do agree that it was one of finer dramas this year and Ji Sung’s performance(s) was a masterpiece in motion. The funny moments are what made it a great for me, more so than the melodramatic or romantic ones.)
    1. Any scene with Yoona, especially Yoona and her Oppa: Just the memory of Yoona running or saying oppa is enough to make me laugh. Such a memorable character, she stole the show for me.
    2. Any scene with Se Gi: Another fantastic character. I especially love the rap smackdown with Ri Jin, and when he spitefully but not quite gracefully wheels/shuffles his way into the boardroom on his chair.

    Other Notables:
    1. She Was Pretty: A ho hum drama overall for me, but Choi Siwon’s character was endlessly entertaining, especially when he was yelling Jackson at Hwang Jung Eum’s character and pulling pranks. Favorite scene would have to be stealing the panties from the romantic lead—literally and (in my opinion) figuratively.
    2. Splash Splash Love: Don’t know if this counts, since it’s a two episode drama special, but this was such an adorable bite-sized drama. Favorite scene: the female lead unintentionally swallows an aphrodisiac and mauls the Joseon King while screaming out contemporary drama references that he clearly does not get … hilarious!

    Sorry, know this was too long. Happy New Year Odessa and fans!

    • Ooo, you’ve mentioned so many scenes that were totally “plus alpha”, including a few I loved that didn’t make my list. Though Cheer Up/Sassy Go Go didn’t make my best of the year list, I loved the gummi bears scene. And from KMHM, Shin Seki’s epic chair roll almost made it onto my list for the sheer joy that scene gives me (along with the rap battle, and all the other silly stuff in that episode). And now you’ve made me want to go rewatch all of I Remember You so I can see the Hand Twitch! So much for my weekend. 🙂

      I should clarify that I liked a lot of the cute stuff in Healer, including episode 15. It was starting to be fan service, but I enjoyed it because there was still Danger Looming. I only got irritated in the last four episodes, when the Mysterious Deadly Danger of the Past seemed to evaporate. Then I thought, why have I worried about these two so much, when it’s suddenly all going to be okay? But re-watching some Healer for this post, I was reminded again how much I love the first 75% of the series. As long as there’s danger, every last kiss and cheesy back hug is well-earned. 🙂

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