Review – The Snow Queen
Let’s start with the basics.
Our main protagonist male is a math genius. Immediate nerd points. Super smart characters are some of my favorites. Super smart in math, extra bonus points. Oh Math, you wicked beast of probabilities and undecipherable abbreviations. In fourth grade I was caught cheating on my multiplication tables. Did this shame me into a begrudging acceptance of math? Nope. Cheated on the next test too. Instinctively I must have known the Great and Powerful Internet was on its way and all mathematical concerns could immediately be solved via search engine. What’s 7% of $34,021? Who cares! The web is littered with nifty programs that solve all my number problems. Pi? Pie is delicious.
MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW (or major if you were drunk during the first episode and missed the billboard sized spoilers embedded in the first scene)
Math Genius is best friends with another math genius. Bestie offs himself in traditional k-drama style, via moving vehicle. Math Genius is overcome with guilt and abandons school, his mother and his name… to hang out in a boxing gym all day. From here we begin the story of The Snow Queen. Geesh. Koreans really know how to feel sorry for themselves. Sometimes when I am watching these shows and come across a character hung up in the guilt net, my heart aches for them. Other times I scratch my head and wonder why their mother hasn’t given them a strong slap to the face and told them to snap out of it. It’s not your fault, dude.
Our leading lady is played by a nasty little piece of work suffering from a little known disease (hey, I’d never heard of it) that has had her in and out of hospitals her whole life. Pampered and spoiled, her lack of social skills has cornered her into a lonely life of shopping and yelling at strangers. At the very least, at least she’s developed a solid sense of style. The girl can rock a pair of knee high boots. And miniskirts in the middle of winter. Why not, she has killer legs. Oh, and did I mention the suicidal math whiz from the first episode was her older brother? Drama!
Second male lead is a young doctor who is very, very tall and has a very, very nice voice. Seriously, if he ever falls off a motorcycle and ruins his pretty face and long legs, he can always find gainful employment in the audio book industry. Anyways, he ends up pseudo-dating our cantankerous female lead – finding her shitty personality charming. As side male leads go, he was pretty awesome in every way. The actor playing the doc also caught my attention in What’s Up? and Tamra the Island – both good in their own ways and also forgivably problematic in plot.
Second female lead is the daughter of the boxing coach. She’s rambunctious, genuine, naïve and feisty. Major tomboy. Her mouth turns sideways when she talks and for whatever reason I found this mesmerizing and relished all of her scenes. Tomboy has been harboring a crush on Math Genius (now in disguise as Boxer Guy) for several years – and is cutely protective and possessive of him. I harbored a crush on her the entire show.
Male Lead 1 – Math Genius.
Female Lead 1 – Ice Queen
Male Lead 2 – Tall Doctor.
Female Lead 2 – The Tomboy
Other characters of note: The dad of the Ice Queen (who seemed pretty decent until throwing down all his cards at the unreasonable blame game table), the boxers at the boxing school (the male lead’s best friend and a trio of goofballs were too hysterical to properly praise in text – you just have to see it – needed comic relief to this moody star-crossed romance), and the house keeper’s daughter played by the ever delightful Juhn Ji-Ahn (remember her from Shut Up Let’s Go? Then rewatch it, fool). Special snaps in a circle to the old math professor and his witty insights of life and equations. Didn’t you want to take him drinking and read manga with him?
So, there’s our cast. Obviously the self-loathing mathematician turned boxer will end up with the diseased bitch. No spoiler warning needed to know they fall in love and magically repair their character flaws and overcome their obstacles. It’s actually a slow, believable courtship that worked for me. Math Genius wallows on the boxing ring mumbling about how he’s a terrible guy cause his best friend committed suicide, blah blah blah. Ice Queen paces about in high heels while she figures out that perhaps her personality sucks and she should attempt to improve it. Some long walks, bus rides, hand holding and hanging out on a basketball court will solidify their love. Let us not forget the obligatory weeping at the grave site of dead math kid. And you have to admit, that was one rockin’ grave site. I’d be tempted to hang out and drink soju on his grave too… otherwise it’s a wasted view, people. Every Korean is already competing over coastline property and now some rich jackass goes and gives it to the dead? Pssh. That’s an instant public park if you ask me.
Naturally, our lady snow bunny is going to meet a tragic end. Again, no spoilers needed. The show spoiled it for us with that crazy flash-forward scene of Math Genius being carted around on a dog sled in the first episode. Destination? Giant snow covered mountains of Lapland, the icy vacation destination that results in your toes turning black and your eyelids freezing open. No shocker that this is some sentimental trip to top of the world. And as the Ice Queen is nowhere in sight and he’s narrating about a fairy tale in a sad wistful voice, you can make an educated guess that his girlfriend has kicked the proverbial bucket. What dumbass editor decided the ending needed to go first? I am hard pressed to think of even one occasion where this approach has worked to the benefit of a drama.
Overall the show meandered around a wintery Seoul until reaching its melodramatic conclusion. For me, it was an enjoyable experience in sad-town. Was it a smoldering romance? Nope. Was it a sob your eyes out melodrama? Not to me. It was sweet and took its time and made me feel sentimental. When Ice Queen pulls down the box of past memorabilia from the top of her closet, I thought of my own box of nostalgia. As you could frequently stare off into space and not lose the plot, I spent a great deal of time reflecting on my own first loves and other such romantic notions while enjoying this show. It felt like half the scenes took place in the library, our characters immersed in books or pouring over their homework. As someone who never bothered to leave the school library, (I just merged from paying to go to getting paid to stay), I loved all the bookshelves and study table moments. Ice Queen would quietly observe Math Genius for hours without disturbing him and I found that endearing and unexpectedly introspective of her. I once dated someone who used to watch me read as if it were the most fascinating thing in the world. Creeped me out at the time, but after watching this show I feel a twinge of guilt that perhaps I suffered from a definition of romance not yet remolded by Korean dramas.
Math Genius character was a loveable lost dog I wanted to foster until he could find a family with a big back yard to adopt him. Just a big sweet black lab. Didn’t you want to pet his shaggy head and scratch behind his ears when he stared into the camera with those sad brown eyes? I also wanted to paint the toenails of the boxer coach’s daughter. I wanted to feign an illness so that the doctor would treat me. I wanted to take the trio of boxer guys to a strip club in Las Vegas and watch their eyes pop out of their heads. I even wanted to go shopping with the bitchy Ice Queen so she could pick out some Christmas presents for me. I liked these characters, even though I share no common ground with any of them. I was interested in what was happening to them, even when I knew it would probably be an overblown drama of misunderstandings, miscommunications and ultimately an untimely demise.
I digged the frosty accumulation of this drama, even if it snowed me and left me stranded on my couch under a blanket for two days straight.
Overall Rating: 8/10.
In the spirit of honesty, I love watching fake boxing, too. I can’t stomach it in real life, but when I know it’s all for show – then I can enjoy watching two muscular men dance around each other covered in sweat and blood. Real blood – gag. Fake blood – aphrodisiac. And Math Genius looked great in the ring, hair curling and wet with sweat. Bangs work for him. I always thought this actor’s skin seemed a bit tight around the eyes and temple, as if he’d already had work done, so the bangs help conceal this pet peeve of mine.
Knock Out. Ding! Ding!