Review – Gu Family Book / Kangchi, the Beginning

I watched this series when it first came out, slapped a 7.5 star rating on it, and moved on with my life. Except I didn’t move on. I kept coming back to it. I don’t know how many times I have watched it now, but it’s a lot. A lot, a lot. And I honestly think it gets better with each rewatch. Now I’d say it’s a perfect 10/10. Occasionally our first impressions are just… wrong, okay?

Listen, sometimes you have to change your mind about stuff. It’s good for the soul.

Just like this drama.

Just like these two.

Bae Suzy and Lee Seung-Gi are the two leads, both of which are notoriously charming in all their dramas. Sticking them together was like the first person who thought to create a double layer cake. What if we put a cake… on top of a cake? Afterwards humanity forever wondered why they hadn’t been doing this the whole time. Cause of course, of course, cake on cake is perfect. And Bae Suzy and Lee Seung-Gi are perfect. They’re both charismatic actors who bring innocence, humor, and sincerity to all their roles. And just so you know – they don’t even really show up until episode 3. Like Queen Seon Duk, the first two episodes are all about the laying foundations of the story with the generation before.

The plotline of Gu Family Book is fantastic – both the supernatural plotline and the political one. There’s melodrama, action, revenge, political intrigue, and the supernatural. But at its core, this is a romance. And the romance is achingly romantic, with the plot winding slowly around your heart until by the time things start coming together for these two, you’re already desperately bound to their stories.

The warrior’s daughter and the gumiho’s son

Oh, Gu Family Book! This show has it all. It packed in everything you can think of in its suitcase of plot devices to spellbind an audience. Kang Eun-Kyung wrote a script to rival some of the best historical dramas of all time. The story is huge, complicated, and multi-generational – yet it’s easy to follow and just builds on itself as it goes. There’s tons of humor to balance all the tragedy. The stakes are high but realistic. All the characters are fully developed, and I mean all of them. And they all get complete characters arcs, too, with transformation and growth (even if towards the dark side). I’ll get into all of this in more detail in the spoiler section.

Sometimes your protagonists are only as good as your antagonists, and Lee Seung-Gi plays one of the most monstrous villains of all time. You’ll be rooting for someone to cut this man down from the very first episode. Lee Seung-Gi will make your skin crawl. He plays his role with such menace, such devious certainty, that you never once doubt his character’s soul is blacker than the eyeliner of the lead singer of The Cure.

There are really dark aspects in this drama – human slavery, rape, torture, and murder – though their presentation is PG-13, you might be disturbed by the content. Gu Family Book does not pretend that the past was an entirely pleasant experience – it could be a very, very harsh world. But our characters still find ways to survive, to find beauty, joy, and pleasure, in the world they occupy. Sometimes the darkness can be overcome, and sometimes people have to make room for the light despite of it.

Listen, I’m hard pressed to think of a reason why you won’t like this drama. Other than the “old-school” special effects – which okay, sure, they’re old fashioned… it’s just glowing lights and rather painful looking colored contacts most of the time, but whatever. I’m embarrassed to admit I was overly dismissive of the simplistic special effects first viewing – which now don’t bother me in the least. In fact, I actually prefer a lot of these FX tricks over more tedious CGI. Don’t let your modern eye keep you from enjoying this fairy tale goodness just because its special effects are a bit dated. Maybe at first you’ll be a little unsure of how to feel about some of the show, but it will hypnotize you. Next thing you know you’ll be utterly delighted every time those little blue will-o’-the-wisps show up, every time Kang Chi’s eyes switch colors, every time the operatic theme song by Yisabel busts in… “There’s a stone for the things forgotten…”

Around the early 2010’s is when Korean dramas started picking up a substantial fan base in America. There is something particular about the shows coming out during this time – they were so universally loved by viewers (with a few problematic elements here and there, sure) – they were so addictive, so shamelessly full of love, sorrow, hope, honor, and friendship – that they swept people up into the fan base and retained them as permanent K-drama addicts. Warrior Baek Dong Soo, The Moon Embracing the Sun, Queen In Hyun’s Man, Sungkyunkwan Scandal. If you’ve watched any of these dramas – then you know what I’m talking about. They’re distinctive. Distinctively freakin’ good.

Check it Gu Family Book and fall in love with a smitten tomboy warrior girl and the half-human half-mythical creature whose big heart and dimpled smile will win you over.

Overall Rating: 10/10. Supernatural Tale Involving Magical Blue Lights and Colored Contact Lenses.

Character Discussion & Spoilers Follow…

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Review – Save Me (from people!)

Review – Save Me (from people!)

Is this show a dark commentary on humanity?  YES.  Was it awesome?  Yes… but it’s very, very dark, so light a few candles and pray for the soul of the world before you start viewing.

This is the story about how a family got sucked into a cult.  It’s also a story about growing up, and realizing your parents aren’t the gods of our childhood.  It’s a story about society, and how the struggle for power changes people.   Power over your own life, power over circumstances, power over others.  It’s a commentary on politics, religion, government, and the basic needs of humans – to be useful, to be happy, and to be safe.  And at its heart, it’s a story about friendship.  There’s a lot packed into this drama.

It’s not a pleasant experience, though.  The drama tackled quite a few uncomfortable topics – from police corruption to political corruption, violent school bullying to murder, unbelievable cruelty to cold manipulations of others – both emotionally and physically.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I’m not sure I want to again for a while, either.  You’ll want to give your brain a rest after this intensity… maybe watch a Disney movie or something.  Cleanse the palette, cleanse the soul.

Overall Rating – 9/10.  Getting To New Heaven Is Hell On Earth.

Thoughts on religion, my personal opinions on the matter, and various musings follow…

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Review – The K2

Review – The K2

The K2.  In which I die and go to heaven.

Summary:  Shady politician is almost caught having an affair, which would have ended his run for president, so he quickly sweeps the witnesses under the carpet – except for one random dude, who turns out to be Super Wook.  Super Wook says “I don’t like the look of that carpet.  When’s the last time you cleaned it?”  Since the Super Wook can’t be silenced or killed, the politician and his wife decide to hire him… going with the old “friends close, enemies closer” rule.  Super Wook becomes the bodyguard of the shady politician and ends up neck deep in their personal lives (which are about as comfortable as a barbed wire mattress – these people are NOT pleasant).

This is a high production value action packed political thriller with enough romance to melt butter.  I loooooooooooved it.  We’re talking explosions, breaking through glass windows, car chases, epic fight sequences, guns, bombs, hostages, espionage, military and black ops and more!  Think… James Bond or Jason Bourne.  This is Ji Chang Wook kickin’ butt and looking fantastic doing it (as always).  This is globe trotting, big political conspiracy, high stakes ACTION.

If you actually watched this as it was airing, then I pity you.  Cause action dramas are hard to enjoy when you have huge gaps of time in between episodes.  The K2 is best watched in chunks, if not binged.  So, dedicate a few days to it and soak in the sweaty awesome sauce.  Sit back… let it blow you away….

Overall Rating – 10/10.  Super Wook For Sixteen Hours.  YES, SWEET JESUS, YES!

MORE MORE MORE (including lots of spoilers and poking of bears and fun)

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