Review – Stranger

Review – Stranger / Forest of Secrets

So, I had a weekend to kill and loaded up Stranger, on Netflix.  This is a mystery-thriller that, honestly, would have been outstanding if they cut it in half.  It just didn’t have enough plot for 16 episodes – 8 would have perfect.  As it was, it drifted along with  mellow intrigue, excellent character development, and quality drama… but geesh, was it long.  I stuck it out, cause I was committed, but dang… even the British, who are famous for their leisurely plot development, would have added some caffeine to this weak tea.

Being a sucker for romance, I think the complete lack of it also made the show seem longer.  I knew these characters were all going to grow as people and be the better for knowing each other – but I got the impression right away there would be no breakthrough moment or cuddling happy ending for our lead protagonists.  Cho Seung-Woo played the detached prosecutor who’d basically had a lobotomy in his teens, removing the emotional part of his brain.  I kid you not.  Medically created sociopath.  He was dreamy and cool and collected and I loved him to death.   The gorgeous Bae Doo-Na, whom I have only seen in the delightfully pervy globe-trotting disaster of a show known as Sense 8, was perfectly cast as the tough as nails cop with a strong moral compass.  She and Cho Seung-Woo had oodles of chemistry – and my favorite aspect of the show was watching her casual, slow approach to winning him over and digging out his humanity, one cute sketch at a time.  Her sketch of his brain, in particular, was endearing and had me laughing.

The real stand out performer was Lee Joon-Hyuk, who played a crooked prosecutor who lived on paranoia and cockiness.   What a smug mug, eh?  He was the true sociopath, dazzling one second, violent the next, spinning from one extreme to another in an ever increasingly mad dash to stay one step ahead.

So… there’s corruption and scandal and a murder mystery or two.  I must say, personally, I was not a fan of how this unraveled at the end.  It was just too random.  After all that build up, it felt like a smack in the face to bring in something so out of left field.  The last episode made up for it, though, and there was a nice chunk of “what happens next” with your key players so that you weren’t left wondering.

But still.  It was just… really slow.  If you don’t like romantic dramas, you will probably like this one a lot more than I did and maybe not even mind the pace, but for me it was almost torturous near the end to finish it.

Overall Rating – 6.5/10 – Don’t Have Private Conversations In Rooms With Open Windows.

Review – Man from the Equator

Review – Man from the Equator

There is a certain grandiose nature (also known as being waaaay overdramatic for no reason) to these older melodramas that can’t be replicated.  Maybe it’s the standard tv (box) formatting.  Maybe it’s the lack of fancy cinematography, most of the shots are head on and there are many long cuts.  Maybe it’s the emotional music, reminiscent of soap operas from the States in the late 20th century.  There’s a roughness to the characters, a grittiness and cruelty… as well as honest and instinctual love.  This is a story about two young men who become unlikely best friends, the smartest boy in the school and the street fighter.  They are two totally different people, and though they become best friends, their values, motivations, and personalities remain independent of one another, even over time.  In a way, those are some of the best friendships.  And like most good things, they require a lot of work.  So does this drama.  Perhaps more work than it deserves…

The first part of this drama is captivating and interesting – but unfortunately the second and third part just drag and drag and drag.  Part two involves a wandering story line of love and blindness, and part three is about revenge but manages to forget that half the time and just bore us with flashbacks, unnecessarily long sequences of staring, walking, staring, pondering, staring and more staring.  I don’t think I’ve seen a show that enjoyed focusing on a character just staring pensively into the distance more Man from the Equator.  Still, I didn’t hate it I just… wanted to speed it up.

Overall Rating – 4/10.  Not Recommended For Tourists.

More plot musings and spoilers and discussion follow…

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