Review – Itaewon Class

Itaewon Class. What a strange love story to Capitalism, am I right?

Here is how I imagine this drama was pitched between the writer and the studio executive.

Executive: “So what have you got there? You said it’s a revenge story set in the food industry?”

Writer: “Oh yeah. It’s gonna be great. We’ve got this stubborn, solitary guy who doesn’t need anyone’s approval, he’s just gonna go his own way and do what’s right. Stick to his principles. Never budge an inch.”

Executive: “Like a John Wayne type?”

Writer: “Teenage John Wayne.”

Executive: “But better looking than John Wayne.”

Writer: “Much better looking.”

Executive: “Who does he want revenge against?”

Writer: “A CEO of a worldwide food company. This guy is just super rich and powerful, so it’s gonna be hard to get revenge, ya know?”

Executive: “He’s gonna get his revenge by becoming rich too, right?”

Writer: “Of course. That’s how justice works.”

Executive: “It’s how product placement advertising works too. Sounds like a win!”

Social taboos unveiled in hit South Korean drama Itaewon Class ...

Itaewon Class had all the elements of a quality fairy tale K-drama: A strong archetypal hero with impeccable values and a heart of gold who rises over adversity, meets his goals, finds loyal friends and allies, and of course discovers true love. There was a nice sized cast of diverse characters with unique plot lines and motivations. I was interested in the fates of everyone I’d been introduced to, good and bad. It was far better than the majority of K-dramas I have seen in the past year and not bothered to review.

And yet it had serious problems. The last few episodes really let the foot fall off the gas pedal and the plotline slowed down considerably. Ironically, the most dragging episode was the finale – which had a preposterous amount of exciting things happening and somehow managed to muffle all the energy of the climax. And worst of all, in my opinion, there was the problematic underlining theme of the entire show. It’s what I like to call the Capitalist Dream, the lie we all tell ourselves: If you just work really, really hard then you can achieve anything. Entry into the golden palaces of the 1% is possible for anyone willing to work overtime. This idea has tucked the poor into bed since the dawn of time, soothing their anxieties about class inequality with a little fairy tale about how some people sneak into the castle… and get the prince to fall in love with them… and that could be you.

So, yeah, there were issues. But I still highly recommend this drama. It’s 16 episodes, which is a nice length for a series. They managed to fill each episode with enough plot that we didn’t have to over indulge in excessive flashbacks, pointless walking or staring scenes, or other fillers. It was lighthearted and funny at times without being silly or cartoonish. I especially enjoyed the spunky, quasi-sociopathic lead female. And who doesn’t love a good revenge story?

Itaewon Class – Overall Rating: 8.5/10. Feel-Good Capitalist Propaganda.

More – about characters and themes below. SPOILERS GALORE so watch the show first, my dear readers.

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Review – Fight My Way

Review – Fight My Way

There’s nothing spectacular about this drama – it’s middling at best – the plot isn’t intricate and the characters aren’t necessarily as developed as they could be – but it still manages to be charming.  Simple and charming.  A straight forward love story with light obstacles and people overcoming their hardships rather easily.  Not that I didn’t still enjoy it – cause I did.  Park Seo-Jun is a great actor and really killed it as a mixed martial arts badass with a tender heart.  And Kim Ji-Won was lovable as the country girl with big ambitions to be an announcer that just needed to find her place.  They had great chemistry and it was delightful to watch them come together, moving from long time platonic best friends into lovers.  Also, the second romance of the second leads was equally engaging – the long time couple who were struggling with their relationship and status as they moved through life.  It felt very real and believable and my heart was genuinely moved by both of their stories.

But this show is popcorn.  A tasty snack.  It didn’t try too hard.  And I didn’t try too hard either.  I just enjoyed it, as a delicious treat but not a real meal.  I think after viewing a lot of K-Dramas you get spoiled on the potential of what 16 hours of storytelling can actually provide a viewer.  I mean… that’s a lot of time.  A LOT can happen.  Or a little can happen, and it can still be fun, if it’s done right.  I had fun watching this show, but it didn’t challenge me or make me think or offer me any new insights into humanity or relationships.  So in a way, I’m a little disappointed in it.  Cause the story line could have been so much more than it was.  But as it was… I still wouldn’t skip it.  Check it out.  It’s pretty freakin’ adorable.  And it was cool to explore a little more of the professional fighting world, even though honestly I feel even that could have been done better, too.  There were a lot of funny moments and a lot of cutesy “rescue” scenes that I loved.  The little vignette stories at the end of each episode were particularly fun to watch.  The coach, in particular, was my favorite side character… gah, what a cutie!

Plot:  Four teenagers with big dreams become young adults who have settled for lower expectations due to varying circumstances.  They each try to find their way back to their passions as their relationships further develop.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Mixed Martial Arts Means More Shirtless Men.

Review – Hwarang

Review – Hwarang

So, I knew going into this it was going to be cute guys and silliness and romance and hopefully a pretty decent plot.  I expected to be won over with non-stop light amusement, an occasional tear, some excellent bromance, and cool costumes.  I was not disappointed.

The writers of this show, thankfully, paid attention to the success & failures of other ensemble shows featuring a heavy cast of men and managed to not make the same mistakes.  Instead, they repeated the tropes we love (estranged brothers coming together, best friends with loyalties tested, sons having to stand up to the tyrannies of their fathers, the injustices of the caste system, and so on) and made them shine.  We got our favorite stereotypes (the flirty guy, the stern guy, the sincere guy, the girlish guy) and of course our main love triangle where the two dudes invariably end up besties.  Honestly, there isn’t much to review.  It was a good with just the right amount of drama to keep you interested but not enough to make you lose sleep.  20 hours flew by.  It had synchronized dancing and “nightclubs” and political scheming and secret identities.  The female characters were enjoyable and interesting, even the bitchy ones, and I actually can’t find anything major to complain about.

Everyone pretty much loved this show and I pretty much loved this show too.  If you haven’t seen it yet – go ahead and pop it in your que.  It’s not my favorite historical drama, but it’s definitely up there in the top ten.

Though all the men in this show were charming and you’ll end up adoring them all, I looooooved Go Ara.  She was the best thing about You Are All Surrounded and she saved this show as well, if you ask me.  The two male leads were excellent (and handsome), but it was her hysterical facial expressions, her playfulness, and her natural stage presence and comedy that brought the love triangle together and kept my interest.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Lots & Lots Of Handsome Young Men… In A Good Historical Drama (need we say more?).

Review – She Was Pretty

Review – She Was Pretty

This show had one of the best first episodes I have ever seen.  I was immediately drawn in by the story and quirky characters, the tight friendships, the lost loves, the struggle to find gainful employment, the insecurities and the humor.  And all these things stayed pretty steady on throughout the duration of the show.  Yet somehow I failed to love it.  I was definitely entertained.  But I just left it feeling so-so.

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And from this poster, I thought the male lead was going to be more silly and fun.  That role went to the second male lead though… so… yet another poster fail.

The Plot, Short Version:  An unattractive girl gets her pretty friend to pose as her when meeting her childhood sweetheart.  Basically its Cyrano de Bergerac.

Mild spoilers follow… but not really… just musings on the obvious.

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