First Impressions: Watcher

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Disclaimer: If you haven’t watched the first two episode of this drama, there will be spoilers for those in this review.

Native Title: 왓쳐
Release Date: July 6th, 2019 (released every Sat and Sun)
Episode #: 16 hour long episodes
Platform: Viki
Director: Ahn Gill Ho (Stranger, Memories of the Alhambra)
Writer: Han Sang Woon (The Good Wife)
Genre: Crime/Thriller
Starring: Han Seok Kyu, Seo Kang Joon, and Kim Hyun Joo. Rest of the cast can be found here.

Fitting to be firing back up the first impressions posts with this drama, as the last one that I wrote was for another Seo Kang Joon drama, Are you Human Too. Watcher was high on my watch list out of the new crop of dramas for the month because of two reasons: this is an OCN drama and I tend to enjoy their dramas more than the other networks, and because I very much enjoyed Seo Kang Joon’s performance in Are You Human Too. I was excited to see him in another drama that was in a genre I much more preferred than his last drama, Third Charm. The kid has talent for his age, and I enjoy watching it.

Crime dramas, in general, are what I gravitate towards the most as far as a specific genre. I like stories that involve puzzles and require the audience to be figuring out the clues with the characters to find out what is actually happening. In general, this is mostly seen and done better in crime dramas as opposed to any other genre, and it’s why I tend to favor them most. If the crime drama doesn’t have that element, I’m much more likely to not get invested and drop it all together. For this drama, however, that was very much not the case.

The drama captured me from the very beginning. I was very much intrigued by what was going on and what was happening with the storyline. I’ve noticed there are a lot of times in dramas that I tend to be slightly bored, or let my mind wander, and this was not the case for this one. From the very beginning when we see Young Goon as a young child sitting wrapped in a blanket at the police station with headless adults asking him questions about his father and flashes of his helpless mother dying, it sucks me into the story and the why’s.

I’ve always enjoyed stories where there is the “competent underdog” of sorts, the mistreated when they are in fact good at what they do. You see glimpses of that in Chi Kwang. He is banished to the basement where there’s not even a working water cooler, no other staff to help because of the position he is in. And yet, he is known by others for his work. He has the basement office because there are higher ups that know his worth in the precinct, he is there because he hasn’t been entirely written off and this is all they could do. The Internal Affairs department is by default a department (whether it is liked or not) an essential one, and highly important especially while police corruption cases are at a high. The series touches on the public perception a lot and although it can be said he was put there because it was a much hated job internally, things can be said for allowing him to be the one calling the shots there.

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Corruption in police is a trope that I don’t tend to enjoy as much. It’s on par with the “bumbling idiot” cop, as I start to really empathize with the innocent on how those in power and that are there to help them are clearly failing them. However, with this drama I did not mind it. I wonder if it is because of how closely of a tied connection it is for all the characters that there is a sense of the victims taking back the power that pushes me through it? Whatever it is, it’s working.

One of the elements that this drama does well, and is highly effective is it’s use of flashbacks. Every drama has them, it’s something we can’t get away from, but in this drama it is used to pull you into the mind of the characters. The flashbacks aren’t really for us. On the surface, yes - they help you fill in the clues as to what’s going on especially with a drama that has a lot of story that shaped what it is today from the past, but the flashbacks are really to drive the mentality of the character and to understand why they are doing what they are doing. They are haunted by these memories of the past, and the flashbacks are set up to be abrupt almost debilitating reminders. Attorney Han’s hands being drenched in blood as she is watching them (a literal washing the blood off her hands, perhaps?), Young Goon not being able to stop the corrupt cop as he watches on from his past turmoil as a child, frozen. It plays nicely in the show and never once did it not make me even more curious of their past storylines.

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Out of all the characters and plots of the story, I find Attorney Han to be the most intriguing. I love a character that is presented in a way that makes the audience second guess every motivation, or in turn every feeling they (the audience) have for them. We don’t know what she is doing or why for the most part, we can only guess and even with those guesses the show makes you question everything you thought and make you believe that you could be wrong. She also sets up a character that I enjoy the most: the morally grey character. So many times characters are presented as cut and dry, especially in kdramas. If they are a villain, they are a villain: an almost caricature of what a villain actually is. We don’t see the characters that are neither extremely one way of the other. Not every villain is a villain all the time, not every good guy is good all the time. Having her presented as a character that is neither and both at the same time is intriguing, and honestly what I find most fascinating about the entire drama.

I do enjoy how all the characters are starting to come together and are intertwined. I find it fascinating the glimpse you see of how Attorney Han is remorseful towards Young Goon. I especially enjoyed that even though Young Goon’s father is a corrupt cop, it is only brought up a handful of times. They don’t make as big of a deal out of it as another drama would. Chi Kwang has a such a strong relationship to Young Goon, as he is not only the one to investigate his father but you find out that Young Goon’s father was a mentor to him, and yet that doesn’t stop Chi Kwang from distrusting him or using that as a means to get vengeance. So many normal tropes that could have happened, didn’t and that’s refreshing. It also helps keep you on your toes and that is essential in this drama as it is part of the overall tone itself. In the end, it is only really Soo Yeon’s character that is underdeveloped. I don’t know if this is because her connection has yet to come into light, or that because she doesn’t have a connected storyline she will be pushed to the side as filler. Either way we’ll have to see how her character plays more as the series progresses.

All-in-all this was a great start for a drama for me. It left me wanting more after the ending of the second episode. I thought about all the puzzles that needed to be fit together for a while and I’m excited to see how this one progresses. As long as it doesn’t lose steam as the four work together and focus on the bits and pieces of the puzzle and try to skew away from that in trying to come up with content to fit the amount of screen time they have, I think this could end up to be a solid drama.

First Impression: Are You Human Too?

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Disclaimer: If you haven’t seen the first two episodes of the show, there will be spoilers for those in this review. Also, understand that my opinions can change of characters and plots as the show progresses forward. This is just a first impression, not the end all be all of if I like the show or not and my overall opinion of it once the show ends.

Release Date: Started June 4 2018
Episode #: 18 (released every Mon and Wed)
Platform: DramaFever
Director: Cha Young Hoon
Writer: Jo Jung Joo
Starring: Seo Kang Joon, Kong Seung Yeon
Genre: Romance/Sci Fi/Android

I haven’t been watching dramas that much this past week, I tend to do that sometimes especially after doing a major marathon of a specific show, which for me was Something in the Rain. I don’t normally watch that much melodrama, and bingeing it made me just want to spend some days catching up on variety shows that I have missed, and watching other things not Korean (sometimes it’s nice not to have to read everything!).  So today I decided to catch up on some of my currently watching list, specifically those shows that I knew had higher potential for me to be spoiled once they were aired, and landed on Are You Human Too as it had just premiered last night. I wasn’t going to pick up the series, but I was intrigued and after seeing the thousandth ad for it I decided to watch it.

And I’m hooked.

I’ve never really been drawn to the android/robot theme. The only other show that I’ve watched that falls into that (excluding anime where I’m 100% into the meccas) was I’m Not a Robot. Which is in the category only slightly, so I’m going to say that this is probably my first true drama with an android theme.

I was pleasantly surprised by the first two episodes, and how the premise is set up. I’m always for a woman in a high position and super smart, especially one who also embodies compassion and empathy and Oh Ro Ra - Shin’s mother - is perfect. The little snippet we see in the very beginning with her and Shin during her presentation is adorable and I fell instantly in love with the character. The little things she specifically programmed into the robot version of her son are so sweet and great and naturally set up a really nice plot device that can help the character going forward with the series. Shin was great, both human and robot version of himself. Going to the Czech Republic to find his mother after all those years, the robot version noticing that he’s being followed and in danger and immediately responding to it was great.

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I also like the set up of the grandfather that we’ve already gotten. Although there is not much known to him - powerful rich guy who (maybe?) killed his son and stole his grandson from his mother is pretty cliched and kind of expected, but their was a nice added element to his character as you find out he is showing signs of developing Alzheimer's. I’m really excited to see how this is going to be played moving forward and where it will take that character. It’s a different angle and I love when dramas throw you off from the normal plot devices.

Of course there is other corruption not just with the family (because what show with a powerful and rich family doesn’t have that?), but also the staff around him with Jong Gil being the one to set up the hit on Shin. I’m interested to see how it plays out with his relationship with his daughter, Ye Na, as she is set to marry Shin and seems to actually like him as opposed to just doing it for the money. I’m not normally one to like the second female lead or really care much for them, but compared to what we have for the first lead (So Bong) I actually like her. I kind of hope there is more to her leading up.

Speaking of the female lead…I just. I want to like her, but I don’t. At all. I want to say that it’s just the first two episodes so she’s acting this way because of that, but I just don’t know. I’m holding my breath that she will get better. I mean, it’s going to be really hard for me to watch this series without wanting to skip through any part that she is speaking if she stays this way, but she is stereotypically the female lead we always get: supposed to be outgoing and strong but is just annoying and there for the male lead to save. I know, this is a drama with romance so that needs to be there. I just want better.

There are a few other characters that are minor at this point that I don’t want to talk much about but am interested in what they will be as the episodes move on. David, the boyfriend of Ro Ra and I guess a scientist as well, is interesting because there really isn’t much known and seems to be someone that may or may not have a greater impact moving on. I also am really interested in Young Hoon, the secretary of human Shin and how he’ll play out.

I’m sure I’m missing more on things that I want to talk about, and probably could add a lot more (will the human Shin ever wake from the coma? Will we see snake tattoo hit man again?), but I’ll leave it at that and maybe add to it in a longer review of the series once it’s finished. I am looking forward to the next episodes and to see how the show will progress.