A young woman with bad premonition dreams meets two people who suddenly develop the same ability. Nam Hong Joo lives with her mother, Yoon Moon Sun, a widow who runs a small restaurant. Jung Jae Chan, a rookie prosecutor, and his younger brother, Seung Won, move in across the street. Since Hong Joo was young, she has had the ability to see the good and bad events before they happen, however she is often unable to do anything about it. One day, Jae Chan has a strange premonition dream about an accident involving Hong Joo and Lee Yoo Beom, a ruthless attorney who used to be Jae Chan’s tutor. Jae Chan decides to interfere in the course of events and ends up saving the lives of Hong Joo and Han Woo Tak, a young police officer. When Jae Chan, Hong Joo, and Woo Tak then start having dreams about one another, they realize that their lives are now somehow entwined. But can the three discover the reason that they were brought together, and can they prevent the people closest to them from getting hurt? (Source: Viki) Edit Translation
Where to Watch While You Were Sleeping
Cast & Credits
Disclaimer: I am not a Lee Jong Suk or Suzy fanboy (or many other actors to begin with) so I have no personal feelings for any of the actors.
Disclaimer 2: I value storyline/plot and character/character development extremely highly and far above music which is also above replay value, but I will analyze each in their own category.
This plot is one of the most interesting yet not confounding plots (I’m looking at you ‘W’) that I have seen in a Korean drama in recent memory. Many recent dramas have been historical dramas that are trying to break the past tropes for a fresh feeling or are mundane/ “normal-life” struggles dramas that bring in new and ironically less “normal” characters. This is something different and interesting because it ties together two interesting aspects: fantasy which are essentially seeing the future through dreams and the justice system. Two aspects that are usually very different but through this drama are associated in a fresh way.
Now, onto the actual plot. I think the pacing was done superbly well and the inserts of flashbacks was well timed. My main complaint about the plot was that there were a few plot holes that were never truly covered. Firstly, why is Suzy able to see dreams about random people when the original idea was that whoever saves you will be who you dream about just like all the other characters? How did Suzy start dreaming to begin with? What is the motive for the detective to hide that he does not know Suzy and Lee Jong Suk? These issues are sort of touched upon but glossed over because there is no real answer to them.
Besides plot holes, everything about this was very good. There are people that complain that the flashbacks and past were not impactful enough but the contrast between past and present that the director/producer used was actually well done. I knew that the plot would be interesting and good when the first episode consisted of Suzy killing herself and Lee Jong Suk struggling with what he saw in his dream just as any other person. Secondly, I believe that one of the strongest points of the drama was the incorporation of the premise of the show into the romance and the melodrama portion. There are some dramas that try to be too many things at once and often fail at all of them or are unable to incorporate all of them. This drama does a superb job of incorporating the dreams into the romance, the justice system, everyday life and the conflicts as a whole.
Overall, one of the best plots done in recent history. This drama is logical (including the fantasy of dreaming of course) and also touches upon some key ideas in an interesting way. What do you do if you know the future? Can you change it? Is changing the future the right thing to do? Is the legal system perfect? Morality over personal interest? All decisions have consequences whether you like it or not. All of these aspects are intricately woven into a very well written plot that presents multiple themes throughout.
I believe the true strength of the show was in characterization of not only Lee Jong Suk and Suzy but also of the many side characters. Firstly, I believe that characterization must be logical and follow some “set of rules.” What I mean by this is that some dramas have side characters that perform actions for no real reason or their characters exist with only one thought running through their head. However, each of these characters has their own motivations and thoughts which can be perceived just by thinking about it from their perspective and the drama was shot in such a way and with such good pacing that each character seems relatable. Before I talk about Suzy and Lee Jong Suk, I will talk about each of the side characters and give examples of what I mean. There are 3 “side characters” that I must highlight to show why characterization is so strong and important in this drama. I don’t want to touch upon the detective because there were plot holes that I discussed earlier that I am still unsure about.
Suzy’s mom is an eccentric woman but when you get down to her character she is a person that is devoted to her daughter and her daughter’s happiness is the core of her being like many other mothers. Would you want your daughter to date a man that could get her killed? How about giving her false hope or causing her pain? The rating of the men around her daughter is a personification of what mothers actually do. Every action by this character makes sense.
Lee Yoo Beom or the main villain is an intricate character whose end-game is truly highlighted in the last episode. A self-driven, greedy individual who presents a façade of intelligence but struggles to stick with his own morals when gain is in front. This character through flashbacks and actions by Lee Jong Suk is strongly characterized as someone that would take advantage of another person while maintaining that he was simply doing the logical and right thing. The most impactful seems were when he was in the bathroom washing his hands or loosening his tie and cufflinks. These are small things that show a much more in-depth character. The washing of the hands to symbolize washing himself of his guilt. Or loosening his clothing when he is doing things that are morally wrong to symbolize the loosening of his morals. Every action about this character makes sense especially being driven into a corner where he ends up making the decision to kill a person he said knew him better than his parents. Every action made sense.
Han Woo Tak. Many people love this character and for good reason because he is the charming and loyal second lead that many people are supposed to feel bad for due to his unrequited love. However, his actions also make sense. From the beginning Suzy shows no romantic interest in him and it is clear to anyone that Suzy and Lee Jong Suk were more than friends from early on in this drama. Many other second leads in other dramas would do anything to become the love interest including ruining friendships and ignoring the obvious truth. That is the beauty of this character. He knows how to look and read other people. Woo Tak makes decisions based off of other people while still maintaining his outstanding morals. He decides to value his friendship with both main characters over his own love. Many people experience unrequited love in their life and end up just being friends. Sacrificing everything for a love interest that clearly shows no affection back is a sign of terrible character that does not fit with his logical and morally sound characterization.
Lastly, our two main lead characters. Many people say Suzy is just a pretty actress. I would say that this is by far her best performance and she perfectly acted out her character. How do you act out an optimistic yet afraid girl that constantly dreams about other people dying or experiencing death yourself? Suzy perfectly acted out a quirky girl that tries to always keep a smile on her face and not let her fears get to her. This character is very complexly written because it touches upon an interesting aspect of human psych. How do humans deal with pain and tragedy and fear? Some people become depressed, while others hide it. Clearly Suzy’s character was hiding her fears at the beginning while it was also clearly controlling her life ie. short hair and quitting her job. This character indicates that when you hide pain it can be harmful and cause your character to be much more falsely optimistic or pessimistic at times. Her character makes sense.
Lee Jong Suk’s character is also very interesting. His character is someone that has bettered himself from the past but still maintains his resentment for certain things and events ie. regret about his father and hate for Lee Yoo Beom. Many people say that a plot hole in this drama is that for such a smart character he does nothing except rely on dreams and other characters’ help. I would argue this is very realistic. No matter how smart someone is there are obstacles that they can’t pass without help. Do you kill 7 people, or do you get the criminal? Suzy helps him think outside the box. If you believe every character should have all the answers that means you are watching some very poorly written dramas. Do you unleash your anger, or do you allow the legal system that you believe in to work? Lee Jong Suk is not a super hero and that is very clear from this drama. He clearly struggles with the same emotions and understanding that I our other logical viewers would reach. The last key example is that he knows his best friend Woo Tak loves his girlfriend, but he does not outwardly show it. Other dramas would result in him fighting his best friend or going out of his way to disturb their relationship. But his character’s ability to read other people and trust his friends shines through and he does not complete many of the actions other main characters would do.
Lastly, the chemistry. I would say it was okay and cute at times. I do not think it was as great as some viewers claim or as bad as others would say. It was simply a part of the story which I actually prefer. The romance was not overbearing and did not interfere with the story but instead was another key aspect of the story. Suzy and LJS love each other and would do anything for each other but that does not mean that they do or should. It was not the sizzling romance with smoldering eyes and hot kisses that many fans would hope for, but I honestly think this is more realistic. Love does not have to just be passion, it could be walking your girlfriend to work every morning or being jealous she is paying attention to another guy. It does not have to be star-crossed lovers with exaggerated lines that would die for each other at a moment’s notice. Even though there was a bit of that in this drama too.
I think this music was quite good. There were several songs that stood out to me including “When Night Falls” by Eddy Kim (which was probably the best song), “It’s You” by Henry (meh, I think the song fit but isn’t that great), “I Love You Boy” by Suzy (fits the drama very well and is also very good).
I rarely rewatch dramas but there were many good scenes and moments that you could rewatch for the aesthetics and the acting. I would say that of the recent dramas I would like to watch this drama again to think more about the other villains and the detective. They were all well written and correctly paced but I think I may have missed some key points.
1. The Plot - What I loved about Park Hye Run's writing (particularly in Pinocchio and I Hear Your Voice) was that she knew what to say and when to say it. With Korean dramas, things can get messy and all over the place, particularly when dealing with themes of past and present. She did a fab job tying lose ends before, but in WYWS the story was all over the place. The back-and-forth of the story was really messy and the "past" didn't have the impact it intended. It reminded me of Kill Me Heal Me (another amazing drama with painful back-flashes). I loved how original her idea was but it wasn't articulated properly.
2. Suzy - I have always felt Suzy has potential to be a decent actress but so far, everything she has done has been problematic to me. I don't know if anyone else feels this way but I have spent some time thinking why I don't feel affected by her. It's not bad acting but it's the "cutesy" act. For some reason, Suzy's acting comes off as a half-hearted cutesy attempt. Instead of improving her acting, she focuses more on being pretty and sounding cute. When she acts, it feels like we're supposed to bow down to her beauty or something. And it hinders my experience because, instead of empathizing with her character, I end up feeling envious or annoyed. She has a hard time evoking that feeling of human-connection and understanding in me.
3. Lee Jong Suk - My two points are self-contradictory here. Firstly, I feel Lee Jong Suk is being typecast as this perfect character. In every drama, he practically plays the same guy in different professional fields and having different life stories. Secondly, he did try to do something new in this drama by pulling a Jang Hye Jung. He's literally the male version of Lee Bo Young's iconic character in I Hear Your Voice here. But sadly, he does not pull it off convincingly. So basically, he did try something new but it didn't work out well. But he really needs to keep experimenting more. I know he can pull it off and show more variety!
The chemistry was sadly lacking between the main couple. I don't know whose fault it is, but my disappointment was palpable while watching the whole drama. I was waiting for that "click" moment but they never seemed to click. At least not for me.
The rest of the cast was relatively better. I loved Woo Tak and the people in Jae Chan's office. The cases were interesting but not enough. The last case was the best out of the lot and the saving grace for me! Overall, I loved the idea but I wish they had built upon it some more and the lead pair had more chemistry.