Warning: This article contains spoilers for A Korean Odyssey, Hotel Del Luna, and The Master’s Sun
When I go to a fancy restaurant, I certainly don’t just order a steak. I want the whole thing. Give me an interesting appetizer, a basket full of warm crusty bread, a juicy steak nestled next to a loaded baked potato, a token healthy salad or vegetable, and of course, the exciting dessert that looks as gorgeous as it tastes… sinfully delicious. Now that’s what I call a meal! Is it any wonder that when I look for a drama that captivates, I want more than just a comedy or a horror show; I want it all: comedy, drama, horror, romance, and a thought-provoking premise? Apparently, that delectably creative writing team of the Hong Sisters understands my drama needs and delivers in spades.
Take A Korean Odyssey, for example.
Ahhhhh, just a few of the wonderful characters in this quirky little nugget of entertainment.
Greetings, Hong Sisters! First of all, can I just say you have this ability to make scary things hilarious and frightening all at the same time? Who does that? And how do you make such entertaining characters, rich and developed, full of flaws, but still witty like in A Korean Odyssey?
At first, the character of Woo Ma Wang (brilliant performance by Cha Seung Won) was a little scary like a sadistic Willy Wonka, but the modern-day Devil King was even more wonderful, comical, desolate, caring, dreadful and well, he was just so much that I couldn’t get enough of him. He was paired beautifully with his loyal Secretary Ma (well done Lee El!) who I loved from the first moment she uttered the words, “Should I kill him?” and then she only got better and better with each episode. And the zombie?! Holy Cow!!! Jin Bu Ja played by Lee Se Young should have received some sort of reward for her stellar performance of so many characters. She magically MADE THEM ALL LOVABLE!!! Even when they were quite disgusting or kinda scary.
Say what you will about Jin Seon Mi played by Oh Yeon Seo. She may not be as flashy nor as interesting as all the others, but I’m not sure she was meant to be as outrageous. After all, she was the only somewhat normal person in the entire show. Besides, it can’t be easy standing out among fabulous characters like P.K., General Frost and his twin sister, and strange Alice with the octopus. Seon Mi was strong when she needed to be and in a quiet way. And she certainly stood up to Son Oh Gong (sigh… added Lee Seung Gi to my oppa list). Can I just say he was the best dessert ever? His character was like a perfect ending to a sumptuous meal, exciting, beautiful, sweet, and just the right amount of naughty. Thank you, Hong Sisters, for this menagerie of delightful characters that I just can’t get out of my head.
And then there was Hotel Del Luna.
Was there a single, badly written character in this entire show... NOPE!
Dearest Hong Sisters. I am not exaggerating when I say this is my favourite show ever. You tantalized me with each and every character until I fell in love with them and cried at the conclusion of each story. I think episode two was the first time my heart was ripped out, shredded into tiny pieces, then stitched back together with the story of the tiger… but it was NOT the last time I experienced that unique sensation in the region in and around my chest as I watched Hotel Del Luna.
The arc of the room’s manager was like a tasty but unique appetizer, a little cheesy, a little salty, and just the right amount of spice and it was impossible not to enjoy her performance whenever she graced the screen. I loved and hated Jang Man Wol, and I loved and hated what her character went through (boy howdy was this well done by IU). It was perfection pairing her with Goo Chan Sung (sigh… Yeo Jin Goo), shiny light of goodness and sanity with all the turmoil and angst surrounding her. The six characters of Ma Go Shin (wow…Seo Yi Sook, just wow) made me think hard on what is right and what is wrong... not to mention dread filled the pit of my stomach every single time the mean one came on the screen (paired with the wonderful song Done For Me… just gave me the shivers). This beautifully choreographed story full of humour, sadness, ghosts, vengeance, gods, and mortals was insanely appealing.
Other than the always good Goo Chan Sung and his best friend Sanchez, each character pushed me off-center with their so bad and so good actions and reactions. These flaws led to compelling stories like Hyun Joong and Yoo Na and their budding romance, Chung Myung’s choice and the subsequent curse, Mi Ra’s never-ending ignorance, and Yeon Woo’s total love and sacrifice. And Jang Man Wol… sigh… her shenanigans… she constantly made one bad choice compounded with other bad choices. Man Wol was either the villain or a really, really, really well written female lead (I’ll take the 2nd choice, please). Please tell me, Hong sisters. After watching this colourful spectacle, I can’t help but ask myself… who really was the bad guy in Hotel Del Luna? Or was there one?
Finally… The Master’s Sun.
Is it horror? Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is it a love story?... yep.
Please know, Hong sisters, at first, I hated this show with a burning passion. The female lead was not just peculiar but outright strange from the beginning, and I will admit the ghosts were a bit scary, especially when they were first introduced. I thought there was no way this drama would entertain me, but by the end of episode one, I was hooked. One thing you talented ladies can do is create very memorable female characters, and Tae Gong Shil (played very well by Gong Hyo Jin) was so incredibly unforgettable, I was intrigued. Now I know what you’re thinking, the character is somewhat whiny, causes lots of issues and trouble to anyone who comes within her purview, and is nauseatingly clingy to Joo Joong Won (Yes, please… So Ji Sub) looking for him to save her… but THAT is what makes her so entertaining. She is so unlike any female character I have ever seen in a K-drama. An odd mixture of strong, weak, smart, stupid, confident, and self-conscious, she just bursts on to the screen and commands attention.
I have searched far and wide for strong and/or interesting female characters in K-dramas and I ALWAYS find them in K-dramas written by the Hong sisters. Gong Shil is not 2-dimensional, nor is she boring. Sometimes I hate her, but sometimes she is so much fun, and I can’t help but LOVE LOVE LOVE her by episode 17. The questions keep coming as each episode unfolds. Is Gong Shil pretty; is she not pretty? Is she incredibly insightful, or is she dumb as dirt? Is she brave, or is she a coward hiding behind Joong Won? The answer is yes to everything. In fact, I feel ALL the other characters barely kept up with her in each episode. The character of Gong Shil is meaty and satisfying like a steak with a side of loaded baked potato (with bacon – yummy). By the time I’ve finished consuming her performance, there is barely enough room for dessert… BUT there is ALWAYS room for dessert… sigh.
I know… I shouldn’t indulge… but I can’t help my incessant craving for dessert.
So, dear Hong sisters, I close my love letter with an impassioned plea. You write K-dramas that entertain me for hours on end during those long and cold New England winter nights (I’m not joking, extremely cold and definitely dark). So far, I have watched Hotel Del Luna, A Korean Odyssey and The Master’s Sun, and I am passionate about these shows, so much so that I encourage everyone I meet to watch them too (like any good fangirl). They are a full course meal at the finest steakhouse with plenty of genres to relish: horror, romance, comedy, drama, etc., but please… and I do mean please, would you consider just once, maybe for your next show, giving the plethora of Hong sisters fans (like me!) a little more defined happy ending? Just once, I want to know the two leads live happily ever after, have 2.5 children and own a vacation home on Jeju Island. Even if it all happens during the last five minutes of the entire series, I’ll be satisfied. Your current endings are just a little too vague for my feeble brain, but alas, I LOVE them anyway.
P.S.: Please keep writing those enjoyable female characters!