Time between Dog and Wolf

(thundie: I’m absolutely thrilled to introduce my first guest blogger, ockoala, whom some of you know from the Dramabeans’ Open Threads. Please welcome her!)

For the Love of Woof-Woof:

Before diving right in, namely, to talk about one of my favorite k-dramas, I want to thank Thundie for honoring me with an invitation to write a guest post on her blog. I’ve been reading Thundie’s Prattle for almost as long as I have been watching k-dramas. Never in a million years did I imagine a day would come when I can contribute and give back to the world of k-dramas through Thundie’s Prattle. Thundie, and all the dedicated, thoughtful, and prolific writers who spread knowledge and enjoyment of k-dramas worldwide, are an inspiration to me. I am beyond excited to take a tiny step in their direction.

Since I am woefully ignorant of Korean culture and language beyond what I have read or watched, I must apologize in advance for any inaccuracies in my review as I watch all my k-dramas with subtitles. So without further ado, I want to entice each and every one of you to consider watching (if you have not yet done so) a rather well known yet criminally underrated drama which aired on MBC in 2007: Time Between Dog and Wolf (“TBDAW”), starring Lee Jun Ki as Lee Soo Hyun/Kay, Nam Sang Mi as Seo Ji Woo/Ari, and Jung Kyung Ho as Kang Min Ki.

Introduction (or just so you know, not a single dog or wolf shows up in this drama):

The official promotional synopsis for TBDAW is as follows:

The time between dog and wolf – L’heure entre chien et loup – is seen when dusk becomes night as the sun slowly wanes between the mountain ridges. This is the time when day and night exist together. This is the time when objects become dim to sight, and from far away, the lingering approach of a silhouette can be seen. Friend or foe. Or someone who protects. Or just a dangerous wolf. This is the moment when both the righteous and errant paths all become crimson. This is the time when friend nor foe are indistinguishable, and it is in which the epic story about the defiance, surrender, love, and friendship of young agents takes place.

Are you confused yet? Because I was when I first read the above. This is one drama synopsis where the words look interesting on paper, but actually makes no sense. For anyone interested in what this drama is about, being confused is one big turn-off. If that bit of hoodoo wasn’t accompanied by a picture of Lee Jun Ki and Nam Sang Mi, I would have said “thanks, but no thanks” and moved along my merry way (probably to pick up a drama with shirtless Chung Jung Myung on the cover, since I know what I’m getting with that baby).

I’ve attached the picture which made me stare with my mouth open for a good minute (and some drool may or may not have dribbled out, I can’t be certain), and then proceeded to pray that these two gorgeous human beings will go off in real life and make beautiful chubby babies, kinda like a k-version of Brangelina. Look at the pretty, people!

Back to the drama. The title and official synopsis of a k-drama can be embarassingly inaccurate, if not flat out ineffective, in conveying both the tone and the plot of a drama. TBDAW is a victim of such shoddy marketing. Whoever wrote that blurb was purposely going for opaque and mysterious, but comes off sounding pretentious and overwrought.

It would have been much more effective to have simply written this: Lee Jun Ki is in this drama and he looks hot. If you thought he is just a pretty boy, be prepared to bear witness to his hotness as an alpha male lead, but with lots of emotional depth as he embodies multiple characters. He will be playing an agent of the Korean National Intelligence Service (“NIS”), an undercover operative, and an amnesiac spy. He will sport many different hairstyles and outfits (c’mon, this is Jun Ki we’re talking about, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, oppa!), and all are equally Junkilicious looks (and yes, Junkilicious is a real word, at least in my dictionary). See the many looks of Jun Ki in TBDAW which has been helpfully compiled for your enjoyment.

Nam Sang Mi will for the first (and hopefully not last) time shed her bubbly girl next door image, playing an alluringly sensual femme non-fatale. And Jung Kyung Ho will round out the trio under the guise of creating a compelling love triangle, but really to showcase a truly meaningful bromance storyline. All of this will be accompanied by a near pitch-perfect soundtrack, a gripping storyline, plus a lush overseas locale (Bangkok, Thailand) organically and integrally used to propel the story forward. Be prepared to be captivated by a thrilling tale of fate, revenge and redemption.

Since this review is being written and posted after the mega-blockbuster spy drama IRIS has hit the k-drama world, it would be puffery to describe TBDAW as a breakthrough k-drama spy thriller. IRIS has since taken this genre to new heights in production values. But in 2007, TBDAW was indeed a breakthrough k-drama, it introduced a fast-paced cops-triad-betrayal formula culled from the HK-serial prototype and blended it seamlessly with the k-drama conventions of love triangles, destiny, and family.

The Good (and lordy is it GOOD – like a freshly made batch of caramel corn that you can’t stop eating because it has that addictive mixture of equal parts sweet and salty, plus crunch!):

TBDAW is a k-drama that can be described as the origin story of an anti-hero. Lee Jun Ki plays Lee Soo Hyun, a boy orphaned by the death of this father before he was born, and the subsequent murder of his mother before his eyes as a child. After his mother’s death, Soo Hyun is adopted by a former colleague of his parents and taken to Korea, where he grows up with Kang Min Ki, the son of his foster parents.

Soo Hyun is smart, hardworking and dedicated, whereas Min Ki is a slacker, happy-go-lucky type – but the two foster brothers are best friends and both join the NIS to follow in their fathers’ footsteps. The brothers encounter Seo Ji Woo, played by Nam Sang Mi, an art dealer, who turns out to be the childhood sweetheart of Soo Hyun when he was growing up in Thailand, and the daughter of the man responsible for the death of Soo Hyun’s mother. Oh, what a twisted web we weave. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I don’t need to tell you who the OTP is if you see this, right?

Lee Jun Ki as Soo Hyun delivered my favorite performance amongst all his dramas, and I have seen all his dramas. I was never a Jun Ki fan until I watched TBDAW (I was team Team Yoo-rin/Gong-chan in My Girl). While no one can accuse Jun Ki of ever being wooden, he does have an alarming tendency to flail in the opposite direction and occasionally overact, especially in meaty emotional scenes which would benefit from restraint. [Jun Ki-oppa, watch the eyes, m’kay, the eyes, they are a-bulging when you are so overwrought, not your best look, IMHO].

The character of Soo Hyun is like a buffet course for any male actor. In TBDAW, he’s asked to convey a variety of “personas” and he does a credible job of mining each thin caricature for more depth than originally sketched out. His straight-laced NIS agent seethes with simmering hidden pain, as an undercover operative he shows glimmers of doubt and steely resolve, as an amnesiac bad boy he’s all cocky swagger and indifference to maks his confusion, and finally, as the Soo Hyun who embodies all of the above three personas towards the end of the drama, he allows all of the different sides of his personality and experience to coexist within him.

Jun Ki goes from straight-laced government agent to a low-life thug to a badass rising henchman and finally his real incarnation, a man filled with so much pain, anger, and helplessness at how everyone he loves continually gets taken away from him and he is powerless to stop all this tragedy. And this Soo Hyun walks at the edge between being a dog (a protector) and a wolf (a predator). In order to protect those he loves, Soo Hyun takes the reverse journey from black and white hero to an anti-hero, in essence becoming both the titular dog and wolf.

Jun Ki even does a credible turn as a Muay Thai fighter, and obliterated any preconceptions I may have had that he was a very pretty boy (for the record, the love of my k-drama life is a man by the name of Jung Woo Sung, and he be as different as night and day with Jun Ki). In My Girl, the Hong sisters capitalized on the more feminine side of Jun Ki’s androgynous looks. The PD in TBDAW wisely shifted the pendulum in the opposite direction, and showcases the inherent masculine attractiveness of its leading male. My favorite Jun Ki incarnation in TBDAW is when Soo Hyun loses his memory and becomes Kay, the loyal right-hand man to his intended target. Kay allows Jun Ki to be the bad boy I’ve been dying to see, and he is charming without being sleazy. (Okay, I’m not being 100% truthful, my ultimate favorite Jun Ki persona in TBDAW I can’t discuss without giving away too much plot, but I reckon if you watch it won’t be hard to guess).

As the love interest for Jun Ki, Nam Sang Mi’s Seo Ji Woo is simply luminous. She glows, all moist dewiness that makes her a start contrast to the loads of testosterone rampaging around her. This is a marked departure from the typical Nam Sang Mi role as the spunky, never-say-quit, girl next door. Ji Woo is sultry without being sexy, and her assertive personality was both a win in my book as well as well-suited for this story. She is not a damsel in distress or a gun wielding she-spy, as the two most common female characters in spy thrillers are wont to be. Her character is integral as her presence underlies the meaning of fate.

Soo Hyun and Ji Woo meet at kids, and because of that brief but fateful meeting, they sow the seeds for their future happiness and unhappiness. To explain any further would spoil a lot of the plot. I really liked her character, but I’ve hear chirps here and there that some folks find her annoying. Since I have a giant girl crush on Nam Sang Mi, my joy at watching her sweet smile light up the screen may have blinded me to her character’s annoying traits. I would love to read what others have to say on this subject. But even if you don’t like the Ji Woo character, I think its safe to say that Nam Sang Mi was consistently wonderful as Ji Woo, displaying in equal parts sassy gumption and hidden vulnerability.

Ji Woo is a character who comes from the dark but walks in the light, where Soo Hyun comes from the light and is pushed into the dark. Their personalities could not be markedly any more different, so this pairing is liberally sprinkled with the opposites attract pixie dust that makes certain couplings instantly look shinier and magical. Jun Ki and Sang Mi have a palpable chemistry, earthy yet slightly standoffish. I was captivated by their every interaction.

Jung Kyung Ho as Kang Min Ki is one of the better written second leads in any drama. While he knows and we know that he’s never going to get the girl, the real importance of his role is not actually as the love rival, but to bring the quintessential best guy friend element to this drama. Devotees of HK gangster movies know this set-up quite well, and regardless of how often its used, if used correctly, it never fails to elicit shrieks of “OMG, look at that bromance! I swoon over such manly friendship. Screw the girl, the two guys should just bat for the same team.” If not for Ji Woo being such a central character, as well as Nam Sang Mi’s effortlessly charming performance, I’d so be on team Soo Hyun/Min Ki FTW! (Um, hello! Hot guys in matching outfits shooting guns? Yeah, I’m so on board with that!)

And Jung Kyung Ho was wonderful as Min Ki. He probably delivered a more nuanced and consistent performance than Jun Ki. But life is unfair, and Jun Ki’s just got “IT”, you know, that extra movie star aura that smooths over the rough edges. So Soo Hyun runs the show and Min Ki has to play second fiddle. But Jung Kyung Ho convinced me after this performance he’s deserving of a promotion to leading male, and voila, he got it shortly thereafter in Jamyungo (where he was great but the drama writing was all sorts of bad), and in Smile, You (which is probably the big break of his career).

While I adored the OTP and the bromance, the love triangle was not too shabby either. Soo Hyun and Ji Woo’s love gets pulled through the ringer but the emotional connection between them never feels false or lightweight. We seeth when Soo Hyun must leave Ji Woo and risk losing her. We grieve when Ji Woo thinks Soo Hyun is dead. In the interim, Min Ki never annoyed me with his straightforward yet considerate pursuit of Ji Woo before the OTP classically reunite. TBDAW is one of the rare k-dramas that eschews the presence of a fourth lead to create the usual rectangle of love (which usually involves two sad and hopeless people clawing at the OTP trying to get a hand or foot in edgewise – I always think wouldn’t like be better if those two got together from the get-go and avoided annoying us viewers with their sad pathetic attempts to separate the OTP?).

Since k-dramas rarely recycle fave pairings (my dream of Jun Ki-Sang Mi part deux is just a fancy), I would be delighted if Nam Sang Mi and now leading man Jung Kyung Ho did a drama together and he got the girl this time. Ji Woo and Min Ki had a lovely, understated chemistry and rapport in TBDAW, which contrastly nicely with the more intense and passionate relationship between Ji Woo and Soo Hyun. I would have merely liked TBDAW if it didn’t have a credible love story, which worked to ground all the spy and revenge shenanigans in the warmth of a k-drama romance. With the presence of a very meaningful love story, I simply loved TBDAW.

I would be remiss to not devote as least one paragraph to the riveting supporting cast in TBDAW. Kim Gab Soo needs no further introduction, all of you have probably watched him frighten small children in a drama somewhere. He delivers yet another solid, controlled performance as a NIS director, the puppetmaster wielding the sword of righteousness to combat crime without mercy or moral compunction for the lives of those who serve him.

Choi Jae Sung as Mao, the leader of the Korean-Thai triad, Cheongbang, is the rare k-drama bad guy who is genuinely menacing without resorting to glowering and overacting (I’ve read that Choi Jae Sung was the lead in Eyes of Dawn, widely regarded as the best k-drama of all time, and I can believe this actor can deliver such a powerhouse performance). The character and portrayal of Mao is steely and powerful, and has far-reaching depths that is revealed layer after layer as the story progresses.

And my personal favorite secondary character is played Lee Ki Young, who is Min Ki’s father and Soo Hyun’s adoptive father. This is one daddy who put on a masterclass on exemplifying “a father’s love”, and really moved me with his devotion to protecting his sons above completing the mission.

TBDAW effectively uses its exotic locale by making it integral to the story. The Thailand scenes are infused with Thai culture and capture the essence of this vibrant bustling country. You can almost smell the exhaust fumes from all the cars, feel the muggy humidity perfume the air, and envision yourself walking down the streets of Bangkok’s bustling red light district. Unlike some dramas which film its overseas scenes as a de facto tourism film, here there are no unnecessary scenes to showcase a famous locale. The characters live or return to Thailand because of the existence of Cheongbang, which together with the NIS, inextricably forms a chain around their lives.

The PD’s directing style in TBDAW is one of the biggest treats of this drama. Now I don’t know anything about the art of directing, such as framing, shot angles, lightning, heck, I can barely hold a video camera to film mine own family. But even with a layman’s level of comprehension, I felt that TBDAW moved at an engaging pace. Scenes were crisp, fast, and on point. There’s nary a wasted frame. Action scenes aren’t protracted and emotional scenes aren’t truncated, everything simple “feels” right. In fact, it may be so seamless you won’t even notice it, which is a sign its a success. We normally only notice things when it goes wrong, and a poorly directed drama oftentimes manifests itself by leaving the viewer feeling bored or confused. I was never bored or confused watching TBDAW, the writing is swift and the directing keeps the pace up and the flow smooth.

It was a genuine treat to watch such a cohesive production. The director eschews drawn out reaction shots, and allows the action to tell the story. For example: person X shoots person Y, we see the action, rather than a drawn out shot of person X’s face as he’s mentally preparing to shoot person Y. Long reaction shots accompanied by soaring musical scores are often the lynchpin of an effective melodrama directing style, and many dramas I love employ this type of direction. But that wouldn’t work here, and the PD selects a style that propels the story rapidly and sets the mood: in a spy thriller, there is no time for reaction and ten seconds of a character’s eyes widening as he contemplates the situation. In TBDAW, shit happens, and you better run fast or you’ll get mowed down! (But when a long lingering shot is needed, the PD wisely gives it to this man below.  I swoons.)

But what’s awesome about TBDAW is that even dramatic moments are not mined for its effect, but allowed to wash over you with its meaning. Soo Hyun and Ji Woo’s reunion (each of the many times they are separated and  find each other again) is shown without any sentiment other than the understanding that it means something to the OTP. We’re not forced to wring tears out of situations by the direction. We feel sad because the story is sad. Bravo PD, for not treating me like a five year old, and for understanding that the script your writer has delivered packs a punch even without any heavy-handed imagery.

But TBDAW does contain lots of imagery, just used with a deftness and skill. The PD chooses two main color palates, the cool blue and whites for the scenes at the NIS, in stark contrast with the reds and golds of the Cheonbang and Thailand scenes. Each scene feels alive, with passion, intrigue, or heartbreak. The characters sweat and bleed, and bring us closer to their plight. 

The soundtrack to TBDAW provides the appropriate accompaniment for the scenes, and contains some of my favorite k-drama songs to this day. It sets the mood but never dictates how you should feel. The score simply elevates the mood one notch. The organic insertion of music into this drama means that there is no intrusion to take us out of a scene. It’s what happens when music and visuals blend seamlessly together, and gives a scene that final little decorative rose on the cake before you send it out ready to be served.

Without delving too deeply into the storyline, and spoil this well-constructed revenge and redemption story, there were many scenes and moments in TBDAW that I just loved. I enjoyed how the writer never dwelled on the maudlin. The sadness and anger of a moment is expressed, painfully and angrily as befits the situation, and then the character moves on. Soo Hyun watches his mother murdered before his eyes, its an unspeakable tragedy and trauma, and yet the next scene is Soo Hyun curled up on the temple floor in Bangkok, the very temple he just went with his mother to honor his dead father. Boy Soo Hyun cannot move, he is simply a broken child. Moments like this convey so much more of the pain than protracted crying my eyes out scenes.

I was delighted when the writer continued to convey heavy-hearted moments in very spare ways, and it worked each time. Of course, when Jun Ki is your leading male, you have to tap into his willingness to perform full-blown agony. And Jun Ki really gives it his all in the last few episodes when he is forced to confront the man he has become in his quest to right the many wrongs which he has endured. He did veer into ham territory on occasion (the eyes, Jun Ki-oppa, watch them eyes, I tell you!), but he was never anything less than absolutely invested in his performance.

Unlike in Iljimae, I enjoyed watching his struggle to balance his dual nature in TBDAW. I wanted to hug him in TBDAW (okay, and kiss and fondle him senseless, but let’s not digress), whereas I wanted to throw him into the nearest privy hole in Iljimae (and throw Han Hyo Joo’s Eun Chae in there with him, but again, let’s not digress). Hmm, don’t believe me since it appears I have a pavlovian reaction to Jun Ki and drool upon sight of him? I can still tell when someone is overacting, even if said overacting makes me drool some more. And overacting whilst kissing is a BIG GIANT YES!

So, some of you might be thinking I’m simply a corporate shill for MBC, here to hawk one of its less successful dramas, and maybe sell a t-shirt or two. I am not, but don’t take my word for it. I have better proof than simply a koala’s pinky swear. TBDAW isn’t the best thing since sliced bread (well, that would be City Hall, LOL, don’t ask me to explain). It does have two major flaws, which are rather glaring when I call them out. But taken into consideration, do not undermine the effectiveness of the drama as a whole or its impact on the viewer, namely me, to enjoy the drama.

The Bad (or the “Yeah, that shit don’t happen in real life, but I NEED to stop thinking and start enjoying!”):

The first flaw is that inspite of its large budget and wonderful directing and cinematography, TBDAW is a rather quaint and small-scale thriller drama, even back in 2007, especially when you compare it to US or even HK spy thriller shows. Now with the presence of IRIS, TBDAW may feel even more like kids playing with spy action figures. But it doesn’t bother me, because TBDAW is still a traditional k-drama at heart. A well-made k-drama is timeless because the hook is not the snazzy special effects or the in-the-moment setting, but a story that resonates with the viewer whether we watch it now or ten years from now.

TBDAW’s is rooted in the hero’s quest, for truth, love, revenge, and redemption. Soo Hyun’s character takes the hero’s quest and turns it upside down (by going from good to bad), and the pathos inherent in watching this journey remainings compelling to watch. The spy and triad construct is merely a setting, and the action sequences just a tool. The writer could set this story in the world of corporate espionage and betrayal and it would be equally riveting. As such, I can accept the less than first rate action sequences and small scale depictions of gangs and government agencies. I watch for the human element, not the slickness of the set pieces. Nonetheless, doesn’t this look pretty slick enough?

The second flaw may be for some viewers a fatal flaw, but for me is simply a nick and not a kill wound. The script in TBDAW is filled with quite a few loopholes and/or giant leaps of fancy and faith. In order to construct a compelling story, we’re asked to believe Soo Hyun is time and again on the brink of death and yet survives. We are asked to swallow an amnesia turn of events. We are required to accept that Mao, as a leader in the Cheongbang, so quickly accepts Soo Hyun into his inner sanctum, and even after a series of events that would normally arouse suspicion, continues to trust him. I concede that these and many other scenarios, even upon superficial analysis, seem rather preposterous.

But I forgive this flaw because of two reasons. First, the spy thriller genre is inherently difficult to craft, a tight story requires an impossible amount of research and preparation of logistics, and even the best spy movie contains elements that stretch credulity. Yes, characters in TBDAW get shot or beat up a lot, and will recover faster than humanly possible. If that dramatic license bothers you, then skip TBDAW, I can’t help you bridge that gap.

And if you think a guy who’s just been beaten to a pulp shouldn’t be making love to his girlfriend that same night after he’s all bandaged up, well, you’re missing out on some good old-fashion heart-pumping snogging by dwelling on realism over dramatic beats. Which sort of defeats the purpose of watching a k-drama, where the viewer lives and dies for fantasy moments that make your heart beat faster. TBDAW has got some nice fan service emotional moments and kisses that are heart thumpingly good, not to mention crucial to advancing the story (yeah, that’s important, too, but really, just give me a hot kiss and I’ll give you a giant pass).

Secondly, a seamlessly crafted storyline, if it fails to entertain or engage me, is for me a greater failure than a story with some loopholes in the writing, but is presented so deftly and charmingly that I barely spare a glance at the lapses in common sense. TBDAW entertained me from the first frame where we are thrown into a hurtling car chase in the port terminal, and engaged me from the first pained and confused glance between our OTP Soo Hyun and Ji Woo in said speeding car. I was hooked, and never looked back.

The Complete (or the million dollar question – “Did you enjoy it?”):

TBDAW is what I would label a complete drama. From the first frame to the last scene, it tells a story at an exquisite pace and with a consistent tone. Heart-pumping action scenes transition seamlessly into the quieter moments of peaceful calm and introspection. The writer’s script is not filled with exposition, the plot moves briskly along by showing us what is happening rather than telling us. And when it feels like the plot moves too fast, the PD will drop in an unexpected flashback scene that bridges the gap in a creative way.

How remiss would I be to have the temerity to call TBDAW a complete drama (them is fighting words, missy!) without discussing its utterly satisfying ending. If you are looking for rainbows and unicorns, bouncy babies and white picket fences, I’m sorry but this is not your drama. I’m not saying TBDAW has a sad ending, just that it doesn’t have any of the above. The writer elected to craft a denouement that is entirely credible and fits squarely within the parameters of the drama. There’s a bit of parry and feint going on, but its not a red herring or a cop out. Look at this gorgeous blood-red saturated sunset.

The drama is about the murkiness of twilight, of that time between light and dark, the zone between good and bad, and the ending stays within that fine line. You may need to rewatch it a few times to grasp what the writer is implying, but I think you’ll find the conclusion meaningful and poignant. Above all else, it asks the viewer to travel a full circle back to conversations had at the beginning of the drama. The final scenes strongly echo one of the the central themes of TBDAW, which is that fate may dictate the lives of our characters, but in the end, each character must live with the choices he/she has the free-will to make.

Some parting thoughts:

Now that I have poured forth what seems like a torrent of love for TBDAW, I’ll tell you all a little (not so) secret. I didn’t like TBDAW the first time I watched it. Yup, I came away thinking it was merely okay, a good but not great drama. I probably would have never even considered re-watching TBDAW (Who re-watches dramas you didn’t love the first time?  Yeah, doesn’t happen often, does it?) but for a random day when I was riffling through my k-drama collection and was in the mood for neither a rom-com or a melodrama. So I popped in TBDAW, and this time sat down and really watched it.  Sixteen hours later, I was a Jun Ki fan for life (though, another word of advice, Jun Ki-oppa – I can take the headdesking caused by Iljimae once, but please don’t subject me to such a drama ever again).

Few dramas have elicited such an one hundred and eighty degree change of heart from me. TBDAW is even rarer in that I like more and more each time I watch it, and I’ve now watched it three times (the third time just this week in order to contribute a meaningful review).

Check out TBDAW. You might be pleasantly surprised. And isn’t life more fun when you take chances and try something different? I did, when I watched my first k-drama, and I’ve never regretted that decision once. If this ends up being my first and only review, I want to thank each of you for taking the time to read it. And if I end up having more thoughts to share with you all about k-dramas, I would be delighted to continue to contribute to Thundie’s Prattle.

Finally, a big big muah to Thundie for taking the time to teach me the bloggy ropes, to format and insert screencaps for me, and in general for being all-sorts of amazing each time I read one of her posts. This review I hereby dedicate to Thunderbolt, may you be nibbling on a neverending supply of kibble in hamster heaven, and watching whatever is the hamster equivalent of k-dramas.

Tagged as: , , , , ,

Categorised in: Guest bloggers, K-dramas, Reviews

41 Responses »

  1. THANK YOU, dearest ockoala. What a brilliant review! Reading it (not to mention drooling over the pics) makes me miss the drama so much. Looking forward to your next review! 😆

  2. Wow, ockoala! This was an amazing review, and the fact that it was your first makes it even better. It kinda made me want to go watch TBDAW despite my endless list of dramas still waiting to be watched. 😛

    Hope you guest-blog again soon! 🙂

  3. Great job little sister! You just talked me into a rewatch (which I have NO time for, with an already full drama plate including dessert…but oh well. Needs must.) Goes without saying that I agree with everything you said about this drama, it quickly became my crack drama of choice at the time about 10 minutes into the first episode!

  4. Thank you for the great review. No need to say that I’ll be rewatching TBDW. :)))

    This is the best spy kdrama I’ve seen so far. IRIS is just more expensive and that’s it. TBDW is better in everything else – from the OST to the acting. I still don’t understand why it didn’t get the popularity it deserved, but I’m happy that there are talented writers, like you, who spread the love for this show 🙂

  5. Wonderful, wonderful review, which isn’t surprising since you are so thoughtful and a wonderful writer even on your postings at DB. I completely agree with you (though Junki-oppa had won me over ever since the first time I saw him in something…King & the Clown). But now I have this super urge for a rewatch…which will have to wait until finals are over. And I totally lol’ed when I saw “The Good”…a nice way to tie in TGTBTW into this review 🙂

  6. Amazing review! It’s hard to believe that it’s your first. And I’m so glad you love TBDAW. It truly is one of the crackiest crack dramas ever made.

  7. Ockoala! I’m ever so impressed! A great review. Everything I missed was mentioned here. It makes me want to re-watch it again if I ever have some time(with 4 K dramas and several J dramas starting up on my plate, not right now, though, sigh). Thank you!

  8. Omo, @ everyone who commented – thank you all for such lovely, kind, not to mention way to generous words about my review! I learn from my sunbaes, and now I can let out a giant sigh of relief that I didn’t embarass Thundie’s faith in me.

    @ dahee and langdon-unni – LOL, it definitely fits the definition of cracktastistic but I wasn’t sure I should be using words like this in my first review. 🙂 But I did drool a lot and used words like Junkilicious so yeah, everyone, TBDAW is cracktastic, definitely the legal form of addicting entertainment.

    @ considering re-watch folks – cannot recommend a re-watch enough. The reason I like TDBAW more upon each re-watch is that once you know the story and aren’t dying to find out what is going to happen, you can sit back and enjoy the deft direction and visual eye-candy.

    Thank you guys for leaving me a comment, I’m just feeling all warm and tingly that I did it! It’s kinda like hearing the farmer say to Babe “that’ll do, pig, that’ll do.”

  9. Great review (and funny!)… I haven’t seen this drama, but now you’ve persuaded me to give it a chance.

  10. Bravo and congrats, my ockoala angel

    Now you have joined the elite group of writers/recappers. Your writing has your heart in it, funny, beautiful, honest-to-goodness. I tried TDBAW becos I love junki in MG and my friend was so crazy about it but I stopped. I can’t watch or read any kind of thriller. My bad! The only thriller movie I watched and loved was daisy becos of the lead.

  11. I should have done my research a bit more, but it’s not too late to add another fact candy to substantiate my claim that the directing in TBDAW was kickass.

    The PD of TBDAW also did: A Bittersweet Life and Shin Don. I am floored, knowing how critically acclaimed those two dramas are (I have yet to watch either, but plan to in the near future).

  12. hi ockoala,
    enjoy reading your review very much, got to do a rewatch soon after reading your review. this is the drama that i reeled my hubby into watching kdrama. after watching it, he has a crush on NSM, he nickname her “my girl friend”(well, when you dream, dream big) otoh, i am a card member of ICOMYM. so…
    this suddenly come up: we the members of ICOMYM seemed ok, but if our hubbies were members of ICOMYW it’d be very inappropriate, right ? !
    hope to see you doing it (review)again in the future.
    thank you

  13. Hi Ockoala

    Like you, I don’t understand a word of Korean and have always relied on english subtitles for my kdrama fix. I have now been watching kdrama for over 5 years but don’t think I can ever write a review. Without knowing the language you have managed to write up such a witty and insightful review. Hats off to you! Really enjoyed reading your wonderful and brilliant review.

  14. enjoyed reading your review ockoala partly because tbdaw is one of my favourite kdramas and my favourite spy dramas, better than iris me think. besides king and the clown, this was one of jun ki’s best performances.

  15. @ all the new commenters – thank you for all the kind words, your words of encouragement and enjoyment really make my day, and warms my cockles. 🙂

    @ jayjay – a big welcome to another ICOMYM member to TP! I concur, it’s totally not skeevy that we ladies have created ICOMYM, but its wholly inappropriate that our husbands/BFs join an ICOMYW. Though your hubby has good taste, in both TBDAW and Nam Sang-mi. She’s my type if I was a guy, gorgeous yet approproachable.

    @ fei – heh, I still don’t know if I know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to k-dramas, but I do know that opinions are always welcome in the world of k-drama blogging. Look forward to seeing your comments here and elsewhere.

    @ mika – yay, another TBDAW lover! I agree, I thought TBDAW was Jun Ki’s best performance in a “drama” but his best performance was the indelible and extraordinary star-making turn in King and the Clown. He was channeling young Leslie Cheung AND putting his own stamp in the acting world. Jun Ki may not be the most subtle or controlled actor, but I enjoy watching his performances. At the end of the day, that’s what matters the most, right? Thanks for commenting!

  16. Time and again, I am so awestruck with your recaps, analyses and perceptions!
    I did love TBDAW but also agree about the so many near death scenes (well, thought he died) only to return with a some bloodied face. The biggest turn off for me is that Jun Ki is so pretty, he needs to keep his shirt on. I guess his “mushy” looking body is in keeping with his beauty but as for all the action in this drama, he should have been a little more ripped.

  17. Hey ockoala, I just finished watching TBDAW after reading your review and wow. I have to agree, there were plotholes and people healed suspiciously quickly (and so! sad! argh!) but I still really enjoyed it. I really loved Jung Kyung-ho in Smile, You, and I really enjoyed him in this, too. I think he’s a great actor who’s definitely still underrated. This was the first drama I’ve seen Lee Jun-ki in, and I have to admit I was impressed. I didn’t make it all the way through My Girl, so I never really saw his character in that drama pan out, and thus never really saw him do any acting. Anyway, thank you, I enjoyed your review and I’m glad it sent me off to watch TBDAW!

  18. @ wabbit: huh, whatchu say? Junki mushy? ‘m afraid my eyes never left his face, so I can neither confirm nor deny your assertion. 😛 I’m glad you liked my review and the drama, though. It’s just a good entertaining 16 episodes of cool.

    @ estel: wow, thank you SO much for coming back to leave a comment telling me you watched TBDAW after reading my review. I am beyond touched with the courtesy, and its totally appreciated. You’ve given me renewed energy to keep writing, knowing that even one person checked out a drama I thought was worthy to recommend.

    I agree that Jung Kyung-ho is still underrated (as is his co-star in Smile, You, Lee Chun-hee). I kept watching the mess that was Jamyunggo solely for him. He really grows on you, and he’s a very expressive without ever being OTT actor. That’s a fine line to walk (ahem, Junki doesn’t do as well in this respect). Anyways, thanks again for the feedback!

  19. Great review for a great drama! I remember watching TBDW and being blown away by it. It’s definitely the pacing of the drama that did it for me (and of course Lee Junki), I was hooked from the very first episode – so much so that I finished watching the entire drama in one day. Lol hows that for a Kdramathon!

    You guys are doing great as part of Thundies Prattle, look forward to reading more great reviews/recaps. Peace out X

  20. “A well-made k-drama is timeless because the hook is not the snazzy special effects or the in-the-moment setting, but a story that resonates with the viewer whether we watch it now or ten years from now.”

    This is exactly how I feel about TBDAW. You said it, and I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels the same way. I love LBH, he is my favorite international movie star, and generally, one of my favorite and most adored actors. However, it was painful to see the romance in IRIS, because to me, it seemed like it was completely corny and tawdry. If its a spy drama, then make the romance something more realistic, something we can relate to and not some cheesy romance from a cheap romance novel. I still love LBH, adore him.
    Now, JunKi is just so damn hot in this drama, and his acting although over the top at times, is still one of the best I have seen in a K-drama so far (Jang Hyuk in “Thank You” aside) I think JunKi has a lot of passion when he acts, but he has not matured enough, he still needs to pull back all that passion at times. Aside from that, he is such a good actor, I fell in love with him in this drama.
    Just like you, this is one of my favorite dramas if not the number one favorite. And just like you, I think it is overly underrated.

  21. I have yet to finish the last few episodes but deep in my heart I can say this is one of the best K-dramas I’ve ever watched. It has all the elements: action (I’ve not seen many action k-dramas but this is good, like Taiwan’s B&W), drama, romance, bromance and humour. LJK is so versatile… he’s very good in the action sequences, can definitely emote and his smiles would melt your heart. Definitely underrated. I hope LJK returns from his S all muscled up for another action drama. I will read your review in full once I finished watching it.

  22. I would first of all like to thank everyone on Thundie’s page for the reviews.They were very informational. After reading up on this drama I viewed a couple of episodes and purchase the DVD. I know I jumped ahead of myself with the purchase, but it was well worth it.
    The script written is worthy of me viewing it in the setting room of the house on the comfy sofa(^^)

  23. I watched this drama and I luuuuuved it , eventhough I didn’t understand the end , ( and still don’t till now ) I mean if LJK’s charactere joined the woman he loves in france or not

  24. Thank you for your so pleasant recap . This is too the drama where I got sure that Lee Jun Ki ( whom I think is the most astonishing boy of the k – dramas ) could be an amazing actor . I couldn ‘ t watch iljimae ; it was too much manga – style , so boring .This drama is one of my top five . Lee Jun – Ki is still in his soldier outfit awesomely handsome . I have never seen such a perfect man .

  25. I agree on the movie aura park lee jun ki has.
    He shines.

  26. I agree with most everything you said and I just finished TBDAW tonight. I ordered it in December soon after checking out this review. Also, b/c I MUST see Lee Jun Ki’s face clearly, which I simply couldn’t online. About this being a GREAT show…for the first 6 eps this was just in the pretty decent category for me, but then ep. 7 took it up a couple notches and it just kept getting better and better. Oh, please let 2012 bring LJK back to us soon!!!!

  27. Thanks Koala…

    I loved your post – and i agree… i loved TBDAW; even with all its flaws because of many reasons you said above.
    And i totally agree that the OTP should do another drama together where He gets the girl – however, the end was suitable even though it left a bitter-sweet taste in the mouth.. and i guess, thats why its called TBDAW!! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts,,

  28. Thanks for this…
    I really liked this Drama.. At first, I don’t know Lee Jun Ki, I used to watch TBDW only because of Nam Sang Mi because I like her in Sweet Spy, it also a great Korean drama. But, while watching TBDW, I started to like Jun Ki. He’s so cute everything from him was excellent especially in acting.. I missed this drama and I missed Jun Ki and Nam Sang Mi together.. I fascinated with their team-up, and now, I really admired them both!..I hope to see more of Jun Ki and Nam Sang Mi’s dramas or movies..but of course looking forward to Jun Ki after he have been release from his military service next year, right? ,then, hope he could have dramas again with sang Mi^^

  29. I’m watching TBDAW as my currently weekend drama (dramas i watch with mom and sis when i go home on weekends) and i’m regretting it cause we watched 5 episodes last weekend and i have to wait a whole week to watch some more… ottoke??? i need my fix of TBDAW
    so far i’m so invested
    first time i saw LJK was in my girl, but i loved the OTP so much and even when i find him handsome, i didn’t like him that much. then i saw an mv from King and the Clown and the disturbing beauty of LJK killed me. i had to watch the movie, i watched and love it and love his performance as well as his looks. so i decided for TBDAW and is amazingly good!! i don’t care if it lacks a little in action scenes… i don’t care if the guy is almost dead but makes love to his girlfriend, in fact i love it!!!
    thanks for this wonderful review koala and thundie!!!

  30. I’m just watching time right now! I’m just at the closing few episodes. I really like the MAN lee jun ki. I didn’t mind iljimae because I thought of it as a ham show. I think there were few non-hams in that show, but I wasn’t wowed by his acting until I saw him as Amnesiac Kay. Maybe I mean attracted to him. I hope I’m going to love it

Newer Comments ›

Have your say

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: