Frights of fancy

An unbridled imagination, it goes places. Just ask me.

So three days ago I was watching Episode 5 of Tree With Deep Roots. Rather listlessly, I confess, because I was still bummed about a certain someone’s exit the previous episode. Friends raved about Han Seok-kyu’s acting and how it was helping them to be, you know, more forward-looking about the drama. Backward-looking me, however, didn’t think his King Sejong was exceptional; he was solid as expected, nothing more and nothing less. I also found the characterization of the two Sejongs to be so disparate as to be jarring. Yawning even though the night was still early, my drowsy mind half-contemplated two thoughts: Bail now. Bail after Episode 6.

And then it happened. A flashback that jolted me awake.

Kang Chae-yoon (and I wrote about my first impressions of him here) is remembering a day in the past when he was much darker and angrier. In a forest with other grungy-looking men, he is slashing every enemy in sight; blood is splattered all over his face. An old man appears, one possessing otherworldly pugilistic skills. Chae-yoon begs the old man to train him as a disciple, so that he can one day be skilled enough to avenge his father’s wrongful and untimely death. The master refuses. So now Chae-yoon is screaming and sobbing and totally freaking me out.

The scene reminded me of one in Chuno where Jang Hyuk also plays a character about to burst the blood vessels in his brain and eyes. So enraged is he, his nostrils are flaring, spit is flying, his dentist’s handiwork is on full display.

Like many things about Chuno (the other day I walked two blocks racking my brain the entire time trying to remember the drama’s ending), I could not remember why Dae-gil had gone berserk in that particular scene, but that did not matter.

What gripped me were not the whys of the character’s fury but the actor’s wherewithals. With what means did the guy summon up so much (facial) power in order to look this incensed?

So that was how my mind began to wander, ambling off on a journey that I would soon regret.

Hmm, I wondered, does Jang Hyuk always look this mad in his dramas? He certainly did in Chuno and now again in Tree With Deep Roots, but how about the dramas before that? So I looked among my stash of old dramas and lo and behold found Thank You, his first piece of work after completing military service. Vaguely remembering that his Dr. Min character was pretty crotchety in the opening episode, I decided to revisit that episode and see for myself if his rage came anywhere close to his sageuk portrayals.

Yuck. I had completely forgotten about THAT.

What else had slipped my mind since watching the drama four years ago? Plenty, including this (gratuitous) scene.

And another one where a patient’s mother is so anguished she pulls Jang Hyuk’s pants down accidentally (or perhaps deliberately), thus giving the camera an opportunity to show us a close-up of his (hairy) legs. The good doc is of course suitably irked. But then again that should not surprise us; even in front of the most important person in his life he can look angry enough to want to bite her head off.

Funny how I remember to this day Jang Hyuk and Choi Kang-hee’s sizzling chemistry but do not remember that their love also involves (or necessitates) expressions such as this one.

She is so precious to him she can make him so furious. She is so precious a future without her in it is simply unfathomable to him.

I watched some more, savoring all their scenes together. His fears. His fervent hopes.

That episode came to an end and it made me sadder than I wanted to be. So I steered my mind away, to another drama whose title I had happened to see as I was searching for my old Jang Hyuk dramas. This one I had abandoned in 2009 after just one episode. This one I had wiped clean from my memory.

So the opening scene came as a shock.

But at least So Ji-sub’s expression is serene as he lies there on the sand, given up for dead. The sight did not freak me out, as bloodied faces usually do.

Bloodied hands, too.

Encouraged by my derring-do, I continued watching. Which was how I saw Shin Hyun-joon’s surgeon character proceed to dump, most gleefully, a bottle of hot sauce on the head of a patient. And then massage, in an extremely rough manner, that sauce into her hair.

Ew, Show. No thanks for reminding me of one of the reasons why I bailed so early.

In her comment on a congratulatory post that I was privileged to be part of, javabeans said:

It’s amazing how when you love what you do, the numbers just sort of creep up on you; and when you look back the glow of satisfaction really comes in seeing how everyone shares the same affection and passion and addiction for this thing, this culture, by which I mean not Korea but the culture of consuming art… (emphasis by thundie)

Since reading that comment about a month ago, I’ve been thinking about how we, collectively and individually, consume this art that is kdrama. How we watch it, think about it, talk about it, write/blog about it. The hours some of us spend, is it not true that it consumes us as much as we consume it? And sometimes it consumes us in ways that we do not expect, transporting us to places that are more frights than flights of fancy.

So, what have you been watching lately? And where has it taken you?

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