Goodreads is experiencing an outage, so all the reviews and The Mysterious Reading Society stuff that I planned to do are now on hold. I don’t want to continue reading because there are a lot of thoughts I still have to unload for the said reviews, so it looks like it’s the perfect time for a new Time Out for TV post.
This previous Korean drama cycle (January/February to March/April) was an exhausting one for me because the dramas I decided to watch all happen to air on Mondays-Tuesdays. But I finally got a reprieve as two of them finished airing this week!
～゜・_・゜～ ☆ ～゜・_・゜～
GOD’S GIFT: 14 DAYS / 신의 선물 – 14일
Seoul Broadcasting System, Mondays-Tuesdays
3 March-22 April 2014, 16 episodes + 1 Special
I only have two reasons for picking which Korean TV series to watch: 1. A favorite actor or actress is in it, or 2. I find the plot or premise interesting. My list of favorite actors or those whose performances I am curious about is quite short, so most of the time, it’s the premise that sells a show to me.
“God’s Gift” had actress Lee Bo-young in it. I loved her in “I Hear Your Voice”, but I decided to watch this show because it’s a thriller and a whodunit with a time travel element. It’s certainly not unique, but it’s different from the usual romances that were masquerading as dramas with novel or supposedly innovative concepts.
In “God’s Gift”, Kim Soo-hyun (Lee Bo-young) is a television writer whose only daughter, Saet-byul, is one day kidnapped and then later found dead. [Side note: It seems like Kim Soo-hyun is a popular name these days. Here, it is the character’s (a woman) name. Not to be confused with the popular actor of “My Love From The Stars” or the actress who was cast in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”.] Thinking that her daughter was murdered as an act of revenge for her story about recent serial killings, Soo-hyun, in despair, commits suicide by jumping into the same lake where her daughter’s body was found.
Meanwhile, a few meters away, ex-cop and private detective Ki Dong-chan (Jo Seung-woo) is about to be murdered himself by a bunch of gangsters. He tries to ask help from Soo-hyun, but she couldn’t hear him, and so he, too, dies in the lake.
Later, some unexplained magic envelopes them both, and they wake up 14 days before Saet-byul’s death. They cross each other’s paths at some point, and they figure out that their stories and their fates are intertwined, and that they must have been sent back to change their futures. What follows is a series of red herrings and revelations that were all subtly referenced in the events of the first 2 episodes leading up to Saet-byul’s death, and are slowly unraveled every day (1 episode = 1 day).
The aspect of this show that I enjoyed the most was trying to guess who the real murderer was. It seems I was not alone, as the cast members have revealed that none of them knew who the real killer was until they all got to that point in the production. The director and writer wanted the details to be kept under wraps to ensure that the actors will not unintentionally foreshadow anything through their performances, and also to prevent spoilers from leaking outside the production, which would have spelled D-O-O-M for a story like this one.
The premise is ambitious, and the execution was a hit-and-miss, at least for me. Some of the revelations, particularly near the homestretch, seemingly came out of nowhere. There were a lot of things and clues that felt too contrived as well. I know, I know, they are all contrived, especially for this kind of story, but I needed the writer to make me believe, not doubt. There were so many characters and supposedly interconnected events, and I don’t think they were all managed well.
Soo-hyun, as the lead character, was a bit one-dimensional in that you can pretty much predict what she will do: impulsively get into the thick of things and do anything to save her daughter. Every time Dong-chan calls after her exasperatedly as she is about to pursue a suspect, I wince along with him. I’m also not sure why they had to give her a philandering husband except to serve as a red herring, and maybe so that she will have free rein to run around chasing people with Dong-chan. Nevertheless, it is easy to root for her.
Dong-chan’s character is a bit more complex. They delved pretty deep into his past and his relationships and motivations, so I felt like his character was easier to understand and care about.
I also need to mention Saet-byul, who has got to be one of the most…exasperating kids I’ve ever known. Including non-fictional kids. It’s like her character just courts danger—talking to strangers, going with strangers, running off to watch concerts without an adult (she’s 10 years old!), running away from her mother. I don’t mean this to sound like victim blaming, but I just think the writer hinged a lot of key consequences on Saet-byul’s actions rather than on the suspects. At one point, Soo-hyun’s husband tells her to just stay in the house with Saet-byul so that they won’t get into trouble, and I felt like the writer was throwing me a bone and actually had a character express my frustrations. Then again, even if they locked themselves up in their lovely apartment, Saet-byul probably would have found a way to sneak out to…I don’t know, watch Snake or something. A determined fangirl is a resourceful fangirl.
Speaking of Snake (the fictional rock band Saet-byul was crazy about), No Min Woo was perfect in his role as the band’s frontman, Tae-oh. Somehow I feel like he didn’t need to channel anybody and just had to be himself. 😛
The drama began with an animated sequence, which tells the story of a mother whose child was taken by the Angel of Death, and how she pursued Death to get her child back. It was a lovely sequence, by the way, reminiscent of the opening sequence of “Faith” (with Lee Min-ho), which was reminiscent of “The Tale of the Three Brothers” from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”. The tale, which was from a book that Soo-hyun read to Saet-byul, serves as sort of the over-arching theme of the show, along with destiny and how it cannot be altered. And this is perhaps my biggest problem with this story.
*Warning for major plot spoilers and the Big Reveal*
Let’s go for a second Harry Potter reference, shall we? In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, Harry and Hermione go back in time to try to save Buckbeak, and later on, Sirius Black. Everything that happened in the past still happens to the smallest detail, except when Harry and Hermione take Buckbeak, thereby actively changing Buckbeak’s and Sirius’ fates.
In “God’s Gift”, no matter how much Soo-hyun and Dong-chan intervened, the people who were supposed to die still ended up dead, and the clues that they previously found still surfaced. This pretty much shows that everyone’s destiny cannot be altered even though the events leading up to their deaths were slightly altered. You can try to prolong their deaths but they are bound to die anyway.
But we know that Dong-chan and Soo-hyun are supposed to save Saet-byul, and as Dong-chan presumes, his older brother, who is in death row for a crime he did not commit. (His brother was hanged on the same day Dong-chan and Soo-hyun died in the past.) As expected, Saet-byul and Dong-ho do manage to make it out of this drama alive along with Soo-hyun, but not Dong-chan. Recalling the prophecy of the seer that Soo-hyun met in the previous timeline—”one must die so that the other would live” (another Potter reference?)—Dong-chan saves Saet-byul…and he dies. They don’t exactly show what happened to him, but it is implied that he committed suicide by drowning himself in the lake. WHICH I DON’T GET. That prophecy totally did not need to be in play in the end because it was possible for both Dong-chan and Saet-byul not to die under the circumstances. All Dong-chan had to do was walk back to shore, set the kid down, and wait for Soo-hyun to get to him and help him. But no, he killed himself.
I assume this has something to do with guilt and some sort of poetic thing about being given free will to alter your destiny or to follow it. But what about the other victims whose destinies could not be altered no matter how everyone else tried? Doesn’t that mean that everyone’s deaths were not mistakes? So why did Dong-chan and Soo-hyun get sent back in the first place? Why did Saet-byul and Dong-ho need to be saved, but not the other victims? Was it to save Dong-chan’s soul? But what did he do to merit a second chance?
I feel like I wouldn’t protest too much if Dong-chan had died in a different manner. Probably in a more heroic effort to actively save Saet-byul? Basically any scenario where only one of them could possibly be saved. But not that kind of suicide. Not that. He probably saved his soul when he saved his brother and Saet-byul, but what about when he willingly took his own life out of guilt and a realization about a prophecy?! I do realize that my protest may come from looking at the scenario from a different cultural lens because these kinds of suicides have been known to happen in Korea (e.g. the school administrator who killed himself after he was saved from the Sewol ferry tragedy because he was the one who planned the field trip). But I just wanted Dong-chan’s death to be more consistent with the laws of the story.
*end of spoilers*
“God’s Gift” is actually quite entertaining, especially if you try to solve the mystery as you go along. It can also get frustrating. But I haven’t watched any k-drama that did not frustrate me these past few months, so I guess it’s par for the course. There is no perfect drama, after all. Watch this if you want something other than the usual romantic comedies or historical sagas and if you want to exercise your Little Gray Cells some more.
Next time, I will review a show that frustrated me even more than this: “Empress Ki”.
I’m so excited for “Doctor Stranger”, by the way, which will premiere on Monday! So excited, I’m dancing along with Jong-suk.
I’m also looking forward to “You’re All Surrounded”. It’s a good thing they air on different days, so I only have to do double duty on Monday-Tuesday as there are still around 4 episodes to go for “Secret Love Affair” (which is a very interesting drama I also plan to talk about when it ends).