Kang Ha Neul is back from the military and paired up with Gong Hyo Jin, no less! Come see what Kdrama Jen and Karie the Maknae thought of their new drama, When the Camellia Blooms.
Is This a Mystery?
Karie the Maknae: The drama opens on a body that seems to have been pulled out of the water. Our hero, policeman Yong Sik, is running towards the water. As the stretcher is being wheeled away under his horrified gaze, a woman’s hand drops from under the sheet, wearing a distinctive bracelet. The first two episodes start and end on this scene, and woven throughout the story are references to a serial killer named Joker.
Kdrama Jen: When I saw the opening scene, I had to look back at the synopsis I had read. I did not recall this being a police procedural. But, then I was distracted by Kang Ha Neul and Gong Hyo Jin and forgot about it—until it came up again!
Is This a Slice of Life?
Karie the Maknae: Our heroine, Dong Baek, moves to a rural town with her young son. Throughout the character introductions, we see the ensemble cast of restaurant ahjummas who rule the town, the men who flock to Dong Baek’s bar, and get the vibe of the entire populace told with a beautifully awkward dry wit.
Kdrama Jen: I really loved how everyone reacted to Dong Baek when they first saw her. Everyone just stopped in their tracks or lost their senses. Then, they saw she had a child and immediately assumed she was a young newly wed. Soon, though, she clarified that misunderstanding as well, and we get to see how the locals respond to the news she is a single mother. There are many small moments that are really touching. I mean, Dong Baek’s dream is to work at the lost and found at the train station because the person who works there is always appreciated and people say thank you to them. I think most of us can relate to that kind of dream, but this also also helps us really understand her character.
Is This a Romance?
Karie the Maknae: Yong Sik is captivated by Dong Baek’s beauty, but when he gets glimpses of her steel inner core, THAT’S when the young hothead falls in love. Unfortunately for him, he’s got competition in the form of Dong Baek’s baby daddy AND the town’s married blowhard. The show keeps referring to the men as “the good, the bad, and the cheap”, but I wouldn’t pin any of them with those labels just yet.
Kdrama Jen: I fell for the way Yong Sik enthusiastically pursued justice, beginning at a young age. He has such an earnestness about him. It’s kind of hard not to like him. I also appreciate that he seems to see beyond Dong Baek’s beauty and appreciate her on a different level.
Karie the Maknae: There’s something subtly funny about this show — there are a lot of moments that are played for laughs, but not in a slapstick way. When combined with the mysterious death they keep alluding to, I find myself ready to press play on the next episode almost immediately.
Kdrama Jen: I absolutely agree. I think there is a sophistication behind the acting that can be felt. Gong Hyo Jin is a pro and I have also been impressed by Kang Ha Neul. He seems to provide a nice balance to her understated acting style. I also have to give a shout out to one of my favorite ahjumma actresses: Kim Sun Young. This actress always draws my attention. You may remember her as one of the Reply 1988 moms, or more recently the crazy director in Her Private Life or Soo Bin’s mom in Moment of Eighteen. She is really convincing as one of the leading neighborhood bullies in the drama. There is a very talented cast and many multi-faceted characters. I find myself wanting to pull at the various threads they are weaving, so there is definitely something here that is intriguing. I think the word “subtle” really works. I want to keep watching to understand how everything comes together.
Karie the Maknae: Oh, who am I kidding? KANG HA NEUL! KANG HA NEUL! KANG HA NEUL!
Kdrama Jen. Yeah… We can’t really share a fangirl first impression without squeeing just a bit, right?? I would just like to also say, “Gong Hyo Jin, Gong Hyo Jin, Gong Hyo Jin!”
What do you think, k-fans? Will you keep watching?
Until the Camellia blooms, we remain:
Karie the Maknae and Kdrama Jen
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi