Have you ever watched a drama that seemed to be good all the way through, and then it just fell apart in the last two episodes? Were there supernatural powers involved? Then I have a theory for you! Come with me as I dust off my literary analysis hat and show you the reason for your dissatisfaction.
(All opinions in this article are solely the opinions of the Maknae. Buckle up, because I have a LOT of them. ALSO, there will be SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS for Meow the Secret Boy and Goblin: The Great and Last Guardian. You have been warned.)
In the last few months, I’ve discovered that I will even watch dramas like Meow the Secret Boy, simply because cute lil Kim Myung Soo/L from Infinite and his adorable dimples drew me in.
Well, that’s the shallow reason. Meow the Secret Boy sounded like fun. A cat could turn into a human, but only around a certain woman? And sometimes he would still act like a cat? I was in!
And so it was with great delight that I watched Meow the Secret Boy….until the last few episodes. Suddenly, the story got weird, and the final episode left a bad taste in my mouth. Being who I am, I had to figure out just WHY this drama ended badly, and I’ve come up with a theory.
It completely lacked consistency in its magic systems.
It’s true! In Meow, the Secret Boy, the parameters for L’s changing from cat to human are loosely defined. If he’s near Sol Ah, he changes. If he’s wearing something of Sol Ah’s, he can maintain his human form. Midway through the series, an older cat tells him that eventually he won’t be able to transform anymore.
And that’s it. There’s no exact count of how long he’ll be able to turn into a human to give a nice timer to the story for dramatic effect. Nor is he told how to overcome it, or how his relationship with the human will affect his powers. Just a “hey, you can transform now” and then “now you can’t” with a last-minute “Just kidding!” thrown in at the end.
Let’s contrast that with Goblin. The first episode of Goblin is all about how awesome Kim Shin is as a warrior, and how he was betrayed and yet saved by the gods to essentially resolve his grudge. However, he had to bear the punishment of a supernatural sword sticking right through him, one that could only be pulled out by his destined bride.
Do you see that? All the rules and their accompanying challenges are set up right from the beginning. In a stroke of brilliance, none of them are resolved the way the viewer thinks they will be in the beginning, and that’s what makes Goblin a delight.
There are other dramas that have had that same inconsistency. Angel’s Last Mission: Love comes to mind (hey look! It’s Kim Myung Soo and his dimples again). In the last few episodes, it seemed to me that all the rules that were established over and over again throughout the drama were completely thrown out the window.
In Bride of Habaek, I’m not sure there WERE any rules, and (SPOILER) it didn’t matter anyway, because the highest being in the divine court came down and resolved everything deus ex machina style. That’s just lazy writing, and completely unsatisfying for the drama watcher.
Extraordinary You had me torn. It seemed like the rules of the supernatural were strictly adhered to, whether the characters understood them or not. The presentation of those rules was just a bit muddy sometimes.
And there are other dramas that got it just right. The magic system in Hwayugi/A Korean Odyssey was executed brilliantly. I just hated the ending. Mystic Pop Up Bar was handled perfectly and made me cheer — I loved that drama. Even The King: Eternal Monarch worked out just right — I just had to watch it a second time to understand it all!
So, in the end, what a good magical system needs is a clear and defined set up to achieve a fist-pumping “ah yeah!” payoff at the end. That’s what makes me sigh and then recommend the drama to everyone I know.
What do you think, drama fans? Am I on the right track, or did I miss something in the dramas I mentioned that would have explained everything perfectly? Drop down in the comments and let me know!
Until the next wave of the magic wand, I remain —
Karie the Maknae
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi