It’s been five long years since Ryu Joon Yeol and Jeon Do Yeon have graced the small screen, and it’s no surprise that their comeback show feels more like an indie movie than your typical Kdrama. Both have been busy making movies during that time, and are well known for portraying nuanced characters with some pretty powerful performances. The first two episodes prove that they’re bringing that talent to this drama and the show feels deeply layered because of it.
Sometimes it feels like we’re all Disqualified
The other title for this drama is Human Disqualification, and that fits it just as well. Most of the souls in this show feel lost and broken. We even start with a double suicide, so it’s not for the faint at heart. It’s also not too focused on human depravity like a lot of darker shows. There are no serial killers, or child abusers, or kidnappings to sell organs on the black market. Instead, it’s a woman who is sucked very deep into her depression and it takes most of the first two episodes to understand how she got where she is. There is no simple answer to why someone might be depressed, and the show doesn’t pretend that it is.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s hard to focus sometimes when Ryu Joon Yeol’s character brushes back his long locks and stares at the camera, saddened by his friend’s suicide. He’s broken but still very sexy in every moment. His job is to play-act with his clients, like pretending to be a boyfriend at a wedding or sometimes maybe something a little more grown-up. He doesn’t want to care about anything but money, and all the gifts he’s been given by his clients prove that thought process, yet he still forks over the money to bury his friend properly when no one else steps up. At twenty-seven, he admits he does whatever he can to survive.
Drama Geek: I started this drama for him. I love the actress, but I really wanted to see Ryu Joon Yeol tackle this character. My eyes follow him with every movement, and it isn’t just because of his looks. He makes me want to dive deeper and understand his character.
Kmuse: I also started the drama to see Ryu Joon Yeol’s return to the small screen. Through the previews, it was obvious that this was going to be a serious drama. However, Lost turned out to be so much better than I was expecting. Every glance, spoken dialogue, and interaction had layers of meaning. This is a show you have to pay attention to in order to really soak in all the essence that is available.
Characters you can relate to…
By the end of episode two, we’ve only scratched the surface of what makes our leads tick. Lee Boo Jung is in what appears to be an unhappy marriage, complete with a meddling mother-in-law, but her worries go beyond that. She’s been fired from her writing job and is currently being summoned by the police for online harassment. Her true character doesn’t shine through until she visits her father (played by the Deok Chul actor from Navillera!). She lovingly makes sure he’s eaten and helps him with the boxes he collects for cash. Her raw unloading of emotion when she finally breaks down, not really telling her dad what is wrong with her but just saying she’s failed at life, was heartbreaking and beautiful.
Lee Kang Jae is a bit harder to get real emotion from. There are peeks of it on the bus as he goes home to find clothes to dress his friend in for his funeral. He also genuinely reaches out to help Boo Jung when they end up on the same bus after he’s overheard her tearful conversation with her father. Their interaction is brief but profound. She barely utters any words, but he understands what she needs at the moment. He lives in her father’s building, so it’s not the last encounter they’ll have.
Drama Geek: I may have started this for him, but I was immediately sucked in by Jeon Do Yeon. Again, she barely speaks in one of their scenes but you can feel everything she’s conveying. The depth of her hurt and depression is almost palpable in the first scene she’s in, and you want to help her untangle everything and find a way back to being healthy again.
Kmuse: Our leads don’t really interact until the last few minutes of episode one. However, when they do connect their chemistry is electric. And by chemistry, I am not referring to sexual chemistry, more that they connect on a level of acting that few drama leads accomplish. There is an extended scene between them on the bus in episode two and it had me in awe. SO SO SO GOOD! At that point, I decided that I didn’t care if there is romance or they just help each other get past a hard time. I am 100% in for these two to find happiness.
Romance or Friendship?
My Drama List doesn’t include a romance tag, and the description doesn’t say if they start anything like that. She’s married, but her husband’s heart seems to belong to his first love. I have no idea if these two will have a friendship that will help them see through the troubles in their life, or if it’ll be something more. Whatever the case, this writer and director have something to say about losing your way in life and finding hope to continue living and trying to be happy.
Drama Geek: I’m okay with either scenario, to be honest. I don’t usually go for cheating dramas, but I can also read in between lines and understand why she’d find solace in a relationship with Kang Jae. By the end, both she and her husband will have to decide if their marriage is worth fighting for, or if they need to part ways. I do know that the writer’s intent doesn’t seem to want to focus on cheating and making it seem sexy or appealing. The story is more focused on real people trying to survive.
Kmuse: As I said in the last segment, whichever way they take this relationship, the leads are talented enough to make it work. It is such a joy to see two very talented veteran actors bring characters to life.
Movie or Drama?
We’ve already said that this show feels like an indie film. The lighting isn’t pleasingly bright, but it’s also not dark and gritty. Kmuse described it as detailed and beautiful, even though it’s sad. The lighting fits whatever the scene is trying to convey, and the choice of shots helps shape the narrative. From the early shot of Kang Jae curled up in the fetal position while he slept in the hotel room a client had paid for (her time was up before anything happened) or the way the alley looked as father and daughter walked through it to get to his pile of boxes he’d collected. We know she feels shame at how her dad still makes money, just at a glance.
Drama Geek: You know the two of us are suckers for a well-directed drama and this is no different. I was all eyes from the first shot.
Kmuse: I love how the director is using light and sound to really create a realistic mood. Instead of focusing on sweeping music, you hear real-life sounds. The squeak of a bus, steps on a stair, things that we hear every moment of the day but rarely focus on. He increases the surround sounds to really emphasize that this is a realistic story. Not something that is glossy or romanticized like most dramas. Every episode feels like an indie film that should be getting an award at Sundance. I can’t emphasize how happy I am with the visuals of this drama.
Will we keep watching?
Drama Geek: This isn’t exactly what I would have picked out for myself right now. It’s heavy and would probably be considered a bit too moody for some, but I was sucked in and I couldn’t stop myself from hitting play on the second episode. I’ll keep watching as long as it doesn’t weigh me down too much.
Kmuse: This is exactly the kind of show I enjoy watching in the fall. Full of atmosphere and interesting characters, this is all that I didn’t know I needed.
Until the next Hallelujah (Look up Jeff Buckley and this song, you will not be disappointed),
Drama Geek & Kmuse
Drama With a Side of Kimchi