Tag: TV

Rise of the Phoenixes

I’ve learned nothing!

I began a Chinese drama last week, longing for a world vivid, lush, and extreme. But, I didn’t check the episode count first. Somewhere around the 20th episode, wondering how much longer there would be until a kiss, I looked.


Anyway, I got what I was looking for, albeit too much. And considering my admittedly obsessive tendencies, ended up spending entirely too much of the weekend in front of the TV.

Via Soompi.com

Which doesn’t mean that my new health goals fell by the wayside. It means I read a lot of subtitles upside down while doing “angels” on a pool noodle, and a lot of subtitles shakily bouncing around as I was. Thankfully I have all kinds of new sand ball gadgets and exercises that need only a chair or some such, but it was all pretty funny.

Rise of the Phoenixes, thankfully for all that trouble, was well worth watching, although I want to be careful to say that what hooks me into something like this may be quite different from what others are seeking.

  • There was a great deal of 3 or more layered strategy, some of which required a great deal of patience to play out. I personally found that rewarding.
  • In some of the non-historical Chinese dramas I’ve seen, the writers have been very hesitant for the hero figure to not win every time, even in the small things, but this was more complex, perhaps being based on a well-loved book.
  • Considering how many of these ‘princes battling for the throne’ story lines I’m familiar with, it is not easy to surprise me at all. I was often surprised. ūüôā
Kun Chen, via Pinterest, from “Flying Swords of Dragon”

On the shallower side, I was mesmerized by Kun Chen‘s beautiful, yet somehow odd, face. Or, maybe it was the way his face was so different from moment to moment, which is hard to find captured in still shots. I know this because I didn’t the terribly difficult labor of searching for quite a while. >ahem<

Almost all the actors in this series were fantastic. I’ve gotten a too used to watching shows with a blend of levels of talent hanging off of one or two main super talents, I think, because I kept stopping to consider just how good they were.

From Xin Zi Yan to Ni Ni (who is also, incredibly gorgeous), each showed themselves multifaceted through several shifts and character transformations.

Ni Ni, via scmp.com

If I could change anything, I would smooth out the pacing, distribute the energies more evenly. The first half was slow to show its hand, but the last several episodes felt like a different drama, trying to fit too many plot lines and character shifts in before the clock ran out. This meant that although I have no qualms with the ending itself, I felt just okay when sending these characters off into the void.

And maybe more kissing. ūüôā

If you’d like a more thorough ‘recap’ type post, I enjoyed this one.

lonely goblin

I picked up Lonely Shining Goblin and Legend of the Deep Blue Sea at the same time, but only Goblin felt truly inventive.  It was brooding and patient (occasionally too much so), and Lee Dong Wook’s grim reaper was reminiscent of another drama I liked, although it didn’t quite reach its potential, Blade Man.

For me, the best thing about this drama is the mood.



Highlighting Lee Dong Wook as an actor isn’t to imply that it wasn’t great to spend time with Gong Yoo on the small screen again, but as much as I hate to say so, Gong Yoo’s gravitas may have overgrown the TV medium.   Although he did well embody the longing one might expect from a goblin who had brooded for 500 years, reflecting on tragedy and injustice, suffering without intimacies.

Yet having seen him in films like A Man and a Woman, I couldn’t shake the feeling that a mature partner for him would have been more appealing.

Kim Go-Eun did move my heart in scenes, even out-shining her more seasoned costars.  Especially, her capacity for anguish was startling for one so young.  But the ultra light-and-girly way her character was written didn’t allow for deep enough chemistry between the two.  By contrast, her Cheese in the Trap character held to a grounded center.  I much preferred her there.

Overall, I was pleased with facets of time and memory, overlap and questioning of identities, virtue and vice, even though some connections weren’t quite made.  Long episodes were appropriate, fitting to the desired epic scale.

Appreciating Old and New

Although Korean dramas have lost some of their addictive quality (thank goodness, sleep is important too!), what emerges from a slower watch is sometimes far more interesting, comparable to a whirlwind romance that later settles into a more familiar and comfortable rhythm.

The downside is that I’m not all that driven to write about the new dimensions, but that may change if another Six Flying Dragons comes along.

For now, I’m slowly watching The Lonely Shining Goblin,¬†and for the third time, My Name is Kim Sam Soon.¬† Both are meaningful, but the contrast between the new show and one of the oldest I’ve seen is striking.¬† Even with plain sets, common dilemmas, and bad hairstyles, Sam Soon feels emotionally resonate and enduring in a way Lonely Goblin does not.

I’m not so sure there has been emotional benefit to K-drama popularity across the world. Couldn’t they have just made their way to me, without adapting much otherwise? ūüėČ

My Name is Kim Sam Soon

What I notice, is how much freedom the actors were given to find the most sensitive places in themselves – not just for a few scenes, but for most.¬† There seems also less emphasis on physical perfection, allowing for a wider range of expression. They weren’t afraid to include ‘ugly’ in the range of human emotion.

With newer dramas, one can too often see the gears moving from inside the editing room. Rarely can the audience lose sight of calculations in pace, or suspend the tendency to predict when peak moments are about to occur.

Even so, I’m taken in¬†by the metaphors in The Lonely Shining Goblin,¬†and the way high notes are played in non self-serious ways,. It can be moving in the way one is touched when a live musician adds little surprises to a song you thought you knew very well.

Sometimes I, Even I…

[Spoilers – re-watch episode 11]

CiTT in order.

I am now so sucked in, so invested, that I’m scared to have forgotten what I know about the drama on the whole. Am I about to be blindsided again? I can’t help myself – the character study is intricate, and episode 11 especially, hits me right in the gut. I find both Seol and Jung too deeply relatable and am projecting on them full speed ahead, myself an introverted only then oldest child, raised in a small and fragmented family.

When Seol finally erupts at the unfairness of treatment by her parents in comparison with her younger brother who has priority of resources as a male, it is one of the drama’s pinnacle moments. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† Continue reading “Sometimes I, Even I…”

Who Exactly, Are You?

[Spoilers for re-watch, episodes 8, 9, 10]

CiTT in order.

It might have worked a number of ways, actually. Here in the middle episodes we may have been able to shift away from Jung/Seol for a while, and to consider In Ho/Seol. We could have been honestly torn, and come to accept a change of heart, or have backed up enough from both to see them growing up in parallel through unique challenges.

However, for In Ho to supplant Jung in Seol’s affections, the writer would have had to start solving Jung for us in another way by now…


Continue reading “Who Exactly, Are You?”


CiTT in order.


The texture of time in the storytelling has a lot to do with what makes Cheese in the Trap resonate. In the webtoon also, inner dialogs and flashbacks serve to paint what experience is really like for people: we generally don’t make sense of things by linear data gathering; we take in flashes of time and are rather mosaic, perceptions flickering in and out of awareness.


Of His Own

[Spoilers for re-watch of episodes 5 (cont.) – 6]

CiTT in order.

With Jung and Seol, things develop slowly. Although he has dated far more, and, as In Ho tells Seol, broken the hearts of “trucks of women”, with Eun Seol Jung¬†finds an innocence he knows is¬†precious¬†and¬†tries to protect that.


Episode 6 holds one of the most tender¬†scenes in the drama if¬†you’re on Jung’s side, because while at Seol’s house, comfortable and curious,¬†he easily begins to share the core of struggle that for everyone else is a lock box mystery.¬†Trust between them becomes much easier.


Still trying to make sense of his¬†change toward her, and to make peace with¬†earlier instincts and events, Seol¬†also seizes¬†the openness¬†to ask, when that happened. We get to see the way¬†he came to understand her walls as like¬†his own, began to recognize her kindness and sense of personal responsibility, so important to Jung who has been groomed¬†not to complain when taken advantage of… always to do and give more, to let things be taken, since he has so much. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Continue reading “Of His Own”