[What Mary Thinks] The King’s Affection, Hellbound, School 2021, D.P.

The holidays are always a great time for several reasons. Along with spending more time with family and loved ones and eating yummy food, you also get much extra needed time to just sit down and catch up on all the shows and movies you were putting off. My Thanksgiving break might not have been the funnest as I was sick and lowkey dying. However, that also meant a lot more time just resting on my bed and hanging out in my bedroom which, of course, meant for time for K-dramas and all that good stuff 🙂

Spoilers down below so read at your own discretion, caution, and cost. You’ve been warned!

School 2021

I had no intentions of watching ‘School 2021’, but decided to give it a try after I saw it floating around on Viki. Although ‘School 2017‘ turned out to be a fun and decent watch, it was also the only part in the ‘School’ series that I had watched (so yes, I’ve never even seen the one with Kim Woo-bin and Lee Jong-suk) and also the only one I ever really planned to watch. But then something inside of me said to just give ‘School 2021’ a try and so I did. And I might continue to do so.

The 2021 version of the ‘School’ series stars Kim Yo-han as our male lead, Gong Ki-joon, with Cho Yi-hyun (My Country: The New Age) as the female lead, Jin Ji-won. Whereas ‘School 2017’ was focused on finding the identity of ‘X’ and mostly focused its attention on that sub-plot, there’s still yet to be a focus in the 2021 version of the drama. As expected, episode one was more foundational and introductory with our characters and let us into their worlds. However, episode two was a bit more interesting with the way that it delved deeper into the relationships of our characters as well as shocking us at the end of the episode with the potential suicide of one of our characters. Is this potentially what the drama is going to focus on? Is this the direction that it’s going to go in?

While the second episode had a lot more going on than episode one, it also felt a bit empty. It felt like there was too much going on, but also not a lot at the same time. Maybe that’s why the suicide at the end of the episode was so shocking to me. It came out of nowhere and raises questions about whether this passing is what’s going to jumpstart the drama or if there’s something else that the show has in store. I’d like to know sooner than later so I know what I’m getting myself into sooner than later.

However, as we will come to see, thankfully, there wasn’t a suicide at the end of episode two like we were lead to believe. Instead, our second male lead, Jung Young-joo (Choo Yeong-woo), was acting out of anger and frustration with the director of the high school and threw something over the rooftop to rebel. The pressure to succeed academically as well as the pressure to fit in socially is definitely still transparent in this drama and we don’t shy away from it throughout the first 4 episodes. Through its first 4 episodes, the drama does a fine job of introducing to us our characters and the struggles and issues that they are going through. As we saw, these struggles and concerns have a far bigger impact than our high schoolers might think.

After finishing the first 2 episodes, I was afraid the drama was just going to look really pretty and that’s it. Thankfully, episodes 3 and 4 started digging in more into our side characters and gave them their time to share their story. I’m also really enjoying the chemistry between our two leads so far and I’m excited to see their relationship develop and progress in the future. There’s already little sparks between them despite both of their denials or hesitation and it’ll be adorable to see them own up to their feelings once they get there. I also really loved watching Ji-won and Gi-joon work together to find a missing Min-seo. Although their goal was to ultimately find Min-seo (in which they did), the process in doing so also added another layer or dimension to their special relationship with each other. They might still be childhood friends who deny that they ever had childhood crushes on each other, but it’s moments like these in the present where it seems otherwise.

It looks like the drama is also following tradition by implementing some components that has been seen in former versions of the series such as the intense love-hate friendship between our male and second male lead (don’t we always love those?). It’ll be interesting to see them make up and how they go about making amends. I really like that Gi-joon is at least making the effort and taking the first steps to make up to Young-joo. That shows the maturity level of our male lead, but also makes him so much more likable. I don’t have to be afraid that both guys will be stubborn and remain standoff-ish with the other; Gi-joon, based off of what we’ve seen so far, seems like he’ll be there to talk to Young-joo when Young-joo is ready for that conversation and interaction.

I think if there’s anything that I appreciate the most about ‘School 2021’, it’s the small details they put into the relationships that just sort of takes you back to your high school days. Whether it’s the different students at the school wanting to impress their crush, watching their crush tie up their hair, pretending to be in a relationship with each other for their own benefits, or leaning in towards their crush, the drama does a great job at highlighting these small moments and details that explains why our characters fall in love. When you reflect and reminisce about your high school days and who you had a crush on, you were so naive and young and you didn’t know anything back then. All you knew was that you liked that person and that anything and everything they did stood out to you. ‘School 2021’ does a great job capturing these details so far and taking us down memory lane with these snapshots. ‘School 2021’ is a high-school drama with plenty of high school tropes and sub-plots. I appreciate that it doesn’t try to be something more or something that it’s not.

P.S.: Also, it’s great to see Secretary Gong from ‘Strong Woman Do Bong-soon’ in this drama! Watching ‘Happiness’ with Park Hyung-sik compelled me to recently go back and watch some old clips and videos of ‘Strong Woman’ and then without me knowing, Secretary Gong also happened to be in this drama! He’s a great actor with awesome comedic timing and I’m excited to see what he does in this drama. We always love an inspirational teacher who inspires his students to be the best they can be, right?

D.P.

Wow, just wow. This was also another drama that was not on my radar until just a few days ago (if it’s not obviously already, I’ve been in a K-drama slump the past few months) and boy am I glad that I gave it a watch. I remember hearing my sister rave about it, but not being familiar with the drama at all because I had never heard or even watched any promotional teasers for the drama (again, is it obvious that I was in a K-drama slump?). Thanks to my love and soft spot for Shin Seung-ho, I gave the drama a watch and finished it in 2 days (I could have finished it in one, but I started the drama late at night and got too tired, hehe).

First things first, Han Ho-yeolllllllll. Boy oh boy was he the star of this show. I mean, I know Jung Hae-in technically was the star of the show, but Koo Gyo-hwan just stole the show for me the moment he appeared on the screen. Along with just how well he played and portrayed his character, I loved the emotions he displayed through his eyes and he did a phenomenal job overall in this drama. He seriously was so so good. Something else that was also so good in this drama was definitely the cinematography and overall directing (the end of the first episode still haunts me to this day! The ending to episode 3 also remains unforgettable for me for some reason. Such a simple ending but one that spoke volumes). Such a beautiful and visually pleasing drama to watch along with an intriguing premise. A win-win combo.

D.P. was a hard-hitting watch especially because of how realistic and close to home it can be for those directly involved or impacted by military enlistments and services. While I do think the latter end of the show was amped a bit for dramatization, I appreciate the little nuances we saw in episode one of just simply the process of enlisting and what it was like for Jung Hae-in’s character, An Jun-ho. To go from being one of the guys to an assigned D.P. himself, I was afraid that he was going to remain passive in everything. I was hoping Jun-ho would be a bit more active in his position as a D.P. or even just with his unit and thankfully, we got to see him do the work, make the decisions, put together the puzzle pieces, pull up his sleeves, and so much more. Also, if this wasn’t obvious enough already, D.P. is an example of how Jung Hae-in is so much more than just a pretty face. Yes, he has the good looks, but he is also a good actor and he showcased that in this drama.

The show was episodic with our two D.P.’s focusing on different individuals throughout the course of the drama until it happened to one of their very own guys from their unit. While I understand what the drama was trying to do and go for with this direction, I also felt like things started to drag a bit for me from that point on. But then again, I get what kind of message the drama was trying to convey. The scars from the horror and terror and anger and emotions that these characters have experienced during their enlistment will live on forever. It’s not something that will just simply disappear once they finish their service. It will take many years to heal from and these scars might never heal or recover. The worst part of it all is knowing that these scars will remain there; change has to start from within and as we saw in the final episode, it’s difficult to think of a different world than the ones these guys are used to. Change is not easy to come by. That change might never come.

Hellbound

PARK JUNG-MINNNNNNNNNN. I just had to get that out of the way first. I’ve been a fan of his ever since I watched him in ‘Bleak Night’ many many years ago and I’m so glad to see him finally gain more and more recognition with his projects over the years. ‘Hellbound’ is another drama where he excelled (like he usually does) and I found the drama to be such a refreshing and interesting watch.

Imagine being notified of when you’re going to die and on that day, you basically get attacked by a trio of gorillas supernatural beings who suck the soul out of you and condemn you to down below. Well, yeah, that’s basically what ‘Hellbound’ is about and the drama doesn’t shy away from showing us what exactly happens on the fated days of certain strangers starting with the first episode. Of course, cults and gang-like crews who are hungry for power are involved in the situation while we have a central character, Min Hye-jin (Kim Hyun-joo), who fights to uncover the truth behind everything.

The premise to the drama was interesting to watch (and it’s technically based off of a webtoon). We started off on the first level which was basically watching a stranger get summoned on his fated day, but the drama intensified when an entire audience watched a woman basically confront her death (which the drama refers to as a ‘demonstration’). However, what I found the most intriguing about the drama wasn’t necessarily the demonstrations per se, but rather how the drama operated under two different timelines.

The first timeline consisted of Jung Jin-soo (Yoo Ah-in) warning everyone about the demonstrations and for everyone to take it seriously. As the cult leader of the New Truth Society and the one spreading this information, is he untouchable? Is he so divine that he’s somewhat immune to everything? However, as we saw, he is not exempt and he himself dies in the hands of the supernatural beings. The second timeline focuses on Park Jung-min’s character and his wife played by Won Jin-Ah. They begin to question everything when their newborn baby is bound for Hell despite only having been born. Did our new parents give birth to a sinner? How did their newborn baby already receive such news? What does this exactly mean? The second half of the drama answers these questions as the couple struggle to come to terms with their reality.

Overall, ‘Hellbound’ was one hell of a drama to watch (see what I did there?). The length of the drama was just enough and I think it helped that the show was basically split into two different parts to balance that out. I am very interested and excited to watch season two with the little preview that we got at the end of the final episode. First, it was just supposed to be religion, angels, sins, cults, and everything within that realm, but now, you’re saying the dead can be brought back to life? Are we getting a zombie-infused drama next season?

The King’s Affection

I had been putting off writing this review of this drama for the longest time, but I couldn’t help it. Every time I wanted to write about the drama, I got tired or lazy and couldn’t get myself to do it. I guess that speaks volumes about the way that I feel about this drama in particular. While I love Park Eun-bin and she’s the reason as to why I’m watching this drama, ‘The King’s Affection’ makes for a fun and enjoyable watch and nothing more. It has a little bit of everything that you would expect to see out of a historical drama: romance, court politics, power-hungry politicians, the Royalty themselves. But, of course, we have to talk about the gender switch that drives the premise in the first place as that’s something new that we haven’t seen in K-dramaland.

The sister of the brother who was supposed to reign as King has to step in for her deceased brother and rule as the King and somehow try to keep it a secret for as long as she can? As Lee Hwi (Park Eun-bin) will explain to her lover, Jung Ji-woon (Rowoon), she lived a life that was not hers. She’s never been able to live her life the way that she’s wanted to; she was thrown into a role and a world where she had to learn to quickly adapt or else fail. Of course, the secret can only be kept secret for so long and more and more people are finding out or will eventually discover the truth. I’m uncertain as to how the drama is going to conclude and I dread the awful consequences or anguish that our characters are going to experience when the time comes so I’m going to enjoy the drama as much as I can for now.

And I have been enjoying the drama thanks to our leads played by Park Eun-bin and Rowoon. You know, to be completely honest, I wasn’t so sure what the chemistry between Park Eun-bin and Rowoon was going to be like. I wasn’t so sure it was going to work or how it was going to come off the screen. While I still don’t think the onscreen chemistry is there for me per se, I do enjoy watching the two interact behind the scenes. I actually find that seeing them have tons of chemistry off the screen has helped me buy into their relationship on the screen (whereas it’s usually the opposite for many lead couples in other dramas). I’m not necessarily surprised at how great the two get along off the screen; Park Eun-bin always (and I mean always) has amazing chemistry with all her co-stars and ‘The King’s Affection’ is no exception. I do wish I could be a bit more invested in this drama, but since the beginning up until now, it has simply remained a fun little drama that I watch as I’m occupied with something else. That’s not to discredit the drama at all; I just wished there was a little bit more ‘oomph’ to it to really grab at my attention. For what it is and how I feel about it, it’s one that I’m going to finish and watch until the very end, but maybe never revisit in the future. Unfortunately, my affection for this drama is unfortunately not at that level of a king’s and that’s okay.

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