skygiants: Yong Ha from Sungkyunkwan Scandal (trollface)
[personal profile] skygiants
To be honest, I didn't really expect to love the kdrama Descendants of the Sun, a romantic melodrama about a special forces soldier and an ER surgeon. I'm skeptical about romanticizing the military! Contemporary melodrama is not my thing! Probably there were going to be too many dudes all over the place everywhere anyway!

OH, HOW WRONG I WAS. Descendants of the Sun is a GEM.

Descendants of the Sun mostly takes place in the imaginary country of Urk, which is somewhere in the war-torn Balkans. Conveniently, Urk contains a major Korean military outpost, a Korean solar power plant, a large community of Korean expats, and a whole lot of beautiful sun-drenched Greek churches, because if you're making up a fictional Balkan country WHY NOT shoot in Greece.

Our Hero, Captain Yoo - previously seen around this blog as Yong Ha on Sungkyunkwan Scandal - is a rising star in the Korean A-team. He's notable for his charm, good looks, sense of humor, and the fact that he's the only Korean romantic lead I've ever encountered who explicitly uses the term 'consent' to apologize for a surprise kiss.

He is also notable for the trail of broken hearts he leaves across the special forces teams of other nations - most notably the series villain, a former American special ops whose life Captain Yoo saved once during a joint mission...

...who promptly turned around and became an evil ganglord with a special place in his heart for 'Big Boss' (that's Captain Yoo's callsign) (YES, I KNOW)

We called this guy "General Hospital," because he was so obviously an American soap opera actor looking for a better home, and we're just so glad he found this one. He was so happy to chew every piece of scenery he could stuff in his perfectly coiffed mouth!

In addition to breaking hearts all over the globe, Captain Yoo has a life partner, Sergeant Seo the extremely stoic.

Sergeant Seo was one of my favorite characters; I was so proud of him on the rare occasions when he made a facial expression!

[footage not found]

Sergeant Seo is caught up in an extremely tragic relationship with Lieutenant Yoon, a military doctor. They love each other very much, but her father, who is a general, does not approve of her dating a non-commissioned officer and in a clear abuse of power has has Officially Ordered Sergeant Seo to back off.

Sergeant Seo responds to this by stoically repining.

Lieutenant Yoon, on the other hand -- a woman with moxie! -- responds to this by stalking Sergeant Seo around the globe as much as possible. When she can't be there to stalk him in person, she gets daily updates from a subordinate that she's recruited to spy on him. TAKE THAT, DAD!

It's not very ... respectful of boundaries ..... but weirdly adorable nonetheless? I was rooting for these two kids to make it work.

Meanwhile, Captain Yoo's love interest and the actual female lead is Dr. Kang, a brilliant surgeon who goes on a date or two with Captain Yoo back in Korea and then ends up somewhat unwillingly leading a medical team to Urk.

Their relationship is surprisingly un-angsty! They are both aware that they like each other, but she has some misgivings about dating someone who jumps out of helicopters and gets shot at for a living. That's it, that's their drama.

...or rather, that's their internal relationship drama. Their external drama includes, in no particular order:

- landmines
- earthquakes
- kidnapping
- human trafficking
- that one time the respected president of the Arab League was definitely going to die unless Captain Yoo held his bodyguards at gunpoint so Dr. Kang could give him emergency open-heart surgery against their wishes
- that one time all the starving children of Urk didn't realize that eating lead was bad and got lead poisoning because they were sucking on lead pipes all day long
- diamond smuggling
- the measles

Poor, poor war-turn Urk just cannot get a break.

Anyway, all this makes for frequently hilarious and really consistently entertaining television. However, what really makes Descendants of the Sun stand out is the huge cast of interesting supporting characters, any of whom could easily have carried a drama all of their own. Spin-off series I would definitely watch include:

- the rom-com about Dr. Song and Nurse Ha, sardonic middle-aged medical professionals with Unresolved History; their prickly-BFFs-who-are-secretly-in-love storyline places them firmly at C-couple status in the actual show but they were my favorites! You know it's true love when he gives her his computer password and makes her swear to delete his porn folder if he dies in one of Urk's many, many tragic incidents!

- The Further Adventures of Fatima, a hard-bitten mildly murderous teenage refugee who gets temporarily adopted by Dr. Kang before they apprentice her off to the hot Russian arms dealer who moonlights as a waitress at everyone's favorite Urk dive bar

- a cooking show focused on Kim Ki-Bum, a youthful pickpocket that Captain Yoo and Sergeant Seo adopt in the first episode; he promptly enlists in their regiment and spends the rest of the series earnestly discovering a genuine love for kitchen duty and attempting to teach his new dads how to cook

- the Extremely Dramatic Backstory of Dreamy Dr. Daniel and Ri Ye-Hwa, owners of the Urk hardware store and also occasional emergency rescue team, who apparently spent the entire show falling in love after Dreamy Dr. Daniel saved Ri Ye-Hwa from Russian mobsters that wanted to kill her family by getting fake married to her! !! !!! NONE OF WHICH IS EXPLAINED until the final episode, so we spent fifteen episodes in extreme confusion about who they were, why they were in the plot, and why he kept introducing her as his wife and she kept denying it

- Noble Vigilante North Korean Soldier Takes Out Corruption In The Military (he's another one of Captain Yoo's many military boyfriends, their love is brief but true)

- an entire series starring Dr. Kang's work wife Dr. Pyo, who is a.) better than everyone b.) the only wheelchair-using character I've ever seen on Korean television or indeed possibly any television whose wheelchair is not a Tragic Plot Point nor indeed even mentioned onscreen!

All those would be amazing shows. But this show is also, I have to admit, pretty good. It also has, hands-down, THE BEST ending I've ever seen from a kdrama, which I'm going to put in ROT13 because it's worth not being spoiled for:

abobql va gur znva pnfg qvrf, gur N naq gur O naq gur P naq gur Q pbhcyrf ner nyy va n tbbq cynpr, gur ragver pnfg tbrf gb Inapbhire sbe Qernzl Qe. Qnavry naq uvf snxr jvsr'f sbe-erny-guvf-gvzr jrqqvat ... NAQ GURA N OHAPU BS JUVGR CRBCYR EHA OL FUBHGVAT GUNG N IBYPNAB UNF RKCYBQRQ

Ohg vg'f bx! arire srne, Inapbhire! Gur Xberna zvyvgnel naq n ohapu bs inpngvbavat Xberna ureb qbpgbef ner ba gur pnfr naq RIRELGUVAT'F TBAAN OR SVAR.

Date: 2017-08-11 07:31 am (UTC)
china_shop: text icon that says "age shall not weary her, nor custom stale her infinite squee" (age shall not weary her)
From: [personal profile] china_shop
*dies* I love everything about this review.

I was similarly hesitant to embark on a military-based show, and similarly charmed. As well as everything you've mentioned, I also enjoyed how whenever there were Dramatic Action Scenes with Captain Yoo Saving The Day, the soundtrack got distinctly James Bond-y. And the banter. The banter was to die for. :-D

Also, how many cars did they lose over cliffs? I lost count.

Date: 2017-08-12 04:10 pm (UTC)
mific: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mific
How do you access it in NZ to watch? I can't seem to locate a site that works.

Date: 2017-08-12 10:21 pm (UTC)
china_shop: Eun Chan holding Han Gyul's face, both turned towards camera - cuteness! (Kdrama - Coffee Prince)
From: [personal profile] china_shop
I found a download site with an excellent selection of shows. (My hard drive runneth over.)

Date: 2017-08-11 01:31 pm (UTC)
annotated_em: a branch of a Japanese maple, with bright red leaves (Default)
From: [personal profile] annotated_em
This sounds legit amazing.

Date: 2017-08-11 10:19 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Ha! I like the ending.

Date: 2017-08-12 04:14 am (UTC)
sotto_voce: Hawkeye Pierce making a shocked face. ([M*A*S*H] WHAT!!!)
From: [personal profile] sotto_voce
oh man, you already had me sold at song joong ki, AND THEN THE REST *____*

Date: 2017-08-12 04:17 am (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
Wait, I thought it took place in "Uruk," as in Iraq?

I'm afraid that Mr. General Hospital is also-or-instead yet another example of a kdrama casting a half-Korean guy as an ridiculous evil villain, since halfies can never get anywhere and don't we all know it. I'm not upset or anything, but I think it's important because it's been a pattern on k-tv for at least the decade-ish I've been paying attention. (For anyone else who may feel sensitive, I am one of these halfies, so I claim the term. There are almost never any half-Korean women in such shows, just men, which is also telling re: exotic something or other.)

ETA heyyy, remembered the epitome of this within my limited kdrama exposure: Sweet Spy (2005), in which Dennis Oh's character literally falls off a building into the abyss, since the storyline can't let Nam Sang-mi's character hook up with him. I haven't seen all of each ep--storyline too limp.
Edited Date: 2017-08-12 04:25 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-08-15 03:11 am (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
I think it was filmed partly in the Balkans, either way.

Heh, yes, trust Kim Eun Suk to pick up on something relevant to contemporary Koreans and breeze past it. (Renewed racism against kids, lately.) I ragequit Secret Garden, and I'm not going back :P though I've read recaps of her more recent shows. As for the actors in this case, on one hand it ought not to matter, and on another it does matter that actors of mixed descent are cast at all, so: Jasper Cho (Dr. Daniel) is actually Korean Canadian in the literal unhyphenated sense--part Korean, mixed, from Toronto--and Jeon Su Jin (Ri Ye Hwa) is Korean Korean, AFAIK.

Sidenote is cool, and I'm glad they're part of the story, however briefly.
Edited (I had only half the names the first time) Date: 2017-08-15 03:12 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-08-13 05:54 pm (UTC)
affreca: Cat Under Blankets (Default)
From: [personal profile] affreca
Oh, thank you for this review. I keep passing this by because it looks like a serious drama. I love that it is melodrama instead. And while I like to think I'm not the target for military bits, I am. I guess I'll be watching this instead of cleaning.


skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (Default)

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