Search This Blog

10 May 2020

K Drama Review: The Snow Queen (2006)

After watching My Name is Kim Sam Soon, it was Hyun Bin movie time for me. His filmography had Daddy Long Legs next on my list. I watched it but Hyun Bin's appearance there was too short so I won't be reviewing it. I'd say I didn't have enough basis to analyze how he acted there. :D


Next on my list was The Snow Queen, a drama released in 2006. This will always be a special one because this is the first K drama that Oppa watched and completed with me. We started watching Crash Landing on You first but since we're only watching that on weekends, we're not done with it yet. We watched The Snow Queen every night and he only missed one episode (because I watched it in the afternoon, hehe). He was guilt-tripping me the entire time so I had no choice but to stick to our nightly schedule so he won't miss any more episodes. Never mind that I'd catch him sleeping through some parts of the show then he'd wake up and ask me what happened. :D


Story


Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snow_Queen_(South_Korean_TV_series)


The show is about Han Tae-woong (Hyun Bin), a math genius who comes from a poor family. His mother has an illegal noodles stall on a sidewalk. Tae-woong made it to the Korean Science High School for senior high. There he meets an obnoxious math genius, Kim Jung-kyu (Lee Seon-ho). Jung-kyu was so threatened with and envious of Tae-woong that he accused him of plagiarizing a math dissertation. They end up friends anyway and developed a special bond. That is until they had to compete against each other in an international math competition that Tae-woong won. Jung-kyu resented it, especially since his father pressured him a lot. Tae-woong was hurt by Jung-kyu's harsh words that he told him he didn't need a friend like him. This pushes Jung-kyu to the edge that he commits suicide.



While still enrolled in school, Tae-woong saw a little girl berating their librarian because she wanted to buy a book from the library. Later on, Tae-woong rescues the same girl who was being bullied by other kids. They became sort of friends and the girl gave her beeper to Tae-woong. The girl wanted to go to Lapland, the setting of her favorite book, The Snow Queen. She wanted Tae-woong to help her buy a ticket at the airport so she paged him. Unfortunately, the airline personnel didn't believe her and she was unable to leave for Lapland. The girl and Tae-woong ended up running across the airport runway and then they went off to the amusement park. They promised to meet again and the girl promised to tell him her name. Tae-woong found a copy of The Snow Queen so she paged the girl to meet him at the amusement park. The girl waited for Tae-woong and even had to escape the hospital where she was scheduled to undergo a surgery. Tae-woong never showed up because that was the day his friend Jung-Kyu died.


Fast forward to eight years later, we find out that Tae-woong dropped out of school and ran away from home. He now lived in a boxing arena and he changed his name to Han Deuk-gu, the name of Jung-kyu's favorite boxer. Deuk-gu was training to be a boxer and he was also in-charge of cleaning the arena. He never got over Jung-kyu's death because he felt that it was his fault. He no longer wanted to study and was contented with bumming around.


While visiting a friend at the hospital, Deuk-gu pacifies a hysterical woman who was threatening to kill herself. He meets the woman again at the mall when she was castigating Deuk-gu's friend who was a salesperson. The woman who happens to be the daughter of the mall's owner had Deuk-gu's friend fired. Deuk-gu went to the woman's house (I don't know how he found out where she lived) to beg her to let his friend be reinstated at work. The woman ends up asking Deuk-gu to drive for her as she went to visit a grave. Deuk-gu initially thought it was the grave of the woman's mother. We find out that the woman's name is Kim Bo-ra (Sung Yu-ri).


Bo-ra comes from a rich family and she's very ill-tempered. She yells at everyone. She attempts to commit suicide again near the grave (her brother's) that she visited with Deuk-gu. Deuk-gu miraculously finds her there and stops her again from killing herself. Bo-ra's dad is so grateful for what Deuk-gu's done that he offers him a job as Bo-ra's driver. Deuk-gu had to borrow money from Bo-ra's family to help his mother pay off her debts.


I know that's a very long back story but that's how it is. The story revolves around how Bo-ra and Deuk-gu end up falling for each other. It's revealed that Bo-ra has myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disorder. Bo-ra initially dates her doctor, Seo Geon-ho (Im Joo-hwan), before she realizes that she actually likes Deuk-gu. But things become complicated when they find out that Bo-ra is Jung-kyu's brother and Deuk-gu was Tae-woong, the friend that they were blaming for Jung-kyu's death. Bo-ra's father was against the relationship. Bo-ra was supposed to leave for Lapland but a page from Tae-woong makes her stay. Bo-ra was kicked out of their house and she lived with the boxing arena director's family. Although it was difficult for Bo-ra, she endured everything because she loved Tae-woong. Things worsen when Bo-ra is diagnosed with a late stage thymic cancer. She leaves Tae-woong because she didn't want to burden him with her illness. Of course, Tae-woong finds out eventually. Bo-ra undergoes one round of chemotherapy but in the end, she does not make it.


Tae-woong went back to school and got a doctorate. He went to Lapland by himself and he studied in the US for three years before going back to Korea.


Cast/Characters


This isn't one of my favorite Hyun Bin characters. He did not look like a boxer but I guess that's understandable because boxing was just a side gig for him. 


Oppa says he didn't look like a math genius either. His acting was okay. Quite reminiscent of his bodyguard character in Ireland. He had a number of pitiful moments here. Oppa was complaining that nobody seemed to love him - his mother, his friends, Bo-ra, Bo-ra's dad. They all took turns hating him for things that were beyond his control. I don't like Hyun Bin here because of the way his character was written. It was just a very confused character for me. So, it's not his fault that this was a blah show for him. He didn't really have much of a wiggle room and you can't expect him to properly execute something that was so poorly written to begin with.




Sung Yu-ri as Bo-ra was adorable. I might be biased here because Oppa really found her pretty. But she was really perfect for the role. She was effective as a yelling (oftentimes bordering on abusive) rich girl. But you would also sympathize with her when she's feeling down. I just wish they softened up her character a bit. I don't think the excessive yelling/hitting was necessary. You can be a bitch without shouting all the time. But again, this was a writing problem for me and Sung Yu-ri did the best she could given the material.




Im Joo-hwan was okay as Seo Geon-ho although I found him too pretty at times. I wish they put some "fight" in his character though. He was portrayed as a martyr/push-over who would do anything for Bo-ra even if it meant hurting himself.




The other friends were okay. The boxing guys looked the part, especially Dong-pil. They really looked like the guys you'd find in Elorde. Seung-ri (Yoo In-young) played her part as the director's daughter who was in love with Tae-woong really well. She was annoying but cute.


Deuk-nam (Jung Hwa-young), Bo-ra's sort of friend and the daughter of their housekeeper, was probably one of the really likeable characters in the show. At one point, when all of the characters were doing crazy stuff, Oppa said that Deuk-nam was the only one thinking in the show. Her character made things possible for the others.




The math professor who helped Tae-woong rediscover his love for math was adorable. His math and life lessons were interesting. I'm sure he'll remind you of an old professor/mentor you had in school.


One actor I really didn't like was the one who played Bo-ra's father (Chun Ho-jin). Apart from Bo-ra and Tae-woong (or it can even be argued that even more than the two of them), his character was probably the one who should have the most "feels." His wife left him, he lost his son because he pressured him a lot, his daughter was gravely ill, and his daughter fell in love with the guy whom he blamed for his son's suicide. Surely you'd be going through a lot of emotions if you find yourself in such a situation. But all this actor could give were big eyes. He's angry, you get big eyes. He's sad and melancholic, you get big eyes. He's curious and impressed with Tae-woong, you get big eyes. The character was a multi-dimensional one but the actor failed to deliver big time. And it was truly disappointing.


Did I Like It?


The show had some good points. Music was nice again, like your typical K drama.


I liked how they attempted to show the ill effects of pressuring kids to do well in school. I'm not that familiar with the Korean educational system. But judging by how most actors I've encountered so far have university degrees and based on what I saw in Angry Mom, I would say that they do have a competitive culture similar to what you see in Japan and Singapore. So it's nice that they tried to cover a topic that is most probably controversial in their country. They might have shown an extreme case that led to suicide but if that's how they want to get the message across, then I'm fine with that.


I also appreciated how they showed the two sides to a rich person's life. Yes, Bora lives a comfortable life but that is not enough to make up for the other things she lacks - a loving mother and brother, friends, a present father, good health, etc. She was wealthy but she lived a very sad life that even pushed her to attempt to kill herself. To talk about mental health in 2006 is being ahead of its time. This issue is something that should be revisited and discussed more these days with the number of Korean stars committing suicide.


What I really didn't like about the show was how the story was written and executed. While I was writing the summary of the story, I realized that the story in itself was not that bad. It's actually interesting. But the way they meshed things together was just not effective. It was confusing most of the time and it left me wondering why things turned out that way.


The first episode gave away the ending. It was so predictable. Tae-woong was in Lapland by himself. So as the show progressed, it was easy to guess that Bo-ra was going to die and Tae-woong would go to Lapland to fulfil her dying wish. There was a slim chance that that Lapland trip was just a dream, but I don't think the show would waste that much money to send Hyun Bin to Lapland for a dream scene. I'm not so sure though which would be lamer - a dream scene or a give away ending.


The show went too deep into math. Yes, I get it, Tae-woong and Jung-kyu were math geniuses. However, I don't think it was necessary to go so much into it. I have no way of confirming if the things they were talking about were accurate and that in itself makes me suspicious.


The medical aspect was also overdone for me. I understand that Bo-ra had a lingering illness. But there were times when they were going into so many details that I felt were unnecessary. Grey's Anatomy and House are medical shows but they are able to present the medical stuff in an interesting manner in layman's terms. You don't need to go all highfalutin to be impressive.


The show left a lot of loose ends. Tae-woong's mother left around episode 14 to stay with a relative in the province and we never hear about her again. I guess she might have needed to leave the show earlier due to some personal reason. But Tae-woong spent a lot of time looking for her after he ran away from home. He worked so hard to get her to forgive him. They were trying to start over again and rebuild their relationship. She was so happy that Tae-woong found the love of his life. Then she leaves. And she does not even call when she arrives in the province. Or we don't even find out if she hears about Bo-ra's death. They built her up only to let her go that easily. If the actress was no longer available, a simple letter or pretend phone call could have at least provided closure for her character.


Same goes with the boxing arena's director. He was instrumental in helping Tae-woong have some semblance of life after the Jung-kyu tragedy. Tae-woong had so much respect for him. He worked hard in persuading Tae-woong to go back to school. But we don't even see him in the final episode. it would have been nice to at least see him bask in pride for what Tae-woong has accomplished.


Bo-ra's mother was another out-of-place character. In the beginning, Bo-ra believed she was dead. But during her brother's funeral, she finds out that her mom is still alive but she left them and has a new family. She'd pop in once in a while throughout the show. After a difficult confrontation with Bo-ra, she visits her ex-husband and tells him that she'll be more visible in Bo-ra's life. And guess what? We never see her again after that.


The build up to some storylines were quite rushed for me - like how Tae-woong fell in love with Bo-ra. Sure, she was pretty. And maybe they spent a lot of time together because he was her driver. But did he really love her or just the memory of the little girl Bo-ra that he ghosted several years ago?


For two people who were strongly connected because of Jung-kyu, I just found it odd that when Bo-ra and Tae-woong finally decided to be together, they did not bother visiting Jung-kyu's grave. It would have been a nice touch to see them there now that they were already aware of their identities. It would have been a dramatic gesture to let Jung-kyu know officially that the two people he wanted to introduce to each other ended up together. This was definitely a missed opportunity.


Bo-ra's death was hastily covered. As Oppa pointed out, it's as if the show realized that they were already on the last episode so they had to do a lot of things at the same time - make Bo-ra well enough so she can have one more vacation with Tae-woong then just kill her. It just didn't make sense to me that she was gravely ill, they're rich, and her dad and Tae-woong obviously wanted her to live, yet she goes out of town without any nurse or medical professional who can attend to her in case of an emergency. Yes, maybe they were just waiting things out. But for people like Bo-ra's dad and Tae-woong who had a hard time moving on from Jung-kyu's death, it was more logical for them to give Bo-ra a fighting chance until the end.


The Lapland scene was also poorly executed. Tae-woong was obviously there because of Bo-ra. The show could have made it more dramatic by showing flashbacks of Bo-ra and Tae-woong's moments together. Instead of having that, we see Tae-woong exploring Finland and Lapland like a tourist. And their dramatic way of showing us Bo-ra again was by making her appear like a ghost in her university's basketball court where Tae-woong is playing. I found that more creepy than sentimental.


So yes, over-all, I didn't really like this show. It was probably a forgettable one for Hyun Bin. But if you're a Hyun Bin fan like me, it's still worth watching because he definitely gets a lot of screen time here. Bonus is seeing a geeky side of him (plus boxer and basketball player versions too). I would have to say though that this show might have the unfair disadvantage because I watched it alongside my second round of Crash Landing on You (which I'm loving even more). But I'm happy that I get to tick off another show in my Hyun Bin list. On to the next. :)


P.S. I just found out that Hyun Bin is close friends with the guy who played Harvey in the Korean version of Suits. Now that I've discovered Hyun Bin, I'd say he would have been a better fit for the Harvey role. Imagine having Hyun Bin and Park Hyung-sik in one show, wow, what a concept! :)


Oppa says...3.25


Noona says...3.5

No comments:

Post a comment