First Impressions: Myung Wol the Spy
You know when everyone you know starts raving about something - a new band, a new restaurant - and your stubborn streak rises and you contrarily decide that you won't like? And so don't check it out for weeks? That's what happened with me and Myung Wol the Spy. It got on the whole positive reactions from Dramabeans, Ockoala and my drama-watching friends - yet I avoided it until now.
My first thought upon watching Myung Wol was "leopard-print clothes! Full House, have you returned to me?" Myung Wol is like Full House crossed with Iris, with all the Hallyu-star-paraphernalia, bad fashion, and spy antics to go along. In fact, this is one of those rare shows which I wish would go full out with its tongue-in-cheek humor, because it borders at times on a spoof of Korean spy dramas - and why has no one ever realized the necessity of ones of those in this world before?
Regardless, it's a fun watch, and could become a very fun one. I've somehow managed to avoid ever watching a full Han Ye Seul drama before - neither Will It Snow at Christmas? nor Fantasy Couple were my thing, and while I loved her in Tazza, I wound up dropping it halfway through. My opinion of her from Tazza was that she's a competent if slightly uneven actress, and that holds true here. She's no Kim So Yeon, but she holds her part well, and most importantly has just joined the handful of actresses who can and have played badass female roles convincingly, along with Lee Jia (Legend), Kim So Yeon (Iris), and Kim Tae Hee (Iris, Nine Tailed Fox). She's also much more beautiful than I remembered, which should never be sneezed at.
As for Eric, mm. Had they made Eric's character in this an arrogant idiot the likes of Dokko Jin in The Greatest Love (whom I liked but who belonged in an entirely different drama) this drama would have failed. There's entirely too much ridiculousness and comedy coming from all other areas of the drama for the male lead to also be a caricature. Fortunately, the screenwriters had some sense, and Kang Woo is intelligent, self-possessed, and reasonably capable of looking after himself. Of course, he wouldn't be a Hallyu star in a drama if he wasn't also arrogant and self-centered. But even in those areas, his arrogance tends to come out in work-related matters; he icily cuts down the stage crew at his Singapore concert because they're not up to his perfectionist standards. One of the fun things about this drama should be seeing someone this driven and obsessive (dancing for 8 hours straight? sheesh) get obsessed with something other than work.
He's also hot and has screen presence (he reminds me a litte of Yoon Sang Hyun). Perhaps what amuses the most is how much his character reminds me of a grown-up version of Rain's character in Full House however. Comparisons to Young Jae are inevitable whenever a big-name actor plays a Hallyu star, but not all of them remind me of him - Cha Seung Won in The Greatest Love and Choi Siwon in Oh! My Lady! did not resemble him. But Kang Woo, in his utterly callous handling of Myung Wol when she tries to get an autograph, and his clever one-upsmanship of her, reminds me of Young Jae. Kang Woo smiling at Myung Wol and tying her shoelace in order to trip her up and keep her from following him is this equivalent of Young Jae tossing Ji Eun out of the house, then opening the door and smiling at her before tossing her luggage out and shutting it again. Cheeky and hilarious.
(mm. Love Eric's face upon seeing Myung Wol dressed up)
The drama is rather uneven as far as direction and editing however. Important plot points seem glossed over, especially all the logistics surrounding Myung Wol's mission/s and the signficance of the book they're all after. It's unclear what relation Choi Ryu, her commanding officer has to her,we're left to infer from context why he and she are traveling with the head policeman's daughter, and I personally had no idea when and why she was ordered to "regroup", an order which she disobeyed and which hence got her banned from the secret service. A lot of the transitions are painfully awkward too, as in in the first episode when it cuts straight from Kang Woo and his car stopping in front of a body on the road to a domestic cooking scene where two characters who haven't yet been introduced are bickering. Or in the third episode when it cuts straight from Kang Woo and Myung Wol at a remote village house to them walking toward some unidentified stream, presumedly in the opposite direction of civilization, in order for him to wash his hands. (Wouldn't it have been faster for him to just go home?).
I find my head full of questions each episode about what exactly is going on and why, and that is never a good thing. Big thing that bothered me in episode three: one minute Kang Woo and his manager think that Myung Wol is a defenceless high school student, and the next they've hired her as his bodyguard? When did they check her identity? How do they know she has any bodyguard skills at all? (Even if they're doing this as a favor to repay her for saving his life, it's putting her in danger if she doesn't actually have any skills). Most dramas suffer from too much exposition - this drama, oddly, suffers from too little, failing to offer explanations and instead just cutting to the next scene and a new situation or destination without providing any sort of context. I find myself, several times each episode, lost as to what is going on.
Then there's the music. I like the Park Jung Hyun songs that play at the end of each episode and occasionally during it. But the rest of the music is so bland, noticeably so, and even worse there's long periods of silence where there should be none. Background music is generally withheld in a drama only when the characters are speaking or to highlight moments of great significance or emotional drama. Here, the music disappears during low-key moments and any scenes without action - the very moments that need music to highlight them the most. During all the boring moments (and there are quite a few of them especially in the middle of the first few episodes), I yawn and look for something else to attract my attention - and discover that I can't even focus on the soundtrack because there's no music playing at the moment.
All in all, Myung Wol the Spy is reasonably well-acted and well-written and occasionally very funny. A lot of awkward editing is dragging it down at the moment, however, so it remains to be seen just how good it will turn out to be.