j Lie to Me and Love Keeps Going are interesting phenomenons to me, in that they are dramas which aired back to back, albeit in different countries and on different channels, which both encapsulate a particular, but rare, drama trend. Namely, having absolutely horrible first episodes, and then showing a sharp upswing in quality from around episodes three-on. Most dramas take a while to get going - as any true drama lover knows, the first two episodes are often rather dull (or over-the-top) set-up episodes, and it takes the average drama a while to find its pacing and tone. They so often feel like slapdash ways for the director and production team to experiment with what works, rather than already knowing what does. There are few drama pilots which I would feel fully comfortable showing to a drama newbie - you have to get them to sit down and make it through at least episode three for the full addicting effect to start kicking in.


But it's rare to see dramas in which the first two episodes are distinctly, markedly bad, only for the drama to improve greatly a few episodes in. Generally, if the first few episodes are that poor, so is the rest of the drama. Yet Lie to Me and Love Keeps Going are both distinct exceptions to this rule. Let's look at the former first. Lie to Me was just terrible in its first few episodes. I read Dramabeans' recap of the first episode after watching it, and while it was mildly favorable rather than ecstatic, it was still positive, and I must admit to chalking that up to her love for Kang Ji Hwan. Haphazard writing that replayed cliches we've seen in a dozen other dramas, odd pacing, unconvincing set-up, and mediocre music made up the first three episodes of this drama. The conflict set up between Ah Jung and So Ran was an insufficient driving force for Ah Jung's actions, because we're never shown their initial close relationship, so the betrayal has little personal impact. Moreover, So Ran was a petulant and powerless opponent, so the conflict lacked energy to begin with. As Ah Jung lies and deceives her way to revenge, the only reason we had any sympathy at all for our insecure heroine was Yoon Eun Hye's incredible warm and charm as an actress. Worst of all these, for a high-budget, high-profile trendy drama, the cinematography was so bad as to be offensive, reminiscent of the harsh lighting and glaring colors of Full House, which I adore but which frankly has all the visual appeal of a reality show. Perhaps I was spoiled by the camera use in Secret Garden, which was stunning, but I don't think so - the quality of drama cinematography has taken a sharp upswing in the past two years in particular, so that even lower-profile dramas  (such as Dr. Champ) feature lovely visuals. The drama industry has made use of rapidly-developing filming technology, and there's a kind of industry standard which Lie to Me utterly, and to my mind insultingly to viewers, failed to meet in its opening episodes. sg Yet a few episodes later, beginning in episode five and particularly so in episode seven, there was a distinct upswing in quality. The focus shifts from the Ah Jung/So Ran conflict to the Ah Jung/Ki Joon conflict, and everything falls into place with that move. The story still isn't particularly imaginative,  but the dialogue is excellent, the pace starts making sense, and the sets start looking like someone put some actual effort in. And from that point on, Lie to Me becomes, not exactly a good or wonderful drama, but an increasingly, and ultimately wildly, addicting one - because it's at this point that the main couple starts really interacting, and the focus is entirely on them from that point on, as most if not all of the supporting characters fall away. Many rom-coms rely on the leads' chemistry to make up for plot or production weaknesses. But I've never seen a drama which was buoyed so entirely by the off-the-charts chemistry of the lead actors. Kang Ji Hwan and Yoon Eun Hye created and then maintained a level of chemistry for the second half of the drama which I believe has rocked the worlds of all who followed this drama - it's so fiery and nuanced and real that the majority of this drama's fans have started rooting for the two to become a real-life couple.And it's easy to see why - there's so much nuance, so many tiny, natural moments that the two throw in there, many of them ad-libbed by the stars, that at a certain point it just feels like watching a real couple date. I've seen hundreds of dramas and scorching chemistry in many of them. But the way these two looked at each other, particularly during the middle part of the drama when they were separated by the confusion over Yoon-ju, stunned me. Lie to Me got distinctly better between episodes five and seven and kept getting better until by it's end, I dare to hold my breath and say that it's actually become downright good. Steady, consistent, romantic. It's still cliched, with a mediocre plot that occasionally reminds me too much of Lovers in Paris, but so much better than its flaw-ridden beginning as to be almost a different drama. I can think of only a handful of dramas I've seen in which there was such a drastic transition -  Playful Kiss and Legend being two of the others. Playful Kiss was so. dull. its first two episodes, and Legend, at least in its first episode, was just painfully melodramatic in setting up its mythology.  Yet both became wonderful by episode five. I will discuss Taiwanese drama Love Keeps Going in my next post.