*This post is as unspoilery as possible. Please refrain from leaving spoilers in comments or please label them appropriately as spoiler.
My drama backlog was paralyzing me. It was enough to have keep up with the three major broadcasting companies (MBC, SBS, KBS) but now with cable dramas stepping up their game, I was feeling completely overwhelmed.
So many dramas were sitting unwatched until I had a conversation with my mother yesterday. She told me Ghost (SBS), starring So Ji Sub and Lee Yeon Hee, was good. That was a recommendation I didn’t expect at all. My mother does not normally watch the thriller-mystery genre so to have her recommend it to me was a convincing selling point. She also said that So Ji Sub’s acting was good. I like So Ji Sub a lot and I think he is a good actor but I was getting tired of his dark and angsty projects that only ask for one emotion from the actor. So this drama wasn’t high on my priority list but thanks to my mother, I found that this drama isn’t that kind of drama. And now I’m hooked.
I started watching Ghost without any idea on what the story was going to be about except that it was going to be about cyber crimes. I didn’t even know which actor were going to appear except So Ji Sub and Lee Yeon Hee. After five episodes, I’m happy to report that the drama is about more than cyber crimes. There are a lot of layers, conflicts, and mystery to keep you interested.
It’s hard to give a review for this type of drama without giving anything away and to give anything away before you watch the drama would be a crime. We’re peeling onions with this drama and I refuse to skip a single layer with this review. Ghost succeeds in keeping the viewer coming back every episode through its storytelling structure. Every episode there is a mystery to solve but the drama isn’t episodic. These smaller mysteries are tied into a large crime arc which is still built into an even larger mystery. The drama also doesn’t drag out the crime-solving. Peeling the onion is a lot of fun so beware. Once you start watching an episode, it will be hard to stop until you’ve run out of currently aired episodes.
I’ll admit that the directing could be tighter for this type of drama because there are just some moments when I have to laugh at the obvious, but the tension is always kept high, which is what is most important. I was also afraid that the drama would feel cheap since the major broadcasting stations don’t seem to spend as much money on this kind of stuff as cable channels, but I am happy to report that SBS has invested enough money on this show. There were times when I thought the story wouldn’t go there because it would cost too much money to film it but it does and helps to create higher stakes.
What I appreciate about this drama is how character relationships are built into the larger mystery. This drama isn’t about rooting for the good guys and hating the villains. It’s about watching different people working together or being the perfect foil for each other through their intelligence and flaws.
To those wary of So Ji Sub and Lee Yeon Hee- I have a been a long-time fan of So Ji Sub, back from when he used to comedy. So I knew he had the range but was sad to see how he had boxed himself into playing the angsty, cold character type. Thankfully he isn’t like that in this drama. So Ji Sub shows a wider range in this drama- cold, friendly, warm, haughty, playful, and conflicted. Lee Yeon Hee is serviceable. She can’t seem to get rid of her monotone line delivery but most of her dialogue doesn’t involve too much emotion. It also helps that the story is not character driven. We don’t have to be invested in the characters; we are invested in the truth instead.
Daniel Choi is also in this drama, although briefly. He’s a good actor already but I think he has a lot more potential for the future. I’ve seen him in Cyrano Dating Agency and a bit in High Kick but it was in this drama where I was immediately charmed by his presence. He keeps getting better.
It’s really easy to be nit-picky about this type of drama and I can’t say that this drama is without its flaws and laughable moments. But the plot is interesting and really, it’s rare to find that in K-dramaland these days where the same story keeps getting recycled. There is an over-reliance on actor appeal and character attachment in dramas these days which sometimes means that the drama will fall apart at the seams half-way and leaves viewers pulling their hair out. Ghost doesn’t seem to be that type of drama so I’m in it for the long run.
Give this drama a chance; it might be the perfect medicine for the QIHM withdrawal I know that some people are experiencing. It probably won’t be your next crack drama but it will keep you interested. The drama isn’t endorphin-enducing but hey, we can’t always be high.
*To people who have already watched this drama- I totally laughed every time when the Phantom of the Opera music came out. I know it was supposed to be menacing but honestly, it was hilarious. And I think they used the U.S. movie soundtrack because the Phantom (Gerald Butler) sounds awful. And about the Phantom in this drama… I totally knew who it was from just the side profile. I lol’ed at his signature mouth.