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[2010] Đường số 1 - Road No. 1 - So Ji Sub, Kim Ha Neul

Đường Số 1
Xem phim

Đường Số 1

Road No. 1 (2010)

  • Quốc gia:Phim Hàn Quốc
  • Thể loại:phim tình cảmphim chiến tranh
  • Thời lượng:20 Tập (66 phút / tập)
  • Trạng thái:Full 20 tập VietSub Thuyết minh
  • Tập tiếp theo:
  • Diễn viên:Choi Min Soo, Kim Ha Neul, So Ji Sub, Yoon Kye Sang
  • Đạo diễn:Lee Jin Min I
  • Năm phát hành:2010

Road No.1 mang bối cảnh chiến tranh trên bán đảo Triều Tiên cách đây 60 năm và khắc họa tình bạn, tình yêu mãnh liệt. Bộ phim được khởi quay từ tháng 1 năm nay và kéo dài suốt 4 tháng. Dù là phim có đề tài về chiến tranh nhưng Road No.1 lại mang đầy yếu tố tình cảm, lãng mạn, ca ngợi sự thủy chung, tình yêu vĩnh cửu vượt qua khó khăn, thử thách về thời gian và không gian. So Ji Sub nói rằng anh bị cuốn hút với vai diễn này vì có những điểm tương đồng giữa bản thân và nhân vật của mình - Lee Jang Woo.

Trong cuộc phỏng vấn mới đây, So nói rằng nhân vật của anh “yêu chân tình và chỉ nghĩ đến mối tình đầu của mình (do Kim Ha Neul thủ vai). Tôi thích trái tim trong trắng của anh ấy và chúng tôi giống nhau ở điểm này”. 

Đây là vai diễn đầu tiên của ngôi sao phim Giày thủy tinh kể từ khi anh xuất hiện trên truyền hình với serie phim Cain and Abel, được phát sóng từ tháng 2-4/2009. Trong serie phim Road No.1, So thủ vai một người đàn ông mạnh mẽ, ít nói những có trái tim nhân hậu. 20 tập của serie phim này tốn kém 13 tỷ won (10,6 triệu USD) dàn dựng, tương đương với kinh phí trung bình của một bộ phim nhựa. Dưới đây là cuộc trò chuyện ngắn với anh: 
* Mặc dù chi phí sản xuất phim rất lớn, nhưng tỷ lệ khán giả lại thấp hơn so với mong đợi. Anh cảm thấy sao về điều này? 

- Tỷ lệ khán giả không quan trọng trong thời điểm này vì phim mới bắt đầu phát sóng. 

* Nhiều người nói rằng tiết tấu phim quá nhanh khiến người xem khó nắm bắt kịp. Anh nghĩ sao về điều đó? 

- Đối với tôi, tiết tấu phim chỉ hơi nhanh thôi vì thực tế nhiều serie phim khác còn nhanh hơn. Đây là xu thế làm phim TV mới và tôi hy vọng khán giả có thể thích ứng được. 

So Ji Sub và Kim Ha Neul 
trong phim Road No.1

* Cảnh quay nào khó nhất trong một serie phim truyền hình đòi hỏi nhiều về thể lực như vậy? 

- Hầu hết các cảnh trong phim đều là cảnh chiến đấu nhưng tôi vẫn đáp ứng được (cười). Hơn thế nữa, tôi đã cố gắng nhiều để tránh nắng. Tôi bôi kem chống nắng bất cứ khi nào có thời gian. Tôi còn đắp mặt nạ sau khi quay phim, nhưng khi lịch quay dày lên thì tôi không còn có thời gian chăm sóc da nữa. 

* Trong quá trình quay serie phim này anh đã nhiều lần bị thương. Anh đã bị tổn thương võng mạc trong một cảnh bom mìn nổ và cơ thể anh thì luôn bị trầy xước và thâm tím trong 4 tháng quay phim. Bộ phim mới nhất của anh - Rough Cut (2008) cũng nhiều cảnh hành động và dường như anh thích tham gia các dự án phim hành động, đúng không? 

- Tôi cảm thấy thoải mái khi đảm nhiệm những vai như vậy. Tôi không quan tâm đến những nhân vật có ngoại hình bảnh trai. 

* Anh từng làm việc với các diễn viên cùng độ tuổi mình (ngoài 30 tuổi), nhưng lần này anh đã diễn xuất bên cạnh nam diễn viên cựu trào Choi Min Soo. Anh thấy thế nào? 

- Tôi nhận thấy rằng càng lớn tuổi thì diễn xuất càng hay. Tôi vô cùng ngạc nhiên khi thấy anh ấy có thể truyền đạt được rất nhiều mà không cần nói một lời nào cả. Choi cũng khen ngợi tôi và nói rằng tôi là tuýp diễn viên có thể tiến xa trong sự nghiệp. 

* Anh thích làm gì tiếp sau đây? 

- Có thể thủ vai một kẻ hung ác đến lạnh xương sống như nhân vật Joker trong phim The Dark Knight (2008). Nhưng trong nhiều năm qua tôi đã hóa thân vào những nhân vật mạnh mẽ nên tới đây tôi sẽ tham gia một dự án nhẹ nhàng hơn, có thể là một phim hài lãng mạn.

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Hôm 26/8 vừa qua, drama Road No.1 đã kết thúc phát sóng, khép lại 20 tập phim sau 2 tháng phát sóng. Ngay từ khi chưa lên sóng, Road No.1 đã gây chú ý bởi đây là dự án ngốn đến 13 tỷ của đài MBC, lại có sự tham gia của dàn diễn viên hạng A, bao gồm So Ji Sub, Kim Ha Neul, Yoon Kye Sang, Choi Min Soo, Son Chang Min.









Theo số liệu thống kê, Road No.1 mở đầu với rating 11,2 - 10,1% nhưng nhanh chóng tụt xuống chỉ còn 7 – 8%, 2 tập cuối của phim cũng không khả quan hơn mặc dù phim vẫn nóng từ đầu đến cuối. Tập 19 có cảnh Soo Yeon (Kim Ha Neul) tắm cho Jang Woo (So Ji Sub), hai người vui vẻ đùa giỡn với nhau, sau đó cả hai có cảnh ôm nhau trên giường rất tình cảm, lúc này Soo Yeon đang mang thai. Còn ở tập cuối, Soo Yeon và Jang Woo có với nhau một đứa con trai, không lâu sau đó Soo Yeon qua đời, bộ phim khép lại với hình ảnh Jang Woogặp lại Tae Ho (Yoon Kye Sang) khi cả hai đã thành những ông lão.



Sự thất bại của Road No.1 không phải là quá khó để lý giải. Trong quá trình thực hiện, nhà sản xuất đã cho hé lộ những hình ảnh phim trường khá hoành tráng với những cảnh quay cháy nổ hấp dẫn không kém phim điện ảnh. Rồi đồng thời những chi tiết tình yêu, đặc biệt là cảnh nóng giữa cặp đôi Jang Woo – Soo Yeon trong phim cũng được tung ra, gây thu hút với khán giả. Đặc biệt, Road No.1 không giống như những drama khác khi đạo diễn đã quyết định hoàn thành bộ phim trước ngày lên sóng, thể hiện quyết tâm để thành công của đoàn làm phim Road No.1.
Tuy nhiên trái với những mong muốn của nhà sản xuất và khán giả, ngay từ 2 tập đầu tiên, Road No.1 đã có những dấu hiệu thất bại khi nhịp phim quá nhanh khiến khán giả không kịp đồng cảm với nhân vật. Yếu tố tình yêu được khai thác quá nhiều trong một bộ phim chiến tranh với những cảnh khóc lóc mùi mẫn, khóa môi và giường chiếu khá nhiều, khiến bộ phim bị công chúng chỉ trích khá "nặng". Đạo diễn Lee Jang Soo dường như vẫn thiên về tình cảm hơn là một cuộc chiến tranh khốc liệt. Road No.1 cũng bị đem ra so sánh với drama cuối tuần cùng đề tài chiến đấu là Comrades được đánh giá khá cao khi phác họa rất chân thực về chiến tranh.








Bên cạnh đó, lý do khách quan khiến Road No.1 trở thành “bom xịt” vì cạnh tranh với drama ăn khách King of Baking, Kim Tak Goo của đài KBS và Bad Guy của SBS và sau đó là Girlfriend is a Gumiho. Thêm nữa, Road No.1 dường như cũng cùng chung số phận hẩm hiu với các drama tiền nhiệm của đài MBC như Personal Taste, The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry, Hero, Heading to the Ground...



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Ngày 26/8, những cảnh cuối cùng của Road No.1 đã khép lại một cách lặng lẽ. Một bộ phim được kỳ vọng là bom tấn với kinh phí đầu tư lên đến 13 tỷ USD, có sự góp mặt của hai ngôi sao nổi tiếng là So Ji Sub và Kim Ha Neul nhưng cuối cùng những gì mà Road No.1 nhận được chỉ là tỷ lệ người xem 5,3%. Những con số khiến Road No.1 trở thành một trong những bộ phim đáng thất vọng nhất trong lịch sử điện ảnh Hàn Quốc.

Có nhiều nguyên nhân dẫn đến thất bại của Road No.1. Đầu tiên là lời thoại quá cường điều, trong khi mối quan hệ, tình thân thiết giữa những người lính được khắc họa hời hợt. Trong khi đó, những đối thủ của Road No.1 lại quá mạnh: Baker King Kim Tak-gu có tỷ lệ người xem lên tới 40%, và Bad Guy cũng thu hút người xem không kém.

Ngoài ra, Road No.1 là một bộ phim về chủ đề chiến tranh và có vẻ quá nặng so với một bộ phim phát sóng vào ngày thứ 4 và thứ 5. Trong suốt 2 năm qua, những bộ phim phát sóng vào ngày giữa tuần chưa bao giờ có tỷ lệ người xem lên đến 2 chữ số.


76 June 28, 2010January 24, 2016

First Impressions: Road No. 1

by girlfriday

I neither hate war epics nor do I love them. I neither anticipated this drama nor dreaded it. So when I say I came into this with zero expectations, I mean it literally. I know there’s a lot of hype surrounding this drama, but me? I’m not about the hype. In my book, either the show delivers or it doesn’t, and that should be the end of the story. I watched the first episode, and well…let’s just say, it left an impression. What follows isn’t a standard recap; it’s a review, which means it won’t cover all the events of the story as they occur. You’ll see why. So without further ado, welcome to:

Ultimate Fighting Championship: Road No.1 vs. Girlfriday

One Show. One Recapper. No Rules.

 
EPISODE 1 REVIEW

We open with an historic crawl. Oh, like Star Wars? No. Not like that. This isn’t about the story; it’s about the drama and how important it is, complete with still photographs from the show. Okay, wait a minute, you may ask…But we haven’t seen the drama yet.

Um…yeah.

So before I’ve even seen one second of actual show, I’m getting the Ken Burns docu-treatment of the War, using FICTIONAL footage from the drama as the “history.” Is this someone’s idea of a joke? I would really, honestly, have preferred a documentary. Like six hours long, all still photographs. Because this? Insults my intelligence.

The message itself is nice, and here’s the thing: if you had put it at the end, over the final image of the last episode, as your goodbye and thank you, and your Big Takeaway Message of Unity and Anti-War, I would have indulged you, Show. Fully. I would have had a tear in my eye. Or something.

But you can’t start your drama this way. Why? Because I don’t care yet. You haven’t earned it. I don’t even know your main characters, or what you’re about, and I certainly am not going to look favorably upon you now, with your very self-important Preamble.

Now do you see why this can’t be a standard recap? We’d be here all day.

We finally get our start in a current-day war memorial, where an old man (played by veteran all-star Choi Bool-am) in a wheelchair comes to visit one name, etched in marble. The name is Lee Jang-woo. He caresses the name over and over with his hands, saying that he couldn’t return because he wanted to pretend that his friend was still alive.

It’s not a new beginning, for anyone who’s seen one Hollywood war film—ever. Choi Bool-am does bring the scene some cache and dramatic weight, but what intrigues me the most is the time spent on the name, carved in stone. I sense this isn’t the last time we’ll be visiting the importance of that name, and what it means to the man in the chair. One dramatic arc foreshadowed? Check.

We then go back in time to 1948, in the middle of a battle. Lee Jang-woo (So Ji-sub) is leading a small group of men in a last-ditch, hold-the-line sort of battle. It starts with gunfire, leads to spearing and spilling of guts, and ends in bombs. So…we’re not going to spare any blood. Got it.

Jang-woo directs his men to a suicide mission, and goes at it, warrior style. And here’s where I start to get a little niggly about the acting. Perhaps it’s the rain. It’s got to be impossibly difficult to act subtly in the pouring rain, knee-deep in mud. Right?

Jang-woo is heroic, to be sure, but it’s not enough, as they get bombarded on all sides; he horrifically watches everyone die around him, and in the end he himself is left for dead on the battlefield. I will hand it to you, Show. You are definitely not pulling any punches when it comes to the horrors of battle.

As he lies there, bloodied and near death, he thinks back to his childhood. A flashback-within-a-flashback-within-a-flashback…you’re starting to show your soft underbelly, Show. Don’t be surprised when I wipe the floor with you.

In the even-more-distant Past, Jang-woo is the servant boy to a family of three children. The middle child is Kim Soo-yeon (who will later be played by Kim Ha-neul), and it’s clear that the boy has a crush on her. She treats him kindly in contrast to her siblings, and he silently adores her.

One night, he gets caught peeking in on Soo-yeon bathing (all in the name of artistic inspiration), and Soo-yeon’s older brother slices into Jang-woo’s hand as punishment. Soo-yeon nurses his wound, and the two of them bond. They become fast friends, and he falls more in love with her.

I know it’s hard to judge chemistry between children. But I’m not looking for romantic chemistry here. I just want a connection. But here’s what’s wrong with this whole chunk of story: it’s too fast, and they cast a kid to play the silent Jang-woo, who can’t convey the full range of emotions that we need. It’s a mess of a sequence. I’m supposed to start caring about the main couple and feel the epic-ness of their fated-to-be-romance. I get it. I just don’t get it.

We barrel on through to their teen years, where Kim Ha-neul and So Ji-sub start playing their characters’ younger selves, happily in love. Here they get to have cute moments declaring their love, and it’s played well, so things are starting to look up.

But then we skip right to Jang-woo, heading off to war. Okay, wait. Hold it.

I’m already starting to feel it, and I’m barely a third of the way in: you’re cramming in WAY too much backstory, WAY too fast, for me to emotionally engage. You know what I call this? Backstory whiplash. And you’re giving me a serious case of it, Show.

Jang-woo heads to war, leaving Soo-yeon in a puddle of tears. She whines that he can’t leave her; he tells her it’s his way of taking responsibility for her, to support her dream of becoming a doctor. She doesn’t care. He leaves, he turns back, he leaves, he turns back…he kisses her, and then he leaves. The camera pulls back, there’s CG flowers, and it all SEEMS like it’s grand and epic…but inside I feel…NOTHING.

Here’s why: I feel like you’re forcing me to have emotions that I’m not feeling. It’s a very strange disconnect, between the very high-octane emotional output from the actors and the music and the effects, with my very low-level of emotional engagement with the characters.

You’re being inordinately picky, Girlfriday, you might be saying. It’s because your heart is an icicle encased in frost, you might contend. But take for example, the farewell scene in Episode 4 of Cinderella’s Sister. Why does that goodbye feel epic, and turn everyone, including yours truly, into a puddle of goo? For the very same reason this one doesn’t.

They spent TIME building up that relationship, so that we cared, to the depths of our hearts, when Eun-jo crashed to the ground in tears. Soo-yeon’s tears in comparison feel unearned, and therefore inauthentic. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying the actor’s tears aren’t genuine. I’m saying that the characters’ emotions ring false to me, because I’m not where the drama wants me to be. You’re going too fast, and you’ve left me behind. End result? I see why you’re sad, Soo-yeon, but I’m not sad with you.

And to me, that’s the difference between a 10 and a 2. It’s everything. Because if you’ve lost me in the first hour, there’s no getting me in the back nineteen.

The rest of the episode follows this same whiplash trajectory—we zoom past the battle and Soo-yeon’s years spent waiting for Jang-woo to return, and the news that he has died. As a doctor in her hometown, she meets Shin Tae-ho (Yoon Kye-sang), who falls immediately in love with her. We fast-track to the eve of their wedding, which is of course the same day that Jang-woo returns, alive and well.

I’m not even exaggerating about how fast these events occur. It’s mind-boggling how they expect anyone to emotionally engage when the meet-cute/courtship/wedding/tragic twist lasts all of ten minutes. My instinct is that if this were handled differently, I’d immediately have a second-lead crush on Tae-ho. As it stands, he’s barely a plot device.

Once we’ve got all three legs of the love triangle established, I’m thinking that we’re due for some great dramatic stuff. Surely, the reunion, the misunderstandings, the dead-undead-love-of-her-life-returning-at-the-moment-of-truth will force her to confront something…anything…

Alas, the things I’m looking for do not exist in this drama. I’ve come to realize it now. Instead of a layered, tortured heroine who loves both men…we get blank sad expressions and declarations of…nothing. No declarations. Instead of a hero who went to battle with hopes and dreams and returned a haunted shell of a man…we get petulant Jang-woo who shouts at Soo-yeon, and declares to Tae-ho that she is his woman forever.

It’s actually hard for me to separate the acting from the writing in this case, because I don’t know which is the cause for my grief. Are the performances wooden, or is it the stilted dialogue? Are they shouting because it seems more dramatic? Because it doesn’t; it seems more strained. I’m going to say it’s probably a heady combination of both, because I think these actors are capable of more, but at the same time, I would have felt more if I had been given moments of subtlety and smallness.

Needless to say, by the time the war breaks out, I’m thinking, Thank you, stars, for the bloody WAR!

Thus, on the eve of Soo-yeon and Tae-ho’s wedding, the day that Jang-woo finally returns to his love, both men must leave for war.

If I had twenty episodes in which to establish the Most Tragic Love Triangle Of All Time, I’d spend more than twenty minutes on the setup. In fact, I’d spend at least four to five episodes on it, and blitz the war in just as things were getting good, to muck things up in a dramatic way. Why? Because otherwise who the hell cares?

You’re already employing the flashback-Russian-doll trope. So why not show bits and pieces of the war, while flashing back in a slow, well-plotted way? Because it’s hard? Or is it because you’re relying on story conventions and plot devices to carry your narrative, without actually doing any of the work to bring your world to life?

I’m sure you’ll have some amazing big-budget scenes and uplifting war stories throughout your run. I’m sure lots of people will find you riveting and start their ‘shipper wars. And I’m sure you’ll have viewers who won’t kick you in the family jewels while you’re down. Too bad I’m not one of them.

Girlfriday: 1 / Show: 0

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67 June 30, 2010June 30, 2010

Ratings drop further for Bad Guy and Road No. 1

by javabeans


Kim Jae-wook, So Ji-sub

Ouuuuch.

Looks like the World Cup really did a number on SBS’s postponed dramas. While Monday-Tuesday’s Coffee House dropped to a 5.6% (from approximately 9%) after two weeks off the air, Wednesday-Thursday’s Bad Guy had an even bigger fall — down from 15% to 5.6%. Yikes. Out of sight, out of the viewers’ minds, apparently.

Road No. 1 also lost viewers in its second week, going from 9% to 7.2%. This means that ratings leader Baker King Kim Tak-gu on KBS widened its lead with a 31% rating.

I can understand the smaller drop for Road No. 1, which in my opinion was deserved — let’s be honest, its first showing was ROUGH. And it’s too bad for Coffee House, which was holding steady before the delay. But it’s worst of all for Bad Guy (which is beleaguered enough as it is), which had been climbing steadily before it lost all its momentum.

I’m going to finish my dramas regardless of whatever numbers they pull in, so these numbers don’t affect me (or any of us who get our drama fixes via the internet, really). It’s just too bad for the actors, who suffer drops in morale and miss out on CF opportunities when their dramas fall by the ratings wayside.

Via Asia Economy

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42 July 25, 2010January 24, 2016

Halftime Report: Road No. 1

by girlfriday

Back by popular demand, it’s Round 2 of: Show vs. Girlfriday. I thought I’d check in with Road No. 1 at the halfway point, to see how it’s progressed since we last faced off in battle. To be clear: this is an experiment of sorts—I have not watched Episodes 2-9, so that I could come at Episode 10 from a unique perspective. I wanted to see what’s changed, how the narrative is doing, and if it’s gotten any better, which it totally could have, right? Again, this isn’t a straightforward recap, since it’s a review.

Welcome to Thunderdome.

Two men enter. One man leaves.

 
EPISODE 10 REVIEW

Hm. Again with the crawl. Now I’m wondering if every episode started with this inane thing or if they saved it, just for me. Who told them I was coming? I was annoyed when they began the series with this, but if it’s at the top of every episode, that’s definitely worse.

Soo-yeon (Kim Ha-neul) is on the run, and the planes flying overhead connect us to Jang-woo (So Ji-sub), who sees them from his route along yup, you guessed it—Road No. 1.

We follow the men in pursuit of Northern troops, looking for an attack point. It seems that Jang-woo has asserted his leadership skills in the past nine episodes, because now he’s giving the orders, whereas initially he was the foot soldier to Tae-ho‘s (Yoon Kye-sang) ranking officer. My question is: where is Choi Min-soo’s commanding officer? And why is Son Chang-min, who was initially higher ranked, deferring to Jang-woo as well? So the hero card trumps the commanding officer card, eh?

Jang-woo gives a rousing speech about a potential suicide mission (although it seems his pre-battle speeches are still the same—we might die, there are insurmountable odds, but we can do it, etc.) and Tae-ho backs him up. They throw each other knowing looks throughout, and I’m secretly hoping that this show took a crazy left turn and the main love story is between these two. What? It could happen.

While they wait for nightfall, Tae-ho comes up to Jang-woo to announce that he’ll be leaving the company soon. He knows that when they reunite with Soo-yeon, there’s bound to be bloodshed (what, you’re going to kill each other over her?) so he’s planning to leave. Jang-woo says no, HE’s going to leave, since once he finds Soo-yeon this war is over for him, and someone has to lead the company.

Huh? Hold the mayo. So we’re ten episodes in, and our hero is still itching to get out of fighting the war? And now our second lead wants to get out too? I get that the reluctant hero thing is a bad boy staple, but it has to be an initial reluctance, followed by a bolstered patriotism and duty to what’s right. Ever see Jack Bauer walk out at the sixteen-hour mark because he didn’t feel like it anymore? Get it together, hero!

Jang-woo tells Tae-ho that if they don’t make it out of this mission alive, neither one of them has the chance to reunite with Soo-yeon, so it’s all moot anyway. I’m really disliking this love-for-my-woman-is-my-prevailing-motivation motif, because it reduces both men to whiny puppies, when they’re supposed to be representing men who actually gave their lives in this war.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang (the North Korean capital) goes up in flames. The battle scenes actually look beautiful, if that makes any sense, since they’re so stylized. It’s clear that CG is where they spent their massive budget. Soo-yeon is working as a doctor at a North Korean trauma ward, which is being blitzed by the planes overhead. Oh that’s interesting, to have her working to patch up Northern soldiers. I was wondering where they were going to take the initial story point of her family being Northern sympathizers. I like the added layer of conflict that this adds, so nice job on this one, Show.

She’s basically performing surgery with the walls coming down around her, and I’m much more riveted by her scenes than the boys’ so far. Her brother is still alive, and he tells her that the Southern army has crossed the 38th parallel, raising her hopes that she might see Jang-woo this far north. There’s a nice beat where she gives her young assistant a hairpin as a thank-you for sticking it out during the bombing, and then we get a flashback to Jang-woo giving it to her before the war.

Back on the front lines, Jang-woo leads the troops and everyone salutes him, even Tae-ho. I wish there were more outward animosity between these two, if they’re still playing the love triangle. If they’re not, and everyone’s a docile kitten, then WTF is the point? It’d be different if they were all about the bromance and their bond becomes stronger than either’s love for Soo-yeon. Which is where I still think this show should go. And not even in a gay way, if you must kill my joy, Show.

They attack the Northern camp from two sides. Jang-woo leads the front, while Tae-ho takes a group of men across the river to attack from behind. They stop to dig up some artillery (presumably because this camp was originally theirs), and find the body of Choi Min-soo buried with the guns. Oh, that’s what happened. It rattles Tae-ho, as his commander’s death probably hit him the hardest.

They run into battle in slow motion with Choi Min-soo’s voiceover telling them that fear isn’t something that can be overtaken; you just experience it and muddle through. This kind of stuff works pretty well for me, usually because the battle scenes themselves can become quite tedious in their intricacy, whereas one punchy moment like this gets the necessary point across. The weight of Choi Min-soo’s voice doesn’t hurt either.

In the thick of battle, Tae-ho looks up to see Jang-woo doing something heroic, which makes him think of the commander. He gets injured, and when Jang-woo comes to help him, he actually mistakes him for Choi Min-soo’s character. Jang-woo stretches out his hand, and he raises Tae-ho up.

I’m completely inferring from what we’re given in this episode, but it seems that Tae-ho is the guy who realized once he went to war that he wasn’t quite up to snuff. He was probably way more scared than he could deal with, and his commanding officer protected him, like a hero and a father. Jang-woo then takes this place, and I’m assuming the brotherhood starts here with Tae-ho’s acceptance of Jang-woo as a leader. You can alternately see jealousy and amazement in Tae-ho’s face when he looks up at Jang-woo single-handedly taking out a tank, for instance. Not that anyone wouldn’t think that was amazing; does Jang-woo have to be Superman, for pete’s sake?

Seeing Jang-woo rise up and be a hero jolts Tae-ho out of his reverie, and he joins the fight. He even gets his own heroic moment, where he steps in to save Jang-woo from being shot while he’s down. And then? We get ANOTHER hand-holding moment, this time with Jang-woo being raised up by Tae-ho.

Really, Show? You just did that, two minutes ago. Maybe less. One episode to another, maybe it’s symmetry. One minute to another? That’s just goofy. Sometimes, the epic thing works for you, and then in moments like this, you’re like a parody of yourself. I wish for your sake you knew the difference.

They face their enemies, backs against each other. Now all of a sudden they’re like, wonder twins, activate!

[OMG, this is like a bad, cheesy(er) ripoff of that quintessential kpop melodrama MV, “To Heaven” — which, coincidentally, starred Kim Haneul as the tragic lover to the bad-boy hero, Lee Byung-heon! Seriously, you have to watch the scene I’m talking about, which occurs at 5:08, but I’d suggest you start at 4:50. Although the whole thing is worth a watch. And to blow your mind even further, his buddy is none other than Jung Woong-in, aka the ridiculous Ji-won in Coffee House, only here he actually looks COOL. Road No. 1, you and your 13 billion won pale in comparison to that 6-minute music video. –javabeans]

As the battle winds down, one of the soldiers goes on a warpath killing spree to avenge his brutally murdered family, leading from the battle all the way to a North Korean base. Crazy fool. He gets severely injured and has to stop at a precarious place, underneath a major crossing bridge. Jang-woo goes after him, and then Tae-ho goes after Jang-woo. They all meet up, and have to find a way to get their man out of there undetected.

Oh, you two. Just make out already.

Really, if there is one more soulful look into each other’s eyes at kissing distance, I’m going to ditch this recap for a brokeback mv.

They get him away and into a barn for the night, and they literally use their bodies to keep him warm. I’m not even kidding. It wouldn’t be so funny, out of context, I know, since the man is dying, but…you’re making this too easy, Show.

They talk over a campfire, and Tae-ho asks Jang-woo about his hand. (Tae-ho speaks in jondae and Jang-woo replies in banmal, since their roles are now reversed.) Jang-woo doesn’t tell him about the injury, but says that it acts up whenever he’s scared or lonely. What, now it’s a ghost hand, with feelings?

They ask each other if they love Soo-yeon, to which the answer is a resounding, “duh,” and then they ask one another why they like her. The reason they both cite: “because she resembles my mother.” All together now: Eeeeeeeewwwww!

Tae-ho wonders who Soo-yeon would’ve chosen if they hadn’t gone off to war. Jang-woo wonders if that means Tae-ho has forgiven Soo-yeon (for her Northern sympathies), for which he doesn’t have an answer. Jang-woo asks why Tae-ho came to rescue him, and Tae-ho says it’s confusing for him too, since he’s so used to wishing Jang-woo dead, but he’s come to accept him now. At least they’re not making exaggerated facial expressions and overacting in this scene, but the on-the-nose question-and-answer isn’t exactly the smoothest way to convey all these things that technically, we already know.

Tae-ho tells him that he saw their commander’s image in him today on the battlefield, and that he knew in that moment, that Jang-woo was his leader, his comrade, his brother. All together now: Aaaaawwwwww!

Jang-woo thanks him, but speaks frankly that he doesn’t believe in ‘comrades of war,’ because when it’s all said and done, they won’t be able to see each other again—the living and the dead. I don’t know that his sentiment makes much sense, but I get what he’s saying—the scars of death, those lost and those he’s killed—are greater than any brotherhood or bond that could be formed. It’s probably interesting to have him be this way, if only to make him eat his words later. But right now it sounds pretty ungrateful.

Tae-ho says he was always jealous every time he saw that Jang-woo was lost in thought, knowing whom he was thinking of. Jang-woo says that he always thinks of only one person, when he’s laughing, walking, talking, even now. Well, way to make a bonding moment awkward, dude.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but characters who are SO single-minded in their love actually scare me a little. It’s like a little too devoted, in a creepy is-that-my-used-toothbrush-in-your-keepsake-box kind of way. Obviously, must have for an epic romance, but not actually desirable, you know, in the real world.

They return to the camp, and hold a memorial service for their fallen brothers in the 2nd Company. Tae-ho presents Jang-woo with their commander’s stick (I know, don’t laugh. I’m not making this up, I swear) and they stand there, holding the stick together, as Jang-woo symbolically embraces his role as leader.

The soldiers break out into song, which is about as awkward as it sounds, but then what could have turned into a poignant moment is undercut by the soundtrack so that you can’t get into one or the other. Why would you ruin your own setup? Purposely shooting yourself in the foot, I tell you.

The men head back to their hometown, and Jang-woo flashes back to the most passionless kiss ever, as he heads to Soo-yeon’s house. (Really. I think Ken and Barbie could have done better.) There’s a moment where he clears the cobwebs with the most contemplative gaze…that just makes me erupt in laughter. Why do you insist on turning the hero into such a weepy hangdog, Show? I suppose I would feel differently if the moments were acted with any amount of subtlety, but they’re not, so I’m left feeling out of the loop once again.

Jang-woo and Tae-ho meet on that fateful bridge, this time without Soo-yeon between them. Tae-ho asks to leave the unit, but Jang-woo tears up the request. He tells Tae-ho to keep that wedding ring safe, and give Soo-yeon a chance to reply. Wait, you’re playing BOTH the commander who encourages him to keep fighting while giving him hope of Soo-yeon’s love, AND the reluctant soldier who wants to ditch the war to run to your beloved and keep her for yourself? Which one is it?? I thought we were done with the whiplashing, but you’ve managed to do it again, Show. Kudos, you sneaky bastard.

The North Korean troops get ready to leave Pyongyang, but Soo-yeon insists on staying behind, so that she might run into Jang-woo. So she and her nurse, along with an injured child, stay with her brother. He tries to get her to ditch the kid, since he’s dead weight while they’re on the run, but Soo-yeon refuses, spitting out emotionally that if something happens to the child, it’s over between them. She’s also been having telltale stomach pains throughout the episode, so yup…I smell lovechild! Of course you went there, Show.

The planes fly overhead and once again, they connect her to Jang-woo.

Thankfully, I don’t think anyone’s watching this for a realistic portrayal of war, so that’s one comfort.

I think this drama’s problem is one of tunnel vision, and taking itself too seriously. Waaay too seriously. It’s the same effect you get when you speak to someone who’s insanely pretentious, and totally earnest about it at the same time. They can’t see that it’s funny to everyone else, because their ideas are so precious to them. This show has no filter for that, so everything is presented as really earnest and precious, only it comes across as trite or funny, because it’s lacking in self-awareness. I know, I’m anthropomorphizing the show. More than I usually do. But there’s a huge difference between shows that know they’re being cheesy or funny or over-the-top, and shows that don’t see that they are, even though they’re not trying to be.

Still yelling? Check. Still posing people like dolls? Check. Still having people speak their feelings instead of feeling them? Check. Still circling motifs back on themselves so many times it becomes funny? Check.

Verdict: Your bromance is budding, it’s true. But it’s Episode 10 and you’ve learned nothing since we last saw you. The smaller moments between two characters do work better now—it seems you’ve toned down the acting a bit there, which is good. But so far your story is still an epic love triangle that doesn’t feel epic, and your hero is still a whining pile of horse dung.

He’s not even a vampire. Why is he so mopey?

And can Tae-ho please just realize his true feelings now?

What? I never said it was going to be pretty.

Girlfriday: 2 / Show: 0

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48 August 26, 2010

A quiet finale for Road No. 1

by javabeans

MBC’s big war drama Road No. 1 turned out not to be so big after all, and ended this week with a 5.3% rating (AGB Nielsen). It’s been averaging 4% to 5% for its entire run so this is no surprise, but it is a big disappointment, especially given its whopping 13 billion won budget.

Supposedly the response from viewers who stuck with the show was positive, but the problem is, there just weren’t that many of them. The viewers didn’t respond to the melodramatic line, but the stronger moments came when the camaraderie between the soldiers was depicted. (It’s too bad there wasn’t more of the latter and less of the former.)

[SPOILERS] The last episode: The ending, which aired on the 26th, is described as a “star-crossed finale.” Jang-woo and Tae-ho (So Ji-sub and Yoon Kye-sang) were separated in an air force attack and didn’t see each other for 60 years. They finally met again in present-day Korea as old men and talked about the tragedy of war. [END SPOILER]

There are a lot of factors that may account for the poor showing: For one, its competition has been strong, with Baker King Kim Tak-gu emerging as the biggest drama of the year with 40%-plus ratings. SBS has provided solid second place offerings with Bad Guy, then My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho.

On top of that, there’s the drama’s subject material. The Korean War is a big topic in entertainment this year, which is the 60th anniversary of the war’s outbreak, but perhaps it was just too heavy for a Wednesday-Thursday television show. Furthermore, Road slipped into melodramatic excess and placed a lot of importance on its tragic romance, rather than the realities of battle. Plus, there’s that other war drama, KBS’s weekend series Comrades, which is by far the superior show in terms of writing and directing.

Then, we also have the “MBC curse” — it really shouldn’t have any effect on a drama’s performance but has produced a curious pattern nonetheless. The broadcaster has not had a hit in the Wednesday-Thursday timeslot in years, and in fact has failed to produce more than one show that has managed double-digit ratings since 2008. (That show is Personal Taste. I mentioned the full list of Wednesday-Thursday flops in this post.)

Now eyes turn to Road‘s successor, Playful Kiss, to see if it will fare any better.

Via E Daily, OSEN

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Road Number One Recap: Episode 1

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This is a recap of the first episode of Road Number One (“R#1”) in that I shall be doing my best to describe the episode as it unfolds. Do be warned, however, that it will be much in the nature of a review in that I’m not going to be holding back my opinion. Just so you know. If you think you may be offended by opinion, read no further. In point of fact, any re-telling of a story must come from a subjective viewpoint, and for me the whole point of a recap is to see a show through someone else’s lens. If I wanted a pure and unadulterated version of the show I’d just watch it!

All set? Here we go!

The show opens with a slide-show of war scenes accompanied by stirring music. We are informed that the context of this drama is the 1950-1953 Korean War. “At a time when nobody had ever seen a tank, peaceful villages were invaded”. We are exhorted never to re-enact the pain of this tragic war, and told that the show is dedicated “to those who sacrificed their lives selflessly and without hesitation for our motherland, and to the countless souls.” And we are reminded that the war has not officially ended.

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I feel this is a bit heavy-handed. But then, war is heavy-handed, and the best war movies have a heavy message. So I’m just about ok with this portentous and slightly maudlin start. I also feel that to describe the fighting as being “for our motherland” is sentimentalising and simplifying somewhat what must be one of the most complicated, bedevilled, politicised and pointless military conflicts of the twentieth-century. But anyhoo, this is a drama not a history lesson, so let us push on.

Live action begins. We start at the Korean War memorial, in present day, complete with tasselled and pressed honour guard drilling. An old man (looking startlingly like an aged Yoon Kye Sang) slides up to a memorial plague in his wheelchair and leans over to caress an engraved name – Lee Jang Woo. “I’m sorry,” he murmurs tearily, “I’m sorry I took so long. The truth is that I was afraid, I was afraid I would cry like a baby if I came. I want to believe that you’re still alive.”

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Fade out to the past. A handful of troops splash through a muddy field with dramatic mountains in the background (great location, nice execution). We are told that this is the 1948 Jiri Mountain Munsu-gol Battle waged between “hidden North Korean guerrillas and the South Korean Army”, i.e., this is a (border?) skirmish before the official outbreak of war in 1950. Rain is falling from an overcast sky. The colours are grey and bleak. The soundtrack is spare and ominous. Men are running through the tall reeds. We hear heavy breathing and we see So Ji Sub (as Lee Jang Woo) running (and wearing rain-proof guy-liner).

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Jang Woo stops his troops with a dramatic hand-signal and they hide while North Korean guerillas run past them. Jang Woo and his band gather together and explain excitedly to each other what is happening (i.e., give the viewers the Exposition):- “Communications have been cut off!” “It’s been 30 minutes, reinforcements are not coming!”. Then Jang Woo pronounces, wild-eyed, to the shock of his band, “We are going to have a ‘wild boar hunt’! I’ll be the wild boar!”

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Uh oh, I thinks to myself. Jang Woo is going to be the decoy. He’s going to break cover, attract fire, and die heroically to save his men, oh crap. But, no. Clearly I have not grasped the awesomeness of Jang Woo, because he’s not talking about any old simple decoy trick. He speaks of a revolutionary military manoeuvre, a trick so simple and yet so effective… Jang Woo runs right through the middle of the group of enemy soldiers. And they are so startled by his audacity, so dazzled by his speed and so terrified of his bulging eyes, they aim their rifles at him but miss and wind up shooting their comrades instead. Wow. Astonishing.

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This display of breathtaking deflection of bullets (and logic) so inspires Jang Woo’s band, they attack the enemy soldiers, at first picking them off easily. But they are out-numbered, and Jang Woo’s comrades start falling. They flee, and huddle again for Another Exposition:– “We are running out of ammunition!” Jang Woo: “It has to be a large-scale bombing! Since we are going to die anyway, we all die together!” He radios their coordinates to their field artillery units (so what about the previous exposition about communications being cut?) which are apparently close enough for instant pin-point accuracy bombardment, but not close enough for reinforcement troops to be sent. And why must they all die? Why not retreat strategically and let the enemy be shelled to smithereens? It’s really not clear to me. What is clear to me, though, is that the message I’m supposed to take away from this whole scenario is that Jang Woo is awesome and brave.

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Jang Woo’s men are horrified, but Jang Woo declaims, “Who dies or lives is not up to me!” (which must be a handy credo when you’re arranging the bombardment of your own troops) and orders his out-numbered men into hand-to-hand combat. Flames fly in the ensuing melee, in which Jang Woo gives as good as he gets. But his men keep falling. Howling with rage, with Herculean strength Jang Woo flings his rifle like a spear, which pierces an enemy soldier through. Then the shells start to fall. Everyone falls. Fire burns. Rain falls relentlessly. Wounded, Jang Woo staggers through the smoke and the exploding shells, and finally falls to the sodden ground, bloodied, eyes no longer bulging but flickering on the verge of life and death. (OK, this very last scene? Not bad, not bad at all. Finally feeling the SJS.)

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At this critical dramatic juncture, of course the ubiquitous flashback to happy days, the contrast highlighting the horror of war, and giving us the moving back-story of our hero Lee Jang Woo.

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Cue gentle piano-tinkling music designed to invoke childhood idyll. Sunshine and green fields. Clean smiley faces of cute young children. But wait a minute, it’s not quite so idyllic. Something is going on which is Making Us Feel Sad. Two little girls and a boy are going to school, clean-dressed and fresh-faced, but they are followed by a poor grubby servant boy who is carrying their school bags. They cross a stream on stepping stones and when they reach a gap in the stones, the poor boy puts down the bags, runs ahead and kneels in the gap for them to step on. Really? The gap isn’t even all that big, and the water only ankle-deep. Clearly, the boy is Much Abused and we are to feel Very Sad for him. The elder girl doesn’t like to step on Abused Boy, but she does it anyway with heavy heart, while Abused Boy smiles indulgently. Clearly, Abused Boy loves Compassionate Girl. And Sad Things are to come. I can’t wait.

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Night falls. Compassionate Girl is bathing. Abused Boy is peeking through a crack and sketching her naked body. Er, is this supposed to be touching? Because it’s creeping me out a bit.

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Apparently, I’m not the only one getting bad vibes, because Compassionate Girl senses someone at the door, by superhuman force wraps herself in a cloth in a nano-second, and opens the door on Abashed Boy. She grabs his book, wild-eyed. He watched expressionless as she flips through the book, gasping – surprise surprise (not) the sketch-book is full of sketches of her, ohnos. Pre-pubescent bosom heaving, she rips up the sketch-book, and slaps him across the face. (OK, if I weren’t already creeped out, I’m now even more creeped out by the children enacting what is a very adult reaction to invasion of personal privacy). She looks furious, he looks blank.

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He is hauled away by Privileged Boy who starts to beat him up in the courtyard, “I told you not to do that ever again!” Compassionate Girl now looks on in horror. Abused Boy declaims, “I’m going to continue drawing, because I like the Young Mistress.” Now Compassionate Girl looks sorry and Abused Boy smiles at her serenely. Thanks, Show, for spelling it all out so clearly for us. Wow, I would never have guessed that he liked her if you didn’t hit me over the head with it (ouch).

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Privileged Boy picks up a scythe, yells dramatically, and plunges it into some part of the body of Abused Boy. Abused Boy shrieks as blood splatters on his face. Yikes. All right, we get it we get it, Privileged Boy is horrid and Abused Boy is pitiful. Okay, I’m sorry I laughed at you, Show, for hitting me over the head, you don’t have to hit me over the head now with a sharp farming instrument do you? Er, I guess you do. Ouch.

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Cut to a tree by a field, and boy cowering under the tree with his face and hand covered in blood. Eeks, that’s a lot of blood, has he lost a limb? No, he’s only got a gash in his hand (whew!) – I never knew there were large arteries in the back of one’s hand that would spew blood in that manner when cut. The things I learn from television.

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Anyway, Compassionate Girl runs to boy and rips off the hem of her skirt (always, it is the hem of the skirt) to bind boy’s trembling hand. Sad music plays.

Cut away to day-time again. Abused Boy dashes to stream, drops parcels on water’s edge, runs to take his position in the stepping-stone gap, and smiles invitingly up at Compassionate Girl. But today, she steps deliberately into the water, walks round him, and lifts him up by his wounded hand. Then places his hand on her left chest. (Eurgh. Again, a very adult, sexual gesture enacted by young children, I be not touched, I be eeked.) He looks wonderingly at her. She pulls out from her bosom (well, her pinafore top) pages from his sketch-book (miraculously neat and whole) and tells him not to sneak around anymore but to continue sketching. He nods adoringly. She tells him to call her familiarly by her name – Su Yeon – instead of “Young Mistress”.

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Wow. What a change in a young lady’s heart getting injured brings. It seems we can recommend to all lovelorn young men a spot of dramatic bloodshed.

Except that, wait a minute, we’re not talking about lovelorn adults here, or even teenagers. These are pre-pubescent kids. Ew. Moving sharply along…

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Or not. So I’m thinking, ok ok I get that you need to establish the Epic Love and I get that you want to utilise adorable child actors. I get it, I assume we’re done, let’s move on. But instead, Su Yeon shuts her eyes. Boy looks puzzled (and I am too, genuinely). Then he gasps in shock (and I’m still puzzled). And he closes his eyes (and I’m still puzzled – is this soaking-in-the-sun-with-eyes-shut some kind of special Korean children’s game?) And he draws closer to her and suddenly the light dawns on Stupid Me – she was angling for a kiss and he was shocked because he realized it!! By golly, I’m so stupid. When a little girl closes her eyes and looks serene, I totally do not get that she is asking to be snogged.

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Predictably, at the last minute she opens her eyes, smiles coyly, pushes Abused Boy (and his poor wounded hand!) into the water, and runs away. Ha ha! So funny, sweet and romantic! (Not) He picks up his sodden pieces of paper and gazes adoringly after her. Yeah, boy, soak in the water and soak in the humiliation. I have a feeling she might be the death of you (quite literally), and most certainly the source of a great deal more pain, suffering and humiliation.

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To the continuing strains of sweet music, we return to that tree by the field, years later, to a scene set in a sunny drizzle. Poor Abused Boy is busying himself with his precious sketch-book and we are not surprised to find that Abused Boy is Lee Jang Woo, So Ji Sub in a lamentable bowl-cut (Poor SJS!). We meet Kim Ha Neul playing the adult Kim Su Yeon as she is poised artistically (and, it looks to me, uncomfortably) up the tree, munching an apple (Symbolism? Forbidden Fruit? Exile? Doom?) and craning to look over his shoulder.

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“Let me see! Let me see!” she says as they wrestle (fakely) over the book. He wrests her apple and cheekily takes a bite. She looks into the book and realises it’s a drawing of herself eating the apple in the tree naked (more symbolism?). She is enraged. He laughs and dances off triumphantly, capering through the padi field (Oy, don’t trample the padi! It’s hard work to plant, you know). She stamps her feet and flings her hair girly-ly and yells, “Get back here immediately!” I suppose she’s supposed to look cute here, but to me she just looks like a woman on a bad hair day trying to act like a girly girl. Also, KHN is looking rather wan and washed out. I think she should be demanding more of that make-up her male co-stars seem to have so much access to.

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She suddenly switches gear and shouts to him, “I love you!” Wow, that was pretty swift romantic development. But I guess they have had an early start since they have been going at it since they were children, eh? Jang Woo yells cheekily, feigning deafness, “what did you say?” and she shouts again, “I love you!”.

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Ok. Superficially? This very part right here I kind of get. If So Ji Sub had just stolen my apple and were laughing at me impishly, I’d also shout, “I love you!”. But overall, the Tree of Love tableau doesn’t work for me. Too cute and too self-conscious. And on a more serious note, the whole theme of naked sketches between two people growing up in the same household and stretching over the years from childhood to young adulthood is a bit too creepy for me.

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He runs back to her, falls in the mud, and drags her into the field (No no! Not the precious padi!). She repeats her declaration of love at close quarters and they gaze delightedly into each others’ eyes.

Night-time. They sit chummily together and consider his sketch book and his drawings of them kissing (Real scenes? Fantasies? Dunno). “Is this all you think about? What is your dream?” she asks. I guess this scene is supposed to cement the endurance and the imperative of their Epic Love. But I don’t know whether I am more bothered by their duel bad hair or by the incongruity of them chatting about his borderline-stalker obsession in such a casual manner. “My dream is to draw one person, forever,” he says. “Even if that person is not next to you?” she asks. “Yes,” he replies, “even then, I will draw only you.” I don’t understand this conversation – why would she be talking about leaving him? It makes no sense, except as a set-up for their later inevitable tragic separation when they will likely have sad flashbacks to this conversation, sigh.

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They pinky-swear eternal love. And dissolve into giggles and playfully jostle one another.

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And I’m pretty confused. Is this a serious love confession, or not? Don’t they mean what they say? And if so, what’s so funny? Or is the giggling and joshing supposed to indicate that they are so adorably comfortable with each other they even laugh at their own love declarations? I just can’t understand or connect with this scene.

And, really, I just can’t understand or connect with this romantic couple. I don’t feel I know them, I don’t know why they love each other, nor even how they relate to each other.

In any event, no time to ponder, because we move swiftly on…

Jang Woo is walking across a bridge in army gear, and Su Yeon runs towards him holding a shoe in her hand (I guess this indicates extreme haste), screaming, “Jang Woo! Jang Woo!”. Evidently too distraught to think straight, just before she reaches him she sinks to the ground and continues shrieking from there “Don’t go! Don’t go!”, eyes shut and head tossing, like nothing so much as a little girl throwing a tantrum because she isn’t given an ice cream.

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Jang Woo turns round and looks back with furrowed brow — Is he in anguish? Is he feeling put upon? Is he worried she’ll burst a blood vessel? Is he wondering what kind of crazed hysterical woman Compassionate Girl has grown up to become? (Because, the child actress who played young Su Yeon had far more gravitas and indignity than Kim Ha Neul at this point, sitting legs splayed on the ground.)

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It’s hard to tell, especially when I’m distracted with wondering how it is that before he leaves home and presumably before he actually joins the army Jang Woo is already fully kitted out and sporting what must be the standard army-issue look of fake-tan, guy-liner, and baleful stare – see poster of present-day army musical starring Joo Ji Hoon and Lee Jun Ki

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Clearly he’s off to join the army, and since it appears that he has had no time to have a calm conversation with Su Yeon and since she had to ran after him in such haste that her shoe fell off, presumably this was an extremely sudden decision. But, why? This scene is so abrupt we need some explication. Fortunately Jang Woo explains, “You wanted to become a doctor? I’ll earn your tuition. Don’t worry about anything and just study.” She doesn’t seem impressed by this and continues sobbing bitterly.

And I’m not so impressed either. What, a family so rich that it can have a boy-servant carry its children’s school-bags can’t afford the tuition fees for Su Yeon’s medical school, so much so that the poor little boy-servant has to earn it for her? What, this trantrummy woman on the ground is in medical school? Is there no other way to earn money than to join the South Korean army? And did the South Korean army of the time really pay so handsomely? (Times sure have changed – I’m pretty sure no one could be put through medical school on a army recruit’s pay nowadays.)

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He continues walking away, resolutely, and she picks herself off the ground and runs to him, shoe in hand. She grabs his scarred hand and says, “How can this hand hold a gun? I’m going to quit school. So don’t go to Jiri Mountain. Am I supposed to use the money you earn killing people to study how to save them? I don’t want to!” (Oho! So the hand wound was more than minor, it has affected his hand-mobility.) He replies, “How is it that the smart young mistress of the house is more short-sighted than the servant boy?” (and I would add, less resourceful and more impecunious?). “You’re the smart one,” she yells at him, “and I’m no longer the owner’s daughter.” (Why? Is the owner dead? Has Jang Woo left the service of the household? Or does Su Yeon just mean that she no longer regards herself as his employer? Dunno.) “So, do what you want to do with your life. You wanted to study art and become an artist,” she continues pleadingly (Thanks for the exposition, Show!), “don’t be stupid and give that up because of me!”

Tears in his eyes, Jang Woo says quietly, “Su Yeon, what I want to do is exactly this: Living for you.” “If it’s for me, stay by my side,” she cries. You know, dude, she kind of has a point here. I’m not really understanding how risking your life in war is related to living for your love for her. And I’m still not buying the thing with the tuition fees.

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He holds her comfortingly, as sad music swells, but then looks away, twitches, and walks away resolutely. She collapses to the ground again in inconsolable tears. He stops in his tracks and strides back to her, takes her by the shoulders and plucks a dandelion seed out of her hair. “About the time this blooms into a flower, I’ll be back. After that, I’ll stay by your side forever.”

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Presumably he is saying that he’ll be back within the year when the same season rolls round again. Though, when I look into this a little more, I learn that dandelion seeds (taraxacum officinale) can germinate after many years, and that dandelions in Korea bloom from March to October. Hmm, sometimes research just confuses me more.

She’s not mollified and continues to sob. And I can’t say I blame her, I too would be upset if my man displayed such stunning lack of logical thinking and lack of self-preservation. Though I could wish that she showed more dignity and concern for his well-being.

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He kisses her forehead, then gets up and runs away. (Why run? Dunno.) But stops ten yards away, turns back again, casts off his duffel bag, sprints back to her and kisses her passionately while she still sobs, to swelling strings.

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The camera pulls back, and we see dandelions seeds floating over the Bridge of Tragedy. Unsubtle, much? The strings swell more, the camera pulls back more, and we see dandelion seeds float over the entire sun-kissed countryside.

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The aesthetics of this sequence are very pretty, it has to be admitted. But story-wise? Clearly, the Epic Love is being Tested. Which is fine. I’ve nothing against the Testing of Epic Loves, which is the foundation of some of the best art in the world (television, movies, books, plays). But I still know little of how and why they love each other. Only that they indubitably do. Character development? Story development? Epic Fail. Not helped by Logic Fail:– I’ve not even weighed into the ridiculousness of all that carrying on and running back and forth along the Bridge of Tragedy. I can forgive logic lapses where a show has heart and authenticity, but so far I’m not seeing R#1’s heart.

And it is roundabout this point in the show that I realise that I have stumbled upon an epic case of Aspirational Gap (See my Prosecutor Princess Review for an explanation of my theory, though you may be able to guess what it means just from the term). Gap like a glacial chasm. I mean, Prosecutor Princess can’t touch this for sheer gaping Aspirational Gap. This show totally aspires to have me care about a touching young love, it’s very existence depends on it. And I so do not care about Fake-Tan Boy and Hysterical Girl.

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Flash forward to Jang Woo lying half-dead in that muddy battlefield in Jiri Mountain. “Su Yeon, Su Yeon,” he murmurs intensely as he struggles to his feet, presumably gravely wounded, but evidently not dead. He screams for his communications officer (Why him particularly? Dunno.) An enemy soldier grabs his ankle and points his revolver at him, Jang Woo aims his rifle, and the two men glare at each other. They fire at the same time. Jang Woo falls to the ground, blank-eyed. Ohnos, shot by a revolver at close range, how can our hero survive?

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Anyway, onward. Sappy music plays, the sort with a soprano humming a haunting melody. We are at the clinic in Su Yeon’s hometown, Yeongchon. An officer walks in. It is 1st Platoon Leader Second Lieutenant Shin Tae Ho, played by Yoon Kye Sang. His jovial face sobers as he registers what he sees in the doctor’s room – a beautiful woman in a white-coat with a baby at her breast, framed by sunlight. The woman is Su Yeon. What, she’s had a baby? While Jang Woo was at war? Before she met Tae Ho? My head spins.

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She smiles beatifically as the baby suckles contently. He is embarrassed, she is serene. He explains he’s come to pick up medicine and introduces himself. She explains that she is watching the baby for its mother and that it must be because she delivered the baby that it falls asleep the moment it latches onto her. Whew, the baby isn’t hers. On the other hand…, really? A baby can be pacified with a milk-less breast? I find that hard to believe (and I’m not going to try it out next time a friend’s baby gets fretful), a lot harder to believe than that the show just wanted to kill several birds with one stone: Show a bit of gratuitous breast, indicate that Su Yeong is now a qualified doctor, demonstrate that she is an angel and show Tae Ho falling hopelessly in love at first sight (to the accompaniment of tinkling piano). Because, you know, no man’s heart can resist such an impressive display of gentle maternity.

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Now for our next gratuitous scene, this time showcasing the manliness of Tae Ho. We are back at the Tree of Love and two platoons are having a rice-planting competition. Very nice, I approve of military exercises which benefit civilians.

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Tae Ho’s platoon wins this contest, and to show what a jolly good fellow he is he procures a round of drinks for the villagers.

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Round Two of the Inter-Platoon Games is “horseback battle”, in which men are hoisted onto the shoulders of their comrades and they charge at each other… through the padi field! Oh no! Not the padi field you’ve just laboriously planted! Oddly, instead of cursing the men who are destroying their livelihood, the villagers cheer and clap. Perhaps they are dazzled by the sight of so many fit, bare-chested men.

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Su Yeong rides by on a bicycle, distracting Tae Ho. But she seems preoccupied and oblivious to the effect her flapping skirt has on the on-looking men and to the fact that Tae Ho’s eyes are following her intently.

Night-time. Su Yeong is riding her bike across the Bridge of Tragedy in the rain. (Is this the same day? Is this the same bike-ride? She’s wearing the same clothes, but is the village bridge so far from the village tree that it is night-fall before she can get to it? Dunno.) She stops her bike in the middle of the bridge, and we see that she is clutching a piece of paper. Su Yeong voices over, “Jang Woo, are you really dead?” She stands on the parapet of the bridge, her intention obvious. “I’ll go to you if you can’t come to me.”

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But Tae Ho runs up to her and grabs her by the wrist before she can fall into the river. (Where on earth has he leapt from in the nick of time? Dunno.) She faints to the ground.

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We leap two years. Su Yeong is wearing a wedding dress (just a fitting, presumably) and her younger sister is telling a photograph of her (deceased) parents that Su Yeon is getting married this Sunday to an amazing, handsome Second Lieutenant. Little sis is quite excited, but Su Yeon just looks blankly resigned. Su Yeon’s elder brother listens in. He doesn’t look too happy. This is all happening so head-spinningly fast for me. It was clear from Tae Ho’s puppy-dog eyes that he had a crush on Su Yeon. But does Su Yeon love Tae Ho? Even a bit? Or is she entirely on the rebound from news of Jang Woo’s death?

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The best we get by way of explanation is the subsequent scene of Su Yeon cycling to the Bridge of Tragedy. There, as music swells, she watches wistfully as dandelion seeds float through the air, and I imagine we are to surmise that her heart still belongs to Jang Woo…

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Ominously, we cut immediately to Jang Woo’s hands. He is alive! And sitting in the back of an army truck, looking happily and expectantly around him. As his truck drives past the Tree of Love (ohnos, he is not only alive, he is here!), cheering children run after the truck and he tosses packets from his kit (army meal supplies?) into their grateful hands. Why? Are army rations so desirable? Are the children starving? Did the harvest fail? But more likely I’m reading too much into this scene which is merely meant to show us that the village children are cute and that Jang Woo is kind-hearted.

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A sign tells us that this road running by the Tree of Love is actually the eponymous Road Number One, the road from Pyongyang to Seoul. And the show tells us that this is June 24th,1950. The day before the start of the Korean War. Uh oh.

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At this point, I rush off to do some mental time-lining. So, Jang Woo was gravely wounded at Jiri Mountain in1948. He can’t have left Su Yeon very long before that, because he knew that he was going to Jiri Mountain. It is now mid 1950 and two years since Tae Ho met Su Yeon round about the time that she got news of Jang Woo’s death. So, in the short time between Jang Woo leaving her and him being presumed dead in Jiri Mountains, Su Yeon has completed medical school and qualified as a doctor for long enough to have set up a practice and delivered a baby which is now several months old. Hmm.

Also, this means that Jang Woo has been hanging about for two years since his presumed death. Hmm. Evidently, because Su Yeon believes him dead, without once getting in touch with her. Bastard. And presumably he’s also reneged on his promise to send her money, as otherwise she would have known he was still alive.

And today he drives past the Tree of Love. Surely this must be close to where Jang Woo used to live, if he could have crawled here as a young boy when he nearly had his hand chopped off. Why couldn’t he have at least popped in to say, “Hi Honey, I’m alive”?

Instead, Jang Woo heads off to an army office where meets with Captain Yoon Sam Soo (Choi Min Soo). There we learn that he is the sole survivor of the Mount Jiri Munsu-gol battle. (Just how did he survive that point-blank gunshot? Not explained.) He’s told that he was officially recorded dead and even a notification sent. Jang Woo receives this piece of information extraordinarily placidly. I guess this means that this is not the first time he’s heard of this administrative blunder, because he’s not shocked at all. But if he knew about this mistake all along, why did he not do something about it rather than let his family and Su Yeon think him dead? Bastard.

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Captain Yoon remarks that Jang Woo has an excellent record and asks why he wants to resign from the army. Smirking (well, it looks like a smirk to me), he announces that he is going to get married (to a woman you’ve let believe you dead? Ok, buddy, whatever you say), and that he intends to start a business with the money he has saved (yeah, I bet you saved a lot, buster). But when pressed, Jang Woo confesses that he is resigning because of the pain in his hand. He’s not sure he can hold a gun anymore. Captain Yoon perspicuously (and doubtless for the viewers’ benefit) remarks that he reckons Jang Woo’s heart has suffered more than his hand.

As Jang Woo leaves the office, Tae Ho walks in. Jang Woo looks inimical (Why? Does he psychically recognise a love-rival? Dunno). Tae Ho is only mildly curious, being more concerned with his wedding tomorrow and a critical mission he is on tonight.

Jang Woo hitches a ride from an army truck back to Yeongchon village. Tae Ho is in the back. This must be dandelion season because there’s tons of the stuff flying about. The two men recognise each other from their recent encounter in the army office and their heckles inexplicably rise. This clearly indicates that their paths are fated and that there is Trouble to come.

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And just in case we are not getting this message of Impending Trouble, we are thrown a close-up shot of dandelion, reminding us of the Dandelion Covenant between Jang Woo and Su Yeon. Jang Woo tries to make conversation, but Tae Ho is more interested in the contents of a ring box he holds in his hand, uh oh. And just in case we still haven’t gotten the message, we get another close-up shot of dandelion as the Truckload of Trouble speeds off. Yeah, hit us over the head with that one, ouch.

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Jang Woo saunters insouciantly into the Kim Compound and announces that he is home. His father greets him with cries of joy and surprise. “We thought you were dead!” (Evidently Father is also a servant in the Kim household. But where was he when his son was being maimed for life all those years ago? Dunno.) By this time, I don’t even feel surprised that Jang Woo’s father isn’t asking why he never tried to let them know that he was alive, because I’m coming to realise that R#1 exists in a universe parallel to mine.

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Su Yeon’s brother looks up from a book he holds conspicuously in his hand, signifying that he is a Man of Ideas. He remarks casually, “Well, it’s good you’ve come back alive.” Su Yeon’s younger sister arrives and exclaims amazed, “But, you’re alive! A letter even came saying you’re dead.” Jang Woo explains he’s only just found out about the mistaken death notification. Aha! Ok, absolve from wilful disinformation. But nonetheless, why no letter or contact for two years? Especially when Yeongchon the border village is so near the theatre of action. It’s not as if you were shipped off from Australia to Gallipoli, you know.

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“Where is Su Yeon?” Jang Woo enquires. Before anyone can answer, their attention is caught by a horrible coughing fit by Su Yeon’s brother. Jang Woo’s father asks if he should run to the clinic. Su Yeon’s brother yells at him, “Listen to me! You are no longer a servant!” (Why so agitated and angry at a well-meaning old man? And in what way is the old man is no longer your servant? If he is no longer in your employ, why is he carrying water in your compound while you looked on untroubled?) Jang Woo’s father says gently, “But this is nothing, taking care of you and the young misses is my purpose.” Su Yeon’s brother is livid and shouts, “The world has changed! Why are you so foolish?” (It has? You mean, people are no longer helpful? And anyway, why take it out on the poor old man? Get a grip.)

Su Yeon’s brother says to Jang Woo, “I’ve told your father many times not to come to this house anymore.” (What, you’ve fired the old man? Meanie.) “And you, don’t come near Su Yeon either. I don’t like it.” (Though why he need bother to warn Jang Woo off when Su Yeong is on the verge of getting married to someone else, I dunno.)

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Jang Woo refuses to stay away from Su Yeon. Su Yeon’s brother’s eyes bulge, but before he can respond with the full force of his displeasure, his face is convulsed hideously, he coughs up lurid blood into his handkerchief (tuberculosis?) and retreats indoors.

Su Yeon’s sister tosses out “Su Yeon is getting married tomorrow, so just have a drink and cool down!” Shock! All worked up, Jang Woo sprints off. (But he doesn’t know where Su Yeon is, so, where to? Dunno.)

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Cut to Tae Ho presenting a jade ring, a family heirloom, to Su Yeon as a wedding gift. Su Yeon apologises for not having prepared anything to give him. Tae Ho, old chap, doesn’t her lack of enthusiasm bother you at all? Apparently not, because he magnanimously pronounces her smile the greatest gift he can receive, and requests that she smile just once for him. (What? In the two years of your courtship, she hasn’t smiled?) “The day is finally here, June 25th, the day we become a couple” he says. Yup, thanks for the reminder that we are on the brink of war.

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They stroll along The Bridge. And of all the things they could have talked about on the eve of their wedding, and of all things we would have liked to hear about their relationship and about their journey to this significant point in their lives, what does Tae Ho talk about? A long cheerful exposition on his secret mission tonight (complete with stage whisper behind cupped hand), which is to attach explosives to this very bridge so that it can be blown up should the North Koreans advance. “You see,” out-of-town boy explains painstakingly to the woman who has lived here all her life, “this is near the 38th parallel and if the North Koreans invade, the first thing we will need to do will be to blow up this bridge to buy time. If they penetrate this area, Seoul becomes vulnerable.” Su Yeon is so numbed by her impending (unwelcome?) nuptials, instead of rolling her eyes at him for patronising her like an idiot child, she listens and nods. “But I’m sure that will never happen,” he says cheerfully, and we know at once that for sure this is precisely what is going to happen. “So just stay at home and don’t come here tonight.” Oh boy. Well, we pretty much know where most of the action for the rest of this episode will take place, don’t we.

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Sappy music plays. The pair gaze at each other, without much passion, but at least companionably. But, wait. A figure is running towards them, out of focus. (What? Is Su Yeon short-sighted? Or Tae Ho? Or both?) As the running figure comes into focus, Su Yeon looks arrested but strangely blank. And I feel puzzled – how on earth did Jang Woo know to find them here?

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Well, no time for petty quibbling. Because Jang Woo marches over and interposes himself between the soon-to-be-marrieds. Su Yeon gazes blankly at him and murmurs, “Jang Woo… you…”

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“I told you I’d return when the dandelions bloomed,” Jang Woo heaves. All right all right, you complied with the letter of the promise. Or did you? Was it a two-year plus seed germination period you were referring to all along, then? But didn’t you violate the spirit of it by not getting in touch with her for two years?

“As you can see,” breathes Jang Woo feelingly, “I am not dead”. Tae Ho listens to all this impassively. “I’ve returned safe and sound to you!” Jang Woo shouts. And grabs her wrist, “Let’s go!” and starts marching off. Er, is this supposed to be romantic? Not even a “How are you, my love?”. You reappear after two years’ silence, you know she is getting married tomorrow, and this is the best you can do by way of apology, re-connecting and love-making?

But, wait, Tae Ho grabs her elbow and demands an explanation from Su Yeon (As well he might.) And here I present to you, the Screen-Capper’s Delight – a Frozen Tableau, making it abundantly clear in case you’ve missed the point that we have here a Love Triangle, and that Su Yeon is Torn between Two Lovers…

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As Jang Woo and Su Yeon stay frozen in their positions (conveniently, for the screen-capper), Tae Ho strolls over to Jang Woo and formally introduces himself pompously with all his titles and positions. (What an ass!)

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“I have nothing to say to you,” Jang Woo grimaces, not meeting Tae Ho’s eye. And, you know, all heaving, shouty, petulant and wild-eyed, right now he seems the lesser man of the two. Though, in terms of assery, Tae Ho gives him a good run for the money when he says, “As long as we are in uniform, I am your superior.” Er, really? Superiority in military rank translates to liberty to be overbearing and dictatorial in civilian matters?

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Jang Woo is not impressed either and hisses, “Move aside!”. He tries to march off, but is brought up short by Su Yeon not moving (haha!). Su Yeon gazes balefully at him. The point, of course, is not that Tae Ho out-ranks Jang Woo, but that Su Yeon has promised herself to Tae Ho. And in this universe, apparently, it is not possible to break an engagement on the basis that a prior previously-presumed dead betrothed turns up. (Why not? Dunno.) Tae Ho on the other hand knows the rules of his universe and knows he has the upper hand, so he walks away complacently, saying, “I will leave now since this is making Su Yeon feel uncomfortable. Sleep well, my bride.”

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“I’m sorry, it’s my fault,” Jang Woo says tearfully when they are left to themselves. “Sorry for what?” replies Su Yeon, “For deciding on your own to leave? Or, are you sorry for dying and then coming back alive? You could have written at least one letter.” Wow, that’s a bit harsh, aren’t you just glad he’s still alive? But no matter, let’s not dwell on this, because you have a great point about the non-letter writing and I am DYING to hear his explanation…

“I thought death was my fate. I barely made it alive. But I was afraid I was physically damaged. I couldn’t come back crippled and become your burden!”

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They gaze into each others’ eyes for quite a while. And I gaze at the meaning of these words for quite a while. I don’t understand them. Anyone here can help me? Is Jang Woo saying it took him two years to find out whether he was crippled or not? Or is he saying that he took two years to recover from his injuries? In either case, does it make any sense not to write one letter? If he didn’t want to be a burden, couldn’t he have written, “I’m alive but injured. I’ll keep you posted on my recovery. I don’t want to be a burden to you, so if it turns out I’m crippled I’ll release you from our promise”? Well, I’m not going to flagellate my brain over this, because to be honest I’ve given up trying to figure things out by this point.

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Jang Woo and Su Yeon fall into each others’ arms and embrace tearfully. Music swells. Dandelion seeds float through the air. They sob. The camera pulls back for yet another dandelion-filled evening-sun touched shot of the Bridge of Sorrows. And then the camera pulls back yet again for yet another dandelion-filled, sun-drenched shot of the countryside. But this time I’m tired of the trick and I’m like “Whatever. Do I really have to screen-cap this?”

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Back to the Kim Household. Su Yeon is preparing the evening meal, younger sis nags, “Did you explain to Jang Woo? Do you think he’ll make trouble tomorrow? He’s such a hot-head.” Su Yeon’s face is blank, but the clang as she lays down a bowl with too much force suggests that she is not unmoved.

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Bored with Su Yeon’s non-reaction, sis says, “I’m going to Hyun Ja’s to study for a test.” Su Yeon is suddenly alert, “Isn’t her house across the bridge? Don’t go. Tonight the soldiers are doing something to the bridge, I don’t know what, but something about explosives and something about the 38th parallel being unstable.” Gosh, for a doctor she sure is slow on the uptake and for a woman who has lived near the border all her life she sure is clueless about the bridge’s strategic significance.

Wait, they are overheard by their brother, uh oh, who gets on his bike and races to the (still empty) bridge, where with furrowed brow he ponders her words and his next actions. (What, he needs to be at the bridge in order to plan an attack on the bridge? Shouldn’t he have been rounding up his men rather than stopping to think on the bridge, possibly drawing attention to himself? Whatever.) Ominous drum beats sound in the soundtrack.

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Cut to the 2nd Company. Captain Yoon is issuing orders and adjures, “There must not be any mistakes made in installing the explosives.” (Really? You don’t say.) He notices Tae Ho is abstracted and warns him to be alert.

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Su Yeon runs to a hillside cabin shouting for Oppa, but it is empty. (I love the bit where she looks for her brother under a crate, haha! No, I’m being silly of course. She’s not looking for Oppa, she’s just spelling out to us viewers that she’s realising that the hide-out has been abandoned.)

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On the bridge, Jang Woo strides towards guards (I guess those guards hadn’t arrived when Su Yeon’s brother swung by, how lucky) and nearly gets shot because he is too grumpy to respond to their friend-or-foe hail. What on earth is he up to? Ignoring his friends who call out to him, he sprints off and fetches up at the army office where Tae Ho is monitoring communications. He grabs Tae Ho by the shirt. Tae Ho calmly needles him by reminding him to come to his wedding the day after. Jang Woo spits, “You won’t have the wedding, now I’ve returned!” Er, so Jang Woo has been stewing all day and storing up this confrontation for when a delicate military operation is in progress? Sigh.

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“I’m glad this has happened,” Tae Ho, “since a live opponent is better than a dead one.” Yup, he’s right, it’s hard to win against an idealised ghost. But with Jang Woo being alive and well and kicking and grumpy and irrational and shouty, why…

“Su Yeon is my woman,” breathes Jang Woo threateningly, “from the beginning and until the end.” Tae Ho is not impressed and flings off Jang Woo’s hold. “You’re even worse than your first impression. I don’t think you suit Su Yeon at all.” High octane male posturing, this, and inevitably the contest gets physical.

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But even as Jang Woo and Tae Ho are poised to exchange blows, gun-shots ring out. The bridge is under attack! Soldiers are being picked off. Su Yeon’s brother is leading a band of riflemen. Tae Ho arrives at the bridge with a truck-full of reinforcements and we are treated to yet another mid-battle exposition: “What is going on?” “It was a surprise attack! They came out of nowhere!” (you don’t say!) “How many?” “I don’t know!” Tae Ho orders a man, “Find out who and why!” And I think the show is weakening me and making me feel slightly hysterical, because that just cracks me up. Is it so easy to just order someone to just “find out who and why”? And you mean, if Tae Ho hadn’t ordered it, it wouldn’t have occurred to anyone to try to find out who and why?

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The armoured vehicle drives towards the attackers and the soldiers take the offensive. “Take at least one prisoner alive!” orders Tae Ho. The ambushers are now on the run. They hobble into the village and bring their wounded to the clinic, where Su Yeon faces off her brother. (Nice Job. Yeah, the soldiers will never think of looking for injured men in your sister’s clinic.) “Su Yeon-ah,” he pleads.

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Back to the bridge. The soldiers realise the attackers were South Korean farmers. The explosives can’t be laid tonight (Why? Dunno) and the operation will have to be put off to the following night (Uh oh – remember the date?). Damn the attackers! How did they know to attack? (Er, you all city boys or something? This is a village. You can’t move troops and vehicles to a busy spot like an arterial bridge which even village schoolgirls use regularly at night, without the entire village knowing, you chumps!) Could there be a spy, they wonder? Ohnos. Tae Ho remembers telling Su Yeon all about the top secret operation. Seemingly untroubled for the moment by the thought of his fiancée being an informant, Tae Ho sharply orders his troops to the village clinic pronto. (It seems to be Su Yeon’s involvement rather than the fact that the clinic is a clinic that precipitates this. How does Tae Ho know that Su Yeon is at the clinic and not at home? Dunno.)

At the said clinic, Su Yeon is digging stuff out of a bloody and convulsing man when her brother, who has a minor flesh wound, tells her to stop as the soldiers will be there soon. (Shouldn’t you have thought of that earlier?) “You go,” Su Yeon says as she empties a whole canister of powder onto the man’s open wound, “I’ve done nothing wrong.” “Get it into your head,” yells Oppa wild-eyed, “if we are caught here it is all over!”

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Sure enough, the troops are shooting their way into the village clinic. (Very nice, shooting dead your own civilians, very nice.) Charging into the clinic, Tae Ho comes face-to-face with Su Yeon, which gives him pause. Su Yeon’s loathsome brother drawls, “It looks like you two need to clear up a misunderstanding. I’ll leave you two.” And he slithers out. Cheek. But not before saying to Su Yeon, “If anything happens, come to the mountain warehouse.” Right in front of Tae Ho, hence giving away the getaway. Nice. Besides, does it not occur to you, Oppa, that if anything happens to poor Su Yeon she might be dead? Whatever, the effect of this parting shot is to suggest to Tae Ho that Su Yeon is complicit to his nefarious deeds, which perhaps was horrid brother’s intention all along. (That, and a rather handy distraction for his get-away.)

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Tae Ho tosses down his rifle and rushes to Su Yeon’s side, “Has your brother threatened you?” Su Yeon says numbly, not meeting his eye, “I went to some reading group meetings with my brother. At first I thought they were just regular reading group meetings.” “You couldn’t possibly have…,” Tae Ho breathes, “the bridge plan… did you…”

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And here’s where the penny dropped for me. Aha, Su Yeon’s brother is a communist. I guess this is supposed to explain why he yelled at Jang Woo’s father for behaving like a helpful servant, why he wasn’t pleased that his sister was marrying a South Korean army officer, and why he is always sitting around scowling with a book in his hand; he’s clearly a revolutionary who isn’t happy with the current state of society. I’m glad all that’s explained now. But I’m still not understanding why he has to be evil-tempered and shouting all the time.

At first I also thought that his objection to Jang Woo was inconsistent – From an ideological point of view, shouldn’t he be embracing his proletariat brother? Shouldn’t a raving commie prefer as a brother-in-law a humble servant to a South Korean army officer? But thinking about it a little more, nah, he just doesn’t like Jang Woo. You know, personal prejudice always trumps ideology.

Anyways, back to our nearly-weds.

Tae Ho is devastated. “Was everything a lie? To use me? Tell me!!” “Whatever I say, would you believe me?” Su Yeon replies. “Here I am ministering to my brother’s comrade. Would you believe me?” (Er, why not? Like, you’re a doctor and you’re morally obliged to tend to anyone? Haven’t either of you heard of the Hippocratic Oath? Or watched M*A*S*H?) Tae Ho looks like he’s going to burst into tears. He pulls out his revolver, releases the safety catch and points it at her head. Woah! Escalation! Cool it, dude, cool it.

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Back at the army office. Jang Woo is sitting clutching his head (presumably stewing over Tae Ho’s refusal to call off the wedding). The soldiers manning the radio announce to each other that they have received a list of the people captured at the clinic, and (helpfully for us) read the list out to each other. The last name is, of course, Kim Su Yeon. At which Jang Woo grabs the list from the soldier to read Su Yeon’s name for himself (because he needs to see it in writing before he can believe that Su Yeon has been found in her own clinic?)

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Back to the clinic. Su Yeon looks resignedly down the barrel of the gun pointed at her by her fiancé. “Why??!!” he shouts at her. But she does not reply and stares tearily back. And, you know, I am so disconnected from the show and so disconnected from Kim Ha Neul’s acting, I honestly can not tell whether she is not explaining herself because she is being her usual mopey fatalistic self and is resigned to being misunderstood by Tae Ho, or whether she is not explaining herself because she really is guilty of entrapping Tae Ho into a marriage to spy on him. I had assumed the former, since the Big Secret was accidentally overheard by her brother rather than carried to him intentionally. But on re-watching, I’m now not so sure whether she didn’t entrap him. By golly, it’s not often that a show can confuse me more the more I watch it!

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“Did you ever love me?” Tae Ho asks. Oh ho. Tricky, this. She still doesn’t answer. But is this because she intended to spy on him all along? Or is this because her Epic and only Love is Jang Woo? Their hearts hurt as they gaze at each other. And my head hurts.

Loud explosions distract them. Jang Woo, running toward the clinic, also hears bombs go off and sees them light up the sky. The show informs us that it is 4.00 a.m., June 25th, 1950 – the time and date of the start of the Korean War.

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Tae Ho barrels out of the clinic to look at the flickering sky along with the other soldiers. A call from Captain Yoon is received. All troops are to return to the army operational base and prepare for battle. What about the situation in the clinic with the insurgents, Tae Ho asks? “Forget about them. This is war!” Quite. As Tae Ho stands there holding the radio handset, stunned (Why stunned exactly? Dunno), they are knocked to the ground by a huge explosion in the clinic behind them. What on earth? Ah, Army Exposition to the rescue. “A bomb,” a soldier informs Tae Ho. The soldiers debate, “Should we go in and get them?” “No, the Captain has ordered us away!”

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Tae Ho looks into the clinic window and sees that Su Yeon is still tending to the injured insurgent. (So, she can ignore the injured man when Tae Ho is yelling at her, but she can’t ignore the dying man when flames are licking about her? Oooh kaaay.)

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“Second Lieutenant!” Tae Ho’s soldiers call to the stunned man. He takes only a few seconds to decide. “Get in the truck!” Wow. You gave up your infatuation of two years real quick. Asshole.

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Sad music plays while Tae Ho looks sad. Wait, have I got the wrong end of the stick completely? Am I supposed to feel sorry for Tae Ho the Asshole? Oh well, this would not the first time R#1 and I have not had a meeting of minds.

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As bits of building fall round Su Yeon, she desperately administers CPR and cries “wake up!”, looking to me rather more like a panicky bystander than a professional doctor. Once again, she is framed by the Window of Flames as Tae Ho looks back at her. She looks out and sees him, shocked. Or sad. Or something. He looks conflicted, but he fortifies himself and shouts, “Move out!” Su Yeon starts to asphyxiate.

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In the village, the citizenry is out on the streets, wondering what is going on. Jang Woo is running in one direction (clinic-wards) while an army truck is charging in the other, and as they pass Jang Woo and Tae Ho see each other, Tae Ho in expressionless numbness, Jang Woo wild-eyed.

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But Jang Woo has no time to lose. He sprints to the burning clinic (not hard to locate as it appears to be the only building in the whole village which has been bombed, such evil luck). “Su Yeon-ah!!” Jang Woo hollers as he leaps into the flames. As sad music plays and we watch through the Window Frames of Flames as Jang Woo heroically hoists Su Yeon onto his back and dashes out.

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They stagger through the village, coughing, as the sky continues to light with bomb-fire. An army-truck is driving through the village, loud-hailer insisting, “every soldier must report to duty immediately!” Soldiers pile into the truck.
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Jang Woo’s father is wandering the village with a load of firewood on his back. (Hauling wood in the middle of the night, grandpa? Gosh, that “all men are equal” employer of yours sure is a hard taskmaster.) He runs into Jang Woo. “You must go home,” Jang Woo pants. An army truck screeches to a stop right in front of him and shines its headlights into his eyes. It’s Tae Ho! Sitting impassively and looking at Su Yeon being carried on Jang Woo’s back. Is he jealous? Is he remorseful that he didn’t save Su Yeon himself? Is he angry that Jang Woo has gotten his fiancée? Dunno.

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“Let’s go,” he says to Jang Woo quietly and firmly. “It’s war. So long as you wear your uniform, you’re still a soldier.” How Jang Woo can hear him from outside the vehicle and in all the din is puzzling, but I guess the two have a psychic connection. And, perhaps, a common bond of soldierly fellow-feeling or patriotism or something? Because Jang Woo obediently gets into the back of the truck, while Su Yeon is left dangling awkwardly from Jang Woo’s father’s back (Poor grandpa! Is there not a less back-breaking way to convey the woman?)

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Back to war business. Tae Ho shouts at his communications man to get the engineering corp to fix the explosives onto Yeongchon Bridge immediately. He spares what appears to be a contemptuous glance for Jang Woo who is looking sad and hang-dog.

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We get an aerial view of said Bridge in the night, truck going one direction and villagers another (to safety, it must be, hence south). But wait a minute, if the truck is heading north, are they not going to cut themselves off when they blow up the bridge? I know, I know, sometimes my obsessions with geography just kills my own drama-watching enjoyment.

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Daytime. The trucks go by the Yeongchon Village Tree (In the same direction that Jang Woo took when he was returning to the village but wait a minute aren’t the trucks heading away from the village now? OK ok, I’ll stop obsessing about geography.)

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Suddenly there is an almighty explosion and a jeep is overturned in flames. Tae Ho falls out of his truck, shaken and bloodied.

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“It’s an attack!” a soldier shouts. (Once again, thanks, soldier, I’d never have guessed.) “An enemy attack! Take cover!” Pandemonium, as they run about confusedly. Soldiers stagger about in flames, and Jang Woo and Tae Ho look horrified. (But why so shocked, hasn’t Jang Woo at least seen much worse action?) Their eyes meet for a moment. Tae Ho tries to get the men together, but they are pounded by heavy shelling. They take cover in the padi fields. (And, yes, I’m beyond lamenting for the poor trampled padi fields. After all, as Captain Yoon said, this is War.)

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“It appears they have crossed the 38th parallel”, Captain Yoon radios. Yup, it sure does. “Yes sir, we’ll do our best to hold them off.” He orders his first and second lieutenants to lead their respective platoons into battle position. Worryingly, Jang Woo is cradling his bad hand. (And can I just say, shallowly, I think it is genius to give Jang Woo a trick hand because it gives us leave to admire again and again So Ji Sub’s beautiful hands.)

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Tae Ho and Jang Woo find themselves right next to each other again. But before they can have any meaningful exchange, Tae Ho has to call a private to order. Chaos reigns as shells fall and men are killed. The Captain and his Lieutenants can’t tell where this devastating shelling is coming from.

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Suddenly, Jang Woo notices the soil slipping and the ground shaking. An ominous, rumbling sound approaches. Tae Ho looks at Jang Woo wild-eyed, then turns to see what Jang Woo is staring at, and gapes in disbelief. The men are terrified. The Captain is stunned. “What is that?!” the First Lieutenant cries.

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It’s… a terrifying fire-breathing monster!! Shock, horror, despair. The machine from hell symbolically rolls over and crushes a South Korean helmet with a sinister crunch.

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“It’s a tank,” says Jang Woo in tones of shock and awe. “It’s a cannon on wheels.” In case we didn’t know. “Tank,” repeats Tae Ho dumbly, united with Jang Woo in terror. “A tank is coming!!” shouts Jang Woo, wild-eyed, “A cannon on wheels!!!”

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End of episode.

Now, it’s true that the South Korean army of the time (before it was reinforced by the US and the UN) did not have tanks, whereas the North Koreans were well-supplied by the Soviet Union. But this was 1950, years after the Second World War. Surely these army men have at least heard of tanks and seen photographs of them? Cannons had been around for many years, even in mobile form. A hundred-and-fifty years earlier, an ordinary sailor in Lord Nelson’s fleet would have been familiar with a ship that packed one hundred cannons. Would a slow-moving armoured vehicle which carries one cannon really terrify mid-twentieth century battle-hardened men as much as the Eye of Sauron terrified hobbits or Godzilla terrified citizenry?

However, military history quibbling aside, at a superficial level I kind of liked the ending (once I got over laughing at how petrified they were by a wee tank). It was dramatic, it was loud. And I liked that the two men were literally thrown together against a greater evil than their petty quarrel. But, what will Episode Two hold for us? And how is this farrago of nonsense or fantastic feast (depending on your point of view) going to keep up for twenty episodes?

Onward to Episode Two! Or… not?

You may be wondering whether I’m going to continue with recapping R#1. I am certainly wondering myself. As I said to Thundie, I don’t think snark is a good foundation for a long-term recapping relationship. After five episodes, let alone twenty, my smart-alecky comments are going wear very thin. Besides which, there are so many good and interesting dramas out there for me to check out and maybe write about. One thing for sure – if I continue I must find a way to make these recaps shorter and less labour intensive. Like: “Episode 2: More shouting, more shooting, more anger, more angst. The end.” I kid. Actually, I haven’t watched Episode Two (I’m so uninterested).

The Powerpoint school of drama-making?

I found it fairly easy to take screen-caps for this recap, and very easy to file my picture files neatly into discrete folders with episodic titles (e.g., “Tree of Love”, “Bridge of Meltdown”). Nice lighting. Set-piece composition. Facial expressions writ large. And I think this may be precisely the problem. It’s as if someone thought of a series of random Touching Tableaux then sat down and bashed out a screenplay to string all the Touching Tableaux together. Everything seems so exaggerated. There is little depth, authenticity or real story-telling. It’s as if the show were constructed backwards – starting from “What is going to look dramatic and moving on screen?” rather than starting from “What do I have to say to my audience? What human story do I have to tell?”. There is little external logic (why things happen), let alone internal logic (why do people do what they do). It’s no wonder that the actors are not at their best. It can’t be easy to bring depth and profundity to acting if you are just handed an arbitrary string of “scenes” – “Now act upset, no need to figure out precisely why you’re upset, just make sure you look very very upset.” This saddens me because I know that So Ji Sub can do subtle simmering (see What Happened in Bali) and anguish (see I’m Sorry I Love You), and I also know from Who Are You? that Yoon Kye Sang is capable of sympathetic acting. What has happened to these two promising actors? It seems as if their bodies have been taken over by aliens and infected with the Over-Acting Pathogen. *sob*

War is Bad, We Feels Sad, Oh the Tragedy

In the end, I felt that this episode took two great life themes (Love and War), and turned them into trite and facile sentiment.

In an attempt to make sense of the logic and chronology of this episode, I did a little reading up on the Korean War (to my shame, this is a gap in my amateur history knowledge). I was struck by the scale of human tragedy, all-round moral-reprehensibility of those in power, the political farce and the ideological posturing in this maddeningly senseless and costly proxy-war. My research on the Korean War helped me make better sense of some scenes in R#1, but it also highlighted to me some logic lapses, and it didn’t help me connect with the show with history or real human drama. By failing to engage beyond a sentimental or sensational level, I feel that the show wastes fascinating source material and falls short of its grandiloquent opening dedication.

I’ve heard it said that the problem with R#1 was that it tried to cram too much into the first episode. The breakneck pace is certainly a problem, but I think that that is a charitable diagnosis because I think the issue actually goes deeper than mere pace. I think the show suffers from a poverty of ideas and poverty of heart. If you have something to say and if you have the skill to say it well, I believe it is possible to say it with pace and economy. Take, for instance, the first few minutes of the animated movie Up, into which an entire life-span of a couple is crammed, but which I found deeply moving and real. Because it had something authentic to say about real people and growing up and dreams and even bereavement. And it had the skill to say it well. If R#1 just had the restraint to scale back on the shouting, the posturing, the lingering pretty camera shots and the drama, and the courage to focus on real heartbeats and acts of humanity, I think it should have been possible to stuff into one episode all of a young love, a growing up, an adult complication and a snippet of war horror. Besides which, I think R#1 ep. 1 could have saved quite a bit of time if it didn’t indulge in so many repetitions – Jang Woo the Soldier falls to the ground as good as dead not once but twice, Jang Woo leaves Su Yeon on the bridge but then turns back round again not once but twice, and we get the dandelion fluff floating over Jang Woo and Su Yeon embracing on the Bridge of Sorrows not once but twice. Perhaps if the show were not quite so much enamoured with itself it could have been more disciplined with the editing.

And a good story must make sense. It’s ok if it stretches credulity (like, much of Shakespeare) but it has to pass a certain minimum level of sense-making. It makes no sense to me whatsoever why Jang Woo had to join the army all of a sudden, and then why he never wrote home for two years. I can’t believe that there is no way to make a credible story of a separation, a given-up-for-lost and an unexpected reappearance. As it is, we have here instead lazy, superficial script-writing.

There was a lot of anticipation for this drama because of its popular actors, the big budget, the gorgeous promotional stills, the big themes of war and love, and the fact that it finished shooting before it started airing. And indeed the production values are impressive. Visually, every scene is lovingly composed and lit (I didn’t crop a single screen-cap I took). The sets and props are great, the continuity solid, and the special effects way above average. But an impoverished story presented beautifully is still, in the end, impoverished.

A Final Frivolous Word

Towards the end of this mammoth recapping undertaking, as I glared resentfully at my burgeoning screen-cap album and felt the amusement index (for both myself and potential readers) fall in inverse proportion to the rising word count, I started to lose the will to live. In my delirium I got silly. Thundie says I must include my silly output, and we all know that she Must Be Obeyed. So here, to lighten the mood, I offer my (silly) shorter recap in limerick, haiku, song and haiku again:

There was a young Sergeant named Jang Woo
Who loved his agasshi since two
Empassioned, they kiss’d
Their knickers got twist’d
Whoever said love’s path ran smooth

***

He left in sunshine
He came back drowned in my tears
Oh the tragedy

Dandelions float
His promise was like the wind
Dandelion, fly

***

To the tune of Over the Rainbow:

Tai Ho, do get a grip
She loves you not.
Move on. Try to be nice,
And try not to be so fraught.

The premise of your wedding plan
It sinks if she loves Other Man
Of that we’re clear!
When dandelions fill the screens
You ought to know just what that means:
You’re Second Lead, dear!

Tai Ho, try not to cry
Though love be snuffed
Now, go off to the war
And come back redeemed and buffed.

***
Oh my God a TANK!
We gasp we faint we fall down…
Pox on the Soviets!

Thanks, WITHS2!

I’d like to acknowledge the excellent subtitles produced by the WITHS2 Team. Thanks for the fine, hard work. Couldn’t have understood R#1 without them, let alone recapped.

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First impressions Guest bloggers K-dramas Recaps Choi Min SooKim Ha NeulRoad No. 1So Ji SubSon Chang MinYoon Kye Sang 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “Road Number One Recap: Episode 1

  1. Kukilas says:

    Thank you so much for the awesome recap!

    I have not even started episode 1 due to all of the bad reviews this has been receiving. After reading your recap, I really don’t think I am going to try this show out at all. However, I have to say that your recap was amazing, and so very entertaining. I would not watch this series, but if you decide to continue recapping this, I would zealously follow your recaps since they are so much more entertaining than this series thinks it is. I so loved the snark, and the Haiku and song lyrics were just brilliant.

    Thanks again!

  2. Bashful82 says:

    Cheers for that!

    I have to say that war dramas never really take my interests (with the exception of “Band of Brothers” and your review is hardly making me want to spend time watching “Road Number One”!

    But delicious commentary aside, have you had a chance to look at “Comrades”? From what I hear, that is meant to be far better.

    Both men seem to fall into the same category as the two men in “Summer’s Desire” and thus require plentiful punches to the face. And slapping from a wet, smelly fish.

  3. Joe says:

    If you really want to know what’s in Road No.1, then you should watch it yourself. You can’t rely on someone’s opinion.

    I agree that Ep.1 is pretty fast-pacing, but it gets better and better as the show moves on.

    To me, So Ji Sub – Kim Ha Neul – Yun Kye Sang are portraying their characters well here! I’ll continue watching this drama as I find it interesting!

  4. jh says:

    Sorry I didn’t read it cuz I’m not a big fan of recaps. Like Joe, I prefer to watch and draw
    my own conclusion.

    Weak script is a major problem with Kdramas in general. I see trashy dramas with brain
    dead scripts having high ratings so may be the viewers are in fault of this. Script writers
    just produce the same old stuff over and over.

    Road NO.1 is not perfect.Then, count and name how many dramas that can be called
    perfect? At least Road No.1 has tried.

  5. thundie says:

    Thanks for the stupendous review, Serendipity! Do you know, this could possibly be the longest ever recap of a single kdrama episode on any blog, clocking in at nearly 12,000 words!! (Although it is not the longest TP post; sweet ockoala still holds the record with her Tamra review, keke.) I know how exhausting it was to put everything together. *muahh!*

    I agree with Kukilas that your recap/review was much more entertaining than the episode itself. I’m astounded by your details; you noticed so many, many things that completely escaped me. Your snark is priceless; you had me giggling every few lines. I can’t believe you actually researched dandelions and how long it takes for the seeds to germinate! And the haiku and limerick and the song! Haha! The screencaps (more than 140!) had me ROFLing; the one of KHN throwing her hissy fit on the bridge is my absolute favorite!

    All laughing aside, I’m so disappointed that Road’s opening episode will be remembered by many viewers as one big joke. It is so overwrought and so laughable in every aspect, my jaw was on the floor the entire time. I simply could not believe my eyes. And I had such high hopes for the drama, sob!

    Off to sing your special Tae-ho song, hehe!

  6. Jannah says:

    OMG, this is one of my favourite recaps ever! I laughed till I cried. My fav line:

    And can I just say, shallowly, I think it is genius to give Jang Woo a trick hand because it gives us leave to admire again and again So Ji Sub’s beautiful hands.

    Kekeke.

    Now I want to watch R#1 more than ever, to see for myself how bad the 1st episode really is. Sigh, but I wanted badly for this drama to be good, for So Ji Sub’s sake.

  7. Laica says:

    I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. Your recap is all kinds of win. I love the snarky parenthetical asides. I especially love the poetry and song at the end.

    I won’t be watching Road No. 1, but I’ll be reading anything else you write about it!

  8. langdon813 says:

    BRILLIANT! HILARIOUS!

    Thank God I don’t have to watch this drama…EVER (but I will definitely read any future recaps, should you find the fortitude to persevere)! 😀

  9. cingdoc says:

    War drama is never my cup of tea. If you haven’t written it,I would have “passed” this drama. I want to thank you for writing such wonderful recap(snarks and all,hehe). *BOW* to you (&@ockoala) for giving us such fun stuff to read…. 🙂

  10. Serendipity says:

    @ Kukilas

    Thanks! It was a labour of… something! I can’t really say it was a labour of love. A labour of compulsion? Anyways, glad you enjoyed it!

    @Bashful82

    I’ve also heard “Comrades” is good, and I might indeed check it out.

    “slapping from a wet, smelly fish” — haha! Yeah, I feel sorry for the two actors, whom I like, both. They’ve been handed such unsympathetic two-dimensional ungentlemanly and self-absorbed characters.

    @ Joe

    “should watch it yourself” — True! I too have sometimes wondered what the point of a recap is. But nonetheless couldn’t resist jumping on the bandwagon, with such fodder at hand!

    @ jh

    Road No. 1 has certainly tried, very very hard, in some ways. For instance in execution, quality camera work and not stinting on sets. But in other ways (depth, meaningful story-telling) I felt it didn’t try all that hard.

    You are right in that there is quite a lot of badly-written k-drama about. But I don’t really agree that endemic bad writing is particularly a problem for k-dramas. Maybe you haven’t been watching the right k-dramas? Like all art, unless it’s terribly obscure you will get a whole range from waste-of-time to life-changing brilliance. Among the k-dramas I would class as very very well-written and which I think can compare favourably with television from any country, would be Conspiracy in the Court, Mawang/The Devil, Story of a Man and Friend, Our Legend. And that’s just my personal opinion and based on my limited watching experience — others could add their own list of top-quality, enduring stuff (e.g. Shin Don, Ruler of Your Own World I’ve yet to watch, but they get rave reviews)

    @ Jannah

    I’m glad you enjoyed the review! There were so many (unintentionally) hilarious moments, if you are actively looking to watch something so-bad-it’s-good, I think R#1 might be just for you! And, yes, we are all in mourning for So Ji Sub. 😦

    @ Laica

    Hee hee. Thanks!

    @ langdon813, cingdoc

    Thanks, my friends!

    Actually, I feel a little bit bad now. Everyone’s laughing their heads off at the poor show. It is such an easy target! I feel as if I’ve been kicking a puppy or something!

    War dramas — I have dabbled in reading military history, so I would say that I have a mild interest in and broad understanding of war, but by no means a fanatical interest or deep understanding. I particularly like the genre of the historical fiction (Patrick O’Brian, George MacDonald Fraser (silly, but impeccably researched), Pat Barker, Mary Renault), because it’s a way of helping the historical facts go down easier as well as connecting the broad sweep of history with the deep and profound effect war has on human lives. When it comes to war movies or dramas, I neither avoid them nor watch out for them, but I have pretty high standards for them. I’m turned off if facts are disregarded too flagrantly, if war is trivialised, or if I feel that I’m being patronised (like, repeatedly hit over the head with “War is Bad” or “Lots of Innocent People were Killed”, as if I didn’t know already). So, yeah, I’m very hard to please. I want honestly in communicating the reality of war but I don’t want to be hit over the head with it. o_O War is such a big, big topic, for me a dramatic treatment can easily go either way — it can move me to my core, or it can offend me. Come to think of it, then, R#1 is far from the worst possible offender. It doesn’t actually offend me. I think it means well and is essentially harmless.

  11. daheefanel says:

    I laughed till I cried. Literally. You, my dear, are a genius.

    Thanks. You brightened up my day, and then some. 😀

  12. hjkomo says:

    Sides hurt!!! 😛

    Thanks for the brilliant, hilarious recap!

    If you continue watching, there’s much more laughing to come, so…
    ENCORE! ENCORE! 😀

  13. supah says:

    Seriously people, this is painful on so, SO many different levels. I’m thinking of those billions of won wasted in these times of economic recession.
    That childhood part is gross. Can’t believe they had pre-pubescent kids acting out such scenes (it’s almost Babel, Kite Runner level of child exploitation, I tell you).
    And Kim Ha-neul ain’t even all that hot that we’re meant to instantly buy why two of k-ent’s most gorgeous men are lusting after her. Whatevers!
    I applaud you, Serendipity, you lived to tell the tale, and it’s hilarious.

  14. jh says:

    reply to Serendipity:

    The drama you named only Friend, our legend and Shin Don I haven’t watched. Most of
    these dramas suffered with low single digit ratings. That just shows fewer and fewer
    good dramas will be produced. Good actors/actresses will have fewer good scripts to
    choose from.

    =========

    For those find Road No.1 is a joke, cannot by pass the first couple episodes, all I have
    to say is TOO BAD!

  15. ockoala says:

    Oh serendipity

    Thank god I have a functioning bladder, otherwise I would need to invest in adult diapers after I read your recap. I don’t think this can be sustained for another 19 episodes, it’s not healthy for me to laugh so much and so hard.

    You know what Road #1 reminds me of? Have you ever watched On Air? That drama had lots of failings, but I did enjoy it. One thing I took away from it was how K-dramas are created with its audience in mind. Road #1 feels like it’s scripted NOT to tell an organic and heartfelt story, but a compilation of elements to cater to each demographic at the expense of honesty and simplicity.

    It feels so contrived and overwrought, and that’s saying a lot since war pieces are by nature overwrought due to all the death and dying elements. I feel bad for SJS and YKS, but I think ultimately, script by committee is not a good idea.

  16. Taohua says:

    Thank you for the review serendipity! I watched the first half of the first episode and gave up…laughing through a battle scene did not seem to bode well. And the ANGST! of the EPIC!TRAGIC!LOVE! with such heavy-handedness felt a bit outdated? I had such high hopes for this one, but I guess it was not meant to be…and even worse is that it’s going to have so many guest actors that I want to see…so frustrating!

    I don’t know if I should say poor SJS or not…he’s acting reminded me a little too much of OTYL with all the OTT-acting at times. Oh well…

    Anyways, it’s always a pleasure to read your thoughts! I loved the snark and the poetry and song at the end!

  17. hjkomo says:

    Road No. 1 is this year’s biggest joke. It doesn’t get better, unless side-splitting hilarity is what you look for in a war drama. 😉 Not even Kim Jin Min’s all-too-brief moments of real directing can save Lee Jang Soo’s hot mess. SJS, better luck next time!

  18. doozy says:

    serendipity, bravo! I hope that by writing the creative poetry and song at the end of the recap, your sanity and will to live are saved.

    Quick question: Road No. 1 production was completed prior to airing, right? If indeed so, I can’t imagine what the result would be like if the production were live/on-the-go.

    I love your shout-out to Up! The opening sequence was so moving and poignant… no dialogue needed. *tear*

  19. Jannah says:

    @ Serendipity

    Actually, I’ll be watching because of my keen interest in war dramas & war fiction (books) in general. And of course, my love for So Ji Sub, which would – hopefully – help me get through the episodes.

    I’m going through the recap once more to take a closer look at the screencaps (they ARE pretty!), but this might be a bad idea – it’s not easy to suppress my laughter! Hahahaha.

  20. Jannah says:

    ^Addendum to the above: it’s not easy to suppress my laughter in the office, where I’m supposed to be working! 😛

  21. morserachel says:

    I had a ball of a time reading this. Thank you for brightening my day.

  22. serendipity says:

    @ daheefanel

    Why, thank you, Dahee. Praise from you is high praise indeed.

    @ hjkomo

    I may (or may not) soldier on (haha pun). But I feel sure I won’t be able to top the hilarity. I think I was drunk on silliness, or something!

    @ supah

    Thank you! What a waste, yeah? When I see all the painstaking effort put into the props and the camera work etc., I feel quite sorry for the film crew. Oh well, I guess they got paid, and I guess that’s life, sometimes you get lemons.

    @jh

    Ah, ratings! You’ve got me there. I pay scant attention to ratings. And I don’t know enough about the economics of drama-making in Korea so I’m not able to respond to your contention that over time k-drama scripts are going to get worse and worse. My own personal view is that k-dramas as a whole are no worse than television produced in any country – there is always too much dross, but often one can also find gold. Well, we’ll see what happens in the future.

    @ ockoala

    Haha, it can’t be sustained for 19 episodes because I will run out of wit, time and energy!

    I’ve not watched “On Air”. I hear such mixed things about it. I so agree: A drama doesn’t have to be perfect to win me, but it does need to have something that connects at heart level, that is so subjective and inexplicable (see Delightful Girl Choon Hyang! which I love for all its obvious faults).

    @ Taohua

    The cameo list has me drooling too! But who knows how much more of the show I can take…

    I too don’t know how far to blame SJS. I’m inclined to be kind because I like him. But if Episode 2 is anything to go by he’s not getting any less exaggerated 😦

    @ hjkomo

    There are two directors? Tell me more! It seemed to me to be all seamlessly disjointed, to be honest!

    @ doozy

    Yup, production completed before airing. Which got some of us quite excited. But it just goes to show that “filming on the fly” can’t be the sole culprit for dramas going wrong. And maybe there is after all something to be said for quick-and-dirty inspiration rather than painstaking laboriousness. One of the fascinating things about R#1 is how meticulously and beautifully it is constructed and put together, filming-wise.

    @ Jannah

    Actually, for me I’m glad I don’t love SJS THAT much. Because if I did, I really don’t think I could get through this shouty and bug-eyed incarnation. 😦 In any case, all power to you! Fighting! Maybe I’ll see you again at the end of 20 episodes. (Or maybe not.)

    @ moreserachel

    So glad you enjoyed it!

  23. nycgrl says:

    I have to say the story sounds pretty stupid and if I had watched it I would have been so annoyed and crotchety to the point of wanting to throw things. How you managed to keep your sanity to do this recap is beyond me (thanks for the sacrifice!). To think how eagerly I was looking forward to this for SJS.

    The screencaps that had my mouth open was the one where the poor dad is carrying her on his back-pack thingy. How is it even possible to carry anyone like that! Is she light as a rag doll? It looks so ridiculous. Sadly I couldn’t pour out the guffaw probably because part of me was crying for my poor SJS!

  24. Serendipity says:

    @ nycgrl

    I think I cope by pretending that this is not the same SJS who acted in WHIB and MiSa. I tell myself this is, in fact, his Evil Twin. Or to be more precise, his Inept Twin.

  25. There are over 500 entries that cover topics ranging from seamanship, boat handling, emergency rescue, navigation, and boat maintenance.
    Emilio pointed out this is where the ocean drops to past
    300 feet. A few days later you will think of a hundred other things you should have packed in your Ditch Bag.

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Road No. One: Episode 2 – A Shorter Recap

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I think I now understand why some bloggers continue recapping dramas they disdain. Some strange bond forms between recapper and drama, even the risible drama. (Stockholm Syndrome? Morbid fascination?) So it is that no sooner had I recovered from the exertion of recapping Episode 1 of Road Number One (or R#1) to death than I watched Episode 2.

To save my sanity (and yours) however, I have sworn off the compulsive, anal nearly-12,000-words-and-topping-150-screen-caps recap. Instead, I present to you: The 2,222-word Recap of Episode 2!

Good for the show but bad for the snarky recapper, this episode had fewer unintentionally hilarious moments. Which may mean that the show is settling into its groove, or that I’m getting the hang of the Rules of this Alternative Universe.

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We open with set-piece scenes from Episode 1. Hey! Those are my screen-caps!

My Episode 1 Recap predicted that Episode 2 would be: “More shouting, more shooting, more anger, more angst. The end.” Well…

More Shooting

It is June 25th, 1950, the start of the Korean War. A tank attacks a South Korean army convoy in the Yeongchon padi fields. Panic and pandemonium. Lee Jang-Woo (So Ji-Sub) alone seems to have kept his wits as he hauls the asses of the petrified soldiery.

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The Lee Family Compound. Confusion. Kim Su-Yeon (Kim Han-Neul) scurries to their hillside storage shed to find her brother.

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“What is going on?” Jang-Woo’s father asks her, wonderingly, even as the radio announces the invasion. Thus demonstrating…

Rule #1 of this Alternative Universe: Nothing is Too Dumb to Ask or Too Obvious to State

Jang-Woo dashes into the Lee Family Compound, having unaccountably detached himself from the fighting. Wide-eyed, he urges his father and Su-Yeon’s younger sister Su-Hee to safety, while he sprints after Su-Yeon.

Soldiers and fleeing villagers converge at YeongChon Bridge.

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Village Head to General: “What is happening? What shall we do?”
General: “You need to evacuate.”
Rule#1—Nothing Too Obvious
Village: “Will we be able to return to our homes?”
General: “Sure!”

The General displays a map – so crude it can’t be any real help to soldiers, but so simple it can be understood by us at a glance – showing they must retreat south of the bridge. Nice! Rule#1 in operation in topographic form.

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More Shouting

Rule #2 of this Alternative Universe: Why speak naturally when you can SHOUT!!!

Tae-Ho (Yoon Kye-Sang) arrives panting at bridge and shouts: “The explosives must be fixed to the bridge!!”

Sergeant Oh Jong-Ki (Son Chang-Min): “But there aren’t any engineers to do the job!!”

Tae-Ho: “I will do it myself!!”

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At the same time, Jang-Woo reaches the hillside shed…

Jang-Woo to Su-Yeon: “Su-Yeon-ah!! We must get away!! Now!!”

And along with the shouty, another Rule kicks in:

Rule #3 of this Alternative Universe: Wide-eyed for the Win!

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Back to the bridge, Tae-Ho is teaching inexperienced men how to rig explosives. “We must not let that tank pass this bridge!!”

Tae-Ho runs into Su-Hee.

Su-Hee: “Su-Yeon has gone to the shed to look for Oppa!”
Tae-Ho: ?!
Su-Hee: “But don’t worry, all is well, I’ve saved her wedding dress!!”
Tae-Ho: ??!!!!

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More Anger

Jang-Woo tries to make Su-Yeon run away with him. But Su-Yeon angrily refuses. How can she leave her injured now-fugitive brother and her young sister?! Jang-Woo blazes, “What about ME??!!”

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So, our hero can not part with his woman now. Not when he has killed men so that he can live to see her. And when every day he has devotedly drawn her image. But not one day in two years could he write a letter. Oooh kaaay.

Rule #4 of this Alternative Universe: Logic is for Losers

More Angst

Jang-Woo and Su-Yeon, torn between duty (stay with family/army and risk separation) and Epic Love (run away together), shout and shove at each other, furrow their brows, bulge their eyes (at least, he does), embrace, howl with tears, and generally carry on at the Shed of Sorrows.

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Rule#5–Milk the Maudlin

More Shooting

Back to the bridge. Tae-Ho and his panicky soldiers scramble to attach explosives even as tanks rumble ominously into view and open fire. They grapple with things falling into the river, inability to tell the colour of wires, getting shot, dropping detonators, and all the accidents attendant upon a bunch of amateurs attempting a tricky operation under heavy fire. Actually, it’s all quite exciting. The wide shots are particularly impressive.

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We even had some moving moments: Tae-Ho before the tanks arrive, swinging vulnerably from the bridge on ropes, self-talking and praying for success. The officers calming the frightened troops (and themselves) before the storm.

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But, this is still the R#1 universe, so:

#1—Nothing too Obvious

Tae Ho asks his men urgently “What’s that? What’s that?” when he hears a rumbling sound coming from the north, a sound in fact just like tanks.

#2—Love the Shouty

Lots of shouty.

#3—Wide-eyed for the Win!

Yup.

#4—Logic is for Losers

Um, they didn’t think to attach explosives to the bridge earlier, or to assign more men to the job? Captain Yoon has to ask for a progress report on the team rigging the bridge when he is on the bridge? Soldiers can be running along the bridge or sitting messing with wires, fully exposed, and not be touched by enemy (or friendly) fire?

#5—Milk the Maudlin

Tae-Ho and Captain Yoon carry on terribly over certain injured men.

“Park Hong-Ki! Park Hong-Ki!”
“Lieutenant, I did good?”
“Yes, boy, you did.” Sob.

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Captain Yoon: “Ju-Hwan! Ju-Hwan!”
Tae-Ho: “It’s all my fault!! I must save him!!”

Now, soldiers are being blown to smithereens all around them. Why all the drama surrounding Private Park and Ju-Hwan? Because they have been given names and (young boyish) faces, and we must Milk the Maudlin, that’s why.

At one point, firing even ceases so that soft sappy music can play as Tae-Ho confesses to the Captain, “They all died because of me!” Sigh. Ok, I get it, you feel bad you told Su-Yeon about the secret plan to rig the bridge. But how about, they died because there is a war going on?

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Note also that Tae-Ho runs back along the bridge to fetch detonator equipment against orders to retreat, not once but twice. Introducing…

Rule #6 of this Alternative Universe: Why do a scene only once when it’s double the fun to do it Twice

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Meanwhile, just in case you need more of the maudlin, as Tae-Ho suicidally prepares to blow the bridge, he flashes back to handing Su-Yeon an umbrella in the rain in happier times, that k-drama romantic trope.

Then Tae-Ho plunges the detonator. But… nothing happens! (Probably because one of his men didn’t connect the wires with the correct colours.) Howl of despair! Oh, the tragedy, the tragedy of war!

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Retreat!

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More Angst

Back at the storage shed, Su-Yeon and Jang-Woo are still angsting!

As they embrace tearfully and passionately (again), a revolver is pointed at them. Ohnos! Tae-Ho! How did he detach himself from his platoon and teleport himself under heavy fire? (Logic is for Losers)

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Tae-Ho: “My men died because of me. And because of you, Kim Su-Yeon. Yet, still, I wanted to see you.” (But you couldn’t rescue her from death by fire?)
Su-Yeon: “My promise to you was sincere. But that promise was given when Jang Woo wasn’t in the world.”
Tae-Ho: “What about now? Answer me!!” Again with the yelling down the barrel of a gun. (Rule#6—Twice is Nice)

Jang-Woo interposes between them.
“Kill me!! If I die, you wouldn’t have to kill Su-Yeon!”

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Wow. The only Rule not in operation in this scene (Shouty? Wide-eyed? Logic fail? Maudlin? Check check…) is #1. Because it’s not obvious that Tae-Ho can’t kill Su-Yeon after he kills Jang-Woo. And, Jang-Woo, after all your swearing of eternal devotion, you’re now going to make her watch you get your brains blown out on her behalf? Nice.

Jang-Woo presses the gun against his own head and closes his eyes. Tae-Ho looks conflicted.

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And I’m feeling this scene, right here. Maybe because I can’t see So Ji-Sub’s bulging eyes or guy-liner so much.

More Shelling

The convoy of fleeing civilians takes direct hits. Jang-Woo’s father is injured while protecting Su-Hee.

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Some More Angst
of the macho, stand-off sort.

Tae-Ho, Jang-Woo and Su-Yeon stand before Captain Yoon. Tae-Ho accuses Su-Yeon of communist sympathies, which Jang-Woo denies vehemently. (But really, how does he know when he hasn’t been in touch for two years?) Su-Yeon stands silent as she is accused, as usual.

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Instead of arresting Su-Yeon, sensible Captain Yoon asks her to tend the wounded. Tae-Ho protests. (What, you just spared their lives, and now you want her prosecuted and possibly executed?)

As the Captain leads Su-Yeon away, Tae-Ho and Jang-Woo continue their stand-off. Tae-Ho swears to expose Su-Yeon. Jang-Woo swears her innocence and contends Tae-Ho can’t want her dead.

Somewhat changing the subject, Jang-Woo says, “You’ve never killed anyone, have you?”

And then the penny drops for me. Oho, Tae-Ho is supposed to be the lily-livered one. Come to think of it, he was pretty scared of the tanks (though all the soldiers were). And I guess I didn’t get this earlier because I was distracted by his bravery on the bridge. But clearly this show is taking a “Jang-Woo is a braver and better soldier than Tae-Ho” arc because Tae-Ho is shamed into silence.

Jang-Woo ways, “Do you really want to hasten the experience of that horrific and dirty act?” Tae-Ho retorts that if Jang-Woo is not himself running away, he must now join battle.

“Don’t think for a moment that war is a game,” says Jang-Woo. Best line of the episode, folks.

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Nonetheless, as Jang-Woo stares down at the rifle in his hand, we know that he has been needled by Tae-Ho into re-enlisting. Sigh.

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Meanwhile, the tanks appear to have retired for a mid-day siesta, because though the villagers were being shelled a moment ago, now all is calm as soldiers and citizenry encamp peaceably.

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Jang-Woo joins Su-Yeon as she performs her favourite medical procedure on his father, i.e., the liberal sprinkling of white powder on an open wound. She tears her wedding dress to bind his wounds. (Major symbolism!)

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Even when in agony, Jang-Woo’s father has to check that Miss Su-Hee has eaten. Is he being mindlessly servile so that by his bondage to servitude we are set up to sympathise with the communist sympathisers, or because the maudlin is being milked? Dunno.

Even More Angst
of the manly, heroic sort

Tactically, the soldiers need to hot-foot to Seoul to shore up defences. But noble Captain Yoon wants to stay to protect civilians. In the “sensible military strategy” versus “protecting the villagers” debate with the General, a compromise is reached: Captain Yoon’s Company alone will stay behind.

The Company men are dismayed and start acting up. Captain Yoon says quietly that any man who doesn’t want to face a tank may leave (What, permission to desert?). And I feel a Stirring Scene coming up…

I will fight,” announces Tae-Ho stoutly.
“So will I,” steps up Jang-Woo.
The rest of the men fall in with our heroes.

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Yet More Angst

Jang-Woo picks up his helmet and looks down at his rifle. Again! And in fact, having screen-capped it, I can tell you it is THE SAME SHOT! Twice, so nice.

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Brow furrowed, Jang-Woo tells Su-Yeon he has to return to the fight. They are sad.

Captain Yoon informs the villagers they can’t go home yet. They will try to hold off the tanks, but the villagers must flee. He kneels in apology, the soldiers salute, we are all deeply moved (supposedly).

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Tearful farewells all round, not least between Jang-Woo and Su-Yeon, but surprisingly without too much carrying on. She ties a white handkerchief round his wobbly hand.

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I don’t know how she unearthed this nice clean cloth or what purpose it serves, but I mention it because the White Handkerchief is clearly a Significant Object.

They part.

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More Shooting (or at least, preparation for)

“Life is just as a vapour, and forever treacherous,” the soldiers sing as they march, in case we haven’t gotten that “War is Tragic”.

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Just where are those tanks?! One moment they are on the villagers’ tails, next moment the soldiers have to track for miles to get to them…

The plan of attack involves digging large traps where the road is narrow, precisely-timed explosions, and triggering land-slips that (hopefully) incapacitate tanks.

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Like me, Jang-Woo has a bad feeling about this over-elaborate plan. A back-up is needed. Jang-Woo the wizard military strategist (remember his ‘wild boar’ play?) says the tanks can also be taken out with Molotov cocktails. And I looked it up, it’s true. The Finnish army used Molotov cocktails against Russian tanks (and coined the term), neatly disabling them by forcing crews out, if not actually destroying them.

Jang-Woo is given leave to execute his plan. (What, soldiers marching on foot carry enough petrol and glass bottles to make Molotov cocktails?)

The Captain addresses the men stirringly. Everyone looks determined.

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More Angsty Shouting

Back with the villagers, Jang-Woo’s father takes a turn for the worse, ohnos. He apologies for causing the misses trouble (preternaturally servile again).

The sisters shout, “Hang in there!”

But he dies, asking for Jang-Woo.

Su-Hee shouts pointlessly, “Wake up!”, while Su-Yeon applies CPR pointlessly.

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Final Angst

Twilight. Jang-Woo sits on a hillside sketching Su-Yeon. He binds his trembling hand with Su-Yeong’ magic white cloth, and hugs his Molotov cocktails to his chest while he rocks back and forth. (!!)

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Morning breaks. Tae-Ho contemplates his jade ring and clenches it in his fist.

More Shooting

Jang-Woo notices soil slipping, and we know what this means because this happened in Episode 1 (Rule#6—Twice is Nice) – the tanks are coming!

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The soldier with the detonator is sweating with nervousness. (If timing is crucial, why have the officers left this with the poor foot-soldier?). The Captain mutters, “Not yet, not yet”, and we all have a bad feeling about this.

The twitchy solider plunges the detonator.

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Ohno!!! Too soon!!

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End of Episode and (approximately) 2,222-word Recap!

Concluding Remarks:

After the frenetically-paced first episode, episode 2 now feels slow, particularly the second half. I get the feeling that pace is dictated by the slotting in of set-piece scenes rather than by story flow.

At least the writing is consistent according to its own lights, i.e. according to the Rules of this Alternative Universe. The show is still too fond of the “Shouty” and the “Wide-eyed.” I’m afraid So Ji-Sub is by far the most guilty of indulgence. Like, they think the more hysterically the couple carry on, the more epic their love? In fact, in this episode I like Yoon Kye-Sang better as I thought he over-acted less. Kim Han-Neul remains vapid, but it doesn’t bother me anymore because I’ve decided that she’s just a plot device in a skirt and not a real person at all.

On the other hand, Choi Min-Soo (Captain Yoon) must be commended for holding the line for decent acting. His excellent performance suggests that I may have been too kind to So Ji-Sub and Yoon Kye-Sang, for he shows that it is possible to bring depth and empathy to a role even with little back-story and even when there is plot WTF-ery going on all around him.

And may I suggest an overarching Rule of the Universe of R#1:
Rule#7—Style over Substance

Production values continue to be impressive in this episode. Shots carefully composed, every blade of grass lovingly placed.

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Battles scenes were well-executed. Lots of realistic sweat and grime. But overall the episode was still an unsatisfactory watch because of the lack of believability and substance.

And, so wish they would go easy on the So Ji-Sub guy-liner. So distracting!

On a Final Frivolous Note

I realise, sinkingly, that recapping R#1 is a bit of a fool’s errand. If you like the show, you wouldn’t like my snarky recaps. If you don’t like the show, why bother watching or reading recaps?

Since I’m sunk anyway, I might as well go down in style. Here, then, is some doggerel:

There once was a bridge down at Yeongchon
That witnessed all manner of carryings on
Embracings and tears
Explosions and fears
t’was there, love and war lost or won

There was an old shed on the hillside
All manner of secrets it did hide
A rebel, a hurt
Two men and one skirt
And passionate kissing, beside

There once was a road, Number One
From Pyongyang to Seoul it did run
With tanks on our tail
We panic, we wail
There’s no doubt that war is no fun

Next Up

For my next trick, for Episode 3, I will attempt a recap in 333 words. And, possibly, a song. Wish me luck!

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Road Number One: Episode 3 – An Even Shorter Recap

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A 333-word Recap of R#1 Episode 3!

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Tank battle
Trap fails. Pandemonium! Tae-Ho makes his first kill. Fierce gun-battle. Jang-Woo uses Molotov cocktails to impressive effect.

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Hand-to-hand combat. North Koreans retreat. Tae-Ho knocked to ground; Jang-Woo extends hand but Tae-Ho won’t take it.

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Retreat
Sergeant Oh urges laggards be left, but Tae-Ho and Jang-Woo piggy-back wounded.

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The Han River
Su-Hee weeps at Jang-Woo’s father’s grave. Su-Yeon is numb.

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They take last boat across the river. Jang-Woo calls after them, “Carry on! Take care of Father!” but can’t hear Su-Yeon shout back “He’s dead!”. Ohnos.

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2nd Company stranded north of river. Damn.

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Kind Captain and Jang-Woo gentle the fretting wounded. Tae-Ho weeps as 2nd Platoon Leader dies in his arms (with flashback).

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Rain. Tae-Ho distraught. “Captain, what am I to do?” “Just stay alive.”

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Rising tetchiness among soldiery. Few boats found; can’t take both weapons and wounded.

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Jang-Woo argues for “wounded first”, Sergeant Oh for weapons. Showdown!

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Captain decides: bury weapons with their fallen. (No time to make two trips, but time to bury cache and hold funeral?!!!)

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Sad burial scene. Stirring music. 2nd Company crosses river.

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Tae-Ho flashback: Su-Yeon refused to accept his jade ring wedding gift because she had lodged Jang-Woo in her heart forever. (So, he’s known all along…)

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But he couldn’t let her go, he shouted at her, because she reminded him of his mother (??!!)

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Back to the present, Tae-Ho swears to Jang-Woo he will find out how Su-Yeon feels about him. (But didn’t she say already?)

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Nightfall. Jang-Woo flashbacks to happier times. Sappy love song plays.

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Conscription
2nd Company rolls into town.

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Sergeant Oh is abusive. Jang-Woo is disapproving, and tries to help a conscript escape.

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Jang-Woo is hauled up by Tae-Ho, but based on his fighting record is sent by the General for platoon-leader training instead of detention!

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Tae-Ho and Jang-Woo exchange barbed Words about staying alive, soldiers’ honour and patriotism.

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Closing
Pensive waltz music accompanies interspersed scenes: Tae-Ho in trench warfare and Jang-Woo acing military training.

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End of Episode and 333-word recap

My Verdict:

Battle scenes pretty good. But marred by over-indulgence in sentimentality (as is the entire episode). And over-use of sappy / stirring soundtrack.

Less of the head-desking shouting and carrying on (and even, at times, less of the guy-liner). But still, watching this Episode was for me kinda boring. And there were two flashbacks to events within the same Episode. Self-referential, much?

And still a lot of “huh?” moments. The whole palavar of having to choose between their (few) wounded and (light) weaponry has enough logic holes to sink a ship. And, Su-Yeon had strenuously rejected Tae-Ho’s jade ring wedding gift and declared Jang-Woo was in her heart forever, and they were still going to get married the next day??!!! And, why when everyone else (including the righteous Captain and Tae-Ho) has no trouble carrying out conscription orders, does Jang-Woo have such a delicate conscious about it? (The answer, of course, is that he is our hero so he must look fine and compassionate, and also the show wants to set up some searing glares between Tae-Ho and Jang-Woo). How on earth did Jang-Woo know where to lie in wait for the runaway conscript? And Tae-Ho’s whole delusional obsession with Su-Yeon is just way beyond sense.

In any event, this episode and the carryings on at the river reminded me of a song. So here, with apologies to the Scots and O Waly Waly, is my R#1 bastardisation of The Water is Wide.

In case you’re not familiar with the song, here’s a rendition by Charlotte Church and Enya, with a lush sappy arrangement, set to pretty, sentimental images, but oh well this is R#1 after all so “sappy, pretty and sentimental” are quite appropriate. This is a somewhat sanitized version, leaving out one bleak verse*.

*I leaned my back up against an oak
Thinking that he was a trusty tree
But first he bended and then he broke
And so did my false love to me

My R#1 version:

The water is wide, I can not get o’er
I can not hear the words you cry
Our epic love alas is doomed
We store up ill, my love and I

Where love is planted, oh there it grows
But why it’s deathless love, who knows…
Like dandelion it drifts in the air
It knows not sense, it does not care

I leaned my back up against an oak
Thinking that he were a trusty tree
But my love he never, never wrote
And so I buried him in me

A war there is, and it sweeps the land
Its severs friends and loves and clan
My heart doth fail, my world grows dim
I know not if I sink or swim

O love is handsome and love is fine
And love’s a jewel while it is new
But when it is fraught, it shouts a lot
All reason fades like morning dew

Road Number One: Episode 4 — A Recap in Verse

I humbly present
My recapping in haiku
Road Number One, 4

Rehash plot and pain
Then, night. Trenches. Shells. Screaming.
Brutal hand-to-hand

Morning. And mourning…
For ourselves and for the dead
Grimy and grim, we

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Thirsty and desperate
We grab, we dig, we eat mud
Reduced and brought low

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Rain! Relief! Oh, joy!
Oh, that it has come to this…
Curse the cruel fates!

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Tae-Ho reminisces
The rain and the hope… “Su-Yeon”
First-flush of a crush

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Jang-Woo reminisces
In training, in rain… “Su-Yeon”
Clutch the sketch-book, rock.

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Respite. An errand…
Newly minted lieutenants
To bring to slaughter

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Pusan. Passing out.
“Let’s frivol while we yet may!”
But not our hero…

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Stranger solicits:
“Officer, come play with me!”
Wait, yikes, it’s Su-Hee!

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We live in ill times
We get by the best we can
In lipstick. In shame.

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“Su-Yeon? My father?”
“He’s Dead.” Shock, regret, and tears
Existential angst.

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Wait! Is that…? Su-Yeon!
Both men search, run, desperate
Oh pathos, heartbreak

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(But, why the drama?
Su-Hee gave him directions
To Su-Yeon’s clinic)

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Clinic. Su-Hyuk bro
A fit, help! CPR, stat!
Handy procedure…

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Rest? Run? Argue they
Join comrades up north, he must
Troubled, fearful, she

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Knock on door, ohno!
A uniform! Su-Hyuk flees.
But, wait, can it be…?

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Jang-Woo! Giddy smiles!
Joy unalloyed! Salute! (huh?)
Embrace. Music soars.

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Wannabe in-laws
Tae-Ho and Su-Hee catch up
Both beaten and down

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“Could you look at me?”
Su-Hee springs. He recovers:
“You’ve done nothing wrong.”

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But his parting shot:
“Tell Su-Yeon to answer me”
And returns not hug

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Lovers lost in time
Content in arms and few words
“Sorry.” “Foolish talk!”

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Suddenly, a chase!
(What?) Tae-Ho after Su-Hee
Through the market (Why?)

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Cliché cute-shop date
(Really? Grown-ups? On parting
in middle of war?)

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Hunter, prey, lovers
Converge. Widened eyes! Pleadings!
Shock! Horror! (But, why?)

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Sudden explosion!
Run and scream! But Su-Hyuk strews…
Propaganda bills

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Run, our lovers, run!
Away from Tae-Ho (But, why?)
Hide, our lovers, hide!

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Tight in the alley
And close to discovery
Hearts quicken, blood pumps

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Alley, kiss. (Frisson?)
Dandelion-like fluff flies
Here in clinic, love.

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Then, sketching and tears.
Depart he must; duty calls
Time bears on, fluff flies,

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“Go. You must go now.
Though all may say you are dead
I’ll know you’re alive.” (?!!)

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Bare back in twilight
For remembering, she says,
the way back to her. (?!)

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“I have decided,”
He declares. Stalling, drawing,
Soaked in light and tears

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Ep 4: My Verdict
Can’t understand, can’t buy-in
“Huh?”, “why?” and “really?”

Less over-acting
(Whew.) But insurmountable
logic and sense gap

Like, eat mud for thirst?
Su-Yeon a neurologist??
Really? Can’t compute.

Epic Love? A miss
Sappy, sloppy, senseless, wet
Can’t feel the Epic

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