I first want to tackle the drama The Master's Sun. Now, I need to say that I have a really hard time with the Hong Sisters' dramas. I don't tend to love them as much as other people, even though I start out finding each one amusing and fun. I've noticed that I'm much better at finishing them if I watch them as they air. I've never finished You're Beautiful or Couple of Fantasy, and I had trouble pushing on about 3/4 of the way through My Girl, The Greatest Love, and My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, though I did finally finish those.
And then there was Big. What a huge disappointment for me. I was so excited to see Gong Yoo playing a teenager body-swapped into an adult body (and such a fine body, too). I was excited to see Lee Min Jung in another drama, since I loved her in Boys [preposition] Flowers. And the whole setup seemed just so great, that I figured it would be a wonderful addition to the Hong Sisters collection of dramas. But things don't always work out I want them to.
Then there was news about The Master's Sun. Despite my hesitation and reluctance to be caught up again in the hype of a Hong Sisters drama, I found myself eagerly looking forward to it's premiere. Why, after being burned so badly the summer before, was I so willing to take another plunge into the deep end of uncertain drama fare?
But I jumped in anyways, and I'm so glad I did. I love this drama. It's one of the best dramas that aired in 2013. It's smart, imaginative, dark, funny, creepy, and all-around fun. I would unabashedly recommend it to anyone. So, if you haven't watched it yet, do so. (Also, without really giving anything away, I think it has the most satisfying ending of any Hong Sisters drama. At least the ones I've watched.)
There are so many things to love about this drama, and I want to address them all. However, despite how much I love The Master's Sun, it has its faults, and I feel that I need to discuss them first.
(Major spoilers ahead!)
The biggest problem with this drama is the whole Cha Hee Joo/stolen necklace storyline. It is given so much time and is built up so much as a central plotline to the story, only to fall flat as an underdeveloped and weak storyline. The only real good it does is to bring our two main characters together and keep them together when they reach a point that they would move apart. The mystery isn't very mysterious, the acting by adult Hee Joo is not good, and everything just sort of fizzles out. It takes way too long to get to the point and detracts from far more interesting things.
Another problem is that there are more interesting mysteries inherent in the story that are never explored. What really happened to make Tae Gong Shil able to see ghosts? Why does she have that gift? And why does Joo Joong Won have the ability to make the ghosts go away (apart from the obvious excuse for extra skinship)? And then, when we meet another person who shares her ability and knows what happened to her in the two years she was in a coma, we're never given an exploration of that theme.
Along the same lines, Lee Chun Hee, the man who knows those things, makes such a late appearance and has so little to do with the story. Such a waste of his talent! And such a waste of an interesting storyline!
Also, Gong Shil's character development in discovering those pieces of her past was skipped over with a terrible use of a time lapse, and we were robbed of the opportunity to see her come to terms with her curse/gift. It would have been so, so rewarding to see her come to the realization that she had opted to keep it in the first place, and that she wanted to keep it now, despite the difficulties her gift brought into her life.
Now for the good stuff. And really, there is so much of it.
Firstly, and most importantly, there's skinship. Lots and lots of skinship. And it's from the very beginning of the story. It's built into the whole premise of the show, since Gong Shil has a reprieve from seeing ghosts when she touches Joong Won. And she's desperate enough to take every opportunity she can to have some peace and quiet from all the ghosts asking for her help.
Joong Won himself is such a caricature of a drama hero: the grumpy, arrogant, emotionally scarred, handsome chaebol, with no real connection to people other than his aunt and long-suffering secretary. And yet, So Ji Sub is so delightful at finding the little quirks and characteristics that make him into a more realistic person. In the end, Joong Won is almost as relatable as Gong Shil, and you can't help but like him, despite his stubborn crankiness hiding the hurt little boy inside.
Then we have Kang Woo, the devoted security guard who falls hard for Gong Shil and who has his own mysterious motivations for getting close to Joong Won. He's sweet and kind and knows what he wants (and doesn't want, for that matter). He's a typical second lead, but he's so well played by Seo In Guk that he doesn't seem flat and uninteresting like so many others in Dramaland.
The last side of the love square is filled by Tae Yi Ryung, the shallow, insecure, narcissistic, and smitten actress who's always felt inferior to Gong Shil. She falls for Kang Woo and is bratty in her efforts to woo him. She sounds just awful, but Kim Yoo Ri does a fantastic job of making her likable and funny. She has a core of sweetness deep down inside that really only comes out around Kang Woo. And she's absolutely clueless as to how to win his love. She's all-around great.
Another thing I love about this drama is the eerie aspect lent by the ghosts. While the lesser ghost stories can seem a bit formulaic and simple, I feel that they add a level of danger and suspense to the overall story. They up the stakes in the story and provide nice little mysteries to be solved throughout the drama. They also have twists that make them fun to figure out.
Of course, some are better than others, and some are more memorable, but they each feel like a piece of the whole picture of Gong Shil's life. And they're great catalysts of character development, especially for Joong Won, who desperately needs growth to get past his hangups. Also, the cameos are fun.
I like that there are also various kinds of ghosts: ghosts who want help so they can move on, semi-malevolent ghosts, vengeful ghosts, lonely ghosts, helpful ghosts, and some ghosts who aren't necessarily ghosts at all. Basically, lots of different ghosts.
Besides that, each ghost story has its own tone. Some are tragic, some are funny, some are scary, some are heartbreaking, and some are dangerous. But they are all moving in their own way. They each teach Gong Shil and Joong Won something, as well as leaving a lesson for the people involved with each ghost.
Take for instance the story of the soldier and his dog. This is one of the most heartbreaking stories told in The Master's Sun. A man and his dog, the man suffering because of the terrible way his dog was taken from him. And, besides the healing offered the soldier, the main players also have important growth, most notably Joong Won's realization that even though he can't see the ghosts, their presence affects his life anyway, and he can use that reach out to others and influence them for the better.
You can't have a Hong Sisters drama without symbolism, and I really enjoy the symbolism employed here, especially of the sun. So much so, that I bought a replica of Gong Shil's sun necklace.
I love that she is the Big Sun (in high school that's what she was called, and Yi Ryung was called Little Sun, a play on their family names, Tae), whose light has been dimmed by the ghosts that follow her. And yet, they are still drawn to her brightness of spirit. It's that same brightness that draws Joong Won in, although he doesn't see it in the same way the ghosts do.
Joong Won, in his turn, is Gong Shil's beacon of hope. At first it's because she can get rid of the ghosts by touching him, but it develops into her being strong enough to face them because she knows he's there, available to puff them away if she touches him. He represents the light in her life as she struggles to face the things that terrify her and just the thought of him becomes a powerful well of strength for her. Really, they are like twin suns orbiting one another, keeping each other strong and grounded.
There are a multitude of little things that make this drama so delightful as well. Here's a partial list:
Joong Won staring through his telescope at his rival's shopping mall, along with the petty rivalry itself.
Gong Shil's excuses for touching Joong Won.
Gong Shil's gleeful attitude towards such skinship.
Joong Won's aunt and her husband. Especially when she's being haunted by the scholarly vase-ghost.
And how about that skinship?
Tough Kang Woo being terrified of ghosts.
Gong Shil getting possessed when drunk. By a ballerina, a baby, a dog, and other exciting ghosts.
Any time Yi Ryung tries to be cool in front of Kang Woo.
Pretty much all Yi Ryung/Kang Woo interactions.
Gong Shil's reactions to things, especially when they're the opposite of what Joong Won expects. Like when they sleep holding hands and she doesn't freak out about it like he secretly hopes she will.
Joong Won's "go away" gesture.
And its influence on Yi Ryung's style.
The moment Joong Won rushes to save Gong Shil from seeing the ghosts from a massive car accident.
The Wondergirls dream.
Gong Shil offering her arm so Joong Won can chase away his demons.
This date with Kang Woo.
Joong Won fending off ghosts so Gong Shil can sleep, even though he can't see them.
Garbage Can Ghost.
Episode 11 is probably my favorite all around. I just love the ghost story here (even though I figured out the central mystery of it pretty early on), and the interactions between Joong Won and his Great (or should I say Giant) Rivals are awesome. Besides, this gives us the delightful cameos by Lee Jong Hyuk and Lee Jae Yong.
And then how Secretary Kim uses Joong Won's jealousy to teach him about love.
The fact that Lee Jong Hyuk also has a telescope that he uses to spy on Joong Won.
Joong Won in glasses.
Joong Won in glasses trying to read children's books. So adorable!
Plus, there's the whole Pretty Woman makeover trope being turned on its head when Joong Won tells Gong Shil that they need to buy her new clothes, and they end up getting a black dress for a funeral. Ha!
Even angry kisses are hot.
And the (mostly wasted) cameo of Lee Chun Hee.
One of the greatest things that happens in The Master's Sun is that Gong Shil comes to understand her gift. I mentioned before how tragic it is that we never get to see the process, but I think it's great that they at least let her understand that it was something she decided to keep in order to help those who need her. And I'm glad that she is finally shown that Joong Won doesn't want her to give that up in order to be happy with him. He understands that it is an integral part of who she is, and it's a part of her that he loves, right along with everything else he has come to love about her.
Oh, and there's also lots of skinship in this drama. I may have mentioned that already.
You can watch this drama over on DramaFever.