Well, it had to be done. I had to watch Descendants of the Sun which was such a mega hit in 2016 with ratings of over 40% (for the final episode in Seoul) and winning several KBS drama awards including the Grand Prize, Best Couple, and Best Screenplay. But it is romance and I can get quite grumpy with modern romantic dramas 😉
It was interesting that it achieved such high ratings since it was produced before it was aired and so storylines couldn’t be adjusted week by week depending on viewer ratings (which is usually how Korean dramas are made). That’s why it is still only 16 episodes long despite its popularity.
I enjoyed a lot about this drama. The love story of a female doctor (played by Song Hye Kyo) saving lives and a soldier (Song Joong Ki) protecting the country from baddies was bound to be compelling as they both live in intense worlds dealing with life and death situations.
Dr Kang and Captain Yoo find themselves stationed together in war torn Uruk, a fictitious country, (filmed in Greece) where she is leading the medical team and he is the captain of a special forces unit that carry out secret missions and do general soldiery stuff around the camp.
The problem is that his missions are extremely dangerous. It means he can’t be honest about where he is and what he is doing and it’s likely that one day he will not come back at all. Dr Kang has to decide if she is willing to take this risk of heart break or not.
But that’s not all the romance. There’s Sergeant major Seo Dae Young (Jin Goo) who is dating army surgeon Yoon Myeong Ju (Kim Ji Won). But their issue is that her father is an army general who doesn’t want his daughter marrying a mere sergeant.
I like to be taken through an array of emotions when I watch drama (or read novels) and that certainly happened here. I laughed out loud, I cringed (in good and bad ways) and at one point I even shed a tear. The main characters have chemistry and I liked the male lead Si Jin’s playful personality contrasting with his friend (and army subordinate) Dae Young’s manly stoicism. Si Jin makes everything into a joke maybe to compensate for the serious missions he has to lead.
Mo Yeon’s discomfort as a civilian doctor in a military situation is fun to watch. Si Jin seems to enjoy watching this normally capable and confident doctor out of her comfort zone trying to adapt to his environment. When the soldiers salute a high ranking general, Mo Yeon flounders uncomfortably and when the soldiers stand at ease she ends up standing ‘at ease’ too! Ha ha. Si Jin doesn’t try to help her, he just makes jokes, but this makes him more attractive. (or is that just me? 😉
I wasn’t completely drawn into the romance though (!) Part of the reason for this was that the relationships were just too chaste for my taste – there’s no rompy-pompy (that’s OK. No sex please, I’m British) but there’s not even an acceptable snog (in my opinion). We are not in the Joseon period and I doubt that there would be this amount of restraint especially in a war zone where people could die at any time. Having said that, one of my favourite romantic scenes is when our male lead Si Jin takes two cups of coffee outside – one for him and one for Mo Yeon. But as he’s holding the coffee, she hugs him. He can’t do anything because he’s got his hands full already. Now, if this were Hollywood I imagine he would have just flung those cups on the ground – they can get more coffee later – and they would have been ALL OVER EACH OTHER. But I actually preferred this more subtle approach. I suppose. 😉
I cried in the drama once. But it wasn’t over the lovebirds – it was a scene when Dae Young comes back safely from a mission and one of the soldiers, Kim Beom, begins to cry with relief. So sweet. Relationships between the men often come over stronger in Kdramas I think.
When it comes to the medical aspects of the drama, there are ‘issues’. Si Jin is presented as some sort of superhuman superhero who doesn’t even react when he gets shot and has blood pouring out of him. At other times we are expected to believe that his injuries are life-threatening but then we are only given literally seconds to worry about him. It feels as though the story is rushing to get through everything it needs to cram in with little consideration for suspense.
The drama was trying to be a lot of different things – romance, comedy, action, thriller. And there was no way that it could achieve everything successfully. Ryan Argus, (David Lee Mcinnis ) the baddie of the show had a plot line that was quite interesting but had to play second fiddle to the romance.
His character becomes a bit cartoony at times too with unnecessary dramatic embellishments. Such as when he leaves a young girl tied up with duct tape over her mouth on a road. Why does she need duct tape over her mouth when she is standing in the middle of nowhere? No one is going to hear her screaming…
The baddie team are also hampered by another of my pet peeves – the use of foreign actors and extras with ‘varying degrees of acting skills’. (where’s my cushion and ear plugs?) There’s quite a lot of English in the drama since the characters are stationed abroad. But these scenes are painful for various reasons. The English lines are often too long and unnecessarily complex and the deliveries become wooden and slow. When I watch these scenes I become aware that I’m watching actors reciting memorised lines. This is not the fault of the actors, it’s a problem with the script.
Having said that, I did enjoy the drama. It’s fun. And if you are a romance fan and are one of the few people (?) who haven’t seen this drama yet, I think you might love it.