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Best 2013 Drama: Heartless City (무정도시)

There’s still a few months more to go before December, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to call it drama of the year. Sadly, this seems to be going under the radar for most international audience (WHY), but you can sense the hardcore following over at Tumblr ㅎㅎ

I love my k-dramas, but rarely enough to actually write about them or rave about them over and over again. In this sense, Heartless City is special.

What I loved about the drama was that you can never guess what’s going to happen. In that, it already exceeds expectations, given the predictability of most k-dramas. It’s not just the plot that is hard to predict, but even small things like reactions, the role of each character and the focus of the story. The villains are not there just to provide some angst to the story. The side characters are not there to fill in the screen space and to act like they are written with a one-liner description. For a show that deals with betrayals, justice, loyalty, misunderstandings and secrets, I expected a lot of time spent on people being silly, a single secret dragging out for episodes for no good reason but to the show’s credit, there was nothing like that.

Every passing episode sends you nearer the edge and by ep 19 I was really teetering off the edge. This is no feel-good story and it resembles a Korean film both in writing and execution but nonetheless it combines the sleek, pretty scenes you get in k-dramas too.

I’m no good at drama reviews, so just trust me and watch it ok? I’m not sure if there are recaps floating around but please just watch the show without knowing anything ok. That’s the charm of the drama.

If I just want to be shallow, I will say that 박사아들 / Jung Kyung Ho is enough reason for you to press that play button.

I’ve added some of my thoughts but it’s hard to remain spoiler free when I’m commenting about the show.

SPOILERS AHEAD

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(gif credits: tumblr)

I said (minor) spoilers ahead. That’s enough warning right?

I love everything about this show but what got me right in the gut is the relationships in the show. I was really surprised at 진숙’s reaction to many things, amongst them the news that 수민 loves 시현. The k-drama-conditioned mind in me expected her to act like a bitch and start some machinations to break up the couple, so I was really thrown off when she ended up tearing on the spot and saying that she was sorry. D: Her test for 수민 when the undercover identity got blown (in the most horrible way possible) was true to her style but it’s gratifying to see that she did not completely write off the things that they have been through together and their relationship. It’s so common in k-dramaland for characters to suddenly act like a different person or fly off the handle at every single betrayal, misunderstanding or twist (*coughs youarethebest coughs*) that it’s forgotten that people actually value relationships they have built over time.

There was a lot of what-ifs in the show and I found myself thinking of the what-could-have-beens. It’s a credit to the show and characters that they do not get wallowed by all that what-ifs and simply keep moving on with their lives.

Even with so much going on, I love that they still managed to have a message in the show. It felt fitting that the show began and ended with the following quote. It’s no idealistic or fairytale message, but something grounded and true.

세상은 거울이다
내가 세상을 향해 침을 뱉으면 세상도 나를 향해 침을 뱉고,
내가 세상을 향해 웃으면 세상도 나를 향해 웃어준다.
 박사아들(정시현)

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