Thursday, 10 December 2015

KDrama Review : Healer

Man, Healer. Where do I even start with Healer?

Deft writing
I find that summarising Healer to another person who has yet to watch it can be a tricky business, because to categorise it squarely under the Romance tag would be a travesty to the Action side of it. Yet to peg it as Action Romance would be a misnomer too, because it's so much more than that. A story of love, friendship, family, dry humour, human connection, politics, morality, loyalty, self discovery, trust, and journalism; writer Song Ji Na has somehow managed to pack all of these into one tightly written, fast paced, quick witted drama. A single pearl is pretty, but with Healer, it feels more like holding up a diamond to a light and spinning it around so that I get brilliant colourful glints coming off from each of its multiple facets.

What I find incredible is how there isn't any surplus of any one thing; all the aforementioned themes are delivered to me in proportionate doses. Writer Song strikes that perfect equilibrium consistently throughout the drama. And I shall not fool myself here, Healer isn't particularly innovative in terms of its premise. The ethos of this drama are not groundbreaking, I've seen them recycled multiple times in other dramas and films (disguised hero. Superman, anyone?) (Hero with a cold exterior but complete goo on the inside?). Past dramas taught me to expect the worst at every turn, to foresee potential angst born out of misunderstandings/miscommunications, but thankfully the plot is just so cleverly manipulated that any tension is never dragged for too long; it's always about that balance, enough to induce my curiosity, but also quickly revealed, and then astutely resolved - all of which giving the conventional tropes a breath of minty freshness.

I like that this drama isn't based on the dichotomy of good VS bad either, because I'm sure Song Ji Na knows full well that such simplistic binary doesn't exist in the real world. The villain Kim Moon Shik, rather than painted as straight up black, is instead made up of various shades of grey, making him a multidimensional villain. In fact he's so humanised that from time to time I find myself actually sympathising him. Another thing worth noting is that none of the characters were left in the periphery, every one of them has a story & depth. Even when some of them aren't the main hero/heroine in this drama, Song Ji Na drew them out so convincingly such that they're indeed the main hero/heroine in their own stories, such that their stories go beyond the rectangular screen.

In the beginning, the plot may seem like a giant ball of tangled mess of questions & mysteries but trust me when I say that the knot comes undone slowly but surely - never underestimating my capacity by revealing too much too soon, yet never being too frustratingly cryptic as well. Every episode gives me that sweet gratification when the mysteries unravel gradually, giving me enough time to absorb and digest while at the same time keeping me at the edge of my seat for what's to come next. However, I admit that that could be my own personal preference. Seeing how there can be many questions & mysteries going on at one time, with a man clad in all black jumping from the roof of one building to another, it's understandable that some people may find it overwhelming. If you disapprove of the idea of dramas with danger looming at almost every corner, then this probably isn't your cup of tea.

Right from the get go, the plot engaged me like a reassured hand extending out, holding a firm grip on me that I didn't have any other options but to trust writer Song as I got sucked into the whirlpool of adrenaline, tears, laughter, and squee. And then before I knew it, I grew fond & attached to the characters that inhabit the world of Healer because they felt so alive & real instead of puppets being moved hither and tither. I can tell that writer Song really poured her heart out into writing this story, there's no way to fake that amount of minutiae for characters, her devotion shines through. Uhuh, Song Ji Na really knows her stuff ok. She has definitely earned my greatest respect & admiration.

I want to give Song Ji Na a big bear hug and sloppy kisses on the cheek for writing this wonderful piece of work but she might file a restraining order against me for sudden invasion of personal space lol.

Good on the eyes and the ears
With regards to the technical side of the show, I wouldn't go as far as saying that Healer's directing is outstanding or deserving of critical acclaim. However I do think it is worth noting that the remote scenes involving Seo Jung Hoo and Ajumma were filmed separately, I repeat, separately. I didn't realise how much work & practice would be required for their scenes to flow unimpeded until my 3rd watch of Healer to be honest, but the point is, I never noticed any hiccups or mishaps in the scenes, which is simply telling of how stellar the production is.

Another thing I want to point out is that though flashbacks are aplenty in this drama, they're in no way moping nor excessive. Every flashback has its purpose and serves it well, be it to consolidate a character's emotions or to decipher questions or both. I've watched Healer 4 times now (and counting, hewhew) and every single time, the flashback of Chae Chi Soo & young Chae Young Shin at the playground just breaks. My. Poor. Heart.

Flashbacks, and voiceovers. Oh man. You know when you read a book and you get all the feels from the writing, and if the book gets adapted into a motion picture it's just not the same because the source of your feels are the characters' internal monologue?? Healer utilises voiceovers to induce this very effect on me, I feel like I'm reading the characters like an open book, like I'm gaining an insight to their most private thoughts. Seo Jung Hoo's rooftop musing about Chae Young Shin being akin to a leopard he saw in a documentary is arguably the most raw, honest narration of a girl I've ever come across. It doesn't just speak volumes of Chae Young Shin, but of Seo Jung Hoo himself too. I'll elaborate more on that later.

Anyway. Oh yes. 

Whether it's a parkour scene or an emotional snow-kiss scene (eeep!), the variety of atmospheres are always delivered with great care & attention to details. They're all well done but my favourite camerawork, hands down, has to be that sequence between Seo Jung Hoo and Teacher at the abandoned building. Soooo beautifully shot! And let's not forget the legendary elevator scene. No, I totally didn't rewatch that scene 50 times, not me.

My delighted eyes were also complemented with pleased ears, owing to the memorable OSTs that had me spending an extra few minutes in the shower because, um, need to hit that "Alllll myyyy loveeeee, I'm alllll youuuursssss" while getting shampoo in my eyes. I also am a HUGE fan of the instrumental OSTs. Good God, I think they're beautiful beyond words and they're so aptly edited into the scenes and they blend perfectly and they elevate the emotions associated with a particular scene to even greater levels, squeezing every last bit of my emotion sponge. You know there used to be a playlist of the instrumental OSTs on YouTube and I used to listen to it for days on end - I alone may have contributed to half of the views, no regrets - but I recently found out that the playlist's no longer there. Sobs.

So to put this into perspective, I think it's safe to say that Healer is a special case. For one, it is written by a writer who has a clear vision of what the story should be & not willing to let anything compromise her ideals. For another, it's handled by a pair of competent hands of a director who genuinely immerses himself into the story. So are these the answer as to what exactly makes up the wow factor of Healer?

Brilliant acting
If it weren't for the actors and actresses breathing life so immaculately into the characters, Healer wouldn't have this magnitude of impact in me. And when I say actors and actresses, I mean all of them. The main ones, the side ones. Every one of them. On first watch, of course, the main couple caught my eyes almost instantly. On subsequent watches though, I realised just how powerful the acting of the entire cast is. It's one thing to have Song Ji Na writing characters that are oh so delightfully rich in depth and texture, but none of the characters would have come to life if it weren't for the cast taking each role and making it their own.

L-R : Chae Young Shin (played by Park Min Young), Healer/Park Bong Soo/Seo Jung Hoo (played by Ji Chang Wook), Kim Moon Ho (played by Yoo Ji Tae)

So I suppose that's the trifecta of Healer's magic: good writing, good directing, and good acting. Each of these earn merits in their own right, but when you put them all in unison, it's like there's some chemical reaction taking place between these three things, producing bright sparks. Truly, the whole of Healer is greater than the sum of its parts.

It's hard to single out the best acting when the whole line-up is like a massive repertoire of acting finesse, but Ji Chang Wook earns my special recognition for his raw, frank performance as Healer/Seo Jung Hoo/Park Bong Soo.

Ji Chang Wook is just...


A gift. And one that I'm very honoured to receive.

Ji Chang Wook is no stranger to theatres, and he previously left quite a lasting impression for his acting in Empress Ki. In short, he's a pretty darn good actor. But in Healer, he's breathtakingly so. Whether he's Healer the badass superhero on a mission, or Park Bong Soo the stuttering, socially awkward puppy, or Seo Jung Hoo the damaged, jaded young man who just yearns for love & attention despite denying so, or any of his assumed disguises (police officer, lab worker, janitor, teenage boy, etc.), Ji Chang Wook blends right into each persona like a dream. And I love it when the camera zooms in and gives me a close up of his face & the myriad of emotions that would swipe across it. He never outdo it. A twitch of muscle. Those eyes. That little smirk when Chae Young Shin pulls him out of a wreck at the end of Episode 5 (we all know which scene I'm talking about). 

And I also love the fact that Ji Chang Wook acts with his whole body. Even when he's leaping off of buildings and taking down bad guys with his parkour, he never zones out of character. And his eyesssss. Those eyes. There was a lot that was asked for from Ji Chang Wook for this drama. Sometimes he has to be focused on obeying Ajumma's orders, sometimes he's a stubborn teenager who refuses to heed Kim Moon Ho's warning of personal contact with Chae Young Shin, sometimes he's just heartbroken from all the unexplained farewells by the people around him, sometimes he's a clingy boyfriend who wants to hug and cuddle 24/7, sometimes he's confused about who he needs to fight, but every single time, without fail, Ji Chang Wook steps up to the task.

So joy to the world, let's celebrate & appreciate Ji Chang Wook's excellence.

But of course, his sublime portrayal of his character(s) cannot be built in isolation.

A sizeable factor that feeds into it is his crackling chemistry with Park Min Young.

Park Min Young is no stranger to this kind of roles to be honest. Her Kim Na Na character in City Hunter is in more ways than one similar to Chae Young Shin in Healer, but there's something else about her in Healer. Is it the short hair??? I feel like when she decided to cut off her locks in prelude to this role, she did something very dignified as an actress. In my eyes it seems like she was ready to let go of who she is in real life, and willing to fully embrace her Chae Young Shin character, without holding anything back. And I admire that kind of devotion.

The role as Chae Young Shin provided a platform for Park Min Young to showcase her abilities to portray a larger spectrum of emotions, running the entire gamut from being sanguine, almost infantile whilst trying to justify her coming late for work, to a sly reporter who's hunting for the next big scoop, to a girl terrified to death in a falling elevator, to a perplexed daughter just having learned the truth about her parents, to a smitten kitten head over heels in love with a night errand boy - Park Min Young just shines through as Chae Young Shin. I can't imagine anyone else reviving Chae Young Shin's character the way she does oh so wonderfully. No pretence. No guile. Park Min Young is Chae Young Shin, Chae Young Shin is Park Min Young. End of story.

Also, I'm 99% confident that she has a hidden crying button somewhere on her anatomy that activates her tear glands because she cries so easily & convincingly in this drama. And she also possesses this ability to make me cry as well.

And of course, one does not go through 20 episodes of Healer without taking notice of Yoo Ji Tae's AMAZING AMAZING acting. God. We're so lucky to have someone like him to take on the role of Kim Moon Ho, because who else is that good with gravitas? Who else is that good at portraying a character who's always at a war with his inner sense of ethics & moral? Who else is that good at carrying such heavy emotional baggage?! I DON'T KNOW. Will I ever get over his watery eyes when Kim Moon Ho sees an illusion of dead Seo Joon Seok walking next to Seo Jung Hoo in similar gait? Who knows. Kim Moon Ho is pretty much an enigma of a character, one whose intentions always raise my suspicion. In the first half of the drama, I can't decide whether or not he's in the right tracks because even Kim Moon Ho the character himself isn't so sure about the direction he's headed, so to have Yoo Ji Tae's face contorted in all the right ways to display the underlying confusion of the character is a real pleasure. Yoo Ji Tae-ssi, sir, your acting is top notch.

I would do disgrace to the Healer fandom if I don't mention the character that is so integral to the whole drama, a character who makes up half of the charisma of the drama: hacker Ajumma, played by the very, very talented Kim Mi Kyung. If I'm being honest I am still very bitter that Ajumma's face is not in the drama poster,

but then I realised that come on, Kim Mi Kyung needs no introduction. She's already well known for the various roles she's taken up throughout her career, and I've seen her in most of the dramas I've watched. So I knew she's gonna be good. But I truly didn't expect her to be REALLY good as a middle-aged hacker aunty whose fingers dance on the keyboard and also knit and roll kimbap. I think Song Ji Na did a fantastic job creating the Ajumma character, and Kim Mi Kyung truly does justice to the character. Hilarious. Stern. No bullshit. Just straight up money! I especially love it when Kim Mi Kyung verbalises her exasperation (which is like 70% of the time basically), at Healer's stubbornness, at Chae Young Shin & Seo Jung Hoo's PDA, at her hoobae detective.

Seo Jung Hoo/Healer/Park Bong Soo
Can we talk about how fascinating & layered his character is?

First of all, Healer. A hero who is is lonesome & slick?? Who has no interest in the greater good whatsoever?? Lives in a converted warehouse that has no heating?? Whose social skills are restricted to mercenary commands by Ajumma and pizza & chicken takeaway orders?? Wants to buy an island & live alone there?? And wears all black like the colour of his soul?? Yes please, one loner hero for me juseyo.

"I like high places. I can observe people without them looking at me,"

"When two predators meet, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t fear. Everyone is afraid. However, it is the one who shows fear first that will lose their life first. Therefore, if someone is coming after you before your weakness are revealed, attack them first. That is how you survive in the animal kingdom,"

Like, there's a distinct air of detachment in how he sees humans through the lens of an animal. And like an animal, he retreats into his cave, which is a space of isolation he's crafted from where he can see other humans. As though he's an observer. As though he's an outlier, ostracised. As though he doesn't belong. And I find that really heartbreaking :(

And then the dorky puppy Park Bong Soo comes into picture as yet another one of the disguises that Healer adopts in order to complete a job. Except, really, is Park Bong Soo really a disguise? It may seem so in the beginning, like he's compartmentalised with those two personas in juxtaposition, separated by a discernible line. But with episode, the line slowly vanishes. I realised that rather than a false front, Park Bong Soo is in fact an extension of his real self, a part of himself that he's scared to acknowledge as his own - socially inept, endearingly bad at being a normal person.

"Everybody leaves Jung Hoo but he never leaves anyone," is what Ajumma says about Seo Jung Hoo.

As it turns out, Seo Jung Hoo's life consists of unexplained farewells by all the people he keeps close to heart - his mother, his father, his grandmother, his Teacher. Their departures result in him growing into a man of apathy, resignation, and frustration. He's a tormented soul, jaded, emotionally damaged, and lonely.

"After my mother left, I’ve never cried because of a person. I didn’t hope for anything from another person either. The things I hate the most in this world are human’s understanding and attention.

"From the time I was left alone until now, I never expected anything from people. So I was okay. Whether someone misunderstands or understands me… it didn’t matter to me at all,"

Isn't that just knife to the chest SAD?! :(

I have the sudden urge to weep whenever I think about how mystified he looks when Chae Young Shin invites him to eat together with her family, how bemused he is when he sees the team celebrating the success of their first live broadcast. Can't imagine how brokenhearted he must be to be stripped off of love & care that he deserves whilst growing up. I mean, that load of sadness is a surefire way to turn someone into a person of hate & resentment, but Seo Jung Hoo just... Becomes impassive. He has valid reasons to hate everyone who abandoned him, he more than deserves the right to be distrustful of them all.

Yet when teenager Seo Jung Hoo stumbles upon his mother and her new family, he entrusts her new husband to make sure his mother never cries again. He orders bingsu with red beans to share with his mother even though he dislikes red beans, but his mother loves them. He waits for Teacher's return, furious of course over the fact that Teacher attempts no form of communication for 8 years, but still, Seo Jung Hoo hopes & waits for Teacher's return. And when Teacher dies, he sees no point to continue living anymore. Even towards Kim Moon Ho, he puts a facade of bravado initially, wary of Kim Moon Ho's friendliness. But he slowly opens up, until at last he utters the word "Uncle," once again, unearthing a longing to love and to be loved buried deep within him.

Sure, Seo Jung Hoo has no power over the circumstances that befall him, but he is in command of his own response to them. And Seo Jung Hoo, my ever so lovely Seo Jung Hoo, he chooses to forgive. He chooses to not be vindictive, even when he has every reason to. Because that's exactly the sort of man my darling Seo Jung Hoo is.

Though you can argue that his ways around people sometimes make him appear like an errant teenager instead. Sarcastic, petty beyond conventional measures, deadpan, clingy, touchy, a sleepyhead, and possesses zero care about everyone else except for like, 6 people? In essence, a brat. Like, oh, I don't drink with just anyone bitch pls (except you Chae Young Shin let's drink at the rooftop, just the two of us). I don't need friends. I hate attention & care. Social interaction? Nah. Hopping from one rooftop to another, that's my kind of thing. I like high places because I can judge you from there. Shut up when I'm driving (except you Chae Young Shin pls serenade me with your singing while I'm behind the wheels). Ajumma why do you always call me when I'm eating? The disrespect!! And who the hell is Superman, Ajumma? I think I like Chae Young Shin. Omg Ajumma, Chae Young Shin likes me back!!! If I fits in that space, I sits, and (yawns) I sleeps. If you so much as breathe in my direction (or Chae Young Shin's) I will beat the shit out of you and ooooh hi Chae Young Shin it's cuddle twime!!

You know what, I think he's actually a cat.

Chae Young Shin
I said it up there that Seo Jung Hoo's rooftop musing about Chae Young Shin is the most raw & honest narration of a girl I've ever come across. And it's also the most accurate description of Chae Young Shin's character :

In my eyes, humans are the same. They are all the same. But, amongst all the similar humans, she’s somewhat different. How is she different? She is like a leopard I saw in a documentary once. The leopard had a broken leg and had run into a hyena. The leopard was hurt and it was clear there was no chance. The leopard attacked first. The leopard did not back down. She’s like that too.”

Chae Young Shin is a brilliant concoction of vulnerability and courage that I absolutely admire. Like when Healer steals her bag, she actually runs after him and even has the nerve to threaten to get Healer punished despite having heard of all sorts of rumours about how skilful Healer is. And she's almost always selfless, prioritising other people's safety over her own, but not to the point of being a pushover. Faced with bad guys, she knows she probably doesn't stand a chance at all, but she's not willing to go down without at least trying to put up a good fight with every working limb of her body. I feel like this trait truly sets her apart from typical KDrama heroines cum damsels in distress who need the heroes to come to rescue.

Fluffy hair. Devil may care attitude. Sanguine. Talkative. Headstrong. Breaks into songs at the cue of a word. Feisty. Uninhibited. Funny. Is it any wonder that I love her?! She's soooo me!!!

I also love that she's inherently kind & caring towards people around her. Her nurturing nature is displayed from early on in episode 2, where she forgoes a potential big scoop (that could've elevated her position in the realm of entertainment journalism) to save a stranger who's about to commit suicide. And she actually tells Healer off for rescuing her from the falling elevator in episode 9 because that situation could've been fatal for him. Surprisingly this doesn't even strike me as another example of noble idiocy. She genuinely doesn't want any harm done to Healer, obviously because she nurses this huge crush on him, but also because it's just second nature to her to care for people. Ahhh, how does someone so petite house so big a heart? There's definitely no shortage of love & warmth with this girl.

To think that she's this bright girl who radiates positivity in every direction & leaves sprinkles of fairy dust in her trail, despite having gone through a traumatic childhood?!?! She can cower to her fears and resort to self pity, but Chae Young Shin instead rises over the pettiness and smiles at the world. What. A. Sweetheart.

More than anything, I love how the drama treats Chae Young Shin's moments of wariness after each reveal, moments where I think to myself "Oh no this is it, this is where this drama will lose its steady navigation and break my heart,". Like when she first discovers the real truth behind her biological father's death. The writing does justice to her raw, knee-jerk response, not once glossing over her shaken faith with fake candy floss coating, because no one in their right mind wouldn't be affected by the fact that their dad was killed by their boyfriend's dad. I get to see that she so desperately wants to believe the opposite, she wishes she can simply tell her heart otherwise, but she knows what sounds straightforward in theory doesn't always translate to easy execution in real practice. Thankfully, this drama has a fantastic writing not only in the way great mysteries are revealed, but also how their aftermaths are dealt with, so instead of tossing Chae Young Shin's emotions aside as leap of events offscreen, I actually get to hop on her journey to work through her emotional response.

And Chae Young Shin always amazes me. Staying true to her kind natured character, she makes a run for Seo Jung Hoo, demanding that he comes back to her with or without the evidence of his father's innocence. Sigh.

I also want to talk about the special bond that she shares with her adoptive father, Chae Chi Soo.

One can say that Chae Young Shin owes her optimism to Chae Chi Soo, the man who raises her. A lot of Chae Young Shin's internal monologues will have something to do with Chae Chi Soo's pearls of wisdom, and you can tell how she holds her father in great esteem. Not only that, she also takes after father's... questionable preference in music haha.

The scene where she finally tells him about having found her biological mother (Myeong Hee)... Damn. This is one of the many times that I go full on ugly sobbing because it's just heartbreaking. I imagine Chae Young Shin rearranging her words in various orders before breaking the news to her father, not wanting to lead him to think that she's about to discard him as he's no longer needed in her life. Because her adoptive father has always been included in her life, and she isn't going to let that change just because she's finally found her biological mother. This is paramount to me. There is no unnecessary family feud in the Chae's household. And that cookie scene between Chae Young Shin & her father? (drowns in a pool of tears).

Seo Jung Hoo & Chae Young Shin
So what happens when you put two strong, independent characters in the same equation? You get the perfect OTP as a product.

I love how this duo exhibit that chemistry, love, and attraction alone are not enough for a healthy, functional relationship.

Sure there's fate that intertwines them together, from childhood buddies to lovebirds.

There's that invisible force that pulls them together, that no matter what, they're always drawn to each other. I like how the drama showcases this in small instances that can easily pass off as coincidences, nothing too extravagant or puke-inducing cheesy. But rather, these moments are delicately brought about as though they're natural phenomena that one can't resist. Seo Jung Hoo & Chae Young Shin - their paths cross for a reason, call it fate, call it destiny, call it whatever you want. But no matter how far apart they're separated, they'll always find their ways back to each other.

And they're both smitten kittens. They literally cannot get enough of each other. Not that I'm complaining, actually.

But apart from the inevitable force of attraction, there's always this conscious desire within them to fight for each other, because a relationship is not sustainable if it's built on the foundation of hormones alone. Seo Jung Hoo & Chae Young Shin reiterate over and over again that their relationship works because in the face of misunderstanding, they give each other space to work through their emotional & psychological response to it. And then they communicate to straighten things over, completely skipping the unnecessary part of false assumptions.

There are many scenes that exemplify their mature approach of handling arguments, but one that comes to mind right now is when Chae Young Shin catches Seo Jung Hoo (literally) redhanded at the crime scene at the end of episode 16. The look of fear in Seo Jung Hoo's face, and the slightest hint of doubt overshadowing Chae Young Shin's face. The fact that she is not guided by blind faith of Seo Jung Hoo is intriguing for both plot development and characterisation. It would've been an agonising drag if Chae Young Shin straight away jumps to the conclusion that Seo Jung Hoo is a murderer just because she caught him in the unfortunate moment. She's better than that. At the same time, of course Chae Young Shin wouldn't actually believe that the love of her life has the heart to take away another person's life. The best thing about this is it's resolved in the same episode, and they don't even overcomplicate the matter. Have you ever killed anyone? No? I knew it. Okay we good, I love you btw. Like two rational adults, dismantling whatever tangle they were in, despite how confrontative it seems like. This goes to show that despite their undeniable magnetism towards each other, relationship requires effort and commitment, and it's a two-way street, and they both still have a lot to learn about each other.

I'm not a fan of love triangles and thank God, this story is not one of that nature. Love triangle means a heart is bound to get hurt. It's a given, there's no other way out of it, so for this drama that's one broken heart saved! Phew. And that also means there was no time spent on extensive conflict of tangled relationships, so the drama manages to focus on the budding romance between our lovely OTP. Right from the beginning of the drama, I'm sure that Seo Jung Hoo & Chae Young Shin are going to be together, no ifs no buts.

It makes me very, very, very happy to see a relationship where both parties really want to be with each other, no playing hard to get. It's not so much about being each other's other halves to complete themselves, no, because Chae Young Shin & Seo Jung Hoo are both broken in some ways and they spur each other to complete & discover themselves. They aren't each other's halves, they're each other's wholes. They both have their own journeys ahead of them and their routes go side by side, hand in hand.

I like that Seo Jung Hoo & Chae Young Shin are equals, in the sense that no one needs/loves/depends on more than the other, because they're made up traits that perfectly balance & complement each other. Seo Jung Hoo may have exerted himself physically to rescue Chae Young Shin on multiple occasions, but it's Chae Young Shin that's the saving grace of his lonely life. Chae Young Shin is the one that's helping restore Seo Jung Hoo's faith in other people, enabling his belated reunion with society, cheering him on every step of the way. It's like Seo Jung Hoo looks at the world through a pair of tainted eyes, and then Chae Young Shin comes along and Seo Jung Hoo begins seeing things through her eyes, how wonderful the world is, how full of love everyone is, and he starts to notice things he may have taken for granted all of his life. And it's not just limited to changing his worldview for the better, it's more than that, it's about relearning how to integrate into society that he's spent years avoiding. It's about having home-cooked meals with family together, drinking alcohol together, accepting human's offer of understanding & attention, building bridges and not walls.

Of course, that journey isn't a walk in the park, but rather, a walk in a dark tunnel. Chae Young Shin is that light at the end of the tunnel, and the only way for Seo Jung Hoo to get to that illuminating light is to brave through the harrowing darkness.

Above all, I love Seo Jung Hoo & Chae Young Shin together because their love feels so real, so raw, so intimate. And I appreciate that their love shows through everything - in romantic bed scenes, in mundane on the job situations, in danger, in the chill of wintry nights spent on the rooftop overlooking the city. Every loving gaze, every little smile, every stolen kiss, every secret rendezvous, every skipped heartbeat, every late night phone conversation - it feels to me like getting a special pass to access the most private nook of a couple's love life, and boy is it a privilege to have been granted that access. The escalator scene was remarkable in its own merit, but my favourite OTP moments are the small ones,

like them snuggling after doing the broadcast to expose the Elder. Initially this scene seems like it's worth a brow raise because, umm cuddling in Elder's house?? Hello?? That's the Evil™ HQ?? But as Seo Jung Hoo closes his eyes and listens to Chae Young Shin retelling the story of his father's innocence, I realise that these two lovebirds are true soulmates. They're being all cutesy with no one watching despite having just accomplished an arduous task, and this resonates within me for a number of reasons. 1) This cements my faith in this OTP that come what may, their love will conquer it. 2) At the end of a good or bad day, they'll still seek each other's company. 3) They're the happiest when they're together. 4) Their "I love you"s, while never explicitly verbalised, always laced their every word and action. Haihhhh. This drama isn't even rom com yet it has me swooning & squealing more than rom coms do.

Also PMY and JCW are insanely cute & comfortable around each other both on screen and off screen, can they just date already?!

Dry humour
Healer also has its comical values. They appear subtle and quirky but they do the trick of lightening the storyline when needs be. I find that most of the funny parts come when I least expect it, like, directly after a heart wrenching scene, which explains why so many times I find myself whimpering uncontrollably, and then laughing mere minutes later. I don't know if the writer did this on purpose, as though putting a plaster across my heart (which by that point has become a rubble) after each conflict, haha.

Here are some of my favourite comedic parts of the drama :

Chae Young Shin's uninhibited honesty, exhibit A:

Chae Young Shin's uninhibited honesty, exhibit B :

Ajumma's wealth of snarky remarks:

Morality - A Slippery Slope
I've already mentioned about how I sometimes feel sorry for the villain Kim Moon Shik. I mean, to be honest, he's not exactly an evil man, I wouldn't say he is. Everything he does is solely with the intention of having Choi Myeong Hee by his side, because of his steadfast, unconditional & irrevocable love for her. He lied about Myeong Hee's daughter being dead, thus rendering Myeong Hee helpless with no one to hold on to, except him. I think I can understand where he's coming from; he can't help his feelings now can he? For what it's worth, he loves Myeong Hee, there's no lie in that. So while it's easy to say his motivation is twisted and misguided, it does bear some cognitive logic. But soon after going down that slippery slope, he even manipulates himself into thinking that he's doing the right thing. This is why I sometimes can't help feeling sorry for him, considering how he has every chance to do the right thing, but makes one bad decision after another, all well intentioned nonetheless - to keep Myeong Hee alive & going. But that's the thing, do the ends justify the means? Do good intentions excuse bad decisions?

You can't call him bad. His coalition with Elder saves Myung Hee's life and provides Myung Hee a wealth of fortunes.

But let's think for awhile. Had he not surrendered himself to the Elder, Myung Hee would've died, but at least she wouldn't have to live the rest of her life in a wheelchair, like a human vegetable forever, right?

So who is Kim Moon Shik to decide which one she would like better, which one would make her happier?

At that time Kim Moon Shik may have been stuck in a rut, cornered by tough choices, that his instincts tell him to pick the lesser of two evils. But time and again when the opportunity presents itself for him to redeem himself - by simply being honest and saying Sorry goddamnit is it really that hard -, he trips and screws up yet again. Bad decision after bad decision, it all snowballs into a massive load of bullshit, rolling down that slippery slope of ethics. I think Detective Dong Won says it best,

"Isn't this a criminal's path? If they don't get caught, they repeat. If they repeat their crime, the crime grows in intensity,"

I also love the zombie analogy that Chae Young Shin uses in episode 19. It depicts the message that when it comes to ethics and moral, it's all or nothing, man, there's no in between. You're either a zombie or you're not. You can't be 50% zombie and think you're better than someone who's, say, 80% zombie, no. So should you find yourself face to face with a zombie, chances are you'll be attacked face first by the zombie and end up a zombie yourself. But even if you do falter in the hands of a zombie, do so in a dignified way by fighting, by resisting to the best of your human abilities, not by surrendering yourself while thinking uhh maybe it isn't too bad being a zombie since everyone else is a zombie too.

The Ending
The last scene involving Kim Moon Shik is of him having hallucinations of his old friends, and it seems like he has lost all of his marbles. This is marvellous, even better than having an ending where he dies methinks. This ending is better, in my opinion, because I feel like he is culpable, for everything that he's done and every pain that he has inflicted on other people around him, this psychological spell that is cast upon him is a befitting way of penance. 

Some of my friends grumbled to me, dissatisfied with the the last episode. They feel like the ending's rushed, like there're still loose ends & unanswered questions. Yes, in a way, I do agree that the ending is a bit open ended, but as a matter of preference, I've always been in favour of open endings. Because they leave me at my own disposal to freely imagine where the story's headed. That way I can conjure up happy endings and let my delusional heart be happy and finally rest, after 20 episodes of rapid pumping.

But I think it's more than just writer Song Ji Na's courtesy to allow us the leeway of imagining our own endings. I think it's her trust & respect in viewers, that we'll be able to put two and two together without her spoon-feeding us the exposition. 

So thank you, Song Ji Na, for thinking that we're smart enough hewhew.

Or maybe I like that the last episode doesn't feel like an ending at all to me, like after the theme song played and the credits rolled, I (sadly) returned to the real world & real responsibilities, but the characters continued on their respective journeys in the Healer world. I never had to say goodbye.

Like I mentioned up there, Healer isn't unique with the tropes that it carries. But I think what sets it apart and elevates it is how the tropes are seamlessly woven together. I think the first half of the drama is interesting enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen and your cursor finding the 'next episode' link. But the second half of the drama will take you to another level of emotions & acting, and damn is it fulfilling. 

It gets better with every episode, if not consistently good. I mean, let's be real. Anyone can produce one good episode, but 20 episodes that just get better than the preceding one?? That's something I have yet to see in any other dramas (maybe I haven't watched enough dramas so I am in no position to make such comparison but still). Some dramas have that midpoint slump that drag me down and keep me in stagnancy, but Healer doesn't do that, and I think that's a pretty huge feat. 

What's not to love about Healer? This drama planted its roots right in the soil of my heart and it's flourishing up until now. A drama I wouldn't even hesitate to re(binge)watch.

I'll end this in true Healer fashion,

The things I like : Seo Jeong Hoo's adorableness, Chae Young Shin's infectious happiness, Ajumma's dry humour, Healer instrumental OST playlist, everything about the drama basically

The things I don't like : anything and everything that keeps me away from the things I like.

You'll always be my favourite, Healer.

Bring on the Withdrawal Syndrome.


  1. Atul I finally watched and khatam-ed Healer and OH MY I'M SO IN LOVE WITH IT HAIH. I'd love to see you and meroyan with you but for now my mind and emotions are all over the place hahahaha

  2. Yayyy Najwa I'm so happy you decided to watch it and you even finished it!!! It's so good kan?? Please let's jumpa and meroyan together because happiness shared is happiness doubled and sadness shared is sadness halved (or something along those lines)! Good luck going through the severe withdrawal symptoms Najwa heheh :)