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Saturday, January 26, 2019

I'm Suffering From The Jin Woo Withdrawal Syndrome

In 2018, all the k-dramas that I'd watched weren't that engaging. Most of the dramas actually started out well. But somewhere along the line, the plot seemed to have faltered ... and I lost engagement before the drama ended. It was like that with Live - when they lingered on the rape storyline and turned the drama quite dark, and WWWSK - when it became all fluff from Episode 9 onwards. I did enjoy a bit of Familiar Wife ... but well, I hadn't been obsessed about any drama for a long time.

One of the dramas that received an enormous amount of interest last year was the Memories of the Alhambra (MOTA). It was pairing Hyun Bin and Park Shin Hye. Hyun Bin, though I hadn't watched him before (I know. How can, right??? Heh ...), was a big name in the K-entertainment industry and I knew he wasn't so famous for no reason. So that got me excited. Plus, I'd always have a soft spot for Park Shin Hye. She had this girl-next-door appeal and so far, what I'd watched of Park Shin Hye, I really liked. She was also known to be able to create chemistry with all of her co-stars. So I thought  that should be something to look forward to.

MOTA was said to be a sci-fi action thriller. Though sci-fi wasn't exactly my cup of tea, I thought I would try watching Episode 1 after I came back from my Eastern Europe trip. I told myself that I did not have to carry on with it if I did not like what I saw.

And guess what, Episode 1 DID engage me and I found myself asking, "What happened?" Heh. Little did I know it at that time. But literally, I had to ask that question after watching every episode. There were no answers absolutely .... even right up till it ended in Episode 16. Which was probably why this show sparked a lot of discussions online. Since the show did not explicitly let on the answers, people came up to theory after theory to seek the answers themselves. And I suspiciously think that it is also why, even now, a week after the show ended, people are still thinking about it, discussing it, because a lot of people cannot make sense of the story and are trying to find  a logical explanation to it.

Why got me hooked to MOTA?
1) The cast is certainly good-looking. Hyun Bin is really sexy and swoony, but most of all, his acting is just awesome. He'd successfully brought Jin Woo to life! Jin Woo who is smart, confident, driven, cunning juxtaposed with Jin Woo who is fearful and broken - I think Hyun Bin delivered the nuances of his complex character very well. I am hopeful that he will be awarded with at least one Daesang for his efforts. Park Shin Hye has matured into a beautiful lady, and though her role as Hee Joo is mostly passive, I believed it has served the purpose of the drama very well.

2) The story was engaging. From Episode 1 onwards, we were with Jin Woo as he battled the Nasrid warriors in the AR game. We literally tagged along with Jin Woo in his game, rooting for him as he fought, cringing our teeth as he got injured ... and as the game turned nasty, we feared for his life. This was Jin Woo's story, and we journeyed along with him in his quest to find the answers. I felt very much a part of the story - it was as much my quest as it was Jin Woo's quest. I wanted to know the answers. What happened?

3) The drama was beautifully filmed. As a wanderlust myself, I appreciated the setting in Granada, Spain, and it made me want to go there and visit the Alhambra Palace one of these days. It's certainly something for me to look forward to.

At that point when I started watching MOTA, episodes 1 to 6 had already aired. So from then on, I waited weekly for new episodes to air ... and the wait was quite agonizing I would say. I scolded myself for starting an ongoing drama. Darn I should have only watched it after it ended.

Last Sunday, the show finally ended. And the ending was pretty abrupt. Huh? That's it? What happened? The ending seemed "open" ... so it certainly did not satisfy those who wanted to see a happy ending between Jin Woo and Hee Joo.

Me? I was very disappointed. Like millions of viewers out there, I was upset.
1) No happy ending?
2) No happy Jin Woo?
3) What happened to Jin Woo? His game alter ego Zinu turned to a pile of dust. But Jin Woo disappeared without a trace.
4) There was no Jin Woo for the two-thirds of the show. After his disappearance, the show focused on everyone else but Jin Woo. How can that be satisfactory for viewers who had been alongside Jin Woo right from Episode 1? Surely we deserved to know what exactly happened to Jin Woo? Surely we wanted to see our Jin Woo at peace after he'd finished his quest?
5) A silhoutte appeared for 20 seconds before the show ended - Zinu or Jin Woo?? No one was sure.
6) The game LOGIC seemed ILLOGICAL. The hows and the whys weren't explained.

Because of no. 4, I felt disappointed because it felt like Jin Woo had lost a good fight. I also felt pretty cheated because it felt like my journey had been in vain. Because even in the end, I could not get the answers I wanted.

But after I watched the finale for the second time, it dawned on me that I'd been seeking for answers that needed NO answers.

MAGIC was a central theme to this drama ... and how do you explain magic?
1) Magic was logic-defying ... and I think viewers could not come to term with the ending because they were trying to look for logical answers to explain the story. That actually marred their enjoyment of the drama in general.
2) In magic, what you see ... it it real or not real? The answer lies within each individual. How the ending is - whether the silhoutte was Zinu or Jin Woo - depends very much on each individual. If you believe in what you see, for instance, then for you, Jin Woo is very much alive and it is implied that he is going to meet up with Hee Joo.

The moment I realised that, I appreciated the finale more and was at peace with the ending, and I appreciated that the writer was consistent with her theme. Whether intentional or not, the writer had instigated such a furore amongst drama fans. Social media and forums came alive with people dissing the story and the writer. Heh. More came forward to propose alternative endings and even now, people are still in deep discussion about every aspect of the show. All these happened ONLY because of the deep engagement that people have with the drama - the story and its characters.

A happier Jin Woo in ep. 13 

Post-MOTA, I am rewatching my favourite parts of the drama, and I am still reading the various theories about the AR game, and the analysis people have upon the story and it makes me miss Jin Woo a lot. But still, I am happy to be part of this obsession. ;))

P/S: I did squeal in delight when I saw that the final scene was shot at the Seonggwak Park in Dongdaemun. I had visited this place only in June last year .... and it was certainly pleasing to know that it became a filming location for a show that I loved. :))

Final scene was shot here!! This was the park when I visited in June 2018... 

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