Monday, July 20, 2015

Yep, 'Kill Me, Heal Me' Indeed Killed DID Better than 'Hyde, Jekyll, Me'

When I wrote about Hyde, Jekyll, Me last month, I mentioned about its curious case with another network’s drama series, Kill Me, Heal Me, which not only aired at the same timeslot as Hyde, Jekyll, Me, but also has the same premise – a chaebol (South Korean term for family-controlled conglomerate) man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or multiple personality disorder because of a traumatic experience in his childhood.  I also mentioned that according to some reviews that I read about it, the latter drama series is actually better, which got me curious, and I hinted, though didn’t commit, that I might give it a look.

Well, I did give it a look.  In fact, I watched the entire series.  It did take a while before KMHM (I will be abbreviating Kill Me, Heal Me from now on) grew on me.  Maybe because I’ve just recently watched HJM (will be abbreviating Hyde, Jekyll, Me, too) and the similarities were hindrances in immediately providing me a fresh experience.  It was only around episode 7 – the part wherein the reason behind the series’ title was revealed – that I found myself completely enjoying it.  At that point, I began to feel that those reviews that said Kill Me, Heal Me is better than Hyde, Jekyll, Me were turning out to be right.  KMHM explores its themes more deeply, its plot holds up much more satisfactorily, and it’s just smarter overall.  The writing is smarter.  And the characters behave smarter – or, at least, know how to think much better than the characters of HJM (yep, it can’t be helped; I will be comparing the two several times throughout this article).

The plot of KMHM is centered on Cha Do-hyun, a member of the Seong Jin chaebol who, at the start of the story, is enjoying a productive academic life in the States.  However, an incident triggers his DID to manifest, the cause of which, as later revealed in the story, was a childhood trauma.  For the next 11 years, he refuses to go home to South Korea so that he can find treatment for his condition while hiding this fact from the Seong Jin family, who are pretty keen about reputation.  However, circumstance forces Do-hyun to go back to Korea, and on his return, he meets Oh Ri-jin, a first year psychiatry resident.  Oh Ri-jin eventually becomes Do-hyun’s personal psychiatrist, secretly treating him for his DID.  As the story progresses, the two learn the secrets of the past, tread the path to healing, and fall in love.

To be honest, I find nothing electrifying about the romance.  But it doesn’t matter.  The story is much more important anyway.  And KMHM truly has a complex and well-plotted story.  It’s full of intrigues and layered with great twists.  The well-developed, well-timed reveals of the story’s mysteries blew me away.  Details that are seemingly small and irrelevant are actually important or intertwine with something important.  Everything fits like a puzzle in the end.

Both HJM actor Hyun Bin and KMHM actor Ji Sung did an impressive job in playing different personalities distinctively.  However, though Hyun Bin was great in HJM, he was limited to two personalities to play.  Ji Sung, on the other hand, has seven personalities to play, hence, he has more room to show a more versatile performance.  It’s not as awesome as Tatiana Maslany’s performance in Orphan Black, but it’s really enjoyable to watch.

Meanwhile, Hwang Jung-eum as Oh Ri-jin is… well, she’s okay, I guess.  But she hams it up a lot when doing comedy.  I was almost turned off by how ridiculous her overacting is.  She makes up for it by being having a couple of fun and heartfelt character moments.

The six personalities that fragmented out of Cha Do-hyun
The most important thing that I find KMHM doing much better is its use of DID as a central plot device.  I’m not saying that KMHM is more scientifically accurate – it does have its share of absurdity – but it has used DID much better than how HJM used it in making an interesting story.  Moreover, not only does KMHM feature more personalities than HJM, but each personality has a sensible background on how he or she came to being.  These personalities are fleshed out properly.

Moreover, Oh Ri-jin also connected deeply with all personalities instead of focusing with one.  What I hated most about HJM is the female lead character’s one-sided focus of her love to a split personality, lack of understanding that the personalities are basically one, and lack of impact on the resolution of the male lead character’s DID.  I have none of these problems with Ri-jin.  She really was a significant element in the resolution of the DID problem, and it’s not only because she is a psychiatrist and a love interest, but there’s a great twist on why she is an important aspect of the recovery process.

Of course, it does have to rely on some typical tropes of Koreanovelas (or drama in general) – most particularly, the “small world coincidences” – for the narrative to work.  And there are also times when the narrative stumble into moments of gratuity and dumbness.  But despite some missteps, KMHM consistently maintains its general trajectory of smart storytelling going toward a smart conclusion.  Despite the complexity of the plot – and the narrative’s need to juggle romance, mystery, suspense, and comedy – KMHM succeeds overall in telling a unique, entertaining, and thoughtful story.

KMHM doesn’t match the nigh-perfectness (in my eyes) of I Hear Your Voice.  But I’m really all praise about this series.  Except for the music.  The music sucks (except the ska-style music used during comedic moments, which I like).  But aside from this, I have nothing to complain.  I can say that I thoroughly liked KMHM.

So there you go.  At this point, I have already watched four complete Koreanovelas, and I have another series to check out next – Healers (will review this as soon as I’m finished with it.  I’m currently a third through episode one).  Plus, a label for Koreanovelas is now available for this blog.  So, I guess, it’s time – July 20, 2015.  10 p.m. (those who already watched KMHM will get this reference) – to officially declare that I’m now into Koreanovelas, too.

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