Friday, September 11, 2015

Despite Its Flaws, 'Healer' Is a Fun and Memorable Action Romance

Healer is a 20-episode Korean TV series that ran from December 2014 to February 2015, but I’ve just finished binge-watching it.  The TV series focuses on a young “night courier” – a sort of thief/retrieval specialist for hire – code named “Healer.”

Healer, whose real name is Seo Jung-hoo (played by Ji Chang-wook), is highly proficient in martial arts, acrobatics, and field craft.  He is the best in the business, and is highly sought by clientele.  Being an introvert and due to the nature of his occupation, Healer maintains a secluded, lonely existence – only coming out of his hideaway when there’s a job to do.  His ultimate dream is to buy his own private island where he can live alone.

But everything changes when a client, the famous reporter Kim Moon-ho (Yoo Ji-tae), commissions him to spy on Chae Young-shin (Park Min-young), a bubbly and willful entertainment website reporter who dreams of becoming a legendary journalist.  This leads to Healer going undercover in Young-shin’s workplace and adopting the alias “Park Bong-soo.”  Consequently, by being constantly in the presence of Young-shin’s sunny personality, Healer’s icy personality begins to melt and he eventually falls for her – radically changing his life goals and worldview.

As the story progresses, Healer struggles to juggle his alter egos and his feelings, while at the same time, work with Young-shin and Moon-ho in unraveling the secrets of their past and bringing down a shadowy conspiracy of powerful people.

Healer isn’t perfect, but I had a good time binge-watching it.  Despite its flaws and cringe-worthy writing in some parts, Healer has a decent amount of smarts and its narrative is generally immersive.  And though it’s not as well-plotted or intriguing as Kill Me, Heal Me, there are still a lot of moments wherein I was very impressed by the storytelling.  Furthermore, Healer is the first Koreanovela that I’ve seen wherein fight scenes are integral to the story.  They aren’t spectacular, but they’re solidly choreographed and definitely contributed more appeal to the show.

The characters are fun and amiable in general – Healer, particularly, is a cool and unforgettable “spook” character.  But there are times when I found them frustrating and inconsistent.  I was annoyed whenever a character makes a dumb decision when he or she has just made a smart one a few scenes back.

It’s the same with the editing, writing, and direction – they aren’t always good.  There are some scenes and plot sequences that I find unnecessary, pretentious, dumb, or sloppily executed.  But, thankfully, most of the time, the story does flow in a smart, organic manner, which I find extremely satisfying and worth appreciating.

It’s also with Healer when Koreanovela clichés finally made me groan.  For example, in all the Koreanovelas that I’ve watched so far, all of them require an absurd amount of “small world coincidences” to make the plot and drama work.  I’ve learned to accept and expect this from Koreanovelas, as long as they’re enjoyable enough, which Healer is, but I’m starting to get tired of excusing this cliché.  Aside from this, I’ve also noticed these two clichés in all five Koreanovelas I’ve seen: 1.) the male and female leads are acquainted during their childhood or teens; and 2.) there’s a sequence wherein the female lead gets drunk, creating a comedic moment.  Maybe it has come to the point wherein I’ve already seen enough Koreanovelas to make me sensitive of these clichés.  And, with Healer, my tolerance for them is starting to wane.  I’m still forgiving at this point, but I’m not sure I’ll still be for the next Koreanovela.

Healer’s strongest aspect is the romance.  I really like the “love triangle” approach.  And, no, it’s not among Healer, Young-shin, and Moon-ho.  Any indications in the early episodes that it’s going there are mere red herrings.  The real love triangle is made up of Healer, Young-shin, and Healer’s undercover persona, Park Bong-soo.  The whole thing is comparable to the appealing dynamic of the romance between Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane.  There is genuine chemistry and magnetism, and you can’t help but root for the couple.    

Lastly, another great aspect about Healer is the music.  From what I got from I Hear Your Voice – being my ultimate standard for Koreanovelas – the best drama music are those that could enhance the mood and atmosphere of the story.  And the “Healer” theme and Michael Learns to Rock’s “Eternal Love” do just that perfectly.

So to wrap this up…
Healer does have missteps, there are some frustrating and cheesy parts, and it’s not as intelligent or as impactful I wanted it to be.  But it’s fun, engaging, and memorable nonetheless, and I’m pleased with the series all in all.

(The next Koreanovela that I will be binge-watching – and then reviewing – is Girl Who Sees Smells)

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