Sunday, October 18, 2015

'The Girl Who Sees Smells' Features Such a Girl Teaming up with a Man That Can't Feel to Catch a Serial Killer and to Eat as Much Delicious Food as They Can

I’ve just finished watching The Girl Who Sees Smells (also known alternatively as Sensory Couple), the fifth Koreanovela that I’ve watched in my search for the next I Hear Your Voice experience.  Well, I still haven’t found it with TGWSS (I will be abbreviating it as such).  In fact, it is probably one of the lesser Koreanovelas I’ve watched so far.   But I did enjoy it despite its problems. 

TGWSS’s plot summary:
A high school girl named Choi Eun-seol (Shin Se-kyung) arrives home to find her parents murdered by the notorious Barcode Killer (who got the name because he engraves barcodes on the wrists of his victims).  She is able to get away from the grasp of the killer, and a chase ensues.  However, she gets hit by a car, sending her to a coma for months. 

Meanwhile, another Choi Eun-seol is sent to the hospital to get treatment from minor injuries after a bus accident.  Her brother, Choi Mu-gak (Park Yoo-chun), visits her and is horrified to find her throat slit.  Apparently, in a case of mistaken identity, the Barcode Killer kills her thinking she’s the same Choi Eun-seol that has escaped him. 

A few years later, Eun-seol is now living with the name of Oh Cho-rim.  The accident has erased her memories and has mysteriously given her the ability to “see” smells (hence, the title) in vibrant shapes and colors.  In order to protect her, the lead detective of the Barcode Murders – now retired – adopts her as his own daughter and, through the witness protection program, falsifies the medical records to show that Cho Eun-seol has died while in coma.      

On the other hand, Mu-gak has become a police officer, obsessed on catching and killing his sister’s killer.   The painful trauma of finding his sister dead led to events that changed him tremendously.  Not only did his personality become deadpan and soulless, but he also lost the ability to taste, smell, and feel pain.

One fateful day, the two cross paths, resulting to the development between them of an unlikely crime-fighting partnership, friendship, and even love, as they discover the connection of their tragic pasts and work together to bring the Barcode Killer to justice.

TGWSS has a good amount of fresh and original ideas.  Despite of how much this show begs the audience to suspend disbelief (seriously, a girl gains the ability to see smells after getting hit by a car?  Come on), the absurdity does help the show avoid being boring.

The two lead characters are generally likable and fun, but I can’t say that I get to love them.   I’m mostly satisfied with their character arcs, but they aren’t really impactful characters.   The romance between them is cute and all that, but it fails to make a deeper impression on me.  Moreover, there are times that Officer Choi behaves like a jerk.  Though it’s made understandable to an extent by all the pent up anger and pain that the character has inside, the character is still unlikable during those moments.  Thankfully, he makes up for it for being one of the funniest characters in the show.  Sure, Cho-rim is the one who is a member of a comedy troupe, but it’s Officer Choi that got a lot of laughs from me.  Considering that his personality’s default mode is, at first, stoic – he becomes more light-hearted and loose as the series progresses – he’s unexpectedly and effectively hilarious whenever he has to act dumb.

The supporting characters are also a lot of fun.  I particularly enjoyed the dynamic and bond of the special investigation team – how they have each other’s backs, the bantering among themselves, and the fact that they didn’t start as a close-knit group at all and have to get there – as well as their individual colorful personalities.

The series also has a unique, complex villain in the Barcode Killer (though it’s fairly obvious for anyone who watches the show to guess his real identity, I won’t be spoiling it here).  Though not completely new, the way he conducts his murders does have layers of cunning, creativity, and originality.  He also possesses an interesting weakness (I won’t spoil what it is, but here’s a clue: it’s the reason why he killed the wrong Choi Eun-seol) that significantly boosts the novelty of the character.  I was however disappointed that there are no concrete, definite, and agreeable answers given on what turned him into the monster that he is or what drives him.  I thought that an in-depth character analysis was going to be provided because the narrative seemed to be leaning towards it.  But that never happened.  So interesting the Barcode Killer turned out to be as a character, a feeling of dissatisfaction is still left.

My biggest disappointment is its uneven script.  The series has a strong start.  Despite the absurd elements, the story flows in a satisfyingly logical and engrossing manner.  But in later episodes, there are a couple of times where this flow is interrupted by bad and lazy writing.  For example, Officer Choi, Lt. Yeom Mi, and the Barcode Killer are introduced as smart characters.  But in order to create tension or drama, all three of them have moments – some of them, more than once – where they made critically bad decisions, which made me groan since they were so unbelievably dumb.  And, thus, any tension or drama created feels exasperatingly gratuitous and artificial.

Anyway, do you know what is the most remarkable thing about TGWSS?  No, it’s not the ridiculous premise of “seeing smells.”  It’s this: every episode has made me hungry.  I’ve never had such experience with a Koreanovela – or a TV series, for that matter – before.  Strangely, TGWSS loves showcasing scrumptious Korean food.  And it’s actually not due to one of the characters being a chef.  The script just constantly makes an effort of featuring one or more scene/s wherein the characters – especially Officer Choi and Cho-rim – have to enjoy eating an appetizing meal.

In conclusion, TGWSS unfortunately has notable flaws.  And not only does it have the usual typical tropes I’ve learned to expect and tolerate (for the time being) from a Koreanovela (it has small-world coincidences once again – a lot of them.  And the lead female character also gets drunk again; the current score of such scene turning up in the Koreanovelas I’ve watched is now 6 out of 6!) but it also suffers from some insufferable cliches that typically plague awful Filipino dramas.  Nevertheless, though I think the script could have been written better, it’s a good thing that TGWSS has these: a unique premise; characters that are fun and interesting enough; syrupy but catchy music (“Honey, honey, honey…”); a decent amount of laughs; and delicious food being consistently (though unnecessarily) paraded – enough to make TGWSS pleasurable and entertaining to watch.

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