Thursday, October 06, 2016

'Beautiful Mind' Is the 'House' of K-Drama

I was deeply immersed with Luke Cage, but with a few episodes left, my watching was temporarily brought to a halt by Beautiful Mind.  It was so good that I couldn’t stop watching it, deferring my time on it instead of finishing Luke Cage.  Just like with Bring It On, Ghost, I never expected that I would like it so much.

Actually, the K-Drama I was about to get into next was W – Two Worlds.  I had already seen the first three or four episodes, and I found it promising.  However, some friends who had seen it ahead of me dissuaded me from continuing, since they said it gets real bad later on.  In addition, the reactions I read from some K-drama forums and blogs were not enthusiastic enough for me to stir my curiosity.  Thus, I dropped W.  Someone recommended that I go watch Beautiful Mind instead.  So I did... and I was blown away by how interesting it is.
Beautiful Mind centers on a genius neurosurgeon named Lee Young Oh (Jang Hyok).  He’s highly intelligent, skillful, and observant – allowing him to quickly and effortlessly diagnose a patient.  However, he also lacks the ability to empathize or feel emotion.  Thus, for all his life, he has practiced keenly reading people’s subtle body languages in order to determine what they feel, so that he can react properly by simulating appropriate emotional responses.

A series of suspicious deaths happening in the hospital he’s working in results to him meeting an idealistic, optimistic, and by-the-book traffic policewoman named Gye Jin Sung (Park So-dam).  The two would initially dislike and come into conflict with each other.  But after further encounters, they gradually get closer – bringing Young Oh the opportunity to feel emotions for the first time.
Beautiful Mind is everything Doctors wasn’t (the comparison can’t be helped).  As a medical drama, the former really utilized its medical aspect much more excitingly than the way the latter did.  It’s a legitimate medical thriller.  And its set of doctor/nurse supporting characters is more likable and fun than that of DoctorsBeautiful Mind particularly has this group of doctors that I call the “Power Rangers” (a reference they made to themselves in an episode), and their gatherings, which tend to involve lots of gossiping and bragging, were always amusing.

I read that this series is supposed to be inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  In fact, its early working title was supposed to be “Dr. Frankenstein.”  However, I fail to see an obvious, clever connection between this drama and the classic horror novel, so it was a good thing it never went that route.

A better reference for Beautiful Mind is House (one of the my most fave TV shows ever).  Dr. Lee is an obvious parallel to Dr. House.  Both are brilliant physicians that always tend to be the smartest man in the room, always smoothly providing the correct solution to difficult problems which have baffled others.  Both are cynical pragmatists who have no problem of offending anyone with their logical but tactless comments.  Both are arrogant, impatient, and audacious due to their intelligence and troubled personalities.  However, Dr. Lee’s unpleasant attitude is probably more “acceptable”, since it can be traced to a disorder – he’s supposed to be an anti-social psychopath – while House is more of a straight up A-hole.
As for the romantic aspect... romance really doesn’t have a strong presence.  The focus of the narrative is mostly on Dr. Lee’s struggles.  I feel that Gye Hun Sung has a far lesser arc than Dr. Lee.  Sometimes, she’s like more of a plot device than an actual character.  Still, she is a charming, bright presence as the love interest.  Their romance isn’t as well-developed as I would have liked it, but it’s still very adorable and compelling.  I like “slow romances” a lot, and the series delightfully took its time before there was a spark.

My only real problem about this series is that it only has 14 episodes.  It was supposed to be 16 episodes but it was cut to 14 due to low ratings.  Kind of frustrating that, on the other hand, Doctors got 20.  The last few episodes quite suffered due to the cut.  The pacing nearly became bothersome, and the quality of the writing dipped just a little bit, though noticeably.
Nevertheless, Beautiful Mind successfully delivers the necessary worthwhile characters, twists, suspense, and heart to tell an enjoyable story.   It’s a great K-drama all in all (it’s tied with Signal as my favorite Koreanovela this year).

Everyone who has watched this show will find it very rewarding – something worth keeping in the heart for a while, like a soju bottle cap ring and a lotto ticket kept in a drawer.

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