Brace yourselves, for it will be a very very long review. Good shows make me a yoo jaeseok. 😛
* Spoiling the show for you beyond this message, brought to you by yours truly *
No watching 49 days in front of anybody! That’s if you look like me after crying…
I don’t know if it happens to you guys, but there are some shows that get me the moment I see its actors and actresses in it, read its synopsis and watch its trailers. 49 Days, is one of them for me. For some reason, I had a hunch that 2011 dramas or more specifically, 49 Days could be good. But then again, Lie to Me, was god awful. Hey! Nobody thought yoon eun hye and romcoms could go so wrongly together!
The title ‘49 Days’ is related to (Tibetan) Buddhism. From what I have researched (here, here and here) and think I know, a spirit/soul wanders around for 49 days immediately after his/her death. As for the family left behind, the 49 days are a farewell/mourning period. This period is also used by the family to pray and burn stuff like hell money, so that the spirit is able to leave happily and peacefully, and hopefully get a chance of reincarnating soon. By the 49th day, the spirit officially leaves the human world.
This is why after finishing all 20 episodes, I found ‘49 Days’ a title so apt and clever for the storyline. From my perspective, I think the meaning of 49 days here is used to give a different side of the story. Think about it, we humans only know what the living is doing for the dead. But we actually don’t know what the dead’s spirit may be doing for the living.
The drama ‘49 Days’ is ‘simply’ about a dead and yet undead heroine (say what?) given 49 days to collect 3 sincere tears as a compensation for her untimely death. With the 3 tears, she will be completely pushed back into the living world. But things are rarely that easy or simple and I thought that 49 days was more than enough time to collect only 3 tears.
But I was being stupid. Considering that our heroine was neither living nor dead, she has to play along with the rules in this middle world. Therefore while possessing another’s body to get her tear project done, there will be no revealing anything about this world, her real identity and her mission. To add, the 3 tears are not counted if it comes from her family members and must be from 3 different people. Well, that’s not enough to crush someone’s confidence. A person has friends! But guess what, this is a drama and from afar a k-drama fan smells betrayal a-coming in many forms. We aren’t k-drama fans in name. Okay, I just wrote that straight-faced. Haha!
A person quick to dismiss may say that ahh, it’s the same old kind of conflicts used just to obstruct the heroine’s battle to survive. However reading what I have written above would tell you that 49 Days is in the fantasy genre. With that inclusion, it makes this whole show and its seemingly overused plot devices so unpredictable and heart-stopping-ly good.
The writer had evidently put a lot of heart into this script. The story was well-thought out and there was almost no loophole to it. Every episode, we are given little details here and there to address my questions about the in-between world’s way and rules of…life (? death? a middling?). These scattered information, complemented with the character’s brains and personality, and therefore actions, added to the progression of the whole show. What’s more, each episode (after first 2 eps for me, which were used to introduce the set-up) was fast-paced, sparing me no time to breathe. I just couldn’t stop inhaling the content I was enjoying myself get addicted to. Like what a k-drama druggie would say, ‘seriously good stuff’. Hehe:P Good k-dramas are dope, yo. haha.
So what makes the predictable unpredictable in this show, are its twists and cliff-hangers. The unexpected nature of it just drew me in and you know what curiosity does to me. Whose tears would the heroine get? Will she actually get them? And get them in time? Who is that pretty boy, whose death scheduled got messed up because of our heroine?
Or for those who have watched the show, the best twist for me would have to be when Yi Kyung, whom Ji Hyun is possessing, senses, feels and hears Ji Hyun’s soul (talking). The best cliff-hanger? Yi Kyung spouting out Min Ho’s name, when she clearly has no idea who Min Ho was. If I were among the ones watching the show the minute it aired.. Oh no. The mere thought of it, sent chills down my spine. I’d rather have my growing list of must-watch then be flailing like a fish out of water, without an episode in sight!
[ The characters and their actors/actresses]
Nam Gyu Ri as Shin Ji Hyun, is the heroine I’ve mentioned so many times. She comes from a wealthy household, has loving parents and lives like a princess. On top of that, she’s getting married to fiancé, Minho (Bae Su Bin). Maybe it’s because of all those years being protected that she becomes too naïve for her own good. To earn a living for this period, she finds a job at a friend’s cafeteria. One of the things I liked was Ji Hyun’s character growth, giving a nice additional arc to this story. As the show goes on, she has to face the harsh truths hidden from her for years and gradually grows more mature and obvious of the things happening around her. But the thing with her character’s ditzy-ness is that its impact is downplayed by nam gyu ri’s voice. For some reason, that ballad-y soulful voice nam gyu ri has, makes her ji hyun sound mature rather than bubbly and oblivious. However, as soul Ji Hyun, Nam Gyu Ri has this Barbie doll look and so, her face actually fits the ethereal character she is playing most of the time. Her acting was on the ok side for me because most of it was done by Lee Yo Won. Haha.
Lee Yo Won is therefore the body that Ji Hyun possesses. So in terms of acting, Lee Yo Won had to play dual roles – Yi-Kyung-mode and soul-mode. As Yi Kyung, Lee Yo Won plays her mopey, lifeless, midnight-job worker exceptionally well. It’s as if you can literally feel that all the zest she had for her life before got zapped out of her and she’s sick and tired that she still has to live on. True to character, Yi Kyung’s attempted suicide, which by coincidence or not, made Ji Hyun’s 49 days a greater possibility.
As ji-hyun-possessed, I couldn’t immediately accept lee yo won’s portrayal of her. I mean yes, I know ji hyun is supposed to be a hyper bimbo but then, the amount of time seeing ji hyun in person was not long enough to fully get her character. We know she’s a cry baby that hops around soon after like the optimistic bunny she is. But then again, a character set-up for a drama like 49 days is important. Lee yo won’s portrayal had the tendency to go overboard with the childish but after a while I got used to it and watch the show take its course. I especially loved the scene where Ji Hyun in Yi Kyung’s body was trying to act like Yi Kyung when you could totally tell it’s ji hyun. [I did find her psychologist freakin open here. Isn’t there some doctor’s code saying you aren’t allowed to tell anybody about your patients and their medical records? ]
And who plays that egoistic, guitar-playing pretty-boy reaper? Jung Il Woo! haha. Jung Il Woo puts up a great performance as a reaper/scheduler, who has nothing but irritation and impatience for Ji Hyun and her seeming lack of brain juice. He was so funny! However as we watch on, he does develop platonic-friend feelings for her and also finds out what kind of past he had, with Ji Hyun’s help. Ha. What a nice twist. In another interesting incident of fate, he is revealed to be Yi Kyung’s ex-boyfriend (song yi soo) who passed away years ago. The two had a huge fight and he had an accident, thus leaving the world without the chance to resolve their differences. Sigh, and he was looking at his ex this whole time, though with ji hyun controlling her. As for Jung Il Woo’s acting, he pulled this shinigami character off really well (serious when he needs to be) and I have never seen him in anything prior to 49 days. Who said pretty boys can’t act? Heh:p
Jo Hyun Jae is then Han Kang/Kang-ah, Ji Hyun’s high school friend but somehow they aren’t on good terms at the start of the show. He owns a cafeteria, where ji hyun finds work at, but his profession is an architect. He has a gruff personality that hides his inner marshmallow heart. (Too cute!) As the show goes on, we see that he actually harbours a crush on Ji Hyun and becomes the one who gives the first tear. The best part about Kang ah was him being sharp enough to realise who ‘Yi Kyung’ really is and then help her along the way. I haven’t seen JHJ anywhere before so I can only say that my first impression of him was good. Kang ah~
Bae Su Bin is Ji Hyun’s scheming fiancé, Kang Min Ho. Everything he did was to worm his way into ji hyun’s dad’s company and then slowly plot to trick her dad into giving him the company. His accomplice is none other than Ji Hyun’s close friend, Shin In Jung. Their affair was seen by Ji Hyun which actually had a hand in Ji Hyun’s accident. Karma’s a bitch. Way to use that in a show using Buddhist beliefs. What is ironic for Min Ho is that he begins to fall for the ji hyun in yi kyung. I guess with Ji Hyun quickly finally finding out what kind of person min ho is, her personality towards him turned so bad that he got attracted to her. Hmm..masochist. lol. But I did actually find bae su bin fitting in this role. I saw him in Temptation of an Angel for a bit when it was on the TV and his eyes, so INTENSE!! Although he was the baddy here, I actually cried when he had his last talk with mom, before hitting the slammer. I do like bae su bin acting bad, but I also yearn to see him acting as a nice person in a show. 2012 was films for him, sadly.
Shin In Jung, is played by Seo Ji Hye, whom I think did an okay job. Her character was quite complex and complicated. If I am not mistaken, she wasn’t the least bit happy after Ji Hyun’s parents took her in and often gave her the shorter end of the stick. All that dissatisfaction accumulated, allowing Min Ho and her to plot against the Shin family. I did pity her when we see Min Ho slowly falling for Ji Hyun’s death rays.
Last but not least is Ji Hyun’s other friend Park Seo Woo, a role taken up by Bae Geu Rin (You’re Beautiful fanclub pres), who rounds up the cast. If I remember correctly, she’s pretty loyal to Ji Hyun and so when she found out that Min Ho and In Jung were together, she had no qualms about cutting their friendship ties. I did like seeing Bae Geu Rin playing a more understated character here.
The other actors like Ji Hyun’s parents and Kang Ah’s cafe staff were alright too:D
[honourable melodramatic mentions: Pictures galore warning.]
My heart goes all out to scheduler and Yi Kyung couple. I totally got my heart and eyes into a bad shape after seeing these two. Their relationship was awesome-ly compelling that I must be a masochist to say this: the melo here, was satisfying-ly good. I loved that we weren’t rushed into things, but that each time we see a little and take in a little of their relationship and gradually, nothing became something: Yi Kyung wasting herself away, psychologist and ji hyun revealing a little of her before-depression, their blissful high school time, Yi Soo’s death, Yi soo remembering, their last date. All of this led up to an epic final goodbye, leaving me in tears I thought were already used up.
The other mention is Ji Hyun’s knowledge of her 6 days death countdown. Her death is sure to kill emotionally. But that’s not the worse in my opinion. After overcoming her 49-day ordeal, it’s shocking to hear she’s going to die. Like what the hell? Could anything be worse than be given the death sentence when she just escaped death ? Like just seconds away? Of course there is! Her parents’ ignorant bliss! When I was watching that part, my tears couldn’t stop flowing. The moment I knew Ji Hyun was doing everything to make them happy, knowing full well that it wasn’t going to last, crushed my heart to bits. And yet I can’t help feeling warm and happy for the Shin family. Gahh..
You know, for a show that has been doing so well on the acting and content, we all thought the last episode would be a smooth ride, taking us a notch down to give a nicely rounded up closure to all the things that have happened. But nope. The last episode needed one more convoluted revelation of how Yi Kyung is Ji Hyun’s older sister, that I think was unnecessary. Okay, we saw Yi Kyung in episode 18 see something on comatose Ji Hyun (not resolved?) and then have grandmother scheduler explaining the reason yi kyung could see, sense and hear ji hyun. But it was so ridiculously done and rushed that the last episode left a bad taste. It was so obvious that the writer or director was finding content space to insert a little here and there to justify that Yi Kyung was related to Ji Hyun. Rushing, can mess up big time. Her whole abandonment backstory lacked any sense of reason and backfired. However that wasn’t the only thing. I thought episode 20 was also lagging behind in terms of development, speed, logic and plot. How could you writer-nim and director-nim?! How could you!! (This reminds me of HK’s Bottled Passion finale. Omg.)
As for the other sub-plots, I think Min Ho’s and In Jung’s plan to takeover dad’s company was complicated for me. One minute it’s haemido, the other a shell company. My brain was calling for DB recaps. Haha.
To me, 49 days is one of the best melodramas around. I loved almost everything about the show – the OSTs, which were timed perfectly according to the scene, allowing each song to have its moments to shine, the smart characters, the great cast and the writing.
Without a doubt, I recommend 49 days. This show is definitely worth the watch, sans the last episode. But I did think that the ending monologue and tree-planting was an optimistic closure to this melodrama.
I initially felt that the writer was being cruel to Ji Hyun. But then people pointed out that she was going to die eventually and these 49 days (+6) were a gift for her. If not for what has happened, the villains would not have come to realise and regret their actions and Ji Hyun would still be frolicking in obliviousness. This also meant that she may not have been able to grow up, salvage matters and learn a whole lot of things in the process.
Who knew that the ‘dead’ in this drama, would be the one doing things for the living instead such that the living are the ones moving on like they were the souls who have received prayers and are preparing to leave once their 49 days are over? Come to think of it, could the 49 days actually be referring to the family and friends?
Let’s leave this review with happy thoughts, shall we?
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed this lengthy post. Sorry for the overload on pictures..again..heh:P
Credits to dramabeans for some of the pictures:D