TYPE OF REVIEW : HINDSIGHT REVIEW
Major spoilers! Only for those who’ve seen the entire series. For First Impression review, read here.
I was absolutely blown away. For seven episodes of the KBS Drama Special White Christmas (화이트 크리스마스) , it might seem like it is merely a young adult mystery/thriller.
But as the incredible finale showed, the first seven episodes were really the setup to what ended up being a deep, philosophical discussion. It was a psychological thriller, not some murder mystery or teen angst drama. And that alone set it apart from anything you might ever see on Korean television.
White Christmas was edgy. It pushed the envelope. This isn’t your makjang melodrama or your cute romantic comedy. It didn’t just try to be deep and have meaning, it did.
It started out as seven students (plus one) at the nation’s most exclusive and prestigious high school each receiving a threatening note at the start of Christmas vacation, prompting them to stay at school instead of going home for their only annual escape from the school they all called a prison.
But slowly, it turned into a psychological thriller. A stranded doctor (played to chilling perfection by Kim Sang Kyung) who turns out to be a wanted serial killer conducts an experiment on the eight students hoping to find the answer to the question, “Are monsters born or raised?”
He plays the students, turns his experiment into a game, possibly hoping to find justification for his own sins.
All this, only realized in the final two episodes and especially in the stunning finale.
There are shows that revolve around the posing of questions and the search for the answers that maybe never come.
White Christmas subtly posed the question about monsters at the beginning. Little did we know it would be what drives the entire series.
And was it answered at the end? Yup, I’d say so. And in a big way.
Though slightly vague, the ending at the very least presented a provocative answer to the question. Are humans really born monsters, or are monsters created by way of life’s circumstances?
It would appear, maybe neither. There is a monster in everyone, but it is up to each individual to decide whether or not that monster gets let out. The finale presented a moral gray area that very much applies to world events just this past week.
What makes a monster any less of a monster than the next person?
“I won,” Kim Yohan says. Did he? Indeed, maybe in the end, he was successful in awakening the monsters inside the students, monsters that were created by their own parents. Which then presents the argument for “monsters are created.”
But the students posited their own hypothesis, regardless of whether monsters are born or raised, they have the freedom to choose whether or not that monster gets let out. A basic example of free will.
And my mind was blown.
Excellent and thoughtful writing. Beautiful cinematography and creatively meaningful direction.
And most of all, an outstanding young cast. All deserved to be named one by one: Baek Sung Hyun, Kim Young Kwang, Lee Soo Hyuk, Kwak Jung Wook, Hong Jong Hyun, Esom, Kim Hyun Joong, Sung Joon and Lee El.
White Christmas more than surprised me. An incredible, thoroughly satisfying experience. Chilling, haunting, thoughtful, provocative… it’s not every day you see this kind of series on television, let alone a Korean series. Maybe it was that it came out of nowhere that makes the series even that more successful creatively.
I loved it the first seven episodes, but the final 20 minutes of the series, it shot up to claim a spot with my all-time favorites.