There have been some excellent Korean dramas this year. Some of them have been very ambitious (Nine) while others tense and dramatic (Shark, That Winter the Wind Blows).
Which is why I enjoyed tvN’s Who Are You. It was a light romantic drama with a mini-procedural aspect, a little bit of suspense and a touch of the supernatural.
But while it was a perfectly fine 16 episodes, I still wish it was something more.
Who Are You tells the story of Yang Si Ohn (So Yi Hyun), a detective who wakes up from a six-year coma after getting caught in the crossfire of a stakeout her then-boyfriend Lee Hyung Joon (Kim Jae Wook) was a part of and was killed in.
She wakes up with no memory of that night or of Hyung Joon, but she quickly learns she can now see dead people. Getting reassigned to the Lost and Found department to ease her way back into the force, she meets Cha Gun Woo (Ok Taecyeon), a young detective serving out his punishment for minor misconduct. And while the two aren’t exactly friendly at first, they grow closer as they work together to help get justice for the spirits who appear to Si Ohn for help.
And one of those spirits is Hyung Joon himself who does what he can to protect Si Ohn and to point her in the right direction to bring the people who killed him and put her in a coma to justice.
But of course, there are twists and turns that keep things interesting along the way.
The spirit-of-the-week procedural aspect worked very well to both ease Si Ohn into this new “power” of hers while helping explain her situation which would in turn build up to a full conclusion. Helping ghosts find peace is definitely a different and refreshing take on the standard crime procedural. But Who Are You only managed a few cases over the 16 episodes.
The rest of the police work was spent on the greater arc that involved, of course, police and government corruption. While the majority of the series focused on the developing love triangle between Si Ohn, Gun Woo and ghost Hyung Joon.
Who Are You was a slowburn, slowly unraveling details of “that night” and the truth behind it. We were finding out the truth just as Si Ohn was and in that sense, was a journey we were hopping along for. We watched as Si Ohn regained her memory while adjusting to her third eye and struggling with opening her heart again.
And it was an interesting and enjoyable journey. But looking back at the series when finished, you can’t help but think it had so much potential to be more. More suspenseful. More scary. More action-packed. More romantic.
Deeper. They had an opportunity to get deep with ideas about moving on and dealing with loss without being depressing or morbid. There were times when the series got emotional whenever Si Ohn is able to give peace to the souls she meets. But at the same time, you wanted more.
Just, more everything really. But it seems like the series almost didn’t have enough, judging from the syrupy sweet final episode 16.
It is a shame the series’ full potential wasn’t tapped, especially when it assembled a fine cast.
I enjoyed So Yi Hyun with Lee Jin Wook on Before & After: Plastic Surgery and was happy to watch a drama with her again. She was a fine lead, but the material sadly held her back. Many times Si Ohn would be fearless and strong, but most of the time we saw her as weak and overwhelmed with her emotions. We could have seen more of Si Ohn adjusting to life after being in a coma for six years as well as a more developed look at her struggle to let go. The final episodes showed what could have been had the writing been there the entire series.
Being a ghost, Kim Jae Wook’s Hyung Joon could not talk to anyone but the shaman (Hee Bin played by Kim Ye Won), so it was his job to convey emotion with just his face. But the script really didn’t call for Hyung Joon to show much emotion in the first place. The scenes where Kim Jae Wook did get to say lines were all happy moments in flashbacks with Si Ohn. Perfectly nice and sweet, but again, another missed opportunity for a really great performance from Kim Jae Wook.
But for Ok Taecyeon, this might have been his best role to date. After being completely wasted in Cinderella’s Sister and then given a stiff role in Dream High 2, his role as Gun Woo here allowed him to be more loose and natural. And while he can easily pull off the “beastly” concepts of 2PM, he is actually a naturally energetic guy in real life. Gun Woo is a young, eager detective, sometimes cocky but well-meaning. And once he starts falling for Si Ohn, he loosens up while still able to kick ass when he needs to. Taecyeon’s last two Korean drama roles were limiting, whereas his role as Gun Woo allowed him to be more versatile and to finally show he is also a promising young talent.
In spite of the lack of deeper material, the chemistry was still there for the entire cast. There was the romantic chemistry between So Yi Hyun and Kim Jae Wook as well as So Yi Hyun and Taecyeon. There was the mentor-student chemistry between Taecyeon and Kim Chang Wan’s Choi Moon Shik. And there was the great team camaraderie between So Yi Hyun, Taecyeon and the promising No Young Hak (Shark) and Oh Hee Joon.
And while it is disappointing to have wasted such a good cast, Who Are You was still a thoroughly enjoyable 16 episodes. The story was solid and had a clear beginning, middle and end that all made sense and was wrapped up with a nice little bow. A very sweet, romantic bow at that. It would have been great to have seen more depth and maybe more thrilling suspense, but Who Are You is perfectly fine as it is.