TYPE OF REVIEW : GOOD OL’ REVIEW
tvN’s fantasy romcom The Heavenly Idol (성스러운 아이돌 /Holy Idol) is an appealing mix of exciting fantasy and fun, amusing character-driven story. Kim Min Kyu and Go Bo Gyeol lead a solid cast through a familiar, yet refreshing story. And interesting twists on those familiar themes allow for the series to be a thoroughly enjoyable ride.
Kim Min Kyu is Rembrary, a high priest in the Other World who uses his divine power to fight off Mawang or The Evil One, a devil threatening to rule the world once again after a hundred years. But just when Rembrary has gained the upper hand in the battle, he suddenly finds himself on Earth in the body of K-pop idol Woo Yeon Woo, a member of the group Wild Animal.
Rembrary must now struggle to adjust to life as idol Yeon Woo while trying to figure out a way to return to his own world, especially with evil forces suddenly threatening both worlds. In this present world, Rembrary meets Kim Dal (Go Bo Gyeol) a former talent manager who credits Yeon Woo for helping her to find the will to live. After applying to become road manager for the struggling Wild Animal, the initially skeptical Dal soon becomes one of the few people who knows of Rembrary’s true identity. And together, they work to find a way to save the world while also saving the careers of the group.
Touching upon both the highs of the K-pop industry as well as the absurd lows that are sometimes revealed to the public, The Heavenly Idol‘s interesting blend of drama, comedy, action and romance allows it to easily fill its 12 episodes with engaging story. The overarching plot of a supernatural battle between good and evil provides the unique twist to stories surrounding the always-dramatic world of Korean entertainment.
The series actually starts off maybe a bit too quickly-paced. But once it settles down, the ensemble cast of characters are able to take the wheel and guide the story to what is ultimately a satisfying and climactic conclusion.
The Heavenly Idol doesn’t take itself too seriously. And that ends up being a good thing. That’s not to say it lacks depth. But the series is able to manage its tone, allowing it to properly give each facet of the story its deserved focus. Even if you wished they could slow down and let things breathe sometimes.
The series’ fascinating use of religion and faith is perhaps its most striking twist. And they use religion not in a way to criticize or promote, but merely to offer up the refreshing change of pace for familiar stories. At the same time, the series vaguely touches upon idol culture in Korean entertainment. Presenting both the good and the bad in the passionate following of Korean celebrities, especially in K-pop, the series’ lighthearted tone is deftly able to touch upon such critiques without feeling heavy-handed.
And it is that lighthearted tone that helps the series remain an enjoyable experience throughout. The right amount of good character moments power the narrative. And again, that is alongside the supernatural and more fantastical elements of the story which unfold in way that makes the climactic final episodes all the more impactful and surprising.
The one major criticism I would point out is not having more opportunities to focus on the idol group Wild Animal. Though the other four members of the group get short, but well-done focus for their own character moments, seeing their lives as struggling artists would have been really interesting to see. Especially when relating to how Rembrary amusingly tries to adjust to life as Yeon Woo. Having a few more on stage performances too would’ve been fun.
But the main focus of the series is certainly Rembrary as Yeon Woo. Aside from the relationship with Kim Dal (more on that in a bit), the series’ most fun and heartfelt moments are when Rembrary as Yeon Woo connects with his fellow Wild Animal members. It is through those interactions that the series tackles the difficulties of K-pop idols that the public may or may not regularly see. And being able to put a face and a story to idols that are sometimes seen merely as commodities is a very good thing.
Kim Min Kyu and Go Bo Gyeol share a fun and charming chemistry. Though romance blossoms later in the series, it is the fan-idol dynamic that powers the early part of the story. And it is their chemistry that helps make the foundation-laying for the story effective. Go Bo Gyeol gets a well-deserved first lead role. After many supporting performances, a lot of which are more antagonistic roles, Go Bo Gyeol rises to the occasion and proves she is more than ready to take the lead herself. As Kim Dal, she must balance a confidence with vulnerability and past trauma. And Go Bo Gyeol does that very well while also fostering the chemistry with Kim Min Kyu.
The Heavenly Idol is an interesting follow-up project for Kim Min Kyu after the success of Business Proposal. But as Rembrary and Yeon Woo, he is able to display his effortless charm and charisma. It’s easy to connect with the character(s) he plays here. Whether it’s the dramatic supernatural action, quiet emotional moments, sweet romance or even broad comedy, Kim Min Kyu has no problem delivering. He is able to maximize the potential of Rembrary’s fish out of water dynamic with fun and endearing scenes. Though this is not the kind of career-defining lead role, Kim Min Kyu nonetheless showcases why he more than has a place as one of the most talented young actors today.
Kim Min Kyu and Go Bo Gyeol lead a solid ensemble cast that perhaps could’ve gotten even more material with a few more episodes. Of the supporting cast, Lee Jang Woo definitely plays up his role as the devil and is an effective antagonist. But the tight story does hold him and other characters back from their full potential. Though again, not holding back the overall enjoyment of the series.
Ultimately, The Heavenly Idol is a fun ride. It is a breezy 12 episode series that gives just enough to make for a complete and satisfying experience. A charming, solid cast works hand-in-hand with the familiar, though refreshing story. Though there is missed potential, there is enough depth and sincerity to help elevate the series to be more than just “another one of those.” And instead, The Heavenly Idol is indeed a wonderfully fun and exciting series.