Top 10 K-Dramas of 2017

Thanks to the massive success of W Two Worlds, Goblin, and Legend of the Blue Sea, Korean dramas in the fantasy genre are on the rise. Another trend that I’m seeing is the noona-dongsaeng love angle becoming more popular with the age gap getting wider and wider. I’m not sure how wide I can tolerate but it’s all good so far.  There are a lot of great series this year. Here are my Top 10 picks. As usual, the only criterion is my level of enjoyment.

#1 While You Were Sleeping

A fated encounter between a girl who can see the future through her dreams and a prosecutor who might be able to change the future

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Law

* I’m biased. I admit reserving the top spot for this drama all year. I’m a huge fan of Lee Jong Suk and writer Park Hye-run’s work. First two episodes in and I already knew this drama lives up to the hype. Creatively utilizing a stream of consciousness mode of storytelling, it’s a drama that playfully mixes memories, dream sequences, and reality. I’m not worried about Suzy’s inability to express emotion through her face because I’m confident that Lee Jong Suk will carry this drama to greatness.

#2 Save Me

A psychological thriller about a mischievous bunch trying to save a girl and her family from a pseudo-religious cult

Genre: Psychological, Suspense, Drama

* This drama has earned a spot in my all-time favorites list although I felt that they could’ve given it a better ending. It was convenient how all the conflict suddenly converged at Guseonwon. The writers have given Sang Hwan every opportunity to reestablish himself as the male lead in this episode. He had to literally save everybody. There wasn’t enough catharsis either. I felt the villains deserved worse. Things started to go downhill the moment Dong Cheol voluntarily stayed behind to let Sang Hwan go and save Sang Mi. It felt unnatural. Obviously, an external force a.k.a. the writers made this happen. All this time Dong Cheol was doing most of the work and was interacting with Sang Mi the most. Honestly, he was better off as the male lead. They really downplayed him in the end. Anyway, that’s how it is. The ending wasn’t that bad nor was it great. At least, this drama really showcased Woo Do Hwan’s potential as an actor. Surely, there are great things ahead of him.

This drama didn’t need supernatural elements to be scary. The theme itself is intriguing and disturbing. I could only watch re-runs in the mornings because I’m too scared to watch it at night. It is one of those series that I really looked forward to new episodes every week. The production was topnotch. I liked how the colors were always grim and dark even when they shot morning scenes. The background music perfectly set the eerie mood. The cast was excellent. I also liked how there’s a reversal of roles and how it aggravated the sense of helplessness among the characters. People like the police, religious leaders, and politicians who were supposedly the ‘good guys’ since we go to them for help and protection are actually the bad guys, while the stereotypical bad guy personas like corrupt officials, ex-convicts, drop-outs, psychiatric ward patients, and nobodies get to save the day.  It is beautiful how it depicts humans in shades of gray.

#3 Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

It is a cute love triangle between a girl with superhuman strength, his childhood crush who is now a cop, and the young CEO of the gaming company that she is dying to join. The trio work together to solve a serial kidnapping case of young women in their district.

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Mystery

* Do Bong Soon is  adorable. I just love capable female leads. The story is light and sweet but is not dumbed down at all. It’s a good romcom for drama newbies. Storyline and characterization are good. The OST is catchy. However, what is most memorable is Jang Mi-Kwan’s portrayal of the psychotic criminal. No one expected such a hottie behind that creepy mask. He totally set the new trend of extremely handsome drama villains. Although Lee Soo-Hyuk may have started it with his character, Gwi, from the Scholar Who Walks the Night, he wasn’t as effective as Jang Mi-Kwan.

#4 Lookout

The surviving relatives of victims of injustice team up to take down criminals who weren’t punished by the law. The team consists of a priest, a detective, a prosecutor, a hacker, and a CCTV expert.

Genre: Action, Politics, Crime

* The overall plot is predictable but the characters and their back stories are interesting enough to want to watch it. They are an interesting mix. There were subtle hints to a potential pairing but it wasn’t developed enough. To me, this drama is all about the OST.  Watchman of Dawn (새벽의 파수꾼) by Kebee is the perfect ending theme. I searched everywhere for this song immediately after I first heard it but to no avail. No one could tell me the title of the song or the artist who performed it until a month after the drama ended. I’ll always remember it as the mystery song.

#5 Hospital Ship

A slice of life drama about the life of the doctors and staff on the hospital ship.

Genre: Medical, Melodrama, Romance

* This was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect this to be good but I was hooked. It bumped off dramas in my Top 10 this year. Kang Min Hyuk proved to be worthy male lead material. He held his own very well alongside seasoned actress Ha Ji Won. The breathtaking views and the lovable characters make up for its cliche plot. It also has that laid-back, island  feels, which brings an air of innocence and purity.

#6 Suspicious Partner

A group of lawyers and prosecutors chase after a psychopath, serial murderer

Genre: Law, Romance, Mystery

* The villain, played by Dong Ha, was more interesting than the protagonists. His character had depth. His acting was compelling. The whole story revolved around him and his back story. One of the better parts was when Go Chan-Ho was first groomed to be the murderer. I thought the Strong Woman Do Bong Soon trend of having good-looking villains rubbed off on this too. Well, Dong Ha isn’t bad either. Oh, the plot twist at the end was great by the way.

#7 Reunited Worlds

A high school student who dies from a car accident and gets accused of murder comes back to life 12 years later with super human senses.

Genre: Family, Romance, Fantasy

* It is a heartwarming melodrama with fantasy elements. The noona-dongsaeng tension at the start was good but became cheesy as the story progressed. The ending didn’t make  sense. I wasn’t sure if it was only symbolic that Hae Sung reappeared at the end. It could mean that he will forever be with Jung Won in spirit because she keeps him in her heart. Or was it literal? Did he really come back…again? If so, that makes no sense. It defeats the essence of the whole plot. Now that I think about it, Hae Sung’s super senses didn’t even play a significant role in the story. This drama has its own charm but I guess it ended with a lot of plot holes.

#8 The Liar and His Lover

It is a straight-forward love story between a genius music composer for a famous band and a high school girl with a golden voice.

Genre: Romance, Music, Melodrama

* This is based on the Japanese manga,  Kanojo wa Uso o Aishisugiteru by Kotomi Aoki. There is nothing complicated about this. It is a light, feel-good chick flick. The actors are relatively new so the whole drama feels fresh. The songs are nice. I added Crude Play’s In Your Eyes, and Joy’s Shiny Boy to my playlist. Lee Seo-Won and Kim Sung-Joo from Uniq, the Chinese-Korean idol group, are the new actors from this series to watch out for.

#9 Criminal Minds

It follows the cases handled by the National Criminal Investigation.

Genre: Mystery, Action, Suspense

* It is a great adaptation of the American series. They picked out cases with psychopath culprits with a sob story. It started out with a bang but slowly became boring towards the end. I guess you can blame it partly on the law of diminishing returns. Anyway, the actors did their characters justice. It was fresh to see Lee Joon-Ki take on a role outside the period drama genre.

#10 Introverted Boss

An introverted CEO of a public relations company falls in love with his loud, obnoxious employee, who is the younger sister of his deceased former secretary.

Genre: Romance, Comedy, Business

* Finally a series that deals with this theme at the forefront. I like how they depicted the challenges introverts as well as the people who try to relate to them face everyday. It also brought to light how some workplaces and even society in general is somewhat biased against introverts. It’s cute how socially awkward Eun Hwang Ki is and how greatly misunderstood he is by people around him. I don’t care so much about the female lead. This series is all about Eun Hwang Ki and his superb (and hidden) dancing skills.

Honorable Mention:

7 First Kisses
Go Back Couple

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