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[Guest Review] "Emergency Couple" 1-10

2014/04/26 | 2425 views | Permalink

[WARNING: If you even suspect you might suffer a brain aneurysm if someone suggested that the prime couple in a romantic drama should not be reunited at the end of a series, particularly this one. I strongly suggest you skip this post.]

Fairly recently I watched two Korean dramas that seemed to hold promise in their cast selection and in their probable scenarios. However, long before the end of each I was sorely disappointed. I considered both outright failures albeit for differing reasons. So these and other experiences color my views of the "Emergency Couple", perhaps just a bit unfairly.

Here is a generic listing of my complaints about the failings of too many Korean romantic comedy / dramas:

I have watched too many bad Korean dramas, seen too many lame plot lines filled with inconsistent actions. Add in illogical, vile and out of context speeches that are not character driven. When a character's motivations seem to be absent or devoid of any logic other than the writer's need for a plot twist to prolong a weak story line I lose patience. Moreover, when this happens repeatedly in the same series my desire to forgive is worn thin. Furthermore, when there are just too many extremely mean spirited exchanges (forgotten by the writers) real people would have long ago severed all connections. So where does this leave the story of star crossed lovers? Burnt out before reaching the surface or an impact crater which will be soften and worn away by weather and by time. Or the Korean cliche of their meeting in another lifetime. Were it not for commercial reasons, i.e. due to fans demanding their fantasies be met, many if not most star crossed lovers would have gone their separate ways.

[Warning spoilers, skip if you have not watched these series: "The Prime Minister and I" and "My Love from the Star".]

Now getting to the specifics of those creating my jaundice views.  

The first, "The Prime Minister and I" where I found myself continually asking questions about the scenarios. The core problem was there were too abundant adjunct characters and subplots thrown in seemingly at random whose presence were not really justified and were not satisfactorily resolved by the writers, respectively. Another major flaw was making the mother the more fit guardian of her children when she abandoned both the marriage and the children. Prior to that, she was presumed dead as a result of a car accident that turned her extramarital lover into a vegetable. On what basis did the Prime Minister's enemies decide he killed her and thus were seeking revenge? Got me, never figured that one out.

At the conclusion where one was supposed to speculate how the romance finally evolved even though the writers were too obviously unfit to write such a story line themselves, I had already lost all interest. I. on the other hand, was asking where did female lead get the funds to support her new book writing career when previously she was borderline destitute working for a gossip rag to pay her father's medical bills. All this represents a gross failure of the story by the writer(s).

The second, "My Love from the Star" strained my ability from the start to suppress my disbelief. The question that arose very early, first what long term relationship could be built between a very attractive, narcissistic bimbo and a super intelligent extraterrestrial being? Her being a pet? Just the intellectual capacity difference between the two should doom anything coupling other than basic animal attraction, which would not survive long term. Moreover the superpowers were too much and too diverting and ironically made the extraterrestrial seem incompetent. Finally, the last episodes were overworked and were not convincing in my eyes. Again, the plot line was too limp to support the finale. Instead I saw two very attractive individuals mouthing memorized lines in a purported model of domestic bliss. They just lost me.

However, if it were an absolute necessity that these two had to be linked permanently I would have written main male character differently in ways that could be supported by his actions already depicted in the series. That is, instead him having great intellectual powers he is dunce, i.e. just along as a mascot. Despite being part of a brainy group of extraterrestrials he is definitely on the lower end of the curve. He has minimal attention span and gets into trouble repeatedly without just cause. Here is one killer example, inexplicable he wanders off from his expedition, hence, is left on his own for 400 years. That in my eyes defines a screw up. Moreover, when both the alpha couple see she is in danger they both pay no heed. Indeed he even neglects to examine evidence that could have protected her if he only bothered to review its contents in a timely fashion. I will not bother to bore you further with other obvious reasons this series does not hold together as written and played out. While they are an attractive couple, the plot does not suffice to suspend one's disbelief to the breaking point.

[If you are both a rabid fan and still reading, you can comfort yourself in the realization that despite my arguments the series, ""Emergency Couple"", has been long completed. Thus, my view would have no weight and one thing most series creators do not do is disappoint* their fans, except when they are utterly incompetent, which is not the case here.]

In contrast to the other two above, the "Emergency Couple" could be real. It is extreme only with their tempestuous coupling and their raucous breakup. As a result, one should view any possible avenue to reconciliation as nil to none if neither one nor both do not alter their personalities radically. However, whatever the odds their reconnecting the story line's credibility is strained when coincidences are pushed to the breaking point in the second episode.

The timing of their reencounter was too convenient and contrived to be realistic. Who could accept unknowingly performing together at the same wedding party? Really? Then their headed to the same hospital / medical facility for their professional training in a medical specialty are coincidences beyond probability. Indeed the male lead should have been ahead of his ex. by at least a year, if not more. In drama the audience is expected to suppress their disbelief. However, there is a limit and the writers exceeded theirs. Not a good start at all.

Let's begin where I think we might agree has to be a reasonable set of expectations given the story as it was laid out in the first two episodes. I began with the assumption the writers probably intended to reunite this couple at the end of the series despite the formidable barrier imposed by their horrific, terminal breakup. To do so we should be able to accept the negative aspects predominate at least initially. Moreover, despite what should be near absolute pessimism that they can be pulled together they should have some residual positive memories of each other. Indeed against all outside forces and obstacles they eloped and were married for a period. Nonetheless, we would expect these negative and positive aspects of their respective memories of each other should be out of sync and it played out that way mostly through what should be the first half of the series.

To me the softer feelings by the alpha couple for one another arose too early. Moreover, the turning point for the male lead rang a very false note. While he with some validity rejected crediting her efforts to save his life, he was angry because she created the situation that put his life in danger. However, his tipping point seems predicated on the tender care she showed his mother when she was hospitalized.

My reasons for being this cynical here are simple. While his mother is shown both explicitly and implicitly complaining about her former daughter-in-law and by having her complaints played back to his mother by her relatives, respectively, there was not a single scene depicting generosity towards his ex-wife by his mother. Moreover, the mother's lust for status and respect seems to have permanently precluded her accepting the former daughter-in-law. So at the minimum the female lead could have endured a continuous stream of verbal abuse. If you doubt it, just recall the first scenes where this couple were outrunning goons hired to stop their wedding. Who sent them? Hint, it wasn't the father-in-law.

After the outburst of tenderness more ambiguous events were unfolding through the episodes where the motivations of each character in showing what could be interpreted as concern for the other were more likely twisted by their dysfunctional personalities. Consider how they worked as a team saving of a life under extreme circumstances, which went from elation with the patient's survival to defeat when the patient did not survive surgery. This shifted the story to the organizational need to find a culprit to sacrifice. Each tried to play that role. In the case of the male it could be too easily seen as his not wanting to sully his reputation of having "Golden Hands" mistakenly believed by his peers. On the other hand, the female lead's expectation of receiving and perhaps deserving abuse could underlie her insistence of being the the scapegoat [i.e. taking responsibility].  

Neither's motives seem pure concern for the other. My reading of the motives would primarily be selfish for both. That is, the male lead fearing the loss of his high image of himself and the female lead would lose her belief in her worth that is unfairly disparaged routinely. Regarding the latter, she would now lose the positive response she received from the senior resident heading emergency medicine. Thus, even though she would probably be expelled from the program this year she could retain her sense of self worth. I see no altruistic concern for the other party by either of the leads.

Once it is set that the female lead is responsible and retribution is in the works the situation becomes more confused. The male lead's behind the scenes action seems to compromise his values when he used family political connections to protect her. On the surface this appears to be a selfless action indicating he is perhaps in love with her again. But it is much too early and she has not shown any reciprocal visible feelings toward him. I am wondering if the writer(s) is / are confused or this is a simple minded ploy to fulfill fans' wishes that the best looking couple is reunited. Not a total bomb, but certainly suspect.

In my view, other possible alternative "Emergency Couple"s exist within the main cast of characters that should be considered. I see at least three other plausible pairings with one being the more credible than all the rest. The best written so far is the ex-wife and the resident head of emergency medicine. They seem to have real regard for one another. That is, real respect for the other's worth as a professional and as a person. I think the senior resident sees both her medical skills and her idealism he once shared that led to his near forfeit of his career. This pairing seems more adult and holds the best promise of a realistic long term relationship. And unlike the alpha pairing more is at play than simple physical attraction.  

However, the writer(s) have set trip wires to potentially destroy this pairing. The sick child residing in the U.S. could be played out as the result of the returned junior faculty member of a mis-match in the U.S. where she married too quickly. Now she believes only the senior resident and her are the right match. A more probable scenario would be the cheesy, easier method to say it's his child where responsibility kicks killing match of the ex-wife and senior resident. Otherwise even the subset of rational fans would question why the head resident and ex-wife would reject the other.

While this scenario of pairing these erstwhile peers would make a more than satisfactory "Emergency Couple", it would not satisfy rabid fans. That is, nothing but pure fantasy will suffice for them. Thus, no matter how at odds with logic and how incompatible the couple commercial interests and the writers will paste the alpha couple back together. Nonetheless, to me at least that sort of actions betray quality drama. However, I have seen some series writers handle similar situations in a subversive manner*.

The last possibility I do not think is realistic, particularly at the midpoint of the series; I will be more explicit near the end of this review. If the ex-husband paired with the glamorous fellow intern who skipped her blind dates, they might make a fabulously good looking couple, but very ill matched pair. Realistically, their marriage would would not last. Indeed, I am troubled by the alpha male's characterization. For someone extremely at ease with the opposite sex he seems to have had no lasting long term relationships for over six years. Moreover, his trading his social skill for easing his life as an intern not for well being of others exhibits his basic disinterest. I could not suppress the sense that this is really indicative of a personality that either he does not care for or he has low regard for women.

My viewing of this series, at least temporarily, halted at episode 10. Examining the plot points made at that juncture led me to believe the male lead's pursuit of his ex-wife degraded to no more than a personal challenge fortified by jealousy. Some of his actions are juvenile, e.g. stealing the jacket she gave to the senior resident. Others actions are selfish and careless in the extreme, which are only meant to meet his own needs exclusively. I perceive no love for his ex-wife other than the one he exhibited at the conclusion of the wedding scene, i.e. his sex drive and little else.

I was fundamentally appalled with the fraudulent device that ended episode ten. A safety harness flying free in the air like a wet noodle was just too much an unneeded artifice for me to accept. Indeed I wondered what brand of car was being driven, despite its recent vintage, was shown to be a defective. If I were on their governing board I would be examining the trade offs for or against taking legal action against the producers citing defamation. The failure of a basic safety device in such an unrealistic fashion could be argued to be purposeful denigrate with full knowledge of likely consequences to the manufacturer.

On the other hand, were I part of the "creative" team, I would have filmed the scene differently. Nonetheless I could have made the same salient points without the over dramatized repeat shots of an unbelievable occurrence. His picking her up and purposely taking her away from the hospital would have been repeated. However, she would have requested an innocuous stop for a small purchase. Once halted at the curb she then she would have received the call making her want to return to the hospital. Instead he would have pulled away at speed not giving her time to either alight from the vehicle or to fasten her seat belt. She would have persisted in demanding him to stop the car and be let off. He might try to divert her by conversation and advice while carrying her further away. That is, until forced to brake rapidly at the red traffic light where the female lead would be thrown into the dash board to injure her collar bone all sans the seat belt flying uselessly in the air. Only then could she escape.

The completely unnecessary injury the lead inflicted on his ex-mate stems from his focus only upon his needs and wants to the exclusion of any other consideration. Taking stock, at the end of episode 10 - what should have been the half way point, we see a couple even more ill suited for one another than at the time of their first pairing. The male lead is still insufferably self servingly arrogant albeit with glimmers of realization he is not as ideal he visualized himself as. Whereas the female lead she still is ill prepared to stand up and respect herself or fully recognize her own talents, but here too there is an incipient awakening on her part.  

I have the sense that the lead male character requires even more than his sexual pleasure from his mate. I think she must regard him as an ultimate protector and seeing him as being flawless. That is, he wishes to be idolized by his mate with uncritical awe. However, that is a picture he can no longer fully sustain in himself. And on the female side, she no longer needs either total sense of external protection or is she able to view him so uncritically. At this stage they are a toxic mix destined for failure should they pair again.

As I indicated earlier, the pairing of the lead male with the glamours intern would fail for similar reason and perhaps even more destructively, because neither would match their needs in a mate.

In conclusion, the alpha pair have grown further apart to the point where their eventual reuniting seems even more improbable. Were I in control I would opt for the chief resident of emergency medicine and the ex-wife as being the far better match.

The Observer

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* Some I have seen insert sarcasm and allow unexpected pairings while others seem to have the "ideal" endings that contradict other facts. But real fans can ignore facts.

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