"Doctor Stranger" doesn't fancy giving answers, only questions. Park Hoon's presence at Myung Woo University Hospital is a mattern of concern for nearly everyone, good and bad. However, the ambiguity behind each person's reasoning is yet another mystery.
Jae-hee is the predominant mystery. She is clearly working with Jin-soo and "Doctor Stranger" is doing a great job of making her a very dubious character. She's oddly detached from everything as though she is running off of a spoon fed version of her life instead of her own memories. We viewers know her mostly through Hoon's eyes: a smiling, sweet, laughing woman who loved him as desperately as he loved her. She got shot for him. However, for whatever reason (amnesia is at the top of my often used Korean drama reasons), she is working as a spy, willing to give up her life, willing to compromise moral values, and willing to use Hoon to achieve her end goal. That goal is to get him to perform Prime Minister Jang's surgery. Why? Another mystery.
This surgery is key in motivating most major characters. Because of it North Korean agent Jin-soo is sharing information with Prime Minister Jang's bodyguard. Because of it, Jae-joon, Director Oh, Doctor Moon, and many more, are invested in doing the surgery. What is unclear is why Jin-soo and Jae-hee are gunning for Hoon to be at the helm. Perhaps they're planning to use Hoon's overwhelming love for Jae-hee to manipulate him into doing what they want to Prime Minister Jang. But then why would Prime Minister Jang also want him to do his surgery? I appreciate the mystery, but a few more answers would be nice. I feel as tied up as Hoon does.
The Prime Minister is starting to rear his head and he is not a pleasant man. It's morbidly fun to watch Chun Ho-jin take on a mean with a mean spirit since he's normally cast in the sympathetic father/leader positions. He makes an excellent villain. It's also a treat to watch Park Hae-jin play a man with darker intentions. He is a deeply layered actor who can show the emotional complexity required of Han Jae-joon's character. Jae-joon considers himself to be a knight trying to become lord of a castle (the hospital), an appropriate analogy that he often uses. Soo-hyeon is the princess he wishes to win, but he doesn't consider love a reasonable factor in acquiring his ambition's desire so he fights his feelings for her. The best part of Jae-joon's character is in the struggle he has between his cutthroat ambition and his genuine caring for Soo-hyeon. Jealousy of Hoon's new closeness with Soo-hyeon brings out that unwanted, but genuine emotion. Hoon is an obstacle for him in every sense, which will eventually put him at odds with those who endeavor to make Hoon do Prime Minister Jang's surgery.
I really love the relationship between Hoon and Soo-hyeon. It is an alliance (perhaps a tentative friendship) forged by mutual suffering and desperation for love. Soo-hyeon seems to be falling for Hoon because of his single-minded devotion to Jae-hee, and because of the genuine care and concern he showed both her and her mother. It's such a natural way for a woman to fall in love that it fits well in the story despite the crazy way that Hoon ended up in her hospital. In the way that Hoon's genius can diagnose heart problems, he can also detect genuine desire in people, and he sees that Soo-hyeon earnestly wants to help him and opens to her.
That same skill also brings him to hug Jae-hee (who is gallivanting around as Seung-hee and pretending not to know him) to see if he can feel her identity. I like the fact that this skill is hard to believe, but Hoon uses it in more than just fancy doctoring. Jae-hee is the only person who can completely unravel him and shock him out of his nonchalant facade. As she works her way closer to him to undertake her spy mission, he is learning to deal with her presence and unexpected behavior. Lee Jong-suk's ability to change expressions and emotional tension on the drop of a hat is what gives Hoon such great life as he tries to deal with the fact that the woman he's been looking for either doesn't remember him, or, is actually dead and has a living doppelganger.
Although they almost don't fit, the moments of humor in "Doctor Stranger" are welcome. There is a running gag where Dr. Moon gets his nose smashed by a door. This episode, Hoon got hit in the head by a wash basin in a comical turn that served as well-placed comedic relief. What makes the comedy work is the strange amalgamation of personality traits that comprise Hoon's character. Also, that Dr. Moon serves as constant comic relief. Choi Jung-woo is so wonderfully free as a comedian that I'd love to see more of him like this.
In the end, the emotional strength of the story makes up for the incongruities in the storyline. It's highly addicting, fast paced, beautifully shot, and it has a lot of heart. The reasoning behind needing Hoon as a political pawn is shady, but watching Hoon struggle through his pitiable situation more than makes up for it.
Written by Raine from Raine's Dichotomy
Follow on Twitter @raine0211
Journalist, drama lover, and foodie, Lisa enjoys exploring Korea, speaking the language, and soaking in all that dramaland has to offer. Her Korean husband laughs that she knows more than he ever will about dramas and K-pop. Lisa Espinosa can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Doctor Stranger" Episode 6"
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