[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Night Watchman's Journal" Episode 9
By William Schwartz | Published on
Well, apparently the whole thing with the fire ghosts was just an elaborate excuse to have the characters do a fight and rescue in the fire. This episode Sadam is right to using a whole new weapon- ghost assassinations. No, not like before, when he had a ghost kill someone. No, now he's having ghosts or spirits possess people, making them kill other people, making more ghosts, which go in a jar for some reason I'm not even going to bother trying to suss out.
I'd like to care about this, I really would. The problem is even our actual main characters don't seem to be particularly interested in what Sadam's doing. Nobody is outside from the other villain. Was it a common thing in Josen-era for multiple random crimes of passion to take place at the same time? The body count in this drama as a whole is pretty problematic. If nothing else it makes our lead characters look pretty incompetent for not even making an effort to try and stop it.
So what are they doing instead? Well, mostly they're solving mysteries that were never particularly engaging in the first place. Remember when Sang-heon was given a lengthy introduction in the first episode? Well, no, because the drama didn't seem to think that explaining who he was and where he came from was particularly important. Sang-heon was the guy who knew how to physically fight ghosts. What more explanation did we need?
Apparently a lot. This is another big problem with "The Night Watchman's Journal". The exposition. We really should be done with exposition heavy episodes by now. Exposition is the worst possible thing to have in a story filled with this many plot holes, because it just begs the question of why the drama isn't answering any of the questions that we actually care about.
For a sense of perspective, I did wonder about the handmaiden that got killed a few episodes ago for no real reason, but only in the context of trying to understand how anything in this drama functions in terms of long term consequences. We can't even manage any significant short term consequences here, and here "The Night Watchman's Journal" is just completely wrapped up in its own inconsistent continuity, coming up with elaborate explanations to questions that aren't "how do we keep Sadam from killing more innocent people". It's just plain agitating.
Review by William Schwartz
"The Night Watchman's Journal" is directed by Lee Joo-hwan Yoon Ji-hoon, written by Bang Ji-yeong, Kim Seon-he, Yoo Dong-yoon and features Jung Il-woo, Ko Sung-hee, Yunho, Seo Ye-ji, Yoon Tae-young and Kim Heung-soo.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.