Home to series like 'Queen In-hyun's Man', 'Flower Boy Next Door', 'Answer Me 1994' and many more, cable network tvN has been offering some very popular and quality productions for a while now. While not as popular and admittedly not as good as some of tvN's biggest hits, we also got 'Who Are You - 2013', a series by director Jo Hyeon-tak ('Harvest Villa', 'Daemul - Big Thing') and writer Moon Ji-yeong ("Style", 'I Love Italy').
When police officer Si-on (So Yi-hyun) wakes up from a 6-year coma after a botched stakeout caused her injury and her partner's death, she discovers she has brought the alarming ability to see ghosts back with her. Having no recollection of the events that lead to her injury or the people involved in her life at the time, she tries to get back to a semi-normal life as the boss at the Lost and Found police branch. Her new partner and subordinate, Geon-woo (Ok Taecyeon) is assigned there as his punishment for a work-related error and he does not take kindly to having a boss with a questionable past and possibly no qualifications for the job. With the paranormal nudging Si-on closer to thinking there is a bigger picture about her accident that she is missing, it becomes her goal to find out about her past and her abilities.
The things that make 'Who Are You - 2013' interesting are all related to its different approach compared to most dramas in the romance genre. For one, the series feels more like a mystery/suspense one. Yes, romance does have its place in it, mainly for what it does for Si-on as a person in the process of her healing, but it is never the only or biggest focus. While the two male leads are given a lot of screen time and focus, this is also ultimately a series about Si-on and therefore her story, which in itself is rare in Korean drama. The lack of typical tropes such as a difference in class between the romantic pairing, lack of family involvement and other such elements also make this feel quite modern and definitely not on the soapy side. While predictable in some parts, the series also delivers a few nice twists when it comes to Si-on's past and the event which triggered it all, which keep one guessing throughout the entire time.
While the acting is not equally good by all involved, Ok Taecyeon in particular struggling to be watchable, the characters make for some interesting relationships. The main pair are, above all else, partners and friends and it is lovely that the series does not let the attraction between them somehow change that. There is respect, there is caring and co-operation. The romance itself is also not presented in an overly fairytale-like manner, both characters acknowledging they are at the early stages of liking each other when it does kick in. The secondary characters are, with a couple of exceptions, good in serving the plot and therefore feel like they belong. And this is the general feeling the series gives. It had a story to tell and did it, it felt coherent.
Of course, certain performances aside, as mentioned, the series does have its problems too. While the case-per-episode format starts things off, it is quickly abandoned in favor of the central plot. While some of the earlier cases do come back later on, in some ways, they mostly feel like an introduction and the format change feels a bit badly planned. It is also quite annoying that, despite Si-on being a strong person who is smart and capable despite her pain, she is victimized nearly in every episode, to serve the plot and to have Geon-woo save her time and time again. It is the classic damsel in distress trope and it feels like a cheap effort to sauce up the romance and elevate Geon-woo, but an unnecessary one, since characterization does it without the need for turning Si-on into a punching bag for thrills.
'Who Are You - 2013' is an interesting series, because its balance between its suspense-based main plot and romance make for a work which is not as romance-heavy as what is usually liked by drama fans, but also not an interesting enough mystery for those only invested in that. However, for viewers who do like that balance and having a main plot where both of those elements can co-exist and be equally important, 'Who Are You - 2013' is a work worth checking out. It is nothing brilliant, but it does many things well and is a pleasant change from the more formula-based dramas we mostly get from the medium.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Who Are You - 2013""
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