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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Yong Pal"

2015/10/31 | Permalink

'Makjang' is a term which describes the use of highly unrealistic, sensationalist elements in order to make a drama packed and attention-grabbing. Since this often means delivering cheap thrills and bad writing, it is a phrase frequently used in a derogatory manner. Whatever one's opinion on the value of 'makjang' dramas, "Yong Pal" is a series which quickly becomes one very messy work in its writing. At the same time, it does what 'makjang' is about well.

Kim Tae-hyeon (Joo Won) is a brilliant doctor and surgeon who resorts to illegal field calls in order to pay for his sister's treatment. He eventually finds himself working at the VIP floor of his hospital, where a very special client is kept. The client, Han Yeo-jin (Kim Tae-hee) is a conglomerate heiress whose brother is keeping her comatose in order to control their company in her place. Yeo-jin reaches out to Tae-hyeon for help in her revenge.

Yeo-jinDo-joon, Tae-hyeon and Section chief Lee

One of the strong points of "Yong Pal" has been clear since the beginning and thankfully remains good whenever all others fail. That would be its very beautiful presentation and the good use of it to complement the performances and convey the situations in a manner which is engaging. This could have easily been directed like a soap, with little to no attention paid to anything but the emotional intensity of situations and without that extra effort to really bring the best out of even the most confusing ones. "Yong Pal" remains competently filmed throughout.

The drama's cast has had the difficult task of working with a very problematic script and very ruthless filming system. Cast members have spoken about it and it truly is a testament to their skills that they all manage to work under these conditions, but also work so well. The performances in "Yong Pal" are not all equally great, but most important ones and even some from secondary characters are as professionally done as possible. The actors here try their hardest to keep even the most badly written scenes afloat and their hard work shows.

Unfortunately, that hard work cannot save the muddled writing and collapsing character and plot development. The drama quickly deteriorates after the first few episodes, plot holes pop up constantly, character behaviors and relationship dynamics change without reason or even proper set up, emotions often make no sense and any attempt to stop and think about what is going on only brings disappointment. This also makes the work of the actors harder, as the disconnect between where their characters and the story are at one point and where they are at another has even them struggling to deliver a sensible whole.

Do-joon and Chae-yeongYeo-jin and Nurse Hwang

This of course extends to the romance, which develops too fast and into something too strong, perhaps as a result of the show's big success in the ratings. As mentioned briefly, attention-grabbing is what the series does well. Things are happening all the time that keep tensions going, which include this hastily developed romance. In a sense, this makes it a successful drama for its type. The problem comes from the fact that its early episodes have these qualities, but manage to not underestimate viewer intelligence and standards of quality.

There have been and will be much more convoluted dramas than "Yong Pal" and hopefully dramas which achieve what it fails to much better. The series is not the worst offender of its kind and there are some things it actually does well, such as having promising character types and interesting moral dilemmas. Even so, its flaws make it a challenge to enjoy those.

Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'


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