Favourite Non-Romance Drama
Those who follow my twittering know that I’m an out and proud brony, not ashamed to bawl at sad scenes (e.g. K-FTLY) and swoon over cute OTPs (too many to mention). So non-romance Dramas don’t figure prominently in my viewing list. Of those that did, the one that really snuck in past the rainbow arch and marshmallow gates and made a permanent home in my heart was Punch.The Drama is the story of an estranged couple, and the ex-wife of one of them. That line was too easy for me to omit, but for all its lazy jokiness, it does touch on one of the key features of the Drama. The relationship between pragmatically corrupt prosecutor Park Jeong Hwan (Kim Rae Won) and his mentor Lee Tae Jun (Jo Jae Hyeon) might have seemed like that between Anakin and Palpatine, except that there was a very real, very deep mutual affection. One of the best bromances I’ve seen in a K Drama, very well-depicted and so strong that jealous resentment of the bond was a driving force for another character.For me the show did so much right, in both plot and characterisation, that I have no real quibbles (aside from miraculous neurosurgery that left KRW’s hair unscathed), but I want to single out one truly remarkable element. PPL.
PPL is a necessary evil in K Drama production of course, and the source of much tired amusement from long-suffering fans. We all know that there is a subway on every corner in Korea, and apparently even in domestic kitchens and military tents in one recent Drama. Generally the words “subtle” and “thoughtful” are not well-suited to describing PPL insertion in K Drama: “You must be hungry” “I am, you know what feel like?” “A sandwich” That more or less verbatim dialog from a currently airing Drama I like helps explain why I’m in awe of the way the Punch team inserted PPL into the Drama. They made it fit, and made it integral to the storyline in a way that actually made sense!
What makes that all the more remarkable is that the PPL in question was for a smartwatch/phone combo. Smartwatch PPL is generally really bad, cringingly awful shots of a character paying for something by waving their watch or laboriously crafting a message on a watch, when both actions would’ve been done in half the time by normal people using normal devices. In Punch the smartwatch and phone’s pairing was exploited sensibly, in a way that served the needs of the manufacturer to promote their product by actually showing how the pairing could be used productively in a situation where other methods would not work.
Of course, I didn’t watch the Drama for the PPL, but the fact that they were able to insert it so intelligently is an example of the skill and craft that went into the making of the Drama. From the dual “it’s complicated” relationships of the lead (with ex wife and ex boss), to the “no looking back” Smeagol-Gollum conversion of the jilted wannabe lead second, this Drama did everything right. Including the way it kept characters true to themselves to the end. Jeong Hwan may have ended up more or less fighting on the side of the angels, but he never was one, And then of course there’s this – a remarkable scene in which dramatic tension came to a surprisingly tiny conclusion: