Thursday, August 16, 2012

Faith: Episodes 1-2 Thoughts


I think my instincts on potential drama loves are getting more accurate with time. I was intrigued by this show the moment I heard of it, and even more once the teasers started coming out. And sure enough, so far I LOVE it. It's so ridiculously wacky, but also contains the potential for some serious depth. The characters are also surprisingly likeable despite their exaggerated antics, owed largely to the streak of heart and commitment I see in them.


I found episode 1 to be stronger and more engaging than 2, because it zipped along and offered a fun mix of modern and historical. Episode 2 dragged at parts, and felt like a continual cat and mouse chase that got a bit repetitive at points. The heroine also was irritating in her many protests, understandable though they were.


Yet surprisingly, I actually like Kim Hee Sun's surgeon character. I feared I wouldn't be able to get behind her after watching the screechy previews, but turns out her odd combo of eccentricity and visceral dedication to her profession works perfectly in helping me connect to her story arc. Her wacky dramatics are half the fun, and although I hope she tones it down a notch in the future episodes, I'm looking forward to all the potential character growth that is sure to come. The 11-year age-gap between her and Lee Min Ho is also not as prominent as feared  - she looks great for her age, and Lee Min Ho always plays older (with the exception of BBF), so I can generally buy into the story's premise of a 4-year gap (though I really would have preferred them to just write it in as a larger gap, given the greater conflict it could bring).


But seriously, she's hilarious. Her dating history and self-absorbed antics are balanced by a deep-rooted commitment to her job which was evident during the presentation and in all the surgery scenes. This is a woman who clearly knows her line of work and is able to execute under pressure, even if she's a ditz generally. I find it charming, and a relief from all the high-table, overly sweet and innocent types typically found with drama girls.


Lee Min Ho's character here is fun, but some of his mannerisms are a big call back to his City Hunter persona, both in how he speaks and with the aloof act. The main difference I see is that his Goryeo warrior really is that rare combo of disconnect and extreme capability (Yoon Sung's aloofness was generally a facade). If that continues to be the case, it could definitely bring an extra level of fun as we'll hopefully see him gain a budding connection with his surroundings as he spends more time with the heroine. He's unfortunately a rather boring personality, but I love what I see of the dry humor and his extreme, almost illogically direct way of thinking. I actually like Choi Young better than I do Yoon Sung, because here's a guy who's not squeamish about killing and not over the top idealistic. Honorable, yes, but not one-dimensionally good.


Together, they make a compelling pair, and I like that it's not merely an age gap that separates them, but also an entire era and embedded personality differences.


I'm also surprisingly interested in a large number of side characters. I hated Philip Lee's anemic character in Secret Garden, but I'm liking what I see here. He definitely looks better in sageuk robes than in modern dress (I think the long hair balances out his rather long face and bug-eyes). Episode 2 made me wary of the king, who was movingly vulnerable in episode 1 but then suddenly became a fanatical jerk. I'd rather the journey to evilness, if that's how it'll play out, be less obvious and with more subtle emotional points, as the actor was fantastic in delivering key moments in the first episode. The queen does have me curious though, and I'm liking the dynamic so far.


The only things that I'm not fond of are all the super exaggerated bad-guy scenes and typical sageuk political discussion parts. The whole mystical trio bit came off forced and cheesy, worsened by the fact that none of the villain actors have so far demonstrated any screen charisma. They feel like caricatures, and I want to scoff at the silly murdering flute and all the half-naked muscle men. Hopefully things will get better once their lady counterpart shows up.


I'm also hoping the show eventually cuts down on the rather unnecessary political discussion sequences. These are generally my least favorite part of any historical drama, because they always feature a bevy of gray haired men sitting around arguing about obvious issues with such zesty, wide-eyed fakeness. It's unfortunately expected with any historical, and especially one with such a large cast of characters, but every time the red-robed diplomats came on I wanted to go to sleep. Like is there really a need to spend so much time focused on their discussions on something we know isn't true? The gas bomb scene was almost satisfying in allowing us to hopefully avoid these in the future.


Faith has jumped to the top of my current (albeit very short) watch list, and I'm genuinely excited to see what the show will bring, especially in growing its lead characters. For now, the people are far more interesting to me than the world the show's set in, because pretty as it is, it's also rather obviously CGIed and falsely mystical (the lightning hands, the portal, the strange beacons - not my thing). I'm also pretty sure the existence of the portal has to do with "sun spots," based on the random projected news clip that played when Choi Young appeared in the modern world. Kind of predictable stuff.

However, so long as the show doesn't allow itself to get bogged down by its large cast, I can certainly see it maintaining its edge and fun.

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