IRIS: An Overall Review

Here is the obligatory Korean Drama love triangle (l-r: Hyun Joon, Sun Hwa, Seung Hee) – it exists no matter what genre you are watching in.

When I embarked upon this series, I had no idea where it was going to go. I thought it would be fun and full of action with amazing sequences and great storylines – I mean, something must have been good about it to keep pulling in high ratings and consistently beating out my favorite drama You’re Beautiful.

And so I watched it, and I recapped it faithfully (check it out here). And still, I have no idea where it was trying to go.

IRIS was ambitious and was trying to break the Korean Drama conventions, but at the same time, it was sticking quite close to it. I can’t say that I was pleased with the result, but I wasn’t disappointed either.

In a nutshell: Kim Hyun Joon (played by the “dashing” Lee Byung Hoon) and his best friend Jin Sa Woo (Jung Joon Ho) are recruited into NSS, similar to the CIA or FBI of the United States. They were scouted out by the beautiful Choi Seung Hee (a much-improved Kim Tae Hee) and both of them fall in love with her separately. However, Hyun Joon gets the gal in the end. Hyun Joon is given a fateful mission by the NSS director that screws his life completely, affecting all those around him. Not only is he chased by his now-frenemy Sa Woo, but he is hunted down by the beautiful North Korean agent Kim Sun Hwa (a beautiful Kim So Yeon) and the enigmatic assassin Vic (T.O.P.). While fending off these threats, he’s also trying to seek revenge against the NSS director and the country who turned his back on him.

All in a day’s work, right? Kiefer Sutherland would barely break a sweat.

The story is promising, the cinematography is good, the action is amazing. Unfotunately, I think that along the way, when the writers found out that they were getting a sequel, they sort of gave up halfway through and filled up the time with random reminiscing scenes and dragged on the plot lines. It kind of ruined the series for me.

I highly dislike the ending, although I understand it if it’s supposed to lead up to IRIS 2. Kind of unexpected ending for a Korean drama, but I kind of like my endings with a pretty little bow on top, you know?

Best thing ever that happened to this series was Kim So Yeon and Kim Seung Woo. And it’s not because I’m biased! (Ok, maybe just a little.) Their characters were complex and were not drawn out completely, and yet they weren’t under-developed either. The writers gave them some shadings for their background, but didn’t hit it over your head (like they did with Seung Hee and Hyun Joon’s), making it a little mysterious and a little more fun. And, their expressions were priceless – comedic or dramatic.

In short, this drama was amazing for all its progressiveness towards a new way in looking at Korean dramas. It definitely does take on a more Western tone, and it does seem like an overly-long movie. However, it doesn’t make it my favorite drama of 2009. I like fun dramas, and I’m willing to try more melodramatic ones, but the story needs to be good. It has to be completely well done in character development and in story. I honestly don’t know if I have ever seen one yet of that kind, but when I do, I’ll let you know.

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