Joseon X Files: A Review

So, after a little over a month of last posting my first impressions review, I can finally say that I am DONE with the series! I am kinda proud about it – if for a lame reason. It’s one of the few dramas I’ve seen all year that I finished without recapping. (Coffee House does not count, because I did a live recap of it.)

There’s a short and long version of what I think about the drama. The short is: Meh.

The long version is: It had its highs and lows, and I think the beginning and ending were strong. I think the reason why I was so excited in the beginning was because of the weirdness with the UFO and such, and the last two episodes were connected to the first two episodes. Everything else in between was kind of like stand-alone incidents that were just weird and random, and part of the every day life of a Secret Investigations officer. While it was interesting to see what cases he would deal with next, it also wasn’t that gripping…

First off, I think what eventually turned me off after watching more episodes was the filmmaking style. At first I did think it was cool (but I was slightly annoyed). Then the cool factor went down considerably and the headache grew. I found myself looking away and just listening to the drama because I couldn’t deal with the shaking. I can take shaky camera – just not when it must show up for at least ten minutes each hour.

Secondly, I think what affected my viewing was the subtitles. I was watching with WithS2 subtitles, and the “famed” Anarchist had done the subs. I know he’s very lyrical and such, but there are times when I’m reading it and I just don’t know what the frak is going on because the language is so…high and mighty. Not putting down the subs though – they were fantastic. But it’s sorta like when I watch British movies set in the past – I kinda get it, but I also kinda don’t.

The stories were generally interesting. Some were downright disgusting (episode 3 with the gold of Silla comes to mind), some were freaky but heartwarming (episode 4 with the monster-boy and episode 5 with the psychic – both were so cool), and some were forgettable. I totally tuned out to episode 6, where the story was about a ghost; it was from this point on that I started losing focus on the series. Episode 7 was interesting in that as I was watching, I knew something weird was going on; however, I couldn’t really wrap my head around it and so there were times I tuned out. Episode 8 was not as gripping (perhaps because Kim Ji Hoon was missing for most of the action!?), so I definitely had to rely on javabeans’ recaps for those two episodes, since they were connected. Reading them made me appreciate them a little more, since those two episodes were an example of how confusing the story could get. Episode 9 I had to rewatch; I couldn’t see how it connected to anything before it, and by using a changgwi as the villain, I felt like it was a bit of a cop-out to use a supernatural based on folklore. It is similar to episode 4, with the monster boy who sucked blood, but the monster boy looked like an alien, and he was like that because of the supernatural pond. The changgwi was just someone possessed by an evil ghost. Episode 10 was a return to the straightforward-ness, in that I understood everything going on as easily as I understood episodes 3-5.

And then we have episodes 11 and 12. Whoa were they messed up! And I mean it in a good way, since it also picked up my interest level a bit. Episode 11 was more like a stand alone episode in that we knew there’s an evil shamaness (I think she was also the first very evil female antagonist) who wants to resurrect bodies like Dr. Frankenstein. When we get into episode 12, we see its connection to the UFO in the beginning, where the evil shamaness’ father had witnessed the powerful UFO years ago. He was beheaded, but not without some difficulty since he had the electric power that allowed him to control metal. (So when swords hit him, it conducted electricity to the bearer of the sword.) Ji Seung killed the father, but spared the daughter, and now she wanted revenge. She wanted to resurrect her father through Ji Seung’s dead body, but would need a special relic – the same metal ball that was whizzing around after the UFO had passed over Korea. Hyeongdo comes and saves Ji Seung in time, and he has three revolvers so that he doesn’t have to go through the long process of reloading. He kills three evil cult followers before getting attacked by the shamaness. When she is about to make her final blow, he blocks her sword with the metal ball and all of a sudden, the UFO appears, as if the electrical force that is emitted called it. The UFO rumbles the earth, and then Hyeongdo and the girl disappear.

Everyone lives their lives as usual, knowing that Hyeongdo is gone, but perhaps he can come back. And the way I interpret the ending is that he ends up back in the world of the fourth dimension, where he met the “other” Lady Heo. Before he left that world in episode 7 he had asked whether he would see her again, and she said he wouldn’t. But whaddya know – I think they met again! And he tells her, “I know who you are.” Lady Heo had been trying to find out who she was too, but Hyeongdo’s statement implies that he doesn’t have to know her background to know her. So I think that was kinda sweet. And then she disappears, and he’s left alone on the beach. Well now, how can they get their happy ending if everyone just keeps disappearing!?

Anyways – I think one of the beauties of this series is not completely understanding everything. Sometimes I don’t understand how Hyeongdo can figure things out so quickly, even though I know the story will unfold in that way because…well, it’s a drama. But not always knowing why Lady Heo has a certain knowing look, or where Hyeongdo is in the end (and why he doesn’t seem desperate to go back home) is also nice. I like it when a drama is confident enough to not have everything packed tightly in a box.

I am definitely not bashing the series though. I liked it. It was unique. It was unexpected. But with such a promising start and then a slow slump before the last three episodes? Meh…

Rating: 5.5/10 in terms of my interest. But quality wise, a solid 7. So I guess if you average that, it’s about a 6.

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