Outrageous stories and complicated plots are a Korean drama staple. Especially in the last few years, even prime time works have been getting convoluted and messy in ways that are most characteristically associated with soap operas. When 'Kill Me, Heal Me' was announced and during its early episodes, it seemed to be going down the same path. In a surprising and admirable manner, however, this seemingly generic show has achieved something incredible. It tells a good story and tells it wonderfully.
Cha Do-hyeon (Ji Sung) is a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder, otherwise known as multiple personality disorder. Being the sole heir to his family's company, he is called back to Korea from the United States and needs to keep his condition hidden and get help. Oh Ri-jin (Hwang Jung-eum) is a first year resident of psychiatry who meets Do-hyeon when she bumps into one of his personalities. She eventually becomes his secret doctor and together they try to find the source of his trauma and family's secrets.
The series does a lot of things right and this starts early on. While many shows have a major shift in tone after the introduction, 'Kill Me, Heal Me' never lies about what it is. The comedic and more melodramatic elements are presented quite quickly and they are balanced throughout. This is also true for the writing. The series never loses its way, it ties its important parts together and shows consistency and attention to detail. The comedy is self-aware and the more serious parts are treated with respect and utmost care for the subject matter.
Treating its very real and very painful topics with respect and heart is what elevates its otherwise typical drama tropes. The character development and exploration of their trauma and strengths is done really well and the main couple of the show also create a romance which is meaningful and based on mutual healing and understanding. The great characters and how their issues are treated make it obvious that the creators had a story to tell which they cared about, rather than a story to force for the sake of making a drama.
Sadly, even talented creators with a story to tell are limited by the business side of a medium and in the case of 'Kill Me, Heal Me', its length does bring about some issues in its final act. The ending episodes are very nice, but there is an overly dark and unnecessarily long patch where things remain at a standstill for a while. It is handled well, but it is an obvious issue. Some parts of the plot also seem to exist merely to get an audience early on and are an occasional hindrance to the story, even if handled with as much care as possible.
This is mostly the case with some of the romantic interests and their subplots. Some of the characters introduced for conflict in the romance and company matters sort of fizzle out of importance as the series progresses, but are still used for the development of the main characters and are therefore not a complete waste. More could have been done with some parts of this and others need not be here, but these are faults which are easy to forgive by the end.
'Kill Me, Heal Me' is a drama which others should view as an example to follow. Under all its surface silliness lies a good story, rich characters and a skillfully crafted plot most other dramas would drown in. With a great cast lead by the amazing Ji Sung, who masterfully carried a role lesser actors would have crashed and burned in, and with good creators, this series proves that even humble parts can be turned into strengths and make a priceless whole.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Kill Me, Heal Me""
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