Monday, November 12, 2012

K-Drama Review: I Miss You, Episodes 1-2

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 1-2

Click "play" below to hear me read the review.

Well, I had to check out this show because I heard it contains Park Yoochun, who I loved in Rooftop Prince, Yoon Eun-Hye, who I loved in Princess Hours, and Yoo Seung-ho, who was the only good thing about Operation Proposal. Watching this show was a forgone conclusion--but what about actually liking it? What does I Miss You have to offer?

This recap will be rather long, since I'm still figuring out this new show's characters and plotlines.

The show starts in the past, with young teen versions of the protagonists.

Teen Versions of the Protagonists, With Low Self-Esteem.

This is our heroine, Sooyeon. She comes home from school, calls for her mom, then gets grabbed by an ahjusshi with a scar on his face.

I Did Not See This Coming.
The man throws her to the floor and threatens to beat her up if she doesn't tell him where her mother is. He wraps Sooyeon in a blanket then proceeds to stomp on her. This is a well-shot scene, because you don't see the little girl getting hurt--it's only a lump of blanket getting kicked--and yet, you feel the full mental horror of a big, strong man attacking a defenseless child.

Outside in the alleyway, Sooyeon's Mom listens to her daughter getting beaten, and she does not rush in. What. No matter how hurt I was, if my child was being attacked, the interloper would be DEALT WITH by any means available to me. But Mom's trembling and the man's words make me wonder if this dude is actually Dad? Maybe Mom has been a battered woman for years, and is too weak to fight back?

Instead of Acting, Mom Just Sneaks Away.

Some time later, Dad sits, apparently exhausted from kicking Sooyeon for too long. Then a plainclothes policeman (Detective Kim) walks in and beats Dad in a fight, then handcuffs him and says he's under arrest for murder. Detective Kim uncovers Sooyeon, still wrapped in the blanket and barely conscious.

Mom comes back and glares at Detective Kim for drawing a crowd as he arrested Dad. "How am I supposed to live here, now?" she says. Detective Kim is carrying a wounded Sooyeon on his back, but when he says, "Ma'am, your daughter is hurt," Mom replies, "That much won't kill her."

So...That Was The Clear Go-Ahead For Us to Hate Sooyeon's Mom.
Words flash on the screen, telling us that all this is happening in the summer of 1997. After a sadly cheesy sequence of opening credits (melodramas should take notes from Nice Guy and not overdo the emotion in their intros), the scene switches to America in the fall of 1998.

A boy, Jungwoo, is at football practice when he hears that his father has arrived from Korea, whereupon he runs to go get cleaned up.

Totally Jazzed to See Dad.

Jungwoo's ear-to-ear grin falls as he realizes Dad is not here--it's just an assitant of some sort, here to tell Jungwoo that Dad is too busy to come. Jungwoo hops a flight to Korea, just to see Dad, much to his stepmother's dismay. While driving by with Stepmom, Jungwoo sees Sooyeon with her head down, looking victimized. Coincidental sighting number 1.

Stepmom's car pulls up in front of a prison and as Jungwoo waits, he gets another look at the sad, pretty girl just standing on the sidewalk.

Poor Baby.

Sooyeon's own mother emerges from the prison, saying, "It's over" as a body is carted out in an ambulance. Dad was executed in prison, it appears.

Jungwoo's father is wheeled out of the prison, and is upset that Jungwoo is here, instead of in America tending to his studies. Stepmom tries to cover for Jungwoo and says that he should be informed of everything that's going on at home. I'm quite curious, now. Why was Jungwoo's Dad in prison?

Oy. Now here's some drama with even more characters that are tangentially related to Jungwoo (his step-grandmother?), and I'm not even going into it. Let's just say Jungwoo's Dad is not a nice man, and there are money and power struggles in the family, and potential murderous plottings.

Back to Sooyeon...

Sooyeon's Mom dumps her husband's ashes in the river and screams that she's too scared to meet him in the afterlife, so she's going to stay on earth as long as she can. Mom takes Sooyeon out for soju, but the people in the restaurant point and stare, whispering about seeing the child of the famous murderer. Mom gets sloppy drunk and yells at the people as Sooyeon quietly cries. Even this awful man's death hasn't brought her peace.

That night, Jungwoo can't sleep, so he goes for a walk and sees the girl he noticed before, Sooyeon, sitting alone on a park swing set at night. He joins her and tries to convince her he's not dangerous.

Talking At A Playground--How's That For a Meet-Cute?

It starts to rain and Jungwoo seeks shelter under a park slide, while Sooyeon runs home and chirps happily to her sleepy mom about the cool new weird kid who is talking to her and who doesn't know her life story.

Yay! She's got a slight crush already, which works out nicely because he does, too. Sooyeon brings Jungwoo a yellow umbrella to walk home with, not caring that she herself is already soaked.

Doesn't Know If She's Tenderhearted or Crazy.

Jungwoo does accept her umbrella though, and promises to meet her the next day to return it.

The next day, Sooyeon is decidedly unlike herself as she skips off to meet her new "friend" (Mom is suspicious and tells Sooyeon she doesn't have any friends). A window breaks as Sooyeon walks past a house, and she peers inside to see a boy, slightly younger than herself, peering out with a frightened face. Sooyeon doesn't know how to help him, and she walks on.

After having to attend a family member's funeral, Jungwoo belatedly finds the yellow umbrella, loaned from Sooyeon, then we cut to Sooyeon walking home alone and dejected at night.

Did She Wait For Him All Day?

Sooyeon passes the broken window again on her way home and tries to talk to the boy, Hyungjoon, who is laying down inside, feverish and in obvious pain. His Caretaker shoos Sooyeon away from the window.

When Jungwoo arrives at his new school, he looks for Sooyeon, to return her umbrella, but finds her being mocked and belittled by the other kids. They won't even call her by name; they refer to as "number 27" or "the murderer's daughter". Jungwoo's expression is dead-on with how I feel about her treatment.

And then he does the nearly unforgivable--he backs away from her as if in fear. But after a PE game of basketball, when Jungwoo is getting beaten up by a gang of boys who disliked his rough playing style, Sooyeon shows up to defend him. Her quiet scariness almost frightens the boys off when Jungwoo rushes after them and again gets beaten down.

As Jungwoo is about to leave school, he flinches away from Sooyeon when she tries to talk to him again. She simply says, "It's not me who is a murderer. I don't want to hurt anyone." He pulls a coward's move and backs away again, telling her to leave him alone. She leaves, and our boy stands in the rain, reliving everything she said to him.

And Finally Feeling Appropriately Guilty.

After sitting in the rain, then swinging for awhile at their playground, Jungwoo marches off to see Sooyeon at her house. But what he arrives to find is an ahjumma fight where the woman whose son was murdered is fighting Sooyeon's mom, who declares that the wronged mother should go away and leave her in peace, since the killer has now been executed.

But the scene doesn't stop there. Sooyeon's Mom shoves her daughter down and says, "Go ahead and kill her, if that's what it takes to make you feel better!" Sooyeon is screaming and crying and a crowd of 10 women try to talk sense into Mom. Mom shakes Sooyeon and says they should both just die, and at that moment of Sooyeon's most extreme shame, she looks up from the pavement where she's crawling away and sees the boy she likes, Jungwoo, who has viewed the whole thing.

She Runs Away.

Jungwoo runs after her and finds her hiding under the slide at their playground. He calls her by every nickname he called her before, and even the ugly term the kids said: "Killer's Daughter, Yi Sooyeon. Let's be friends." He is effectively saying, "I have seen you at your lowest, and you've seen me at my worst. Let's move on from here."

A beautiful way to end an episode.

The next ep starts with Jungwoo's offer of friendship still hanging in the air.

Sooyeon's Not Sure What to Make of It.

Sooyeon stands up like she's about to answer him, and Jungwoo dashes to a clothesline to retrieve...a clothespin? He uses it as a hairclip and pulls Sooyeon's hair away from her face. He tells her to wear her hair back from now on and to stop hiding behind it, and that he'll never ignore her again. He also apologizes for his earlier behavior.

Oh my. So sweet. This sunshiny boy finally gets Sooyeon to crack a smile. He tells her he doesn't need other friends at school--just one good friend to loan him an umbrella when he needs one. I think Jungwoo is all the better of a young hero because we've seen him be decidedly unheroic. We know he's capable of being callous and cowardly, so it's all the more meaningful when we see him being kind and loving.

Next day, Jungwoo gets into another fight with some classmates who are putting paint and glue on Sooyeon's desk. Sooyeon steps forward to stop one bully so Jungwoo won't get in trouble.

She Does This By Hugging The Bully.

Which, even though she's not trying to be mean, is still the best revenge ever because the mean kids are terrified of contact with Sooyeon's supposed murder-cooties, and hugging them is the scariest thing she could do. Class starts and Sooyeon just puts newspaper over the paint and glue and goes right along.

After class, Jungwoo upsetedly asks Sooyeon why she isn't talking to him today. Didn't they decide to be friends? She tells him they should be secret friends and he should still ignore her at school, because things could go badly for him. Sooyeon says she must protect him because he's the first person who's ever offered to be her friend and this might not ever happen for her again.

My Heart, I Think It's Bleeding Again.

But when some kids start throwing trash at Sooyeon in class (where are the teachers? if my students were being this abusive to other children, I'd call the principal, the guidance counselor, their parents, and maybe the cops), Jungwoo openly calls out to her and asks her to step out with him to buy a snack. Kids throw trash on them from the windows, but Jungwoo remains peppy and unbothered.

As they walk home rather happily, they see a room on fire, and it's the kid Hyungjoon's room, except he's locked inside. Jungwoo breaks the lock on the door with a brick, and as soon as the door opens, Hyungjoon falls out and runs away, limping on a bleeding bandaged leg. Sooyeon catches him and they take him to get medical treatment, but the kid's leg is torn up so bad that the local clinic can hardly deal with it. Jungwoo has to beg his Dad to send help.


When the boy wakes up, Sooyeon tries to comfort him and attempts to introduce herself saying, "You don't know unnie's name yet, do you?" Meaning herself, but she's referring to herself with the term for a female's older sister! It's a natural assumption to think he's female, since Hyungjoon has long hair and a high child's voice. He grunts out, "I'm not a girl." Before any more can be said, Hyungjoon's Caretaker arrives and kidnaps him, which she thinks is in his best interest since some people want to kill the kid. Well, he's going to die anyway if Caretaker doesn't get him to a doctor.

Next, we get a weird episode where Sooyeon's Mom decides to move to Detective Kim's house, so Sooyeon will have a home. Detective Kim feels guilty because he helped convict Sooyeon's Dad of a murder he didn't commit, and the man was executed for it. Detective Kim also has a teen daughter, Eunjoo, who doesn't like the new living arrangement.

Now We're One Big, Unhappy Family.

Jungwoo is shocked to go to Sooyeon's house and find it cleared out, but Sooyeon is still waiting for him at their playground, so he hasn't lost her. She's wearing the little orange clothespin hairclip he gave her, and she mentions that it's the first present she has ever received. Yeesh. Sooyeon walks him over to see her new house, and Jungwoo jokes that she might not want to be his friend anymore now that she's got a girl her own age in the house.

Nah. She Knows A Keeper When She Sees One.

Sooyeon's "stepsister" Eunjoo comes home and starts insulting Sooyeon, but stops when she sees Jungwoo, who she has a huge crush on. I think this plot point will crop back up.

Off in Hyungjoon's plot, it turns out that his Caretaker is not out for his best interests after all and is instead plotting to use him. For monies? Or for power?

Jungwoo and Sooyeon ride the bus home together and as Sooyeon sleeps, Jungwoo leans in front of her face to ask her a question. The bus hits a bump, and Sooyeon falls forward into a sort of high-impact kiss.

He Broke Her Fall With His Face.

After that highly improbable first-kiss scenario, Jungwoo is astonished and freaked out that Sooyeon will be upset at him, but she slept through the whole thing and doesn't remember. As they get off the bus and walk home, Jungwoo looks miserable, and Sooyeon tries to make him feel better, thinking he is carsick. But in reality, Jungwoo is suddenly noticing how enchanting Sooyeon is, how pretty and sweet and special. When he reaches up to fix a wonky lightbulb in a streetlamp, he and Sooyeon are thrown into close proximity again.

Dawww. So Awkward/Cute.
Right away, Detective Kim rushes up like a protective papa and drags Jungwoo by the ear, lambasting him for getting near Sooyeon. I love that Detective Kim is trying to take care of her like he would his own daughter. Detective Kim brings Jungwoo home for dinner, where Sooyeon's Mom is seriously impressed with him, and Detective Kim's daughter Eunjoo is still smitten with him and not even trying to hide it.

After dinner, Detective Kim takes Jungwoo outside to teach him how to fight, which is painfully adorable. He gives him tips like "90% of fighting is intimidation!" As the girls watch this fighting practice, Eunjoo actually starts being nice to Sooyeon, and Sooyeon's Mom sits down with her and tells her she looks pretty.

Who Would Have Thought They'd Ever Bond?

Then we skip to a strange moment where Sooyeon writes "보고싶다" (bogoshipda, "I Miss You," the show's title) in chalk on a wall and grown-up Jungwoo (played by Park Yoochun) watches.


So we've skipped on into the future versions of our leads, and grown up Jungwoo is thinking of childhood Sooyeon, it seems.

Episode end.

Things I Loved:

1. Sunshine Boy/Raincloud Girl. How wonderful is it when Jungwoo enlivens Sooyeon's ugly world?

Quite Wonderful.


1. Confusing Editing. Sometimes the show is cut strangely, so you don't know where a scene is located, or how much time has passed since the last scene.

Watch I Miss You on Dramafever.

Episode Evaluations:

This is a tear-jerker and no lie. I didn't really want to start on another dark-dark serious meoldrama while I'm still finishing up "Nice Guy," but I was tempted by the promise of three actors I really like.

As it turns out, I think I'll be watching it partly because of the horribleness of the circumstances. I have always lived in a very peaceful, loving world, and I think sometimes I need to be reminded that there are many people in the world who live with hurt and brokenness every day. Goodness knows there's no entertainment value in watching such things, but sometimes I think shows can help us by depicting the kind of world we don't want, which better enables us to understand and strive for the opposite.

This show is not my usual fare, but I see something here that I want to understand and recognize, so I'll stick with it, at least for a while. And hey, we do have a little sweetness to lighten the heartbreak, too! I just hope the adult actors are as compelling in these roles as the teen actors have been.


  1. Okay, this drama sounds crazy convoluted even by drama standards.

    1. *nods* It is a mess. A hardcore messy, mess. But the actors are so endearing!

  2. I'm confused but I'm sure you'll lead me through!

    1. I'll sure try! This thing is going to be pure heartbreak, I can tell.

  3. Thumbs up for the teens actor/actress:
    - Yeo Jin-Ku - Han Jung-Woo (young)
    - Kim So-Hyun - Lee Soo-Yeon (young)

    They started the drama very well and made it soooo interesting and touching for everyone to watch and want to watch more.

    Amazing acting skills for their age as they made us all cry in the first few episodes. Well done kiddos =) Keep up the good work and will be looking forward to see you all on the next dramas =)

    1. I agree! At such a young age they were able to portray the emotions that the characters of the drama. I even had a crush on Yeo Jin-Ku

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