Drama Reviews, Korean Dramas

Drama Review: Crash Landing on You

Crash Landing on You has been wildly popular thanks to Netflix and mandatory isolation, but for good reason. In some ways it’s a very conventional drama, but it’s wonderfully written and well-paced and stands out for how it humanizes all its characters and stories. It’s a beautiful love story about the power of love, friendship, and choosing humanity and kindness first. There’s a great ensemble cast of characters who all have such vivid, colorful personalities and bring the humor and give life to the show. It took a couple of episodes for me to really get drawn in, but by episode three or four I was hooked!

Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin star as Ri Jeong Hyeok, a North Korean soldier, and Yoon Se Ri, a rich South Korean heiress. Se Ri crash lands on Jeong Hyeok in North Korea after a paragliding accident. Despite their vast personality and cultural differences — Jeong Hyeok is reserved and morally rigid, while Se Ri is shrewd and demanding and pretty much the epitome of a capitalist — they are also both kind people and through some combination of luck and fate, finding themselves falling in love. We get plenty of political and family intrigue and life and death stakes, but in the end it’s just a love story.

Se Ri and Jeong Hyeok’s love story feels epic but also intensely personal. The circumstances are wild, the obstacles seemingly insurmountable, yet the story also places each of them as the center of the other’s universe. When they’re together, it feels like they’re the only people in the world and nothing else matters. And it’s true throughout the show. Nothing can really stand in the way of them being there for each other.

But this show isn’t just about Se Ri and Jeong Hyeok’s romance. I really loved the side stories and characters. Backing up Son Ye Jin and Hyun Bin as second leads were Kim Jung Hyun as Gu Seung Jun, a South Korean man who once was engaged to Se Ri and fled North after scamming her brother, and Seo Ji Hye as Seo Dan, Jeong Hyeok’s fiancee. They each get their own stories instead of just playing second fiddle to the leads the whole time.

Then there were the North Korean village women who started out as the dangerously nosy neighbors, but ended up being true friends. And Jeong Hyeok’s band of soldiers who quickly became the closest friends Se Ri ever had. The only characters who were a bit flat were the villains, who were powered by one common personality trait: greed.

Warning: There may be some spoilers below!

There were three characters whose journeys I enjoyed the most: Se Ri, Jung Man Bok the wiretapper, and Seo Dan.

This show is really all about Se Ri and the choices she makes. Though she seems like a classic rich, self-centered character at first, it quickly becomes clear that it’s mostly just a front. She chooses to open up and find love and kindness in the most closed-off country in the world. She’s also chosen her family — chosen to love her mother as a mother despite not sharing any blood. She chooses to be happy. And every time with Jeong Hyeok, she makes choices. What I really liked about her relationship with Jeong Hyeok is that they gave equally to each other instead of the imbalance that you often see in drama-land. There’s a lot about coincidence vs fate in their relationship, but at the end of the day every time they’re brought together by fate, they’re also brought together by their own choices. It’s not like they’re shoved together against their will.

Man Bok is the character I felt for the most. He starts off weak and believing he is powerless. He feels guilt and knows what he’s doing is wrong, yet he keeps doing the wrong thing because he’s afraid. Watching the guilt slowly eat away at him and seeing him eventually find the voice and confidence to be good is perhaps one of the most rewarding storylines of the show.

And Dan. She is the most tragic character, because she let herself open up and be vulnerable, only to have her heart broken in the most tragic of ways. She started off as a cold person who thought she loved Jeong Hyeok, but it was pretty apparent that neither really felt anything for the other. If anything, she only seemed to feel a sort of possessiveness or obligation toward Jeong Hyeok. As Seung Jun put it, she had an obsession. Seung Jun may have been the one who ended up dying, but I feel like it’s always more tragic to be the one left behind. But I also like that the show ends with the message that she doesn’t necessarily need a man and it’s okay for her to be single. She has always been independent and it’s nice to see her embrace that.

My favorites dramas are the ones that leave a little void in me after I’ve finished watching the finale. Ones that make me feel a little emptier because what am I going to do now that I’ve left their world and their story? It’s a bittersweet feeling of saying farewell, and that’s how I feel about finishing Crash Landing on You. None of it is real, but at the same time, in some imaginary world, I can believe that Se Ri and Jeong Hyeok are continuing to live out their love story.

There’s something comforting about watching a rom-com drama where you know that at the end of the day, everything will be alright and our protagonists will win in the end. (Unlike dramas of other genres, I’m looking at you Iris.) I think that’s why I liked the ending, even though it may seem too perfect and fan-service-y to some. Especially in these fraught times, it’s comforting to see good things happen to good people, against all the odds, and villains get what they’re due. There’s catharsis in the tears, and healing in the happy ending.

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