Q3 Pitstop: The Kdramas of 2016

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The gist:

Lee Young-oh is an elite neurosurgeon who is unable to feel empathy. As soon as he enters the renowned Hyunsung Hospital, he immediately gets caught up in mysterious patient deaths.

The good:

– I’ve already raved about this drama’s good points before its finale in a previous blog, which discussed the show’s impressive writing, execution, and acting. Despite my worries that the ending might be botched due to the episode reduction, I’m happy that these three things did not suffer as much as I thought it would.

– Jang Hyuk was well-capitalized as the star of the show. He gave a believable, nuanced performance that showed great depth of his complex character. As much as I love the other great actors who were first offered the role (e.g. Lee Jong-suk, Yoo Ah-in, etc.), I’m glad they all turned it down. This role was meant to be played by Jang Hyuk. In as short as 14 episodes, the drama was able to take on thought-provoking themes through Lee Young-oh’s different experiences with the people around him.

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The bad:

– It is not designed for the general audience. Sometimes people just want to kick back and enjoy an easy watch – which Beautiful Mind is not. True to its medical mystery thriller genre, it played on perception and complex connections, which can sometimes fry some brain cells. It was clear from the start that not everyone will be quick to appreciate it, and is likely to have only a niche following. Some early droppers of the show argued the seemingly disorganized storytelling and overall dark tone, along with a set of difficult characters (especially Gye Jin-sung). It’s something that I didn’t mind, though, because it felt organic to have flawed, complex people work on their own agenda.

On the other side of the spectrum, other viewers note that somewhere along the way, the suspenseful elements and the mystery-solving disappeared to focus on Lee Young-oh, and showed lighter, “dumbed-down” episodes. Frankly, I somewhat agree, but not necessarily dislike it. Past the halfway point I noticed a certain shift in tone. Whether it was an intentional story progression, a deliberate choice to make the show more palatable and salvage ratings, or a solution to manage the episode cutdown, to me it was a valid writer’s choice to highlight its main character and the show’s best asset – Lee Yeong-oh (Jang Hyuk).

– The episode reduction. There’s nothing like a network axing its own show to send a message of lost confidence. Ultimately, the production suffered a major blow in light of this, leaving fans furious and the rest all the more uninterested.

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The verdict:

One of my favorite dramas this year, Beautiful Mind is an intelligent and gripping production that gave quality entertainment every drama hour. Everyone had a purpose in building the story, even the patients that contribute to either the hospital mystery or Lee Young-oh’s emotional development – they weren’t just random bodies to operate on. It was an underrated mystery drama that evolved into something more, as we followed the heartbreaking yet hope-filled journey of Lee Young-oh. It may not have appealed to everyone, but those who liked it REALLY did.

Some may disagree but I personally did not feel shortchanged with the fewer episodes. True, there are still themes that can be explored had it been given the chance to do so, but the show was solid until the end. I did notice some glitches in the episode post-announcement, but not severe enough to say that the caliber was compromised. I am proud that the showrunners did the best they can to make a graceful exit. And while it’s not the most polished of endings, I was very pleased with it. I was glad to put faith on the beautiful minds behind the drama.

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