One thing that I do love about Korean dramas today is that they are not afraid to try and experiment with different genres, while still trying to hit all the notes that what makes a Korean drama a Korean drama. All of this was seen in Korean dramas like “W-Two Worlds”, which became a hit, and in the recently concluded MBC television series, “Missing 9”.
From the premise alone, one might think that this might be, in a way, the Korean version of “Lost”. Juxtaposing both past and present day events, “Missing 9” tells the story of the nine people who went missing after a plane crash, in which the plane belonged to one of the biggest entertainment companies in South Korea.
Part mystery, part thriller, this Korean drama was different in the sense that they were able to effectively combine flashbacks with what was happening in the present day; and it kept me second guessing myself until a particular point.
I was also surprised at the amount of violence that they showed, even though I did take issue with some things, such as knives being censored into a silver blur that sometimes took me out of some scenes that were pretty intense.
The series, however, had smart writers who, although I found several plot holes that I could spend all day nitpicking about, always made sure that even the smallest of details did factor into the essential plot lines; and who created memorable characters that will make this series truly one of a kind.
This was an ensemble effort, and although it says that the main characters were Ra Bong Hee (Baek Jin Hee) and Seo Joon Oh (Jung Kyung Ho), I believe that this story was mainly the story of Seo Joon Oh and Choi Tae Ho (Choi Tae Joon).
Although there were some problems in the pacing, plot points, consistency in tone, and the ending; this Korean drama makes itself stand out from the rest of the crop, with its different storytelling technique, memorable characters, and how it dealt with the exploration of what it means to be human outside the boundaries of civilization.
(Before we move on to spoilers, just a tip, so that you as a viewer will have a more satisfying conclusion, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you stop watching at the 51:28 mark of the final episode.)
One of the main things that I loved about this show was the fact that, just like William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”, it tried its best to explore humanity at its worst and at its finest, especially given the circumstances that they were in.
There, on that island, the true natures of each character, and in particular, of Seo Joon Oh and Choi Tae Ho, whom, I believe, the show truly centers around, even though it is, at times, an ensemble piece.
I loved how at the beginning, we saw Joon Oh as arrogant and selfish, and Tae Ho as charming and kind, but at the end of the series, we see how the island brought out Tae Ho’s more ambitious and violent side, while it highlighted Joon Oh’s leadership qualities and his integrity (which was probably why he was made the “Leader” of their band, Dreamers, in the first place). It was definitely a role reversal that I did not see coming, and I also loved how they were able to flesh out Tae Ho’s motivations in the end, and how they were able to change the game in the thirteenth episode with Tae Ho discovering that all of the violence that he did was mostly all for nothing.
On Joon Oh’s part, I loved the fact that in the end, not only did his best qualities shine, but they were able to show that he is pretty resourceful and good at carrying out a well thought off con, especially in Episodes 14 and 15. It showed me that even though we were coming to a predictable happy ending, the writers still managed to pull out twists that I did really see coming.
However, their ordeal on the island, and after they survived the island, also shone a spotlight on the rest of characters, and they were able to balance their development and motivations as well.
At the end of the entire series, I was surprised that some of the characters I didn’t really like at the beginning, became some of my favorites at the end, like Ha Ji Ah (Lee Sun Bin), and I had nothing but sympathy for So Hee, although I didn’t really like both of them at the beginning.
Also, lest I forget, even though EXO’s Park Chanyeol, who played Lee Yeol, had even less screen time than Ryu Won’s Yoon So Hee, I thought that he did an amazing job with what was given to him.
I was surprised at how difficult it was for me to watch the deaths of So Hee, Shin Jae Hyun (Yeon Je Wook) and Yeol; and I cringed every time they reminded us of President Hwang Jae Guk’s (Kim Sang Ho) accident via what I am now dubbing as “the crane of doom”.
The main mysteries of the show, what happened on the island and the truth behind the death of Jae Hyun, was handled well, and really drew me in, although it became infuriating at times that they were only giving us information on the latter one in little doses, as compared to the first one.
I think that the transition from shifting the attention to Jae Hyun’s case, as the timelines already, at that point had merged, and we were no longer getting flashbacks on the island, caused the show to be a little bit shaky. In fact, the hunt for So Hee’s cellphone got too long drawn out for me, as it took three whole episodes to get to it. However, as soon as everyone was on the same side, and they began enacting their plan to get the upper hand (Episodes 14 and 15), the show began to shine once more. (Also, that whole hospital scene, although it was fun to see Ji Ah and Bong Hee fight off Tae Ho’s henchmen off, was pretty ridiculous). However, I did love seeing the pieces come together to form explanations that made sense, and even incorporated things from the first few episodes that I didn’t think would matter that much.
My biggest problem however, with the series, is not the fact that the villains are predictably overpowered and cause a ridiculous amount of suffering because of their greed and their incompetence, but the ending.
For me, they should have ended it in the final episodes at the 51:28 mark, with Tae Ho getting sentenced at court, with the remaining survivors looking out at him as he was escorted out of the court room. In the episode, it went on to the weirdest ending I have ever seen- all of the survivors, and then some, in white, INCLUDING TAE HO, laughing with each other, paining a wall, and telling the reporters who appeared there what will happen next. I couldn’t help but think, the entire time, that this wasn’t real, because sure, you can forgive Tae Ho for what he had done, but for me, it is not possible that he was released or put in probation or parole that easily. That, plus the fact they were all wearing white, just like how they appeared to Bong Hee when she was under hypnotherapy to allow her to remember what happened on the island, led me to believe that this was a dream or idealized version of the ending for one of the characters.
In the end, “Missing 9”, although a commercial failure, should be lauded for its efforts as it did create a show that had two mysteries, memorable characters that you will come to love, an interesting story telling technique, and as it is an exploration into the nature of humanity.
- The discovery of Yoon So Hee’s body and that reveal in China.
- Ra Bong Hee struggling with trying to figure out whether she did or didn’t kill So Hee on the island.
- The tension and suspense of not trusting Joon Oh before learning that it was really Choi Tae Ho that killed the pilot.
- So Hee getting killed.
- The reveal of how Shin Jae Hyun really died.
- The crane of doom falling on President Hwang Jae Gook’s car.
- Yeol’s death.
- The con artist stuff that they pulled off and revealed at the end of Episode 13, and in Episodes 14 and 15.
- The ending part in Episode 13 with Choi Tae Ho realizing that all of his actions on the island, save for that mercy killing of the pilot, all the away until now, were all for nothing.
- Bong Hee’s hypnotherapy session in which she saw all of them in white.
- Joon Oh showing up in Cho He Kyung’s campaign office with the phone, and everything he pulled off in Episodes 14 and 15.
- I liked all, except for Episodes 11, 12, and most of 13, and some parts of Episode 10.
- Strongest Episodes: Episodes 1, 2, 5,6,7,8,9,14, 15
Life was easier on the island, when we didn’t care about what people thought of us. That was when I was happy. – Seo Joon Oh to Choi Tae Ho, Episode 16