TV Review: Black (Kdrama) (Spoilers!)

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Seong Soon Heon as Grim Reaper 444 or Black & Go Ara as Kang Ha Ram

Ever since I watched “Voice”, which I loved, I’ve been keeping a very close eye on what OCN has to offer. When I stumbled across “Black” on Netflix, I decided to give this a shot over “Goblin”, as I wanted a good crime/mystery drama after watching “Stranger” or “Forest of Secrets”. What I got here was a drama with a beautiful soundtrack, praiseworthy action scenes and acting, a great mystery story that had a lot of social commentary in it without it feeling like it was shoehorned in, but had an ending that made most viewers scratch their heads in confusion as it is an ending that didn’t do the show justice at all.

“Black” aired from October 14 to December 10, 2017, right after the thriller “Save Me/Rescue Me” ended. The story centers around a cold-hearted Grim Reaper named Reaper 444 or Black (Kim Tae Woo/Song Seung Heon), who teams up with Kang Ha Ram (Go Ara), a woman who can foresee death, in order to solve a twenty year old mystery. Also caught up in the mystery are Kim Won Hae (“Strong Woman Do Bong Soon”, “While You Were Sleeping”, “Chief Kim”, “Tomorrow With You”, “Criminal Minds”), who plays a detective nicknamed “Crazy Dog”;  ZE:A’s Kim Dong Jun, who plays a second generation chaebol named Oh Man Soo who becomes good friends with Ha Ram; and Lee El, who plays Yoon Soo Wan, a talented doctor in love with Detective Han Moo Gang (Song Seung Heon). Aside from them, Jo Jae Yoon played Reaper 007 and Lee Kyu Bok played Reaper 416, two Grim Reapers who are good friends to Reaper 444. (Just as a side note, I’m amazed at all the dramas Kim Won Hae was in this year.)

The drama was written by Choi Ran and was directed by Kim Hong Sun, who also directed “Voice”. If you look at both of these dramas, you can see that the cinematography and the color palettes of both dramas are quite similar. Also, in “Black”, there is a little Easter Egg of Black  watching “Voice” to learn how to be a detective.

The mythology surrounding the Grim Reapers was well done, and fleshed out well all throughout the drama without things being too much of an exposition dump, and without it being shoehorned in. The epic sprawling mystery continued to surprise me, even until the end, and I’m surprised at how many socially relevant themes and topics they managed to fit into a serialized mystery show. Some of the topics covered here included teenage prostitution, pedophilia, corruption, domestic abuse and violence, plagiarism and the ugly side of showbiz, mental health issues, politics, and tragedies similar to the Sewol Ferry Disaster.

I also thought that the characters themselves were well fleshed out, and I loved the character journeys that Black and Oh Man Soo went through throughout the show.

As I mentioned earlier, I loved the soundtrack, and I thought that the acting in this show was praiseworthy. Song Seung Heon delivered as he actually ended up playing three characters in the show, which is no easy feat. I’ve seen Kim Won Hae in other dramas before, so I knew that he would deliver no matter what. This was actually my first time seeing Lee El in anything, and after this, I’m very much keen on seeing what else she can do. Kim Dong Jun, whom I didn’t know was a singer, did really well in this drama, and Oh Man Soo became one of my favorite parts of this drama. I’ve never seen Go Ara act before this. I liked her portrayal in the beginning, before all the romance began between her and Black, and I especially loved her acting more when she was wearing her sunglasses. However, I am also not sure if this was because of her acting abilities, or because of what the script demanded of her. In the end, however, there were moments when I did get tired of Ha Ram, especially towards the end.

I bought Lee El’s and Song Seung Heon’s chemistry together, but didn’t see the romantic chemistry that much between him and Go Ara. However, I did see more romantic chemistry potential between Go Ara and Kim Dong Jun.

The writing, directing and pacing were actually on point until a certain point; and it is no secret that the ending was horribly messed up. There were moments in the final two episodes that made me scratch my head, but that was nothing as compared to the last ten minutes of the series, which was a major disappointment to everyone. According to a report on Soompi, the writer, Choi Ran, expressed her disappointment in how everything was resolved, as it had been changed in order to fit the number of episodes they were given. They were actually given sixteen episodes, and were allowed to have a two more episode extension, but it looks like the original scripts were meant for twenty episodes. I think that if they did this, that wouldn’t have happened. Also, I hated the moments that were “shaky cam”, as it was worse than the “shaky cam” that “Voice” had.

“Black” was a wonderful ride that kept you guessing until the end, and had a wonderful mystery, performances, and soundtrack. However, you should be warned that the ending was a major disappointment. I do recommend this drama, but advise against watching the last ten minutes of the show.

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“Black” tells the story of the cold-hearted Grim Reaper 444, who ends up occupying the body of Detective Han Moo Gang , after he his killed. Before that, Moo Gang had been investigating a twenty year old mystery involving a fire at a shopping mall, and his step-brother’s death that somehow, his girlfriend, Yoon Soo Wan,  had also been involved in somehow. Moo Gang actually had all the pieces to solve the case, and had inadvertently crossed paths with Ha Ram, a woman who can foresee death and who had a huge crush on Moo Gang’s step-brother, Joon; and had actually asked her to team up with him so that they could solve cases together and prevent more deaths from happening. 444 or Black ends up occupying Moo Gang’s body in order to chase down his partner, a newbie Reaper who ended up escaping while on the job. Because of this, Black ends up trying to solve the mystery that Moo Gang had been investigating, and also ends up falling in love with Ha Ram as well. Later on, it’s revealed that Black is really Joon, as it turns out that the Reapers who believe themselves to be “pure-bred Reapers” are actually missing people, and once their bodies are found, they revert to their actual form, regain their memories, and finally move on to either Heaven or Hell. It is also revealed that Ha Ram can see death in the form of black smoke, as she can only partially see Reapers due to the fact that her own father was actually a Reaper, and the previous generation’s 444.

Second generation Oh Man Soo, who ends up being friends and falling in love with Ha Ram,  also gets caught up in all the drama as it turns out that the insurance company that his family’s corporation owns was also somehow involved in the events twenty years ago; and Soo Wan is later revealed to have been Joon’s actual first love, Kim Sun Young, who had been forced to be in a teenage prostitution ring when she was young.

The entire mystery surrounding this, and the fact that Moo Gang’s mom gave him Joon’s heart after he was accidentally shot by a young Ha Ram convinced that she was saving her father from death, as Moog Gang had a heart condition, was actually great.

Problems in the plot, for me, started after learning that a young Ha Ram had accidentally shot young Joon, and the fact that they introduced the ACTUAL big villain in the last episode of the series.

I am fine with the fact that Black accepted the harshest punishment for a Reaper- to be erased from all existence, but it doesn’t explain how that leads Ha Ram to live a happy life in the end, especially with the revelation that the newbie Reaper Black had been chasing was able to travel back in time to stop the accident that caused the original 444 Reaper to fall in love with Ha Ram’s mother.

Also, I hated the old make up they put on Ha Ram, and if Black was erased from all existence, I still don’t understand why he was the one who picked up Ha Ram in the end when she died.

Because of this, I actually tried looking for what Choi Ran originally intended to do, and while it is still a messy ending, it’s less messier than this ending.

Seong Soong Heun was amazing here, as you could see the differences in how he portrayed each character. As Moo Gang, he was innocent, righteous and determined. With Black, he went through a journey of not caring about anything to learning what it means to be human. I especially loved the parts where he had to struggle between not saving people due to the rules as a Reaper, and when he finally gave in and started helping out despite the fact that he’s breaking all the Reaper rules. I also love that in the end, he became Joon, as that is who he really was in the end.

As I mentioned earlier, with Go Ara, I really preferred her in the earlier episodes. After a while, her crashing into situations, and her acting as if the entire world only revolved around her “Oppa” really annoyed me.

Lee El was a revelation to me, as her acting was well done, from her being a faithful lover to her trying to solve things, to all the emotional stuff she had to put in. However, I am still bothered by the Ha Ram-Joon-Sun Young/Soo Wan love triangle, because I don’t think it’s fair that Sun Young and Joon never got together, as they were the ones who really were in love with each other, and Ha Ram was quite possessive her crush towards Jun.

Kim Dong Jun as Oh Man Soo, that fluffy little puppy who was always rejected by everyone, was also another great revelation to me. He portrayed his character well, although I wish it had been more established in the beginning that he was a good hacker as well. His journey went from chaebol who acts out to a loyal friend and someone who is righteous enough to make things right again.

There were also some great emotional moments in this series. I never thought I’d cry during Crazy Dog’s funeral, and I was also emotionally moved when Reaper 416 finally discovered who he was.

The violence here isn’t as bad as the violence in “Voice”, but I think it made up for it when Man Soo’s older brother clubbed his dog to death, which was quite difficult to watch.

All in all, there were a lot of things in “Black” that worked, but unfortunately, it’s rushed and half-hearted ending made viewers feel as if everything and everyone we invested in in the show didn’t matter at all. However, I do highly recommend this show, but I suggest you don’t watch the last ten minutes of it.

Have you seen the 2017 Kdrama “Black”? What did you think of it? What do you think they could have done in order to fix the ending? Do you have any proposals to fix that horrible ending? What did you think of Go Ara’s performance here? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “TV Review: Black (Kdrama) (Spoilers!)

  1. Im so glad someone else found Ha-Ram annoying – I also liked her in the first couple episodes too & I agree with you on the lack of chemistry between her & Joon, to be honest there was more chemistry between Oh Man-Soo and his dog. I am struggling to finish Black but I’ll endure it a little while longer – thank you for the heads up on the last 2 episodes – it kinda lets me off the hook somewhat lol

    1. Oh Man Soo is a precious puppy. 😁 I havent seen any of Go Ara’s other projects but there’s a huge hurdle to get over because I didnt like her so much here. Hahahaha. I got so scared by this that I started looking at Finale recaps because I Dont want to get scarred again. Heard the ending of Misty scarred a lot of people so IM Hesitant to try that out now.

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