Dramas that talk about healing from one’s past, and that deal with facing particularly traumatic past events in order to move on with one’s life is definitely something that isn’t uncommon when it comes to Korean drama fare, as we’ve seen with dramas like “Just Between Lovers”. However, this time around, in MBC’s “Come Here and Hug Me”, this type of story is given an interesting twist by pairing it up with an interesting study on the fallout of a serial killer’s actions on his family, the family of his victims, the reporters who latched on to this particular case, and a pair of star crossed lovers who have to go through insurmountable odds in order to heal and move on. Interestingly enough, this drama also marked the debut of both of the main leads in there very first leading roles. This drama is definitely a must watch as it presents us with great performances, cinematography, music, and direction; and presents an interesting character study on the nature of evil, genetic tendencies, free will and the power of choice.
MBC’s “Come Here and Hug Me” ran from May 16 to July 19, 2018, every Wednesday and Thursday, with thirty-two twenty-five to thirty minute episodes. It was created by Park Seong Eun, was written by Lee A Ram, and was directed by Choi Joon Bae. The lead roles for this drama were initially offered to Nam Joo Hyuk (“Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo”, “Bride of the Water God”) and Suzy (“While You Were Sleeping”); but in the end, they decided to go with two up and coming actors, and I think that the decision was a good one. I haven’t seen Nam Joo Hyuk in anything yet, but based on what I saw from Suzy in “While You Were Sleeping”, I’m not particularly fond of what she brings to the table when it comes to heavy, emotionally driven scenes, so I’m glad that they went with the casting they ended up with instead.
This drama tells the story of Chae Do Jin or Yoon Na Moo (Jang Ki Yong/Nam Da Reum), a police officer whose one true love, and whom he runs into time after time again, is Han Jae Yi or Gil Nak Won (Jin Ki Joo/Ryu Han Bi), an actress whose parents were murdered by Do Jin’s/Na Moo’s serial killer father, Yoon Hee Jae (Heo Joon Ho). This story spans the breadth of around more thirteen years, starting from the moment these ill-fated lovers met, to the murder of Jae Yi’s/Nak Won’s parents, all the way to twelve years later when they meet up again. Aside from this, the drama is a character study of Yoon Hee Jae himself and those who look up to him; and a study on how it affected Jee Hae’s victim’s family’s, Jae Yi’s family, and Do Jin’s family.
There were a lot of interesting themes that were explored in this drama, and there were a lot of dualities that were presented to the audiences, allowing us to see the different paths a particular person with a particular set of circumstances would take, which can be seen in the characters in the show. The major concepts and themes that were explored in the drama included healing from traumatic experiences; the true nature of redemption; the role that love, family, and forgiveness has in shaping a person; the nature of evil in humans and whether it can be hereditary; and the concepts of free will, choice, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions. I believe that each of these concepts were thoroughly explored, and allowed us as well to understand the conclusions that the drama was trying to show us.
The music, direction, writing and cinematography were all great; and it was interesting how they tried to keep things realistic and grounded; and allowed each character, even the secondary ones, to go against the usual tropes and act realistically based on the nature of each character presented to us.
Both Jang Ki Yong and Jin Ki Joo were fantastic as the grown up main leads, especially as they had to go through an entire spectrum of emotions given their roles. Their performances were powerfully driven by emotions, which could be seen not only in their physicality, but also in their eyes. Also, it was amazing how this pair can make soulful, angsty staring not feel awkward and just full of emotion. Aside from this, they were also able to pick up and build upon the mannerisms that their younger counterparts had, and those two, Nam Da Reum and Ryu Han Bi, were fantastic as well.
I have now seen Nam Da Reum portray the younger version of the main male character three times now, and I honestly cannot wait until he grows up and gets bigger roles. I think that he’ll definitely do well in melodrama, but I can’t wait to see what else he can do.
Now, even though we all love our main couple, I am pretty sure that I am not alone in saying that Kim Kyung Nam stole the hearts of a lot of those in the audience with his great performance of the misunderstood Yoon Hyun Moo, Do Jin’s/Na Moo’s older brother, who tried to be a bad egg to get approval from his father, but who is a marshmallow on the inside, and who later on realizes who his real family is.
“Come Here and Hug Me” is a must watch for any Kdrama fan, as it was a well done drama that delves deep and fully explores interesting themes that arose due to its presence. It also solidified Jang Ki Yong and Jin Ki Joo as actors to look out for, and I’m definitely excited to see what they’ll do next.
Now, you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers!
This year’s dramas have been serving up a wide spectrum of interesting villains, and serial killer Yoon Hee Jae is another shining example of a well thought out off and well written villain. His tendencies and twisted sense of what life is and his twisted love for his wife, young stepdaughter, and especially towards Do Jin/Na Moo, were thoroughly explored; as well as how good he is at manipulating others to be subservient to him. His character also poses the questions of whether a family member’s evil tendencies can be inherited, and also shows us an example of what could happen to someone who was brought up in a broken home with no one ever giving him love.
Heo Joon Ho was just amazing as Hee Jae, from his physicality, all the way down to those crazy stares he treated the audience with.
There were many paths that Do Jin/Na Moo could have taken, but instead, he stayed true to his name (which means ‘tree’), and bore everything by himself, standing resilient and strong so that he could always protect Jae Yi/Nak Won, when they saw each other again. Instead of lashing out, this ‘tree’, coped with things by becoming a police officer, which allowed him not only to atone for his father’s sins, but also, it did allow him to put himself in harm’s way, so that, in a way, he could get physically punished as well in what can be seen as socially accepted risky behavior. It is true that among the brothers, Na Moo does have more of his father’s tendencies as his anger and passion can feed that violent side of him, but instead of trying to seek power and control over others, Na Moo decided to use that in order to protect those he loves the most, and it is those, especially Nak Won, who were able to curb and stop him from becoming too violent as they showed him genuine love. His story arc was pretty intense, as it tried and tested him to the breaking point, but once there, his love for those who love him, and the knowledge that killing his father would only be giving him what he wants, saved him. Once again, Jang Ki Yong was amazing in this role as he was able to make mournful angsty starting not boring, but was able to go from tortured to crazy angry, to a shy boy in love.
Jae Yi/Nak Won is pretty much an angel, which is pretty fitting as Nak Won means ‘paradise’. Not only does she truly love her adoptive brother, Gil Moo Won (Yoon Jong Hoon), but she’s able to stay truly and deeply in love with the son of the man who murdered her parents. Nak Won’s story arc was more of learning how to cope and later on, truly heal from the events of the past, something that really didn’t happen until she literally faced her ‘demon’, Hee Jae, and this time around, she managed to stand strong and protect the man that she loved. Once again, Jin Ki Joo was amazing, and I cannot wait to see what she’ll do next.
As mentioned earlier, Kim Kyung Nam stole a lot of people’s hearts as Yoon Hyun Moo, and among all the character arcs in this show, this one had the most satisfying ending. Hyun Moo lashed out and was violent towards others because that’s what he knew his father liked, and even until he grew older, he continued doing so to get his approval. So, his story arc was all about finally accepting the reality of what his father is, and who his real family truly is- Na Moo, his step sister, and his step mother, who love him unconditionally despite all his faults. Also, he beats Na Moo for the “Best Human Shield” award, as he not only used himself as a shield to protect his step-sister, and towards his step-mother as well when his father tried to kill both of them. I think that them being threatened by Hee Jae not only showed us his more marshmallow nature, but also served as the wake up call that allowed him to choose the right thing to do. In the end, Hyun Moo shows us what true redemption is because he also went back and faced the music as he will be going to prison, but, in a way, he’s already been saved. He also bears a lot of similarities to Moo Won, as they both went through traumatic childhoods. Moo Won could have definitely lashed out and become violent, especially as he did stab the one who killed his biological parents, but instead, he had loving and patient adoptive parents who gave him the space and love that he needed to grow up well.
As to the question of whether psychopathy or evil is hereditary, based on what the show tried to tell us, in the end, it all depends on the choices one makes. Moo Won could have been violent and angry, but he chose to accept the love that was given to him, as did Hyun Moo, even though it was later in the game. Na Moo definitely inherited more of his father’s tendencies, but because of the love that was shown to him by Nak Won, he chose to turn those tendencies to something good instead.
Choices also played a big role in the other dualities explored in the drama, such as the two main reporters in the series, as well as the behavior of the colleagues and friends of Do Jin.
In the end, genetics and inherited tendencies will always be there, but in the end, its up to the individual to make conscious choices that will lead towards one path or the other.
I also found it interesting that in the end, the title of the show didn’t refer to both our leads but it actually was referring to them individually finding the closure that they needed in order to move on with their lives, which powerfully represented by Na Moo and Nak Won metaphorically hugging their younger selves and reassuring them that everything will be alright.
“Come Here and Hug Me” is a well done drama that managed to explore interesting and dark themes, while giving us wonderful and powerful performances in a well-written, well-directed drama that will make you cry, fall in love, and be rooting for these characters until the end.
Have you seen “Come Here and Hug Me”? What did you think of it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!