So I did the usual Google sleuthing and found more dissatisfaction online about Angel Eyes than raves, understandably of course but geez some people are unfairly turning others away from the show, thus prompting me to follow-up on my earlier spazzing here and here, with an overall review. You know, I like Angel Eyes. A lot. While I’m still not sure if it’s a keeper, it is easily watchable and I know I will definitely re-watch it. In fact when I finished the last episode two weeks ago, I watched it again two nights later to confirm the closure – I won’t spoil it but yes I’d even enjoyed the last episode, ending included. You know that’s rare when it comes to Kdramas and endings, so even though the drama did meander in the middle, I appreciate that the ending stayed true to the show’s original feel.
Admittedly this show isn’t perfect, but it had its moments. If you were to ask me if Angel Eyes is worth watching, my answer is easily a yes. Let’s backtrack and smooth the creases together.
At Its Finest
Episodes one and half of two, bar none, were the best of Angel Eyes‘ entire run. The childhood portion of this show was so impeccably done and extremely well-acted by up-and-comers Kang Ha Neul and Nam Ji Hyun. What struck me most is how they convinced me that this isn’t just puppy love but one for the ages, truly the definition of one-true pairing, by literally breathing life to their characters Park Dong Joo and Yoon Soo Wan respectively through their portrayal of the innocence, heady chemistry, and growth of their characters and devotion towards each other – all in the span of 120 minutes. I know, I know – we’ve heard the first love cliché too many times in Kdramas that an automatic groan is our response but trust me on this: watch them. These two episodes were so well-done that they’re a class of their own and can (should) be watched separately from the rest of the show.
Alternatively, just read my first impression because I think I basically praised them nonstop there, ha.
Apart from the chemistry between our young leads who carried the show with so much nuance, heart and love towards each other, the cinematography of the first two episodes were pitch-perfect and drop-dead gorgeous. I remember coming across gifs of the episodes on Tumblr and I ended up just staring at them in awe, before finally relenting to give the show a go. The rest of the show is also a sight to behold but it’s clear that having more time matters – the crisp quality of the first two episodes was Angel Eyes at its visual finest. No doubt this director is mighty talented.
Credit must also be given to the actress who played Miss Jung Hwa because her character was the heart and soul of the show from beginning to end and had a limited actress played this character, I don’t think the end result and reception would’ve been the same. I loved her, all of her – her motherly gestures, her warmth, her fighting spirit and above all, her kindness. Love, love her. All hail the awesome Kim Yeo Jin!
The writing of this show unfortunately did not hold throughout its run but in my opinion, the writer did no wrong when it comes to the romance, namely the budding romance, and childhood portion (…up until the part where drama happens). What I appreciate the most is that she trusted her characters to react to the turn-of-events and to each other – it’s like she paved the way and painted the landscape but allowed them to freely fill in the details – and bless the casting team for picking Kang Ha Neul and Nam Ji Hyun because the result is Angel Eyes at its finest.
The Finer Prints
Though they did not carry the show and their characters with the same piercing intensity and heart as their younger counterparts, Lee Sang Yoon and Goo Hye Sun undoubtedly brought their A-games and chemistry – dude, it crackled. The very air sizzled with tension both of the sexual and cute kinds – take your pick. You have to watch it to believe it; they were like the cutest fluffy bunnies when together but at the same time, the sexual tension was not absent lest we forget that they’re 30-something adults. I didn’t. Ahem.
I was actually unfamiliar with Lee Sang Yoon‘s acting but he has effortlessly converted me into his fan for life through this show alone. Those dimples! In my opinion Park Dong Joo was meant for him because he portrayed Dong Joo’s boyish nature and manly aura so organically – part boy, all man. Mmm.
On the other hand, rejoice because Goo Hye Sun has improved folks! By leaps and bounds! I’m not going to try to guess why (theories out there include it’s the age i.e. having settled comfortably in her 30s, the right team and character etc) cos what matters most to me is that she delivered, period. I admit the transition was not seamless since like most everyone, it took me some time to buy the transition from Nam Ji Hyun to Goo Hye Sun especially since the former really killed it with her portrayal of Soo Wan whereas the latter started off with lots of awkward dead-fish eye expressions but by episode 6 or so, Goo Hye Sun really melded into her role – I sensed that she was there, all there, in her scenes and she continued to impress me to the end.
The chemistry between the two carried the show and really anchored it, especially in the dwindling middle i.e. where nothing really happened. More than that though is the devotion they have towards each other, which they maintained until the end that really touched me and had me rooting for them. It’s not just first love or love alone because their bond truly and sincerely runs deeper than that – I call it devotion – that this is one case where I knew, even when they were apart, that they would eventually find their way back to each other’s arms, always.
“He came before you and everyone else! We were us before anything or anyone.” Aye.
One might point out (and argue) that their romance was old-fashioned and too saccharine sweet which I don’t deny, but you know why the hell not? To be honest I find Dong Joo to be such a romantic but he was such a swoon worthy romantic and totally unflinching in his love towards Soo Wan that I just … melt. They’re like one of those couples who’ll grow old together and stay just as in love in their 80s as they were in their 20s – so, so cute. Their kisses and hugs were like the most precious – to each other. That’s the best part – not to the audience or anyone else but to each other, first and foremost. No matter how great and perfect the second lead was, I knew he never stood a chance between these two.
Some Rough Edges
Angel Eyes is a show that fell victim to poor writing. It’s not a total lost cause but it had everything else right going for it: perfect casting, skilled directing, a pleasing soundtrack and even the right season to complement as backdrop. Unfortunately, the writing could not sustain the show throughout its 20-episode run no thanks to the wafer-thin plot conflicts which include lots of tears, mediocre EMT cases that were supposedly of grave importance, medical misconducts and unnecessary separation angst. I honestly feel like the show would’ve fared better had it been 12 or 16 episodes because then the imperfections wouldn’t have been so glaring. It would’ve been short and very, very sweet.
It’s not just the plot that fell victim to poor writing, the side characters and antagonists were all under-developed and mostly one-dimensional, which is such a shame because they had a solid team of actors. Seungri of BIGBANG was cute and provided much of the comic relief but let’s be honest – he was useless and contributed nothing to the main story. Kim Ji Suk was an ineffective second lead, albeit (supposedly) attractive and the perfect guy. The villain and villainous were ineffectual both in their misdeeds and their retribution – no one was really (logically) evil and none paid the full price for their deeds either. In short, I wasn’t kidding when I said our main couple anchored and carried the show, both during the good and bad times.
This is my main dissatisfaction about Angel Eyes and I find it so unfortunate because this caused the show a majority of its audience. It lost its viewers’ interests no thanks to the meandering middle where the plot conflicts remained wafer-thin and the plot line was stagnant so we circled and danced around the same why-is-this-a-conflict and tears, oh god lots of tears, and the occasional and incredibly random appearance of Seungri as comic relief. Don’t read the comments online about the middle episodes cos they’re not helping, by that I mean –
Despite the poor writing, my advice is to stay on for the ride. Ride it out and fast-forward if you must because okay, even I ended up having to do that because the pacing slowed considerably so much so I kept yawning when I watched episodes 12-16, but trust me – you will be rewarded for your patience. True and unsurprisingly the ending was predictable as hell, but it stayed true to the spirit of the show and our beloved characters.
Angel Eyes is best remembered this way: embrace the good, make peace with the bad, and forget the ugly. Enjoy Kang Ha Neul and his dimples for 2/20 hours and Lee Sang Yoon and his dimples on your screen for 18/20 hours – double win, plus I swear they have the cutest, most heartwarming smiles. Appreciate the beauty that is Goo Hye Sun because this woman is undoubtedly gorgeous and even though yes she’s not believable (at all) as an EMT, spare her just this once because more notably, she nailed it as Soo Wan. Above all enjoy the romance because you know, it’s not every day that we come across Kdramas where the younger leads have mad chemistry and the older ones have even more sizzling chemistry. A quick guide on how to enjoy: feel the butterflies in your stomach, squeal at the cute, awww at the meaningful kisses and re-watch the ending twice, just because.
Final verdict: 7/10.