Myung Wol the Spy is labeled a romantic comedy and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Of course, the romantic comedy elements are all there but the brilliance of Myung Wol is that instead of being a romantic comedy with action/spy movie nuances, it’s actually a pastiche of elements borrowed from various moments in the history of spy films and blended together in a wacky and entertaining way. They just also happen to be attached onto a romantic comedy skeleton.
Myung Wol the Spy reminds me of a Hong sisters drama, and not just for the absurdity of its humour. However, where the sisters’ dramas are riddled with references to other dramas and pop culture, this is a love letter to film noir and spy caper films. What gets me is how the love for film transpires in every scene of this drama, from the set up of its scenes to the manner in which the characters are created. I mean you can’t write a script like this and film a show like this without having spent hours of your youth watching movies. And as a fellow film geek, I can’t not be tickled by that. And that’s why I think that in order to love Myung Wol fully, you have to love film. Not drama, K or otherwise but films, spy films essentially, from Bogie to Bond and Bourne and all that’s in between.
When Kang Woo told Myung Wol he will make her forget about that great love she has for him, my first reaction was to think about Bogie’s line inCasablanca: “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
One thing I adore is how well the main characters (save for one, but more on that later) are put together. You have Myung Wol, the super agent with a weak spot – impulsivity, and with a host of daddy issues. Her motivation for wanting to be a Special Unit agent is both touching and leaves a LOT of room for development. I mean on one hand she wants to join the unit so she can feel part of a family, as her father, the only family she remembers, was apart of that unit, she wants to join the closest thing to a family she has. On the other hand, her father died that way, so she believes it’s a good way for her to die as well. In preparing for this, she has little time to actually live, which is why she lacks all romantic experience and has the social skills of a lab rat.
Enter Kang Woo, Hallyu star extraordinaire. He could be just any Hallyu star and it would be enough, but there’s a lot more to him and just enough has been hinted of his past and his abilities to make us really, REALLY curious. What’s with the super calculating skills and the super reflexes? And how about that antique manuscript thingy? Is it wrong that I actually want him to be a spy too? I’m sure he’s not, unless he’s a sleeper agent waiting to be activated via a trigger embedded deep in his subconscious. That, or he’s been kidnapped by aliens. Or, you know, he has been training in a camp in Thailand from a young age, waiting for the day he will be able to avenge his father’s death. *ahem*
Choi Ryu, I love you. Is it okay that he’s on his way to becoming my favorite here? I know, I don’t fully understand it myself. He’s been played as the quiet, efficient type and for most part, he is. I’ve read about how people dislike his being so non-reactive, but on the contrary, I think he is brilliant. In the quiet type category, he is miles above most. He may not say or do much but his eyes, his eyes are alive. There’s emotion, intelligence and a dash of mischievousness there. Unlike Myung Wol, he isn’t lacking people skills; he just doesn’t seem to give enough of a damn to put more effort into his interactions with others. He seems to know more than everyone else but treats everyone around him with a need-to-know protocol, and since he does most of the stuff that needs doing himself, few people need to know anything at all. On top of everything else, he even manages to elevate Yoo In Ah’s otherwise bland and completely unexceptional character though their interactions, making even her seem remotely interesting.
Speaking of Yoo In Ah, she’s the one character I dislike. Not because she is intentionally meant to be unlikeable, although she is, but because out of the four main characters, she is the only one I could exchange with 90% of other female second leads from 90% of all other dramas out there and it would make no difference. So far the character in question has made no attempts at moving away from the pre-established bitchy, pretty, spoiled, immature-in-a-bad-way, two-dimensional-at-best second female lead and that’s annoying. In a drama where each character has a host of defining features of their own, she feels generic. Watching Myung Wol, Kang Woo and even Choi Ryu interact with her is like watching them interact with a cartoon. While her interactions with Ryu are a minor saving grace, though no thanks to her character but to his, I can’t wait for the day when she either starts doing something interesting or simply becomes a non-issue. Sadly she will probably follow the same route as other members of her unremarkable sorority and stick around for a while if only to annoy.
The old spy couple is my weakness. How awesome are Hee Bok’s stuck-in-the-80es getups? How hilarious it is that neither of the two spies seems to mind terribly the idea of being married to each other? Like after being stranded in this strange world, alienated from what they knew in their youth and yet unable to go back home, they finally found their way to some of that camaraderie they spoke of when they first met.
I look forward to what’s to come and hope that the low ratings and production woes won’t take away from the charm of this show. I’d be sorry to see it go in a direction where it tones down everything that’s awesome about it just to cater to a wider audience.