TALES OF A WAYWARD SPY
Han Myung Wol (Han Ye Seul) is an elite North Korean spy who is part of the Hallyu Disciplinary Bureau. After being commissioned to escort a high ranking officer’s daughter to a Kang Woo (Eric) concert in Singapore, she has a chance meeting with the top star herself.
Fellow comrade Choi Ryu (Lee Jin Wook) is on a mission to obtain antique books and crosses paths with a hotel tycoon (Lee Duk Hwa) who is also in search of the books. After Choi Ryu fails his mission, a guilty Myung Wol comes to South Korea to claim the book back from Kang Woo.
She decides to off Kang Woo at first but then her orders are changed to marry and bring the Hallyu star back to North Korea. Problems arise when Kang Woo begins to fall for this wayward spy instead.
This drama started off in camp territory and I really liked the offbeat nature of it. However, I quickly became puzzled before they aired the first episode when I heard the first OST track. Usually the OST sets the tone for the drama as it is constantly replayed over and over again. The first song is a ballad by Bobby Kim called 사랑이 무서워 (Love is Scary) and followed up by a lot of other ballads. This is where I started to get worried as I felt that the writers didn’t know whether to go for wacky or melo. I don’t think a fusion of the two really worked out in the long run but these are the superficial broad strokes of the drama. Let’s dig deeper.
Despite the sad musical track, I felt that the two characters had to fall in love fast or at least be aware of their attraction. That would open up more territory when it concerned the mystery of the books, the mystery of Kang Woo’s dad’s death and Myung Wol defecting to the South. Plus, we were introduced to some NSA agents and North Korean officials who could have aided in the whole loyal to the North, loyal to the South debate but they disappeared very early on. Why introduce them if you’re not gonna use them?
What we were left with was this back and forth drama between do you love me, no, I don’t love you. While it started out as being cute and quirky it got old very quickly.
Seriously, I could go on but I have whiplash from this ping pong match.
And this brings me to the controversial episode 13’s sex scene. To be honest, after all the nonsense we had to sit through in episode 11 with Kang Woo finally figuring it out and admitting he loved Myung Wol on TV and then the cutesy coupley stuff in episode 12, I was relieved to see Eric dig deep and get to the meat of this drama. This scene should have come earlier. While some people were shocked that the drama went dark, I half expected it because the soundtrack indicated to me that this wasn’t going to be your normal comedy. The offbeat nature of the show and the melo-ness of the soundtrack were big hints of what was to come. Plus, North Korean and South Korean issues are never truly gonna be light fodder for Koreans. That division runs deep.
I fully understand after all the back and forth how Kang Woo could reach this point. When someone you love deceives you and lies to you again and again, anger is warranted.
However, did Kang Woo coerce Myung Wol into have sex with him? In my opinion, no. The drama made a conscious effort to make references to MataHari, a Dutch courtesan and accused spy from World War I.
As Myung Wol was starting to fall in love with Kang Woo, I believe half of her was in love with him and half of her was maintaining her cover. She is a spy after all and her motive was to seduce Kang Woo. Kang Woo just wanted to find some semblance of the truth but did she provide truth? No, she decides to go ahead and sleep with him fulfilling her role as the seductress. I can understand why Myung Wol slept with him as not only is her life on the line but the lives of her comrades.
Did I find the scene romantic? No. I took the scene to be an angst-filled admission that the other person has gotten under their skin. It’s hard to think straight when love is involved and I think their confusion about where their loyalties lay was extremely palpable. Despite the post-coital apologies, I felt that the morning after was wholly inconsistent and unwarranted. I think I would have preferred to have an angst-filled, awkward morning.
So while not everyone will have the same opinion about it as I do, that’s what I took from the scene. While I didn’t love the aftermath, I felt that the angst brought the story to a different level.
After that, I think the Episodes 15 and 16 really brought the drama home as to what the drama should have been all along. It was suspenseful, funny, cute and dramatic all in one.
Since the drama waited so long to get the writing together, what resulted in the final episodes was this rush job of illogical nonsense to wrap everything up with a neat bow. I’m all for a happy ending but only if they make sense. So here are my broad list of complaints with the final two episodes: 1) Why does Myung Wol automatically assume Choi Ryu tried to have Kang Woo killed? Errr, you’ve known all along if you don’t succeed with your mission, it equals death for you and your comrades. You’re in the spy game and helloooo, it’s North Korea???
2) Choi Ryu, how many times do you have to duped by Chairman Joo before you’re gonna understand that you can’t trust his lying ass?
3) And the ending, Kang Woo still a top star and living in the limelight with Myung Wol? Okay, you faked your death for a year but wouldn’t they still come after you after seeing that you’re still alive? Myung Wol, you were a star too.
Here is where I firmly blame the writers for a drama that could have been great. The drama had some high quality actors that had chemistry but they had no story to work with. What a waste of good talent. The premise was unique but the story didn’t deliver.