FORGET KIM JONG UN, HERE’S THE BIGGER TRAVESTY
Iris 2 picks up where we leave off after the shocking finale of Iris 1. Jung Yoo Gun (Jang Hyuk) investigates further into the shadowy, terrorist organization known as “Iris” and their mysterious leader, Mr Black. Aiding him is Ji Soo Yeon (Lee Da Hae) and Seo Hyun Woo (Yoon Doo Joon). North Korean agent Yoo Joong Won (Lee Bum Soo) thought he left his past behind but an old flame Kim Yeon Hwa (Im Soo Hyang) brings him back into the spy game.
I kinda knew the writing wasn’t going to be good for this drama, so why did I decide to watch it despite knowing that? Iris 1 and Athena had some awesome, thrilling action sequences and because a lot of K-dramas tend to be romantic in nature whether comedic or melo, so as a reviewer I want to keep exposing myself to the differing genres.
So how did the action sequences fare? I seriously dozed off during many of the action sequences early on. For a drama that banks much of its success to those scenes, you’d think they would have upped the ante since Athena, which by the way has some of the best action sequences I’ve seen filmed for scripted, Korean television.
As for the story, no surprise here, they rely on too much exposition without much substance. Recycle the worst parts of both Iris 1 and Athena and what you’re left with is Iris 2. The hero loses his memory and assumed to be working for the enemy? Check.
The antagonist goes all megalomaniacal and gets consumed by his scheme for world annihilation (okay, Korea annihilation)? Check.
The femme fetale switches sides? Check. If you’re gonna be a droll drama, at least come up with some new droll story elements and don’t bite off the previous ones.
It’s a small detail but I did appreciate the incorporation of the North Korean dialect. The accent, intonation, where you take a breath are all important in how you perceive the character. While I can accept that spies trying to hide their identity in a foreign country might choose not to speak with the North Korean accent, I felt it was amiss for the North Korean military personnel to not be speaking with the accent in both Iris 1 and Athena.
The accent is brilliantly used by Lee Bum Soo as he starts off without it in Cambodia but it creeps back into his vocabulary when he’s pulled back into North Korea. Little things like this are just as important as the costumes they wear. The only thing is it may not come across for someone watching the drama with subtitles. But if you’ve seen enough North Korean conflict dramas and movies, you should be able to hear it somewhat.
I’m going to start getting in some serious spoilers so if you prefer not knowing what happens, it’s a good point to turn away. (But honestly, do you want to sit through 20 episodes after my comments above?) For those that do continue, hopefully I can provide some laughs that will at least make the reading worthwhile.
So Hyang – 잊지말아요 (Don’t Forget Me)
(Cover off the Iris 2 OST. I actually prefer Baek Ji Yeon’s version but it was nice to hear this old favorite again.)
Jang Hyuk and Lee Da Hae have some great chemistry, period. I don’t blame the drama wanting to take advantage of that.
I was all for the Yoo Gun and Soo Yeon couple even when Yoo Gun becomes afflicted with that common K-drama disease called amnesia.
But the relationship storyline becomes so much of a non-issue in the 2nd half of the drama that I no longer cared about their relationship. I know saving the country from nuclear bombs is probably a priority but the woman waiting for the man made me roll my eyes. Instead I began ‘shipping for Hyun Woo and Soo Yeon.
Really Soo Yeon, you’re just gonna wait for the man who places you below his vigilante plans.
I mean, Hyun Woo’s sending those sad puppy looks from afar and stuck by you. Even after you lost your brother and interrogated Hyun Woo for being a traitor. Though in all fairness, she was under orders and completely reluctant to the latter. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of this prime noona-dongsaeng opportunity? Seriously, your loss.
As for Jang Hyuk, he always puts his whole being into his acting and I know at times he appears to go overboard but for me, it comes across as passionate.
Here, Yoo Gun’s poorly written lines but Jang Hyuk’s agonizing cry comes off as the look of constipation. Or someone that has really low IQ. Hard to tell.
With Iris 2, we also saw the return of some of our favorite characters. One face I wasn’t expecting to see was Kim Gab Soo’s. Short recap: Baek San (Kim Young Chul) is sent by Mr. Black to kill a paralyzed scientist named Yoo Jung Hoon (Kim Gab Soo) for digging into the Iris organization. In this series, we learn Mr. Black is Yoo Jung Chul (Kim Gab Soo, again!) and wanted to kill his younger brother. So the best thing you could come up with is the evil twin angle here? Kim Gab Soo plays a great villain but there was absolutely no one else that could have played this role?
I know I give idols a hard time but good lord Lee Joon can’t act. It’s weird because I thought he was okay in I Need a Fairy but that was a sitcom and I’m reminded that he was basically playing himself. It felt like the writer diminished the role of Yoon Shi Hyuk early on because of the poor acting but he spends the 2nd half of the drama just sneering and sending glaring looks after we learn he’s the mole.
In a strange twist of events, his dying scene was actually okay. What the hell? Those are the hardest scenes to play. That might have been due to the fact that I was earnestly wishing for his character’s death which made his acting tolerable.
Speaking of death scenes, the death of Yoo Joong Won. So I wanted Yeon Hwa and Joong Won to have their happily ever after but I could have gone either way with his character. But the man gets shot in the head. I didn’t go to medical school but I’m pretty sure that a wound like that is going to make it tough for you to have your last say. You either don’t have the ability to talk at all, let alone talk for 5 freakin’ minutes! Lee Bum Soo does a beautiful death scene and at least he puts a ring on it. Beyonce would have been pleased.
Finally, there’s Im Soo Hyang. I honestly don’t think she was cast well for this drama. She’s a bit inexperienced in the action genre and it showed. However she does improve as the drama goes along.
Im Soo Hyang just doesn’t have half the charisma of Kim So Yeon and her character wasn’t written very well either. Kim Yeon Hwa lacks any kind of purpose in the drama so the writers keep placing her in opportune situations with various allies to move the story along. She is hot though, I’ll give her that.
I was so looking forward to Kim So Yeon’s cameo, but Sun Hwa finds her long lost sister napping on a public bench (okay, so Yeon Hwa is homeless now?) and puts headphones on her to wake her with music. They hug before they have to engage in one last gunfight and run off into the sunset. Thankfully, it was a pretty exciting fight scene and the conclusion of that story was to show that Iris is still alive and kicking. (If you’re gonna recycle old stuff, please don’t make Iris 3.)
Iris 2 had a poor start but strangely enough the drama’s storyline picks up towards the end (or good god, I became complacent with all the ridonculousness). It’s just that the improvements came too late in the game. I know the review above is pretty disjointed but so is, the drama. It was lucky to bring together a cast of great veteran actors but the script is so poor that even their acting comes off as being awkward and hokey. I’m hoping third time’s the charm for Lee Bum Soo’s next project because this and Time Slip Dr. Jin were abysmal. Kang Ji Hwan redeemed himself with his last project, so can you.