[Review] Descendants of the Sun – 태양의 후예


Captain Yoo Shi Jin (Song Joong Ki) is part of an elite Special Forces Unit in which their highly classified missions help to keep the peace all over the globe.  Dr. Kang Mo Yeon (Song Hye Kyo) is a surgeon at a big Seoul hospital.  After a misunderstanding, Shi Jin and Mo Yeon fall for each other and begin to date but due to the demanding constraints of their jobs they decide to break up.

Eight months later, they both find themselves in the fictional country of Uruk on a peacekeeping mission.  They both get a chance to rediscover their feelings and understand their views on life.

Sergeant Major Seo Dae Young (Jin Goo) is also part of Shi Jin’s Special Forces Unit.  When he’s not busy trying to keep his best friend Shi Jin out of trouble, he pines for his ex-girlfriend Yoon Myung Joo (Kim Ji Won) who is an army doctor.  She also happens to be the daughter to his Lieutenant General who doesn’t like the fact that his daughter is in love with a soldier.  Instead of facing his dilemma head on, he avoids encountering Myung Joo every chance he gets even though he is madly in love with her.

I’ve come to accept that when it comes to Writer Kim Eun Sook, I have to let go of certain expectations.  This one is no different as there were moments when plausibility and depth of character go out the window.  However, I can also see why she continually puts out one trendy hit after another.

She has the knack for finding what makes fangirls swoon with the masculine leads and fanboys fawn over the charming women.  Her dramas are always cast with stars that become a bigger Hallyu sensation by the end of its run.  Lee Min Ho would not be Lee Min Ho without Kim Eun Sook.

XIA (Junsu) – How Can I Love You

XIA(준수) – How Can I Love You

However, I do have issues with her writing as a drama critic.  Shallow depths of character and implausible plotlines are two things I see time and time again.  As much as I get that Mo Yeon had her fears about dating a guy in the military, I didn’t quite understand why that becomes the crucial thing that she and Shi Jin fight about over and over again.  Yes, it’s interesting to compare the fact that as a doctor, her occupation is about saving lives, while Shi Jin’s occupation is about taking them.  Although, I think that interpretation of what the military personnel do is simplistic and narrow.  I would assume that if anything, a doctor that is as talented and intelligent as Mo Yeon would view Shi Jin as something more than a Rambo-esque character.

Then there are implausible scenes that literally make me want to lose my mind.  (Alert!  Spoilers Ahead.)  When Shi Jin is shot on duty, he is brought to Mo Yeon’s hospital where he flatlines.  It is an incredibly emotional scene but the thing that takes me out of the moment is that after Mo Yeon saves him, he gets up from the hospital bed to negotiate a tense hostage situation.  I admit that I had to take a few breaths before I could continue watching and even texted my friend in medicine to see if perhaps there was a House-like case where this would be conceivable.  She assured me that it’s highly improbable.  To me, there is no logical reason to interrupt the emotional flow of the drama just to make the leading actor appear cool on screen.

Despite the failures of the writing, Song Joong Ki is what makes the drama shine.  Song Hye Kyo, in her own way, comes off as aloof and adorable.  She not only does a great job in playing Mo Yeon but has great chemistry with Song Joong Ki.

However, I don’t think anyone could have pulled off all those cheesy lines of Shi Jin’s.  He just has that twinkle in his eye and that cute smirk that just make the lines work.  The drama should seriously put up a disclaimer for all those guys at the bar or boyfriend who try this at home.  One word of advice: Don’t.  Sure, Song Hye Kyo has her cheesy lines but I think people are generally more forgiving of that type of aegyo in girls than they are in men.

The other great thing about the cast is the supporting cast and at the top of that list, there’s Jin Goo and Kim Ji Won.  What I liked about Yoon Myung Joo is that she was a woman who knew what she wanted and went after it.  Seo Dae Young comes across like female heroines in other K-Dramas in regards to thinking he’s sacrificing himself and his feelings for her benefit.

While the pain of their separation was palpable, the angst of their relationship didn’t overpower the general lighthearted tone of the drama.  The drama’s ability to find humor in their relationship gave it depth and made us love them more.  As drama viewers, we know the separation of any OTP is painful but it’s hard to sympathize if viewers are not able to see hope at the end of the dark tunnel.

As for Onew, this is the first time I’ve seen him act in anything.  As Lee Chi Hoon, he initially is portrayed as the Onew I know from variety shows; he’s playful, smiley, sweet and has lots of aegyo.  Once our characters reach Uruk, I was moved by his storyline and impressed with his acting.

His character reminded me of the Corporal Upham, played by Jeremy Davies in Saving Private Ryan.  I think what’s different about Chi Hoon’s story in this drama is that we get to see his full story from the coward to being reborn as a hero, which is something we never got with Upham.  I even loved his difficult dynamic with Kang Min Jae (Lee Yi Kyung) as it grew from Min Jae’s distain for him.

I think it’s important to note that Chi Hoon and Min Jae aren’t very different characters.  Rather, it’s the different roles that they had to play during recovery operation that made one the coward and the other the victim.

Another supporting cast member that wormed his way into people hearts is Kim Min Suk, who plays Private Kim Ki Bum, the motorcycle thief who is the catalyst for Shi Jin and Mo Yeon’s meet-cute.  He first caught my eye in Imaginary Cat and although his role is small in that drama, it was significant enough that made me want to keep an eye out for him.  In that drama, he played the voice of reason as the main character’s best friend but here, I love that his character life is changed because of Seo Dae Young and Yoo Shi Jin.  More of the former rather than the latter but that just adds to Dae Young’s charm.

The beauty of not having to rush your shoots due to the old live-shooting standard, in which crew often had to rush to complete the episode because of the looming broadcast, is that you can literally sit back and enjoy the scenery.  Certainly, Greece was a beautiful backdrop for the drama.  However, I think what’s more important is that there is a consistency in the cinematography throughout the drama.

I’ve seen plenty of dramas where the first few episodes were beautiful but the latter episodes were more about capturing the scene and forwarding the plot without consideration of how that scene looked in the frame.  It may be insignificant aspect of drama watching for some viewers but the landscape could be just as much of a character and provide depth to the plotline without even having to say a word.  What I got from the shot of mountainous backdrop and the sun was the contrast in the stark military terrain versus the warmth of the sun.  As difficult the incline is for our couples, the love always seemed a constant.  The dynamics of their relationship might change but the love was always there.  It’s not only reflected in two main OTP’s but it’s there in the relationship of the platoon as well as the medical staff.

Certainly, this drama does have its problems with its writing and the characters.  Some drama elitists might scoff at the popularity of it.  However, the lush cinematography, great OST soundtrack, the lighthearted banter and the lovable casts all play a huge role in the success of the drama.

Sometimes at the end of a long hard day you don’t always need a deeply thought-provoking drama to be entertained.  Perhaps it’s enough to come home to smiling Yoo Shi Jin and a fiercely protective Seo Dae Young.



2 thoughts on “[Review] Descendants of the Sun – 태양의 후예

  1. First episode was OK and I survived until the earthquake. The earthquake reminds me a lot of D-Day and seriously it was really unnecessary, uncalled for. And after that, incurable disease. Oh, good god.


    • Yes, I agree. A lot of disastrous “things” happen to the members of this group which make it implausible but they do make fun of it by the end of the drama. As I’ve said, it’s just one of those things about Kim Eun Sook’s writing and not everyone accepts it.


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