Master’s Sun: the review

Master's Sun posterMaster’s Sun
air date: 8.7.2013 through 10.03.2013
number of episodes: 17
I watched it: a slow and halting marathon

In a nutshell: It’s a ghost story / romantic comedy — a combination filled to the brim with possibility. It stars two actors overflowing with chemistry and talent and humor. It’s told with an intelligent eye towards spoofing the genre. And yet… it didn’t quite work for me. The premise was clever, the ghostly world fascinating, and the two main characters quirky and trope-breaking. But the story itself felt half-hearted. A nominal plot, created to hang punchlines on and keep our couple interacting, but ultimately empty. I was amused — even laughing out loud at times — but I was never enthralled.

What worked: The two main actors are heavy hitters. Gong Hyo-jin has a naturalness to her delivery that makes the most unbelievable things seem believable — normal, even. surpriseWhich, with a character that can see ghosts, is a good talent to have. Her counter-part, So Ji-sub, has the sort of powerful presence usually associated with the strong, menacing type. Which his opening scene takes advantage of… then takes great delight in tearing down, setting a trend that happily continues throughout the drama.

It was easy to tell that the two actors were having great fun with both their characters and each other. And that enjoyment translated into their being a joy to watch. They took turns playing the straight man to the other’s clown — one delivering lines dripping with innuendo, keeping an innocent face while the other struggled to maintain their composure. curious(Most often it was Gong Hyo-jin’s character delivering while So Ji-sub struggled. Though, part of Gong’s intelligence was allowing small hints that her character knew exactly what she was saying play into her delivery. Which So picked up on — his restrained reaction becoming a return volley, daring her to drop her mask first. The most childish dialogue was lifted to delightfully intelligent, adult levels from these sort of interactions.)

It was also fun to watch the most frustrating of k-drama rom-com tropes get a thorough trouncing. A trope would get setup in clockwork fashion and then either Gong or So (or both) would tear the trope down. Often while saying what viewers have been yelling at their screens for years.

What didn’t work: But the story was so very, very weak. In the beginning, the episodic ghost stories were very episodic. The story would begin — adventures and laughs would be had — and then it would end, our characters not much changed. ghostAnd then they’d do it again. Part of what I enjoy in k-dramas is the strong overarching storyline, so not having that arc frustrated me.

Unfortunately, when the larger story-arc did finally develop, it felt like a last minute add-on. There was a mystery set up in the first few episodes  but it was so thin it was ignored for the bulk of the show. Then, towards the end, it was quickly reintroduced and wrapped up in an episode or two. Which only served to frustrate me further.

The supporting characters were also fairly weak. Paper-thin stereotypes, set-pieces on a stage designed solely for our two leads, any interest coming from the actors’ skills rather than the characters themselves. watchingWhich made the world feel emptier than it should have, less real — a construct to prop the tropes up so the drama could knock them down.

In conclusion: I can’t write Master’s Sun off completely. There was humor and there was cleverness and our two leads were highly entertaining. However, this is a case where I actually think the drama would have worked better as a movie. With a tighter focus and less hours to fill the simple plot-line would have allowed the humor and cleverness and our two leads to shine in their full glory. As it is, you have to wade through a lot of empty-filler to get to the good stuff. I can’t write Master’s Sun off completely… but I can’t recommend it, either.

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10 thoughts on “Master’s Sun: the review

  1. Dot on. You pretty much summed this drama up. What worked (SJS & GHJ), worked very well and the rest was just….. there.

    I didn’t get anything much from the drama except wanting to see SJS and GHJ paired up in something meatier but still with humour. Somehow they made me think of the olden day Hollywood actors in one of those screwball comedies. 🙂

    • Thanks! 😀

      They did have a 1930’s screwball comedy aspect to them… all that innuendo, maybe? It’d be awesome if they could use that talent and chemistry in a show worthy of them. (Have you seen Can We Get Married? That’s one that overflowed with clever banter. More slice-of-life than comedy — but the comedic moments were so, so golden.)

      • You are welcome. 🙂

        ‘Can We Get Married’ is still on my to-watch list. I think it’s one of those dramas you need to be in the mood to watch and I haven’t been in just that kind of mood. ^^ Maybe during new year…

        • I’d say you’re right. It’s got a slice-of-life feel and deals with the complications of relationships — sometimes hilariously, but sometimes not so hilariously — which could be annoying if you’re not in the mood for that sort of thing. (I wouldn’t say it’s a heavy drama — but it’s not a light and fluffy watch, either.)

  2. ” And yet… it didn’t quite work for me. ” -Says so many people, myself included.
    I’ve never really been fond of the episodic storylines, especially in my Kdramas. And especially when they take away form the overall arc. I admit there were some episodes where I loved it- and I probably wouldn’t watched a whole drama about the boy who died and watched the newspaper girl through the window.. sadly. It was there and gone. *pouts* The downfall of writing wonderful little storylines that are quickly hidden and buried.

    • There were all these little interesting gems that could have been spun into something meatier… but I got the feeling that taking the time to write a meaty storyline wasn’t on the to-do list. 😉

  3. I am just starting this drama and at the same time came upon this review. Having completed both Pasta and Master’s Sun now, you must have heard how much Gong Hyo Jin is praised for her fantastic chemistry with both men. What do you think about her chemistry here and in Pasta? Are they very similar? I adore Pasta and I wonder if watching her with So Ji Sub will bring back that warm fuzzy feeling I had when watching her interact with Lee Sun Kyun.

    • The chemistry is definitely there with So Ji-sub. But… I wouldn’t say it’s exactly the same. Mainly because “Pasta” was a drama with complex characters and “Master’s Sun” doesn’t have that complexity. So I got less of a sense of these being two believable, flawed but adorable in their own way, characters falling in love in “Master’s Sun” then I did with “Pasta”. However, the sense that Gong Hyo-jin is having a blast with her co-star is very much the same. So there was definitely joy in the watching.

      So I’d say, don’t expect the same kind of romance, but do expect the same level of fun. (I have no idea if this is making sense… Feel free to ask questions if I’ve just managed to confuse you!)

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