헬로 몬스터 (I Remember You)

After the disappointing end of Who Are You’s shipping game, it took me a while before I finally decided to watch the consequent drama on KBS. Based on Asianwiki, Hello Monster/ I Remember You is about “Lee Hyun (Seo In-Guk) , an excellent criminal profiler who possesses a spiteful tongue. Cha Ji-An (Jang Na-Ra) is an elite detective. She observes Lee Hyun. They work on solving cases and develop a romantic relationship.”  – The plot description is so vague,I expected a mere noona romance disguised in a detective/thriller genre the same way Who Are You: School 2015, a teenage romance, was disguised as a mysterious coming-of-age drama.

I Remember You didn’t get that much local viewership. Good thing I don’t easily get swayed by ratings. I really don’t understand what the Korean audience’s preference is. Put an A-list actor in a drama with a lame plot, it gets more than 20% ratings, but little gems with strong characters and a thought provoking story like this gets below 10%.

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I was initially a bit uncomfortable with Seo In Guk and Jang Nara together since I could still remember their School 2013 and High School King of Savvy characters. Jang Nara looks like a teacher chasing an unruly student, asking him to go back to school. It was awkward for me to see Seo In Guk patting his sunbaenim/noona’s head the way Jo Jung Suk pats Park Bo Young’s in Oh My Ghostess. But I’m pleasantly surprised I Remember You explored the whole romantic aspect carefully: their development based on shared past, mutual “enemy” and complementing personalities; making Cha Ji An a Perfect Fit for Lee Hyun’s immeasurable “alpha”. pun intended. She can certainly hold her own in the world of a male-dominated police headquarters and a room full of psychopaths.

(Perfect Fit is the title of Seo In Guk’s 2012 mini-album. ^_~)

I’ve never seen a Kdrama with one too many psycho lead characters, openly and intelligently discussing crimes over dinner. It’s amusing;situations like when someone knows but pretends he doesn’t know the real identity of the person he’s talking to but that person also knows that he knows and he’s just pretending that he doesn’t know. It’s confusing, and at the same time, it’s not. It plays with the audience’s psyche while reiterating the existence of two personas in each of us.

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Misunderstandings are often used to provide conflict and excitement, but I Remember You puts the concept of misunderstanding into a whole new level. Like when young Lee Hyun told Lee Joon Young his secret, the latter escaped from prison, broke into Lee Hyun’s house and killed his dad. It was clearly an unforgivable act of murder but for Lee Joon Young, he must’ve thought he saved Lee Hyun and his little brother that night.

Cha Ji An’s father was the nicest human being in the world, just as any father would be in their daughter’s eyes. He was the prison guard in charged of Lee Joon Young’s transfer. Lee Joon Young killed him too,but his death or survival’s in question, making him an accomplice to his escape, leaving Cha Ji An alone in a harsh society that treated her as a criminal’s daughter. But the doting father in Cha Ji An’s household may not exactly be as kind as she thinks he is when he’s at work. It seems that he regularly abuses Lee Joon Young behind bars, causing him to spite him and literally bury him on the ground.

Min is a case of “what could have been”. He claimed that he was definitely born “that way”. But would he have grown up differently if he were raised by Hyun? There’s a big chance that he would but I guess we’ll never know because it’s already too late. He was with Lee Joon Young the entire time, thinking that the brother he looked up to, regarded him as a monster. This resentment and feeling of abandonment only fed the bad “wolf” inside him.

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What I love about this drama is that it doesn’t merely distinguishes its good and bad characters based on stereotypes.It doesn’t make me want to root for the protagonist completely. The way he treats people like they’re all insignificant, the way he mocked criminals and smirk at the news of a newfound corpse as if investigating a murder is child’s play– Hyun isn’t always exactly the good guy. It doesn’t make me want to condemn the antagonist too,because, as twisted and immoral as it seems,sometimes Lee Joon Young actually has a point. 

Even the supporting characters were written in such a way that we could imagine their backstories regardless of their short screentime. The moment Lee Hyun’s art gallery director informant told him that Eun Bok was from an orphanage, I knew that time will come and he’d be revealed as something more than just a member of the special investigation team. They wouldn’t cast the actor who previously played Healer’s young Kim Moon Sik for no reason. It’s just unfortunate that Planning Officer Hyun died at this crucial time. The police force lost a formidable member, Lee Hyun lost his adoptive mother but Min’s reaction moved me the most:

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Cold, cruel, but true.

As usual, there are two sides to every story.

Sadly, there are only 2 more episodes left for this drama… 😦

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