Amongst a string of kdramas that just fail to deliver or start out strong only to turn major disappointments later, it’s nice to come across one that actually has an opposite trajectory. I had no expectations for I Remember You. It actually sounded like a possible candidate for the Discard Pile. There had been several kdramas attempting to mesh a police procedural with romance and comedy but either failing miserably or getting just parts of the deal right. So, to my delight after a somewhat hesitant start where it looked like we’d get yet another incompetent female cop, an annoying geeeenius, keystone cops and plenty of investigative fail, we actually got a pretty solid drama. One that made me ponder and gave me characters I could wholeheartedly root for. Quite a fiew preconceptions were turned on their head too.
The simple looking plot is actually rather intricate under the surface. It felt deceptively predictable but frequently managed to end up in places you had not thought of and even familiar tropes were given a bit of a make-over. What delighted me even more was the assured air the whole drama has, it knows where it is going and is not in a hurry to get there. There’s time for discovery, to learn who all these people are and what moves them and to shine a spotlight on different characters. Topics are handled with enough gravity to merit the material but never forgetting the fact that Show’s function is also to entertain. Humor is warm and quite clever in places, springing from small, familiar moments and people’s characteristics. I liked how they were able to make us see the unexpected fun even in some of the more tense scenes. There is a very nice balance to it all.
Instead of a fluffy romance, the focus is on friendship, camaraderie, all sorts of family dynamics and first and foremost on brotherly bonds. The ties that connect Hyun and Min despite of years spent apart, outside interference and different paths taken, is one central theme. Yup, the tragic bromance will make your heart weep. What could have been, what should have been… Would things have turned out different, had Lee Joon Young not interfered? Would the outcome have been less sad? Another theme running through the show is whether monsters are born or made. Show does not try to give concrete answers but rather possibilities. There are different roads to the same spot or different roads from the same spot. No two people are the same, even if they resemble one another. The writer has clearly given some thought on the matter and it shows.
As the focus is on all kinds of human interactions, romance takes a back seat. It’s still there but presented in a very understated way, which I like. I think the romance is rather lovely and unfolds with these slow but sure beats that makes it much more meaningful than the usual explosion of unbridled feelings. Hyun and Ji Ahn start out as sort of antagonists but once they spend more time together, they find that there is more to each of them than meets the eye at first glance. They also share a common past. The trust that springs from there turns to a bickering friendship and then slowly into something more. I really like how these two end up complementing each other. They also work surprisingly well as a team. A nice touch is how they both retain the call-signs they had assigned to each other in the beginning. “That Jerk” and “Get Lost” ended up as sort of terms of endearment. 🙂
I think the cast as a whole is quite well rounded and pretty solid through. It’s always positive when on-one stinks to high heaven. SIG and Jang Na Ra are quite believable in their roles with an effortless and lovely chemistry. I’ve always liked SIG and I think he is improving with every role I’ve seen him in. Boy’s a natural, it seems. JNR has done a lot of similar roles that don’t demand a lot of effort from her part, so it’s nice to see her take on something a bit different. Ji An looks a bit clueless and simple to begin with but she is actually competent and pretty smart in her own way. As for the cast in general, I’d say Lee Joon Ho and Park Bo Gum stood out the most, both put out a very layered performance and managed to make us have the feels even for the Bad Guys.
The ending was sort of ambiguous as they left a few things unsaid and it probably didn’t satisfy eveyone, but I found it worked quite well within the context of the drama. Not everything needs to be explicitely pointed out and it was quite easy to connect the dots if you’d been paying attention. The ‘meeting’ right at the end was ment to be symbolic, to show that these people are still connected and this is not the Very End. The final showdown will happen somewhere in the future. I at least never saw it as anything else.
If you are looking for a high octane action fest, this ain’t it. Despite of the thematically rather serious center and episodes that made you think, I Remember You left a lovely afterglow that makes me think back to it with genuine fondness. There may be a few flaws here and there but even with those IRY is a little gem of a drama and the abysmal ratings are no inidicator of the true quality of it.