I was wary of watching an ongoing drama so I waited until Crash Landing on You ended last Sunday before jumping in and seeing it. My friends have been raving over it for several weeks now but I did not really want to risk watching it if the ending sucked. (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones) Plus, if you’re familiar with some of the stuff I’ve written, I usually leave off watching strongly hyped films and series for later because I do not want to set my expectation too high only to get disappointed in the end. Good thing this Kdrama turned out to be the exception to the rule.
Synopsis: Yoon Seri (Son Ye Jin) is a billionaire heiress of one of the biggest conglomerates in South Korea. Rich, competent and ruthless, she is poised to inherit the presidency of their corporation after her disgraced father is forced to retire from the position. On the eve of her succession, she does a test run for some sportswear her company is producing for paragliding activities. Unfortunately, she gets swept into a tornado and lands in North Korea, where she is found by Captain Ri Jeong Hyeok (Hyun Bin) during his patrol. Because he is a kind and decent man by nature, he reluctantly decides to hide her from authorities and help her get back home, rather than turn her over for questioning, afraid that she might be tortured or killed.
For the record, I must commend the writing and the casting of this amazing drama. Each episode lasts for roughy an hour and a half but you hardly feel the time pass. As a matter of fact, you want episodes to stretch longer because it keeps you engaged by one thing or another. I was so happy I decided to wait until it was complete before I started watching. I wouldn’t have stood the torture or waiting for episodes to be uploaded on a weekly basis.
I loved that the story was focused on Captain Ri and Yoon Seri but as their story was unfolding, so were the stories of the people who surrounded them. Captain Ri’s company composed of the prickly staff sergeant Chi Su (Yang Kyung Won), the good looking Kwang Beom (Lee Sin Young), Kdrama fanatic Ju Myeok (Yoo Su Bin), and their maknae Eun Dong (Tang Joon Sang) delivered a bromance on a different level with their unquestionable loyalty to Captain Ri and Seri. They were like a family who goofed around together, fought each other, teased each other mercilessly but stuck up for each other even at the risk of their lives. They had a great dynamic — funny but hits you right in the feels with its complete innocence.
The village women Young Ae (Kim Jung Nan), village chief Wol Suk (Kim Sun Young), Myeong Sun (Jang So Yeon) and Ok Geum (Cha Cheung Hwa) were typical village wives, prone to gossip mongering and hilarious antics. But when they embraced Yeri as their own, they supported her with her “star crossed” love for Jong Hyeok. They treated her like family, and even though they were vaguely tempted by imported perfumes, they never really jumped to Seo Dan’s ship. These women also showed strength in numbers when villains tried to take one of their own, showing just how strong their sense of community is.
I also loved the subplot for Seo Dan (Seo Ji Hye) and Gu Seung Jung (Kim Jung Hyun) . These were two characters which would typically be built up as villains in other series but not for Crash Landing on You. Their characters had a lot of layers as they went through their own struggles and their relationship developed quite naturally as a result. They evolved together. It was beautiful and bittersweet.
I also loved Man Bok’s (Kim Young Min) redemption arc. From the beginning, the character was one of my favorites because it seemed like even though he was following orders from main villain Cheol Gang (Oh Man Seok), he had a depth to him that hinted that he was going to be a pivotal character in the series. I was right. His backstory and redemption arc made me ugly cry multiple times. Good thing I was watching alone lest I be accused of being nuts. And even though the role was only a supporting character, Ha Seok Jin did well in agreeing to appear in this drama. His role as Ri Mu Hyeok was one of the most memorable characters that set the series of events in motion.
I loved how the natural chemistry of Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin brought to life the love story of cross border lovers Ri Jeong Hyeok and Yoon Seri, two completely opposite characters who found common ground and fell so deeply in love with each other that they were willing to go against all odds just to make sure that the other was safe and happy. They broke my heart multiple times each time they said goodbye with tears and forced smiles but the dialogues simply tore at me. Captain Ri’s devotion, Seri’s evolution. They even got NIS agents to ship for them and root for their love. That’s a pretty big deal — being able to convey such pure emotions.
Hats off to Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin but mostly to Hyun Bin for portraying such an amazingly pure character. Captain Ri smiled seldomly but when he did, or when he acted like a petulant child or a jealous teenager, it was worth the hours of waiting. When he opened up about his feelings for Seri, each word rang true. When he leapt into action at the first sign of danger, his sense of urgency made viewers want to run with him or comfort him because Hyun Bin is simply amazing. I don’t know where he draws that wealth of emotion but his eyes alone speaks volumes. Whoever said bad boys were more interesting must never have come across a character like Ri Jeong Hyeok. He is easily my UF (slang for ultimate favorite) as well.
As for Son Ye Jin, my favorite scenes were actually the parts where she acted like a provincial wife, waiting for her hubby to get home and lining up the entrance with beer cans which he cannot cross, all the while nagging him about why he should have come home hours before. At the same time, I marvel at the depth or her emotions when she conveys her love for Jeong Hyeok. I wonder how this woman is so good at doing rom coms and drama at the same time.
Special shoutout to the series’ main villain Cheol Gang. The first time he appeared on screen and faced off against Ri Jeong Hyeok, I already had a sense of foreboding that he was going to be a formidable foe. Saying I was correct would be an understatement. This guy was pure evil. Plain and simple.
Crash Landing on You is indeed a different animal from other Kdramas. While most chaebols would simply try to pay off the poor character or throw water on their faces (something that the series actually poked fun at), here we have rich parents who actually have their children’s happiness at heart. Jong Hyeok’s mom was team Seri all the way and stood up to his dad countless times to take Jeong Hyeok’s side, high ranking general or no. Seri’s mom, whom after their reconciliation supported her love for Jeong Hyeok even if he was from the North. And that scene towards the end which showed by Jeong Hyeok’s dad was a feared general in the first place. Seo Dan’s mom was the same. While she appeared abrasive and overbearing at first, she really doesn’t care about anything else but her daughter’s happiness.
I loved the character development, the cinematography and the epilogues that connected the characters at an even deeper level. When you see the epilogues, it gives you the final pieces to the puzzle and makes you go ahhhh. Kudos to drama writer Park Ji Eun who carried this signature brand of storytelling from her other works like My Love from the Stars and Legend of the Blue Sea.
I think some people may have reservations about fully embracing the ending but for me it was just the perfect way to end the series. It was more realistic in a sense, given the characters’ situation but it was the reward that audiences have wanted to see from the moment Seri crash landed errr descended into NoKor soil. Also, it leaves room for the imagination. Viewers can fill in the blanks and believe what they want about what future the characters may have yet, not just for the RiRi couple for other beloved characters too like Seo Dan, the Captain Ri’s Company, and the village women.
All in all, Crash Landing on You is easily one of the best Kdramas I’ve seen. Its definitely way up there in my Top 5. It not only ticked all of the boxes of a good drama but it even upped the game some more. It will be tough to top this one because there is too much to love.