Review. Angel Eyes is a 20 episode 2014 Korean drama that focuses on a young blind woman who is given the gift of returned sight. Now (12 years later) she works as an emergency paramedic. Her first love, who vanished without a trace because of a tragedy between the pair’s families (a tragedy that she is unaware of), returns to town. She has never seen his face…will she know him?
What I liked about Angel Eyes:
* Characters that clicked with me (I liked almost all the characters a pleasant surprise):
*** Leading lady, Soo Wan (played by Ku Hye Sun). Soo Wan was dealt a tough deck of cards in life.
Young Soo Wan. Soo Wan’s Mother is killed driving her to see the stars. Soo Wan is blinded due to the accident. Her Father withdraws from her leaving her alone. Then she meets a boy named Dong Joo. He sticks to her like gum and draws Soo Wan into his wonderful family re-energizing her zest for life. Everything is going great. She even has a eye donor. But when she wakes up from the eye surgery Dong Joo and his family have vanished without a trace.
12 years later. Soo Wan mirrors Dong Joo’s father’s path by being a fire fighter / paramedic. She’s engaged to a doctor and has reunited with her father.
Dong Joo Returns (using another name). Soo Wan senses and suspects he is Dong Joo but….
Dong Joo goes Noble Idiot. Dong Joo refuses to reveal who he is so he doesn’t disrupt her life. He intentionally misdirects her so she doubts herself. This ends when someone from his past recognizes him and her instincts are confirmed.
Dong Joo and Soo Wan build a relationship. Once she finally knows who he is and decides to engage in a relationship with him, she goes for it. Soo Wan tells her finance (Ji Woon) it is over. She tells her Father she will date Dong Joo with or without his approval. She tells Ji Woon’s mother her relationship with Ji Woon is finished. It was refreshing to have an upfront leading lady. Soo Wan told those she loved how she felt. She spearheaded frank conversations.
Shattering Secrets. Soo Wan was great through all the revelations. I thought she’s not fragile, she can deal with this, her Father was wrong and Dong Joo wasted time protecting her from the truth.
Soo Wan goes Noble Idiot. In episode 15, after a major confrontation with her father, she decides she MUST give up Dong Joo. WHY? The writer didn’t sell me on the rationale – Soo Wan believed she was bad luck for all that loved her – for this about face. Once Soo Wan decided, she was committed to pushing Dong Joo away with a ruthless harshness that was hard to watch. When her father died in episode 17, Soo Wan embraced self-flagellation with a vengeance. She even willed herself blind again. Good grief, Soo Wan was committed. I allowed for this, the reversal to blindness, the full circle of the story. At the end of episode 18, she regained her sight, I thought this is it, we can end the series with everyone happy. But no, the writer decides to make her vanish without a trace. Again the full circle where Soo Wan vanishes like Dong Joo did 12 years prior, BUT it almost destroyed the character of Soo Wan. She looked like such a moron in episode 19 and the first half of episode 20 when she rejected Dong Joo after he found her, because it was better for him. Noble idiot syndrome is rampant in Korean dramas and I really wished they hadn’t gone there because it lessened a character I really liked.
Other nitpick. This actress held herself back a bit when it came to showing Dong Joo she loved him. She seemed more open with other characters. This actress has a reserved side. I’d love to see her open up more in a future role.
*** Leading man, Dong Joo (played by Lee Sang Yoon).
Young Dong Joo. He has a happy family. His mother is loving. His sister is sweet. He meets the girl of his dreams, who is beautiful and she is blind.
The accident that changed his world. His mother his dies from injuries from a hit and run accident. Dong Joo must leave for America to get surgery for his younger sister. He is forced to leave his girlfriend Soo Wan, who just had eye surgery, before she wakes up from the operation. He leaves her a note. She never contacts him. He never contacts her. The doctor that performed successful surgery on his mother appears in America and becomes his benefactor. He DOES NOT KNOW his benefactor is Soo Wan’s father.
12 years later. Dong Joo mirrors Soo Wan’s father’s path by being a doctor. He decides to return to Korea to be reunited with his benefactor and find Soo Wan.
Dong Joo Returns (using another name). He finds out that Soo Wan is alive and well but does not recognize him.
Dong Joo goes Noble Idiot. Episode 4-5, Dong Joo decides not to tell Soo Wan who he is because she has a fiancee and he does not want to mess up her life. Dong Joo is a jerk to Soo Wan to drive her away from him. But the jig is up when someone from his past recognizes him. At the end of Episode 6, Soo Wan finds him at the airport to stop him from leaving town (it was Father’s request that he leave town). They hug and you believe FINALLY, they can be together.
But at the beginning of Episode 7, Dong Joo leaves Soo Wan and gets on the plane to America. I could not believe it! He returns mid-episode 7, and their romance begins in earnest. Episode 6 – 13, Dong Joo continues in noble idiot mode by agreeing with Father that Soo Wan must never know that his mother donated her eyes to Soo Wan.
Shattering Secrets. * spoilers * Reveal – Dong Joo’s benefactor is Soo Wan’s Father. Reveal – Father kept Dong Joo’s letters and never gave them to Soo Wan. Reveal – Soo Wan’s Father KILLED Dong Joo’s mother. Father refused to allow Soo Wan and Dong Joo to date for fear his secret would be revealed. When Dong Joo learned that Father killed his mother, Dong Joo rose above it (as much as possible) for Soo Wan because his love for her was stronger than his anger at Father. I liked that Dong Joo was positive but not a pushover. He got mad. I actually liked the edge the character had AFTER finding out about Father’s murder of his mother. Dong Joo continued to receive emotional kicks when Father got sick. Reveal – Ji Woon turns out to be the hit and run driver. Reveal – Ji Woon’s mother was his mother’s real murderer when she poisoned her in the hospital.
Soo Wan goes Noble Idiot. To top things off, the love of his life vanishes SO SHE WON’T HURT HIM. The writer (Yoon Ji Ryeon) really needed someone to talk him out of that story line choice. Dong Joo’s perseverance and unflagging love for Soo Wan was amazing. I think most folks would have thrown in the towel but not Dong Joo. He was right to keep pushing, he just needed to crack Soo Wan’s armor. Unfortunately he almost lost his life when he was hit by a car. So many parallels in the adult and youth story!
*** Leading man (youth), Dong Joo (played by Kang Ha Neul). The actor knocked this role out of the park. This kid was the positive energizer bunny and charismatic in the role. Dong Joo blasted into Soo Wan’s life, inserted her into his family, and gave her an escape from the lonely life she was leading. He was pure joy relishing young love.
Sassy Women Loved. I loved the young Dong Joo’s relationship with his mother. It was give and take, sassy and fun. He had the same with Soo Wan. He had the same with Hye Joo (his sister). I liked that all the important women in his life, were interesting and spirited. Thumbs up to spirited women!
*** Leading lady (youth), Soo Wan (played by Nam Ji Hyun). She won’t win awards for her betrayal of a blind person but you could see the lonesomeness and her “alone in this world” shell melt away when Dong Joo and his family came into her life. As a young couple in love they clicked.
*** Dong Joo’s Mother, Jung Hwa (played by Kim Yeo Jin). The actress knocked this role out of the park. What a terrific mother. She was straightforward, big hearted, and fun to be around. She gave Dong Joo the foundation of loving and wanting spirited women in his life. The way she embraced Soo Wan and personally drew her into the family, not because Dong Joo loved her, but because SHE LOVED SOO WAN. She donated her eyes to Soo Wan because SHE LOVED SOO WAN. One of the best mothers ever.
*** Detective Kim, Woo Chul (played by Kwon Hae Hyo). This side character was played to the hilt as the down on his luck detective who got a second chance to solve a case that had haunted him for a decade. His interactions with Detective Cha were amusing – he was the crabby one and she took it all in stride. They were great partners though he was her senior and mentor.
*** Fire Station Team, Team Leader Ki, Teddy, Chief Jo, firefighter Park, firefighter Kim (played by Kong Hyung Jin, Seung Ri, Kim Seung Wook, Sung Chang Hoon, and Lee Ha Yul). These guys along with Soo Wan seemed like a emergency unit that cared about their job and each other. I enjoyed the verbal sparring among themselves. They were a work family.
* Other supporting characters
** Ji Woon (played by Kim Ji Seok). Originally he looked like he’d be the jealous jilted boyfriend but he turned out to be integral in the hit and run case. Surprisingly he was a good friend to Soo Wan and Dong Joo. He helped them reconnect them and cheered Dong Joo on to keep pursuing Soo Wan. One of my favorite moments for Ji Woon was when he tells Soo Wan that he’ll wait for her in the beginning of episode 8. Surprisingly he does not come off as pathetic. He clearly understands that she has ended things but that doesn’t mean she’s gone from his heart. This makes sense, her feelings have changed, but his have not. He tells her he will patiently wait for her. “This is not something I need to get your permission for. I am unilaterally notifying you. End of announcement.” Nice!
** Min Soo (played by Hyun Jyu Ni). She had a cute bickering relationship with Detective Kim. She was dedicated to solving the hit and run driver case even after Detective Kim was hurt. She was a good friend to Soo Wan and Dong Joo. I liked that she was fair to both Dong Joo and Ji Woon. She knew both men cared for Soo Wan. She understood that Soo Wan was passionately in love with Dong Joo, that he was “the one”. But she also saw that Soo Wan quietly loved Ji Woon. But when faced with the choice, Soo Wan chose Dong Joo.
** Hye Joo (played by Yoon Ye Joo). She was a caring sister to Dong Joo and loved Soo Wan like a sister. Her pursuit of Team Leader was forthright. Her realization that Teddy liked her was satisfying.
* Their Romance. This couple had some wonderful moments together. They made me smile and enjoy their love. Small sampling of sweet moments:
* First kiss as adults. When Dong Joo came home to his apartment and found Soo Wan listening to his mother’s cooking lesson via cassette, he was deeply moved remembering cooking that same meal with his mother. Soo Wan hugs him giving him her warmth and love. Soo Wan gently kisses his eyes. They stare transfixed with each other. Then just like 12 years ago she bends down and kisses him.
** They got engaged at the planetarium. I especially liked the candle rimmed wishing tree where Dong Joo presented Soo Wan with all the birthday gifts he’d gotten her over the years. It was a nice variation of romantic lighting.
* Story line that was not as simple as it originally appeared. The story line was like an onion that got peeled each episode. I was impressed at the strength of the writing in this series (though there were missteps). The story line surprised me several times with interesting twists and turns. I was disappointed a couple of times too. But I cared, I enjoyed and this couple resonates with me. I’d watch this show again.
What I did not like about Angel Eyes:
* Noble Idiot Phases:
** Dong Joo and Father’s noble idiot phase “hide the truth from Soo Wan” in episodes 6 – 13. Father and Dong Joo agreed that Soo Wan couldn’t take the truth and agreed to hide it. Turns out she could take the truth until her Father died making her think she was a jinx to all that loved her and that she had to remove herself from Dong Joo’s life.
** The worst was Soo Wan’s noble idiot phase in episodes 18-20 when she vanishes. I understand her path was a parallel path to Dong Joo’s path as a youth when he vanished from her life, but unfortunately she came off as an idiot. Why? Because SHE HURT DONG JOO by denying their love because she was afraid SHE WOULD HURT HIM by being with him. The logic does not work and she looks moronic.
* It was ridiculous that Dong Joo did not contact Soo Wan for the 12 years he was in America. Sloppy storytelling.
Angel Eye Particulars:
* Mask on Chin – at one point everyone sported this look. No one looked good with the mask on the chin.
* Conversations on Benches – this show had a large number of conversation on benches. Outside the fire station, the hospital, the park, etc.
* The two evil parents were not really evil. They had reasons for their actions and found redemption. I liked that. I was quite irritated with Soo Wan’s father in the first half of the show until he gave his blessing to allow them to date. The way he guided Dong Joo to the mp3 player where Soo Wan had revealed her true feelings, was a redemptive moment. Ji Woon’s mother was obsessed with saving Ji Woon from himself. After she went to prison, she saw her love was not healthy and her actions were not justifiable.
* Consistent use of the planetarium, their steps, letters, whistle, mp3 recorder in the youth and adult story. The writer did a super job weaving all these places, props, mechanisms as touch stones and drivers for the truth points of the story line. Well done!
* Adult and Youth characters share the same scene. These were beautiful scenes, among my favorites. The weaving of past and present never stopped during this series. The past was more than flashbacks, it was motivation for future actions, it was the reason why our characters had certain fears and joys. The writer did a super job with this aspect of the series, his characters remained true to themselves (even though they did dumb things at times).
** Soo Wan in front of her house.
** Dong Joo remembering his young love or cooking with his mother.
* I was surprised they glossed over Dong Joo’s father died trying to save Soo Wan’s mother and Soo Wan. Seems like that would have been an emotional dagger to stab our couple with.
OST 1 – Run to You by Lasse Lindh
OST 2 – Tears Fall by Kim Tae Hyun of Dick Punks
OST 3 – Love Too Much by Yoon Gun
OST 4 – Three Things I Have Left by Baek Ah Yun
OST 5 – Three Things I Have Left by Kang Ha Neul
OST 6 – Beautiful Sad by Han Soo Ji
OST 7 – Blue Bird by Jo Jung Hee
Special Track – Run to You (Acoustic Version) by Lasse Lindh
Playlist: Favorite Songs from the OST in my YouTube Playlist (linked or embedded below)
Yoon Ji Ryeon, Yoon Ye Joo, Hyun Jyu Ni, Kim Ji Seok, Kong Hyung Jin, Seung Ri, Kim Seung Wook, Sung Chang Hoon, Lee Ha Yul, Seo Dong Won, Park Jin Joo, Kim Min Chan, Kwon Hae Hyo, Kim Yeo Jin, Nam Ji Hyun, Kang Ha Neul. Lee Sang Yoon, Ku Hye Sun, 2014, Angel Eyes, 엔젤 아이즈, review, korean drama