Descendants of the Sun Review

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Descendants of the Sun Review

Nutshell Summary: Descendants of the Sun is a 16 episode 2016 Korean drama about about a military special forces team and a medical team who lives intersect during a peacekeeping mission. Two couples are showcased in this series. The honor and risk of service are underlying themes in this series.

Pluses:


1.       Compelling Leading Man Lead actor, Song Joong Ki, was perfect as Officer Yoo Shi Jin. I loved this character. He was cool, funny, self-aware, charming, strong and fair leader. Shi Jin was an attractive package. He saved the girl, people, and made the world a safer place, all while being a good guy. Shi Jin appealed to women and men viewers both. The women wanted to date Shi Jin and the men wanted to be Shi Jin. This was Joong Ki’s comeback project after serving his two years of mandatory military service. Will he ever top the popularity of this character? Joong Ki had superb chemistry with every character, even the ones with limited acting ability. His romantic relationship with the leading lady was a slow build. Because he risked his life everyday, he understood his love interest’s hesitation to commit to a relationship. But they were like magnets that pulled each other together and their relationship could not be denied. I enjoyed this pair’s mutual respect for each other.


2.       Likable Leading Lady. Lead actress, Song Hye Kyo, portrayed Doctor Kang Mo Yeon with a soft but strong stance. Mo Yeon evolved to connect with her humanity for others instead of the stove piped “it is about me” life. Mo Yeon was the voice of reason and caution in the romantic relationship with Shi Jin. She did not make the choice to have a romance with Shin Jin lightly. Should she get involved with a man that could die any day in the line of duty? Her heart said yes, but her brain cautioned her to say no. And she was right to be concerned. Loving Shi Jin did offer great joy but also offered a life of loneliness and fear when they were apart. Love doesn’t conquer all when you are alone and fearing for your partner’s well being. Shi Jin’s dangerous profession took him away without warning. During that time Hye Kyo’s portrayal of a woman in pain was superb.


3.       Strong Second Leads. The appealing second lead was Officer Dae Young, portrayed by Jin Goo. Dae Young was Shi Jin’s fellow soldier and best friend. His romance was a forbidden one because his love was a soldier complete with a disapproving father. Dae Young was quieter, steady, and true to his convictions, with a quick sense of humor. His counterpart was Officer Yoon Myeong Joo portrayed by Kim Ji Won. She was stuck loving Dae Young who refused to break the military rules and date her. In the first part of the series this character had limited story but came into her own in the second half of the series. Ji Won’s portrayal was excellent when Myeong Joo fought a deadly virus. Dae Young and Myeong Joo’s love story spent the first of the series longing for each other but kicked into gear in the second half. It was worth the wait.


4.       Rich Romance. Color me surprised that a military and medical drama had a superb romance between our leads and a solid romance between the secondary leads. Our leads were cute together delivering sassy banter, soul searching looks, and challenges to each other throughout the series. This couple had a level of maturity. Their chemistry was excellent. They respected each other. No, they did not always agree with the other’s choices, but they supported each other’s right to be individuals. Isn’t that awesome? They granted each other the right to make the best choice for them without making the other guilty. The second leads’ romance was a slower build to a solid couple. When the series started their romance was in the past. Whether to restart it was the question. Dae Young’s refused to break the rules putting Myeong Joo into a powerless position. She had to wait for him to open the door that she stood behind. But the payoff was there. Both couples took their time evolving their romantic relationships. Why rush? I enjoyed the ride with them.


5.       Bromance Bliss. I love a strong relationship between male characters (aka bromance). Shi Jin and Dae Young were the perfect bromance. They supported each other, joked with each other, and were honest and direct with each other on tough topics. During their military missions, they almost didn’t need to speak with each other, they knew each other so well that glances sufficed. The chemistry between Joong Ki and Jin Goo was excellent.


6.       Service was Respected. Most dramas are about individuals. Descendants of the Sun embraced service to the others. Service as a primary theme was unusual and refreshing. It provided a common thread that linked every military and medical person. United they made a terrific team. The military executed their missions to protect people or their country or both. The medical team realized helping others made them stronger people. At one point int he series, Mo Yeon wish for her graduating medical colleagues was “I hope everyone that took pledges can keep them throughout the earth and under the sun.” Mahatma Gandhi’s perspective is undeniable “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”


7.       Cohesive Story. The writers balanced the military and medical into a cohesive story. The first episode was nearly perfect. When they went to the foreign location the story was solid, peaking during episodes that dealt with the aftermath of the earthquake. When they returned to Korea there was a slight downturn in the story. The series was written by Kim Eun Sook (Secret Garden and The Heirs) and Kim Won Suk (The Queen’s Classroom). The writers delivered terrific banter in the form of playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks between all our characters. I’m a professed “banter-holic” and this series hit the mark for me. Descendants of the Sun was preproduced before airing, unusual was most dramas use the live-shoot production format. I think this allowed the writers for formulate a complete story and the production team to bring the drama to fruition missing some of the typical latter third of the series pitfalls many dramas have using the live-shoot format.

Minuses


1.       Foreign locations meant foreign actors which meant sub par acting. There were varying degrees of acting skills in our foreign actors. Some were stilted, like the bartender, and some did not have the depth of acting necessary to play their character to the fullest like Mr. Bad (David McInnis). The behind-the-scenes special stated the Urk children had never acted before. This was not a surprise. While annoying, the writers maintained the right balance so the foreign characters were secondary in the episodes. The vast majority of the episodes were not downgraded due to bad acting.


2.       Okay Final Episode. Why are final episodes often lacking in dramas? This one had a strong first half as our couples resolved their issues. But after that it was a collection victory lap scenes that did not feel cohesive. In the final scene, they broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience. It did not add value so it came off more perplexing than positive.


3.       Our leading man was Ironman. Shi Jin unrealistically avoided major injury when he should have been injured. Episode 14 was especially ridiculous, flat lining one minute then engaging in a face-off with rogue North Korean soldier the next.


Would I Recommend this Series? Absolutely. Joong Ki’s perfect portrayal of the leading man Shi Jin was the driver for the series. The lead’s romance was just that – romantic – taking it’s time and it was worth the wait. It was terrific to see a leading couple that respected each other. The secondary lead’s romance also hit the mark. The chemistry between the leads, the second leads, and the leads as a foursome was superb. The writers deftly balanced the military missions, the medical team’s deployment, and a delivered real romance between two couples. This drama isn’t perfect, but it has intangibles that mitigate many of the negatives.

OST:


The OST was released in 10 parts during the series. The compilation OST has 37 songs on two discs. I was not fond of the plain covers of the two compilation OST discs. My favorite song of the OST is How Can I Love You by Xiah Junsu. OST details are available at dramawiki. Check out the OST via the playlist link or embedded below.

Vocal Songs on Disc 1
1. Always by Yoon Mi Rae
2. Everytime by Chen featuring Punch
3. This Love by Davichi
4. You Are My Everything by Gummy
5. Come Again by Mad Clown and Kim Na Young

Vocal Songs on Disc 2

1. Say It! What Are You Doing? by K.Will
2. With You by LYn
3. Let’s Fall in Love by SG Wannabe
4. The Wind Beneath Your Wings by M.C. the Max
5. How Can I Love You by Xiah Junsu

Recaps/Reviews:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5  | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | Series

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Posted in Descendants of the Sun, Kdrama, Reviews
22 comments on “Descendants of the Sun Review
  1. I have only seen the first episode of DOTS and thought that it was okay. It seems like everyone either loves it or hates it. Your review makes me want to check it out some more. Plan on watching more when I have time… Your favorite OST is XIA’s How Can I Love You? I’ve heard only that OST on Youtube because I’m a fan… I just love his unique voice.

    • kjtamuser says:

      I understand not having the same reaction when watching a series. I kept wondering if it would unravel but it stayed solid to my viewing eyes. My reaction was positive from the opening knife fight in episode 1.
      How Can I Love You has a dreamy quality that hooked me. This is my first song by the artist. Hopefully not the last.

  2. Beez says:

    @kjtamuser “Will he ever top the popularity of this character?”
    Oh Noooooooes! I hadn’t thought of this for Joongky. Now I’m remembering Lee Min ho and how it seems his projects went downward with each one. (Not including his movies.) And even the master thesbian Jang Hyuk – after Chuno, it hasn’t been bad, but nothing measures up to that masterpiece (imo). I hope this isn’t SJK’s fate already.

    The female characters in DOTS make me realize just how short the average kdrama has been selling female characters. These women had depth all on their own and could survive without their men (and vice versa) and that didn’t detract from their love stories.

    Your screen capture of Argus-McInnis with the laser dot on his head under the section about bad acting. I don’t know if it just happened to be the scene you grabbed or it was purposeful but ROTFLMAO!

    • kjtamuser says:

      Your point about Jang Hyuk has merit. I did like him in Fated to Love You but it was not as strong as Chuno, that is his number one role in my book too.
      Yes, the female characters in DOTS did have individual merit besides being the other part of a couple. But the kicker for me was the men respected their women’s independence. Strong women, loved by men that embraced their strength. Awesome!
      I wasn’t trying to be funny with the image of Mr. Bad, but I can see your point, LOL!

      • Beez says:

        Haha! I thought the image of the laser on his forehead was like a meme – like “his acting is so bad he should be shot!”

        (I think I’ll go look up “meme” to see if I used it correctly. 😮)

  3. Jane Tilly says:

    I think your review of Descendants of the Sun, including the pluses AND minuses were SPOT ON with my own thoughts. Excellent characters, which can stand on their own and play well with others. I agree that part of the strength was “the men respected their women’s independence”. Oh the romance💋, bromance ❤ and soundtrack!

    When an actor has such good success like Song Joong Ki in DOST and Jang Hyuk in Chuno, I think it is tough to recapture the same level success or achieve even higher, but not impossible. I think both are good actors and I believe they will continue to shine in the projects they select. But, it also takes a good script—I think either of them could rekindle the magic with the right script and cast of characters. I look forward to the opportunities! ❤

    • kjtamuser says:

      Nice to know our thoughts were in sync on DOS.
      Writing is a huge driver for a series….if it isn’t on the page, it can’t be on the stage. There are excellent writers out there. I agree with you…I hope these guys have the opportunities to shine again in a well written drama.

  4. Beez says:

    Are you guys shocked with the breaking news that the Song-Song couple are getting married in real life?

    I saw a YouTube video entitled that yesterday and totally thought “I’m not even clicking on the bait of a wishful fan trying to get people to click with that fake made up title. Then I saw this morning that it’s true!

    • I’d recently seen a youtube video that made me believe they had a personal relationship:

      • Beez says:

        Nice video. They are touchier and more handsy than you usually see. But I had just ignored everything like this because the stars usually play into it during the run of the drama and afterward if they’re selling the drama in other markets, like China, later.

        Sung Hoon and Shin Hye Sun almost had me convinced even though I knew it must be publicity but they said all the right things and denied it with a look at each other in a giggly way and add a tiny touch to make you believe it.

        Plus, some people have actually spliced together videos of Ji Chang Wook and Yoo Seung-Ho. One of those videos had a deep kiss between the two actors during Warrior Baek Dong Soo that looked so real that legit sites were running clips of it and saying it was typical for men during this time to have sex with other men as demonstrated in WBDS, then they’d run the video clip. It looked so real that I was flabbergasted because I had not long finished watching WBDS and didn’t recall seeing it so went back to the episode and scene and couldn’t find it. That’s when I realized it was some type of really well done splice.

        Anyway, all of that is why I assumed it was just fans obsessing over the DOTS couple but it looks like they were right this time!

      • I agree that celebs can fool us, videos can fool us, so fans can only guess at the truth.

    • Jane Tilly says:

      I had heard awhile ago they had confirmed that they were dating. They did have chemistry 🔬. Good for them. I heard Eric (Another Miss Oh) got married over the weekend.

      • Beez says:

        @JT – I’m wondering if you heard it legit or not because they only confirmed the relationship at the same time as announcing the wedding. The reason I’m questioning if you heard it legitimately before is the same reason I ignored the news on July 4th – because fans kept saying they were dating and fake YouTube “news” kept saying it but that’s done for every good couple match up on shows where the leads have good chemistry. Do you recall where & when you heard it?

      • Beez says:

        I saw that about Eric this weekend. I have to say I thought all y’all were crazy saying how attractive he is. But then I saw him in some show this week and now I understand. A still photo would never make anyone see it but the way he talks and moves- raw man.

      • Love that term “raw man”!

      • Jane Tilly says:

        It was internet news a few months ago indicating Song and Song were dating 💕 with the claim that the Song and Song talent agencies confirmed it. I wasn’t sure that news 💕 or this week’s news 💍 was trustworthy, but thought how nice for them if it’s true‼

      • Jane Tilly says:

        Oh yeah Eric 🐾 rrrawr 🦁. I saw video clips from his wedding…seems legit‼

      • He looked great on a hot day. I recognized his bride from Uncontrollably Fond.

      • Beez says:

        @JT – yeah, I never questioned Eric’s situation because it was planned and not hidden. But Song-Song denied it right up until July 4. I saw plenty of reports that they were dating in real life but they kept denying it and since this always happens when fans love a couple from a popular drama, it gets reported all over the internet. Until I see it on Dramabeans, Koreaboo, Koreantimes, Korean Entertainment Weekly,etc., I never even click on YouTube videos that claim celebrities are dating cause usually, it’s just fan fantasy. 😎

      • I did not realize Eric got married. I am typically clueless about personal lives of celebs.

      • Jane Tilly says:

        I completely agree YouTube is not a trustworthy source of news. I saw a ton of videos indicating Lee JunKi and IU were dating that did seem like fan fantasy. While I like to see prople happy, celebrity pairings (anywhere in the world 🌎) don’t impact 💢 my life. Besides why would any of those Korean hotties 🔥❤🔥 be interested in an out-of-shape American ahjumma⁉. I’ll just enjoy my 👁🍬🍭.

      • Beez says:

        ok right there with ya, JT. LOL

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