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Drama Review: Descendants of the Sun

DescendantsoftheSun.jpg

Title: Descendants of the Sun

Country of Origin: South Korea

Original Run: February 24-April 14 2016

Length of each episode: 1 hour

Episodes: 16

Director: Lee Eung-bok
Baek Sang-hoon

Starring: Song Joong-ki, Song Hye-kyo, Jin Goo, Kim Ji-Won


When I first started watching Descendants of the Sun sometime last week, I had no idea how popular it was. During its original run in South Korea, it broke record ratings with a 28.5 percent viewership surpassing another insanely popular kdrama from two years ago called My Love From Another Star (that one was so popular, there’s going to be an American remake, although I don’t know what happened with that project) in only six episodes. It then continued to surpass its own ratings as the show went on. It currently has over 440 million views in China on legal and not-so-legal streaming sites and has been sold to 27 countries and translated into 32 languages. Even the prime minister of Thailand encouraged people to watch it. I should have known because it was getting a lot of buzz even outside of the sphere of kdrama lovers. It was on all of my friends’ snapchats and a lot of people I knew had at least heard of it even if they didn’t like kdramas.

I was skeptical at best mostly because I’m just not a kdrama person. My mom is so I’m familiar with a lot of them and I didn’t really think anything could equal Reply 1997 in my head.

But I watched the first episode and at about maybe 20 minutes into the first episode, I had fallen head-over-heels in love.

The funny thing is, the synopsis is not one I would immediately be drawn to. It’s a romantic drama following a soldier (Yoo Shi Jin) and a surgeon (Mo Yeon) who fall in love. Because of circumstances, they are separated for 8 months. They meet again in a war-torn country called Uruk where Mo Yeon is heading a medical mission and Shi Jin is stationed. Trouble and chaos ensue.

And the other funny thing is, it’s a show with glaring faults and usually I can’t look past those. A lot of the dramatic events end way too early for there to be an emotional punch; they are convoluted and random and the plot has basically no sense of realism. There are some questionable medical practices (STOP GOING INTO THE QUARANTINE, THERE ARE INFECTED PEOPLE IN THERE; WHY ARE YOU PUTTING AN IV IN HIM WITHOUT STERILIZING IT FIRST), I would have liked more backstory for Mo Yeon, also the transitions are very confusing and maybe more a little more depth to its themes would have been appreciated..

Wait, wait, hold up, Carolyn, you literally just said you had fallen in love with this drama. Why are you starting the damn review with what you didn’t like about it?

Because you know what, I didn’t really care about all stuff when I was watching it, for once, it allowed me to mute the critiquing side of my brain, which is actually becoming increasingly hard for me to do and just be swept up in a love story between two people. It allowed me to revel in a touching story. A story that’s full of action, drama and humor. And that’s really the highest praise I can give it.

The best thing about this drama are the characters. You love all of these characters almost from the get go and the actors have such natural chemistry with each other that you love all their friendships and interactions as well. But there’s also a layered complexity to the characters and outstanding character development especially from Mo Yeon. In a lot of ways, she is the main character.

She starts off as an idealistic doctor who believes in saving a human life no matter what. However after being passed up for promotion by other doctors because of connections, she becomes discouraged in pursuing her dreams of opening her own clinic. Her love interest, Shi Jin, on the other hand, kills people for a living and believes in the power of patriotism and commands yet hides his insecurities about his past through sarcasm and jokes. But aside from the magnetic power of the main leads, I also equally adored the side characters. The tough and assertive military surgeon, Myung Joo and her stoic love interest, Dae Young. I love Mo Yeon’s medical team ensemble, pretty boy, Lee Chi-Hoon, sassy and no nonsense nurse, Ha Ja-Ae, and the cynical yet humorous doctor, Song Sang-Hyun to name a few. Their easy rapport with each other is helped by the fabulous character writing and the brilliant actors who know about the art of subtlety down to a T.  I loved them all so much that however melodramatic and cheesy it got, I never minded, which is a testament to these characters. And it is the characters that make you stay till the very end through the absurd plot from unrealistic mafia gang fights and random natural disasters, the viral epidemics and earthquake aftershocks, evil bad guys and creepy hospital managers.

Speaking of the characters, can we please just talk about the romance? I know, I know people are going to be turned off because it’s a romance. But don’t forget that romance is about more than the angst and the cutesy (although if I got even half a penny for how many times I died when Shi Jin looked at Mo Yeon with loving eyes, I could have taken over Apple and Microsoft. Twice. And have some left over to bribe Trump not to continue the presidential campaign..someone’s gotta stop him)

Anyways romance is about revealing more of the character and who they are. I am so, so happy that a couple that I love so much has one of the least problematic relationships in a kdrama I’ve seen. Between the hair grabs (Master’s Son) and the forceful, stiff kissing (Heartstrings, Gentleman’s Dignity), and all around lack of female agency and deleting of female personality, a plethora of assholey main love interests and sexist tropes that saturate many, many kdramas, I was so worried this one was going to end up with me trying to claw out my eyes. Not so with this couple. I just adored their respect for each other. Even when they’re not together, they still cared about each other and never pushed the other person to accept their point of view. It’s just so refreshing to have two people cut the bullshit and say they like each other and not deny it. Shi Jin is able to believe in the value of life because of Mo Yeon and Mo Yeon learns to believe in her ideals again. And omigosh, the girls are sometimes the ones initiating the kisses and the hugs? Omigosh what is this the 21st century??  It is so shamelessly romantic. There are so many cute scenes of witty back-and-forth, boundless flirting, and loving glances against the backdrop of a setting sun. But it never, ever forgets that these two characters are individuals in their own right. It actually physically hurts how cute the two main couples in this show are. And hey, hey, don’t forget the equally cute bromance and girl friendship. It just makes you want to cry. And a side note: all these people are so good-looking, it’s actually a crime. Just putting that out there.

bromancing hijinks

All these interactions are wrapped in stunning cinematography and gorgeous lighting. And it is a very stylized drama portraying violence like in the movie Gangster Squad where the focus is on the slow motion of a bullet instead of the grittiness of war. I mean, just look at the damn poster. I think it elevated this drama to new heights since this drama is so reliant on the actor’s subtle expressions and in any other actors’ hands, it would not have been half as good as it is. Some of the shots are just so beautiful you can’t help but feel swept up in the moment and it does give a little edge to the engaging albeit weak plot as well. There’s no spinning of the camera and a surprising lack of medium shots focusing mainly on close up shots that really highlight the emotion of the scene combined with the gorgeous use of landscape and space. The use of space especially when the two characters are in a room just makes you so aware of their every little gesture and I think the details add so much to the characters.

And to cap it all, I adore the soundtrack too. My favorite one is K. Will’s Talk Love which has been on repeat for the past hour.

But in the end, all I know is that I loved these characters so, so much and I haven’t come across a show that has made me so unabashedly excited and fangirly (the obsessive tumblr kind) in a very, very long time. Let me know if you’ve seen this drama, what you thought of it, if you’re going to watch it, what your favorite Korean dramas are. Tropes that you’re sick of ? And also if you just want to fangirl, don’t even hesitate to comment because I’m still squealing.

Also, I’ll leave a link to the trailer with English subs. And if the trailer interests you, you can watch it on Dramafever or Viki (apparently it has a better translation).

Also, I realize this is a sudden departure from book-related posts but when I feel passionate about something, I just have to write about it.

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33 thoughts on “Drama Review: Descendants of the Sun

  1. I love K-dramas and I’ve been hearing so many good things about this show. I’ve been preoccupied with other shows at the moment, but I’ll have to add this show to my to watch list since you and many others have been talking about it. Plus I love K.Will’s drama OSTs. Thanks for the awesome review! The last show that I saw was Good Doctor. Have you ever watched it? It’s incredibly good! My favorite K-drama of all time is “My Lovely Samsoon” because Kim Sun Ah is boss. I also really like the Masters Sun too. Let me stop rambling, because I could go on all day about favorite K-Dramas, lol. But you have any absolute favs, please recommend them to me, I’m always looking for more shows. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂 Oh I’ve heard Good Doctor was..good LOL and ooh, maybe I’ll check out Samsoon. I’m not an expert but my favorite kdrama is Reply 1997 and this one’s not my favorite but I really liked Smile, You. My sister loves May Queen and I’ve heard Signal and Please Come Mister are really good recent ones. And let me know your thoughts when you watch Descendants; I would really love to hear them. I need more people to watch it so I can talk about it LOL

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow! These dramas all sound good. I’ve heard good things about Reply 1997, its on my watch list. I’ll have to check out the others. I still feel behind because basically everyone has watched My Love From Another Star but me, lol. I also recommend, The Greatest Love, it’s a good rom com.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I loooove Reply 1997; it’s such a touching and funny coming of age drama. Ok! Hopefully I find the motivation to watch them considering my history with kdramas lol.

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    1. LOL dude it’s taking Asia by storm and that’s so cute that your dad watches dramas :3 Do you watch his suggestions haha? Well you should definitely watch this one if he recommends it to you :p cause I would wholeheartedly agree with him.

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      1. I used to watch a lot of Asian doramas but not so much anymore because I shifted to follow more N.American television. He’ll probably tell me about it soon, idk, but I remember him insisting I should watch My Love from the Star so I cannot imagine this being any different LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOLOL omg your dad’s is such a romantic ahaha and this one is apparently more popular than my love so I’m guessing he’ll like it. Does he like the more supernatural ones? or the realistic ones?

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  2. Wow, you know the obsession is real when you write a long-ass review of this show. I think after all your convincing, I might actually try out this show. I don’t think I’m really familiar with these actors in Descendants of the Sun, although I have seen them in previous dramas before, so that’s going to be a relief while I watch it. Now can we all understand my obsession for Fairy Tail?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I even put it as my phone wallpaper LOL
      I know you’re familiar with two of the actors but they don’t appear on the show that often. And yeah I get it now kind of, I haven’t fangirled this much in so long. It felt really good lol which is a weird thing to feel so good about but..

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  3. Oh man, you really sold me on this (A DOCTOR WITH IDEALS!! I LOVE THAT STUFF!!), and I don’t even watch dramas – Asian or Western! I think the last k-drama I watched was Boys Over Flowers?? Which I know was terrible and overly dramatic and unrealistic but I loved it so much. XD

    But hgnhhh I love cute romances. They make me so happy?!

    And wahaha I second Joey – the moment there’s a Cantonese dub, my parents will probably watch it. 😑

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve actually never watched Boys Over Flowers!! My first kdrama was You’re Beautiful and I liked it at the time but now thinking back on it, I hate it LOL the relationship was so problematic and the main guy character was so annoying lol.
      I think this drama is more on the unrealistic side than the overly dramatic so I guess there’s a balance there? lol
      And omg CW, I freaking live for cute romances and if there was a spectrum of cuteness, the lowest level would be like bunnies and unicorns and puppies and then the highest level would be this couple. Like I can’t even stress how long it’s been since I’ve fangirled so hard for a couple. I think you’ll really love them too! 🙂
      Your parents are drama fans too?! hehe I hate dubs though! But my grandma loves dramas in Vietnamese dubs cause she can’t follow the subtitles so dubbing makes more sense.

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    2. Oh my gosh, sorry for butting in to your conversations but I just had to comment since you mentioned BoF! I watched that drama when I was in middle school and used to think why is there a guy with curly hair in it. XD I bet that was a lot of work for them to do Lee Min Ho’s hair every time they’d film. XD Maybe his hair is like Kunal Nayyar’s hair in The Big Bang Theory. Apparently the director for BBT decided they’d curl his hair every time before going on set because his real hair is too unruly to predict and work with onscreen. Anyway, I think I’m digressing… 😛 But gosh, the BoF memories is so nostalgic. >.<

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL when you say curled I didn’t know you mean THAT curly. It looks funny. I kind of wish I had nostalgic memories for BoF because everyone’s watched it but my first kdrama was You’re Beautiful haha.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. So I sort of knew this was really popular but I had no idea it surpassed My Love From Another Star (which I wasn’t really taken by to be quite honest) but it makes me so happy to see you gush over an Asian drama. I definitely don’t enjoy them as much as I used to (well aside from last year’s fangirling over It’s Okay, That’s Love) but when I can find one that has noticeable yet still ignorable flaws (as in they’re jarring but I can forgive them-as you mentioned happened with you and DoS) it is the best feeling to have something like this to obsess over. Anyway, I just wanted to say I’m on episode four. I started watching after my finals yesterday and I like it so far! I don’t think I’m in love with it quite yet but I’ll keep you posted if the feels hit hard at some point!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly what you mean!! I’d forgotten how good it felt to be so consumed with fangirling feels. And it’s even more surprising it happened for an Asian drama because I usually find a lot more problems with them. And I really hope you end up really liking it. If anything, it’s ok if you just like the main couple because I get emotional just thinking about them and I think about them a lot LOL
      And if you don’t..well consider this friendship over, no pressure.
      I think I think my favorite was ep 7 if I’m thinking correctly..but yeah let me know what you think lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOLLL… I finished episode 5 yesterday and it’s not really grabbing my attention so I may put it on hold for now. Lol. XD I may try it again some other time. Maybe I’m just not in the mood for K-dramas? Idk. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      2. GIVE ME ONE REASON WHY I SHOULDN’T UNFOLLOW YOUR BLOG RIGHT NOW.
        I don’t think we have the same taste in kdramas lol because I remember you saying you only thought Reply 1997 was ok but I freaking loved it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. NOW I JUST WANT TO WATCH IT ALL OVER AGAIN! I agree with you on this entire review, my god most of the scenes and events were so unrealistic, like they basically experienced EVERY BAD THING from earthquakes, epidemic, wars and there’s even kidnapping! But you know what? I REALLY DON’T CARE. I only care that Shi Jin always gets to be badass and awesome and that he saves Mo Yeon! YES I LOVE ALL THE CHARACTERS, aside from the fact they are all so good looking, the side stories were equally good as the main one. And ugh the main romance is just so good, I love how professional and mature they are with their feelings and relationship, and the chemistry between them just EXPLODES. Haha, they don’t even have to kiss for me the simple loving glances got me sold. The cinematography was really good too, all the different angles and shots brought it in a different level! I have finished this last week, AND NOW ALL THE FEELS ARE BACK. All these pictures/gifs that you included didn’t helped me at all, now I’m just going to spend the rest of my day googling pictures of those beautiful human beings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Girl, I finished this last month and I’m still not over it. After the week I watched, I literally looked up every single gif/gifset that ever existed and reblogged eeevverything LOL. This tumblr was really good for that: http://descendants-of-the-sun.tumblr.com/. I totally agree, honestly one single fist bump between those two was enough to make me faint. And omigosh Shi Jin is so freaking swoony. Like he’s so funny and confident but also really respectful and sweet. I can’t even. I love how they save each other all the time. I think one of my favorite moments with them was the back-of-the-pickup truck kiss. Just thinking about it makes me giggle. Ugh I could write a book about how much I love these two.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think we’ll ever be over it, like every time someone mentions DOTS, I’m like “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAID?” haha. And oh god I just remembered my dream the other day… I dreamed about it having 14 more episodes lol. Thank you for the link, my life is now officially ruined. THAT SCENE, HOW DO YOU EVEN?! And every time they do that fist bump thing, they’re like the most adorable couple ever. Haha, I’ll definitely get a copy of that book of yours! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I mean I’ve heard it both ways where they might have the same characters or have the same setting but different characters..
        I would just be worried if they ruin the characters and then it will just ruin the original series for me :/

        Liked by 1 person

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