It has been a while since I’ve been obsessed with a drama as much as I was with Hwayugi and it is with an aching heart that I bid this show farewell.
While at times cheesy, over-the-top, brimmed with questionable fashion choices, and suffering from some terrible CGI work (was there really no better way to portray that dragon?) Hwayugi constantly dished out exactly what I wanted and for that reason I will always love it.
LEE. SEUNG. GI!! What a comeback! I have seen all of Lee Seung Gi’s dramas and love him more every time. His portrayal of Oh Gong here felt very reminiscent of his performance in The King 2 Hearts which made me all sorts of giddy.
The writing – The Hong Sisters proved that they’ve still got it! As leaders and trend-setters in the Korean drama industry, The Hong Sisters have been pioneers of the modern K-Drama. They’ve always pushed the boundaries and dared to be bold with their writing. Hwayugi is no different and by far one my favorite shows from them thus far (I’ve seen them all except for Warm and Cozy which I have very little ambition to watch). There were moments I didn’t necessarily enjoy but overall I felt like the story and their take on this classic tale was pretty solid. Plus, it was often times hilarious. I love it when writers are able to bring out humor in their shows naturally…like a scene where you are laughing your head off but if someone were to randomly glimpse it they would have no idea why you think it’s so funny. There were so many inside jokes, sidesplitting cameos, meta references, and subtle nudges of humor that remained consistent throughout the entire run of this drama.
The music – I really enjoyed this soundtrack. It was a little repetitive at times but the music fit the mood well and did a good job at wringing my emotions along.
THE KISSES – Hot damn, we got some good kisses *fans face*
I also loved the use of the bracelet as opposed to the headband from the original story. It was a very clever way to keep both the characters and the audience on their toes wondering about Oh Gong's true feelings. And while I really did enjoy how the scene of him taking off the bracelet for the first time was played out (flawlessly) I wish it had happened in the final episode, after he regained his memories. They still could have even done it the exact same way, I just feel like the emotional pay-off would have been higher. As it is, all of the flashbacks in episode 20 felt pointless and like a huge waste of precious screen time because we already knew and I would have much rather been on board with Sun Mi waiting for that big reveal. The emotional punch would have been much more profound.
Sun Mi’s character – She was alright (at times cute, at times strong) but overall she kind of paled in comparison to the rest of the cast.
Boo Ja’s sudden end – I held out hope we would get a final good-bye for her but turns out she was gone ever since her body was possessed. Too unfair. Bummer.
The inconsistency of the bromance/friendships – I loved the relationship between Oh Gong and Mawang but it felt really inconsistent to me. One minute they would be bromancing and the next Mawang would be contemplating eating Sun Mi. Not cool. Plus, I was holding out hope for Sun Mi to make some friends during this but in the end it turns out the only one who really cared about her was Oh Gong (and Boo Ja, I suppose). When she lost her Sam Jang-ness everyone else just disserted her and didn’t seem to care about her, personally at all—which was really disappointing.
The ending – The ending itself has left me feeling conflicted. On the one hand, it didn't end how I wanted it to (ie miraculously Happy Ever After) so I feel like whining, complaining, and sniveling. On the other hand, the ending remained true to the trajectory of the story (the Hong Sister's interpretation anyway, definitely not the original) and I realize that it could have been so.much.worse (this is me giving the side-eye to Black and Gu Family Book). I like that they at least gave us that open-ending since we know that Oh Gong is going to turn Heaven and Earth upside down to get Sun Mi back, no doubt about it. I just wanted to see it happen and not have to use my imagination. I feel like as viewers, we deserved that much. Plus, it would have been way more exciting to see a final episode where Oh Gong goes off to save Sun Mi from the underworld or whatever, than having practically an entire episode devoted to flash backs. Just sayin'.
The climax – I also felt very frustrated with the overall Doomsday arch. And this is again where we could have devoted more time to Saving Sun Mi rather than just waiting for her to die. The climax of that felt very anti-climatic and it's my one huge problem with the writing/directing. I felt pretty bored and boggled down in politics when it came to the End of The World plotline and in my option there was just a million other directions they could have gone with that to make it way more interesting, especially since they had endless possibilities given the world that was created for this drama. I think this is the show's weakest link and a huge stain on the last 4 episodes or so that cooled me down from obsessively invested to just wanting them to get it over with already.
Overall there are way more things to love than to hate about this drama and I could still go on and on. It’s not perfect but I know for sure I will definitely be re-watching it in the future and gushing over it just as much.