January 21, 2009
Just kidding! Well only partly…It’s “The Return of Iljimae”, but it is also the return of Jung II-woo to the spotlight as he had been absent from it for about a year and half by the time this drama aired!
I wanted to clarify that the purpose when I highlight an episode is not to give a complete synopsis of the episode. Though sometimes I’ll talk about what happened in it, what I want to do more is to talk about Jung II-woo’s acting and development of the character he played, his feelings about it (if I can find out about them!) or interesting circumstances about the episode. With The Return of Iljimae I will highlight some of the cinematography and aesthetics too. How could I not! This drama is just so beautiful to watch!
As I imagine happens with every drama and all the people who work in it and for it, there is a huge anticipation before the drama airs for the first time. I’ve read and heard interviews about how Jung II-woo felt during this time. I think I can sum it up in one word: unsure. I heard him say in one interview that he had about 50 offers after Unstoppable High Kick but he did not take them because he did not think he was a good enough an actor. Then he took on Iljimae’s part (as he dropped Triple) and devoted his time to preparing for the part. This included lots of physical training. He worked out for 7 hours a day! With all that personal investment, Jung II-woo was definitely nervous! But there was some peace in his mind too: the thought of having giving it his best effort. He mentioned in various interviews that he was mentally prepared for the comparisons between his portrayal of Iljimae and the previous SBS’s Iljimae by the actor Lee Yunki.
Before it aired, the director of The Return of Iljimae (Hwang In-roi) called Jung II-woo and told him not to care about the ratings numbers. He told him that he was proud of the Iljimae that they had created and that no matter what the ratings were, they would continue to follow in the path they had set out. I find this act extremely kind.
Fortunately for all, The Return of Iljimae aired and was rewarded with 18.5% ratings!!! First in its day/time slot, and held that spot for the Episode 2 as well. Reviews favored Jung II-woo’s Iljimae, the great cast and the aesthetics of the drama. Below I include photos of both episodes.
About this first episode it was a bit hard to follow as it starts in current time, then goes back, and then further back again, to then end in current time. I know right…what??!! Yes, this confused a lot of people and something that annoyed many was the use of narration to tell the story. Some hated it because it felt too much like a documentary.
Here are some photos of the beginning of Episode 1. These are of Iljimae in his black overcoat. Cr. MBC and photos from the 10th Thank you Japanese Photo Book.
Sorry, I have this “thing” for men in black overcoats! They look so mysterious…and hot! And Jung II-woo in a black overcoat! My goodness!… I just don’t know how I’m alive after seeing him in one!
Here are more photos of Episode 1…
Artistic shots I loved in this episode:
That huge moon…so beautiful! And another part I love is a the camera pan where they take Mr. Bae and Cha Dol’s shadows on the rocks to then finish with the real characters walking:
And these are from Episode 2:
Update June 19th, 2017…
WITAT (Spoiler alert!)
Of the story itself, I find it so sweet that it is a beggar and a monk that first rescue Iljimae and become sort of mom and dad to him. These characters are played by: Lee Kye-in (Jeol Chi) and Oh Young-soo (Monk Yeol-gong).
I also like the writer (Mr. Bae) and his young helper (Cha Dol) and how they become father and son. It’s good to see the rainbow of family possibilities! and the life situations that can make people family even if they are not blood related. There is a lot of this in Iljimae. They also provide the comedic relief in this series…which is so needed!!! Kang Nam-gil is Mr. Bae and Lee Hyun-woo is Cha Dol. (Yes he is a young man now!)
I thought the casting of the actors in this series was spot on! I can never imagine anyone else in any of those roles.
However, this first episode of The Return of Iljimae was a bit convoluted for my taste. I think I understand what they tried to do: show how Iljimae has returned in the present time. But I think they could accomplish this in simpler ways… Just go from the present to way back and that’s that! I really don’t see the need to stop half way to then go further back…