TV Review: Crash Landing on You

Netflix’s latest Korean drama is a bittersweet, emotionally compelling story of forbidden love which overstays its welcome…

Crash Landing on You at its best is a masterpiece. It excels at creating and building characters for whom you care for and hope succeed, but it suffers from an uninspired plot which is dragged out for far too long.

The drama follows Yoon Se-ri, a South Korean heiress who crash-lands in North Korea and falls in love with Ri Jeong-hyuk, a soldier and member of the North elite. While their love is the focus of the story, there is much more than meets the eye as the show deals with issues such as family, societal prejudice, grief and abandonment which gives the characters a grounded feel within an unbelievable situation.

This is where the series excels: its characters and the cast’s chemistry is what keeps this marathon of a series engaging. Particularly, the two leads are excellent, with Son Ye-jin (Yoon Se-ri) stealing the show with her full range of emotional performances, meanwhile her male co-star Hyun Bin (Ri Jeong-hyuk) performs brilliantly as a grieving soldier.

Many North Korean defectors have praised Crash Landing on You for its realistic portrayal of everyday life in the secretive country, and this is no doubt due to the influence from writer Kwak Moon-wan, who served with the Supreme Guard Command: the security force which protects the ruling Kim family. This realistic portrayal helps break down common misconceptions about the country’s people and is what makes the opening episodes so gripping.

The fundamental problem with the show, however, is its length. It consists of 16 episodes, averaging at around 90 minutes each. This stretches out the plot too much and the first half gets into a routine which becomes repetitive and stale, with generic one-note antagonists. The villains don’t necessarily need to be complex, but when each episode is feature-length, more is expected from their added screen-time compared to a normal-length series.

Watching the show at times becomes a chore, this was particularly at the halfway point of the season where the main plot goes very slowly in a predictable direction and dedicates most of its screen time to uninteresting and annoying side characters who bare next to no significance in the overall story.

Despite being on Netflix, this is not a show to be binged. The length was made for a week-by-week airing on Korean TV and as a result watching the slower episodes wouldn’t feel like a chore. I can only recommend watching this series as it was initially intended and not back-to-back. It has some incredible moments but like a lot of commissioned TV series, falls short by trying to artificially stretch out the plot far longer than it should be.

By Lewis Brumby

Feature image credit: Netflix

One Reply to “TV Review: Crash Landing on You”

  1. I wanted to like it, but I have to agree it went on too long. The ‘everybody just loves Seri despite the fact that she’s a self-centered drama queen’ got wearing, and the ‘hero’ kept reminding me of my thirteen-year-old brother. Hard to imagine anyone that junior high as a world-class musician: that takes years of training and emotional sophistication. The second leads had massive potential that was wasted: when the second male lead and Seri are at Death’s Door, his death was a foregone conclusion because Seri would have to live to swill angst when Ri went back across the border. The stepmother angst just seemed pointless, shoehorned in to give Seri a reason to wail “Nobody loves me despite my so plainly being Perfect.” And the plot holes – oh, boy. This thing reads like fan fiction. The hero’s “I have to leave this instant” when he’s in SK in secret with no backup: how was he planning to leave – swim? The second lead a con artist so clueless he planned to marry into a rich family but didn’t keep his record clean? The tycoon going off on his sons about being incompetent when he’ s just gotten out of prison? He still owns half the universe because crooks get to keep their ill-gotten gains in South Korea? (It makes all the noise about corruption in the north seem a little strange.) The heroine hysterics herself into blood poisoning? She’s suicidal, but ten seconds later she’s commenting cattily ‘He can do better’ about a couple she’s never seen before? (Someone should tell the writer that people seldom fail to commit suicide because they can’t hoist their vanity over a bridge railing.) The main leads survive everything from gunshot wounds to a tornado unscathed but the second lead gets shot twice – and one of those bullets only hit his shoulder – and he promptly exits stage left? The hero finds the heroine at the end because the universe told him which hill to stand on?

    I think you’re only too right about watching this the way it was aired. I’d have loved some really unexpected choices: have Seri find out that it was her mother who had the affair, not her father; have her die and her greedy family find out that she’s left her company to her employees; have the con man live and do something useful with the money he swindled out of Seri’s family; have Seri’s brother tell Dad to blow his temper tantrums out his hypocritical eyebrows and go to work for Seri. Six episodes in, I was no longer interested in the lead couple because you know how it’s all going to go: they’re starring in a cross between The Princess & The Pea and The Perils of Pauline, and they’ll be ble to live happily ever after because the Princess Pauline will solve all their problems by buying North Korea.

    I think the actors did what they could with what they were given, and the second leads especially did some heavy lifting to engage the audience with the minimal time screen they had. The performance of the actor who played Seo Dan’s mother was enough to make me decide to watch Parasite: if she’s in it, I can be sure of at least one performance worth watching, And despite the telling remark about Ri’s privilege made by one of them — and the viewer has to agree that Ri would be unlikely to have remained so emotionally virginal if he hadn’t been the sheltered son of a rich and powerful couple — both the villains remained villains right to the end. And a special kudo to the actor who played the eavesdropper: he was the only member of Ri’s back-up band who wasn’t a cartoon.

    This was my first outing with Korean drama, and while I appreciate the actors’ efforts, it just didn’t live up to the hype. Too many plot holes and much too much angst.

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