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