Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


I've seen quite a few Korean movies by now and have gained a healthy respect for Korean cinema, but as far as Korean television dramas are concerned I have only ever seen IRIS. I started that show in May, but Naruto Shippuden was my primary focus at the time so I made it to about episode eleven before I took a hiatus from it. I knew it was good enough to come back to later on when I could really focus on it, though.

Well, last night I went on a three episode bender to finish it up. Man, oh man, was that good. 

At the time it was made, IRIS was the most expensive Korean drama ever made and I can believe that. This show felt like it was one giant movie and when the action started happening it was pretty amazing. There's a lot of action, too. There are only twenty episodes, but each episode is about 62 minutes long. This show is twenty hours of espionage and action and it is so intricately plotted that I'm pretty sure you won't see the next plot twist coming. After finishing it I'm still not even sure that was enough time. Luckily, there's Athena: Goddess of War and IRIS 2 to help resolve everything (I hope), but I'm not sure I'll get to see those with the lack of Korean dramas available for viewership in the States even with the help of streaming sites.

Starring in this drama as the lead character Kim Heon-jun is Lee Byung-hun. You should be familiar with his name by now since I have talked about him plenty in posts past. He and his best friend Jin Sa-woo (Jung Joon-ho) were in the 707th Special Mission Battalion before getting approached to join the secret organization dubbed NSS (National Security Service). They agree to join and earn the respective names of "TK1" and "TK2." 

However, conspiracy threatens their friendship when Director Baek San (Kim Yeong-cheol) sends Heon-jun on a mission that will end up with not only Heon-jun being a wanted man on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone, but with NSS being one of the organizations that must hunt him down in the aftermath. 

Of course, this is a Korean drama so you are going to have a love story and some melodrama involved. With each episode being an hour long (without any commercials... so none of that "the episodes are really 45 minutes stuff") there's plenty of time for the episodes to branch out in multiple ways. There could be insane action during the first half hour and then a soothing quiet period that gets all lovey dovey for fifteen minutes before going back to insane action. I really liked the format because all of the characters grew in ways I really didn't expect and their interactions were fascinating. 

I really had no idea how it was going to end from the start of each episode. I didn't even trust the previews. I can't even accurately describe how things went from what they were in episode one to episode twenty. It's just such a whirlwind.

I do think T.O.P's character Vick could have been fleshed out a bit more because he really was a brutal bad guy. Of course, he was meant to be more of a minor character anyway, but he did well with what he had and should have received a little bit more of a backstory. 

Another character I found myself really appreciating was WPK supporter Park Cheol-young. Kim Seung-woo did a great job in that role and the unlikely alliance his character forms with Lee Byung-hun's character is one of the better moments of the show. 

Lee Byung-hun definitely carried the show, but Jung Joon-ho and Kim Yeong-cheol also deserve a lot of credit, too. The two of them were a devastating and evil tag team. Especially Kim Yeong-cheol. You are going to hate that motherfucker by the time everything is over. 

There are a lot of other things I could delve into because there's a lot of material to deal with here, but I don't want to dig too deeply. I'm not sure how things would hold up on a second viewing, but I'm really impressed with how everything ended up. I could have done without the final six minutes of the finale, but it was realistic ending given the nature of IRIS. It was an ending I don't think most American shows would have the guts to pull off. 

Highly recommended. 

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