I’m back finally after what may be the longest hiatus on thoughtsramble with a review for the first 6 episodes for Life on Mars!
Life on Mars is OCN’s remake of UK’s series (it seems like this is a year of remakes eh, what with Suits and Mistress), starring Jung Kyung Ho (Missing 9, Prison Playbook), Park Sung Woong (Man to Man) and Go Ah Sung. This story is about a detective, Han Tae Joo, who travelled back in time after being shot in the head in 2018 to 1988 to solve a series of crimes and to figure out why his time-travel happened.
When it comes to the important question of “Should I watch this?”, my answer is yes, absolutely. Thus far, this drama is my favourite of the current lot. Maybe it’s because it is a remake and hence, there is some solid thought already given to the story, I found the drama well-paced and the plot connected. If you already like Jung Kyung Ho, you would not be disappointed by his acting or rendition of his character. Park Sung Woong also serves as a nice counterpart to the bromance, and brings back memories of Choi Jin Hyuk’s character, Park Kwang Ho, in Tunnel (also by OCN).
The cinematography is also working out quite nicely and I appreciate the 1988 vibes oozing from my screen. Give it a try and you won’t regret it!
I have a few reasons why I like this show. First, I find the show’s ambiguity as to whether Tae Joo actually time-travelled in his subconscious or was simply dreaming in his comatose state intriguing. The confusion is definitely intentional, and was even said to be one of the central points of the UK version. I like how the show plays into both theories and you can’t quite settle on one or the other. The way they involve the 2018 reality is also quite intricate and you can get a real-time update on Tae Joo’s medical condition even as we remain in 1988.
Second, I like it that Na Young is learning to stand up for herself, with the subtle help and pushes by Tae Joo and even Nam Sik. Some may find it infuriating that there is only one woman on this force and so often slighted, but I can’t quite understand comments which criticise the show for its lack of strong females when the show is clearly aware of this societal problem and is slowly attempting to turn the tide. The show is not saying that this is right, but that this is wrong and we have to fight against it. Anyway, I find this part quite well-written, what with Captain Kang’s incident of dealing out work to everyone else but Na Young (“give me a cup of coffee”) and how Yong Ki even mocks Na Young for quipping “like a real cop”. Gender discrimination in workforce in Korea, and certainly everywhere else, is still a problem and women are often said to be treated as coffee makers in their workplace. I can’t wait for Na Young to shove something up Yong Ki’s face.
Third, the mystery as to why Tae Joo is back is enough to hook me in for the rest of the journey. The fact that the father might be involved and he is in reality a cheater and potential murderer is an interesting twist, given how much Tae Joo idolises his dad. I’m just wondering though – is the Mum whom Tae Joo spoke on the phone with in Episode 1 his real mother? Because the way he spoke to her was so formal and distant, unlike how we see the young Tae Joo treated his mother in flashbacks. I find it hilarious and a little messed up how Mal Sook (the auntie) is flirting with HER NEPHEW.
I’m also wondering what’s the effect of the older Tae Joo being in the same picture as the younger Tae Joo – will it screw up timelines and realities?
I guess the only gripe I can see with the show is how Tae Joo starts to put up with the physical abuse Captain Kang is doling out to the suspects. I wouldn’t say that Tae Joo is condoning torture, but that this is his way of assimilating into the 1988 world. Rather than giving up, I feel that this is how Tae Joo is going to change things for the better one step at a time. For example, the old him might have retaliated strongly against any breach of law by Captain Kang, but the newer him now seeks to persuade Captain Kang to see his way of things and to trust in him. In Episode 6, the detectives also find themselves being more careful with fingerprints on evidence.
I am definitely going to keep at it with this show, and hopefully it doesn’t disappoint. I find the pace quite comfortable and I like how some parts cut into his subconscious without being confusing. Quite trippy actually. Are they really going to take off his life support in 2018 next episode?
Let me know what you think!