Descendants of the Sun feels like Kim Eun Sook is making refinement and tweaks to her usual playbook and style, enough to make things better but not so much as to render the drama unrecognizable to her stamp. I continue to love it after the second episode, the whole thing moves faster than a freight train on acid but without shoving anything wholly unbelievable down the throat aside from acceptable levels of drama coincidence. Leads Shi Jin and Mo Yeon behave like particularly sane, well-adjusted, and sexually sophisticated adults. Their banter is witty and uber flirty off the bat without falling into the trap of overly bickering.
The interest is instantaneous but this time the romance feels paced thanks to external situations that are interesting as well. Shi Jin’s a top notch military officer and the drama makes no bones about his alpha male status or commitment to his calling. Same goes for Mo Yeon, she might even be the female Shi Jin in a medical setting. I love how neither takes any crap and does whatever is needed to get the job done. Episode 2 introduced a ton of supporting characters so less Dae Young and no Myung Joo, but I hope those two reunite in Urk as quickly as Shi Jin and Mo Yeon have. It’s no fun being stuck in a disaster war zone if there is no hottie to flirt with.
Episode 2 recap:
Duty calls Shi Jin away before his date with Mo Yeon, arriving in the form of a helicopter whirring through Seoul just to pick him up. Damn you, patriotic duty! Shi Jin promises to come back and asks for a date with Mo Yeon in a week. This time not at the hospital and to watch a movie, but Mo Yeon doesn’t make him promise that he won’t bail on her again. If she were a lawyer rather than a doctor she would have extracted that rather pertinent promise since he’s prone to fly away just like that.
Mo Yeon watches the helicopter carrying her attraction at first sight lover boy away, presumably to shoot some shit up somewhere. She looks slightly crestfallen, not overly so to make this some sort of earth shattering separation since she just met Shi Jin, but the appropriate amount of mild disappointment at a smexy dude just eluding her grasp.
Her sunbae Dr. Song Sang Hyun walks up to Mo Yeon asking why she’s up here on the roof? He wonders why Mo Yeon keeps looking skyward (he’s not coming back, girl, at least not tonight) and asks Dr. Hyun if special forces soldiers in Korea have their own helicopter pickups and also gunshot wounds. Dr. Hyun scoffs at that, SK soldiers at most endure rain and snow, andven have to clean up said rain and snow afterwards. Mo Yeon says her guy flew off and Dr. Song advises Mo Yeon that he likely had a good reason.
The good reason is in Afghanistan as Shi Jin’s squad is sent in paired with a team of US commandos for a rescue mission. Two UN envoys have been kidnapped by ISIS and the joint task force is to stage a rescue mission.
The first mission goes awry as one of Shi Jin’s subordinates steps on a trip wire, but it turns out to be a mock exercise. That pisses off the US commander who insults the South Koreans with a flying knife warning and some choice insults to go home and play with mama. Shi Jin doesn’t take kindly to that and sends the same knife flying back at the US commander right between his legs.
The two men go at it in a mana-a-mano drag out fight, with Dae Young stopping the juniors from interfering in the fight since the two squad leaders are also testing each other’s ability to know how much to trust the other during the real mission. The fight is super intense and ends when Shi Jin does a taken down maneuver of his opponent. A superior officer comes running in and orders the men to stand down and get back to business.
Mo Yeon has finished her interview for the medical professor position and feels good about it, especially since this is her third time applying. A younger Dr. Kim Eun Ji walks in, so inappropriately dressed as a doctor, and reveals that she just had an interview for the same position. She wanders off to go to surgery while Mo Yeon’s friend Dr. Pyo Ji Soo is upset on Mo Yeon’s behalf since it took Dr. Kim multiple times to pass her exams and shouldn’t even be considered for this professor position.
Mo Yeon is surprised to see skanky Dr. Kim in surgery with her, made worse with Dr. Kim claims the department chair told her to do the surgery. The surgery begins and the scene is intercut with Shi Jin and his squad on the rescue mission. Dr. Kim makes a boo boo on the operating table and nicks the patient causing massive blood loss. Mo Yeon moves in to save the day since Surgery Jesus isn’t around. Back in Afghanistan, the joint rescue team encounters the terrorist kidnappers and exchange gunfire. The scene continues to intercut Mo Yeon’s surgery with Shi Jin’s rescue mission.
Mo Yeon succeeds in saving the patient’s life as Shi Jin also succeeds in rescuing the kidnapped UN envoys right before they are beheaded on camera. He even keeps the US soldiers from tripping a bomb wire. Shi Jin radios in that the hostages are safe as Mo Yeom completes the surgery and orders Dr. Kim to finish up.
Mo Yeon angrily leaves the OR and can’t believe the incompetent nerve of Dr. Kim. A younger Dr. Jang Hee Eun calms Mo Yeon down while Mo Yeon worries about the baby Dr. Jang is carrying as a single mom. Dr. Jang flashes a ring and says she won’t be a single mom as he’s proposed.
The he is Dr. Lee Chi Hoon who walks over and gestures to Mo Yeon to speak privately. Turns out he lost his wedding ring and needs to divert Dr. Jang away so he can search the bin with the dirty scrubs. Luckily he finds the ring in his scrub pocket and angry fiancée disaster averted. He even avoids getting a smackdown from Mo Yeon by flashing a million watt smile.
Mo Yeon hangs with her friend Dr. Pyo who asks her about that man who was interested in Mo Yeon. He hasn’t called and Mo Yeon doesn’t think he’s the telephone type. She’s clearly interested and pulls up Shi Jin’s x-ray to stare at her only picture of him. Dr. Pyo rightly called her a crazy girl as Mo Yeon stares moon eyed at the x-ray.
It’s date night for Shi Jin and Mo Yeon, who orders junior Dr. Lee to not call her tonight. She’s post-call and a mess, ready to head home to shower and change. Shi Jin is early and waiting for Mo Yeon outside the hospital. When Mo Yeon spots Shi Jin, she immediately covers herself because she’s not wearing makeup. Shi Jin admits he’s early and likes the feeling of waiting, wondering why Mo Yeon keeps her face from him.
Mo Yeon explains she’s a mess but Shi Jin compliments her on being pretty as is. Mo Yeon suggests they go out like this since he is into inner beauty and Shi Jin quickly offers to take her home to shower and change, lol. Mo Yeon wrinkles her nose at Shi Jin’s shallowness.
Mo Yeon tells Shi Jin to wait for her as she showers and gets ready. She takes charge, asking if they can eat in since she’s really hungry, turning down Shi Jin’s offer to take her out for a nice meal. She places an order for cheap stone pot rice which makes Shi Jin take note of Mo Yeon’s easy going ways. He places the delivery order, then checks out the pictures on her fridge door and also a note that water is being turned off today at 4 pm for repair.
The water dies on Mo Yeon mid shampoo and she pretends to Shi Jin that she took a nice hot shower. Shi Jin shows Mo Yeon the notice about the water being turned off so Mo Yeon grabs a few bottles of water from the fridge and runs back into the bathroom to rinse off her hair.
Mo Yeon and Shi Jin sit in the living room eating and Shi Jin wants to ask Mo Yeon something. She cuts him off thinking he’s going to mock her for this afternoon but he really just wanted to ask if she thought of him. Mo Yeon admits she did and asks him the same question back. Shi Jin also admits he thought of her, the way a man would. Nice you two. There is a sofa right there behind you. Mo Yeon wants to finish up and go to the movies. Oh you silly girl – sofa, there, use it!
Mo Yeon and Shi Jin sip iced coffee while waiting for the movie to start. Mo Yeon brings up how the most exciting part of the movie is right before it starts. For Shi Jin, he teases back that the most exciting moment of his life is right now, waiting for the movie to start with a pretty woman and the lights about to dim. Mo Yeon brings up how she is the elderly one in his group instead of the pretty so Shi Jin suggests that in the dim lights of the theater he can’t see properly.
Shi Jin wants to know their ages since Mo Yeon must have read his chart. Mo Yeon calls him “oppa” which makes Shi Jin all happy until she reveals that she’s really older than him and his noona. Their teasing is interrupted by a call to Shi Jin which summons him back to the base. Yet again. Shi Jin apologizes to Mo Yeon who correctly points out that he’s ditching her mid date again. Shi Jin promises to watch this movie with her next time but Mo Yeon dismisses him, telling him to go as she plans to stay and watch the movie. Shi Jin heads off and Mo Yeon gets a call that has her rushing back to the hospital.
Mo Yeon storms into the office of the hospital director and demands to know why she was passed over for professorship again, and the less qualified Dr. Kim got it. The director tells Mo Yeon to try again for the fourth time but Mo Yeon points out that it’s pointless if she’s always going to be passed up for people who are well connected such as Dr. Kim.
Dr. Kim walks in and the hospital director dismisses Mo Yeon and tells Dr. Kim to come along with dinner with the hospital bigwigs. Dr. Kim doesn’t feel sheepish in the least to have won this position over Mo Yeon, and orders Mo Yeon to tape a television show for her tomorrow. She claims to be out drinking tonight with hospital top brass so she can’t do the show tomorrow morning.
Mo Yeon throws the program on the ground and refuses to do as Dr. Kim asks, calling her a shameless terrible woman. Mo Yeon pities the patients that Dr. Kim sees which riles Dr. Kim up and she grabs Mo Yeon’s hair. Mo Yeon is no pushover and grabs Dr. Kim’s hair back and the two get into an awesome bitchfest which is broken up by the other doctors.
Mo Yeon sits alone in the hospital corridor later that night trying to memorize her answers for tomorrow’s medical show taping but she’s sobbing so hard she can’t. Poor baby.
Shi Jin and his squad are checking their packs to ready for deployment when their superior officer General Yoon walks in. He thanks Alpha Team for their hard work in recent special forces tasks and gives them a long vacation, which Shi Jin later explains is actually being sent overseas to be stationed somewhere. At least it doesn’t involve being sent on dangerous special missions. General Yoon tells them to spend time with their family before leaving in two weeks for the long deployment.
Shi Jin goes to the hospital to look for Mo Yeon and is told that she’s currently on TV. He watches her do the television show and she’s quite a natural being onscreen. When Mo Yeon comes home later that night she finds Shi Jin waiting for her outside her house and the mood turns solemn with none of the banter of earlier.
Mo Yeon and Shi Jin sit down at a coffee shop to have a DTR moment (defining the relationship). Shi Jin apologizes for ditching her yet again last time but Mo Yeon wants answers from him, which he can’t give because it’s all classified. Mo Yeon reveals that she had a rough day and still thought about him. She wondered where the man who interested her went, and what he is doing? Shi Jin can only apologize and vaguely confirm that he’s in some sort of special armed squad.
Mo Yeon brings up his gun shot wound, that means he encountered being shot at, and likely shot at others. He is around death while her job is spending all day saving lives. Her fight is to keep people alive while Shi Jin uses death to protect lives. Shi Jin declares that he’s a soldier and needs to follow orders. But his idea of doing good is to successfully complete his mission. In recent missions he’s lost three comrades but what they do is to keep people they love safe. His motivation is to keep the world of his loved ones safe and free.
Mo Yeon counters that life is more important above all else and that’s something Shi Jin can’t and doesn’t want to argue with. Mo Yeon believes her meeting with Shi Jin isn’t what either thought it would lead so she takes her leave. Shi Jin understands and is glad to have met her. Mo Yeon leaves and that’s that.
Shi Jin goes back to the base to take a brooding shower, which isn’t all that brooding since he merely sorta broke up with a girl he just met. Dae Young takes another shower stall and Shi Jin wonders why he’s back so soon. Isn’t he saying goodbye to Myung Joo since this deployment will be very long. Dae Young doesn’t answer and changes to the topic to all the pretty local girls in Urk.
It’s eight months later and Shi Jin has been stationed in Urk along with his squad. The men do their drills topless since it’s so hot and all.
Shi Jin’s squad is tasked with peacekeeping, which also includes disarming land mines. They find one armed land mine and Shi Jin makes the call to disarm it without reporting up through the official channels.
The Korean superior officer Colonel Park chews Shi Jin and Dae Young out for disarming the explosive without going through the proper protocol. Shi Jin acts like Dae Young should have stopped him, since Dae Young loves filling out official paperwork, calling him Writing God Dae Young.
Colonel Park sends the insubordinate Shi Jin and Dae Young to go run laps in full military gear. Their junior soldiers adorably pretend that they will join in the punishment but it’s just an act.
Back in Seoul, eight months later Mo Yeon is flying high now. She’s a permanent fixture on the medical talk show and so popular that she’s become the face of the hospital, plastered all over the billboards and displays. She’s even become a professor thanks to her popularity, which is such irony since she couldn’t get it doing surgeries all day long and got it through her fame. She now sees only VIP patients, the types who ask for Viagra to keep up with young girlfriends or asks her to run DNA tests on suspect progeny.
A purely PPL trip to Subway later, Mo Yeon delivers sandwiches to her staff to thank them for working extra thanks to the additional patients she’s bringing in. Mo Yeon can’t imagine how her life turned around so unexpectedly, a failure turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Dr. Kim wanders by and makes her usual bitch faces, deriding Mo Yeon for claiming to be a doctor when she’s not doing surgeries. Mo Yeon tosses it right back, calling Dr. Kim not a doctor either since she sucks at surgeries. Mo Yeon doesn’t feel bad becoming famous thanks to the chance. Dr. Kim handed her, she just used it to take back what was supposed to be hers. You go girl!
Mo Yeon heads up to the roof to reminisce about Shi Jin. Girl, you totally let that man go so don’t be moping about it now. Turns out their date night included Mo Yeon lighting a candle to create the right mood and to show herself in the best candlelight. She notices the cut on his eye and asks if he got it horsing around in the army again. He teases that he did, it was a low probability but he did it.
Shi Jin points out that Mo Yeon is so busy that she doesn’t even have time to wash her hair. Mo Yeon is busy but she’s also known to be super sexy in the OR, even with an surgical mask on she’s sexy. Shi Jin sighs that he wishes he was on a date with that sexy girl. Mo Yeon finishes her flashback and sighs that she hasn’t had reason to be sexy since then. See girlfriend, this is why you shouldn’t have jumped the gun on future blocking soldier boy!
Young thief Ki Bum is now a member of Shi Jin’s squad and stationed in Urk. Shi Jin tries to school him on digging ditches but cuts himself on a shovel. He mutters that he really did get hurt horsing around in the army. Ki Bum hears that and writes it on Shi Jin’s arm. Dae Young comes by and Shi Jin yells at him for bringing this idiot overseas with them but Dae Young thinks he’s cute to have around.
Shi Jin and Dae Young head to a bar to get some wine and butter for a birthday meal tonight for one of their squad members. They see a Korean girl buying a gun from the bartender and the girl suddenly points it at them. Shi Jin ducks before grabbing the gun and pointing it back at her. He dismantles the gun and tells her not to treat it as a toy. The girl mutters that she’s buying it for protection and grumbles at them before leaving. Shi Jin and Dae Young want information about this girl but the bartender doesn’t sell information.
The doctors at the hospital talk about how some are being sent overseas to Urk on a medical mission. None want to go other than Dr. Lee who is volunteering, and his pregnant wife Dr. Jang is allowing him to go before the baby comes. The hospital Manager Director Han walks up and orders Mo Yeon to have dinner with him tonight. The crew decides to strategize about getting Mo Yeon married off to Director Han who is divorced.
Mo Yeon isn’t adverse to the idea until she finds herself standing in the entrance to Director Han’s hotel suite. He has no intention to dine out since he’s the impatient type and wants to cut to the chase. He orders her to shower first or he can shower first. Ugh, I need to shower off the grime from his sleaze. Mo Yeon can’t believe how brazen he is and lacking in manners, but Director Han isn’t even embarrassed at all. Mo Yeon walks up and whacks him with her bag right then and there. Awesome!
Mo Yeon tells her friend Dr. Pyo about what happened, figuring she can’t get fired since she’s the face of the hospital, but doesn’t know how to face Director Han at the upcoming meeting.
Supreme asshole Director Han informs the hospital staff about the upcoming medical mission to Urk, and announces that he’s naming as medical team leader the face of the hospital Dr. Kang Mo Yeon. All Mo Yeon can do is glare daggers at him.
Dae Young shows Shi Jin the list of the medical personnel coming to Urk from Seoul, and on it is Mo Yeon’s name as the team leader. Shi Jin already saw it and doesn’t seem all that thrilled. Dae Young thinks this shows the fate is not over between Shi Jin and Mo Yeon, but Shi Jin thinks they are fated but not destined to end up together. Don’t be such a debbie downer, Shi Jin!
The medical team arrives in Urk and waits on the tarmac for their UN peacekeeping transport. Dr. Song gets a call from Director Han asking to speak with Mo Yeon. He offers to bring her back if she changes her mind now. Mo Yeon not only isn’t cowed, she tells Director Han to basically F-Off after what he propositioned her in the hotel room. After she gets back from Urk, she will quit her job at the hospital and take her fame and VIP patients with her. The other team members finally know what happened to have Mo Yeon sent here.
The military helicopter lands and the wind carries Mo Yeon’s hair scarf flying down the tarmac. She goes to chase after it but pauses when the soldiers walk off the plane led by Shi Jin.
It’s all macho and slo-mo goodness, with Shi Jin striding towards Mo Yeon and walking past without acknowledging her, all the while she can’t take her eyes off him. We hear Shi Jin’s voiceover that maybe they were fated to meet but not destined to end up together.
Thoughts of Mine:
The plot continues to move briskly with no filler, which helps temper the overuse of music which is also becoming a Kim Eun Sook thing. When the storyline is whizzing by the music doesn’t feel as overbearing since the next moment is another scene. The drama is working so well for me that the little flaws rise to the level to hamper my enjoyment. I’ve been writing about dramas for so long the folks I used to watch dramas with have somewhat dissipated, not to mention I’ve lived through so many cycles. It’s hard to gauge what dramas I like based on recent writing since the recent fare has been so different from the classics or even the second wave. That is especially true of screenwriter Kim Eun Sook, to this day I want to laugh anytime I’m accused of not liking her work. If any City Haller is around then this assertion is patently absurd, but even now six years later it’s still not true. Kim Eun Sook’s City Hall is my favorite K-drama of all time. Like – total complete and number 1 favorite drama. Has been since the moment I finished it and nothing since has dethroned it, so it’s only with disappointment that I’ve not loved Kim Eun Sook’s dramas since CH, Secret Garden had too many vital flaws, A Gentleman’s Dignity was anemic and frustrating, and Heirs was a weird experiment of hers that yielded more fun mock watching it than seriously watching it.
That’s why my visceral reaction to DotS feels so much more meaning for me, because it brings back all my City Hall feels, my love for Mi Rae and Jo Gook as individual characters as well as a couple is the very thing I am getting once again in DotS. I already loved Shi Jin since the moment he popped onscreen but episode 2 made me love Mo Yeon as well. I love her personality, smart but acknowledging and using her looks, refusing to compromise or accept shitty behavior around her, and prone to spot reactions but unafraid to reconsider. She feels real to me, and in episode 2 Song Hye Kyo’s acting really blossomed as Mo Yeon’s life took more center stage. Her career achievements matter to me as it does her because we see that she deserves it, and are happy when she gets it even through a different route. I appreciate that the story doesn’t dwell on any sappy moment, it pauses a bit to let it sink in and then moves on to getting it resolved. Having Mo Yeon sent to Urk feels unfair but part of me thinks she needs this time away. Soon the television fame will begin to wear on her I think, and her past doing volunteer work in Africa shows that she isn’t meant for the limelight long term. This will be yet another unfortunate start with fortunate results for her.
Getting Shi Jin to Urk felt more random than Mo Yeon beng sent there as the leader of the medical mission. One minute Shi Jin’s squad is the Alpha secret forces of the South Korean army, sent to assist in hostage extractions, and the next they are basically babysitting somewhere in the Mediterranean. I wonder if General Yoon is doing it to send Dae Young further away from his daughter Myung Joo, or did Shi Jin piss someone off and is getting this forced vacation, since neither Dae Young nor Shi Jin seem happy about it. I also wonder if Shi Jin didn’t fight for a second chance with Mo Yeon because he was leaving, or did he really think their ideology was so insurmountable. Mo Yeon’s grand speech about her life saving versus Shi Jin’s life taking seemed really random at that moment, like she was making a mountain out of a mole hill since they barely started. But I think she was either pissed at him for standing her up twice, not to mention having a terrible time due to losing the professorship, either way she seemed intent on nipping the tentative relationship in the bud so she did. That’s fine by me because methinks the lady is going to sorely regret her decision (probably did 5 seconds ago) but thanks to K-drama fates will get her second chance with her officer and gentleman.
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