[REVIEW] Good Doctor (Korea)

Hello everyone, hope you’re doing well and enjoying what’s left of the summer. Today’s review is for a drama I actually watched years ago, back when it aired. Of course, that was prior to my starting this blog, so this was one of many old dramas I’d watched but never got around to writing a review for. My mom recently tuned into the American re-make of Good Doctor, and was curious to check out the original with me. I figured watching it together with her would be a great opportunity for me to re-visit it, so that I could write up a review with it fresh in my mind. Hope you will enjoy this post.

[Be Forewarned: Spoilers Below].


Strengths:

Commendable ActingJoo Won blew me away as Dr. Park Shi On. I was truly moved by his performance and thought he did an incredible job portraying a young man with Savant Syndrome. It’s not often that those with mental handicaps are given attention on screen, most especially not in lead roles. Often times, actors who are not handicapped themselves, tend to overdo it when acting as a person with a mental disability on screen. It can even unintentionally come across as a parody in some instances, which is unfortunate. Thankfully, this was not the case with Joo Won, who has proved himself to be a competent, versatile actor on more than one occasion. I love that Joo Won’s performance felt natural; I truly believed he was a person with Savant Syndrome. It didn’t feel as though someone were just pretending to have that condition, as it so often does in other cases. None of his movements felt inauthentic or too extreme. All of the twitches, facial expressions, and intonations worked together to create an inspiring depiction. One scene that really struck me was Shi On’s first encounter with his father, after he’d been hospitalized. As he stands there frozen at the door, he exhibits an array of nervous ticks and behaviors to express his fear and discomfort and it was incredibly difficult to watch, because of how real and upsetting it felt. I know that Joo Won’s commitment to the character played an enormous role in my heartfelt affinity for Shi On. There was a gentleness and innocence that he injected into Shi On, which made him all the more lovable and I am so thankful for his dedicated, honest performance.

I must also give accolades to Choi Ro Woon who portrayed the young Shi On. This child was honestly spectacular in such a difficult role. Just like Joo Won, he provided such convincing facial expressions, intonations, and gestures that really felt genuine and believable. It was hard not to tear up whenever he was on the screen because most of his scenes were so sad, and he looked so helpless and innocent. I was surprised that a young child was able to deliver in such a challenging role, but Ro Woon really went above and beyond, gifting viewers with a sympathetic and stirring performance as the young Shi On.

Moon Chae Won was refreshing and relatable as the hot-tempered and cheeky Yoon Seo. I liked that even in Yoon Seo’s most heated moments, Moon Chae Won was still able to give off a nurturing, tough love type of vibe. The actress succeeded in conveying her character’s empathy and support for Shi On. The two characters shared great chemistry, which made their back and forth banter flow smoothly. This made their quirky conversations all the more enjoyable to watch. I could also feel the emotion pouring out of Moon Chae Won, most especially in the scenes where Yoon Seo loses Min Hee on the operation table. Yoon Seo’s grieving process follows, and I felt Moon Chae Won really delivered in these weightier, tragic scenes. The loss truly felt like a loss, and it was all thanks to Moon Chae Won’s moving performance. Aside from her heavier scenes, Moon Chae Won was very natural in her lighthearted and comedic moments too. I loved the delivery of her lines whenever Yoon Seo was gloating about her “God Given Body” title, or her passion for drinking. Moon Chae Won had just the right facial expressions and sassy glances to make the dialogue fun and well-received.

Joo Sang Wook felt like the perfect fit for Kim Do Han. Though Kim Do Han was a brusque, no-nonsense kind of man with his own trauma, I could feel the potential warmth he had to offer right away. It was great to watch him grow over the course of twenty episodes, and I felt that just as the character evolved, Joo Sang Wook too, adjusted his performance accordingly. Joo Sang Wook really brought Do Han to life, offering a range of facial expressions from the angry and irritated, to the subtly amused. Whenever Do Han’s dignity was at stake, you could count on Joo Sang Wook to deliver. I loved his faces in the scenes where Do Han was preparing for the Peter Pan play as Captain Hook, as well as when Shi On would try to give Do Han his signature thumbs up. Equally funny, were his embarrassed mannerisms when using the cutie stethoscope Shi On had gifted him with. I love how Do Han tries to play it cool when Shi On confronts him about using the gift. Joo Sang Wook’s various behaviors and comical expressions were definitely spot on. Aside from Do Han’s more comical side, Joo Sang Wook was also successful at delivering in Do Han’s more angry and emotional scenes. I really felt the pain and guilt Do Han harbored over losing his brother. Do Han was a tricky character to portray in that he was much more reserved in terms of emotions. Though his character was a man of few words, Joo Sang Wook was able to communicate significantly through his eyes and body language, which spoke volumes about how he was feeling.

Character Growths: Many characters achieved growth over the episodes, but I would deem Shi On as the character who grows the most. Shi On starts out immature, childish, insecure, and socially inept. Over time, with the help of the people around him, Shi On learns to develop the skills necessary to be a better doctor. Shi On exhibits a level of maturity and confidence in the latter half of the drama, that was absent from the first half. Watching him learn and refine his skills was exciting. Although it proved challenging for him on many occasions, and he didn’t always make the best decisions in the heat of the moment, he slowly becomes better at restraining himself when appropriate, and speaking up with confidence when he knows the time is right. I would say one of the best highlights of his growth, was the scene where Shi On performs his first emergency surgery. Just when it looks like his fears and insecurities will get the best of him, Shi On remembers all of the positive reinforcement he’s received from his supporters, and reigns himself back in, in order to perform a confident and successful surgery. But Shi On doesn’t just improve on a medical professional level, he grows as a human being as well. Despite his parents having abandoned him at a young age, Shi On learns to forgive them, even if he went through difficulties because of their decisions. It was challenging for Shi On to face his dad, and it took him a while to get there, but Shi On ultimately comes to terms with what happened, and eventually embraces his mother as well. One poignant moment from this change, was when Shi On decides to forgive the classmate who had taken part in instigating his brother’s death. This was a traumatic memory for Shi On to face, and to find forgiveness in his heart felt like a grave task. At first Shi On refuses, but once again, after taking in advice from others, and using what he’s learned to view the situation in a new light, I was proud and relieved to watch Shi On tell his classmate, and newfound friend, that he would forgive him, and help take care of his child’s ailments.

Chae Kyung started out as one of my least favorite characters. I was very worried she’d be a female antagonist through the whole show. However, Chae Kyung completely proved me wrong, and quickly became on of my favorite characters once she began reflecting on herself. Once again, much credit for her epiphany goes to Shi On, who had a special talent for invoking good change in others. What I appreciate about Chae Kyung was the fact that she was able to recognize her wrongdoings, bravely admit to them, and make a continuous effort to do better from that moment forward. Even though it was hard for her to own up to some of her mistakes, especially with her Step Mother, Chae Kyung does so wholeheartedly. She even goes the extra mile to try and mend the wounds she gave to those around her, and clean up the mess that she made. I loved the relationship that formed between Shi On and Chae Kyung. Just as she tried to assist him with his love life, Shi On unknowingly helped Chae Kyung come to some realizations about her own relationship with Do Han.

Do Han started off seemingly cold and brutal. It took him a long time to not only warm up to Shi On, but to relieve himself of the guilt from the past. Because Do Han blamed himself for his brother’s death, Shi On was on the receiving end of many verbal lashings. In a way, Do Han was afraid to play a similar role in Shi On’s life, to that of the role he played in his own brother’s life. Do Han had some internalized fear, that if he encouraged Shi On to be independent, Shi On could have a tragic end, just like his brother. This is the root of Do Han’s ruthless behavior toward Shi On in the beginning episodes. Even at the midway point, while he has improved greatly, Do Han still maintains a tough love approach. However, by the second half of the drama, it becomes clear that Do Han truly cares about Shi On, wants him to succeed, and is willing to put his own career on the line in order to help him achieve his dream. One thing I loved about Do Han, was that he sincerely wanted Shi On to surpass him as a doctor. There was no competition, no jealousy, no insecurity on Do Han’s part in terms of his ability to recognize that Shi On would be able to potentially achieve way more than he ever could. I love that he was willing to cultivate Shi On’s skills, knowing that Shi On would be able to succeed in unthinkable tasks. Shi On awakened a new side of Do Han, which was beautiful to watch on screen. Do Han started out as a caring, but outwardly gruff and reserved doctor. Shi On helped Do Han connect and interact with the pediatric patients on a more intimate level, which was evident through Do Han’s communications with VP Kang’s son, and the stabbing victim. Also thanks to Shi On, Do Han learned to let loose a little. The bromance that formed between the two of them by the end, was endearing, and probably my favorite aspect of the show. Watching them enrich their relationship was rewarding to witness.

Manager Ko had one of my favorite transformations of the whole show. I really couldn’t stand him in the beginning, but I think his progression as a person and a doctor can be attributed to the profound impact Shi On had on all the different lives he touched. The moment Shi On approaches Manager Ko and expresses a sincere respect for his scarred hands, could be considered Manager Ko’s initial awakening. This is what kickstarts his restoration. He comes to understand the Shi On is the only person in the hospital with an ounce of respect for him, and it’s all because he is a doctor with hands that prove his ability to save lives. This encounter with Shi On, and those that follow, all contribute to Manager Ko’s slow but steady finding of himself. It is through Shi On that he remembers that he is a doctor first, and that he fought hard to get where he is now. He realizes the opportunities and purpose he has as a surgeon, and turns himself around.

VP Kang was a mystery to me. I’m not sure I ever really understood his character in the end. His son on the other hand, was absolutely adorable, and I award his son full credit for any and all changes his father made within himself. It is only because of his son’s desire and pleas, that VP Kang allows the pediatric department to perform the risky surgery. While I was glad VP Kang did ultimately end up helping to save the hospital, after previously aiding in the harming of it, he doesn’t have the full turn around I was hoping for. The minimal turn around that does take place, comes a bit too late, and it doesn’t feel as genuine as some of the other characters’ reformations. However, I was at least grateful to see him leave on a more positive note, rather than a bitter one. I understand that the inspiration for VP Kang’s bad deeds were rooted in a desperate need to save his son, but there were surely other ways he could have gone about it and no reason can justify his wrongful actions. However, it was good to know he wasn’t an evil person inside and out, and that he had a rational motive behind his actions, even if they were bad decisions on his part.

Unfortunately, change never arrived for Shi On’s father. And even by the very end, when he finally sheds one tear that could hint at enlightenment, he still speaks demeaningly of his child when thanking Director Choi for having raised him. Even if he was just starting to learn at this point, it comes too late. He never really takes time to significantly reflect on his actions or express any sort of remorse. It’s upsetting to watch, and even more maddening to realize his refusal to take responsibility for his past and current harmful actions.

Heartwarming Scenes: I have to dedicate a section to some of my favorite scenes in the drama. There were honestly so many moving moments to choose from, but I will only list a small chunk, since listing them all would take forever. To start, I really loved the moment where Shi On converses with an older version of his brother in an imaginary scene. His brother encourages him to keep going and it was super touching to watch. Coming in second place is the scene where Shi On gifts Do Han with the cutie stethoscope, which reminds Do Han of the child anatomy book his brother had given him in preparation for becoming a doctor. Do Han later uses it to treat the stabbing victim, who is afraid of the adult style stethoscopes, in fear that they might be weapons. In keeping with the bromance, one of the turning points for Do Han was saving Shi On from two men who where beating him up on the street. It was relieving to finally see Do Han stepping up and coming to Shi On’s aid. Next, is a scene that really touched my heart. Shi On gifts Min Hee’s parents with her sewn up clothes, and they later express their gratitude for Shi On’s insistence to keep Min Hee company outside the morgue. Later that evening, Shi On draws a picture of his brother, rabbit, and Min Hee on his wall. I also love the drawing Shi On gifts the preemie’s parents with. I thought it was really cool how they gave their child the name he suggested (Dong Soo), whose characters mean “to move” and “hand” respectively. Of course, I can’t leave out a few of the sweet moments between Shi On and his patients. Shi On’s idea to cultivate the sibling relationship between Eun Ok and Kyu Hyun, by first letting Eun Ok listen to the sound of Kyu Hyun’s voice, which reminded her of her mother, was genius. It was a pleasure to see those two children, who were both missing something in their lives, find the happiness they were looking for in each other. Equally as stirring was the moment Shi On tells Eun Ji that her heart is the door to heaven for her loved ones. Finally, some of the most satisfying scenes for me came from the interactions between Shi On and Manager Ko. Shi On tells Manager Ko that he is jealous of his scarred hands, because it means he has performed many life saving surgeries. This moment sparks the change in Manager Ko, who, after hearing these comments, begins to remember his purpose as a surgeon. Later on, after huge change has been made within himself, I love the scene where Manager Ko performs his first surgery in a long while, with Shi On by his side. He begins to panic when things go awry, but is comforted by Shi On’s presence, and by the words he had spoken to him a while ago about his hands. With newly found confidence, Manager Ko is able to finish off the surgery successfully. It was awesome and cathartic to watch.

Beautiful OST: I found most of the tracks on this OST extremely pleasing to the ear, most especially the instrumental tracks. There was only one vocal track that I found particularly grating and overused throughout that drama. This track was called “Decapo” by All the Staff (임직원 일동). Everything about this track annoyed me, but let’s move on to the positives. “Butterfly” was probably my favorite track on the OST, followed by “To My Partner.” While the former track was often played during emotional scenes and relied more on ethereal vocals, the later track placed more emphasis on instruments. What I loved about this later track was the innovative use of trumpet, an instrument that is often associated with loud blaring notes of excitement or triumph. This track was so unique in that it took an often clamorous instrument, and applied it softly to enhance the track in a distinct way. The soft, enchanting vocalizations in the beginning of this song (which remind me so much of the Gladiator soundtrack) were absolutely stunning and peaceful to listen too as well. They really enhanced the scenes they were applied to in an excellent way. Other tracks I thoroughly enjoyed were “Green Mes,” “Savant Syndrome,” and “From Heaven.” These were all beautiful tracks with gratifying piano melodies and violin rifts to complement them.


Weaknesses:

Draggy Romance: Some people may fight me on this, but these scenes totally bogged down the drama for me, especially since I hated Yoon Seo’s transformation into a brat once the relationship commenced. I much preferred the early nurturing and comedic banter filled relationship they had in the first half of the drama, before Shi On developed feelings for her. I think the drama would have faired much better with the two forming a sibling relationship instead. It would have allowed for non-conflicting sweetness, and saved the drama from such bothersome filler scenes where they struggle to admit their feelings to each other. The relationship arcs between Do Han and Chae Kyung, and In Young and Dr. Han were much more interesting to me, and more appropriately handled. Not too much of it and not too little of it. I didn’t feel like the romance between Shi On and Yoon Seo brought anything positive to the table, and in more ways than one, it was the catalyst that ruined Yoon Seo’s character for me. At the very least, I wish they would have cut some of it out.

Regression of Dr. Cha: One of the only main characters that didn’t seem to follow a positive progression, was Yoon Seo. I enjoyed her character so much in the first half of the drama. She was funny, spunky, and really took care of Shi On, even if she caught a lot of flack from her peers for it. However, all of these qualities seemed to go down the drain in the second half. The relationship where she had looked out for Shi On and exhibited a refreshing independence went flying out the window once she began to realize her feelings for Shi On. I hated how wishy washy she was when deciding on whether on not she liked him. At times, it almost felt like she was leading him on a bit, after she had rejected him. Once they finally did get together as a couple, I absolutely couldn’t stand her self-centered, whiny behavior, which for me, signaled a total regression of her character. After beginning a relationship with Shi On, Yoon Seo seemed to take many steps back. She became irritable, selfish, possessive, and almost child-like in the way she threw numerous tantrums. This is evidenced by her various behaviors, such as her choice to go ahead with announcing her and Shi On’s relationship at the team dinner, after Shi On specifically asks her not to the night before. This total disregard for his feelings and unwillingness to compromise on his behalf infuriated me. She was clearly only thinking about herself, wanting people to know about her relationship and seeking congratulations for it. I get that she was excited about having a man, but I found her behavior extremely immature and off-putting in this scene. Even worse, were the scenes following her ill-thought out decision to broadcast their relationship. After she comes across some co-workers speaking negatively about her for dating Shi On, she runs into him, knowing he must have overheard the confrontation on the stairs. Then, she has the audacity to tell him he should have done something about it, when it wasn’t even his fault, and the consequences were the cause of HER actions. She chose to act rashly, so she should have dealt with the outcome of her stupidity on her own without casting blame on him or expecting him to step in. She also tells Shi On she’s not bothered by the comments, and concludes that because of that, he shouldn’t be upset either. This is the thought process of someone who, once again, is only thinking about themself. Here, Yoon Seo completely neglects the idea that these comments may have a profound and harmful effect on a sensitive person like Shi On, even if they aren’t bothersome to her. I hated how she failed to even consider his feelings, but expected him to always be considerate of hers.

Suspense of Realism: Of course, when watching a medical drama, I’m always on the lookout for offensively unrealistic scenes. I’m not a fan of medical dramas for several reasons, one of the main points being that they often have ridiculous moments tossed in that are hardly logical or capable of happening in the real world. This drama was not free from such blunders. The children freely roam around this hospital without any sort of parental or adult guidance. It was baffling to watch so many scenes like this pass by, since this would never be allowed or take place in a real hospital. Furthermore, Yoon Seo’s decision to take a patient (who is in critical condition, and soon to receive major surgery), to her home is absolutely blasphemous. I know the effort was made to showcase how close these doctors were to their patients, but this was an outrageously erroneous and unrealistic scene. Another joke was the fact that these doctors let Kyuhyun, the child opera singer (who had an incredibly fragile throat condition), sing numerous times just days before his big surgery. I don’t think I need to explain how laughable that is. Also, can I just mention that security wasn’t tight, ANYWHERE. A minor freely strolls into a club with female hostesses. In Hye isn’t even noticed until she’s already found the area where the ladies entertain the men. Finally, a female tries kicking her out by merely saying that she doesn’t belong there. Meanwhile, pretty much anyone and everyone walked in and out of the hospital, including the the criminal—dressed in all black with a hat and mask to match; totally not extremely sketchy looking— who stabbed a child who was a witness and patient there, Shi On’s father who went on a yelling tirade, and a bunch of men who dragged out a pregnant mother (aka an adult who doesn’t need a guardian permission to receive treatment) on her Mother-in-law’s orders.

Boring Hospital Politics: I can’t think of a time when hospital politics weren’t a snore to watch, but of course, they’re expected to have a presence in a medical drama such as this one. I didn’t so much mind the politics regarding the ousting of the chairman, Shi On and Do Han aside from the fact that we don’t really ever get a solid explanation as to why the Chairman is hated so much by the bad guys. I mean…is it ever really properly explained? He didn’t seem like such a bad guy to me, not that we saw much of him at all aside from the occasional brooding or shocked glances the camera shot of him. Otherwise, he didn’t have much of a presence once the first episodes unveiling his involvement in Shi On’s backstory had completed themselves. Anyway, the more annoying politics for me came from the whole VP wanting to turn the hospital in the a top-notch pediatric for-profit hospital. The whole arc involving the VP and the older Chairman Jung really bothered me because it was not only boring but also poorly explained. It was simply brought in and out of the story to create conflict and angst, but never fully addressed head on. Even the way they wrapped it up was very half-assed. I also want to know the story behind Chae Kyung’s father’s death, which they implied, Chairman Jung had a hand in, but never actually took time to explain how.


Overall Thoughts:

As someone with a severely physically and mentally handicapped sister, I truly appreciated the message this drama had to offer. It challenged people to look beyond the stigma of handicaps and appreciate people for who they really are. It showed that handicapped people have just as much to bring to the table as the rest of us do, and in many cases, even more. There is so much they can teach us if we are willing to listen and stop ourselves from judging them without even bothering to give them a listen or find out anything about them. Good Doctor was not without flaws, but it successfully delivers a heartwarming story that is undoubtedly worth the watch. Even if you’re not a fan of medical dramas, I recommend checking this unique drama out.


Rating: 8.5/10 

Did you watch Good Doctor? What did you think of the drama? If you haven’t already, you can check out the preview here.


 

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