Welcome to soap report! Where I blather on about the shows everyone I know in real life is sick of hearing me talk about. First up: “The Great Doctor” (also known as “Faith”), a 2012 Korean drama consisting of 24 episodes now handily available for obsessive marathoning on Netflix. (ETA: No longer on Netflix, but you can easily watch for free on Viki.)
What’s it about? Wikipedia describes this as a “fusion fantasy-historical-medical television series” but make no mistake: it’s a straight up soap opera, complete with intrigue, melodrama, backstabbing, epic pining, and a cliffhanger to end every episode. It is maddeningly addictive.
The plot follows Eun-Soo, a modern plastic surgeon who gets kidnapped by a warrior from the 14th century and brought back in time to ancient Goryeo to save the life of his queen. When the time portal closes before she can return, she finds herself a pawn amongst the various powers vying for control of the throne.
That all sounds pretty bananas. Did I mention that several characters possess X-Men like superpowers for reasons that are never explained? Including one dude who kills people by playing a flute? And that the time-traveling warrior (Choi Young) who kidnaps our heroine is a famous military hero from Korean history?
(As a product of the American public school system, my knowledge of Korean history pretty much begins and ends in the 1950s. But a little googling leaves me with the impression that — in terms of liberties taken with culture figures — this is pretty on par with Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter.)
I’m intrigued, but tell me about the romance. Okay. So, all the scheming and political maneuvering is just the backdrop for story of Eun Soo and Choi Young slowly falling in love. This involves a lot of Tearful Sacrifice and Angsty Misunderstandings and also Pining. SO MUCH PINING.
Choi Young is your typical stoic man of action. When we meet him, he’s basically sleep walking through life due to some massive manpain from a personal tragedy seven years prior. But he has the advantage of looking like Lee Min-ho. As advantages go, this not insignificant.
Meanwhile, Eun-Soo comes across as silly, vain, and self-centered at first. She’s disillusioned with helping people and seems to care only for money. But you probably wouldn’t be at your best after being kidnapped at sword point either, so whatever.
He kidnaps her; she stabs him. They get off to a bad start. But Choi Young is honor bound to keep her alive and Eun-Soo spends roughly 75% of her time being kidnapped or poisoned. This gives them plenty of opportunities for quality time.
Blah blah damaged souls, blah blah yearning glances. Her zest for life helps bring him back to the world; his nobility helps her regain her love of healing. Their relationship develops at a slow burn that feels utterly earned by the time ignites into a blazing conflagration. AND IT’S ALL SUPER DUPES GOOD FOR ME, OKAY?
Plus, look at how adorable they are together:
Anything else? Time travel shenanigans involving mysterious artifacts left in the past from a future than hasn’t happened to our characters yet. A lot of meetings where old men shout at each other. Korean pop songs anachronistically in the background at moments of great romantic tension.
Oh, and there’s also a sub-plot involving the young King Gongmin finding both his courage as a ruler and his love for his wife, Queen Noguk. They’re pretty cute, too — although a peek at his wikipedia page lends some extra awkwardness to the scene where Eun-Soo warns Noguk that bad things will happen if she dies before her husband.
Special shout outs to: Yu Oh-seong, who chewed the scenery with hilarious aplomb as the main antagonist, Gi Cheol. This dude can eye-act like nobody’s business. And his shocked and betrayed expression whenever anyone thwarted his will never stopped being amazing.
Stay frosty, you crazy, murderous butterfly.
Also, big ups to Court Lady Choi, whose relentless competence and refusal to suffer any bullshit was almost as beautiful as her badass moment of triumph taking out one of the big bads at the end.
And finally, pouring one out for poor Doctor Jang, the best BFF a girl displaced through time could have.
So, should I watch this? Do you have a high tolerance for melodrama, sub-titles, Victorian hand porn, and questionable historical accuracy? Also, do you enjoy FEELINGS? Then, yes. Go watch it all right now and then come back to gush with me. Go on. I’ll wait.