Healer owns my heart and soul. My love for this show is the all consuming variety, it is all I think and dream about. And no, I’m not being melodramatic.
There was so much to love about Healer and I have so many feeeeeeels that I need to let out, so some (read:most) of this will probably just be incoherent ramblings about how much I loved everything about Healer.
I’ve been reluctant to write about Healer, not just because I’ve been short on time, but mainly because I was afraid that what I write will not do the show justice, but to hell with that fear, this is a drama that I have to write about, even if my vocabulary has been exhausted when it comes to Healer and I’ve run out of superlatives to describe how awesome this show is so please bear with me. However, I love this show too much to let it go without so much as a “Love Letter” sort of a post.
If I could, I would do a comprehensive episode-by-episode, scene-by-scene analysis but that would be near impossible since I just have so much to say about the scenes, characters and plot that it would probably take me years to get this post out. So instead I’ve broken this post into a few key discussion points, more manageable for me, and hopefully easier for you to follow. Enough with the introduction, let’s do this!
Jung Hoo: “I’m a little confused. I can fight as much as necessary, and the more I fight, I learn how to win. But Young-shin, right now I’m not sure who I’m fighting against.”
Seo Jung Hoo, a night errand boy and the best in his field, goes by the codename Healer and will take on any job as long as it doesn’t involve killing. He’s no hero and will place no moral judgements on his clients. He’s not particularly fond of his job, but it’s a means to an end; the money he saves up will help him achieve his dream of buying an island off the coast of Panama where he can live alone, raising a leopard or a wolf. You know, the usual. After taking on two consecutive jobs, one to deliver a package coming from L.A. and the other to find a girl, he becomes involved in a multigenerational mystery and is confronted by a bigger, scarier conspiracy in society. Trust me, the plot is way better than I’ve described it.
It’s rather impressive how the show managed to take on various elements, such as, humor, romance, thriller, and mystery, and turn it into a cohesive, well thought out story…So what’s not to love about a show that does so many things well?
This drama was amazing in so many ways but it owes most of that praise to the writing, which was seriously top notch. It was apparent that Song Ji Na really knew exactly what she wanted this show to be and never strayed away from her ideals, even when the ratings were less than what the drama deserved. She’s earned my respect and admiration. I can’t tell you enough how much I loved the way she paced the story and the reveals. Most importantly, the show completely avoided all the drama cliches that I’m pretty sure we all hate. This meant that never once did I want to pull my hair out since I always understood the motivations behind the characters’ actions, which is rather novel.
The multi-generational storyline was used very effectively and was so interesting that it captivated my attention throughout. The flashbacks were well utilized and added to the background story rather than as a device to fill up time or to remind viewers exactly what happened 5 minutes ago. They were used in a manner that gave clues to what happened 22 years ago in just enough increments that it never felt like too much or too little. To paraphrase the great Goldilocks, it was just right!
Moon Ho: “In this world, there are too many people whose name doesn’t appear even in one line of a newspaper, no matter how unjustly they have been killed. We will not be able to listen to all these people’s stories, but we wanted to listen to the story of at least one of these people. We remember you.”
I especially enjoyed the political overtones in the storyline. It takes a lot of courage to critique society and the status quo, but writer Song didn’t cower to such fears. People, especially those in power, usually don’t like it when they’re confronted with the ugly truth about the corrupt nature of their society but writer Song placed a mirror in front of the viewers, showing them how much society has deteriorated . However, the cynicism was also counteracted by a certain level of optimism and idealism that I really enjoyed.
Jung Hoo: “Ever since I was alone up until now, I’ve never expected anything from a human. So, I was okay. Whether someone understood or misunderstood me, it didn’t matter. I was like that.”
I’m generally a cynical drama watcher, and Pavlov would say it’s because I’ve been conditioned to expect the worst from dramas since they usually end with disappointment. Even though Healer was consistently great, I would always approach a new episode with a bit of caution, expecting it to go one way, but then writer Song would always exceed and bypass my expectations. This was the sort of drama where the writing got better week after week. Most dramas suffer from, what seems like an inevitable, mid-drama slump but this never happened to Healer. The cliffhangers were fantastic and always kept me on the edge of my seat. The show was tightly written and above all else, you could sense how much writer Song loved the world and characters that she had written, which totally bled into the viewing experience and elevated it. It was also greatly appreciated that the writer treated the audience with respect and trusted us to be smart enough to put things together without the need for exposition.
Young Shin: “Why are you always sleeping when I see you?” Jung Hoo: “You always wake me.”
If I could, I would give writer Song a thousand hugs and kisses to show my appreciation. Bring on the restraining order.
Ji Chang Wook as Seo Jung Hoo/Healer/Park Bong Soo/etc.:
Jung Hoo: “Teacher, I have no reason for living. And I’m afraid…that one day I might just decide like my father, ‘I should just end it. I can’t continue’. I’m afraid I’ll do that.”
I swear, I think I’ve found the love of my life. But this isn’t about Ji Chang Wook, the person, so I’ll try really hard to keep my discussion on just Ji Chang Wook, the actor, and specifically focus on the portrayal of his character(s). Prior to Healer, I didn’t know anything about Ji Chang Wook and actually thought that he didn’t have any defining features that I could remember him by. I know. *Gasp* But he has parkoured his way into my heart and now I can pick him out in a crowd of thousands in a heartbeat. But that’s beside the point.
Jung Hoo: “Would you like to go out for a drive in the middle of the night?”
Young Shin: “Where to?”
Jung Hoo: “Wherever you want.”
After watching Healer, I was sold by his acting. He brought to his character a certain finesse and rawness that was magnetic. Ji Chang Wook portrayed the lonely, abandoned misanthrope so well while also possessing the talent to transition between his many personas flawlessly. As the Healer, he was cool and suave but when he was Jung Hoo, he displayed a vulnerability and loneliness that was palpable. As Bong Soo, he was the bumbling and socially awkward dork, which like a lost puppy, you couldn’t help but want to hug and protect. I will forever thank Healer for introducing me to Ji Chang Wook and his melt-your-heart stare. Seriously, UNESCO needs to preserve that stare so future generations can enjoy it.
Park Min Young as Chae Young Shin:
Young Shin: “My first and second dreams both feel as if they are further away than 10,000,000 km. Even if it’s rather farfetched, I believe in them. If you don’t give up, the dreams come true, and if you are fated, you will meet.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t (note: past tense) the biggest fan of Park Min Young. I watched her in Sungkyunkwan Scandal and City Hunter but my reaction to her performances were always, “meh”. I never clicked with her as an actress and didn’t think she was particularly good, especially not after watching the first few episodes of A New Leaf. This preconception of her acting led me to purposefully avoid Healer, until one day, on a whim, I decided to give the show a chance. And boy am I glad I did. How wrong I was.
Dad: “I just waited, and you came…Honestly, I could have waited longer but you came to me faster than I thought you would.”
Park Min Young was wonderful in this role. She portrayed the different facets of Young Shin’s personality in the most endearing of ways. Of course, Park Min Young is lucky to have received such an awesome, well-written character but a lot of credit has to be given to the actress behind the character as well. The character was made for her and she in turn, made Young Shin her own. Park Min Young has found her acting center and here’s hoping she continues with this upward trajectory. Hwaiting!
Young Shin: “If you have even just one person who’s truly trustworthy, even when you’re let down, it doesn’t hurt as much. I was like that. Now, rather than mistrusting people, trusting is a bit easier.”
On a completely superficial side note, I don’t know about others but I freaking loved Park Min Young’s short hair in this drama. Hope she keeps it. It gave her this spunk and youthfulness that I think she should embrace. The girl’s only 28 after all.
Also, I have this unfounded theory, based on zero scientific evidence, that actresses who chop off their hair for a drama manage to capture the feel of that character better. And no, I’m not talking about when an actress has to cut her hair to become a “professional woman” or because the role requires her to be taken “seriously”. But I’m talking about how by making the decision to cut off her hair, she is essentially purposefully trying to shed the image of an actress and the constraints that that entails. The short hair allows actresses to have more artistic freedom and to act in a way that doesn’t take into consideration their “image”.
Yoo Ji Tae as Kim Moon Ho:
Moon Ho: “I’ve committed a sin. The name of my sin is silence.”
What else is there to say about Yoo Ji Tae except for the fact that he is a darn fantastic actor and his performance was amazing? He brought a level of gravitas and intensity to his character that helped ground the past mystery in the present. He portrayed the tortured, guilt-ridden Moon Ho with a nuanced complexity that made my heart hurt for him. Just…bravo!
Kim Mi Kyung as Hacker Ajumma Min Ja:
Min Ja: “You don’t always find happiness at the end of the truth. It could be hell.”
This was my favorite role that Kim Mi Kyung has portrayed, and she’s been in a lot of dramas. Even though she spent much of the series in ajumma’s lair, she was so wonderful as my favorite kimbap making, sweater knitting, comfy sock wearing, pop song singing, cuss word spewing, hacker ajumma. What can you say, she ain’t a veteran for nothing!
Jung Hoo:“Ajumma, I like Chae Young-shin.”
Min Ja: “Did you figure that out now?”
Jung Hoo: “So I’m prepared. Even if I’m hurt, I can’t do anything about it. It’s okay if she doesn’t know; I still have to be next to her. Don’t tell me to run away. I don’t know how to run away.”
The heart of this show was in the love story between Jung Hoo and Young Shin. Gaaaaah, just thinking about the OTP makes me all giddy and happy inside. Just so many feels! Jung Hoo and Young Shin were hands down one of my favorite couples EVER, so be prepared for a lot of love directed their way.
Jung Hoo: “When humans look at chimpanzees or tigers, they just say, ‘It’s just a chimpanzee’, or, ‘It’s just a tiger’. Among those, it’s hard to find a slightly prettier chimpanzee or a slightly more handsome tiger. In my eyes, humans are the same. They all look the same. But, among the similar human beings, she’s quite different. If you ask me how different…she’s like a leopard that I saw from a documentary before. That leopard that had hurt its leg, crossed paths with a pack of hyenas. It was obvious that it definitely wouldn’t win, even more so because it was injured, but that leopard attacked first and did not back away. That girl was the same. It’s not that she wasn’t scared because she did not know better, but she was brave, despite knowing how scary it was. After watching that documentary, I really cried a lot. Thinking about it now, makes me teary-eyed again. Anyway, I’m like that too. Running away and hiding…that’s not my style.”
Jung Hoo is a rare specimen of a male lead in that he was not a jerk. Hurrah. Although just based on the first scene of him playing virtual tennis (abs…yum…) I thought he was going to be another typical male lead who was going to be “cold and aloof”, but as soon as I saw him grab his ready-made-rice from the microwave, in all of his dorky glory, I knew that he was going to be different. And he was. He might not have understood Young Shin and her eccentric ways but he never once looked down at her. When it came to the people he loved, he was the most gentle and warm person you could find. Young Shin, on the other hand, was so relatable. She had real fears, insecurities, hopes, desires and dreams that were understandable and made her so easy to love. It’s great when a show writes their main couple in a way that we can see why Jung Hoo would love Young Shin and vice versa, not just because the show required it.
Young Shin: “There’s someone I’m waiting for.”
Jung Hoo: “Waiting?”
Young Shin: “I thought I would be able to meet him if I wait. I thought he would suddenly appear behind me. But he’s not coming. That person definitely has something to say to me. It’s not right to not say anything like this. I’m…ready to listen. I also have something to say. He’s not coming. I don’t think he’ll come.
Of course, I can’t ignore how awesome it was that this show avoided the typical love triangle/square because Jung Hoo was competing with himself! This is the kind of conflict I live for. It brought so many humorous moments as well as heartbreak, but it was reassuring to see that Young Shin did in fact love all of his different personas because they essentially combined to form his true person, who was at the same time kick-ass, dorky, broken, socially awkward, loyal, and loving.
Jung Hoo: “How about me? Would I do? … Instead of someone you’re waiting for who won’t come, how about me, who’s next to you? If you wanted…I could live the way you want me to. For a long time, carefully, by your side.”
Their relationship development was so natural and the relationship itself was actually functional and healthy. This was a couple that actually talked to each other, leaned on each other, respected each other, trusted each other, and loved each other unconditionally. Both partners were seen as being equally competent and could step up to the plate when the situation called for it to protect the other person and to help work through problems together. There was never the dreaded ‘noble-idiocy’ trope where things were decided unilaterally for the other person’s “own good”. And there was no dragging the girl around against her will. Nope, there was none of that patronizing crap. Young Shin was written in a way where she could hold her own and could make her own decisions. There’s something so refreshing when the agency of the female lead is also acknowledged.
Young Shin: “I’m going to wait. I’ll wait, but…still it makes me furious.”
Jung Hoo doesn’t push himself on Young Shin and it was particularly sweet how Jung Hoo always gave Young Shin the time and space to come to him or ask him anything when she was ready. I especially loved how layered their conversations were, and through them, they grew to understand each other at a deeper level. This was evident in their unspoken, almost telepathic conversations. With this understanding as a foundation, it was beautiful to see them grow to become confidantes and then lovers. They were each other’s first priorities and always sought each other out when they needed a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen to their deepest thoughts, or a person to hug. It’s also really fitting that Jung Hoo is the type of person who never abandons the person he loves while Young Shin has lived being constantly afraid of being abandoned. The two of them were truly a match made in heaven.
Jung Hoo: “Why are you not scared?”
Young Shin: “I’m not scared of you.”
Jung Hoo: “Don’t you know who I am? I’m hiding so much from you, but you…you don’t even have the slightest idea, do you?”
Young Shin: “I don’t care.”
Jung Hoo: “Are you an idiot?”
Young Shin: “Don’t make me leave. If you make me leave, you’ll cry your whole life.”
Jung Hoo: “I…can hurt you.”
Young Shin: “No. You would never hurt me. Ever….Don’t make me leave. Don’t do it.”
They never gave up on each other and didn’t let misunderstandings get between them because they knew their love was worth fighting for. When Jung Hoo pushed her away, Young Shin stayed, and that action spoke louder than any word could relay. Even without knowing all the details when it came to his identity and background, Young Shin instinctively knew that Jung Hoo was a good guy and trusted that he would never hurt her.
Young Shin: “I thought I was abandoned.”
Jung Hoo: “She said you weren’t.”
Young Shin: “I must have been scared. If I don’t smile prettily, if I would ask something they don’t like, I’m scared they might grow tired of me…that they would want to abandon me…”
Jung Hoo: “I am not like that.”
Young Shin: “Then…can I ask?”
Jung Hoo: “Of course.”
Young Shin: “Jung Hoo-ah.”
Jung Hoo: “Uh”
Young Shin: “Have you killed anyone?”
Jung Hoo: “No.”
Young Shin: “I knew it.”
Together, Jung Hoo and Young Shin brought out the best in each other and were stronger as a result of being together. When Jung Hoo had an existential crisis, it was Young Shin who helped him find a reason to live, to interact with the world around him and find who he really is and what he really likes.
Jung Hoo: “Because I want to tell her. Chae Young Shin. That I’m actually a thief. But saying that my father is a murderer is a bit…that’s completely different. You were the one who said that if it was a woman who would follow me to the uninhabited island it would be okay. That I can start that. I think it will be okay if I tell Chae Young Shin who I am and ask if she can come with me. At first she will probably try to beat me up for lying to her up till now. She’ll probably kick and hit me. I can take a few hits. But I think she’ll get over it soon. That’s what she’s like. She’ll sing a strange song and dance an outrageous dance. She’ll get over it quickly.”
Of course, I have to mention the “personal contact” on between this couple, which was on a different level entirely. The handholds, the hugs, the kisses were all handled with such gentleness and simplicity that made them even more beautiful and swoonworthy as a result. All the skinship was seen as being part of a relationship instead of some rare occurrence that needed to be overdramatized with a neon sign that says “THIS IS A MOMENTOUS MOMENT”.
Young Shin: “When I hold his hand, the feeling of ‘it’s okay now’ gradually spreads to my whole body from my hand. A marvelous, unique, one and only hand that can say, ‘it’s okay now’.”
But damn, those handholds were so sensual, tender and electric, I’m blushing just thinking about them. The kisses were soft and tender; and each time, both leads actively participated in the kiss; Young Shin even initiated one of them! The amazing chemistry between Ji Chang Wook and Park Min Young should briefly be mentioned here since without it, those touches would of felt manufactured instead of feeling so real.
Also, it’s the little things that get me right at the heart but I absolutely adored how Jung Hoo had so many terms of endearment for Young Shin. He called her “that kid”, “my girl”, “agasshi”, “Young Shin-ie” and my favorite, “Young Shin-ah”. Young Shin’s ease at calling Jung Hoo “Jung Hoo-ah” also made me swoon because of the level of intimacy that that showcased.
Jung Hoo: “To be honest, I was going to do it until I could buy an uninhabited island in the South Pacific. There’s a particular island that I want. Last time I checked, it was still available. At any rate, then one day, I met a girl. Man, she made me lose my mind. So…I changed my dream. There are also words that my teacher left me. I decided to try living like other people, with my girl, having kids and stuff.”
This was an OTP that knew the true meaning of love and everything that that encompasses. ~swoon~
Young Shin: “You said you want to love like other people.”
Jung Hoo: “Love.”
Young Shin: “Mmhm love.”
Phew, I needed this. I probably forgot to mention a few things but I hope I did this show justice. Maybe now I can have closure and let Healer go.
Jung Hoo: “The things I like: high places, the first snow, small hands, white bedding and that hair.
The things I don’t like: Anything and everything that keeps me away from those things.”
I will admit that if I were to look at Healer completely objectively, it might not earn a perfect “10” (“perfection” is over-rated anyways), but I’ll be honest, I don’t really care to separate my subjective opinions from my objective ones. Yes, there were minor flaws here and there, especially more glaring issues in the finale, but in no way did they detract from the overall quality of the show. And this show was quality.
What matters most to me was that I enjoyed watching every single minute of the show and I know it felt like hole bore in my heart when the show ended. I was that emotionally invested in the story and the characters .
Young Shin: “The things I like: The sound of his shutter, large hands, smiling eyes, and large embrace.
The things I don’t like: Anything and everything that keeps me away from those things.”
Healer will also always hold a special place in my heart as my first “crack” drama (and for introducing me to Ji Chang Wook). I’ve been reluctant to use that term to describe my drama viewing experiences but in this case, it was honestly very true. It was at an addiction level and I’m still trying to withdraw from it.
Even though dramas come and go, Healer, just know that I’m eternally yours.
Now I’ll leave you on these words by writer Song Ji Na: “Love boldly. Instead of being tentative without committing yourself, start with loving with all your heart. Not flirting for a momentary flutter in the heart, but to wholeheartedly love someone. Then, it would become very difficult to let the world your loved one lives in hurt your loved one.”