I just finished Arang and the Magistrate, and already I miss it. I’ve been a fan of Lee Jun Ki and Shin Min Ah individually: the former, from his My Girl days, and the latter, from her My Girlfriend is a Gumiho stint. So it was great news when I first read of their collaboration for this project.
The pilot episode was even so pretty and satisfying that it led me to following the show ever since. What’s great about this show is that it had its rules intact, and the surprises came with right timing and execution. Not once have I felt like it was dragging, or the rules were cray. It was a fantasy sageuk, after all, so most elements of the show are otherworldly to begin with. But to be able to maintain, and more so, to elevate those elements to come up with a show that keeps getting better and better every episode is something commendable and rare in the KDrama not-cable world (since TvN looks to be doing great since Vampire Prosecutor!)
What I always look for in a drama is character growth, and here I saw not only the leads’, but also the supporting characters’ growth. The Three Bangs knew when to draw the line when it comes to political loyalty. Even if I don’t agree with Joo Wal’s decision, it’s an understandable one given that the deeds he has done on earth was already haunting him one by one. Bang Wool and Dol Swe’s relationship was refreshingly cute, but it was not without its own depth. And of course, who can forget Arang and the Magistrate? They went from bickering to caring for each other, and while that transition for me was not smooth at all (more on this later), just their mere screen presence and their longing stares at each other satisfy me. Oh, and haven’t I told you it’s Shin Min Ah and Lee Jun Ki playing the lead roles here? Because Shin Min Ah + Lee Jun Ki = ALL THE PRETTY THINGS IN THE WORLD
Arang started as this very spunky girl who knew what she wanted and tried all her might to get it, but we see that as the story progressed, she became more and more…soft. I’d like to think that she became more and more similar to Lee Seo Rim, her human self, which is of course how it should be given that she’s in the quest to know how her human self died (and who killed her). But I missed that spunky girl, and though there were moments when she’d peak now and then, she became more and more vulnerable by the episode. Which, again, is understandable given that as the story progressed she’s discovering more and more about herself. Although it’s a reversal kind of growth for me, it’s growth nonetheless. At least the last few scenes gave me back my spunky-yet-in-love girl, and that’s really enough for me.
Kim Eun Oh (or the Magistrate), on the other hand, is the character which I believe had the most satisfying character growth. He went from being nonchalant to caring about the littlest details. I think a lot of Korean actors can pull of a Eun Oh, but Lee Jun Ki will still be the best choice. What a great actor! My eyes were really glued on him every time he’s on my screen, and his eyes! BOY CAN HE ACT WITH HIS EYES! He truly has improved since My Girl, and it’s only to my pleasure that I’ll be seeing more of his acting in the future, without any more army issues to get in the way.
Overall, I give Arang and the Magistrate a two thumbs up. Or five Patrick stars. Or a Masterpiece rating in MyDramaList. MY FAVORITE SAGEUK THUS FAR. This is the kind of show I’d willingly spend my hours on, because it’s the kind of show that balances heart and reason while executing that in an excellent way.
Plus, it’s Shin Min Ah and Lee Jun Ki. What’s not to love?