Director Jin Hyeok whose credits include The Painter of the Wind, Brilliant Legacy, Prosecutor Princess and City Hunter, knows how to set the scene for romance, but I worried about his lack of experience in the horror genre.
In truth, it was the CG that saved the supernatural elements of the show from being laughable. While the ghost makeup was masterful and the lighting in establishing shots were good, movement without the special effects proved to be too mundane and dispelled the fantasy.
|Tae Gong Shil looks more tired than scary as she walks through the lobby.|
Tae Gong Shil (Gong Hyo Jin) is left with the ability to see ghosts after an accident and subsequent three year coma. Because she is in danger of also being possessed by ghosts, she is unable to sleep deeply and is therefore presented as being a shambling, unkempt woman with dark circles under her eyes. In three scenes where she is obviously supposed to be frightening (there may have been more, but they weren't noticeable) the intention fell flat.
|The mourners' reactions seem overboard at the sight of Tae Gong Shil who still just looks tired.|
As was the case in other scenes that should have been scary, the lighting used was not dramatic, the camera angles were straightforward as if shooting a regular scene, and the film speed was also normal. Director Jin Hyeok's mistake was shooting horror scenes in the same way he shot dramatic scenes. There was no creation of discomfort for the audience aside from the subject matter itself, which was not enough. Disorienting camera angles, dramatic or swinging light sources, and in some cases, increased film speeds would have done wonders to achieve the necessary effects.
Though I was a little disappointed, what was done right, was done very well. Ghosts still had impact, and were even pulled into the romance of certain scenes.
Tae Gong Shil, often called Tae-yang (Miss Tae) which means sun, also has her bright side, afterall, she is the "sun" that the title refers to. Additionally, she appears radiant to ghosts, which is what attracts them to her. This is reflected by how she is lit throughout the drama, despite the darkness of her haunted character.
Kang Woo (Seo In Guk) is the security detail who is sent by Joo Joong Won's father to spy on him, and investigate anyone around him. When he sees Tae Gong Shil for the first time, the breeze blows the laundry aside to light up her face, illustrating what she represents in the drama.
While Tae Gong Shil is shrouded in ghosts, but shines brightly, Joo Joong Won who should shine brightly is the one who is dark and haunted by his past. Joo Joong Won, head of Kingdom mall, seems to have everything; wealth, power and good looks. However, due to a traumatic kidnapping in his youth that resulted in his first love dying before his eyes, he is emotionally closed off and weighs everything in terms of money.
The two meet and are drawn to each other in ways that have nothing to do with romance, yet are absolutely imbued with romance. The nature of their interaction echoes back to Goo Ae Jung (Gong Hyo Jin) and Dokko Jin (Cha Seung Won) from The Greatest Love, also written by the Hong sisters, and it's not a bad thing. This is a dynamic that works well, especially with the caliber of actors that we're fortunate enough to enjoy here.
So Ji Sub is amazing as Joo Joong Won. The subtlety of his expressions conveyed so much more than words could, even before his character knew what he was feeling. Gong Hyo Jin is wonderful at what she does, and the two of them had a whimsical chemistry that was apparent right from the start. A talented supporting cast including child actors and guest stars created an effective group chemistry as well.
While for the most part, the writing was excellent, there were some significant flaws. So Ji Sub's past was portrayed well, and there was an interesting twist to it, however in retrospect I can see where the ghost acted out of character in one scene which made it seem purposely misleading. The resolution of this particular thread felt anti-climactic to me, which may not be the case for other viewers, but I was expecting more.
The drama employed some overused plot elements that could have contributed more to the story, but either weren't around long enough to matter, or didn't have the consequences they should have had to make us care. It was rather like watching a balloon inflate halfway, then deflate, never reaching its intended form, or at least giving a satisfying "pop".
Although an extra episode was added and a new bit of story introduced, it wasn't explored. Momentum was lost as it often is with extensions, which was frustrating since there was so much potential to keep the tension high right up until the end.. It felt like a missed opportunity, and a shame since the pacing had been perfect up until that point.
Despite the missteps, Master's Sun was charming and engaging from beginning to end. The side characters were charismatic and found their ways to the drama's conclusion in touching scenes. Each episode celebrated relationships in all their complexities, framed in beautiful settings, lit romantically, evoking tears, smiles and laughter. The ghosts were skillfully employed, appearing frightening, sometimes comedic, but revealing their humanity as well. So though my analytical mind found fault, my heart remained all in. In the end, I rated Master's Sun an eight, but much of it was a 10 and definitely worth watching.