“Sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station”– an Indian proverb
It’s not often that a Korean telenovela sweeps me off my feet. While most of the shows have original stories and screenplays and exceptional technical work, their predictable endings usually leaves one miserably uncomfortable in the end. On prodding by netizens, and the recent win of “Parasite” as Best Picture at the Oscars (yes, I loved the movie), I needed to see for myself what the buzz was all about over “Crash Landing On You”. After all, even Netflix had been “suggesting” I watch this series as well. [They weren’t wrong when I was overwhelmed at how good the story writings of Sky Castle and Hotel de Luna were.]
Crash Landing On You is the new K drama series that has everyone talking about how good a telenovela this is. After all, it’s not just an ordinary love story. The series takes us into two nations divided by a border, and even living in the 21st century, a sociopolitical cultural gap. The storyline is so well-stitched together that it embraces fate and destiny in the most unusual cross starred lovers – a South Korean businesswoman (Se-ri played by Son Ye-Jin) and a North Korean soldier (Ri Jeong-Hyeok played by Hyun Bin).
It weaves a story of power. Greed. Friendship. Loneliness. Suffering. Corruption. Family. Deception. Grief. Of good triumphing over evil. Of dreams and aspirations. And while there is a hodgepodge of conundrums convoluted in the drama, the most important story of all, told a hundred times each episode was clearly that of love, forgiveness, goodbyes and moving on.
The North Korean angle was a bit confusing for those of us who are not from the two Koreas. We’re told of horror stories of North Korea and while it makes no mention of Kim Jong-Un, it tells of the rigid government of the country. The shuttle back and forth from Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea) and the small village that delineates the border of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea is the central setting for the series. The north is more popularly known for an absolute authoritarian regime, where capital punishment is imposed on many crimes ranging from grand theft to defection, treason, espionage, among a few. Executions are carried out by firing squad or hanging in public. While the series provides us a sneak peak into the lives of North Koreans, such as the disparity in provisions of the higher military officials (from housing to cars), the kind of food that is available to the lower class people and the different degrees and extent of corruption, this angle was subtly hidden away. I couldn’t tell the difference in the accents of Koreans from the South and the North. But that’s because I was an outsider trying to figure out the English subtitle.
Interspersed between some light moments was heavy drama. Sometimes to the point of being impossible. Yet one cannot help but turn a blind eye to that impossibility that even in the movies, anything can happen. But I will leave that to the audience to judge as this is one series that I highly recommend and I won’t spoil it by telling you each episode.
The scenic settings in Korea, Mongolia and Iseltwald, Switzerland was breathtaking and gave justice to the theme of Crash Landing on You.
Then there’s the side story of another kind of love. Between Dan and Seung-Jun. The kind of love that would overcome one’s own destiny and altruism that parallels that of the stars of the show, but would end tragically sans regrets (and a bit of payback to boot).
It’s difficult not to fall in love with the story. After all, the central theme of love and selfless giving revolved around each and every protagonist character in the series. Their darkest and brightest moments.
The most wistful of all is the conversation between Yoon Se-Ri and Ri Jyeong Hyeok where Se-Ri tells Jyeong Hyeok:
There’s an Indian proverb that goes…sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station. It was like that for me too. Throughout my life, I always felt like I was on the wrong train. One time, I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to go anywhere. So I thought about jumping off the train. Look where I am now. I took the wrong train again, and a very wrong one at that. It even got me across the 38th parallel. Still, you should think about the future, even if things don’t always go as you wish. I wish you could stay happy even after I leave, Jyeong-Hyeok. I want you to arrive at the right station, no matter what train you take.
Those lines alone…they were worth the 16 episodes.
Hope and love will always be a beautiful landing on anyone. This is a series that will long be remembered…because we all hope to arrive at the right station in spite of the wrong train rides in life.