Kdrama Review: Emergency Couple

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emerg couple poster

  • Englisht title: Emergency Couple
  • Revised romanization: Eunggeubnamnyeo
  • Hangul: 응급남녀
  • Director: Kim Cheol-Kyu
  • Writer: Choi Yoon-Jung
  • Network: tvN
  • Episodes: 21
Emergency Man and Woman-Song Ji-Hyo.jpg Emergency Man and Woman-Choi Jin-Hyuk.jpg Emergency Man and Woman-Lee Pil-Mo.jpg Emergency Man and Woman-Choi Yeo-Jin.jpg Clara
Song Ji-Hyo Choi Jin-Hyuk Lee Pil-Mo Choi Yeo-Jin Clara
Oh Jin-Hee Oh Chang-Min Kook Cheon-Soo Sim Ji-Hye Han A-Reum

Emergency Couple tells the story of Oh Chang-min (played by Choi Jin-hyuk) and Oh Jin-hee (played by Song Ji-hyo), who meet in their early twenties, fall in love and get married against the wishes of his wealthy doctor family, who cut him off without a cent. As a result Chang-min is forced to quit his studies as a doctor and begin work as a pharmaceutical salesman. Miserable in his job, soon his relationship with Jin-hee begins to break down. The martial breakdown is also fuelled by Jin-hee’s inferiority complex, who finds it difficult to handle the way her husband’s family treats her. Within a year, their marriage is over and they are divorced, filled with animosity towards each other. Six years later they unexpectedly meet once again as they both begin medical intern-ships at the same hospital, with Chang-min having return to medical school and Jin-hee deciding to also pursue medicine. As new interns, they are forced to work together for three months in the Emergency ward of the hospital.

I primary watched the series because, as a Running Man fan, I am a big fan of Song Ji-hyo. While I had seen Song Ji-hyo in a number of movies, I had not seen any of her television dramas, so was keen to see her performing in a lead role. I also loved Choi Jin-hyuk’s performance in Gu Family Book, so was excited to see him take on a lead role in a drama. Both actors did a terrific job in making their characters believable, fun and entertaining, however,  it was Song Ji-hyo’s exploration of her characters emotional journey which gave gravitas to the series.

Emergency Couple does a good job, especially in the first few episodes, of setting up the comedic base for the series. I laugh out loud quite a few times in the first few episodes (as well as later ones). However, while Emergency Couple is in many ways your stereotypical Korean Rom Com, under its light-hearted humour and comedy, it also has a very strong social commentary running through it.

Throughout the series, a number of significant social issues and taboos are discussed. The most prominent being, of course, is the issue of divorce and how it is seen within Korean society. Also explored were the issues of: single motherhood, sex outside of marriage, sexist double standards when it comes to sex outside of marriage, the right of women to chose a career over pregnancy and motherhood and teenage/youth pregnancy. What was fantastic about the series was it dealt with all of these issues without necessarily pushing them down your throat. Instead, they were cleverly woven into both the drama and comedy of the series, while challenging the dominant existing narratives about these issues. I especially loved Song Ji-hyo’s scene when Jin-hee and the other interns discuss sex outside of marriage.  In this scene, the writers do a wonderful job of having Jin-hee turning on its head the conservative analogy of a lock and key to describe the sexual activity of women and men.

The series also did a great job in giving us secondary characters which were not your stereotypical nasty, devious or jealous characters, which are present in far to many kdramas. In particular, it was really wonderful to have to secondary female characters who were not shackled with the stereotypical sexism that many kdramas give them. In the world of kdrama, there are far to many secondary female characters who are shackled with nastiness and jealousy, who are manipulative, crazy or just plain evil.  However, Emergency Couple showed us that it is possible to have interesting secondary female characters without them being bound down with psychotic jealousy, manipulative cruelness or portraying them as just plain nasty, delusional or evil. Instead, Shim Ji-hye, played by Choi Yeo-jin and Han Ah-reum played by Clara were presented as strong independent women, both who knew what they wanted and who were willing to pursue what what they wanted without being manipulative or deluded. They are presented as real human beings with both strengths and weakness, who had compassion and could be vulnerable and likeable.

Similarly the secondary male lead of Gook Cheon-soo, played by Lee Pil-mo, was not your stereotypical second male lead. While at times I found him frustrating (which was more to do with some big holes in the plot, often added to by some confusing script writing, than his acting) it was good to see a secondary male lead who had more depth to his character than just being a shoulder for the female lead to cry on. Cheon-soo was clearly a character suffering his own demons and had his own issues to deal with, which was great to see.

Emergency Couple was definitely enjoyable. However, it also had its flaws, quite a few of them. The most notable was that many of the lesser secondary characters (for example Chang-min and Jin-hee’s fellow interns) were cardboard cut outs and had very little depth. At times, it seemed the show writers didn’t quite know what to do with the characters, so they floundered and flip flopped around. At times the writing for the series also seem confused and not sure where it wanted to go. And towards the end of the series, some characters story lines either abruptly disappeared or change, making the execution of their story line somewhat unbelievable or confusing.

While not wanting to give away the finale, I felt they could have done much more with it than they did. While it was enjoyable, there was no ommpf to it (and I found the constant soft music in the back ground extremely annoying and overly saccharine). The best way, perhaps, to describe the finale is “pleasant”. And again, a number of the secondary characters suffered the fate of the writers not knowing quite what to do with them and their storyline disappointingly became a caricature of what it could have been.

baby gookie Special final mention has to go out to Baby Gukie. I am usually not one to coo over babies (at all!),  but I fell totally and utterly in love with Baby Guk (or as he is known in real life: Kwon Joon young). I loved every single one of his screen appearances and wished there had been more. The show did a great job of using his natural reactions to the adult actors, often using them comically to highlight the emotional interactions between the adults. As a result, I was sorely disappointed that he did not make an appearance in the finale.

Despite there being a number of flaws which one can criticise about Emergency Couple, I still enjoyed the series. I particularly like that the story explored issues not explored very often in other kdramas. I also liked that it was a story of an older couple struggling to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. It was also great that amongst the comedy and fun candy coating, there was in fact some serious social issues discussed and highlighted without people being beaten over the head. So while not being perfect, it was still a fun and enjoyable drama, one worth watching.

 

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