You Who Came From the Stars – Episode 1

Sayonaraaaa, Heirs! Welcome E.T!!!

So the most famous alien in Asia right now has finally landed on Earth and it looks like his motto must be “I came, I saw, I conquered” because he swept through the Kdramaland and won on all fronts bringing in a strong 15,6% ratings and thus beating his competition by almost 10%. Not even the combined forces of Pretty Man and Miss Korea stood a chance against the sexiest alien alive. How could a couple of tellurians stand a chance against KSH’s extraterrestrial doppelganger, anyway?

While I’ve been looking foward to this drama for weeks I have to admit that even I was suprised how much I liked the first episode. You Who Came From the Star or Man From the Star or whatever you choose to call it (I swear the people at SBS have nothing better to do than think up alternative names for their showscan boast stellar writing and inspired directing which makes even this contemporary drama a feast for eyes. The PD of the Tree with Deep Roots helms this show and he truly takes advantage of the magical atmosphere of autumn and winter seasons. KSH shines as the ageless alien and JJH rocks as the Hallyu diva and together they create an OTP for the ages  as if the stars aligned in the real world, too, for them to meet and to spirit us away into their epic, touching lovestory.

On August 25 1609 an UFO was spotted across Joseon and a group of travellers who accompanied a young 15 years old girl, who ended up a widow before she had the chance to meet her husband, even made a contact of sorts. The storm created by the ship blew the pallaquin with the girl away, straight towards the abyss. However, the time suddenly stops, even the swirling leaves and dragonfly freeze, and among the chaos emerges a lonely figure dressed in black; our protagonist who pulls the pallaquin from the abyss into safety with his bare hands (obviously super-strength) and then makes the time flow again. He opens the door of the palaquin and offers his hand to the girl inside…

We learn this from Do Min Joon himself who narrates his own story of how he landed in Joseon all those 404 years ago and how he has lived ever since with his super abilities (his senses are 7 times better than those of a human) – quitely, not drawing any attention, not getting involved in human’s affairs more than necessary because if it’s meant to be (fated), he argues, it will happen anyway even without his intervation – until the day he leaves. That day is actually close – in 3 months (on the air date of the 20th episode of this show no doubt) he is scheduled to leave because his cue (a comet brightest than the Moon) has again appeared on the Earth’s sky.

Frankly, I love this prologue to bits. The only thing I’m not sure about is whether I love more seeing KSH back in his Joseon hanbok, him sporting that hilarious 70’s hairstyle or that final shot of him among the lights of the contemporary Seoul. LOL!

YWCFTS has a great script – it manages to be heartwrenching, funny and thoughtful at the same time while being subtle at it. Plus it gives us a couple of fascinating three-dimensional leads who are played by actors that know how to sell every word the scriptwriter has written while earning profit.

We meet our heroine, the nation’s actress and Hallyu star Cheon Song Yi taking a break at a drama set in one of the many kdrama metas in this episode. She takes a selca of herself with a cup of Mocca Latte and upload it on her SNS account thanking a famous Korean for secretly importing the “Mocca beans” to Korea. Unfortunately, she confuses two similarly-sounding words because he actually imported cotton. The post goes viral with people commenting on her mistake and making fun of her. From the looks of the director of her PR company, her manager and her cordi it’s not the first such mayhap she commited. He wants her to stop posting them, however, she argues her 20 000 “friends” are the only people with whom she can communicate and threatens him with a transfer to a rival company.

SY moves to a new apartment where she meets our favourite alien in the elevator. She mistakes him for a stalker and offers him a photo or an autograph telling him he should exercise or study not waste his youth doing this. Too late she realises he lives at the same floor, next door to be exact. She wonders if he really doesn’t know her to which MJ replies if he should which perplexes her together with the fact he doesn’t unlock his door. Obviously, he expects her to break into his flat because he shoos her away with the alien version of that signature hand wave of every decent kdrama lead, the same one that JW in TMS brought to such perfection. After he leaves we get another meta when SY wonders how can he possibly not know her? Whether he is an alien (LOL) or a North Korean (a reference to KSH’s role in Secretly, Greatly). After that she ends up reading all those hateful, sarcastic comment and one is particularly ugly, calling her talenless and asking whether she receives a botox injection to your brain because then it would be no wonder it doesn’t have any creases .

CSY is an amazing female lead who is indeed a sassy girl in every sense of that word (no doubt another reference to JJH’s famous movie). However, beyond that untouchable diva facade lies a lonely girl who lives in a huge luxurious but empty apartment. She has a family, alright, but calling it damaged would be an understatement of the century. Her mother is a social-climbing leech who married CSY’s father for his money and then when he went broke divorced him. She only uses her daughter as a means to an end, bragging about her star status in front of her snobbish friends and leeching money from SY for her business ventures. I admire how SY talks to her mother – she obviously despises her and knows her for what she really is having no illusion about her.

I was cheering for her when she defiantly stated that she inherited her looks (the thing that all the shallow people claim to be her only virtue) from her father. It’s gutted me to realise that SY has actually started to believe it, doubting her own worth, as all the people around her reduceit only to her looks.  I think that MJ is meant for her as he is the perfect person to see beyond her mask and show her she is far more than those people branded her. 

As Daredevil already learned super-hearing has its lows – you need to live in a soundproof apartment and go to sleep before 10 p.m. but even then you don’t have your peace and silence because even a leaking water tap can cause you insomnia. But it can get worse, far worse – you can get a new neighbour who releases her stress via loud, off-key noctural singing. You know while I was watching the long preview I thought the scene of SY’s bathroom “concert” would serve as a comic relief but the opposite is the truth – it’s her only way to unwind and take her mind off her mother’s and fans’ betrayl. But it won’t be easy because insomiac aliens ring always twice and like to threaten you with jail for singing off-key. It’s no wonder SY breaks down:

“So you are saying I lack common sense, aren’t you? You’re saying I don’t have common knowledge or common sense right now. No common sense. No brain. Botox. Did you inject botox into your brain? Your brain won’t even have folds. You are saying that right now! Even though I only had an apple and half of a Brussels sprout all day because I’m on a diet, I’m really full. Because I got severely criticized from people, to the point I got full. I had no idea that I would get criticized even more this late at night. Just because I sang a little? Can’t I sing a little? Eating like that after I was stigmatized all day? Then where do I release my stress? An apple and half of a Brussels sprout, ALL DAY!”

The strongest scene of the whole episode! I have no idea how JJH managed to learn this monologue but all respect to her for it and the emotional delivery of it. It takes a huge talent and acting prowess to go from comedy into serious acting in a span of mere seconds. Her performance feels so real and natural – you can notice her nose and eyes getting gradually red.

“What did I do so wrong? Do you know everything? Are you that smart You said I’m most beautiful. You said you like me the most… How can they chew up a person like they would chew a gum? Ah, really. Those unfaithful people!”

It’s so heartwrenching watching SY curled in her huge bed helplessly sobbing. It’s obvious this girl craves a little love; something she’s obviously lacked her whole life – she wants people to like her, to understand her, to stay with her when it gets tough and not judge her. It’s so unfair for them to make fun of her little mistakes like they were impervious to folly and masking their own ignorence. Malicious joy is an ingrained human trait.

Which leads me to to fact how I adore the way MJ’s and SY’s apartments have been designed -vast and spacious –  and how the PD works with that enormous space (not doubt also a parallel for the place where stars dwell). It’s such a subtle hint for the audience to realise how similiar these two actually are despite their difference: both alone and lonely, left behind, while surrounded by people who don’t care and don’t understand them. I can see now why the writer put so much emphasis on them being compared to stars – stars are lonely. They shine bright for millions of years, admired by people while being surrounded by darkness and other stars. But that closeness is only an illusion because those stars are millions of years apart never meeting each other. However, once in an eternity there comes a time when 2 stars align for a close rare encounter and that’s where our story begins.

At 28, SY is still a college student but she hasn’t attented a class in ages which the media notice and therefore broadcast a celebrity favouritism segment about her. So off to school with her and her driver is no other than the chaebol heir Lee Whi Kyung who has been in love with her his whole life but SY has never given him the time of day.

Her lecturer is no other than her new neighbor but since this is not an acting class it’s more difficult and if she fails she has to repeat it. The whole classroom is full with students who are comptely in thrall with him (if there was such a swoonworthy professor at my university I bet there would a full classroom, too, unfortunately, our youngest professor must be at least 50 years old so no luck there) and his lecture – the mating rituals of golden firefly (LOL!). In what field of study has he actually received his professor degree?!

Basically, DMJ describes all the treacheary involved and the length to which the male goes to copulate and NOT end up being eaten by the female. Well, if he takes this example as the model for the human mating rituals, as well, it is no wonder he has been celibate for 404 years! However, I suspect there is more to it – I’m particularly curious about the fact that he can’t mix his blood or saliva with humans. This obviously doesn’t bode well for future kissing scenes because these two MUST KISS even if it were to kill them! Have you seen Thieves? I don’t want to be cheated of such intense smooches! Just their chemistry in this scene alone makes the air sparkle with elektricity!

“The reason I was afraid to make friends, was this. People age quickly, and die quickly. Only I’m left behind. In the exact same… young and handsome state.”

It’s heartwrenching to listen to MJ as he reveals to his only friend Lawyer Jang (only friend in 404 years! who takes care of his death cover as MJ dies every 10 years but now asks for a new death certificate only after 2 years because he intends to leave in 3 months) the reason behind his reclusive life. Throughout the whole episode we could subconsciously feel that he isn’t that indifferent as he makes himself seem, that he actually craves to be loved. It’s clear that MJ has a great capacity to love but is afraid to give his heart to someone for fear of being left behind which makes him so much human and therefore such an amazing character the audience can relate to. But I suspect there is more behind his reluctance to involve himself in humans’ affair – something must have make him this way some tragic experience from his past.

His friends asks him why he actually missed his lift home back then and MJ mentions he had an accident when the girl who gave him his first present died.

“Are you something like the Grim Reaper?”

It doesn’t matter whether it’s MJ’s past lives or the contemporary Seoul but this drama is beyond gorgeous and magical. Just this scene where the girl gives MJ her self-made painting of his spaceship is a pure feast for eyes. And my god, the way KSH can smile!

“Saying first love is a bit of an exaggeration. I just want to meet him again. To say that I’m thankful to him for saving me. To ask why he saved me. I just want to ask. That’s all.”

I bet no one was suprised that the girl MJ saved 13 years ago was actually the teenage SY aka the doppelganger of the mysterious girl from his past. I mean the long preview has basically revealed it all, call it spoiling it prematurely if you want, but considering that all the scenes from the preview happened in the span of just 2 episodes (the usual previews shows usualy scenes from 4-5 episodes) it appears that it’s not really about MJ finding out that SY is the girl but about how will he react to it – will he act upon his feelings and create his own fate or face the other way and leave Earth with (in his case probably) eternal regrets?

 I swear this show knows all my kinks because this scene look straight from my dreams – the falling snowflakes, twinkling lights, fateful meeting, dashing immortal and a heartbroken girl in need of saving. You can’t get a more perfect destiny than this. I really love how the writer and the PD interconnected all these 4 scenes and made them into a beautifully woven tale. In the end, no matter how much they keep denying it these two lonely people want to connect with somebody who would understand them, their feelings, their secrets, their woes and free them of their loneliness even for just few fleeting moments. It’s interesting that MJ’s prophetic visions seem to be limited only to SY’s – what’s the possible meaning behind this? And why does she ask him the exact same question as the girl all those 404 years ago? 

“Ahjusshi, who are you? Are you a ghost? Or…Something like the Grim Reaper?”

Well, on a more shallow note, how dashing does KSH look as the young doctor?

“What happened that night, was it a dream? A person who looked so alike, can I know her identity? If, by chance, it wasn’t a dream, before I Ieave,I want to meet her again. It probably won’t happen…”

…and then the elevator door opens and there stands Song Yi! This show wants to kill me with al the shippy awesomeness, right? You know one of the many things I like about this show is, that despite the fact that this whole set up involving destiny, stars and fateful love might seem to be predictable and used to death in Kdramaland in the last 10 years, you are left gasping for more every episode, asking yourself what’s the story because it never goes for the obvious.

“Have you seen anyone enlisted for the Qing war? Back then we wore Hadoshi instead of bulletproof vests. We wore nine layers of clothing to take bullets. I thought that I’d finally be free after the Liberation of Korea. Then there was a civil war and the country was divided. I’ve served in the army, the navy, the marines, and the air force since then. I had to get a new identification every ten years, and I had to enlist every time. Psy is crying about going to the army twice. I was enlisted 29 times since the Joseon Era. During the 400 years I lived in this country I served in the army for 49 years and 7 months. Can you believe that?!”

And finally, as you were watching the preview and thought the episode couldn’t get possibly any better the PD delivered an encore! And it looks like the Korean audience has been pleasently suprised by it, too, as the real-time ratings graph a huge increase in viewers tuning in again on SBS for it after they has just switched over to another channel.

How fitting to end this meta-heavy episode with another meta – this time about the compulsory military service in SK and the writer’s jibe at the actors and idols who make about their enlistment such a fuss with media and wailing fangirls giving their goodbyes when they only go serve for two years. Here, we have a guy who enlisted 29 times and it’s hilarious to listen to him because he makes it sounds like he is blaming Korea and its penchant for wars for all those wasted years of his eternal? life! But I guess that epic six pack must have come from some serious exercise and now we know that’s what being drafted 24 times to SK army will do to your body. Is this supposed to be a hidden commercial for future recruits? Because if I were a man it would work on me.

One comment

  1. Hey Achillesbriseis! It’s so cool to see you posting again. 😀
    Loved what you had to say about the show! I actually just started watching it and I really like it so far. I even wrote some brief thoughts about the first 2 episodes on my blog: mostly appreciation for KSH, 😉
    I’m also glad I saw this because you actually helped me understand a few things that were going during the show that I didn’t understand or didn’t catch. (the one difficulty of watching a show with subtitles; sometimes the translations aren’t so accurate.)

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