Edited by Kim Won Hee
Translated by Cho EK
tvN’s Jirisan had attracted much attention for being a collaborative work between Sweet Home director Lee Eung Bok and famous thriller writer Kim Eun Hee. In addition, Jun Ji Hyun and Ju Ji Hoon decided to reunite after Kingdom Season 3, heightening the anticipation. However, did the series live up to its hype and expectations?
Overall, the drama follows the rangers who rescue people and solve a series of mysterious cases in Mt. Jirisan. The first episode introduces two rangers, a veteran trekker Seo Yi Gang (Jun Ji Hyun) and a rookie ranger Kang Hyeon Jo (Ju Ji Hoon). Here, Kang has a special ability to foresee future events at a specific location. The story of rescuing a student who went missing in the mountain after leaving a mysterious text message unfolds in a lively manner, just like the 90s Japanese cartoon and dramas. However, when the scenes are cut to the present, Seo Yi Gang appears in a wheelchair, and Kang Hyeon Jo is seen lying in a bed in a coma, giving viewers an unexpected shock.
The second episode goes back and forth between the past and the present, inviting curiosity about what had happened to Kang Hyeon Jo and Seo Yi Gang in the past. The case of finding a missing person in the mountain flows in a similar format to the first episode, whereas the current story is full of confusion as if the series is shifted to a new genre. For example, the mysterious ghost ranger covered in blood turned out to be Kang Hyun Jo’s living spirit. From the first week, Jirisan caught viewers’ attention with its unexpected twists and turns, recording an average nationwide viewership rating of 10.6 percent.
However, the ratings have gradually declined in the following few episodes and have not been able to bounce back since. One of the biggest reasons for its fall from grace is its music. Previously, director Lee Eung Bok received mixed reactions on his selection of music in his work, Sweet Home, picking Imagine Dragons’ “Warriors” to play during some of the most important scenes in the show. This time too, some of its insert songs completely broke the immersion every time they were played during the essential scenes. The story follows the format of a mystery thriller and shows urgent situations in the mountains, gradually building up the tension. However, the intense background music, which doesn’t go along with the overall vibe of the show, makes us difficult to concentrate on the narrative and the characters.
The drama first suggests a big difference between the past and present status of Seo Yi Gang and Kang Hyeon Jo. Then, it fills the gap between the two time zones, actively using the rookie ranger with a special power. Previously, he gained the ability to foresee the deaths of people in the mountain after his peer soldier died from eating poisoned yogurt while serving his duty in the military.
After becoming a ranger, he comes across a series of strange cases and realizes that those are the same kind of murders that killed his mate in the army by looking at the yogurt plastic cups on the scenes. Learning that the perpetrator is still walking freely, he sets out to solve the cases on his own. The series uses this method of repeating an incident that occurred in the mountain in the past and hinting at what will happen next in the process of solving the current case they are at.
Perhaps because of its repeated format, viewers slowly lose interest in watching the series. Every time a certain incident occurs and resolves, a new clue appears again. However, all these processes are a bit far from reaching the point where it has to tell us ‘Who was the culprit and what is his purpose?’ As the story progresses, it is only revealed that the series of events that took place in the past are somehow related to the real criminal who had put Seo Yi Gang and Kang Hyeon Jo in danger. As the show keeps going without giving a clear lead or answer, it gets more and more convoluted and frustrating.
However, despite the many disappointments, there are some explicit appeals to the series. Jun Ji Hyun’s versatile acting shows that she is always nothing short of exceptional. Not only does she show her incredibly strong mindset as a ranger, but she also nails all those funny lines just like how she did in her previous works, My Sassy Girl and My Love from the Stars. In addition, her dry tome with a calm and mature appearance effectively builds up the tension of the thriller series.
However, if the main actor is the only reason for us to watch the series, the show may have to prepare another intriguing element to stop us from climbing down the mountain they have prepared for us. In the remaining half of the story, I hope that they will deliver us a little better plot so that we can run towards the top together until the end.
Verdict: The actors alone are not enough to make us climb the mountain all the way to the top. (5/10)
Edited by Kim Won Hee: I am a person who needs more than 24 hours in a day because there are so many things I love. I am amassing various genres in the jewelry box in my heart.
Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.