I had heard Iris was a pretty popular show but I put off watching it because I was enjoying romantic comedies at the time. I’m glad I didn’t wait too long. Now I know why it’s such an acclaimed Kdrama. Iris is one kick-ass show! It should be dubbed in every major language in the world so people who don’t like to read a show can see it. I know several people that would watch and LOVE this action suspense drama if only they didn’t have to read subtitles.
This drama starts out running and gains speed rapidly, never to slow down until the ending credits roll by. It’s one of those dramas that keeps you going from one episode to the other, resenting the fact that your body needs sleep. “What is this show she’s praising about?” you may be asking yourself. Well, at the end of one of the trailers for the drama are the words, “Trust, Betrayal, Conspiracy. Let the mission begin.” Does that answer your question?
You can’t miss one second of Iris because it all counts in the grand scheme of things. I found myself talking out loud, saying things like, “No freakin’ way! You’ve got to be kidding!” along with many screams throughout the entire show. The bad guys aren’t like the fairy tale kind of bad guys. They’re real life bad guys, completely believable. And the good guys aren’t super heroes, they’re just GOOD GUYS. I wanted these characters to be real. I wanted the situations to be real. I wanted to pretend I was there, watching it all unfold in reality.
I want to tell you every little detail of the show but then again I don’t want to give you even the tiniest of hints. This will be tricky. Let’s see…
The love story part –
Hyeong-Jun and Sa-Woo are best friends who are recruited to join the NSS (National Security System). Both are trained to be elite agents, the best there is. Unfortunately, both fall for another agent, Seung-Hee, who happens to be their superior. Sa-Woo keeps quiet about his feelings for her because he sees she has the same feelings for Heyong-Jun as Heyong-Jun has for her.
Now, the suspense part –
Hyeong-Jun and Seung-Hee are sent on a special mission. Sa-Woo meets them after the mission is complete. Before they can go home, Hyeong-Jun gets a secret assignment he must complete on his own. He carries out the mission but is betrayed by the NSS and has to run for his life. Seung-Hee finds and helps him but as they are attempting to escape a bomb goes off in the car Seung-Hee was in and Hyeong-Jin thinks she died. However, as Hyeong-Jin is trying to escape in a plane, it crashes and because Seung-Hee sees the whole thing happen from afar she assumes he’s dead. Hyeong-Jin is saved and later learns about the secret society, IRIS. A year later, Hyeong’s-Jin heads back to South Korea to avenge (what he thinks is) Seung-Hee’s death and expose the crooked people in the NSS that set him up.
That’s all I’m saying about the plot. I’m afraid I’ve already said too much. Iris is classified under the “Action, Romance, Thriller” genre but it will lose the thriller part of it if you know any more.
This was my first time seeing Lee Byung-Hun act and I was impressed beyond words. He is the main character, Hyeong’s-Jin, so more eyes are on him than anyone else, and he acted his guts out. Hyeong-Jin has to go through some pretty extreme stuff, physically, emotionally, and mentally and Lee Byung-Hun pulls everything off with perfect precision.
The actors were all new to me. The only one I was familiar with was Kim Tae-Hee, who played Seung-Hee. I had seen her act in several dramas so she wasn’t a stranger. She really stepped into a whole different character in this show, and she did a brilliant job. Very believable as a tough as nails yet feminine woman. All the others were people I was watching for the first time and, boy, they did a great job!
My first time seeing Jung Joon-Ho, who played Sa-Woo, was in this show. Later, I saw him in the Kdrama The Last Scandal Of My Life. He’s a very good actor and I enjoyed Last Scandal but I couldn’t stop seeing him as Sa-Woo. THAT’S the kind of impression he made on me with his Iris performance.
Iris, along with its spin-off Athena: Goddess Of War, hold the record for the two highest budgets for Korean dramas. 20 billion won (17 million in the US) was shelled out to make this show! Lee Byung-Hun, alone, got 100 million won ($90,000 US) per episode, amounting to the 3rd highest salary in the history of Kdramas, up to that point. (Iris was released in 2009.) I’m sure one of the reasons it cost so much to make was the fact that it was filmed in 4 different countries; South Korea, Hungary, Japan, and China. From snow-covered forests, to bustling big cities… I think they filmed in every kind of location you can imagine.
If I begin to sound like Wikapedia, just skip this next part. It’s just some trivia I found out about Iris that I thought was impressive enough to share…
- It had a viewership of 39.9% and was the top ranking program every single week from its debut on. That’s 20 weeks in a row of being #1.
- The actors were responsible for most of their own stunts and action work. As a result, Lee Byung-Hun actually did the scene where his character jumps off a dam 426 feet tall. Several members of the main cast went through special training so the action sequences were, or at least looked, authentic.
- For the first time ever, the Seoul Metropolitan Government allowed traffic to be blocked along the Plaza for 12 hours just so a gunfight scene could be filmed.
- The distribution rights for the Japanese market were purchased for a record 400 million yen (that’s 4.2 million dollars in the US).
- Actors from the Iris series received 7 different awards at the 2009 KBS Drama Awards. At the Baeksang Arts Awards Lee Byung-Hun won the best actor award and Iris won for best series.
- There is a sequel entitled Iris 2. They had talked about bringing back the original cast but later decided to go with new characters. A couple of the old ones did come back, though none of them were the main actors.
- They made a feature length movie called Iris: The Movie. The storyline wasn’t changed but they did add a new extended ending.
- A two-volume novel was made out of the series, the first one being published just before the drama aired, and the second just after. The second volume did not remain true to the show.
- It inspired a graphic novel that kept the relationship of the two lovers but didn’t follow the original story.
I really need to single out the wonderful writers of this drama – Kim Hyun-Jun, Jo Gyulee-Won, and Kim Jae-Un. Geniuses in their own right. There are quite a few dramas I can think of whose plot was good but I ended up really disappointed when it came to the end. I’d wonder, “What in the world were those writers thinking?” But the three people who wrote Iris had everything right – captivating beginning to quality ending!
I’ve seen many, many Kdramas and I’ve never come across an action suspense series that can even hold a candle to Iris. It’s in a class by itself. I wish I could express to you how amazing it truly is. There’s nothing I would change about it. Nothing. After all, why would anyone want to change perfection?
Amazing action sequences
Not dubbed in English
Not played on an American TV network