Titling a drama Fantastic is pretty presumptions, to say the least. It suggests the show is better than usual, superior to other dramas. But hold on a second, is the title referring to the show itself or something within the drama? Hummmm… I’m not telling.
I could say this is a show about a woman dealing with the fact that she has cancer but I found it to be more about its characters than about a plot. I’m guessing most often a writer gets an idea for a story (the plot) and then comes up with the “who” to move the story along, to make the idea happen. But with Fantastic I felt the screenwriter came up with the characters first and then decided how and why they would interact with the others. So instead of summarizing the story I’m going to summarize the characters because they are the story.
Well known scriptwriter Lee So-Hye is currently working on a new action drama entitled Hitman. This job, however, comes with a stressful situation – the actor cast as the main character is her old crush, and they didn’t separate on good terms. Now she needs to deal with the old flame she hasn’t seen for over ten years. That should be easy enough. If she keeps her distance and stays aloof when she’s around him things will be fine. But life deals the writer a low blow when the doctor she’s been consulting with for her scripts informs her she has stage four breast cancer that has metastasized and spread to her lungs.
Although Ryu Hae-Sung is a famous actor, he gets by solely on his good looks. The guy is gorgeous but has zero acting skills. Oh, he can memorize words but the emotion needed to deliver the lines effectively is sorely lacking. However, when he is cast as the male lead in Hitman, he decides to give it his all to impress its writer, Lee So-Hye, the woman who broke his heart over a decade ago. Hae-Sung has a pretty high opinion of himself, although he realizes he’s not that great at acting. He has a “little boy” side to him that is quite endearing.
The doctor who has helped So-Hye with the medical parts of her scripts is Hong Hun-Ki, a hospital director. He has liked So-Hye from the moment he met her but has kept their relationship strictly on a friendship level. He is handsome, intelligent, kind, sympathetic, wealthy, a good teacher, has a fun sense of humor, is philosophical, and emotionally wise beyond his years. He has all the qualities others admire in a person and is therefore loved by everyone who knows him.
Baek Sul and Jo Mi-Sun are So-Hye’s friends from high school…
Sul was feisty when she was younger but married into an evil family and became meek and submissive in order to get the money she needed to take care of her sick mother. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law rule the family with an iron fist. They are verbally, emotionally and physically abusive to poor Sul but that’s not even the worst part – her husband is a weasel of a man who will do anything, and sleep with anyone, to have a political career.
Happily married, Jo Mi-Sun is the third part of the “three musketeers”. She has a teenage son and a wonderful husband who dearly loves her. They aren’t wealthy but have enough for their needs to be met.
Kim Sang-Wook is a young lawyer who speaks his mind. He was left on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, by his blind date when he told her she was an unsafe driver. That’s where he meets Baek Sul. She is riding her motorcycle and picks up the handsome, desperate hitchhiker. It’s love at first sight for Sang-Wook. He wants a romantic relationship with her but, since she is married (she doesn’t tell him that), she insists they be “brother and sister”. He is her knight in shining armor and comes to her aid whenever she needs a helping hand. He treats her kindly, something she is not used to.
Hae-Sung’s manager is Oh Chang-Suk. He is a sweet guy whose number one concern is the health, happiness, and safety of his boss who is also his best friend.
Now, put those people together and you have the Kdrama Fantastic. And how about the actors that made those characters so likable?
Lee So-Hye is played by Kim Hyun-Joo. She began her entertainment career as a teenage model and then appeared in a music video. From there she was cast in the drama The Reason I Live and then starred in the movie If It Snows on Christmas. Other than Fantastic, the only thing I’ve seen her in is In-Soon is Pretty which I really disliked because of its depressing, dark plot so I’m extra glad I saw her in this.
Can you accurately describe Joo Sang-Wook without using the word “handsome”? Someone needed to be cast as Ryu Hae-Sung, the actor known and loved solely for his good looks, and Joo Sang-Wook is perfect for the part. But, unlike the character he portrays in Fantastic, he is a very good actor. You should check him out in Good Doctor (a fabulous Kdrama), Cunning Single Lady, and Birth of a Beauty. All three shows are time well spent.
Forty-one year old Kim Tae-Hoon, who plays Doctor Hong Jun-Gi, began his career with the Hanyang Repertory Theater after graduating from Hanyang University. I first saw him in Operation Proposal, a wonderful time travel romance drama. He’s also been in My Love Eun-Dong and One More Happy Ending, both wonderfully entertaining romance dramas.
When she was in fifth grade, Park Si-Yeon, who plays the character Baek Sul, won the top prize in a children’s music contest. Years later she went to the U.S. and studied journalism at Long Island University. Two years later she took a leave of absence from school and entered the Miss Seoul beauty pageant, receiving third place, and went on to participate in the Miss Korea pageant. She began her acting career with small roles in Chinese dramas. Then she appeared in the Kdrama My Girl where she received very bad reviews. But Si-Yeon didn’t give up. After several Kdramas and movies, where she played mostly femme fatales, she was cast in the lead female role in the romantic Kdrama Coffee House where she finally got to play a more upbeat character. (I wasn’t thrilled that her character “got the guy” in the end, though.) Last year (2015) Si-Yeon made her Hollywood debut in the action film Last Knights.
Would you believe innocent looking Ji Soo, who plays the young lawyer Kim Sang-Wook, was a judo athlete and competed in national competitions while in elementary school? Wow! He is currently a Film Theater major at Digital Seoul Culture Arts University. Sadly, Ji Soo’s scenes in Fantastic were reduced because he went through an operation for acute osteomyelitis (bone or bone marrow inflammation). He went back to filming just two short weeks later. What a trooper! Ji Soo’s been in several theater productions, kdramas, and films but my favorite happens to be the three episode Kdrama special Page Turner, which I happily rewarded with a perfect 10 in my review.
I think the writer wanted to capture the audience’s attention right away by revealing So-Hye’s devastating situation at the beginning of the show and while, yes, I felt bad for So-Hye getting news that she had a terminal illness, I felt even worse for the way Hae-Sung was being treated by the woman he loved. I wasn’t really drawn into the story at first but as the show went on it became more and more engaging. Why? Probably because Fantastic is about the characters, not a plot about dying, and the more we get to know the people, the more we like the drama.
In comparing Fantastic to a couple other “terminal illness” dramas, this year’s Marriage Contract and last year’s Super Daddy Yeol, I liked Fantastic much, much better. The characters are probably the biggest reason for that. So-Hye’s actions, once she’s aware of how bad her illness is, were a lot more understandable to me. She made choices I could sympathize with and seemed to think things through with a bit more clarity than the women in the other two dramas.
A story about love and death… did I cry? Well, tears didn’t actually fall but that was only because I was fighting them so hard. The lump in my throat was big and I did a lot of swallowing to keep from falling apart. I would recommend this drama to anyone who may be facing what So-Hye is forced to go through and anyone who is by the side of that person. The way this show’s characters deal with this most difficult part of life (that everyone will, at some point, go through), death itself, is strengthening and comforting.
Music… the songs are nice and help to enhance the situations the characters are going through. SUKI sings a song entitled Please and Tim performs Someday. Both songs are quite stirring. Are they heart wrenching because they’re played at the most emotional parts of the show or do they play them at the most emotional parts of the show because they’re heart wrenching? I can’t say. But what I do know is hearing them, even today, makes me tear up. Son Ho-Young is the artist that sings Fantastic Star, a song that fits perfectly with Ryu Hae-Sung’s personality.
Now let’s talk about scenery. It’s absolutely beautiful. A big shout out goes to the location scouts for finding such lovely nature spots to film around. They even bring the pretty outdoors inside with Jun-Gi’s secret room inside the hospital. It has a hammock, is filled with plants, and part of the ceiling is made of glass so he can look up and see the moon and stars at night. It’s all so pretty!
So are you at all curious as to whether or not this show lived up to its name? Fantastic?… well, I suggest you give it a try and see for yourself.
One of the better “terminal illness” dramas
Doctor Hong Hun-Gi’s philosophical way of talking
Takes a couple episodes before you’re completely engaged