I thought watching Save Me would be a good way to begin my shivery-fun month of Halloween. The promotional picture had a slightly spooky look to it so I guessed it was going to be a bit on the scary side. But I wasn’t exactly correct in my thinking. It was more unsettling than spooky, in fact it bothered me quite a bit.
Im Joo-Ho’s business fails so he and his family leave their home in Seoul to reside in a small town. Unfortunately, the place they were supposed to live in falls through and they find themselves homeless. But not to worry, a kind pastor, whom everyone refers to as Father, offers to let them live in the house of one of his parishioners. Father told them the owner had to leave so he had in trusted him with his real estate. The deacon and deaconess of the church shower the Im family with attention and gifts, so much so that Im Joo-Ho feels so indebted to them he begins to take his family to Father’s New Heaven church. It doesn’t take long before he’s caught up in Father’s web of deceit and his family’s life begins to slowly unravel.
Im Sang-Mi and her brother, Im Sang-Jin, are twins. Because of a physical disability, Sang-Jin has endured ridicule most of his life and Sang-Mi has always been his protector. When the two enroll at a new school, Sang-Jin instantly finds himself on the receiving end of the school bullies once again. Han Sang-Hwan, the Governor’s only child, falls for Sang-Mi the second he sees her and comes to her rescue one day while she is trying to defend her brother. But on the day she pleads with him to help her, he turns away because his father is trying to make sure he remains leader of the town and he instructed Sang-Hwan to stay out of trouble so as not to harm his campaign. When Sang-Hwan refuses to help Sang-Mi, his buddy, Suk Dong-Chul decides to back her up instead. But when Sang-Hwan changes his mind and decides to offer his help after all, he’s horrified to discover it’s too little, too late and the tragic outcome changes all of their lives. Three years later he runs into Sang-Mi and what she says, shocks him – “Save me!” Not help me, but save me. Will Sang-Hwan turn his back on her like before, or will his disastrous decision from the past prompt him to do something heroic this time around?
Han Sang-Hwan is the young master of the town. His father is the top elected official and so most people treat him like a prince. His mother has been in a hospital for years, unable to move or speak. His father tries to come off as a loving husband and father but Sang-Hwan is a bit suspicious of his true motive. After high school, Sang-Hwan enroll at a university in Seoul with the intention of becoming a prosecutor. He feels a tremendous amount of guilt and shame that he was too late in helping Sang-Mi and Dong-Chul three years earlier.
Because of her brother’s disability, Sang-Mi has always been his protector and feels grief and guilt that she failed in her self-proclaimed role. She also feels bad that she didn’t speak up and tell her father how she felt about living at New Heaven before they moved there. Although she wants to get away, she won’t leave her poor mother and she wants to save all the believers from the lies they are living. She can see the evil in New Heaven’s leaders and wants to expose them for the monsters they are.
Suk Dong-Chul’s father suffers from alcoholism and wishes his son had never been born. His mother is gone so he was raised by his sweet, old grandmother. Dong-Chul likes Sang-Mi, and when Sang-Hwan refuses her the help she so desperately pleads for, he comes to her aid even against overwhelming odds. Years later, when he discovers she is in danger at the hands of New Heaven, he braves the odds once again, putting his own life at risk to save her.
Baek Jung-Ki is an amazing conman and the Father of New Heaven. He is soft spoken, charming, and a total narcissist. He sets his sights on Sang-Mi and won’t rest until she is 100% his.
Deaconess Kang Eun-Sil believes in Father and New Heaven’s Sovereign hook, line, and sinker. Her one and only desire is to board the “ship to salvation” with her deceased daughter.
Hiding behind a big smile, Deacon Jo Wan-Tae is a part of New Heaven’s hierarchy and will do anything for wealth. Murder? No problem, as long as he can have money. Unlike Father, who always acts the part of a holy man, Jo Wan-Tae often allows his evil side to peek through his saintly facade.
Playing the part of Han Sang-Hwan is Ok Taec-Yeon. You can read a bit about him in my Let’s Fight Ghost review, but here’s some things I left out… In high school he was a member of the chess club, JV soccer team, jazz band, and the National Honor Society. Aside from being a member of the Kpop group 2PM, he also has a solo career and just released his first solo Japanese album this year. He has studied Business Administration at Dankook University and attended Korea University Graduate School of International Studies. I guess he paid close attention in his business classes because in 2013 he opened a store that sells products with Okcat on it. Okcat is a little green cat he designed that even has its own emoticons on the chat application KakaoTalk. If you’re interested, you can find a plush version of Okcat on Amazon. Taec-Yeon left a month ago for his mandatory military assignment so, sadly, we’ll be without this star for the next two years.
After graduating high school, 27 year old Seo Ye-Ji went to Spain to study journalism with the hope of becoming a TV news broadcaster. However, the CEO of the management company she belonged to at the time suggested she become an actress, so she did! Since then she has been in both television dramas and motion pictures. I first became aware of her when she starred in Moorim School. It’s too bad her character, Im Sang-Mi, is so depressed, worried, frightened, and sullen all the time because Ye-Ji has a beautiful smile and we don’t get to see it in this drama.
I’ve watched lots of Kdramas that have had evil people in them – Golden Cross, Big Man, Sensory Couple, Remember, The K2, Voice, I Remember You – but the characters in this show use the shield of religion and God to bring about their selfish desires, and that really bothered me. Lusting after a woman? Tell her family God has revealed she should marry you. Desire wealth? Tell people God wants them to give of their material possessions to the church so it can be distributed among the poor. Want power? Tell people God has made you his prophet. It’s just scary how one can get people to obey by sighting something as God’s will, controling them through fear of hell fire.
While teaching young members how to convert people to their church, Father and Deaconess Kang tell them, “New Heaven’s Sovereign has always said that good-hearted lies are a part of the salvation strategy. Whether you do it with lies or the truth spreading the word about New Heaven’s Sovereign is good so New Heaven’s Sovereign will be happy about it.” Yikes! Hearing that made me sick and reminded me of the church my friend used to belong to. She told me that much of that religion’s history is ignored and even covered up by its leaders because it isn’t “faith promoting.” In other words, if it’s not uplifting and won’t build faith, it doesn’t need to be said. So, even with the disclaimer at the beginning of each episode – “The groups, regions, religion, and characters in this drama are all fictional” – there really is some nonfictional thinking in this show. All I can say is, after watching Save Me I’ve come to believe one needs to be quite cautious before joining any kind of group, religious or otherwise.
This show did have a couple very noticeable mistakes in it. There’s one where Sang-Mi is forced to drink some horrible green concoction that would cleanse her so she would be pure when she married Father and became the Mother of Spirits. She gags as she’s downing it and ends up spitting a lot all over her dress. Then, as she goes back to her room, low and behold, her dress is perfectly clean. A miracle? The other one is where Dong-Chul, who is not wearing glasses, is fighting, gets hit, falls to the ground, and when he gets back up he has on glasses. Hummm… two miracles in one show. Also, I found a problem with one part of the ending. There was evidence for one character to receive justice but the writer chose to overlook that.
I wasn’t a fan of Save Me‘s soundtrack. The songs are as unsettling as the show. The song entitled Dust Wind sounds weird and just plain creepy. However, even though I didn’t care for the songs, I have to admit, they compliment the drama well. The plot is “ick” and so are the songs, but I guess that’s actually good.
As for scenery, although New Heaven is a church, it has grown into a small community within a small community. There’s a big chapel area; halls that lead to tiny, bare rooms where people live; dark prayer rooms; spooky chambers; a hospital; and a couple dungeons (for lack of a better word). The area surrounding New Heaven is very pretty, though – a lush forest with a fair-sized lake.
Save Me made me aware of the fact that, though this show wasn’t based on any one specific religion, there are people out there who seek to control others through, what Deaconess Kang referred to as, “good-hearted lies” for the sake of the “salvation strategy.” We need to be vigilant to believe the truth, and only the truth. Diligently research both sides of a religion and be cautious of those that only tell things that are “uplifting”.
Makes us think about who and what to believe
Scenery surrounding New Heaven
Two editing/directing mistakes