Have dramas run stale for you lately? Are you looking for a beautiful, sweeping K-drama that pulls you back into the world of obsession and late night binge-watching? If you are (and even if you’re not), then ladies and gentlemen, this K-drama is for you. The first two episodes have already promised viewers a gorgeous story with fantastical elements (complete with a moving OST you’ll be humming all day).
We’re introduced to several characters in this week’s episodes, and none of them quite fit the mold you’d expect: Nam Hong Joo, our main female lead, is a kind and pretty young woman who wants to help people. Yet her frustration at being helpless to alter the events of the prophetic dreams she has often makes her seem curt. She has a close relationship with her mother, who — having the same kindness Hong Joo does — often encourages her to try to save those she sees in her dreams.
Jung Jae Chan, meanwhile, is a sweet and good person who often gets mistaken as egotistical and unintelligent. It’s impossible not to lose your heart to the tired, handsome prosecutor who seems to take each misunderstanding with a sigh and a grain of salt. On the other hand, the outwardly loyal and good-hearted attorney Lee Yoo Bum — beloved by all — reveals himself immediately to be the jerk of the show, as a sly coward with no care for others and a willingness to cross any line to succeed. It’s a wonderful tale of people not being who they seem.
Time is not linear in “While You Were Sleeping”…instead, we move back and forth through a changeable storyline. It manages to succeed in not being disorienting to viewers and instead lends a beautifully poetic feel to the show.
In the first few minutes, we’re treated to a scene of Jae Chan holding Hong Joo as she hugs him tightly, the snow gently falling around them on a Valentine’s Day night. It’s another of Hong Joo’s dreams, and as she swears never to meet the man (she’s already in a casual relationship and dislikes cheating, as she puts it), she spies him and his brother moving into the house next door through the window. The way in which she instantly shuts him down when he knocks on her door sparks a cute love-hate relationship that viewers will enjoy.
Fast forward to the next scene, and Hong Joo crosses paths with a man who she saw dying of an explosion in her dream when his lighter set gas vapors aflame at a gas station. She and her mother beg the man not to smoke, but, as can only be expected, he pushes them away and leaves. Hong Joo’s mother triumphantly holds up the man’s lighter and asks Hong Joo if stealing it would help, but Hong Joo just shakes her head in frustration: “It doesn’t matter. It never changes.” Sure enough, the man has a spare in his car, and goes up in flames when he tries to light his cigarette. The bright orange explosion, shown at an eagle eye view against the dark backdrop of the city at night, adds a surreal and mystical feeling that sets the tone for the drama well.
Warning: The following paragraphs contain spoilers for episode 1
Things get really intriguing when Hong Joo finds out about the death of her mom in a dream. Hong Joo, who had long hair in the dream, tearfully cuts her hair in the hopes that changing her hair will prevent the scene in her dream from happening. “I’ll never grow my hair out again,” she cries to her mom. But her worrying over her mother inadvertently causes her to get into a car crash Valentine’s Day, landing her in an 8-month long coma. Hong Joo wakes up to find that her hair has grown out again and that her mother has died. Heartbroken, and with no one believing her story of what really happened in the car accident, Hong Joo climbs to the hospital roof, determined to end her nightmare. Jae Chan finds her there and begs her not to go through with it, but her hand slips out of his as he reaches to catch her…and then Jae Chan wakes up.
It’s Valentine’s Day again, and Jae Chan finds himself unsettled by the strange dream that felt so real. He grows increasingly worried as the day goes by exactly as it did in his dream, and unable to forget the sight of Hong Joo falling to her death, begins desperately trying to stop it.
I won’t ruin the show for you by adding details, but if you’ve been dying for unique drama with characters in unique situations, this is it.
Ariana K. Welsh is a college student who spends most of her time obsessing over K-dramas with her sister, dancing to loud music, and writing into the wee hours of the night. Her current fave things in life are: snow, Waldeinsamkeit by R.W. Emerson, and Butterbeer.