Writing this Grumpy Flashback was a bit of a challenge for me because it’s one of those melodramas that I hold dear in my heart. Watched it when it was airing back in 2011, re-watched it again, and the feelings didn’t change at all. The drama’s writing was impeccable, and the characterization was poignant. I know some drama fans didn’t like it merely because of the seemingly unfair ending, but I still believe up to this day that 49 Days may had an unconventional final episode, but it stayed true to its core until the very last scene.
49 Days was a SBS fantasy melodrama starring Lee Yo-won, Nam Gyu-ri, Jo Hyun-jae, Bae Soo-bin, Jung Il-woo, and Seo Ji-hye, which aired from March to May 2011. The drama told the story of two female characters, Song Yi-kyung (Lee Yo-won) and Shin Ji-hyun (Nam Gyu-ri) whose fate was interconnected by a car accident. Ji-hyun was a pampered yet friendly girl who had the perfect life – kind parents, two supportive best friends, and a loving fiance. Meanwhile, Yi-kyung was a stoic and chronically depressed night shifter at a convenience store who detached herself away from society after her boyfriend’s untimely death. On her boyfriend’s memorial day, Yi-kyung decided to commit suicide by walking into an oncoming traffic. Fortunately, she was saved, but this caused a massive vehicle pile-up, and eventually caused Ji-hyun’s car to crash into a truck. To sum it up, Ji-hyun was pronounced brain dead and entered comatose state. Her spirit, however, met with a punk-looking grim reaper who called himself “Scheduler” (Jung Il-woo). Scheduler then offered Ji-hyun’s spirit a chance to return to her human body if she completed her mission: to collect three pure teardrops from three people outside her own family who truly loved and cared for her within 49 days. Ji-hyun underestimated the mission, and immediately thought it would be easy to gather the teardrops since there are many people who loved her. But she was wrong. Her fiance turned out to be a heartless jerk who conspired with her best friend to steal her father’s company. While in the quest to find the teardrops, she must possess the body of the despondent Yi-kyung and never reveal her true self to anyone.
I know at first glance the premise would be hard to understand, or maybe the presence of too many important characters would be difficult to follow. But that’s what made 49 Days special. The writing was what saved the drama from being overwhelming for its audience. The theological aspects, the many twists and turns, and the tragic ending were part of the roller coaster ride that would forever embed this drama in our list of the complicated but well-executed melodramas ever.
Unlike my previous drama throwbacks, I would not reveal much of the drama’s plot because I really want everyone to feel all the raging emotions I felt when I watched it. The thought-provoking plot would make you reflect on where you stand in life right now. It would make you rethink your priorities, and how would you like your loved ones live once you leave this earth. It would question your existence and the way you treat other people. Would they shed you a tear of pure love when you need it?
Grumpy tidbit: The drama explored the 49-day period for rebirth in Buddhism wherein a dead person’s former life would be weighed or judged before reincarnation. According to their teachings, a soul usually wanders the earth for 49 days and then moves on to the next life, through the help of the Bodhisattva (in this case, the drama’s version was the Scheduler).
The bond that’s here to stay
The best part of the series for me was the relationship between the two female leads. Yi-kyung and Ji-hyun developed a lasting bond that would transcend even in the afterlife. Yi-kyung found the strength to live on from this friendship and eventually, she walked her way back to her old self again. She may have lost a loved one or suffered a tragic past, but since Ji-hyun entered her life (and body), she gave life a new meaning.
The runaway winners
Lee Yo-won and Jung Il-woo took the limelight in this drama. I can definitely distinguish Ji-hyun and Yi-kyung by Lee Yo-won’s believable acting. She portrayed the two characters so well you know at first glance if she was Ji-hyun or Yi-kyung. Honestly, she was so perfect that sometimes, I even saw her as Ji-hyun more than Nam Gyu-ri.
At first, I thought Scheduler only existed in the story to give a slight pinch of comic relief. I though his character was a breath of fresh air whenever the scenes got too emotionally heavy. But man, I was wrong. His character was layered deep it was heart-rending. The poignant delivery of his character’s twist was one of the many scenes that made me welled up. Jung Il-woo did a great job in taking us to the journey of Scheduler as the person and as the messenger of death.
As usual, Bae Soo-bin as the conniving fiance did so well in making us hate him. Even his character’s development was one for the books. Kang Min-ho was an evil bastard who dreamed of climbing the social ladder by scheming to bring about the collapse of Ji-hyun’s family business.
Meanwhile, Jo Hyun-jae as the eye-candy male lead Han Kang made this grumpyahjumma’s heart beat faster than it should. I could still remember the days when my social media profiles were invaded by countless photos of Han Kang. LOL. But seriously, he was an eye-candy and I’m afraid to admit that that’s all he was. I felt that the love line between Ji-hyun and Kang was lackluster and overshadowed by the friendship between the two girls. I even liked Yi-kyung’s love line more than Ji-hyun’s, no offense.
The imperfectly perfect ending
As I’ve said earlier, the drama’s ending might have received its fair share of hate from fans, but I would let you decide on that. I liked it, but it’s not perfect, I admit. It stayed true to it’s main topic about life and death. Even though the story was taking the supernatural route, it didn’t feel like I was watching a fantasy drama. The characters made it feel realistic that you would invest in them.
We all have experienced losing loved ones. Scheduler even described death as the end. Everyone who dies faces death alone, and will have to move on to his next life. Even if you prefer to die together with your loved one, when you reached the end of your life line, you will be alone in your own death, just as your loved one will walk his own path towards reincarnation.
[All photos and GIFs used in this blog belong to SBS’ 49 Days]
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