Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Kdrama Review: Damo (2003)

조선 여형사 다모

You know when you start watching some epic drama, and it's taking too long to get to all the good parts, and you just want something vaguely similar, with more action and romance? That's me while watching Shin Don, and that's why I decided to Damo. The first is all political and totally without ornamentation (aka, no fluff). The second is all fluff and more love. And action sequences: the, scaling-rooftops, flying-through-trees, blades-all-a-blur-and-quite-bloody type of action scenes. Yeah, it was just what I was craving. I refuse to say it was a great drama, but at 14 episodes it was more than right for a spur of the moment marathon, and quite enjoyable.

The Plot

Our story is quite modern, despite it's sageuk feel - In fact, Damo is hailed as one of the first fusion sageuks out there. Ha Ji Won is Chae Ok, a slave girl attached to a Joseon era police department. Her social position is as a damo, literally "tea servant," but whose job is more indicative of a female detective. Thanks to a cruel past - born to a noble family until her father was accused of treason - she's since followed around a brother/lover type figure from the family she was sold to. Commander Yoon (Lee Seo Jin) is her employer, friend, family, and reason for living now. Until the police uncover a crippling conspiracy, and moral ethics demand they investigate. But what lies underneath the relatively innocuous counterfeiting ring comes a whole new dragon, in the form of rebel leader Jang Sung Baek (Kim Min Joon). And then some...

No bromance, unfortunately -- Just a lot of testosterone. 
Uhm, what else should I say? It's a sageuk detective drama. It's also very much a Kdrama, and the story is built with almost exactly similar tropes: love triangle, secrets, suspense, a love triangle, conspiracies, evil old sageuk dudes, noble heroes fighting for some very vague cause.. did I mention there's something weird about that love triangle...? *ahem*

Read on for my short non-spoilery account of  the Highs and Lows of Damo. 

She is one determined damo. 

Highlights of Damo

The story is action-paced and exciting! Ha Ji Won is super badass, like she was always meant to be. The men are all bearded in old fashion style, but like all hot Korean actors, they make it look it good. The costumes are spectacular, and the cast doesn't always look all pristine and pretty. And oh - guerrilla warfare! Cool! I'm a sucker for bandit hideout stories and rebel leaders who make use the landscape to slaughter whole troops in a creative fashion making a big ole' bloody mess! Yeeaaaahhhhh!(Whaat? I never said I liked only romance stories...) 

Ha Ji Won is really the best thing about this drama. If you're a fan, you'll like her. If you're not a fan, well you'll still probably like her, depending on your inclination for bloody sageuk detective dramas. Actress aside though, the rest of the cast wasn't too bad either. Every character held their own, and even the comic relief at the beginning will make your heart plunge into an emotion of feels by the end.

Did I mention this drama is fairly realistic in its approach to human life? Don't just assume everyone's gonna make it out of this alive... Joseon Korea in turmoil isn't exactly the most forgiving of places.

Particularly with an army of this size waiting in the mountains!

Damo Disappointments

As cool as Damo is for the most part, it requires a willing suspension of disbelief if you try to make sense of the plot. The premise is pinned on one of the flimsiest of causes. The number of times our naively heroic characters yell out righteously "for the people!" was too many times to count. Especially when one knows anything about Korean history, or Joseon Korea's lack of history featuring anything remotely successful "for the people." At least as far as political, anti-political revolts go. This was sort of a killing point for me. When clever characters are mired up in a lame excuse for plot-making, I check out. It's just too unfortunate.

Also ere's one episode that takes place in a cave. Like, the whole episode. In a cave. The whole time. In a cave.

At least he's pretty to look at. Most of the time. 


  1. Fourteen episodes of sageuk fluff? I might just have to watch this one. (Even in spite of the cave.)

    1. It's seriously good at what it's marketing. So, we have that. :)