This is my third CW article in my time on MDL, and until now only Chinese dramas have been enthralling enough for me to decide to write an article about them until I started watching When the Devil Calls Your Name. A Korean drama full of bad decisions and human regrets but also witty humour, mischievous characters, and emotional songs. Let me introduce you to the captivating K-drama When the Devil Calls Your Name.
When the Devil Calls Your Name is a Korean 16 episodes long drama airing every Wednesday and Thursday on tvN. It currently holds an 8+ rating on MDL. It stars known actors such as Jung Kyung Ho (Prison Playbook, Life on Mars) and Lee El (A Korean Odyssey, Matrimonial Chaos), as well as veteran Park Sung Woong (Life on Mars, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes) and newcomer Lee Seol (Less Than Evil). The next episode will air on August 28th.
Light spoilers for episode 1 and 2 ahead
When the Devil Calls Your Name tells the story of Seo Dong Cheon, an aged singer/songwriter who has his best years behind him but still tries to make it big in the music industry. One day his desperation reaches the breaking point, and he meets Ryu, a devil. Ryu offers him a once-in-a-lifetime choice to get a new chance at life. He gets his youth back, more money than he could ever spend and finally finds success as a musician. The price: his soul. After ten years, the devil will come to collect what is his and take his soul. Not taking him seriously, Seo Dong Cheon signs the contract and becomes Ha Rip, a singer/song-writer prodigy and starts his life anew. But when the devil comes to collect his soul after ten years, Ha Rip tries to find every possible loophole and get free of the contract. Fortunately, it seems he might have just found his chance to escape. He has to find a new desperate and willing soul for the devil to take.
Ha Rip / Seo Dong Cheon (Jung Kyung Ho)
In his original life, he only found light success with his old band Liver and Gallbladder (I know, great name for a band) but after the band dissolved, he struggles to find his way in life, and severe desperation leads him to make the drastic decision to sign Ryu's contract.
In the beginning, Seo Dong Cheon seems like someone who gave up and is only hanging onto the last thread of life, and later Ha Rip seems self-centered and arrogant, but after some time you realize he is not just that. There are things and people he cares for, and when he finds out how his new life influenced others in a bad way, he does realize his wrong choices and the regrets and remorse are apparent. He wants to achieve success and fulfil his dreams but not at the cost of someone else's dreams. He is quite a complicated character.
Personally, I think his character is excellent. Not because he is amazingly good, nice or something similar. No, I think his character is exciting and exceptional because he does have a conscience and knows where the line between doing good and doing evil is but, at the same time, he is also human. Which means he has self-centered moments and also does not like to admit when he is wrong. He tries to help people around him, not because he is a nice person, but because he believes everyone should be at least a little bit selfish and stand up for their own beliefs, even if it means using other people to achieve success and fulfil someone's own dream.
Kim Yi Kyung (Lee Seol)
Kim Yi Kyung had a hard life when growing up, and her past still haunts her even in the present. Her and Ha Rip's lives seem to be connected even from the time he was still Seo Dong Cheon, and a lot is yet to be discovered. She is one of a kind character in the drama, as she tends to push back her own dreams for others. Only after meeting Ha Rip she discovers that it is okay, even for her, to dream and be selfish at times, no matter what she has done in the past. The other characters get surprised more than once how self-sacrificing and kind Kim Yi Kyung is.
It is interesting how Ha Rip and Kim Yi Kyung are such contrary characters. While he is a serious believer of "we all want something, we should all strive to get it", she tends to give her all to help others achieve a happy life. Even if he has ulterior motives, Ha Rip seems to be the only one who wants to and can help her to put herself first for once. While he makes her stand up and finally speak what she wants, she makes him realize that his decisions influence others and may not just affect his own life.
The dynamics between the two different characters make me anticipate the next episodes even more because you never know in which direction the drama is going to take you. Is Ha Rip going to become less self-centered? Will Kim Yi Kyung finally stand up for her dreams?
Mo Tae Kang / Ryu (Park Sung Woong)
When Ryu comes to collect Ha Rip's soul, he decides to do so in the body of the actor Mo Tae Kang. In the beginning, he is portrayed as a strict and cold person that is only interested in getting his souls. Soon, though, he starts getting involved with humans. Even his character as a devil has a background story (and no, it's not the one we know from church) and slowly he discovers there is more to humans and their feelings than he knows.
While there are funny scenes, like Ha Rip trying to fend off the devil with every supernatural remedy he knows or CEO Ji Seo Young trying to figure out why her ex-boyfriend (the real Mo Tae Kang) is reacting so cold to her, he is also part of a deeper storyline. Slowly Ryu discovers feelings and has to figure out what to do with them.
Of course, this whole development of the supernatural being discovering human feelings is nothing new, but his character also serves half of his time as comical relief. His conversations with Ha Rip, who so desperately tries to save himself, lead to a lot of funny interactions but also serious and touching conversations. I think it is fascinating how he does tell the truth about human greed and selfishness sometimes. After all, while he does use people's despair and hopelessness for his own profit, he does not force humans to sign his contract. Even Ha Rip realizes Ryu is not totally wrong about everything.
CEO Ji Seo Young (Lee El)
Ji Seo Young is the CEO of Ha Rip's label and Mo Tae Kang's ex-girlfriend. While she seems cold at first glance, she is very passionate about her work and works as partners with Ha Rip. Later on, it is clear that Ha Rip is dear to her, even if she complains about his antics and temper tantrums. She takes her job very seriously, and I am enjoying the fact that behind all the headaches, she seems to like what she is doing.
It is interesting to see the different sides of her when interacting with different characters. When with Ha Rip, she seems like a family member who cares for the other whatever wrong they may do. For Kim Yi Kyung, she is the big boss who takes her work seriously and is good at what she does. In front of Mo Tae Kang, she turns into a schoolgirl with a crush. I think Lee El is showing us everything the role has got to offer. In the hands of someone else, this character may be a lot more uninteresting and annoying, but with her, she is doing her best and keeps us tied to our seats trying to find out if the CEO is going to stand her ground or if she is giving in to her weak side.
When the Devil Calls Your Name tells a story of human greed, desperation, and repentance. Decorated with humour and touching songs. Just when you think this series is going to be the usual Korean drama, you realize there is a lot more to the story. For me, the drama is thrilling and enchanting because it is not just your usual fluffy and lovely series or melodrama. It features a lot more truth and reality regarding the characters. The characters may make bad decisions or do evil deeds, but for a lot of them, you see the reason behind it. It explores a lot of "What would you do, if you were desperate enough?" and "How far would you go to achieve your dreams?"
Let me just say it here; if you are looking for a fluffy drama or something easy to watch, this is definitely not the right choice.
So, overall, the drama has an interesting character design, and even in funny scenes, it keeps to its simple but serious atmosphere. The images play a lot with colours, in general, it sticks to simple colours though. The camera work in a few scenes is terrific, though. And the songs may not be K-Pop or similar, but they are charming and outstanding.
This drama has been called as one of the dramas that gets better after each episode and I think it is one of the few dramas where the first episode is a little bit different from the rest, since it first has to re-tell a lot of pre-story before finally starting around the later half/end of the first episode. So when watching, I definitely recommend watching at least two episodes to find out if this is a drama for you. So join the ride through human emotions and explore the depths behind When the Devil Calls Your Name!