49 Days Episode 1 First Impressions

I think I may have just shot myself in the foot when I said that I hoped 49 Days would simply be a good, but not great, drama, so I can be spared from becoming exceedingly addicted to it. Nowhere did I say that I wanted 49 Days to be BAD, but apparently the drama gods are capricious beings who like to torment me at their expense – because episode 1 of 49 Days turned out to be just that.

Episode 1 of 49 Days had a running list of “things not to do to make your drama boring and painful to watch”, said list containing a few glaring no-noes which were so bad it consumed the parts of 49 Days I did like. As such, I can’t recap this episode, because my snark would be through the roof. What I can do is bring a quick first impressions look at episode 1, and then see where episode 2 takes us. If episode 2 resurrects my interest and rearranges my opinion of this drama, I might just recap it then.

49 Days is the story of a sheltered rich girl Ji Heon (Nam Gyu Ri), who finds herself in a out-of-body experience after she’s is in a car accident shortly after she gets engaged to her fiancée Min Ho (Bae Soo Bin). The Angel of Death (Jung Il Woo) tells her that she gets a chance to return to the mortal world if she can get three people to cry genuine tears for her.

Ji Heon gets to inhabit the body of Yi Kyung (Lee Yo Won) during the day to accomplish her task. Rounding out this cast is Han Kang (Jo Hyun Jae) as the best friend of the fiancée and the ex-boyfriend of Ji Heon, and Seo Ji Hye as Ji Heon’s best friend/potential future fiancée interloper. This drama set up is creative if not wholly original, and holds a lot of potential. Too bad episode 1 drops the potential off a roof like a ten ton sack of bricks.

The biggest problem with 49 days is that the central protagonist is horribly miscast. Ji Heon, stuck between the living and the dead, with one chance to reclaim her life, represents the glue which holds the drama together. Everything flows from her accident and coma state, and the audience simply must care about her to even care about whether and how she succeeds in her quest (and affects the people around her in presumably positive ways).

As I had expected based on the trailers, Nam Gyu Ri is absolutely, positively, without a doubt a dreadful actress in this drama. She’s incapable of connecting with the camera AT ALL, so she ends up staring vacantly at whatever direction she’s acting towards. She has no clue how to properly emote, and her plastic face remains painfully placid or scrunched up into artificial expressions of whatever feeling she’s trying to convey. Plus she’s wearing circle lenses, which should not be allowed onscreen – she can wear it day or night offscreen, but not when she’s in character. It’s jarring and distracting.

The worst part is that the wardrobe department completely had a collective brain freeze when it decided to dress Nam Gyu Ri in outfit after outfit which emphasizes her ridiculously gigantic fake boobs. Combined with her bad acting and the fact that her boobs take up half the screen anytime she’s in a scene, a good portion of episode 1 of 49 Days was thus flushed down the toilet.

To me, Nam Gyu Ri is the opposite-Seo Woo. Both are clearly all manufactured, but the former can’t act while the latter can. I don’t care if an actress wants a full face job and boob implants, because as long as she can act, I’m supportive of her talent and respectful of her decision about her own body. I’ve rarely been so bothered by an actress before, and Nam Gyu Ri pushed all my dislike buttons with her gallivanting performance in this episode.

From Nam Gyu Ri’s dreadful acting, the malaise seems to spread outward and suck all the life out of most of her co-stars. Nam Gyu Ri has no chemistry with any of the three male leads, and she had plenty of scenes with each of them in this episode. Bae Soo Bin seems to be mailing in his performance (you’re not in Dong Yi anymore, my cutie pie BSB!), and I just want to shake Jo Hyun Jae and tell him to wake up since he doesn’t appear to remember that he’s back onscreen again (thought he looks fantastic – welcome back, JHJ, I missed ya).

What happened, my boys? Please for the love of my sanity, can you two start acting in the next episode? I can’t explain why it’s happening, but nothing is clicking with any of the performances, save for Jung Il Woo, who I will talk about later. Seo Ji Hye is completely wasted so far, her natural grace and understated performance going towards a character I can barely remember her name, ferssakes!

Lee Yo Won is the wild card so far. She spent the entire episode 1 without a line of dialogue until the very last scene. She also played Yi Kyung as a woman who is in fact a walking dead person, someone who has lost all will to live some time ago. She has a death wish, and Lee Yo Won was convincing as a depressed and suicidal character.

Thus far, she has had no interaction with any of the other characters. All she did in episode 1 was mope on screen and then walk in front of an oncoming truck to try and kill herself, which failed and resulted in the car accident that sent Ji Heon into a coma. Since Yi Kyung is so dead inside at the outset of the drama, I can’t validly critique her performance until I see how she handles channeling Ji Heon’s perkiness after she is possessed.

Jung Il Woo was the only actor and character to shine in episode 1. His Angel of Death was cool and collected, and his performance was precise and illuminating. He brings the character to life not just with dialogue, but with his screen presence and great body and facial language. He’s the sole hope and reason for me to check out episode 2.

So far the direction has been snappy, though the abrupt editing needs to be smoothed out. The hammy music needs to go (I don’t need to be told to feel sad, feel happy, feel anxious, music director of 49 Days), and the all-around horrific wardrobe choices for Nam Gyu Ri makes me want to upchuck in my mouth.

But I’m saving my harshest criticism for the screenwriter, who I felt did nothing in episode 1 except set up caricatures without any real depth (the rich girl, the fiancée, the ex-boyfriend, the frenemy best friend, the suicide girl). Nothing in this drama rings genuine. I spent the entire episode feeling like an outsider standing in front of a carefully constructed window diorama display. It’s pretty to look at, but has no beating heart.

Don’t tell me it’s a fantasy soul-swapping concept, ergo it has supernatural elements. I get that, but a great story, whether sci-fi or autobiographical, succeeds or fails on the same principle – does it make you care? The writer doesn’t ground the fantasy in real emotion, which is where she lost me. None of her characters feel real, so all the feelings emoting from the screen rings false to me.

This is still just episode 1, of course, and plenty of dramas I’ve liked or even loved had a shaky start and eventually settled down. The drama is pretty enough to look at, but it feels so glossy and manufactured so far. Like Nam Gyu Ri. I hate to pick on the poor girl, but she pretty much was a major reason why the first episode of a drama I was so anticipating turned out so dreadful. Her and her bOObs.

I can honestly say that both episode 1 of Royal Family and The Thorn Birds were much better than episode 1 of 49 Days, even though neither made me want to keep watching the drama (if you’re curious – I think Royal Family is currently the best Wed-Thurs drama offering). Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment, with a limitless reservoir of hope, because I refuse to accept that 49 Days can go anywhere else but up.

The ratings for today’s three-way battle (now that Sign retired and took with it the lead) reflects this role reversal – Thorn Birds recorded 9.1%, Royal Family came in at 14.4%, and 49 Days debuted with a low but not devastatingly low 8.6%. If 49 Days doesn’t improve tomorrow to the point where my interest in it is revived, I’ll probably not write about it anymore, since life is too short to watch and then rant. I’m happiest writing about dramas I love and sharing the happy with people.

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25 Responses to 49 Days Episode 1 First Impressions

  1. jeankaycee says:

    OMG! is that so bad?! i haven’t watch it bcoz its still raw (so i wont understand a thing!)
    i’m patiently waiting for 49 days!
    well at least jung il-woo and jo hyun jae are pretty to look at!

    i’ll check it out and hopefully episode 2 will improve!

  2. all4movies says:

    You’re so fast and funny.

    I simply tried to ignore NGR by hitting the FF button whenever she was onscreen as I was not expecting much from her anyways. But now that you’ve shared all those tidbits about her ‘fake’ body parts, I have to admit to being morbidly curious.

    Since it’s the first episode, I didn’t really judge it too harshly as I’m really desperate to find a new drama to follow. And the other characters still have a lot of potential to keep me interested so far.

    If it all goes to pot, at least there’s some pretty boys to oggle.

    • ockoala says:

      I couldn’t hit FF on NGR because I was hoping to recap 49 Days. *is sad*

      • Bertha says:

        Ey is this for real you are really praising an actor I really like in The Return of Iljimae, Jung Il Woo is so cute when he got kissed by Dara Park….it’s like my little bride remake….ahaha sweet innocent love….never get tired of it….anyway this seems to be a good series….is it light?

  3. Erika says:

    Yeah.I just had the feeling that 49 is not as good as I was expecting but it just a start.will wait for your impression on ep 2.hope that it can be like dream high that beyond expectation.

  4. anansi says:

    I just watched the raw, and I don’t feel too engaged with the show either. There I was so excited to see this show after a few weeks of lull without any k-dramas to watch. Now I think I have to pass.
    It’s really a shame because I like watching Lee Yo Won.
    P.S. I think Jung Il Woo was Yi Kyung’s boyfriend who died in a motorcycle accident.

  5. Sonia says:

    ockoala, you impress me with the fluidity of your words. I didn’t watch this but saw it vividly in my head through your words. When I first joined your blog it was because of your writing and although there are only two dramas I currently have an interest in, but you don’t cover them, I still enjoy reading your posts. Wow.
    Also because of you I watched SH almost non stop and last episode raw, it was that good. Just wanted to let you know I am your fan.

    • ockoala says:

      You watched SH? All of it? Squeeeeee, it’s so so simple but wonderful, isn’t it? Gah, watching a not so good episode of a drama makes me immediately itch to rewatch any random episode of SH.

      Thanks for the kind words of encouragement. 🙂

  6. Liesel says:

    Oh nos.. And I was so hoping this would be my next crack to ease me off the last one (Dream High). BUT I will definitely watch episode 1, if only to confirm how bad it is.. and how utterly posed NGY’s tata’s were. LOL. And poor JIW– hope his talents don’t go to waste here.. 😦

  7. Melissa says:

    is it really that bad?…:(

  8. spazzy06 says:

    The first episode of 49 Days was bad?

    That’s disappointing. 😦

  9. blueangel says:

    really? Haven’t seen it yet but it seems to be a hit on the soompi forum page. Even i’m excited (since i still haven’t watched it) but i think i’ll still try out. I seem to like the weirdest dramas so maybe it’s my cup of tea.

  10. D says:

    I think one of the main problems is that everyone pretty much knows what’s going to happen in this episode, so i think I’m going to wait and see what else they are going to be bringing to the plate…..this reminds me a lot of Brilliant Legacy where I felt pretty much the same but then it got a lot better as the drama progressed….Also it’s weird that I never noticed NGR boobs until you pointed them out!!…..and I actually watched 64 eps of Life Is Beautiful with her in it!….I agree that she is very annoying, she was the same in LiB but I actually thought she improved over the course of the drama

    • momosan says:

      I watched all of Life is Beautiful as well. The problem here is that she’s front and center. And jiggling. 😎 And attempting to emote (the scene where she ducks away from JIW in the hall in ep 1 is just horrendous). In LiB she was a small part of the ensemble cast.

      • D says:

        lol@the jiggling….I dont notice these things that easily (her boobs I mean…what can I say,I’m just slow like that)….and I think like Koala said it’s because of the stylist’s selections as well…like i noticed in the caps that there’s an emphasis on her…ahem…. ladies…in every dress she wears here (the empire waists, coiffed patterns on the upper region of the dresses etc)…i dont know if its her,her stylist or the director that wanted it that way but it’s really puzzling….her biggest problem though is the acting…i have to admit I’m dissapointed ‘cuz I did think she got a lot better during the latter half of LiB so I was looking forward to seeing her here

  11. ockoala says:

    Hey guys, it’s just my opinion, and you should all watch 49 Days because you want to, irrespective of my first impressions. 🙂

    You have no idea how badly I *want* this drama to be good, and to get better, and blow my socks off in the end. I’m desperate for JHJ’s comeback drama to be wonderful, because I adore him so.

  12. missjb says:

    that’s what i feel when watching episde 1 of prosecutor princess… Hope it’s get better.

  13. estel says:

    I honestly didn’t notice most of the things that bothered you. Maybe I was too distracted by being tired and also by the five million people trying to get my attention during the time I was attempting to watch it. I’ve never seen Nam Gyu-ri in anything, so I wasn’t too terribly put-off by her, though she was a bit…well, subpar. On the other hand, I was totally annoyed by Yi-kyung’s character 110% and hated every minute she was onscreen. But I liked Kang as a character, and I thought (though he didn’t have chemistry with NGR, per se) he was pretty decent in his role. You were totally right about BSB, though. Totally not even there.

    Jung Il-woo is definitely the bright, shining (and gorgeous!) light in this drama. I hope his Reaper sticks around, because he was the bomb-diggity (yes, I did just say that). And hot. Did I mention hot? Yes, oh yes. Reaper boy on a motorcycle, dressed in leathers with hot, tousled hair? Yes, please.

    • ockoala says:

      I was thinking very wrong thoughts about Reaper boy the entire time he was onscreen. JIW – rawr, you noona killer you!

      Anyways, I actually felt that JHJ’s character is shining more than JHJ (at this time), except for JHJ’s eyes, which have this amazingly newfounded depth. I could sink in them. But the rest of his body language was not quite 100% there.

      This drama better do a 180 for me tomorrow or imma going to be a very pissed off koala.

  14. oh says:

    I’m glad i’m not the only 1 that is disappointed.
    I don’t find it that bad but i find it quite boring.
    I’m still having high hopes for this drama.I hope episode 2 will be better. 🙂

  15. takuya says:

    Sorry Ockoala, i’m not with you this time, i just finished watching episode and it was soooo GOOD !!!!

    it fulfill my expectation so far, and i can’t wait for tonite !!

  16. jowha says:

    Thanks for the recap koala. I know what you mean. I watched the first episode and I was very disappointed as well.
    I hoped that since the story is centered around nam gyu ri’s character that she might do a decent job, but that is hardly the case. Not only has this girl had some major work done to her body, but whats up with her eyes? If she is going to wear circle lenses she should at least wear ones that make her eyes look natural. Like you said, a actress can have as much work done to their body but you’ll still respect them as long as he/she can act, but so far Gyu Ri, in my grade book gets a big fat F.
    The plot of this drama is so gripping, but if the cast members can’ t get their act together i am going to put this drama on the back burner.
    Although i love the Schuduler. I have never found Il Woo so fudging hot, but here i feel like i am in a heat wave when i see him.

  17. sya says:

    hiya! i’ve been a silent lurker for quite a while 🙂 anyaways, thanks for the recap/summary 🙂 I was quite interested in 49 days before, but after seeing the first ep, i got boreddddd. NGR is so doll like tht i sort of cannot take her seriously, :/
    oh and thanks for recapping SH ! The drama was refreshing 🙂

  18. antonia says:

    so sad it dissapointed you koala, i have so much faith in your opinion :(. and i have so much expectations on this show. anyway i think i’ll give it a try. most of the dramas i love have bad 1 epis. the only dramas i really love from first epi were you’re beautiful and secret garden (i’m watching last scandal right now, and i think it will enter the loved ones categorie, and the first epi was hilarious too,love it :D)
    so maybe it will get better!!!! waiting to hear your opinion about it!!!

  19. jc says:

    Hah! Your comments about NGR crack me up! I watched in all 60+ or whatever episodes of Life Is Beautiful and wondered the entire time what she was doing in that drama. Not that it had the best cast ever or anything, but she was totally superfluous and annoying. I get that her character was supposed to be annoying (perhaps?) but she really took it to another level.

    What I find to be really funny is that what you dislike about her is exactly what I dislike about Korea’s Barbie Han Chae Young. The only thing I ever liked her in was in BOF, and then only because she had such a minor and mellow role. In Delightful Girl Chung Hyang and A Man Called God, all I could see were her… girls. Her fake girls. That combined with her annoying voice (fingernails on the chalkboard) and her lack of acting ability and the general annoyingness of the characters played just place her on my must-not-watch list.

    I’ve been watching K-dramas for years now and I STILL don’t understand why actresses (always the actresses, and never the actors) think that they have to over-do their so-called “cute” and “ignorant” act. Blah!

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