Joseon X Files: A Review

So, after a little over a month of last posting my first impressions review, I can finally say that I am DONE with the series! I am kinda proud about it – if for a lame reason. It’s one of the few dramas I’ve seen all year that I finished without recapping. (Coffee House does not count, because I did a live recap of it.)

There’s a short and long version of what I think about the drama. The short is: Meh.

The long version is: It had its highs and lows, and I think the beginning and ending were strong. I think the reason why I was so excited in the beginning was because of the weirdness with the UFO and such, and the last two episodes were connected to the first two episodes. Everything else in between was kind of like stand-alone incidents that were just weird and random, and part of the every day life of a Secret Investigations officer. While it was interesting to see what cases he would deal with next, it also wasn’t that gripping…

First off, I think what eventually turned me off after watching more episodes was the filmmaking style. At first I did think it was cool (but I was slightly annoyed). Then the cool factor went down considerably and the headache grew. I found myself looking away and just listening to the drama because I couldn’t deal with the shaking. I can take shaky camera – just not when it must show up for at least ten minutes each hour.

Secondly, I think what affected my viewing was the subtitles. I was watching with WithS2 subtitles, and the “famed” Anarchist had done the subs. I know he’s very lyrical and such, but there are times when I’m reading it and I just don’t know what the frak is going on because the language is so…high and mighty. Not putting down the subs though – they were fantastic. But it’s sorta like when I watch British movies set in the past – I kinda get it, but I also kinda don’t.

The stories were generally interesting. Some were downright disgusting (episode 3 with the gold of Silla comes to mind), some were freaky but heartwarming (episode 4 with the monster-boy and episode 5 with the psychic – both were so cool), and some were forgettable. I totally tuned out to episode 6, where the story was about a ghost; it was from this point on that I started losing focus on the series. Episode 7 was interesting in that as I was watching, I knew something weird was going on; however, I couldn’t really wrap my head around it and so there were times I tuned out. Episode 8 was not as gripping (perhaps because Kim Ji Hoon was missing for most of the action!?), so I definitely had to rely on javabeans’ recaps for those two episodes, since they were connected. Reading them made me appreciate them a little more, since those two episodes were an example of how confusing the story could get. Episode 9 I had to rewatch; I couldn’t see how it connected to anything before it, and by using a changgwi as the villain, I felt like it was a bit of a cop-out to use a supernatural based on folklore. It is similar to episode 4, with the monster boy who sucked blood, but the monster boy looked like an alien, and he was like that because of the supernatural pond. The changgwi was just someone possessed by an evil ghost. Episode 10 was a return to the straightforward-ness, in that I understood everything going on as easily as I understood episodes 3-5.

And then we have episodes 11 and 12. Whoa were they messed up! And I mean it in a good way, since it also picked up my interest level a bit. Episode 11 was more like a stand alone episode in that we knew there’s an evil shamaness (I think she was also the first very evil female antagonist) who wants to resurrect bodies like Dr. Frankenstein. When we get into episode 12, we see its connection to the UFO in the beginning, where the evil shamaness’ father had witnessed the powerful UFO years ago. He was beheaded, but not without some difficulty since he had the electric power that allowed him to control metal. (So when swords hit him, it conducted electricity to the bearer of the sword.) Ji Seung killed the father, but spared the daughter, and now she wanted revenge. She wanted to resurrect her father through Ji Seung’s dead body, but would need a special relic – the same metal ball that was whizzing around after the UFO had passed over Korea. Hyeongdo comes and saves Ji Seung in time, and he has three revolvers so that he doesn’t have to go through the long process of reloading. He kills three evil cult followers before getting attacked by the shamaness. When she is about to make her final blow, he blocks her sword with the metal ball and all of a sudden, the UFO appears, as if the electrical force that is emitted called it. The UFO rumbles the earth, and then Hyeongdo and the girl disappear.

Everyone lives their lives as usual, knowing that Hyeongdo is gone, but perhaps he can come back. And the way I interpret the ending is that he ends up back in the world of the fourth dimension, where he met the “other” Lady Heo. Before he left that world in episode 7 he had asked whether he would see her again, and she said he wouldn’t. But whaddya know – I think they met again! And he tells her, “I know who you are.” Lady Heo had been trying to find out who she was too, but Hyeongdo’s statement implies that he doesn’t have to know her background to know her. So I think that was kinda sweet. And then she disappears, and he’s left alone on the beach. Well now, how can they get their happy ending if everyone just keeps disappearing!?

Anyways – I think one of the beauties of this series is not completely understanding everything. Sometimes I don’t understand how Hyeongdo can figure things out so quickly, even though I know the story will unfold in that way because…well, it’s a drama. But not always knowing why Lady Heo has a certain knowing look, or where Hyeongdo is in the end (and why he doesn’t seem desperate to go back home) is also nice. I like it when a drama is confident enough to not have everything packed tightly in a box.

I am definitely not bashing the series though. I liked it. It was unique. It was unexpected. But with such a promising start and then a slow slump before the last three episodes? Meh…

Rating: 5.5/10 in terms of my interest. But quality wise, a solid 7. So I guess if you average that, it’s about a 6.

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9 thoughts on “Joseon X Files: A Review

  1. OMAYGAWD kaedejun!!! blasphemy!!!! you’re tarnishing my best drama of the year…HAHAHA!!! after that intial stage of wrath, i calmed down after reading your review…but i’m still o.O with the 5.5 rating when i had given it a 10…hahaha

    okay here i go with my not-so-much-of-a-rebuttal comment…for your annoyance at the directing, i think i said this before, but i FEEL you…i really had a terrible headache after watching the first 2 episodes, but i kinda get used to the filmmaking style because it added depth to the tone of the drama and it was basically a stark contrast with my usual sageuks and i really absorbed some of the “energy” the shakiness gives off…maybe it was too overpowering for you…haha…the power of the shake!

    now for the episodes, we almost have the same assessment with them…my favorite episode would have to be ep 7 because it was just FRAKIN GOOD!!! even though it confused the hell out of me…next was ep 4, because of the mystery, suspense and heart it had…i was really amazed at how the writers managed to marvelously construct an 45-min-episode with all those themes at play…then comes ep 10, idk but something about the straightforwardness it showed, and the pregnancy, and the alien parasitism on the village people, that captured my attention…my least favorite would have to be ep 6, because it was just MEH! ep1-5 had a nice build-up of intensity then comes ep. 6 where it hit an emotional plateau, but luckily ep 7-8 bring back the awesomeness…but ep 9 dipped (i really liked this episode because i didn’t foresee the twist, and i enjoyed the humor, but i was vexed that another “monster” was employed but lacking the “heart” of ep 4, and then add your folklore concept analysis).. ep 10-11 were nice setting-up episodes for the finale but my interest decreased a bit for this, then ep12 came…the chaos in ep1-2 was brought back but much more intense…well, that’s basically my watching journey for joseon x-files

    i really really liked your explanation of the ending because i was confused…thumbs up kaedejun!! i’m actually waiting for javabeans’ recap to make sense out of it…but here come your theory…i agree with you that the charm of this drama was the mystery and its mysterious tone…you should not expect to know everything about it…that’s why i’m satisfied with this, even some loose threads are not tied…

    hahaha…i watched this drama in viikii where the language was bit on the “normal” level…

  2. Haha. I’m still chuckling at your 5.5 rating but now that I know that it’s based off of how much you actually enjoyed the drama,no one can argue against it. I couldn’t give this drama a perfect 10 for enjoyability either (I rated it an 8), however, I would give it a 10 for quality. Um, I’m going to procrastinate and leave a longer comment about both of your comments later. ^^ Teehee.

  3. yup, endodo, we can’t argue if she didn’t enjoyed this much…because i would just give this an 6-10 rating for enjoyability…the range is for episodes, 6 for ep6, 10 for ep4&7, 9 for ep10, so on and so forth…just like what i said, i didn’t judge solely based on the over-all framework but i also took into consideration the individual episodes, that’s why i came up with a 10 for quality…idk if it makes any sense…but there you go,

  4. lol….i dont blame you….i felt that the end wasnt as awsome as the previous episodes…maybe the buildup had left me expecting for more…lol…especially considering how awsome ep 7 and 8 were….granted they had been the most puzzling….i thought the last 2 eps were too meh compared to them and i thought the epilogue was kinda lame…… guess they were leaving it to our own interpretation….i like yours….and yes i’m glad to know i wasnt the only one having difficulty with the anrachist’s subs…lol…i find them funny now that iget it after watching dramas with his subs a few times but at first they drove me nuts cuz i needed a dictionary for some of it…lol…. especially since sageuks have a harder language and such as it is….i watched this on viikii though

  5. So I finally have some time to weigh in on the ending. I liked your own intepretation and I also thought that Hyung Do ended up in like a fourth dimensional world aka outer space. I think Lady Heo was an alien in human form, hence, so there’s that part of her that she can’t really remember. I mean, she had that weird scar on her that the weird old prophet saw that brought him into a state of shock, right. And it would make sense if she was an alien because that means that she and Hyung Do would never be able to end up together. I don’t know if a part of her alien half is still very much alive in the fourth dimension, but…maybe she is. As for Hyung Do, I’m not sure if he died or not. Perhaps he has just completely vanished/died from Earth but he’s still consciously awake in that other world. At first, I had thought that maybe he just traveled to a different land on Earth, that perhaps he was still alive. Now I’m learning towards that he isn’t on this world anymore, but he’s been taken to another. Ji Seung, on the other hand, may have a good guess where Hyung Do is, since maybe he would also know that Lady Heo was an alien. That’s why she was an important addition to his investigation team. I dunno. Just a guess. We still don’t know very much about the secret investigation organization, and we especially don’t know that much about Lady Heo or Ji Seung. But like you said, perhaps this drama’s biggest appeal is its obscure thematic messages. I can’t wait to read what jb and the end of the year guest bloggers have to say!

    • interesting… cuz i thought the old man freaked out because he realized the connection between the two timelines of the real world and the fourth dimension when he saw her sword wound… her being an alien would explain her murky past… i’d like to think that she was a victim of these weird goings on – that perhaps her family was affected, and she grew up curious and Ji Seung kept a close eye on her. 😛

  6. Wowww.. I didn’t expect you rate it, 6????? Javabeans said it has solid plot and amazing drama… hahahhaha

    SO I’m suprised with your rating…

    honestly, I have prepare to watch it because alot of people say this drama is awsome…

    I’m afraid seeing you rating about harvest villa after you watching this drama…. I want u to like it, like I did, Hahahhaha

    Have u watch comrades, this drama is another masterpiece. Thundie have recommend it to his blog…. I give it a try, and i like it alot…. Eventhough honestly I don’t liked war genre before, LOL

    • edit:
      I’m afraid seeing your rating about harvest villa after you watching this drama…. I want u to like it, like I did, Hahahhaha

      Have u watch comrades? this drama is another masterpiece. Thundie have recommended it…. I give it a try, and i loved it alot…. Eventhough honestly I didn’t liked war genre before, LOL

      sorry for my bad english

    • teehee – weeeeeellll I don’t necessarily have the same taste as javabeans… 😛 it is a good story and well plotted, hence I gave it a 7. But my enjoyment factor fluctuated way too much for me to fully enjoy the drama and comfortably give it a higher rating. Hence the average 6/10. I do think I like Harvest Villa more – so far – even though I haven’t finished yet and I really need to. I haven’t checked out Comrades – mainly because I don’t like the war genre either, and because I saw a few minutes of Road Number One and was really uninterested. Then again, they’re not the same drama! so I might check it out…one day… 😛

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