I wanted the last recap to be up and ready before I posted this, hence the lateness of this review. My rating is already up though (6/10), and I will explain why I gave it such a high/low rating, however way you want to look at it.
I admit that I used to extol its virtues and be so excited about it! But then I realized there is a vast difference between watching a drama and experiencing it for the first time, and rewatching it for recapping.
I will honestly admit that there have been two instances where I enjoyed watching an episode the first time around and when I recapped it: Sign and Prosecutor Princess. Everything else was fun to watch, and a little tedious to recap. IRIS was painful to watch and recap, but that’s another story. I think I didn’t fully appreciate it.
As for Athena, it was definitely enjoyable the first time around. But when I rewatched it, I noticed more of its flaws. Fast forwarding was a necessity to recap the drama, just so I didn’t have to go through all those emotions again.
But aside from my own perceptions when it comes to viewing a series, Athena was a very flawed drama as well, and I’ll bullet point them.
- It has the awful tendency to tell rather than show. It’s more exciting to watch agents beat down the doors of the bad guys and catch them, than say “We beat down the doors of the bad guys and caught them.” It might be a way to save time and move the story along, but it’s a really boring way to do it.
- It was a mash up of elements that worked in IRIS, and it didn’t matter whether it fit the story or not. Case in point, the Italy trip. The whole sequence was awesome. Totally cool. Except! It was a dream! So instead of the cool Hungary hunt-down (that was all real by the way), we got the coolest fight scene in Italy for a dream! That’s not worth it – and it just made the entire Italy sequence useless. It was only there as adornment to the series, and added no substance. At least the Hungary sequence was the start of Hyun Joon’s tumble into darkness.
- The romance. It was repeatedly pounded into our heads that Jung Woo loved her, but the romance remained quite stagnant. It didn’t really grow or evolve into something deeper; it only helped Hye In realize that she wanted to become good. I would have liked it if Jung Woo benefited from this “great love” as well.
IRIS had one big advantage: it was the first one in its genre to explore the whole spy-action drama, and so when watching it, everything felt new. The twists and turns, betrayals, and fight sequences. (Ha! The “advantage” was not – as some may think – Kim So Yeon. Per se.) Despite being somewhat predictable and cheesy, it was still a spy drama, and you were curious how it would unfold. Athena came on to the scene and had the immense burden of having to up the stakes from its predecessor. By the time we watch Athena, we know what to expect: love, betrayals, twists and turns, etc. Therefore nothing is a surprise, but everything is made on a grander scale.
I personally still enjoy(ed) Athena much more than IRIS, so I guess you could say I think it was better in terms of watchability. I think the actors made up for this series, because they were far more interesting characters than the ones in IRIS. Plus, these actors all have credibility and I know they can do several genres before coming into this drama; that makes their acting ability a little more impressive. (Case in point: compare Soo Ae in 9 End 2 Outs and Athena.) On the other hand, IRIS had actors who had only/mostly done melodramas before, so watching them was like a repeat performance. If Kim Tae Hee had done My Princess and then IRIS, I would have been far more impressed. Something about Athena got me itching to watch more; perhaps I really just wanted to know who would die. But hey – that’s a good enough hook to get me to finish watching, yeah?
Rating: 6/10 Think I’m being generous? I’m not really. But like I said, I did enjoy it when I first watched/finished watching it.