There was a quiet buzz around Nine: Nine Time Travels when it was first announced, but I didn’t pay much attention. Time travels were sooo last year *flips hair* and though I had nothing against either of the leads – Jo Yoon-hee and Lee Jin-wook – there was no desperation in my soul to watch the two of them grace my television. Plus I didn’t watch Queen In-hyun’s Man (gasp!), the most recent drama by this writers+PD team, so there was no particular pull for me. Man oh man, am I more than willing to eat some major humble pie.
Park Sun-woo (Lee Jin-wook) is the anchor for the midnight news hour of broadcasting company CBM. When he learns that his brother, Park Jung-woo (Jeon Noh-min), died in Nepal, he heads over to bring back his brother’s remains. There he discovers, among his brother’s possessions, a mysterious stick of incense.
Joo Min-young (Jo Yoon-hee) is a reporter for CBM and the other half of the reason Sun-woo headed to Nepal. She’s there on a gig with the broadcasting company, and Sun-woo proposes that the two of them marry (sans legal proceedings) then part ways after six months. The bright and bubbly Min-young has worn her heart on her sleeve the past five years (ever since she entered CBM), and Sun-woo claims he’s just making her dreams come true. But we all know the truth, eh? *wink wink*
Sun-woo learns the incense stick is a time machine that takes him back exactly 20 years – 20 years to the date and time – on which he burns the incense. Determined to fulfill his late brother’s wishes, Sun-woo takes it upon himself to go back in time and tweak a few things in his brother’s – and their unfortunate family’s – life. Alas, little did he know what that small tweak for his brother’s happiness would cost him. And thus begins the journey of the nine sticks of incense – nine chances to right past wrongs and right his own present, overturned world…
Oh, what would I have done without Korean TV and its love for re-runs? While lazing around on my not-so-comfy-yet-now-bearable comforter, I flipped to some random channel and caught the first episode of Nine. And then the second. And then I downloaded Episode 10 and watched Episode 11 live.
I’ve been doing a strange dance with Nine, going back to watch from the beginning while watching the live episodes at the same time. So I’m bouncing back and forth, and I really wish I could have just started the journey chronologically from the very beginning. If it’s this good the strange way I’m watching it right now, how much more cracktastically flooring would it have been if I’d seen it the way it was meant to be?
There are so many things I love about this drama, and I could probably write a good 10-page paper on it, so I’ll just hit some highlights. I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible so y’all can enjoy it as much as I am right now.
First: The story and the storytelling. Now, all drama writers start off with great ambitions and lovely ideas in their heads. No one wants to make junk. But, as we all know, it happens. All the time. Every once in a while, though, we’ll get a show that is so tightly written and plotted, pinkblossom keels over. You know the writers had a clear command of their spaceship (yes, dramas are spaceships), that they set out a course and stuck to it. Watching the pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place, you appreciate the intricate setup and resulting reward. Nine is a prime example of such forethought, dedication, and continued effort to remain on course.
All actions have consequences, but Dramaland oftentimes seems to forget that. Exhibit A: No matter how stupid the poopyhead is, he still gets the girl. Here in Nine, where the past and its alteration – or lack thereof – is the focus of all that happens in the present, the importance of actions and consequences is so clearly and masterfully explored. I love the way that time flows both in the past and the present. By setting up the past world – our characters in their little world 20 years ago – we get to see how directly related the past is to the present. The drama is so clever with the use of this juxtaposition. Deftly moving back and forth between the past world and the present, we see how changes in the past lead to new ‘memories’ being formed by the characters in the present. It’s both brilliant and a wonderful way for us viewers to track what’s going on.
Not being a film student, I don’t know too much about cameras, techniques, or the like. But I can appreciate the way that Nine makes use of screen splits and title/caption overlays. Seriously, I just love love loooove the way they split the screen, magnifying and shrinking respective sides and constantly giving us different angles of the same conversation.
The title/caption overlays with dates remind me a lot of Answer Me 1997, and I can say that I still appreciate those overlays for helping us keep track of where we are – both time- and location-wise. The ticking clock touch is reminiscent of 24, but it holds a different kind of appeal here in Nine because we only have 30 minutes (the length of time it takes the incense stick to burn – and thus bring Sun-woo back to the present), not an hour or 24 hours. [[mini SPOILER ALERT]] I love that those 30 minutes weren’t long enough initially, and then we couldn’t wait for those 30 minutes to end in Episode 13 (or even latest Episode 16). [[END SPOILER]]
We’ve only got 4 episodes left now for the live broadcast, and I have absolutely no idea where we’re going or where we’ll end up. My heart hurts in the best way possible for our OTP, and I pray that we can have a happy ending for them since I didn’t get to enjoy very many giggly squee moments. That’s right: the happy ending is not for their happiness but for mine. I demand a full-on wedding complete with honeymoon and a time jump to see them with five kids! But yes, how heartwrenching is the tagline on the main poster? “I turn back the clock nine times in order to win you back.” *heartbreak*
In short: WATCH NINE. NOOOOOW.