I’m not exaggerating when I say, “I love Healer“. I watched it two times in a row, got Lil’ Raine addicted, and now I’m writing about it. I might have to watch it again – for research reasons, of course. This show has the “it” factor, a special something that can’t quite be explained. I can, of course, attempt to do so and I will, but it won’t be easy. What I felt both times when Healer ended was that my window to a different world had been shut on me, like I was no longer privy to the innermost thoughts and the daily happenings of the characters. I was swept up in eavesdropping on the lives of the characters who struggled to come to terms with their difficult realities, but who, in the end, relied on each other to pull through. Not only was the story engaging, but the acting as well. And the music. And the cinematography. The show used K-drama tropes to its advantage. A handsomely dressed couple was not just used to stir amorous feelings, but was used as a tool for reporting serious political issues to the public. A dark past did not magically disappear when all was said and done, but was dealt with as a part of daily life. A misunderstanding occurred and created serious conflict, but it was not the end-all for the relationship. Overall, Healer is a lovely watch. Locations are diverse, visually stimulating, and often beautiful; homes have personal touches that reflected the characters who live in them; wardrobe styling feels natural and like clothing the characters would actually choose for themselves. The lighting is especially inspired. Ji Chang-wook’s Healer aka Seo Jung-hoo lived a life in the shadows before he met Park Min-young’s Chae Young-shin, a woman who is bright despite her dark past. What makes this show special is that it is an entire package. It has famous Hallyu stars who can actually act. It has tight writing. It is fast-paced without skipping over the juicier moments. It is visually pleasing. And, like I said before, it has the “it” factor. There are a few rather puzzling moments, but such moments are so few and far between that this will be the first and last mention of them. Much of the “it” factor comes from the brilliant leads and their chemistry as a team. Ji Chang-wook and Park Min-young not only had romantic chemistry, but they were solid on screen partners. In the fast-paced world of creating K-drama it is not easy to fall into a role as easily as these two have and form an intimate relationship that will be watched by millions. Ji Chang-wook and Kim Mi-kyung have this fantastic partnership that provides so much fodder for comedy, friendship, and intensity. It’s pretty marvelous how effectively the split screen technique was able to convey their physically distant but emotionally close relationship. I have to take a moment to appreciate Yoo Ji-tae and Kim Moon-ho. Every time his eyes are on camera they speak volumes. He is a magnetic spark in every scene as the star reporter whose soul is weighed down by guilt. Never have I seen a man so intense. He combines physical acting with emotive energy in a way that makes him the perfect brooding man. Also, Park Min-young is quite a strong actress, but never have I seen her fall so naturally into a role. This is the best acting I’ve seen from her by far, and her body of work is nothing to laugh at. She throws herself into the funny scenes with Park Sang-myun who plays her father and the two have an intense, close onscreen relationship that makes them the envy of all K-drama father/daughter relationships. The way the relationship is written is also fabulous. They fuss. They smile. They cry. Beneath all of that runs the current of love and respect that flows without stop. No matter what obstacles befall the father/daughter pair, they cannot be phased. It is love, not blood, that keeps them together and nothing can wrench a relationship like theirs asunder. The foundation is too strong. This may be my favorite relationship in the show. Even though Park Sang-myun isn’t in the show nearly as much as other characters, his character’s effects on Park Min-young are always felt. Now that is good writing. Besides, watching him with the ex-con ahjussi as they pick on Ji Chang-wook is absolutely priceless. The small things also help to make this show special. When Healer throws a beer against the wall in one scene, he cleans it up a few scenes later. Ahjumma Min-ja (Kim Mi-kyung) is always rolling and eating kimbap. She is always knitting with thick yarn and gigantic knitting needles. She is always dressed like a half-ahjumma/half-punk teenager hybrid. She always disturbs Jung-hoo while he’s eating! The place where she lives is full of technology that reflects her career and the knit items and kitchen items that reflect her taste in hobbies and in food. Those hobbies follow her even when she is chased out of her hideout. Another thing I love about this show is that the main couple isn’t there to execute a series of misunderstands that require constant push and pull. They suffer through real misunderstandings. Mistakes aren’t the end of the relationship and neither are they blown out of proportion. Shortcomings aren’t used against each other. They compliment each other as people we well. Jung-hoo was unable to think about himself or envision a future with another person. The more he developed a friendship and a romantic relationship with Young-shin, the more he grew. The camera work also showed his growth. As Jung-hoo considers himself more, so does the camera. He begins to sit in the center of shots instead of just on the outside. Young-shin learns to expand her horizons with Jung-hoo on her side. She learns to be a real professional and how to actually chase her dream rather than just talk about it. Then there is the backstory upon which the drama was built. There are five friends who battle against the severely restricted freedom of press in 1980s South Korea. They are joined by their friendship and their cause, then ripped asunder by deceit and selfishness. One of the friends, Kim Moon-shik, played by veteran Park Sang-won is the victim of insecurity, loss, and terrible choices. He rationalizes all of his bad decisions with his acute intelligence, but the process takes a toll on his sanity. He is a villain, but I think his ending is most fitting. Rather than show a legal punishment at the drama’s end, we see Moon-shik wallow in a drunken hell of his own making. His mind is his prison. He betrayed his friends and loved ones and his mind forces him to reckon with it as his sanity crumbles. It’s a cruel end for a life of cruelty. Along with Moon-shik we have Choi Myung-hee (Do Ji-won), one of the five friends who loses both her young daughter and her husband, another of the five friends. She is kept in a prison for must of her life, but does not know it. Moon-Shik claims to love her and yet he keeps her more like a pet during the course of their marriage. He keeps her drugged and controls her travel. She is a woman who is capable of much more, but was sadly trapped. Her journey towards the realization of who her current husband truly is and his role in her tragic past mirrors Young-shin’s journey of discovery. It’s wonderful to see a woman who was considered weak fight her physical weakness to overcome. In the end, Jung-hoo, Young-shin, Moon-ho, and ahjumma Min-ja become the new “Five Friends” – now four friends – and fight against corruption using the media, like the old group of five had once done. Every one of the new four friends has come full circle, learned something about him or herself, learned to overcome. Did you love Healer, too? Comment below and tell me why!