By Mr. Will Wong
Based on the massive popularity of Squid Game, the world has shown it’s ready for K-Drama. Disney+ take a leap of faith on JTBC Series SNOWDROP, which just finished its televised run in its native Korea, the transcendent star power of its two leads prove that powerful storytelling and performances knows no boundaries of language.
The story is set in the late ’80s as South Korea is about to undergo a major political revolution. We witness mass protests calling for democracy, calling-out the dictatorship that ruled the nation and its unfair election practices. We meet Eun Yeong-ro (Blackpink‘s Jisoo), a student at the Hosu Women’s University trying to abide by the strict regulations at the dorm and doing her best not to get her and her roommates kicked-out. The girls agree to go on a group blind date with some neighbouring male students. Quite instantly, Yeong-ro finds herself drawn to Lim Soon-ho (Jung Hae-in) who is posing as a graduate student, but unbeknownst to Yeong-ro, he is a North Korean agent on a mission. Through kismet, she finds him unconscious and bloodied one day in her dorm room, just as the Agency for National Security Planning are in hot pursuit of him. Together with her roommates, Yeong-ro must find a way to hide Soon-ho within the school, keeping him safe from the ANSP and also other students who could leak his whereabouts.
Unfolding over 16 episodes at 90 minutes apiece, each meticulously-styled episode of SNOWDROP feels like a Feature Film in itself. Under tight and focused direction by Jo Hyun-tak, the Series is equal parts gripping Political Drama and Romance, and it is effective on both levels. We aren’t too familiar with Korean history, but are well aware of some of the controversy surrounding the Series and its historical accuracy. We recognize this Series recalls a painful part of Korea’s past in which hundreds, potentially thousands, dead in the fight to end dictatorship in South Korea, and understand why this is a sensitive topic. This is a story to be told in its own due right. SNOWDROP however is imagined.
Despite its criticism, we can evaluate the Series based on its merit as Fiction and we were charmed by the beauty of this doomed love story, where our hero and heroine have seemingly impossible obstacles to overcome. There is an imminent sense threat lurking, whether it be from within the walls of the school or from external forces. Writer Yoo Hyun-mi builds an interconnected world of characters, giving us a sense of the power dynamics and what’s at stake for them whether we’re seeing tension between the higher-ups at the ANSP and drama among their wives. And of course, ultimately what this means for our two central characters.
Jisoo possesses a natural charisma and is just enchanting. It is hard to believe this is her first starring role. Her Yeong-ro is virtuous, nurturing and just learning to navigate the complicated truth that life is about to throw her way at her young age. Jung Hae-in delivers an understated performance as Soon-ho, giving us a sense of mystery and it becomes our mission to uncover his intriguing truth as the Series progresses. Other standouts include Yoon Se-ah as the stern Headmistress at the Women’s University, Pi Seung-hee and it is a pleasure seeing her story unfold as we figure where her loyalties lie. Jung Yoo-jin also leaves an impression as Jang Han-na, a rookie and first ever female ANSP agent, perhaps a little too eager. While we’ve only seen part of it, we can tell we’re going to love this already and are prepared for this to get real emotional.
The first two episodes of SNOWDROP are available now to stream now on Disney+, with new episodes arriving weekly on Wednesdays.