First Impressions: “Again My Life” Is A Twisty Tale Of Slow Burn Vengeance
Lee Joon Gi’s back and in fine martial form as a hotheaded prosecutor who lives by the law and his fists. On paper, the character does seem a little too similar to the one he played in “Lawless Lawyer,” but in practice, they end up being reasonably distinct. At a pace so frenetic that it feels like a movie at times, “Again My Life” makes its entrance with a splash. This show doesn’t waste time in getting us back to the past, and it pulls no punches in showing how entrenched corruption is in society. Yet, the heart and soul of this drama remains in the little moments where Lee Joon Gi gets to do what we all undoubtedly dream of at points and returns to his past to reshape his future.
Here’s what we loved about the premiere episodes!
Warning: spoilers for episodes 1-2 below.
1. A level-headed hero
We’ve really started to move away from characters that only embody a single trait to much more complex people, and I’m loving it! K-dramas are rife with unorthodox prosecutors and lawyers, especially hot-headed ones, meaning that Kim Hee Woo (Lee Joon Gi) has to work extra hard to stand out as a character. At first, he seems the classic fast-talking prosecutor, but after our backwards time skip, Hee Woo proves to have a surprisingly gentle personality, a mind as sharp as a knife, and a tendency to think before he acts (a rarity amongst many drama characters). Hee Woo is at times vaguely reminiscent of Hwang Si Mok (Cho Seung Woo) in the excellent “Forest of Secrets.” As we relive the events that shaped Hee Woo, his former off-kilter demeanor starts to make sense. So, when he goes back and has a chance to do it all over, his personality softens to the person he could have been before life hit him in the face. He’s so easy to root for!
2. A plot that progresses at breakneck speed
When Hee Woo dies halfway into episode 1, it almost feels too soon. Most dramas take the entirety of their first episode to set up the rest of the story and lead into the characters. However, “Again My Life” rushes right into introducing its main antagonist Jo Tae Sub (Lee Kyung Young) less than 10 minutes into the first episode. It speeds along the rest of the way, such that our cliffhanger for that episode is the first of Hee Woo’s pivot points, one of the many incidents that shaped him in the past and could break him this time around as well. It’s a smart move that’ll definitely aid in attracting an audience right off the bat, yet there is the slight concern that dramas moving this quickly in the beginning could lag in the middle or towards the end. Hopefully, 15 years of Hee Woo’s life provide enough material that this won’t happen!
3. A past that’s doled out on an as-need basis
There are two ways a drama like this could have been done in terms of handling the past. First, it could show us how the original events in Hee Woo’s life played out (not as a flashback but as he was experiencing them) and later show us how he changes things. Or, it could show us the past by revealing each event as it comes up, summarizing how past Hee Woo dealt with it and showing us how future Hee Woo handles it. The first method is definitely the longer one, but the emotional payoff is so much higher because we’ve seen the character go through life the first time and the fall out of that event. This makes us super invested in how they’ll change it. The underrated drama “Priest” uses this to great effect.
It’s understandable that “Again My Life” doesn’t have the time to show us everything, so it goes with the second method where we’re given a rough overview of Hee Woo’s life right before he’s thrown back into the past. This method doesn’t provide as much pathos, and if anything, can feel a little abrupt at times as Hee Woo knows more than we do as viewers. We’re trying to catch up to his knowledge of a life that he’s already lived. Still, it makes for zippy pacing.
4. The supernatural side story
When this drama touted itself as a second-chance-at-revenge story, it seemed to be one of those shows where the supernatural event affecting the main character is explained away as a one-off freak accident of nature like in “Who Are You?” or “I Hear Your Voice” where the powers are never quite explained. But surprisingly enough, “Again My Life” seems to have a sort of mythos around this whole time-traveling. The red-cloaked grim reaper (Cha Joo Young), who aids Hee Woo by turning back the clock, seems to have some sort of grudge against Jo Tae Sub. Judging by her comment that Hee Woo might meet her if he scopes out Tae Sub, she is clearly part of his circle and is evidently dead – likely at his hand. Given that the end of the second episode shows the advent of the mysterious Doctor K (Hyun Woo Sung), who killed Hee Woo in the future, Hee Woo may have to fight a battle on two fronts with enemies from the past and the future.
5. The ensemble cast
Lee Joon Gi is carrying this drama hard, and the first two episodes have been 99 percent him running the gamut of emotion. But a drama like this is nothing without its villains, and it would falter if those villains were in the hands of lesser actors. Kim Jae Kyung continues her long streak of making every character she plays strangely endearing. Kim Han Mi (Kim Jae Kyung) is a former iljin (school bully) doing absolutely nothing with her life until Hee Woo saves her from sexual assault, and she grows interested in walking the straight and narrow. Plus, they have great chemistry.
Jung Sang Hoon (Lee Min Soo) is a confusingly brilliant professional student who has been accepted to medical school, professional art school, and music academies, only to ditch them all after one year. He’s an unknown variable in Hee Woo’s life and always seems to know more than he’s telling. Kim Gyu Ri (Hong Bi Ra) is the perfectionist academic whose life Hee Woo saves, and she seems to be more than his intellectual equal. On the other hand, Choi Kang Jin (Kim Jin Woo) and Kang Il Hyun (Kim Hyung Muk) swagger about, exuding charisma and sleaziness with every snap of their fingers. With cameos from veterans like Lee Soon Jae coming up, this drama’s shaping up to be more than the Lee Joon Gi show, and here’s hoping we see more of all of them.
The female lead Kim Hee Ah (Kim Ji Eun) remains an unknown thus far, and she appears to be playing a similar role to the one she played in “The Veil.” It seems like a classic character – feisty, speaks her mind without thinking, and has a bleeding heart for the underprivileged – so the question arises as to how she gets involved in Hee Woo’s revenge. Hee Woo seems strangely taken by her, so perhaps we’ll get a love line there. Yet, the chemistry feels lacking. If anything, Hee Woo has a better repartee with Han Mi and Gyu Ri. That’s the only gripe in an otherwise fast-hitting pair of opening episodes. Hopefully the drama doesn’t lag its pacing and continues to hit hard. Then again, with 15 years of Hee Woo’s life to mine for material, this shouldn’t be an issue!
Check out the drama below!
What did you think of the premiere episodes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. When not watching dramas, she works as a lawyer, fangirls over Ji Sung, and attempts to finish up the greatest fantasy romance of all time. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!
Currently Watching: “Grid,” “Military Prosecutor Doberman,” “Crazy Love,” and “Again My Life.”
Looking Forward to: “Adamas,” “Why Her?,” “Link,” “Island,” “Insider,” “Tomorrow,” “Little Women,” “The Sound of Magic,” “Big Mouth,” “Chaebol’s Youngest Son,” “Carter,” “Queen of the Scene,” “Black Knight,” and “Sh**ting Stars.”