20150419_seoulbeats_blood4Blood this week hit one of the most dreaded parts of any drama: the middle stretch. The middle of anything is almost guaranteed to be the worst part, and dramas are no exception.

Spoilers Ahead.

The predominant theme running throughout episodes 13-16 was the fracturing of the trust that was slowly being built in the prior four episodes with the subsequent revelation of secrets on both sides. Just about every major duo had to come face-to-face with some ugly realities about their partner, and the fallout ranged from minor to epic.

The most obvious (and welcome) was the slowly disintegrating relationships between Jae-wook and all of his underlings. Jae-wook’s vampiric followers have always been depicted as unfailingly loyal to him, thus creating a frustratingly cohesive enemy that our fractured heroes couldn’t ever win against. They are a solid team and have been for forty years, but Jae-wook’s recent behavior is putting chinks into their bond that will likely prove their undoing.

Despite having acted as a level-headed boss for almost half a decade, the situation with Ji-sang is pushing Jae-wook into rash decision after rash decision — killing his underlings, allowing their plans to become increasingly obvious, not killing Ji-sang, etc. Yet what truly highlights the slow breakdown of Jae-wook’s forces is the discarding of Ga-yeon as his right hand. When she becomes attached to a young patient, Jae-wook tosses her aside for her weakness, despite his own attachment leading him to turn her decades ago. This and the other rifts are small things but can easily grow into cracks that could prove vital in taking Jae-wook down for good.

20150420_seoulbeats_blood2Sadly, the good guys are not immune to secrecy and trust issues plaguing Jae-wook’s crew, but they are much more righteous. Here, the problems come not from rash choices and one person going banana-balls but the difficulty of choices where both sides are right. For instance, when Kyung-in and Ji-tae realized what the effect of the VBT virus are and that Ji-sang and Rita knew about it, Rita and Kyung-in have a nasty blow-up. Kyung-in feels that they should have been told everything, but Rita believes it’s not her secret to tell. Both are right, but that just means that figuring out who is correct is that much harder.

Ji-tae and Ji-sang also experience a serious breach of trust. The pair manage to figure out that Jae-wook was responsible for the death of Ji-tae’s father. Ji-tae, logically, is not good with this. But while Ji-tae wants to immediately seek revenge, Ji-sang is forced to council patience and a long game. After all, Jae-wook has the advantage right now. They need the time of a long con in order to maneuver into a position where victory is feasible.

These two sides have turned the world of Blood into a chess match not unlike the Cold War. Ji-tae, Ji-sang, Rita and Kyung-in have managed to figure out Jae-wook’s plan. He is administering a low-dose VBT vaccine to patients in an attempt to grant them some of vampirism’s benefits. On the other hand, Ji-tae’s father managed to create a cure for vampirism, which Jae-wook learns about and attempts to exploit. These two sides are forced to make cautious steps, aware that their goals are known and their lives in danger, but unable to simply come out and take action due to the need to not appear crazy. The world has become a chess board, and the game is afoot.

In a stark contrast to the games, lies and secrets that plague the other elements of Blood, Ji-sang and Rita’s relationship is heartwarmingly rock-solid. Where most dramas take an almost sadistic pleasure in screwing with their main couple, there is never a moment of doubt or mockery between them. They cover for each other without hesitation and effectively move in together with no awkwardness or hijinks. They simply are, and nothing can come between them.

20150420_seoulbeats_blood3Rita never pushes Ji-sang farther than he is comfortable in a new, more human attitude. When she learns he has never dated, rather than make jokes, she simply listens as he explained the danger and complication his illness posed while making it clear that she’s not going anywhere. Ji-sang humors Rita’s vampire questions without laughter or judgment, ranging from the serious (does he sleep) to the silly (does he turn into a bat). Rita and Ji-sang are so much a couple that when they have their first kiss, it’s almost superfluous.

These were some of Blood‘s slowest episodes to date. Everything just felt dragged out and overplayed. That said, I’m not surprised. Hell, dramas are notorious for starting to suck halfway through due to exhaustion, strain and time constraints. These four episodes were a let-down compared to the prior 12, and only time will tell if it’s just a hump or the beginning of the end.

(Images via KBS)