20160311_seoulbeats_dots1This week’s episodes of Descendants of the Sun served up a whole lot more action and intrigue as the story finally starts picking up the pace. After Captain Shi-jin (Song Joong-ki) finally made the moves — that doesn’t include witty and/or snarky remarks — on Dr. Mo-yeon (Song Hye-kyo), their relationship becomes complicated, yet slightly comedic.

It is during these moments after their G-rated and KBS-approved lip-locking that series writer Kim Eun-sook brings out more of her signature rom-com flair. Quite appropriately, the tension subsides as the two main characters make an attempt at reconciling their emotions with one another through more of their playful banter.

While the romance and love affairs in the series have continued to progress (we finally see Ye-hwa’s mysterious husband Dr. Daniel Spencer who’s played by Cho Tae-kwan), the underlying conflict of the drama finally emerges. By now, it is hinted that Urk is somehow a nation recovering from a recently concluded war or dispute, hence the deployment of the UN Peacekeepers.

Reality strikes hard for Urk in the form of sleazy smuggling operations and black markets that were only very mildly hinted at in the beginning (almost in passing, to be honest), yet have somehow taken a fuller and more concrete form as the series finally introduces to us Captain Argus (David McInnis), a gang leader who was previously Shi-jin’s military comrade.

20160311_seoulbeats_dots6This is where Dr. Daniel’s involvement in the series is justified. While most of us might have initially thought that the undoubtedly handsome Daniel Spencer was meant to add on to the ever-growing group of eye-candy, his character was made to be the middle-man of sorts — the native with the more reliable and insider knowledge, if you can call it that.

Since it might have been difficult for the production team to actually obtain more committed and full-time foreign acts, Daniel Spencer as this Eurasian-Korean was probably the next best thing. In episode five, he explains to Mo-yeon Shi-jin’s line of work, a topic that the charismatic captain himself has constantly avoided for the sake of preserving his relationship with Mo-yeon. For exposition, there’s definitely something to look forward to in Daniel’s role in the future episodes of the series.

As mentioned in the past review of Descendants, the meatier aspects of the series used to come in short and random bursts. Yet with episodes five and six, the previews and coy sneak-peaks are finally traded in for some more extensive exposition on the drama’s conflict. In these new episodes, the Haesung Powerplant plot re-emerges and is used as as a supplement for more sneaky corruption issues that ultimately add on to what seems to be a dangerous partnership within certain individuals from the Haesung Group and the notorious black market gangs in Urk.
20160311_seoulbeats_dots4Predictably, another general theme played out during these newer episodes. While episodes three and four substantiated the parallels of sacrifice in war and love, episodes five and six granted viewers a greater picture of honor and duty.

As we all know, Sergeant Major Dae-young (Jin Goo) has returned to Korea after being ordered by his commander, who is the father of Lieutenant Myeong-ju (Kim Ji-won). It is through military honor that Dae-young believes that letting go of Myeong-ju was the right thing to do; and yet it is also through the honor of love that Myeong-ju continues to reconnect with Dae-young.

Our leads didn’t shy away from doing the honorable thing as well. After finishing up his deployment in Urk, Shi-jin was made to return to Seoul, leaving Mo-yeon behind. The two come to an agreement that their respective professions are definitely making it hard for them to create an ideal relationship. Shi-jin carries on with his honor as a soldier and a patriot while Mo-yeon, after consistently proclaiming that she isn’t ‘one of those selfless kinds of doctors’ insistently stays behind as a medical aid after a freak earthquake ravages Urk.

As usual, this week’s episodes saved the most thrilling parts for the end, as the Haesung medical crew very dramatically tends to the injured during the latter half of episode six. It is also during this ordeal that Onew steps it up with his acting and for a moment breaks out of his quirky Onew image, finally embodying the very innocent, first-year resident Dr. Chi-hoon who is actually becoming one of the more interesting characters in this series.

20160311_seoulbeats_onewFrom the get-go, Chi-hoon has been characterized as the chaebol doctor — rich, handsome, and full of hopeful idealisms. His breakdown after failing to save a patient is his character’s moment of development in which his illusions on what it means to be a doctor are shattered. However, it is reinforced with a much more substantial and fresher perspective — that of the genuine honor and duty of a doctor.

With much faster pacing, one can only expect more in the episodes to come; especially when it seems that Kim Eun-sook’s trend of including themes and emotions relevant to war, honor, and service has become a lot more consistent in its incorporation into the narrative. Indeed, Descendants of the Sun is certainly very deserving of every honor that it has been receiving since its premiere.

(Aju News. Images via KBS)