[SERIES REVIEW] Way Back In The Day: Faith/The Great Doctor/신의

SBS Official Poster, Faith/The Great Doctor
SBS Official Poster, Faith/The Great Doctor

While the name of this Kdrama suggests that you follow the exploits of a 21st century woman who gets transported back to the Goryeo era, I found myself distracted by other, more compelling characters and narratives, not the least of which was Lee Min Ho as Choi Young, the love interest.

Faith (The Great Doctor/신의) tells the story of Yoo Eun Soo (Kim Hee Sun), a self-absorbed plastic surgeon who is snatched by Choi Young in order to save Goryeo’s newest princess and soon-to-be queen from Yuan, No Gook (Park Se Young), who has been seriously wounded during the trip by would-be assassins.  When Eun Soo gets back to the past, things are off the chain. We have a king struggling to be an independent monarch and dealing with some romantic entanglements of his own, sociopathic officials like Gi Chul (Yoo Oh Sung) determined to get as much power as he can. The Kdrama works out Eun Soo’s return to the present and the inevitable romance between her and Choi Young against the backdrop of the drama of Goryeo.

It’s not enough that the Kdrama promises adventure and romance. With Faith, you also get people with superpowers!  Why just be good with a sword, when you can also use some lightening on someone? Or bring them to their knees by playing a flute as big as you?  Fantastic abilities aside, Faith featured some really great characters.

Choi Young
Choi Young

Of course, the best character is Choi Young. Yes, he’s the general that everyone looks up to and admires, but he also has a broken heart. While he appears cold on the outside, he really cares for his men and eventually, Eun Soo.  Of particular interest in his dynamic with King Gong Min (Ryu Duk Hwan).  They develop an uneasy trust that is tested time and time again. Choi Young helps him to grow into his role as king, and Gong Min shows him that a monarch can be more than just a wacko who keeps a harem in the palace.

Jang Bin
Jang Bin

The palace also has supporting characters who support our heroes’ cause.  The Man with the Fan, Jang Bin (Lee Philip) is easily one of my favorite characters. Often level-headed, he will also give Eun Soo and Choi Young the side-eye at appropriate times. Court Lady Choi is great! Whenever you need someone to slap Choi Young in the back of his head, she’s there! And just when you think it’s just because she knows the palace like the back of her hand, she’ll break out with a knife and cut you if she has too.  Choi Young’s posse has its share of misfits who, if nothing else, are devoted to their general. Together, these characters underscore the importance of loyalty. Goryeo may be under the thumb of Yuan, but at least they stick together.

Gi Chul
Gi Chul

For every hero, there is a villain, and Faith does not skimp on the cray. Gi Chul is easily the most sociopathic villain I’ve seen in a sageuk in a while. He is absolutely after power, and what makes him even more delicious is that he has that snarky, sneery way of telling you how he’s going to throw you under the bus. He’s smart, at times too smart, making me frustrated that the bad guys always seem to be one step ahead of Team Righteous. Let’s not forget his posse, including his main thug Chun Eum Ja (Sung Hoon) and thugette Hwa Soo In (Shin Eun Jung).  These two are only slightly less sociopathic than Gi Chul, only slightly.

But just as some characterizations make Faith, others break it, and chief among them is Eun Soo.  Her fabulous hair aside, there was something off about the way the writers developed her character.  Look, you are in Goryeo, get over it! Even with her small knowledge of Korean history, she should understand what’s going on. At some point, she needed to resign herself to being in the past, and yes, look for a way to get back home, but get down with the cause.  She does have her moments, like when she decides she’s going to hide from Gi Chul in the midst of Wu Dal Chi and be a soldier.

Yoo Eun Soo
Yoo Eun Soo

However, they don’t make up for the way she actually causes trouble by not doing what Choi Young tells her to do, in order to save her life. She gets the child king killed and she gets herself poisoned (that second time was all her: you know you can’t trust Duk Heung!).

This dislike of her character has negative effects on how I saw the romance between Choi Young and Eun Soo.  You want to root for them, but I didn’t like the terms of their relationship. She shows up, and Choi Young’s sword “gets too heavy for him to carry.” I don’t like the idea that a woman makes a man choose between his duty and her. Her pacifist urgings put Team Righteous in danger. So, what’s Goryeo supposed to do when its best soldier is out of commission? And because of the time-travel element, Eun Soo learns what it means when she does not share and try to pursue her relationship with Choi Young with no thought to anyone else. She leaves little notes telling herself to rethink that plan.

King Gong Min
King Gong Min

The relationship between the King and Queen was far more compelling. They did NOT like each other, or rather, they did, but political realities make their journey to In-Loveville more difficult. I have to say, one of my favorite scenes happened when Team Infamy kidnaps the Queen and the King gets mad. He’s not playing! That’s sassy.

Lastly, I have to give a shout out to one of the most sleazy, slimy characters I’ve seen in a Kdrama:  Prince Duk Heung (Park Yoon Jae).  Talk about sneaky! Expert in poisons, he is truly out for self, and he does it with a smile on his face!  The interchanges between Choi Young and Duk Heung are like chess, full of double-meaning and threats.  And in the end, he gets away with it! :O

Overall, I liked Faith. I know many people didn’t like it, but Lee Min Ho holds up his end, and there are enough compelling supporting characters that make it worthwhile.

2 thoughts on “[SERIES REVIEW] Way Back In The Day: Faith/The Great Doctor/신의

  1. Great review. I share similar feelings about all the characters. But I would have liked a better leading lady. She was just too…I don’t know, she didn’t mesh well with Lee Ming Ho. Maybe it was the age difference or whatever. The romantic tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife, aided by one of the best K-drama soundtracks ever. But what do you get when the big ‘kiss’ arrives? Fish lips AND Deer in headlights. Ugh. And then that final scene of them just standing there smiling after all that time. No embrace. Nada. That was annoying. Perfect opportunities wasated.

    I also felt that they could have done something far more epic, these people had POWERS! They were like the X-men of Joseon! It seemed like at times they forgot they had powers. I guess they were trying to use them sparingly because it weakened them. Though Miss Red Hot didn’t seem to have any problems. She was probably the worst of the bunch.

    Prince Duk Heung was a standout to me. Gorgeous and Slimy! He needs a leading part soon. He’s always second banana or some supporting role. And I was tickled to learn that Park Yoon Jae is the real life brother of Chae Rim, one of my favorite Korean actresses. I miss her. She disappeared after “Oh my Lady.”

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