‘Crash Landing on You’ review: K-drama checks all the right notes, with a lot of heart

‘Crash Landing On You’: A perfect comfort watch for those stuck in quarantine  

If you are a newbie to K-dramas and wondering where to dip the proverbial toe, Crash Landing on You may be just the spot. The hugely successful series strikes all the right notes. Romance and comedy? Check. Drama, thrills and mystery? Check. Interesting characters and engaging storylines? Check and check.

Sure, it’s going to take over 17 hours to finish the series but there is literally no time like the present to make that investment. Get past the slightly ludicrous premise and Crash Landing on You is guaranteed to draw you in.

So, what is the show about? It kickstarts with successful and beautiful South Korean businesswoman Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) who has everything except the love of her family. While her two half-brothers, helped by their respective wives, are gunning for the post of chairperson of their father’s company, he appoints Se-ri instead. The next day, she decides to test out the latest Seri’s Choice product – paragliding equipment – herself. Caught in an unexpected tornado, she winds up in self-isolated North Korea and is presumed dead by everyone (or nearly everyone) back home.


As it turns out, she is very much alive and has “crash landed” in the arms of Ri Jeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin), a handsome, dutiful North Korean army captain.

Circumstances make it so that Captain Ri and his four-member unit (each of whom has a distinct personality) risk investigation if they haul Se-ri to the State Security Department as per procedure. And so, they take it upon themselves to get her home.

Se-ri also charms her way into a group of four women (again with distinct personalities) in the village, who are invested in the handsome and single Captain Ri’s life (they even ensure his food cellar is well-stocked), led by Ma Yeong-ae, the wife of the highest-ranked officer in village.

Crash Landing on You
  • Cast: Hyun Bin, Son Ye-jin, Kim Jung-hyun, Seo Ji-hye, Oh Man-seok, Park Myung-hoon
  • Director: Lee Jeong-hyo
  • No. of episodes: 16
  • Storyline: An elite South Korean businesswoman lands in the arms of an army captain in North Korea, after a tornado throws her off-course while paragliding

Of course, there can be no drama without a bad-to-the-bones villain. That role is fulfilled by Cho Cheol Gang (Oh Man-seok), an officer of the State Security Department, who Captain Ri clashes with right in the beginning, and who engages in a cat-and-mouse game to find out just who Se-ri is. To that end, he orders hapless wiretapper Jeong Man-bok, referred to as The Rat in the village, to spy on them.

Meanwhile, we find out that Captain Ri had an older brother, also an army captain, who died in a mysterious accident. There are also rumours swirling around of a secret truck unit.

The second leads consist of Seo Dan (Seo Ji-hye), a cellist and department store heiress who has a strong connection to Captain Ri, and Gu Seung-joon (Kim Jung-hyun), a roguish charmer who calls it like it is, who escapes to North Korea after embezzling money from Se-ri’s brother. The people around them include Dan’s mother, a loud, scheming lady who nevertheless has her daughter’s best interests at heart and Dan’s uncle (played by Parasite actor Park Myung-hoon) a high-ranking officer prone to getting bullied by her mother.

In South Korea, we see how Se-ri’s family is dealing with her disappearance as her half-brothers compete to try and gain the position of chairperson.

While the slightly dumb elder brother is a bit of a complainer, his wife employs a tactic of praise and appeasement around him. The younger brother is, however, more obviously dangerous, aided by his Lady Macbeth-like wife.

The show wouldn’t work as well if it wasn’t for the excellent actors, from the leads who share a natural chemistry (you can’t help but root for them) to all the supporting actors.

As Se-ri, Son Ye-jin brings a relatable, comedic energy when caught in an impossible situation (think Bridget Jones in Thai prison) while also staying just a little unapproachable (being part of the 1% and all) and as the romantic hero, Hyun Bin is perfect as he slowly lets Se-ri in and realises that perhaps it’s okay to sometimes put one’s wishes before duty.

The action shifts between South Korea, North Korea (the scenes for the North were shot in South Korea and Mongolia) as well as Switzerland throughout the series. Interestingly, a real-life defector from North Korea was part of the show’s writing team and it shows in the show’s grounded portrayal of the country. We get a deeper look at North Korean society from traditional kimchi cellars in rural areas and drinking soju from clam shells, to trains stopping for hours owing to power cuts, and modern life in the capital city of Pyongyang (there is a laugh-out-loud scene where Dan tells an incredulous Seung-joon he has to go to an actual app store to purchase apps for his phone).

While the series’ major themes include love, family, friendship, redemption and overcoming insurmountable odds, it shows, without preaching, that people can be good or evil no matter which side of the border they come from — and no matter how different one’s customs and traditions are, it’s possible to form bonds on a deep level.

In addition, apart from enjoying the stunning locales of Switzerland, and the catchy theme music, keep an eye on Se-ri’s fashion choices.

The only quibbles with Crash Landing on You are that while destiny plays a big part in most K-dramas (meaning the leads have had numerous encounters in the past), one encounter should have been enough. The other thing is that the entertaining Seung-joon is suddenly given a backstory explaining his actions, and Captain Ri’s mother is the only character who isn’t really fleshed out. (His father, on the other hand, is great.)

But these are minor issues in a show that will make you laugh, cry (it’s truly touching how Se-ri pays tribute to the women of the village) and cheer for the characters (apart from the villains of course). In short, a perfect comfort watch for these surreal times.

Crash Landing On You is currently streaming on Netflix

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 7:34:36 PM |

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