God’s Quiz Season One Review (SPOILERS)

Posted by Stephanie on July 30, 2012


god's quiz

I love this show! I love this show! I love this show, oh yeah, I love this show! Picture that line put to a little tune and possibly a jig and you’ve witnessed a peek into my living room this week.

However, as much as I love this show, I find it interesting I don’t count it among my top three. I wonder if I figured out my top 5 shows if it would be there? I don’t know why but I’m guessing probably not. Why? This is an incredibly smartly written show. It has build up, the plot twists are built on the story itself, with call backs to carefully planted information within earlier episodes. It has a hero who I absolutely adore. Je t’aime, Dr Han. It’s got a great cast of characters, interesting episodes, a well balanced tone, and just a tiny taste of romance.

Extremely well done.

So, why do I not think of it when I put it in my best of recaps? Here’s what I think. It’s the fact that it’s God’s Quiz Season 1. I’ve deliberately separated the two seasons into different reviews and I’m going to try my darnedest to not mention Season 2 or the current Season 3. I’m not going to mention it, and I’m not going to let what I’ve learned in the later season color this review. That being said, let’s instantly break the rule–just for this moment–and just to answer this question. For any of you who were around when I was watching this the first time will remember some posts and possibly some tweets I wrote about God’s Quiz. I had no idea it was an ongoing series. It caught my eye when it premiered on Hulu. I decided to check out an episode on a lark and was quickly caught up. Season One ended (and was awesome), it ended very neatly and could have been its own stand alone series. Trusting the writers, I started Season Two, which, if possible, was even more awesome.

I bet you didn’t see that coming, I bet with all the wind up, you were ready for me to be like ‘Season Two was such a letdown.’ Well, it wasn’t. With the exception of one thing. One giant thing that I couldn’t overlook. It ended on a cliff-hanger. A big mother cliffhanger. A cliffhanger with no Season Three available. Okay, I was seriously ticked. It wasn’t so much the cliffhanger, it was the fact that the cliffhanger involved possibly ruining my favorite thing about the show. I still don’t know how they can come back from it and still have it be the show that I love so much. I’m not going to say what happens as I think my SPOILERS warning only covers the current season I’m reviewing.

[Editors note–I obviously wrote this before rewatching Season Two. Season Two is NOT as good as Season One. Season One is impeccably written while Two is….pretty good, it has some issues, but is very enjoyable to watch]

Yes, now they have a Season Three, which is showing right now, however, I’m still not even sure if I want to watch it. I wrote about it here.

Then there’s also the whole ‘If I wanted to watch multiple seasons of a show, I’d watch American TV,” thing. One of the things I love about Kdrama is that it has an end. Each show is one season. It tells me a single story and then it’s done. I’m in, I’m out.

It’s not that shows get bad if they go on too long. Haha. Okay, that’s a lie. Not all shows go bad. I just for some reason or another, lose interest. I do the same thing with books. I won’t read an ongoing series. I need closure. There are shows I’ve loved which I’ve just stopped watching, not because it’s gotten bad, it’s just my attention span has faded out. My friends call it “Second Season”. And it has actually become a joke to us. If there is something I’ve dropped or don’t do anymore, they ask me “Has such-and-such reached Second Season?”

What the heck does this have to do with God’s Quiz and why it’s not in my Top 3 shows? Yes, sorry, I meandered there. While I can love God’s Quiz for what it is, I can absolutely love Season One and lots of Two, because they are now parts of a whole, an incomplete whole to boot, I have to judge them together.

Does that make any sense at all? Or have a just proven that I am slightly ’round-the-bend?

Okay, so then I’ll get back to Season One. We’re going to think, for this instance, that it is a complete show, which it totally could be.

Did I mention it was awesome? One of the reasons I wanted to do this show next rather than Coffee House was, after Life Special Investigation Team, to demonstrate how you could take everything that the writers of that show wanted to do and actually make them work. (And yes, the fact I was being a weenie and just didn’t want to stomach Coffee House yet also played a factor.)

God’s Quiz is a workplace drama with off-beat characters, an unconventional, smart-ass hero, increasing suspense, and a slow burning romance. Life Special Investigation Team tried all of these things and failed in bringing them together, while God’s Quiz is just masterfully done.

After endless weeks of being me having to be a hard-ass on these drama writers, I can finally point to one and say “Good Job, Park Jae-beom-I.” I just checked his filmography and found he’s written God’s Quiz One, Three, and a movie. Hmm… Why hasn’t he done more work? Also, it’s pretty interesting he didn’t write Season Two. I wonder what happened. And it gives me a little more hope for Season Three.

This story is just so well crafted. I’m not really sure where to start first. Should I talk about the stories and arcs or should I talk about the hero? They both kind of bleed into each other.

I’m a sucker for a good hero. Not just the romantic sort either. In American television, which I’ll bring up because I think this show is one of the few which remind me of some of our shows in both story and style, I’m a huge fan of Vincent D’Onofrio in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. There is also my oldie but goodie, Columbo. (Don’t judge me.) A lot of the show’s I’ve loved have had a hero who is slightly off.

Dr. Han is an irritating, know it all, smart-ass. I can totally understand why he gets on everyone’s nerves. And yet he’s one of those jovial people that while he makes you want to pull your hair out, you can’t help but laugh at his antics.

He’s one of those young genius’ who know everything and, unfortunately, know they know everything. When you first see him, he’s doing an intricate surgery, he’s younger than everyone else in the room and yet they all defer to him. At first I rolled my eyes, as we all know, in Kdrama, there is a tendency to cast people too young for the part. However, as the show goes along you realize this is not the case. He’s like a Dougie Houser. (If I wanted to date myself.)

Anyway, at the beginning you don’t know why he’s giving up his career as a doctor and being transferred into this special group. He’s landed in this group of doctors and one police detective who investigate crimes involving rare diseases. Basically there’s a body which the regular autopsy people and police can’t figure out how they died, and so it is sent to this hospital for this group to figure out.

While the Dr. Han doesn’t initially like being assigned to work with this group, by the end of the first episode, he’s realized he can make a difference and this is finally something that isn’t easy for him.

Dr Jang: So you want to quit?
Dr Han: No. I want to continue. I want to go out and investigate as well.
Dr Jang: Why the sudden change of mind?
Dr Han: What should I say? For the first time in my life I feel like I met the biggest textbook in my life. It’s so hard to even flip the pages and even if I do, it si just so hard to read. What is it that makes it so hard? Now I want to know.
Dr Jang: I understand what you mean. The problems you have to solve through the cases are like a quiz from God. A Quiz made so that the arrogant human won’t get too proud. God made it for that purpose. But in these quiz there are no hints in it. It’s a question you have¬†to solve forever. A very brutal homework.

This shows that there is depth to this character which you don’t expect at first. He may be smart (and a smart-ass) but underneath he is a character with crunchy layers, with a sweetness and great heart. Come on. How can I not love this guy?

As the episodes click by, and the suspense ticks upwards, you dig deeper into his character. For as smart as he is, and how much he is able to figure out what is wrong with other people, he is sick, very sick, and no one can figure out why. As the episodes goes on and his symptoms become more frequent and erratic, you see him try to deal with it, while keep it away from the people in his life.

I wonder, you don’t really know this, but does he miss being a doctor? With the ear ringing basically incapacitating him at times, I understand why, at the beginning, he decided to step down as a surgeon. However, the way his character is set up, he just pushes through everything he’s dealt with a joke. Yes, he enjoys the work he’s doing now, but I wish we’d seen the struggle he had with giving up being a practicing doctor.
Although, maybe then it would be a different sort of story that I wouldn’t like as much.

I just find his character so interesting. I love the slow build up (here’s praise for the writer again) at first he’s a know-it-all goof-off, then we see the first symptom of his disease and we realize there is more going on there than what we’ve first been told, next the story shifts again to Dr. Han trying to figure out who Thanatos is and why Thanatos is stalking him, finally to the shift of the serious Dr. Han, when everything has been stripped away, all joking set aside, and he’s in full-on protector mode.

I’m telling you this writer has mad skills. Within all these changes, he never loses the core, or the tone of the character. We always get the smart-alec we fell in love with, but within that smart-alec is an awesome guy.

Yes, most of the meat of story was given to our hero, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the characters are cardboard-y. No, everyone is really well done. Detective Kang, is an interesting mix of innocence and kick-ass. Seriously guys, who didn’t laugh whenever Dr. Han would provoke someone and then hide behind Detective Kang? Loved it. While not one of my favorite episodes, the episode with where the ‘possessed’ daughter killed her mother, gave us some great insight into her character.

While she is a foil for the doctor, you respect her because she respects what she’s doing. Which is where the Doctor and the Detective butt heads. She takes his irreverence badly because she is so serious about her job. But slowly, as the episodes evolve and Dr. Hans character develops we see her soften as she understands him more.

The romance between the two is almost non-existent through most of the show. However, once again, unlike Life Special Investigation Team, when you realized they were getting together you didn’t want to gag. At that point, we could see how these characters respected and looked to each other. And even the romance wasn’t bash us over the head romance-y and yet, when they, in the very last scene, go on their first date, I rewound it again and again they were so freaking cute. Especially considering the actress is about a 6 inches taller than the hero.

Seriously guys, Season Three had better not monkey with their romance otherwise, Stephanie will be very cranky.

Besides the two leads there are the other characters who work in the lab and almost all of them have their own personalities as well. I’d give them an ‘all of them having their own personalities’, but there is one female character who was really not necessary. Her part could have easily been combined with the girl who first figured out Dr Han’s secret and we wouldn’t have even noticed. If you can lift out an entire character and no one notices–take them out!
Of this cast of supporting characters I have to say my favorite is the porn loving computer hacker. His love of porn was an ongoing joke which was never gross, but continued to be funny.
I enjoyed the mystery illness of the week. Extremely well done. The pacing and tone for the entire series was spot on. While, yes, there were a lot of funny parts, each episode was serious in its search for answers. The victims weren’t jokes. Neither were they all sympathetic, which was good.

Throughout the series there are tidbits of information we learn which help us as the suspense builds. We may not know it from the start, but the writer knew exactly where he was going and built the story accordingly. There was nothing in the story which happens ‘just because’. The writer didn’t throw things into the end because he was running out of steam and didn’t have anywhere for the story to go. I think this may be the beauty of the cable shows. Since they film most of the episodes ahead of time, the writers don’t have to write under some of the same stresses that network drama writers do. And because of this we see we get a tighter, more well crafted show.

The evolution of Thanatos and the building of the questions of what’s wrong with Dr. Han and how the two are connected is just really well done. The realization that as Thanatos puts it, Dr. Han isn’t sick on accident: “Disease isn’t something only God can make”, is one of my most shocking moments in Kdrama. Well, besides the scene earlier when Thanatos escapes by cutting the throat of the one police officer and poking the eye out of the other. There were actual screams in my living room that night.

Even the character Thanatos himself (okay, so I know he does have a name, but I’m on an internet time out and can only remember his evil-doer name.) Yes, he is super, super crazy. Yes, he has killed a lot of people. However, by the end of his story, you understand why he did it. You can almost feel for him and his attempt to make sure what happened to him and Dr. Han never happens to anyone else. He was a victim, just as Dr. Han and his own victims were. As he put it. The drug they were all injected with only had two outcomes, they could turn someone into a monster like him, or bring someone tremendous pain and eventual death like Dr. Han. No, I’m not excusing what he did, but man, it was well written. His decision to become the monster to deal with what was going on inside him, and the rules to being that monster were was just fascinating.

Condition for being a monster, one. It is created out of pain.

Condition for being a monster, two. You never regret.

The actors in this were really well matched. The guy who plays Dr. Han, Ryoo Keok-hwan, got it perfectly. I think if they didn’t have the right actor for this, the whole show would have sucked.

The actress who played Detective Kang did very well herself. I liked that she dressed like a real detective. No fashion plate here. She was cute, but was able to show Detective Kang’s tough side. For some reason, I think it may be her voice, for a long time I thought she was actually Park Min Young from Sungkyungkwan Scandal.

The guy who played crazy-pants Thanatos did an exceptional job as well. This could not have been an easy part to play, although, probably super fun! His mixture of young boy, lunatic, and sadistic killer was so interesting to watch.

None of these people were your standard Kdrama heroes and heroines. It may also be a cable thing, but the actors truly seemed to be picked for how they fit with the characters rather than just casting the latest IT actor or hottest Idol star.

So I think the last part of this review will be production. This also has to be the cable aspect. This was a slickly shot show. Like I said, it seems like a show which would fit perfectly on American television. The way it was shot, the cuts chosen, the visual effects took time, planning, and skill. You could tell they took the time they needed to make sure this looked as good as possible.

One of my favorite things was the flashbacks to the death once the team has figured out how the person died. We’ve seen the scene before, every episode begins with a death, but for the first time we’re watching it knowing exactly what happened. We’re watching it though the eyes of Dr. Han, who is now in the shot watching the victim. I’m thinking I can’t be the only one who cried when we watched Dr. Han watch the girl who couldn’t show emotion, in the theater finally laugh for a few moments being like everyone else, before she died. Tears.
So this has been an exceptionally long chat for a show which is only 10 episodes long. Would I watch this again? Heck yes! I’m resisting the urge to rewatch it right now. Would I recommend it to someone? Oh yeah, right now, I’m thinking I might be able to get my non-Kdrama watching friends to see this (watch out McFeeley’s and Gianna). Is there anything else I can say about this show? Uh, sure. GO WATCH IT.

And if you’ve seen Season Three, give me a heads up. Is it good?

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