Joseon X-Files Review (SPOILERS)

Posted by Stephanie on February 5, 2013


Joseon XFiles 2

Uncle! I cry Uncle! Are you happy Joseon X-Files? You have officially broken me. I’m usually good at hypothesizing, synopsizing, and hypothetical-ing. But here? I just don’t know.

You know what I do know? I think I’ve come to the sad realization that I’m just not smart enough for this show. There has to be an explanation for that ending, for the questions raised throughout the show—I’m fairly certain the writers didn’t just go ‘Lets mess with the minds of our viewers and just throw in a bunch of random S*#t. Its cable, no one will notice.” The meaning is right there—just out of my reach—and if only I worked harder or applied myself I’d be able to figure it out.

But I’m not and I didn’t.

So you win Joseon X-Files. You win.

It’s not like I didn’t like the show. I did. It is really well done. And it’s not like I think you’re supposed to understand everything—the whole premise is investigating the unexplainable—but…

I was initially drawn to this show because I was originally a huge fan of the X-Files. Well, I was a fan in beginning years when it was mainly the stand alone, mystery of the week episodes. Those early episodes used to scare the bejeezus out of me. The green bug episode in the first season? I literally had to sleep with the lights on after that. What lost me on the show was when the overarching mythology and all the alien conspiracies began taking over the plot.

Am I meandering? No, I’m pretty sure I have a point. So the weird, mysterious, and unexplained aspects of the show I was totally prepared for. And having the story set during the Joseon period added a great twist to the known plotline.

Side note. Are all kings in Kdramas ass-hats? The king in Joseon X-Files was a huge jerk.Joseon XFiles 4

Joseon X-Files did have some great stories. I was surprised and a little worried when the whole thing kicked off with some alien conspiracies, I’m happy to say it didn’t stay there. After the setup, which gets our hero inducted into the secret group investigating these unexplainable incidents, we’re sent off on a series of creepy mystery of the weeks.

It’s interesting how some of the shows can be explained by today’s knowledge—but then they mix it with other questions. Adding layers. For example: the gold? Obviously radioactive. We can tell this as anyone who comes into contact with the gold gets horribly mutated and disfigured (extreme radiation poisoning). When the gold is being reburied at the end, it clearly has what looks like radiation warning sign on it.

However why did the gold blow the house up when the guy tried to melt it down? And how did Assistant Heo know to run away?

In the episode with house which people thought was possessed? The lightning hitting the rod created some sort of magnetic field causing all the metal objects in the house and around the grounds to be drawn to the pole. Easy enough. Question is, where did the pole come from? And we definitely got teased with the appearance of a ghost at the end.

Since this is really more of a procedural show, there aren’t any real storylines of the main characters themselves. We learn bits from our cast of characters throughout the episodes.Joseon XFiles 3

This show’s Scully is actually the hero, Kim Hyung-do, some sort of royal investigator, who is convinced to join the special investigation record after the death of his mentor in the second episode. He’s not out to disprove the existence of these events, he is more one of those characters who deals in absolute truth. No matter what the truth might turn out to be, or how it may put him in danger, he must seek it out. This makes him a very reliable narrator for the story. A base of truth from where we as an audience can gage what is going on in this world. The only time he becomes unreliable is during that episode within the other world, where he is stuck and the events of the same day keep repeating themselves. When we find out that he had been drugged and was actually being held in a hole during this episode, it makes us wonder. What happened? Did he actually experience this? Did he go to the ‘otherworld’ where people were stuck in the world of their own making? Did he really meet another version of Assistant Heo or was that actually her?

I’m more apt to believe this was just a drug induced fantasy than anything else. But heck, it’s the Joseon X-Files the chances of me being incorrect are quite high.

One of my favorite things about Inspector Kim? Out of 12 episodes, he’s knocked unconscious at least once an episode. It’s never addressed during the show, but when Kate and I watched this, after the second or third knockout we began to giggle every time.Joseon XFiles 5

Our ‘I’ll believe in anything’ Mulder of the pair is Heo Yoon Yi, a very mysterious woman who has no recollection of her past. What she does have is an encyclopedic knowledge of all the documented mysterious beings and creatures that apparently inhabit the Joseon Dynasty. What I like about Assistant Heo is how easily she fits into the men’s world. This isn’t something you usually see in saeguks. She makes no attempt to pretend to be a man or to defer to the men around her. She is an equal and respected partner in the happenings.

We even have a Cigarette Smoking Man! Or in Joseon times, a Long Pipe Smoking Man. He is the leader of what turns out to be an extensive group of secret record compilers.

The Joseon X-Files, as it is on cable, is written very compactly. The episodes move along quickly in a highly stylized manor. After watching the first two episodes I was pretty afraid the entire thing was going to be shot with a very shaky hand held cam, as it was fairly uncomfortable to watch. However, the style and manor of the camera work actually changes from episode to episode. The show may be confusing but it’s never boring to watch. Since its cable, the drama makers also have a slightly freer hand with the gore. There be some definite areas of yick in these here episodes.

An interesting side of the yick is the depiction of life during the Joseon Dynasty. The drama makers go for a very gritty, realistic look of the everyday life of regular citizens, something else you don’t normally see in saeguks.

All in all the stories, the style, and the acting make for a very slick fast moving ride.

Alright. The time is here. I can no longer avoid it anymore.Joseon XFiles 6

Let’s talk about that ending.

If you’ve read any of my other posts on this drama, you’ll know I was pretty upset by the ending. I’m going to come right out and say it. I like closure. I like things tied up in pretty little bows for me. I don’t mind some (a little) ambiguity every now and then, but usually, I want to be able to understand or at least have some idea as to how the drama I spent multiple hours of my life watching ended.

Joseon X-Files just kind of said F-that, we’re doing whatever the heck we want and you can understand it or not, we don’t really care.

Now last week I was (rightfully) upset with the ending of Don’t Ask Me About the Past. Where Don’t Ask Me had an open ending clearly because they expected a second season, I don’t think that’s the case with Joseon X-Files.Joseon XFiles 7

Don’t get me wrong. I’d totally watch a second season of this show. (However, since the show came out over two years ago before Kim Ji Hoon’s army enlistment, it would be a giant long shot if they did this.) It’s just; I don’t think the end of this show is that sort of open ending. Joseon X-files definitely ended. I just don’t understand how.

However, there is one thing you might not know about me. I’m highly obstinate and competitive. I’m not happy just saying ‘Oh well, better luck next time.’ No. We’re going to figure this thing out. We’re going to stay here and go over this ending until I have some sort of resolution I can live with.

So here it goes:

The last scene takes place after Inspector Kim’s fight with the resurrection lady. He’s taken the cults sacred artifact, which also happens to be one of the alien orb’s he’d seen from the beginning episodes. He’s holding onto the orb and she hits it with the sword using the magnetic powers she has (confused yet?). Time freezes with them fighting it out. All of a sudden, the UFO comes back, looming overhead, a bright light appears and Inspector Kim disappears.Joseon XFiles 8

We get a brief ‘sometime later’ epilogue. The helper guy is alone with his food, and he gives a long look to the sky, shrugging, he goes about his day. Long Pipe Smoking Man, takes the record of the event and adds it to the pile, in his hand he has Inspector Kim’s badge (the one they’re always supposed to have with them).

We do not get a perspective from Assistant Heo.

Blink to an abandoned beach. There are mountains across the sea. On the beach is Inspector Kim. He looks over and there is Assistant Heo.

Kim Hyung-do: I knew you would be here

Heo Yoon Yi: Do you believe in rebirth? Did you not witness it yourself?

Kim Hyung-do: Couldn’t the arcane truth enshrouded in all those records… be a mere vagary, illusions created by man’s innermost desires and aspirations? But nary a second of our existence can be devalued as a mere illusion. For they are the most precious moments that providence blesses us with only once. And that is why it is not illusion, but that reality I shall live for.

Heo Yoon Yi: So. Will you leave?

Kim Hyung-do: I saw it.

Heo Yoon Yi: Saw What?

Kim Hyung-do: I know who you are. (Bright light comes, they stare at it and then she is gone leaving him on the beach alone.)

Let’s break this down line by line.

I knew you would be here

Where is here? How did he know she was going to be there?

Do you believe in rebirth? Did you not witness it yourself?

When did he witness it, just then?

Couldn’t the arcane truth enshrouded in all those records… be a mere vagary, illusions created by man’s innermost desires and aspirations? But nary a second of our existence can be devalued as a mere illusion. For they are the most precious moments that providence blesses us with only once. And that is why it is not illusion, but that reality I shall live for.

–This is the hard one. So let’s take it sentence by sentence.

Couldn’t the arcane truth enshrouded in all those records… be a mere vagary, illusions created by man’s innermost desires and aspirations?

So he’s hypothesizing that everything that they have been seeing is fake, something imagined by a man’s desires and wants. But is he referring to the collective man? More than one person sees or creates these creatures or happenings. Does the collective will of the people actually create them? Like a mass hysteria? But what about the people it was happening too? Take the boy who needed to eat people. There was definitely a boy. You couldn’t say that he or the people around him willed him to change into this man eating man beast. This idea is supported by the episode where he goes to the nowhere land. He was being fed drugs–it could have been a complete manifestation of his dreams. That’s why Heo was there and helped him–he already felt an affection of for her. He was on the mission to find the runaways, so that is why they would have played heavily in the dream. Why did they stab him? Fudge if I know.

But nary a second of our existence can be devalued as a mere illusion.

So he’s saying no? These things are not an illusion because if they happened to us, then no matter what occurred—whatever it was—was real.

For they are the most precious moments that providence blesses us with only once.

So no, this answers her first question, no, he does not believe in rebirth.

And that is why it is not illusion, but that reality I shall live for.

 This is harder. Is he dead? Was she, whoever or whatever she is offering him a chance at rebirth? A chance to start over? Is he rejecting that possibility? But he does say–I shall live for–which to me means he is alive. So let’s take another route. Let’s say she’s an alien. And he’s been beamed–alive–to the beach. She wants him to come back to work for the records. But he would rather live his life in reality rather than chasing after these crazy cases? Because it’s not like they’d ever stop, he’d just continue on in what has to be a tiring soul-sucking job. But looking at his character, being all about revealing the truth at all cost, even if that means imminent death for himself, would he just stop doing the job?

So. Will you leave?

Leave where? Is this purgatory? Is she asking if he will leave life? As in die? Or is she asking him if he will leave the bureau? Are we beyond considering the bureau? Are these questions ‘bigger’ than the Special Investigation Records? I think so. If we’re talking she’s an alien, is she asking if he will leave with her? In that otherworld realm she had said she was waiting for him and was disappointed that he wasn’t ready yet.

I saw it.

He’s sidestepping her question.

Saw what?

So she’s not all seeing.

I know who you are. (Bright light comes, they stare at it and then she is gone leaving him on the beach alone.)

By knowing who she ‘is’ is this giving her the answer she’s looking for? Who is she? Is she an alien? Is she an angel? He now ‘know’s who she is? So does she just get filed into the records now? She doesn’t seem surprised or shocked, she doesn’t ask him what or who she is. Did she know all along? By him knowing, does she now know? Did she actually know all along? It wouldn’t be the first secret she’s kept from him.

Or is this person he’s seeing actually the woman from the otherworld and not the real Heo at all? Perhaps by his recognizing her as that falsehood, he’s choosing not to live in the world that they make together, but to go back to the real world where he belongs. By knowing her and her fake reality (or the fake reality he’s created in his brain) he’s accepted it and is ready to go back to his real reality. Maybe he’s in a coma or something. Maybe he’s just been knocked out again, and the beach is like a purgatory. He’s making the decision to go back and live life in the real world rather than stay with the fake Heo.

Hey! The more I think about it, the more this idea makes sense. Or at least it’s a sense I can get my head around and be okay with. It takes into account him always being knocked out, his need for the truth in all matters, and it would bring closure to that otherworld episode.

Maybe you haven’t beaten me Joseon X-Files.

.What do you think?

So will I watch this again. I don’t know, maybe? It’s something you need to be in a mood for.

Will I recommend it to others? Yes. You know—because I need someone else to talk about it with!!joseon xfiles


No Comments

Leave a Reply

Back to top