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The Good and Bad K-Dramas of 2023

Looking back at 2023's K-drama scene, it's been a real mixed bag. We had some shows that totally wowed me with their stories and characters, and then there were a few that... well, didn't quite hit the spot. In this piece, I'm going to take you through my own highs and lows of the year. From those dramas that had me glued to the screen to the ones that I wish had a bit more oomph. So, let's get into it and see what 2023 had in store for us K-drama fans!

The Good

1. Death's game (Part 1)

TVING, Death's Game
TVING, Death's Game

"Death's Game" is a really unique and interesting drama that had me hooked just from the concept itself, I ended up watching all four episode in one day over new years eve dinner with my family. "In 'Death's Game,' we are walked through the turbulent life of Choi Yi-jae, played by the incredible Seo In-guk. He's a guy down on his luck, dealing with job rejections for seven years, drowning in student debt, and to top it off, he gets scammed and finds out his girlfriend may be with someone else. He commits suicide when he then meets Death. Death punishes him by by making him live (and die) through 12 different lives. This drama is my favorite of the year.

2. My Demon

SBS TV, My Demon
SBS TV, My Demon

"My Demon," a notable K-drama from 2023, skillfully combines elements of romance, drama, and history, set against a backdrop of historical South Korea. The story centers on the unconventional marriage between Do Do-hee, a fiery heiress, and Jeong Gu-won, a demon experiencing a temporary loss of powers. Their journey, marked by a blend of fleeting joy and intricate challenges, has garnered praise for its deep storytelling and attention to period details. The chemistry between lead actors Kim Yoo-jung and Song Kang adds a dynamic layer to the narrative, contributing to the show's success and its ranking on Netflix's Global Top 10 TV (Non-English) category. If you have not watched this yet, you should.

3. Night Has Come

Viki, Night Has Come
Viki, Night Has Come

Initially, I approached "Night Has Come" with a degree of skepticism, unsure of what to expect from this high school-set thriller. However, it quickly took me by surprise, evolving into a drama that I absolutely loved. Set in Yooil High School, the story revolves around a class of second-year students embroiled in a life-or-death mafia game during a school retreat. This setting provides a backdrop for intense psychological warfare as the students, including the observant Lee Yoon-Seo, justice-driven Kim Joon-Hee, and academically brilliant but isolated Oh Jung-Won, grapple with survival in a perilous and twisted world​​​​. This one is an underrated gem!

4. The Glory (Part 2)

Netflix, The Glory
Netflix, The Glory

Part 2 of "The Glory" doesn't hold back, ramping up the fiery retribution Moon Dong-eun promised. She meticulously unravels the lives of her high school tormentors, leaving them isolated and exposed. While the darkness of her methods lingers, the satisfaction of their downfall is undeniable. Yeon-jin, once seemingly invincible, crumbles under the weight of her past. It was a truly satisfactory end to the show. It is an extremely dark show but a great watch and a highlight of 2023.

5. Mask Girl

Netflix, Mask Girl
Netflix, Mask Girl

Korean miniseries "Mask Girl" delivers an emotional punch with its unique twist on revenge. Expect tears as it explores a mother-daughter relationship haunted by a web celebrity mom's tragic past. Layers peel back, blurring victim and villain while a disguised mom seeks twisted justice. Get ready for emotional twists, thought-provoking themes, and a haunting finale. It's a unique watch that'll leave you pondering long after the credits roll.

The Bad

These three shows, despite their glittering trailers and promising plots, ended up being the stale party snacks and lukewarm punch of the night. They weren't the worst offenders, but definitely the ones I wouldn't recommend with a full heart.

1. Sweet Home (Part 2)

In Season 2, Cha Hyun-Soo takes a step back from the center stage, appearing for only a few episodes. This limited presence highlights his naivety and seemingly bipolar qualities, as the focus shifts to the military's fight to protect the survivors and Lee Run-Yoo's quest to find her brother.

Season 2 also killed some of my favorite characters from the apartment building, leaving the least likable character, Kang Seung-Wan, alive. This decision was frustrating and dampened my passion for the show, especially considering what happened to Seo Yi-Kyung.

The plot of this season felt incomplete and convoluted, almost like a mediocre setup for Season 3.

2. Celebrity

Netflix, Celebrity
Netflix, Celebrity

The initial episodes shimmered like expertly filtered Instagram snaps – glamorous parties, ruthless rivalries, the intoxicating lure of online fame. I wanted to like it so much but I just did not, dropping it after two episodes.

The plot, once juicy and unpredictable, started tasting like recycled drama with a predictable aftertaste. The characters, who initially glittered with complexity, lost their shine, their motivations reduced to tired formulas. It was like watching the perfect Instagram feed slowly crumble, revealing the pixelated cracks underneath. I was just not into it.

3. Strong Girl Nam-soon

JTBC, Strong Girl Nam-soon
JTBC, Strong Girl Nam-soon

My initial hopes for "Strong Girl Nam-soon" were undeniably kindled. The prospect of a superheroine navigating the complexities of Korean society, wielding her strength as both a personal and societal tool, held immense promise. Lee Yoo-mi's captivating presence in the lead role further fuelled my anticipation.

However, by the time episode seven unfolded, the narrative's initial allure had dissipated like smoke in the wind. While glimpses of brilliance remained – Nam-soon's raw power undeniably refreshing, her spunk endearing – the overall plot faltered under the weight of predictability. Repetitive subplots and thinly drawn villains felt more like tired tropes than engaging storytelling.

That's all! 2023 had a lot to offer, let me know your thoughts on these K-dramas!

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