“Snowdrop”’s real problem is the complacency and boredom hidden in a hollow splendor.
On the poster of JTBC’s weekend drama “Snowdrop,” North Korean spy Lim Su-ho (Jeong Hae-in) and Hosu Women’s University freshman Eun Young-ro (Jisoo) dance while facing each other. The two look at each other lovingly. However, unlike its posters, “Snowdrop” is not a very lovely drama.
Looking at “Snowdrop“, the male lead and female lead composition of tvN’s hit drama “Crash Landing on You” at the end of 2019 inevitably comes to mind. The romantic comedy, in which the female lead accidentally flew from South to North Korea, fell in love with a North Korean handsome man, was a great success. So why can’t a handsome spy from the North fall in love with a South Korean female college student?
Right, there is no content that is impossible in a democratic society. However, there are stories that are hard to be loved. The funny North Korean spy characters have often succeeded. However, the public is not very favorable to the heartbreaking spy romance. Why a love story involving a spy at a time when inter-Korean relations are not good?
“Crash Landing on You” was a little different. Although it mentioned North Korea as one of the main themes, the drama caricatures into a simple fantasy space to dilute sensitive inter-Korean issues into comedy (of course, North Korean viewers may have had completely different positions). “Snowdrop” also adds a fairy tale color of a retro fantasy to the university district in 1987 to avoid controversy. Thanks to this, the year 1987 of “Snowdrop” shows a pretty affectionate visual through the image of a dormitory of Hosu Women’s University while reviving the landscape of the times. With this background, “Snowdrop” could have gone to light youth romance such as “Sketch in Youth of Mimi and Chulsoo” and “Reply 1988.”
However, the production team was greedy here and decided to add the heavy 1987 narrative, which includes the narrative of Im Su-ho, a spy of from the North, and the National Security Agency who chases him. It was a time when many college students were tortured, framed to be spies. For victims of the times, regardless of the development of the drama, the frame structure itself will be painful. There was already a previous controversy of this drama regarding it taking the name of the female lead from the real name of a democratization activist, who was also a victim of a spy manipulation incident, before changing it.
It seems like “Snowdrop” will turn to give narratives that satirize the regime of Chun Doo-hwan, who joined hands with North Korea as a spy. Unfortunately, the satire of the National Security Agency (NSA) might not be so successful. First of all, the way they created the character Nam Tae-il (Park Sung-woong), the Director of the NSA, was too old and cliche. The viewers didn’t feel anything about this character as the satires were only appropriate as if they were afraid to seriously criticize the NSA.
However, it is true that the great spectacle of “Snowdrop” stood out. Episode 5 was filled with all the scenes of hostage and gunfights between North-South Korea that took place in the dormitory of Hosu Women’s University. However, the noisy gunfight scene made viewers feel somewhat empty. Whose side should I cheer for in this gunfight? North Korean spies or NSA? Of course, we cannot choose both. Objectively watching from two positions, many audiences didn’t even want to understand the details. This is because there were only flat characters of that era, like spies, NSA agents, and female college students. There were literally no characters that created multi-dimensional feelings, raised curiosity, or made the viewers sympathize with.
If “Snowdrop” had dreamed of becoming a masterpiece drama, the production team should have done more serious insight into the times and the characters. It is because if the content deals with sensitive times, even though it was made as a fantasy, more delicate concerns are still needed. Being made with a large-scale plan doesn’t make it a masterpiece. It would be a masterpiece if it draws deep thoughts about the nature of people who obeyed or disobeyed with the times or sacrificed.
Eventually, in its spectacular background, “Snowdrop” is currently lost in between being a masterpiece, a romance or a comedy. It’s not a complex genre in which all elements are harmonized, but a progression closer to a confusing genre. It was promoted as a romance but didn’t look exactly like a romance. The development of a female college student hiding a strange man in her dormitory then taking care of him is so boring because it seems like an old motif from the 1980s and 1990s. As a result, a colorful and noisy drama suddenly became so loose and boring. In the end, the controversies surrounding “Snowdrop” received more attention than the drama itself. It seems like controversial details were much more dramatic than the drama’s developments.