Why did “Jirisan” starring Jeon Ji Hyun and Joo Ji Hoon debut to mixed reviews?

The first 4 episodes of Jirisan are considered by many viewers to have failed to live up to the hype. 

As the series that marks the return to the small screen of two A-list actors, Jeon Ji Hyun and Joo Ji Hoon, Jirisan has been expected to become a year-end hit drama since the first trailers were released. Not only does Jirisan have a huge budget, even included in the Top 10 Korean dramas with the largest budget of all time, the drama is also a combination of different genres, from fiction to thriller, action, horror, and mystery. Therefore, Jirisan successfully piqued the audience’s curiosity. As expected, “Jirisan” debuted to great start when the rating of the first episode set a new record for tvN. However, was the high rating achieved thanks to the drama’s quality or solely the audience’s curiosity? 

Why did “Jirisan” starring Jeon Ji Hyun and Joo Ji Hoon debut to mixed reviews?

Jirisan has an undeniably interesting theme and storyline!

A compliment should be given to screenwriter Kim Eun Hee, when she confidently went against the trend of dramas about the battle of the elite or the healing, feel good dramas over the last few years, by introducing Jirisan to the viewers. Although screenwriter Kim herself once shared, “After working on many projects about crime and murder, I always wanted to try writing something healing” when talking about the process of working on the script for Jirisan, but clearly, Jirisan cannot be considered a mere healing drama. Or perhaps, it is somewhat healing from Kim Eun Hee‘s point of view, in a way that makes the audience shudder at first (?).

It is not difficult to see that Jirisan is completely deviating from the recent trend, thus making the drama stand out among the current releases of Korean TV. Set in the backdrop of a real destination – the majestic, mysterious Mount Jiri of Korea, Jirisan initially only hints at the story of the rangers, but when catching up to the pace, the drama is actually much more unpredictable.  With the main characters being the staff of a ranger team, the drama leads the audience to a variety of stories about different rescues. But overall, the main theme of Jirisan is about discovering the mystery of Mount Jiri, how the rangers track down the lost individuals and find the truth about what happened in the unexplored regions of the mountain. Jirisan makes an impression on the viewers that it is not any ordinary drama focusing only on rescue missions or exploring the mountain, but there are also elements of thriller, horror, and even investigation.

Why did “Jirisan” starring Jeon Ji Hyun and Joo Ji Hoon debut to mixed reviews?

But Jirisan is a mixture of too many details that are not well-handled! 

The way the story of Jirisan opens up many mysteries and integrates numerous genres in just the first 4 episodes, is undeniably what makes Jirisan unique and more appealing to the viewers. However, it’s also a drawback. The overall problem in Jirisan is not too complicated, it’s actually just a matter of mountain rescue and discovering the force behind the accidents (or murders). But perhaps, writer Kim is being too greedy with the way she includes countless small details that cause the viewers to feel overwhelmed. While watching Jirisan, the audience must stay extremely focused and make sure they don’t miss out on anything. Should the writer receive compliments for making the audience concentrate on the drama? Not really, because it can cause the viewers to have a headache because the amount of information that needs to be absorbed is too large for a series that is supposed to be entertaining.

The interweaving of so many small details makes the production crew spend much effort on… listing out the drama’s genres. Starting off as a suspenseful thriller, gradually adding fictitious elements, combining with a bit of action, detective, romance, and even horror details. It is also likely that in the future, Jirisan will switch over to the survival genre. Otherwise, it would be a waste of the mountain setting, right? 

Why did “Jirisan” starring Jeon Ji Hyun and Joo Ji Hoon debut to mixed reviews?

Of course, embracing many genres, many small details is not a point worth criticizing, the problem is that the production crew did not handle those details well, making the drama overall become too complex, and basically turning it into a mess. Within the first 4 episodes, the stories of the past – present are constantly intertwined. This can seriously confuse the viewers. Moreover, the color schemes of the scenes in different timelines are barely different, making it difficult to distinguish between the two periods of time. Perhaps the audience can only distinguish between the two contexts of 2018 and 2020 thanks to the female lead’s disabled legs. 

The cast lineup is the strong point of this drama? Not at all!

In fact, ‘Jirisan‘ received attention even before its release not because of its storyline (since the introduction given by the production team was quite boring), but the appearance of the two A-class actors, Jun Ji Hyun and Joo Ji Hoon. At that time, many people raised high expectations for great performances from this ‘Kingdom’ couple but forgot that Jun Ji Hyun has never been recognized for her acting skills. Compared to her previous roles, Seo Yi Kang in ‘Jirisan‘ is much more mature, silent and stronger. However, apart from her changing of images, Jun Ji Hyun‘s acting and the way she says her lines left no impression on the audiences. For all this time, Jun Ji Hyun has always been known for the success of “My Sassy Girl” and “My Love from the Star“, but it seems like the fame of these successful dramas has already been out of date. In fact, starting from “Legend of the Blue Sea“, it could easily be recognized that Jun Ji Hyun‘s popularity is not the same as before. Netizens only know actress Jun Ji Hyun for her costly advertisements but could hardly point out any new hit dramas or movies.

Why did “Jirisan” starring Jeon Ji Hyun and Joo Ji Hoon debut to mixed reviews?

In the case of Joo Ji Hoon, he has become extremely famous in the past few years for his role in “Kingdom“. Apart from that, he didn’t have any impressive performance on the small screen. Joo Ji Hoon‘s acting skill is undeniable but the audiences found his chemistry with Jun Ji Hyun in ‘Jirisan‘ not as good as their expectations. The two neither look like a great team in survival nor a couple with an explosive loveline.

Why did “Jirisan” starring Jeon Ji Hyun and Joo Ji Hoon debut to mixed reviews?

The actors who play the supporting roles are also famous names who can even be comparable to Jun Ji Hyun in both acting experience and skills. However, their background stories were not explained thoroughly, and sometimes they even got excluded from the emergency rescues. It seems like the writer focused too much on the two leads and forgot about other roles. According to responses from the viewers, the most impressive character is the one played by the veteran actor Sung Dong Il, and they are hoping that ‘Jirisan‘ will portray his story well in its next episodes.

Why did “Jirisan” starring Jeon Ji Hyun and Joo Ji Hoon debut to mixed reviews?

In conclusion

Jirrisan‘ is definitely not a bad drama. However, the problem may lie in the writer being so greedy. It seems like she wanted to tell too many stories in just one drama. In fact, the viewers were not only disappointed about the acting, they also found ‘sands’ in the scene transitions and CG effects!

New episodes of ‘Jirisan‘ will air on the evening of every Saturday and Sunday.


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