Hello everyone, I’m here to share with you my review for OCN cult thriller, Save Me. This review is not recent, as it was written immediately after the show originally aired, but since I will be reviewing the second season, I felt that it would be good to present this review to you first. I hope you’ll enjoy this review nonetheless, and I plan to return with a review for Save Me 2 once I have finished watching it.
[Be Forewarned: Spoilers Below].
Solid, Original Story: This drama had dependable writing. The direction of the show was coherent and the content well delivered. It kept you interested, it kept you watching, and it remained consistent from start to finish. The cult concept was fresh compared to other cliche crime or fantasy thrillers. Even though the show was fictitious, it was inspired by real experiences, in that cults are indeed an issue in South Korea—and they handled this topic quite well. The accuracy with which they were able to portray cult hysteria was exquisite. Sang Mi’s father, for example, was an excellent showing of how one can become vulnerable to these dangerous factions. This show didn’t shy away from the grim realities of life either, touching on topics such as bullying, mental illness, suicide, sexual assault, and murder just to name a few. It made for a very exhausting and disheartening atmosphere, and I noticed a lot of people tuning out because it was a bit too much for them to handle. I don’t blame any of these people. Since it does such a good job of unfolding through Sang Mi’s perspective, you feel as though you’re right there suffering along with her through each traumatic experience. Aside from being raw and dispiriting, the show is dark and ominous in ways distinct from the typical crime show. Save Me isn’t creepy in the average sense of the term. I’m a horror fanatic who pretty much never gets uncomfortable. Whether it’s blood and guts, clowns, serial killers, you name it—I’ve seen it and I’m unbothered. However, this show did manage to give me the heebee jeebees. Every time Apostle Jo verbally or physically threatened Sang Mi, I couldn’t rid myself of the sickening nausea building up in the pit of my stomach. That scene where he finds her in the dimly lit torture basement and puts his own face like .03 tenths of a millimeter away from her face??? I’ll never recover from just how disgusting it made me feel even though I was neither party. His smile alone was enough to send me into an anxious state (major props to Jo Jae Yun who I’ll talk more about below). The Spiritual Father easily chilled the very core of my bones as well. Every time he so much as looked at Sang Mi I felt an overwhelming urge to take a cold shower. I wasn’t even the person he was laying those nightmarish eyes on, and yet I still felt compelled to cleanse myself of his sinister gaze. Overall, I must applaud this show for being captivating, disturbing, and ruthless as promised.
Nice OST: Not much needs to be said here. This OST really complemented the mood of the drama, highlighted moments of tension, and enriched scenes of sadness and desperation. Nothing felt out of place, or jarring. Excellent job on the composer’s part.
Non-Romantic Focus: Many people were really salty about there not being a clear romantic direction with this drama. Some people wanted Dong Chul x Sang Mi, others wanted Sang Hwan x Sang Mi. I wanted neither. I love that this show ends with the five of them simply being friends, because that alone is enough. In the beginning, Sang Mi and Sang Jin had no friends. They were bullied, and just when they thought they had a friend, a young and naive Sang Hwan abandons them in their time of need. The grueling years she spent in the cult, and the challenges the boys faced trying to free her, are the backbone of what develops into their unbreakable bond. When you see them all gathered there in that last scene, you know that this group of young adults are deeply connected. It shows in the way they interact, as well as through the smile of content on Sang Mi’s face; a smile that was missing for a majority of the drama. Letting them all come out alive, contented in something as small and simple as their friendship…that’s what felt most appropriate. Because romance was never the focus of the drama, nor should it have been, and if that’s what you were most concerned about, I’m afraid to inform you that you missed the entire point of this drama.
Fantastic Cast & Characters:
Dong Chul (Woo Do Hwan): Like many others, this was my first time seeing Woo Do Hwan in any sort of role. I thought he was excellent, and really pulled the character off well. He definitely outperformed Taec (no shade!), especially when it came to the more heavy hitting emotional scenes. He had an ease about him that made his character casual and believable. I also liked the character of Dong Chul more than Sang Hwan. While I learned to appreciate Sang Hwan, Dong Chul was already level headed from the start. He never wavered from his beliefs, and did what was right no matter how much trouble it got him in. He definitely sacrificed a lot for Sang Mi’s sake, and yet, he always remained humble. I liked that he was mature enough to forgive Sang Hwan rather than hold a grudge. While Sang Hwan may have been the brains, Dong Chul was, by far, the gutsiest one of the group and it showed when he infiltrated Guseonwon and didn’t step down despite the increasing danger with each passing day.
Sang Mi (Seo Ye Ji): I’ve been following Ye Ji for a while and I must say she has some pretty bad luck with projects, whether it be Moorim School, Night Watchman or the the dreaded Hwarang. Many people blamed her acting when, in reality, the fault was in the shitty writing that plagued all three of those disastrous dramas (no offense to anyone who may love them!). Naturally, I lit up like a tree when I heard she’d been cast for this role. I knew this character would test her abilities, but also be that chance to silence the doubtful. Thankfully, she did just that. Ye Ji owned this role. Her performance was powerful, engaging, and evoked my empathy right from the start. The amount of emotion she was able to conjure up with just her eyes alone was truly worthy of praise. When she was devastated, you felt devastated. When she was defeated, you felt defeated. When she was angry, you felt angry. Every emotion she portrayed came through loud and clear, with an authenticity that drew the audience in. The character of Sang Mi was also praiseworthy. Sure, the drama was about saving her, but this woman was selfless, enduring, and resilient. Sang Mi couldn’t have escaped with the help of her friends alone. The hard work, abuse, and mental battle she withstood all played a crucial role in the unraveling of Guseonwon. Had she given up, we would not have a story to tell. The dedication to her family, her concern for the welfare of the friends helping her and other victims of the cult, and her perseverance to prevent future victims, make her an inspirational and commendable female character. I loved, loved, loved when she told Sang Hwan she was going to walk out of there on her own two feet and proceeded to do so. And I love that Sang Hwan stood back and allowed her to have that moment, instead of infringing on it, because it was the most triumphant moment of the drama for me and for Sang Mi.
Apostle Jo (Jo Jae Yun): Now, all three of the original apostles were outstandingly portrayed. However, I must admit, Jo Jae Yun was my favorite of the bunch. This man knows his stuff. He was by far the creepiest of the three for me. Something about the incredibly ominous nature of his presence, and the sinister intent that laced his eyes in every scene just freaked me the f**k out. I loved the way he could switch in and out of his pleasant cult facade with ease, putting on that fake smile for the members, but then eyeing Spiritual Father with rage later on. He was incredibly grotesque at his core. They make him out to be a greedy money monger, but he’s much more than that. The way he murdered (even a child) without second thought; the way he sexually harassed Sang Mi without having to even lay a finger on her; the way he raped that woman in the forest; the way he bludgeoned the homeless victims, his brother, and the group of boys trying to save Sang Mi; and the way he so casually tried to tell Spiritual Father he could simply find him another girl to play with. Every dirty deed he committed was with such a greasy and satisfied demeanor on his part. He was so contented and un-remorseful of his actions that even the Spiritual Father somehow felt less intimidating and foul to me (and that’s not to say Spiritual Father was remorseful, because I don’t think he really was… except for maybe in the final few flashbacks he experiences in his final moment in the flames).
Apostle Kang (Park Ji Young): I’ll talk about Apostle Kang as a character later on, but here I just want to give accolades to Park Ji Young, a woman who always pulls off a menacing character well. We saw it in Scarlet Heart Ryeo and we see it again here. This woman is a force to be reckoned with. I loved the way she spit out her lines with such venom when things weren’t going her way, and the use of that passive aggressive tone when she had to deal with an uncooperative Apostle Jo, or combative Sang Mi was a nice touch. It really solidified that fake nice vibe she was dealing out. In a way, her character felt very Stepford Wives to me. She was so brainwashed into believing that “the paradise” could save her and her daughter, that she acted very robotic in her completion of the cult’s more gruesome deeds. She tried to remain emotionless for the most part, but always smiled to Sang Mi’s face as if she had her best interest at heart. Pretty unsettling.
Apostle Im (Jung Hae Kyun): Listen, I think we can all agree that Apostle Im/Sang Mi’s dad was the absolute worst of the worst. He really set himself up for disaster and consequently got sucked into the vortex of satanic thought and madness. However, putting my feelings for his trash ass aside, I have got to hand it to Jung Hae Kyun, who honestly nailed this character. I really bought into Apostle Im’s hysteria, and this is all thanks to Hae Kyun really mastering that look of delirium and frenzy in his face every time he was involved with cult activities and discussions. We witnessed a slow progression into insanity, which I appreciated. Had he rushed this, it wouldn’t have felt genuine. The look of disgust and anger he wore whenever Sang Mi tried to talk him out of his mania was absolutely tragic, but spot on. All in all, casting these four veteran actors was a magnificent choice. They definitely stole the show, and delivered some stomach churning performances.
Spiritual Father (Cho Seong Ha): I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at Cho Seong Ha the same way again after this drama. He was a beast in this role. This man is a legend. Even though Spiritual Father made me SUUUUUppperrrRR uncomfortable, I enjoyed this character because of Seong Ha’s potent and thoughtful performance. This dude understands the meaning of less is best, and knew when to sit back and let his facial expressions and body language do the talking, rather than feeling the need to overcompensate by elevating his voice in unnecessary circumstances. Obviously, he would raise his voice for the preaching sermons, but, this was done meticulously, and he only changed his pitch at the perfect moments to get that persuasive and authoritative edge over his listeners. Listen, one look from him was enough to send me over the edge. It made me feel like bugs were crawling all over my skin. Super gross. You could just feel the perverseness radiating out of him and it was so overwhelmingly vulgar. His character was less complex than expected, yet still interesting. He was a phony preacher, who simply wanted to have young girls against their will for his pleasure, yet he still acted as though he believed in his faulty powers. Even when talking privately with Apostle Jo, he never gave up his “Almighty” act. Some of the best scenes, hands down, were the tense conflicts he had with Apostle Jo. I loved the one where he pushed Apostle Jo down on the floor to his knees. Such a powerful and heated interaction.
Themes of Friendship/Trust: The heart of this drama revealed the importance of friends/family cultivating and maintaining a deep trust in one another despite the tumultuous obstacles they faced. Trust was at the core of this show. It’s the flaw that quite literally tore the cult leaders apart. None of them could trust each other, and that is ultimately what caused their demise. Sadly, lack of trust is what drove apostle Kang to figure out Reporter Hong So Rin’s identity, which led to her death later on. Trust between father and son deteriorated over time, causing Sang Hwan to discover the truth about his father’s vile nature. A rekindled trust in Sang Hwan is ultimately what gives Sang Mi the strength to keep it together even during the most grim cult experiences. Sang Mi’s trust in Sang Hwan to save her, is also what inspires Dong Chul to reunite and renew his trust in Sang Hwan as well. The newfound trust these two friends build, is undoubtedly crucial to the success of their rescue mission. Trust in the appealing nature of the cult’s paradise (despite its falsity) is what keeps Sang Mi’s father in a shockingly irrational state, eventually severing any trust he had in his daughter. Trust in her daughter was the glue that held Sang Mi’s mother together once she came back to her senses. Trust in the detective to do the right thing is what drove Sang Hwan to keep finding and delivering sufficient evidence in order to convince him of the cult’s crimes. Of course, there were many other scenes dealing with this theme, but I think you get the point.
Satisfying Ending: The ending of this show, though a tad bit rushed, especially in episode fifteen, was pretty satisfying overall. Aside from a few mysteries I listed above in the flaws section, everything did turn out better than I had hoped. I figured Dong Chul might have to be sacrificed in order for the show to live, but thankfully, they let all four of our quirky heroes live on. I’ll admit I was sad that Hong So Rin was sacrificed, but I can see why they did it. Especially since Dong Chul survived, they couldn’t afford to keep So Rin alive, as that would have been way too unrealistic. It was nice to see Spiritual Father get a crispy demise right in front of his altar. I also relished in Jo Wan Tae’s second arrest. Boy did he look pathetic. It was satisfying to see him hauled off. I already mentioned my disappointment with Apostle Kang so I’ll leave that one alone. I wasn’t surprised that Sang Mi’s father, Apostle Im, was out on the streets still 1000% committed to Guseonwon and the paradise. It would have been unbelievable at this point to initiate a belated turn around. Having Taec’s character, Sang Hwan, leave for the military was a nice touch since he was actually enlisting in real life during that time. I thought it was a clever idea, and a great way to create a purpose for all five of our main characters to get together after the big takedown. And finally, seeing Sang Mi and her mother with smiles on their faces was the therapy I needed after this long ride of a show.
THEMES & STANDOUT SCENES:
Father & Son Conflict: This show had quite a few pairs of damaged father and son relationships and it was intriguing to watch them all unfold. For example, Dong Chul and his father start out on a terrible note. The father is a homeless drunkard who verbally abuses his son in his intoxicated state. He doesn’t show up to Dong Chul’s grandmother’s funeral, which really hurts Dong Chul. However, in the final episode Dong Chul reunites with his father in the dingy torture basement of Guseonwon. There, he realizes his father never made the funeral because he was kidnapped by the cult and held captive there. The tearful reunification scene is both tragic and touching. Later, after the Guseonwon takedown, the father and son share a moment together in the hospital. Dong Chul’s father asks if they could eat jajangmyeon together, which is one of Dong Chul’s favorites. Dong Chul agress, and it’s great to see them taking steps toward patching up their relationship. A similar situation plays out between Jung Hoon and Officer Woo. His father became a corrupt aid to Guseonwon in an effort to earn money for his beloved son’s tuition. He hides this fact from Jung Hoon, who accidentally discovers it one night when trying to collect footage that could serve as incriminating evidence against Guseonwon. Jung Hoon becomes very conflicted, but ultimately decides not to broach the subject with his father. After officer Choi confronts Officer Woo, who was like a stand in father to her, he decides to take responsibility for his actions, and reveal the truth to his son. The two also have a cute moment in the final episode, where Jung Hoon tries to encourage his dad’s participation in his live web show eating super spicy jajangmyeon. Officer Woo can’t handle the heat, and runs out of the restaurant after playfully smushing his son’s face into the bowl of jajangmyeon. Unfortunately for Sang Hwan and Governor Han (Son Byung Ho), there is no happy ending. As I’ll mention below, the two had a very rocky relationship, especially after Sang Hwan started to catch onto his father’s antics. In the beginning, a naive Sang Hwan trusts his father, who easily manipulates him for self benefit. As Sang Hwan grows older, wiser, and more mature, he begins to ask his dad the questions that matter, putting him in a hot spot on multiple occasions. As an experienced politician, Governor Han has no issue deceiving and and throwing his son under the bus if it means he can keep his career thriving. His mistake was underestimating his son’s abilities. Sang Hwan proves to be a worthy foe, and ultimately exposes his father for the scummy politician (who attempted to murder his own wife) that he is.
Sang Mi & Apostle Im: This relationship crumbled the moment Sang Jin died. As Sang Mi’s mother became more and more debilitated from her depression, Sang Mi’s father grew more and more desperate. The cult capitalizes on the vulnerable nature of this family and uses it as a stepping stone to advance their hold over the town, and to catch Spiritual Father some new sexual bait. In his efforts to pull his family together after they’ve been duped out of the new house they were supposed to move into, Sang Mi’s dad clings onto the cult and talks himself into believing it can lead him and his family to true happiness. He ignores all of Sang Mi’s initial attempts to stay away from the strange denomination (even before Sang Jin’s death), but he ignores these red flags, and eventually stops listening to her all together unless she’s in agreement with him. Sang Jin’s death only perpetuates this dedication to the cult, and pulls him further and further into hysteria. I was hoping he could come out of it, but once I saw his indifference to Sang Mi’s emotional pleas; his anger at her refusal to comply with cult rules; and his insistence that Sang Mi become Spiritual Mother, I knew he was a goner for sure. I was satisfied that she finally gave up on him in the end, and left with just her mother, because after what he put her through, he no longer deserves her love.
Apostle Kang’s Internal Conflict: Apostle Kang’s journey during the whole mess was very engaging to watch. It was difficult to figure her out. She was a victim to the Spiritual Father’s antics at the previous church where it seems he took interest in her, but only as a means to take advantage of her daughter, Yu Ra. We find out that she killed her husband because he was an abusive man who thought she was cheating on him with the Spiritual Father. The cult provided a refuge for her from her husband, and later, Jo Wan Tae even covers up her crime. This puts Apostle Kang in a troublesome spot. She becomes indebted to the Spiritual Father, and ends up having to sacrifice her daughter to him as a sexual offering. Her daughter fights this, but ends up killing herself when it all becomes too overwhelming for her to handle. The guilt from her daughter’s death clearly haunts Apostle Kang, who, overtime, increasingly begins to see her daughter in Sang Mi. Yet, instead of aiding Sang Mi, she first resorts to treating her cruelly so as not to become tempted or shaken from her faith. However, she eventually starts to break down. Though she continues her filthy work, she softens a bit, which shows when she lets Dong Chul go (despite finding out his identity), and also lets Sang Mi’s mother escape. I really wanted to see Apostle Kang make the realization about Spiritual Father sooner, and I wish she could have redeemed herself by playing and active role in helping Sang Mi, since she certainly had motivation (her daughter) to do so. If she were guilty in the normal sense of the word, she would have let this guilt inspire her not to let this shit go down a second time with Sang Mi. Instead, she tries to cover up her guilt by relying on the idea of going to the “paradise” as the way to reconcile for her sins. Apostle Kang remains so desperate to go to the “paradise” up until the end because in her mind, getting herself and her daughter there will save them from all that has happened. It’s also a way for her to shrug off the responsibility for what happened, because she’s clearly not mentally or emotionally stable enough to come to terms with all that she let happen to her daughter. The show decides not to change her for the better, but instead made these changed attitudes the result of her edging further and further from reality. She reckons that she can still reach the paradise without spiritual father, and by her own means, now that she has the power to deem herself the new Spiritual Mother. I found this tragic and disappointing at the same time. She’ll never reach the paradise, she’ll never truly relieve herself of that guilt, and she’ll be continuing to mar her character by keeping the cult alive. She was the one Apostle that I hoped could turn herself around and repent for her actions, but sadly, we don’t get to see that in this show.
Two Moms: There was a point where I had lost almost all hope in Sang Mi’s mother (Yun Yoo Sun). I thought Sang Mi’s dad was going to be the reliable one until I noticed him quickly plummeting further and further into the rabbit hole of cultish demon spawn. Boy was I relieved when I noticed So Rin intercepting those crazy pills they had Sang Mi’s mom jacked up on. Not only did it provide an explanation as to why she was so delirious, it also showed us that it wasn’t her own mental weakness, but instead and outside factor, that had caused her to become enamored with the cult’s beliefs. Once she started gaining her agency back, I was rooting for her so hard. I felt so bad when she realized her husband was too far off the deep end to recover, and that her daughter was getting ready to be sacrificed as a sexual offering to a phony, old pervert. I was really touched when the mother and daughter finally got to have their first normal discussion and how Dong Chul provided a means of communication between the two. I was happier that Sang Mi came out of the whole ordeal with her mother, rather than her father, because unlike her mother, her father’s actions were so ludicrous, I wouldn’t have been able to forgive him. The other mom character I liked, though she had significantly less screen time, was Sang Hwan’s mother (Kang Kyung Hun). Despite being paralyzed and seemingly powerless for most of the show, she really proved to be an intelligent, key player in this mess. Had she not made the game changing move to record all of her husband’s treachery on her recorder, they never could have sunk his ship the way they did. It took grit and determination for her to be able to move herself out of that bed by the later episodes. When she called Sang Hwan, I got the chills. I knew this woman was about to make a powerful move, and that it would be in her son’s favor, because it was clear from the look in her eyes every time he visited her, that she loved him. I’m so thankful that she got to have her moment of triumph over her filthy excuse for a husband, and that she does it together with Sang Hwan. Finally, one of my favorite scenes is the one shared between her and Sang Mi’s mom. Watching Sang Mi’s mom take control of that situation by using her quick wit to steal the phone and call Sang Hwan was amazing, and showed how, despite their vulnerable positions, these women had spunk and resolve.
Sang Hwan’s Growth: I’ve seen a TON of hate comments directed towards Sang Hwan and I admit I used to be one of those people circa the first few episodes. However, you’d be foolish not to admit that Sang Hwan’s character showcases an extreme amount of growth after owning up to, and learning how to recover from his mistakes. Yes, he chose not to help Sang Mi/Sang Jin, and then turns his back on Dong Chul, but he takes full responsibility for these two blunders, and makes up for it in his efforts to rescue Sang Mi. What people need to understand, is that he had no idea his father had purposefully injured his mother, and in his eyes, his father’s becoming governor was the magical cure that could pull her out of her illness. Remember, he was only in high school, and he was being played by his manipulative mastermind of a father. Had he known his father’s true intent, and the true story behind his mother’s condition, he probably wouldn’t have made the wrong choice. Also, he trusted his father. He made his decision with the confidence that his father was going to follow through and assist Dong Chul. His father broke that trust, which is a factor outside of Sang Hwan’s control. But perhaps the biggest evidence of his growth is Sang Hwan’s persistent guilt. There’s not a single episode where we don’t see Sang Hwan being swallowed whole by regret. This is what sets Sang Hwan apart from others who make these kinds of mistakes. Instead of forgetting about it, or acting as if there’s nothing he can do to change it, Sang Hwan lets his remorse motivate him to become a better, stronger person, who sticks to his convictions. And that’s exactly what Sang Hwan does as the second half of the drama begins to test him on an entirely different level than ever before.
The mission to save Sang Mi is Sang Hwan’s way of learning from and reconciling his past mistakes. He proves that he’s not all talk by following through on his promises this time around. He never gives up on Sang Mi, even when she’s blackmailed into telling him she doesn’t need help. He remains persistent, and determined to make sure that’s the case before giving up on her. When the police give him a hard time, Sang Hwan does the police work himself, and becomes the driving force who finally coerces the detective into helping them take down Guseonwon. Sang Hwan takes several risks, and makes many sacrifices in his efforts to destroy the cult. Succeeding in his mission requires him to metaphorically tie the noose around his own father’s neck. Just because his father was a scumbag, doesn’t make it any easier for Sang Hwan to have to come to terms with that fact. His father is someone whom he trusted, someone he looked up to. Finding out his father was corrupt and vile, and then realizing he’d have to dig his own father’s grave in order to set Sang Mi and his mother free, must have been excruciating for Sang Hwan. These sacrifices shouldn’t go unnoticed. In the process of this whole tribulation, just like Dong Chul, Sang Hwan puts his life on the line countless times. Every time he was out on the streets, he could have been found and bloodied to death by Apostle Jo and his mute brother; when he sneaks into Guseonwon, and even the Spiritual Father’s office to record him, he could have been found and murdered; and finally, his own father easily could have had him killed had he not been so careful enough to hide his intentions and findings.
Taecyeon as Sang Hwan: My apologies to any Taecyeon fans out there. He truly seems like a sweet guy, but sadly, he stuck out like a sore thumb amongst this cluster of solid actors and actresses alike. I haven’t seen any of his previous work, so I can’t speak to his abilities on the whole, but I can say, that his performance in this show, was indeed a setback. It made Sang Hwan hard to like, and helped the character of Dong Chul (superlatively portrayed by Woo Do Hwan) to overshadow him. Now, the biggest issue I had with Taec was his failure to deliver his lines with sufficient and believable emotion, which consequently, made it hard to invest/empathize with his character. His face looked quite blank most of the time, and when he wasn’t wearing the same old tired expression, it ended up looking forced and awkward. For example, in scenes that required anger, shock, sorrow, ect., it came across as if he were trying too hard to look the way he thought these emotions should look. It’s like you could see his whole thought process as he was going through the motions in the present moment. You could tell he was having a hard time, because his demeanor always seemed so stiff when compared to the others. Now, I will give Taec some credit where it is due. Unlike some other unfortunate actors/actresses I’ve had the terror of coming across, I really appreciated the effort he put into his performance. Even if it wasn’t successful, it was obvious that the poor man was dedicated, and enthusiastic about the role, and that this was him giving it his all. I’d rather see someone trying their best and falling short, than someone who half-asses the performance and still somehow gets praise for a mediocre job.
Poor Use of Side Characters: There were quite a few interesting side characters in this show, that unfortunately, felt underutilized. Someone like Joon Koo (Go Joon) seemed more like an accessory that came and went like the wind. I thought we were going to get his full backstory at some point, but I guess that was wishful thinking. Similarly, the character Dae Shik (Lee Jae Joon) peaked my interest. We got some insight into his character, but not enough for my taste. Just when his relationship with Dong Chul became complex, they kind of pushed him out of the drama. He shows up one more time in a later episode to try and burn down Guseonwon, but not much happens, and he disappears all together afterward. I thought it was also kind of clumsy to have the diner auntie (Choi Hyuk Joo) show up at the cult as a visitor toward the end of the show. I think they were trying to put a creepy surprise in there, but nothing ever came out of it and it felt quite pointless. Why take a character we like and put her anywhere near Guseonwon if it’s not really necessary? Finally, it may have just been me, but I had a burning desire to see Jo Wan Deok (Son Sang Gyeong) stand up against his brother, who constantly abused him and manipulated him into doing his dirty work. In case you forgot, Wan Deok was Wan Tae or Apostle Jo’s mute brother. I couldn’t tell whether he was just mute or wether he was also supposed to be a bit slow/mentally delayed, but either way, it’s clear that his brother’s maltreatment of him influenced his choice to continue doing his bidding. I really wanted to see him try and fight back but, sadly, that never happened. Not all dramas can be perfect.
Episode 12’s Cliffhanger: I did take issue with one of the later episodes using the almost rape scene between Spiritual Father and Sang Mi as a cut off for the next episode. It was was kind of grotesque to try maintain viewership for the following episode by dangling the question of “Will she be raped??? Find out next week!!!” Some people might not care, but it was a pretty foul and not to mention disrespectful way to deal with such a sensitive topic. It just shows how the objectification of women or the concept of putting women out on display is often used to reel or lure viewers in, all in an attempt to keep their attention. I wished the show would have just let that scene play out in full rather than saving it to use as bait for the following week. Of course, I’ve seen this type of thing play out before, but in this case in particular, I felt it went against the very ideology of this drama, so it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Apostle Kang, Scot Free?: I can’t be the only one who is still baffled by the fact that Apostle Kang wasn’t hauled off to jail or even questioned. I’m not sure where the logic behind this portion of the final episode lies, but I find her emergence as Guseonwon’s new leader to be anti-climactic and disappointing at that. I think the writers thought it would be haunting to have her take up the Spiritual Father’s position and that the perpetuation of the cult would serve as an eerie, chilling ending, but what chills my bones isn’t the fact that the cult survives, it’s the fact that the writers thought we weren’t going to feel outraged and cheated at her miraculous ability to avoid punishment. Some might try to find or impose poetic meaning and value in/on her newfound role as Spiritual Mother, claiming it to be a type of mental punishment; in other words, she’ll be stuck living in that crazed, misguided, mentality for life, and will never actually reach the paradise she so desperately seeks. However, that doesn’t content me. It’s not enough. She was an active participant in systematic kidnapping, drugging, murder, and abuse—just to name a few of her crimes. There’s absolutely no way that she should have been left alone to pursue what she wanted, without facing any sort of consequences whatsoever, unlike her peers. This was the most troublesome issue I had with the show’s ending.
Officer Woo’s Fate?: The other big question I had was about Officer Woo (Kim Kwang Kyu). Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was very confused about what actually ended up happening with him. They show him ordering Officer Choi to arrest him along with Apostle Jo, as if he were going to receive a punishment. However, later on, we see him dressed as a civilian, spending time with his son at a jajangmyeon restaurant. I assume that if he were in jail for working in cahoots with Guseonwon, he wouldn’t be able to walk about freely in civilian clothes. I’m wondering if this means he didn’t get jail time, but maybe lost his badge instead? Or maybe his choice to confess his crimes and assist with the destruction of Guseonwon was enough for them to lighten (or even grant him immunity) his punishment? I was a little miffed that they didn’t make this more clear, but I admit I was happy to see him smiling and bonding with his son.
This was an excellent drama. It was intense, it was heinous, and it was original. OCN gave me the exact show that they promised. I will warn you: the story is unquestionably somber, and certainly not recommended for anyone who might not be in the right mindset to view it. It will leave you feeling dejected and distressed and you will become agitated and uneasy as you watch some of the more troubling situations play out. However, if you are up for the challenge, I encourage you to give this show a try. Whether it be the acting, narrative, or distinct layers of emotion this show was able to tap into, Save Me doesn’t fall short, and it will stick with you, even after it’s run its course.
Did you watch Save Me? What did you think of the drama? If you haven’t already, you can check out the extended preview here.
Written by: Noël / @LEEJUNKL