This year, K-drama fans have seen their fair share of series in which the debilitating condition of cancer was used as a major concept in its plot and direction. The latest K-drama to utilize said concept is Fantastic, a series starring Kim Hyun Joo (Boys Over Flowers, I Have a Lover) and Joo Sang Wook (Birth of a Beauty, Glamorous Temptation). Actually, Fantastic was very similar to another K-drama that utilized cancer as a concept, the heavily promoted Uncontrollably Fond. In fact, many believe Fantastic succeeded in executing the direction of said concept where Uncontrollably Fond failed.
Besides the aforementioned, Fantastic continued its run, attaining a devoted viewership that was quite high for a K-drama series airing on Korean pay television. Today on Saturday, October 22, it aired its finale which ended with high viewership ratings. Unfortunately, it continued the trend of providing a “safe” conclusion for a K-drama utilizing cancer as a plot concept, if not “safer.”
Before continuing, it must be stressed this article contains spoilers for the penultimate episode and finale for Fantastic. For K-drama fans who do not want to read spoilers, skip to the second-to-the-last paragraph detailing viewership ratings. [WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!] Anyway, it seemed as if Fantastic was well on its way on being the first K-drama to make an impact when it comes to providing an ending that will make it stand out from the rest. Typically in K-dramas, especially ones that are romantic, the endings are often happy. However, a K-drama that utilizes cancer as a concept has the opportunity of showing the other outcome of cancer, one that happens a lot, the cancer patient passing away. So far, all three major K-dramas using cancer as a concept — Marriage Contract, Uncontrollably Fond, and Fantastic — have either dodged or avoided the touchy outcome.
To be fair, Fantastic wasn’t 100 percent a “happily ever after.” The penultimate episode featured the funeral of Hong Joon Gi (Kim Tae Hoon). The second male lead is a doctor who has cancer himself. Unlike most second male leads who pursue the primary female lead, Joon Gi steps back so that Lee So Hye (Kim Hyun Joo) can be with Ryu Hae Sung (Joo Sang Wook). He nominates himself as “Number Two” to So Hye and even becomes a “big brother” to Hae Sung. Anyway, watching Joon Gi’s funeral was heartbreaking as many K-drama fans of the show thought he would make it given all the “close calls” he suffered. In the end, Hong Joon Gi passes away.
JTBC probably thought Hong Joon Gi passing away would be enough of an impact to hit K-drama viewers right in the core of their emotions. True, it was a huge loss and K-drama fans sure felt it, but it would not have been as big as an impact if Lee So Hye were to pass away from her cancer leaving behind Ryu Hae Sung. Showing that Hae Sung can still be happy after his time of grieving, remembering So Hye and cherishing the limited time they had together would be more of an impact in showing how precious life can be.
Maybe it is better to be safe than sorry as the other two K-dramas that utilized cancer as a major concept for the plot and direction, Marriage Contract and Uncontrollably Fond, ended “safely” too, avoiding the aforementioned direction. In the former, the situation is left with a cliffhanger for the viewers to debate if Kang Hye Soo (UEE) survives or not. In the latter, signs are given that support either Shin Joon Young (Kim Woo Bin) surviving or dying, but we are never given a clear-cut answer.
Ultimately, JTBC must be happy with how Fantastic concluded as the viewership ratings were very favorable. According to both Nielsen Korea and TNmS Media Korea, their nationwide viewership ratings were 2.400 percent and 2.2 percent respectively. Adjusted to free-to-watch Korean television, it is probably around 12 to 15 percent, thus making it better than most Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) K-dramas airing right now actually.
[Featured Image by JTBC]