Welcome to part two of the Kdrama Analysis series! This is the series where we are taking apart, piece by piece two of my favorite Kdrama’s. And with the eyes and ears of a writer, we are examining the different elements of the Three Act Story Structure as they play out on the screen. The first series we are discussing is, Doom at Your Service. If you haven’t yet read part one, you can go back and read that first, then come back here to continue the discussion. Let’s get started!
Most stories, be they books, or film, contain sub-plots– “a secondary strand of the plot that is a supporting side story for any story or for the main plot. Subplots may connect to main plots, in either time or place or thematic significance.” Doom at Your Service is a great example of sub-plots done well. I never used to be a fan of sub-plots, since I felt they were only distractions from the main part of the story. But after watching Doom at Your Service, I changed my mind. I realized how a sub-plot that is artfully placed within the main plot, can bring a new dimension to the story and create an even more memorable, and impactful impression on the reader/viewer.
The sub-plot within the world of Doom at Your Service, focuses mainly on two characters– Mr. Cha, Dong Kyung’s supervisor at the publishing house, and her best friend, Na Ji Na, a writer at their company. There are some cinematic and thematic parallels between the two story-lines, which helps tie the stories together. We are first attracted to these characters because of their relationship to Dong Kyung. Mr. Cha is a bit mysterious, and not very friendly, yet we get the distinct impression he cares about Dong Kyung greatly. Similarly, Ji Na has been close friends with Dong Kyung since high-school, and we can see the strong bond of sisterhood between them. Their story picks up, when the ratings of Ji Na’s serial novel begin to tank, and Mr. Cha offers her a personal deal to assist her on her next project. Mr. Cha is a no-nonsense, straightforward person, not easily swayed by emotions. Ji Na, on the other hand, is a much more passionate and hot-blooded person.
As the story between Ji Na, and Mr. Cha unfolds, we find out that they share a rather complicated history when we had previously thought they were strangers. We learn of this, as Ji Na is prompted to finally confront her past, which she has been unwilling to let go of, until now. Mr. Cha is the driving force behind this change, and we begin to see a transformation in him as well. Much like Dong Kyung, Mr. Cha is pushed to find strength, and courage, to take hold of his life in pursuit of his own goals. This tale explores themes of forgiveness, and letting go.
This is one of my favorite sub-plots in all of fiction, because of how perfectly it is carried out. The story-line is solid, and could easily have had an entire show all on its own, but instead, it’s like an extra cherry on top. It is gripping, and intriguing, and helps flesh out the world of Doom at Your Service, and the characters who live there. Within this sub-plot there is a clear structure, with the major plot points occurring independently, yet simultaneously with the main plot. The writers of the show knew just how much screen time these characters needed to allow their story to be shown, without overriding the main story. And in a short amount of time, this series delivered a second, fully developed story that was just as deep and meaningful as the main plot.
The takeaway: striking a balance between the sub-plot(s), and main story, can be tricky to get right, but when done well, can enhance the overarching story-line, creating a final product with even greater depth, and memorability. Finding complimentary themes that spread across the differing narratives helps keep the reader/viewer grounded, and avoids any feelings of separation from the main plot.
The sub-plot within Doom at Your Service ticks all of these boxes, and gets a double thumbs-up from me.
Back to the main story.
At the end of part one, we left our main characters, Doom, and Dong Kyung, just as they are beginning to realize the flaws in their Misbelief. When the series began, the characters thought they had each other and the world at large, pegged. Doom thought that all humans were the same– unworthy of kindness, or empathy. And Dong Kyung thought it her duty to accept the fate that has been given her, denying her truest self. The characters take a huge step towards accepting the truth, but it is not yet absolute. This moment coincides with the Second Plot Point, a.k.a., the Midpoint. The Midpoint is a defining moment for the series, as the true nature of the situation comes to light.
At this time, Doom is the character undergoing the most change. His cold- as-ice demeanor is melting quickly, and there is even warmth where previously there was none. Dong Kyung has given Doom a new name– Saram, meaning “person” in Korean. It’s ironic that she gives someone with only a shadow of humanity, a name that reflects the exact opposite, and the irony is certainly not lost on Doom. But the person he was, in the beginning of the series is vastly different from the one we see now. After centuries of his cold, judgemental, dismissive view of humans, Dong Kyung has finally managed to breach the impenetrable fortress of his heart, and bring light into his dark and dying world. He displays this change of heart by his willingness to give up his life for Dong Kyung’s.
I mentioned in part one, that when the series starts we are lead to believe that Doom is the villain–yet now it is evident that someone else has been pulling the strings. I can’t say too much without giving away spoilers, but we come to understand that there are limits to Doom’s capabilities and certain boundaries he can’t cross. As this mysterious force begins to tighten the ropes around Doom, and Dong Kyung, we see them pushed to the limits of their will. For Dong Kyung, she is pushed to finally admit the truth– she wants to live. But when she is standing in the face of death, that is a terrifying admission to make. Dong Kyung’s one hundred days are almost up, and the rules of the deal are still in play. In order for Dong Kyung to live, Doom must perish. The main characters come to their ultimate realizations, and the heartbreaking consequences, just in time for the Climax.
In a shocking twist of events, which I will not tell you about, there is a moment when everything comes undone. All of the change, all of the progress, is seemingly destroyed. But our characters are not the same ones that started this series, for if they were, their actions and the outcome would be vastly different. Doom and Dong Kyung prove, not only to the viewers, but to themselves, and the mystery controller, that their transformation is real after all. Their acceptance of the Truth is whole-hearted, and though there may be obstacles in the way, the Truth is still stronger. In hindsight, the viewers will realize that the events that have taken place were a test, orchestrated by the mystery person. And no matter the outcome, the characters will have new meaning to their lives.
The admission of the Truth is of greater importance to them than clinging to the false comfort that the Lie had ever brought them.
The series concludes in a way that leaves the viewer satisfied, yet with plenty to think about afterwards. We are certain that the transformations which took place in the characters are permanent, and that they are forever changed. This series displays a creative use of the Three Act Story Structure, and gives a subtle twist on a lot of common tropes in fiction. Doom at Your Service is a story about change, acceptance, and sacrifice, and it offers an in-depth look at what it means to be human, and the intricacies therein.
I hope you enjoyed this conclusion to the first series of our Deep Dive analysis into Kdrama. I learned a lot from this study, and I hope you have too. But we’re not done yet, and I’m so excited for the next series! You won’t want to miss it.
Until next time,