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Jirisan midseason recap: Jun Ji-hyun can't save messy K-drama

Jirisan, the highly anticipated Korean streaming drama suffers from a lukewarm story, sprinkled with supernatural insanity of what could’ve been an action-packed punch. 

What’s worse is its traversing timelines, unnecessary flashbacks and devoid of events that should’ve been crucial to the plot development.

Let’s look at our overall review of this Korean mountaineering drama in this SG News.

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Initial reaction

What makes Jirisan a highly anticipated series this year is the expectation that Ju Ji-Hyun will deliver a daring mountaineering adventure while battling the elements ala Cliffhanger. However, this star-studded, highly financed series has caused an apathetic response from audiences after a huge kickoff weekend.

The core dilemma with the series, which also stars Kingdom’s Ju Ji-hoon, and directed by Lee Eung-bok of Descendants of the Sun and Kingdom writer Kim Eun-hee, is its failure to deliver a satisfying product despite the hype.

Most of the audiences are expecting the series to provide stunning action-packed moments while in the backdrop of mountaineering set pieces, added with a budding romance between the main characters that might create the main conflict, and a side comic relief involving a ranger friend. However, the drama delivers a diluted story filled with supernatural nonsense that is traversed between two timelines.

Synopsis

The story started in 2018, Kang Hyun-ju, played by Ji-hyun came to the Jirisan National Park as an intern ranger and was forced to trek the mountain in search of a teenager along with his ranger friend, Seo Yi-gang, played by Ji-hoon.

At the penultimate moment in episode 1, we are transported to the year 2020, with Yi-gang now bound in a wheelchair working as a clerical employee in the same park. Hyun-Ju on the other hand is now in a coma that was caused by an enigmatic accident that happened in 2018 which will be revealed in later episodes.

At this point, the series interpolated with both the timelines jumping back and forth. We learned that Yi-gang and Hyun-ju are developing a romance in 2018 as they search for answers on the mountain. Meanwhile, in 2020, Yi-gang enlists new ranger Lee Da-won played by Go Min-si who aids her in her investigations on these mysterious events.

Moving forward

In the present, it now becomes apparent that a ghost is lurking in the mountains. However, we learned in episode four that the ghost is actually a projection of Hyun-Ju while in a ranger snowsuit, which doesn’t make sense since he is still alive albeit in a coma.

The story now suffers from the poor stitches of these two timelines juggling a plot that doesn’t make any sense at all and sometimes is injected with subplots that don’t help or contribute to the story.

It is now a marinated hodge-podge of story arcs that are traversed in a cursory structure that end up uninteresting. The narrative lacks supporting elements that should’ve been tied together with the important events.

Although the story is not yet over, it is highly doubtful at this point that the story will deliver a powerful ending. The present timeline explores the ghost of Hyun-Ju and its enigma, while the 2018 story is filled with subplots that aren’t tied up properly.

Overall verdict

The only good thing about the series is its occasional stunning shots, just like the one in an episode where the rangers are fighting a forest fire with firemen. It showcases a stunning shot of Yi-gang at night, standing within the inferno surrounded by fire, but other than that, the rest is awful.

If only the supernatural element and the parallel timelines were removed and focused instead on gritty action scenes with a real threat, Jirisan could have been awesome. It is a waste of a talented cast with the likes of Jun Ji-Hyun who is best known for her portrayal of The Girl in My Sassy Girl.

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