CAST: Sung Dong-il, Ji Chang-wook, Seo Yeon-joo
DIRECTOR: Kim Yong-wan
If You Wish Upon Me’s wayward protagonist, Yoon Gyeo-rye is in emotional pain and you can see it as he flashes onto your screen and beyond.
Rummaging his way through juvenile institutions and prison sentences after a childhood in an orphanage, Yoon Gyeo-rye lives like he is afraid his life might run out, spends money by the fistful and tackles just about everything that comes his way with the same devil-may-care attitude because he does not have anything to lose.
Well almost. Except Sonny.
Just released from prison at the outset of the series, Yoon is being chased by thugs to whom he owes money. After giving his pursuers the runaround, he picks up that money at a veterinary clinic run by an old orphanage friend – as well as Sonny, the dog that he left in his care.
Sonny is dying and Yoon Gyeo-rye’s Vet friend recommends that he be put down to ease his suffering. But Yoon isn’t ready to make that decision. Instead, he opts to book the two of them into a swanky hotel suite and buy a flashy imported sports car.
While driving on the freeway, Yoon drives into an ambulance from the Woori Hospice carrying a dying elderly patient and several members of the Team Genie volunteer group, who aim to carry out the man’s last wish of seeing the beach in his hometown before he dies.
Team Genie leader Kang Tae-sik (Sung Dong-il) suffers a leg injury. Kang hobbles over to Yoon’s car, yanks him out by the collar and forces him to drive them, since he can no longer do so. The unlikely group then leaves the scene of the crime.
Team Genie succeed in taking the elderly patient to the beach in his hometown on the east coast. Meanwhile, a thoroughly distraught Yoon takes Sonny in his arms and starts walking into the sea, to kill himself, until Kang grabs his shoulder.
This accident doesn’t escape the attention of the cops and Yoon is slapped with a fine. But since he hates the government he refuses to pay it, which leaves only one option: community service.
Yoon shows up for duty in a gaudy shirt and jacket, kicking up dust with his speedster as he roars up to Woori Hospice, several hours late.
Yoon’s flashy attire and surly attitude don’t earn him many friends among his new colleagues, who include the kind-hearted but hard-headed MMA trainee Seo Yeon-joo (Girls’ Generation’s Sooyoung), who walks around with weights in her hands and starts her days exercising on the roof.
Soon in the midst of cheerful, warm colleagues and the heart-breaking deaths at the hospice center, Yoon starts to find his mindset to die change.
Yoon appears to have some other secrets yet to be revealed.
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If You Wish upon Me is a classic tear-jerker, though, and, given the palliative care setting where the dying have their last wishes granted – the script is a perfect mix of hope and despair and its protagonists grow on you as you watch them struggle with their own demons in the face of death of people they care for.
Sonny, the sweet little dog whose slowing heartbeat tormets Yoon as he relates to the dog as his son.
HERE IS THE TRAILER OF THE SHOW
In episode two, Yoon and Kang try to get a woman’s attention outside her home. The impatient Yoon hops over the wall and sees the woman holding and contemplating a noose, a sloppy entry into what becomes a parallel side plot.
In Episode 3, we realize that as much as Gyeo-rye seems like a tough cookie, thanks to his defiant demeanour and gangster-like appearance, we gradually come to discover that he isn’t at all a hard nut to crack. Beneath the young man’s proud, callous exterior is a loneliness and a softheartedness that had likely been suppressed by his challenging personal circumstances.
To his credit, Ji manages to capture aspects of Gyeo-rye’s duality: his guarded front and fleeting moments of vulnerability.
Episode 3 of If You Wish Upon Me sees Gyeo-re find himself sneaking into the locked room on the fourth floor of the hospice when Tae-sik tells him that the room has a ghost inside. Gyeo-re laughs and asks Tae-sik if he really is a good person who is helping people or if it was an act.
Tae-sik responds saying he isn’t sure if he is as he gets a text from Yeon-joo that Mr. Pyeon does not have much time left. At Mr. Pyeon’s old house, Team Genie gathers for the last supper as per his wish. Gyeo-re arrives with his belongings.
Yeon-joo bickers with him for a bit but as he notices Mr. Pyeon, he starts to smile awkwardly. Outside, Tae-sik spots the true owner, Hye-jin’s older son, Dong-ho trying to peek inside the house. He invites the child in and asks him to sit for the meal.
Team Genie waits for Mr. Pyeon’s estranged daughter who has arrived from the states with her husband and daughter. The family reconciles and Mr. Pyeon envisions his daughter in his grandchild. The entire group sit to eat but Gyeo-re is overwhelmed by the situation.
He sets off outside the house and he cribs about not being able to fit in with the rest. Hye-jin is waiting for her son when Tae-sik texts her to tell her he is with them. Dong-ho calls his mother to the local park and they finally reconcile.
The child has had a change of heart after hanging out with Mr. Pyeon and his estranged daughter. He asks his mother what made her decide on letting Mr. Pyeon fulfil his last wish. Hye-jin tells him that she was tired of the silence and wanted to end her life when Gyeo-re convinced her to change her mind.
Later that night, Mr. Pyeon passes away in his sleep as he looks at his daughter and the persimmons tree outside. Gyeo-re is in shock when he learns that Mr. Pyeon is no more, but Yeon-joo reassures him that everything will be alright.
The next day, Soon-ja and Tae-sik are discussing how Gyeo-re took Mr. Pyeon’s passing to his heart. That night, Gyeo-re gets drunk at a bar and invites Jin-goo, his childhood friend and vet over for some drinks. Jin-goo stoically states he is not Gyeo-re’s friend and that he does not even drink alcohol.
The two recall their childhood in the orphanage as Gyeo-re says he trusts him because Jin-goo did not laugh as the other kids did. After a while, Jin-goo takes a drunk Gyeo-re to the Hospice and leaves him to Tae-sik who is standing by the ambulance.
Gyeo-re goes inside the ambulance and shuts the door leaving Tae-sik outside and shelter less. The next morning, Gyeo-re wakes up on a makeshift bed inside the Team Genie common room. Yeon-joo has a break that she is spending with Sonny. The dog now has a small kennel Yeon-joo made for him.
Gyeo-re is shell-shocked and confused about how he got there. Yeon-joo and Gyeo-re bicker about her breaking the mirror of his car and having to pay him back. After her break has ended, Yeon-joo leaves while Tae-sik joins Gyeo-re in the room.
He hands Gyeo-re a hangover drink while the latter inquires about the room on the fourth floor of the hospice. Tae-sik tries to dismiss him by making up a story about there being a ghost but Gyeo-re is irritated. Gyeo-re attends a training session to be a Hospice volunteer and learns to write his will.
As he leaves, he notices Yeon-joo rushing to a cancer patient – Se-hee who is in pain. The patient asks to be given more painkillers and lashes at the nurse but Yeon-joo states that she has already had a lot for the day. Dr. Chi-hun asks the nurse to get more of the medicine.
Yeon-joo is hurt by Se-hee’s behavior as she picks the medicine from the cabinet while Gyeo-re observes her from outside. Meanwhile, Seo-jun visits Joon-kyung in prison asking her about the money that he could not get out of Gyeo-re. She slams him for exploiting her in the past when she used to be a cam girl.
Joon-kyung claims that she earned the sum but mentions that it burned into flames when Gyeo-re and she tried to kill themselves. She demands her $2 million back from Seo-jun and asks him to stop cribbing about the $300,00 he was looking for.
At the Hospice, Se-hee asks Tae-sik to grant her wish because she is not sure when she would pass. Tae-sik promises the young patient he will try his best to fulfil her wish of performing with the country’s biggest musical artist. Se-hee then apologizes to Yeon-joo for her bad behavior when she was in pain.
Yeon-joo is exercising on the rooftop when Gyeo-re walks in as he notices the nurse act cute. He then overhears Se-hee and Yeon-joo’s conversation about dealing with pain. Yeon-joo is directing her words as Gyeo-re who is listening from afar.
The nurse says that bearing pain to the end is not right and that people should scream and ask for help when they are suffering. Tae-sik and Se-jin are looking up the musical actor and idol – Pyo Gyu-tae who Se-hee wishes to perform a duet with and the student thinks it is impossible to meet him.
Gyeo-re sits alone pondering over Yeon-joo’s words when Tae-sik drags him along to Gyu-tae’s musical show. The two bicker about who will talk to the singer when Tae-sik sneaks into the green room with Gyeo-re’s help distracting the security.
Tae-sik realises that Gyu-tae is a mean person with a bad temper. As the actor leaves, Tae-sik attempts to convince Gyu-tae to help fulfil Se-hee’s wish. Gyu-tae declines the offer and leaves as a group of his fans push Tae-sik away. Gyeo-re holds the old man as he falls but Tae-sik desperately tries to call out to Gyu-tae.
At the Hospice, Gyeo-re helps Soon-ja prepare food for the family members of the patients. Soon-ja talks to the guardians and shares her story about how she came to the hospice accompanying her daughter who was suffering from Leukaemia like Se-hee.
Gyeo-re is touched by Soon-ja’s story and learns how she started cooking for the Hospice. He is about to leave when Soon-ja forces him to have the meal set out for him. This time, Gyeo-re attempts to half-heartedly consume the food but leaves after a bite.
After everyone has left, Gyeo-re comes back to the kitchen and explains his relationship with food. He claims that he eats only for survival and does not have anything that he likes to eat. Soon-ja promises to figure out Gyeo-re’s favorite dish by process of elimination.
On the other hand, Tae-sik sets up his homeless friends to send a message to Gyu-tae on his behalf. When Tae-sik is by himself, he stops using his crutches as a flashback reveals that he asks his doctor to let him keep it on in order to force Gyeo-re to continue his work with Team Genie.
As they drive back to the hospice, they converse about the kind of work Team Genie does. Gyeo-re gets a call from Seo-jun that pisses him off and he throws his mobile phone out of the moving vehicle. After they arrive at the hospice, Tae-sik forces Gyeo-re to stay in the Team Genie common room.
Gyeo falls asleep in the room as he thinks about his present life with the people of Team Genie. He ends up saying he feels more alive with them but that being at peace does not suit him. Soon-ja goes to the locked room on the fourth floor and calls Tae-sik telling him that the patient is alive as Tae-sik clutches the photograph of himself and his son.
Soon-ja and Gyeo-re are developing a relationship. She is like a mother to him and it is endearing how he is slowly trying to feel closer to the people there.
The fourth floor has something to do with Tae-sik’s real son and Gyeo-re.
Episode 5 and 6
After the standoff between Dr. Yang and Gyeo-re, Tae-shik takes his opportunity to wear Dr. Yang down. He shares that his cancer has relapsed, and he doesn’t plan to treat it, so he’s got limited time. And his wish is to grant others’ final wishes. (I should’ve seen the terminal illness coming.)
Dr. Yang can’t turn that down, so he agrees to let Se-hee perform. Now, I get Dr. Yang’s perspective to a point and understand his frustration with Team Genie. But his holier-than-thou attitude is getting on my nerves. He’s at his worst with Gyeo-re, likely due to jealousy, but it reads pretty classist with the doctor treating the ex-convict like he’s beneath him. Not cool.
Anyhow, the play is back on, and Se-hee shines on stage before her loved ones, fellow patients, and staff. Things get more emotional when her boyfriend, a fellow theater actor who had to give up his dreams due to vocal issues, shows up and performs alongside her. The famous actor kindly steps aside to give them their stage moment.
After the play, Se-hee announces she’s going home to live out her final days. She passes with her loved ones at her side.
Seon-joo comforts Gyeo-re who struggles to deal with all the death at the hospice. The two of them continue to grow closer; they even shared their first kiss, although it was technically for the play. Gyeo-re begins to open up, and he tells her about being an orphan and having no home.
And it’s not just Seon-joo he’s opening up to. Gyeo-re is fully integrated now – he’s got his own cup in the breakroom and everything. He even cooks dinner for everyone and invites Jin-gu who can’t get over how smiley Gyeo-re is now. I love Gyeo-re’s evolution from refusing to eat at the same table to cooking family dinner.
Amidst Gyeo-re’s transformation, Seon-joo is fully in the throes of a crush, and it’s refreshing how straightforward she is about it. There’s no denial or coyness. She realizes she likes him and then makes her feelings known.
She asks Gyeo-re if he has a dream or has ever truly been happy. When it’s a no on both counts, she suggests making being happy once in his life his dream. If he tries out being happy with Team Genie, she might just be able to give him what he’s hoping for. Pfft. When that’s not forward enough, Seon-joo straight up confesses her feelings, telling him she wants to find ways to make him smile because it’s a beautiful sight.
Since everything is going so well, naturally, something’s gotta give. Unbeknownst to Gyeo-re, his ex Joon-kyung gets out of prison, and she’s A LOT.
Meanwhile, the trust between Gyeo-re and Tae-shik is tested when Gyeo-re witnesses some suspicious behavior. First, he sees Tae-shik take an envelope of money from Se-hee’s family, which he then places in his secret box full of GOLD. Then, he happens upon a confrontation where this gangster-looking dude accuses Tae-shik of killing someone. Making matters worse, Tae-shik is standing and walking just fine without his crutches.
Gyeo-re is too honest of a person to beat around the bush, so he pops out from around the corner and demands the truth. He’s clearly hurt and feeling betrayed, which bothers Tae-shik, but not enough for him to freaking communicate. So he stays silent, causing a rift between the two of them. Even so, Gyeo-re isn’t mad enough to cut Tae-shik off – he just pouts and gets extra grumbly.
Before long they have a new case to distract them, and it involves an SUV of Doom. This time, it’s teenaged Team Genie member YOO SEO-JIN (Jeon Chae-eun) who brings in the request. While talking on the phone to her boyfriend, he’s hit by a car and put in critical condition. The driver has powerful connections and won’t own up to his drunk driving.
Tae-shik refuses Seo-jin’s revenge request, which she claims her boyfriend asked of her when he briefly gained consciousness. But Gyeo-re has a harder time turning Seo-jin down. He learns that she’s ostracized at school because her parents run a noraebang and once employed an escort. Gyeo-re can relate to being stereotyped, shamed, and abused for your home life, so he ends up helping the kids.
Seo-jin decides to go after the driver’s weak spot: his young daughter. She was in the car during the hit and run and is understandably traumatized. Seo-jin sneaks into the girl’s school, while Gyeo-re sneaks into her father’s fancy hospital suite. (I love how this is Gyeo-re’s third time switching clothes with someone as a means of infiltration; it’s like a hobby for him at this point.)
Revenge turns out to be a strong word for her plan. Seo-jin just wants accountability and an apology from the driver. She manages to get both by video calling from the little girl’s classroom, terrifying him. She reminds him that he’s inflicted life-long trauma on his daughter by refusing to be a responsible adult.
The poor, sweet little girl apologizes to Seo-jin on her father’s behalf, promising she’ll tell the truth instead. The two girls hug while sobbing out their hurt over adults’ failures.
Gyeo-re now faces a dilemma. His volunteer hours are almost up, but he’s clearly loath to leave Team Genie. They’re truly like family now, and he’s even written up a will bequeathing all his (likely stolen) money to them in exchange for caring for Son. He hides the money in the trunk of the car he drives for the hospice.
To make Gyeo-re stay, Tae-shik wonders to Seo-jin if he should tell Gyeo-re that he recognized him from the start and brought him to the hospice as his last wish. (Yes, please, communicate for once.) While he considers fessing up, Gyeo-re sees someone leaving the mysterious locked room. We end with a glimpse of a patient lying on the bed.
Could that be the person Tae-shik was accused of killing, maybe?
There’s no way Gyeo-re is going to leave the hospice fully now, given how attached he’s getting. I wasn’t sure how he’d react to finding out Tae-shik lied to him and is being all sketchy, but the fact that Gyeo-re didn’t cut him off is telling.
And then there’s his burgeoning relationship with Seon-joo which we see more of in the next 2 episodes as they start dating.
Episodes 7 and 8
Watch out for more review from us as the Episodes Unfold. Streams on Rakuten Viki
There are 16 episodes in this drama, with two airing each week between August 10 and September 29.