16 November 2012 | cremea
A Korean Melodrama for Dudes.
NOTE: This review has been edited as of 10/08/18.
Iris is 20 episode Korean TV show that aired in 2009. It's your basic Korean melodramatic TV series format, only it's infused with a significant amount of action & intrigue. Iris 2 (Iris II, Iris; New Generation) is its second/follow up season, which was also 20 episodes, but it didn't air until 2013.
I had originally written 2 separate reviews years ago for this show/series, because IMDB originally listed them as 2 different shows. Since then, IMDB has apparently merged the original Iris page and the Iris 2 page together, so I'll do my best to merge my two original reviews together here under one review for both "shows/seasons".
Iris (Season 1) was a unique show in Korea when it aired. The idea behind it, was to get some guys who like action/spy/intrigue flicks to also tune into a TV genre almost exclusively geared to attracting female viewers by nature. They spent a fortune making this show (by KTV standards at the time), and it shows; production values are through the roof, various exotic locales are visited, there's some terrific cinematography, blazing gunfights, action scenes, etc.
Viewers loved it immediately (as did I), and it's easy to see why; it's often a riveting television series that is hard to look away from! And, Judging by the show's super high nationwide ratings (nearly 40% of all Korean TV viewers were watching this show by the time it wrapped up), I'd say the producers accomplished their goal and then some. Iris was a massive success by KTV standards that soon spawned a spin-off show (Athena), a movie (which was just an edited version of the TV show), talks of a second season (which only rarely happens in this medium), and so forth.
The closest comparison to this show for western audiences is the American TV series "24", and that's a fair analogy, as they do share many similarities. Here's your story: Two marine friends get recruited by the NIS (basically the South Korean equivalent of the U.S. CIA/NSA). While there, they meet the primary love interest who is their section chief responsible for training them. The 2 friends quickly take to their new jobs as secret agents, and are soon deployed in the field. Things go wrong when they are sent on an important mission though, and they discover they're mere pawns in a much bigger picture.
After the botched mission by the 2 friends/leads, this show boils down to a matter of uncovering what everybody's motives are, who's working for whom, and trying to stop the world from blowing up. Along the way, there's your main love interest story line, the main friendship story line, and so forth.
What cannot be understated is that this show is, at its core, a soap opera. It's a high octane soap opera indeed, but a soap opera nonetheless. I've seen a ton of Korean melodrama shows/series over the years, some of which tried their best to have these "soap operas" reach an audience that includes EVERYBODY (males/females, Koreans/foreigners, action fans/love story fans, etc.), and this is one of those rare shows that actually accomplishes this fairly well.
Iris (Season 1) is very entertaining and highly watchable. I gave it 8 out of 10 stars in my initial rating, and I stand by that.
As for Iris 2 (i.e. Season 2). Very disappointing for several reasons. I see some reviewers think it's better than the original, however they are wrong, and I'll now explain why: Iris 2 is greatly hampered by two overriding factors: 1) It's just more of the same with a weaker story and less prominent actors, and, 2) The show producers missed the window to capitalize on the popularity of the original show/1st season, by delaying its production for nearly 4 years.
Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of the actors/actresses in Season 2, and they performed well overall, but the story and writing is lacking in general compared to the first season. In addition, everything seems rushed and tacked on (and/or poorly thought out), in what appears to be a last ditch effort to just cobble something together to put on TV and bring this show/series to a close. Part of the problem is because there was a bunch of hemming and hawing FOREVER about how to write and budget for a new season, along with trying to negotiate and sign up much of the original cast (despite the fact that, SPOILERS, most of their characters died or "were disappeared" at the end of the original show), and so on. As a result, Iris season 2 turned out to be a hodgepodge mess that was just "too lacking, too little, too late".
There are a couple of cast members in Iris 2 that are back from the original, but they're mostly all supporting roles that are non-essential and/or are under-utilized. There's also several new tie-in characters related to characters from the 1st season, but none of these prior cast members or new "related characters" really fit well within the overall story. And, I cannot forgive the fact that they cast some English speaking dude as the main evil guy. No offense to him as an actor or person, and I understand they're trying to be more "globally receptive" by speaking English some, but this role should have been given to someone fluent in Korean; the resulting "forced" English dialogue between him and some of the Korean actors/actresses is often distracting, and prevents the Korean actors/actresses from acting at their best (since they have to use a foreign/second language in some crucial scenes with him).
Iris 2 (Iris, Season 2) is not very good when compared to its forerunner. I originally gave it 5 out of 10 stars, and I stand by that.
Bottom Line: 8 out of 10 stars (for Iris 1 ONLY). As for Iris 2, hmmm, watch Athena; Goddess of War instead!