This article contains mild spoilers.
Lead cast: Ryoo Seung-ryong, Han Hyo-joo, Zo In-sung, Go Youn-jung, Lee Jeong-ha, Kim Do-hoon, Cha Tae-hyun, Ryoo Seung-bum
Most K-dramas tend to be quite rigid with their narratives. This gives them an approachable and familiar charm that has made them the go-to form of entertainment for legions of viewers around the world – but it can also hold them back.
Without the element of surprise and the freedom to experiment, shows can limit themselves. The emotional highs they chase can only be so cathartic, and the convenient resolutions they reach only so satisfying.
It’s a conscious choice that favours comfort and predictability over excitement and originality. It’s also the safe choice, as few things are harder for a writer to do than come up with bold new ideas and make them stick on the page.
In adapting his own webcomic for the screen, Kang Full has stitched together a rich canvas combining a multitude of characters who weave in and out of his story, each of them fleshed out and given their moment to shine.
It all started with Kim Bong-seok (Lee Jeong-ha), Jang Hui-soo, (Go Youn-jung) and Lee Gang-hoon (Kim Do-hoon), students at Jeongwon High School who begin to learn about their special powers and each other.
In Moving’s closing stretch, the past and present finally collided over the course of a grand five-episode climax at Jeongwon High School, pitting all of these characters, and others – such as the genial bus driver Jeon Gye-do (Cha Tae-hyun), aka “Lightning Man” – against a battalion of super-powered troops from North Korea.
Led by Kim Deok-yoon (Park Hae-soon), these taciturn soldiers from the north were formidable foes but they were not one-dimensional antagonists. Moving’s extended finale opened up to give them a chance to breathe.
The showdown began as a traditional clash of good versus evil, but as the mayhem grew and the North Korean troops were shaded through backstory, Moving pulled off its most beguiling trick: it humanised its villains.
By the time the show’s sensational final episode came around, we had come to care deeply for all of these bruised and bloodied characters.
Some of the show’s most moving moments were also its most unexpected. These included the moment Hui-soo bumped into the hulking North Korean soldier Kwon Yong-deok (Park Kwang-jae); on her way to Jeongwon, while he escaped it, she comforted this sobbing giant who, unbeknown to her, had been bloodied by her father’s fists.
The true villains were the ones we didn’t see, at least not often. They were National Intelligence Service bureaucrat Min Yong-jun (Moon Sung-keun) and his North Korean equivalent Kim Hyun-sung (Son Byung-ho).
But even these characters were mere facades; strike one down and another popped up in their place. There were bigger people operating in the shadows behind them. Dig even deeper and we hit the unyielding root of the problem – the system striving to protect itself.
Lives were upended and lost, all in the name of country, but to what end? Sacrificial lambs were sent out to slaughter by those who above all else feared losing their grip on power.
Moving’s myriad narrative achievements would all be for naught were it not for those that brought them to life, cast and crew included. Balancing strength and vulnerability, Ryoo and Han portray heroes whose most extraordinary attributes are not superpowers but their devotion to their families.
Zo got to be the mythic hero, reaching a crescendo of operatic violence during a Matrix-esque showdown in the columnated halls of a North Korean palace, but the show wisely sidelined him for the grand finale, giving the other characters a hard-fought and sweeter victory.
In today’s drama landscape, a hint of a continuation is inevitable, but at least Moving placed its second season tease after the credits, allowing us to savour a well-deserved happy ending as the names rolled up on the screen.
Moving is streaming on Disney+.