“While You Were Sleeping” First Impressions: I Could Fall In Love With This

You know when you grudgingly go out on a blind date with this guy your parents have been trying to set you up with and you only finally agree because he’s a doctor and you’re sick of dating broke men? You meet him and while he’s no Song Joong Ki, he’s pretty cute? And although some of his jokes are corny, it doesn’t matter because you clicked and the conversation flowed as freely as the wine? And no, you didn’t share a kiss but you definitely thought about it and have already made plans for the next date? And when you walk into your apartment, you know you shouldn’t jump the gun but you’re thinking that maybe, just maybe, you could fall in love?

Well, that hasn’t happened to me but if it had, I imagine the feeling would be akin to what I felt after watching While You Were Sleeping.

I’ve stated since the casting announcement that I wasn’t too keen on this because of the female lead. But despite that, there was still a reason to check it out because I feel that the writer – Park Hye Ran – does fantasy well as seen in her previous offerings (Pinocchio, I Can Hear Your Voice). She clearly loves Lee Jong Suk and would probably cast him in everything she did if she could. She also seems to love Suzy as it will be their second time working together, their first being Dream High.

What I heard about this drama was that it was about a woman whose tragic dreams come true and a prosecutor who works hard to’m glad that this was all I knew because it allowed me to enjoy the twist in the second half of the first episode (or Episode 2 or whatever we are calling these split episodes).

It starts off with Hong Joo who… actually, what does she do? We got all these scenes of her getting on the bus but I don’t recall seeing her at a job. I guess she works with her mother at a restaurant. She has predictive dreams and while with her mom, recognizes a customer as someone destined to die in an explosion shortly after lighting up a cigarette. Mother and daughter attempt to stop him but he shuns them as they sound crazy. Hong Joo’s mom attempts to thwart his fate by stealing his lighter but her daughter gloomily states that it’s futile because he will die anyway. And lo and behold, he gets another identical lighter, lights up at a gas station and dies. I can’t imagine how she gets up in the morning knowing the tragic fates of countless strangers and being unable to stop them.

One horrible morning, she wakes up after a dream that her mother died. In it, her aunt tells her that she caused her mom’s death and the first thing the freaked out girl does is cut her hair to ensure that she looks nothing like she did in the dream. She shares it with her mom who reassures her that it won’t happen but secretly writes a will as she’s fully aware of the legitimacy of those dreams.

That evening, she goes on a Valentine’s Day date with Lee Yoo Bum, a defense lawyer she’s recently starting seeing. She sees him with Jae Chan, a neighbor she’d dreamed of hugging and with whom she’d already had one of those Kdrama misunderstandings. To summarize: she sat in an inconsiderate way on the bus stop bench and his attempt at rectifying that led to her thinking that he was hitting on her.

Jae Chan and Yoo Bum also have history as the latter had tutored the former in high school and conspired with him to earn extra cash by falsifying his report card. In other words, Yoo Bum was dirty in their childhood and Jae Chan isn’t happy to be reacquainted with him.

Hong Joo’s dream keeps her on edge and she rushes home to make sure that her mom’s alright when she doesn’t take her calls. She doesn’t have much experience driving in the snow so Yoo Bum takes the wheel and that’s how they end up in an accident where a pedestrian is killed.

Hong Joo wakes up 10 months later and her nightmare has become a reality. Her hair is long again and her aunt tells her that her mother died from something she did. Not from the accident but all the stress that came from it which led to her falling down a flight of stairs. Hong Joo doesn’t understand why she’s being blamed when she wasn’t driving and we learn that nasty Yoo Bum had framed her for it by switching their seats shortly after it happened. The prosecutor on the case is Jae Chan who from personal experience knows his ex-tutor can’t be trusted but also can’t ignore the damning evidence. At her wit’s end, Hong Joo commits suicide because she’s got nothing to live for – no mother, no love and no future.

Then Jae Chan wakes up! On Valentine’s Day. He tries to ignore the dream but it was very vivid and when things he saw in the dream start to happen, he freaks out. He meets Hong Soo at the bus stop and tells her to avoid all cars that day but she thinks he’s crazy. After running from him, she thinks back to all the times her legitimate warnings were ignored for the same reason. He tries to warn her again that evening when he runs into her and Yoo Bum on their date but it’s futile. He then waits in front of the restaurant till he sees them come out and is even more convinced that the accident is about to happen when she hands her keys over to Yoo Bum. It’s happening exactly as she described in her statement in his dream.

He has to do something so he chases after them then rams his car into theirs to stop the initial accident from occurring. Yes, one still does but no one dies, unlike the first time around.

Yoo Bum is livid! Why did he do it? Is it out of revenge for their past? Then we see that Jae Chan’s distrust stems from more than the report card scam. We learn that they’d been involved in a motorcycle accident years ago. Yoo Bum drove but tried to make Jae Chan take the fall for it. When he refused, it became his word against Jae Chan’s and it appears that he won.

Jae Chan insists that he saved lives and informs him that not only did he prevent him from killing the pedestrian, he also stopped him from tampering with evidence and framing Hong Joo.

Hong Joo watches them intensely. Coupling the shocked pedestrian (who was the Good Samaritan who returned her mom’s forgotten phone – the reason she wasn’t taking her daughter’s call) with her experience with predictive dreams convinces her that Jae Chan is being honest. So she walks over and gives him a hug – like she did in her dream.

This is definitely a Valentine’s Day for the books for scumbag Yoo Bum. Not only does their date get cut short, he gets into an accident and his date walks past him to hug another man.  Dang! He might not see it my way but this is still miles preferable to what would  have otherwise happened.

Which begs the question: was it destiny? Hong Joo dreamed of waking up to find her mother dead  but also dreamed of hugging Jae Chan – a scenario that keeps her mother alive – so does that mean that Jae Chan was always destined to save her? Because both of her dreams came true but in different time lines. Does this make any sense?

Of course, it’s possible that her mother still dies as it’s not predicated to happen for months but I’m taking the optimistic approach that Jae Chan was able to stop it.

It’s time for his younger brother’s story. Seung Won is a high school student with a crush on his piano-playing classmate, So Yoon (it’s a callback to one of the writer’s previous works (Page Turner) where the actors Shin Jae Ha and Kim So Hyun starred).

He attends her recital and witnesses her mother faint during the press conference. It turns out that she’s a battered woman and her psycho husband beat her in the elevator, shortly before the performance began. A reporter notices shoe prints on her chest and promptly calls it in to the cops as a domestic violence case.

Scumbag Yoo Bum is hired as the defense attorney and downgrades it to an assault case where the victim can choose not to press charges – and won’t – to protect her daughter’s reputation. He does this by falsifying evidence so that the injuries appear to have been incurred at an earlier date. Jae Chan is the prosecutor in charge who wants to take a closer look. But when Yoo Bum embarrasses him  in front of his team by telling all their business, making it look like his client is suffering as a result of the grudge Jae Chan holds against him, he decides to close the case. We learn that So Yoon’s father is Yoo Bum’s regular.

Meanwhile, Hong Joo convinces Jae Chan that she also predicts dreams by predicting everything he does on his trip to work. What a boring dream she must have had. He can see that she’s telling the truth but doesn’t want to acknowledge it because he doesn’t want to be burdened with saving anyone’s life nor living with the guilt from inevitable failure.

After some workplace shenanigans, he lays his head on his desk and dreams.

This whole time, Seung Won and So Yoon have been in a flirtatious, supportive relationship. He’s the only one who knows about her mom and thus, the only one she can talk to about it. She’s been down this road with her parents several times and feels that since the law useless, she will take matters into her own hands by killing her father to save her mother. Seung Won can’t let that happen and does what he can to stop her.

Jae Chan wants to ignore his dreams but the dreams refuse to let him go and this time, it features his handcuffed brother pleading innocence in a police car. He also dreamed of a crying Hong Joo telling him that he should have believed her. He rushes over to talk to her and she reveals that she’d dreamed that his younger brother killed someone and blamed it on him. This is obviously tied to So Yoon’s mother’s case.

While all this is going on, we’re slowly told So Yoon’s father’s story. She dreamed he died in a bus explosion and begs him (the bus driver) to save himself from the dangerous soldier predicted to kill them. As things unfold, he realizes she’s right, offloads the bus then talks to the man. I don’t get this at all. I agree that his passengers were a priority but once he got them off, why didn’t he run the hell out? It’s common practice not to approach dangerous, armed and unstable psychos.

Jae Chan wants to know why he’s suddenly begun having these dreams and we learn that they’d unknowingly met during her father’s funeral. Would it be a drama if they hadn’t?


Next week’s episode will be about So Yoon’s mother getting justice which means more Kim So Hyun! I think her character is very cute with Seung Won so I hope we get to keep her longer, despite knowing it’s just a cameo.

I’m a little annoyed that Hong Soo has been unable to stop these fatalities in a decade but Jae Chan has his first dream and he’s suddenly stopping them left, right and center.

I was excited to see Lee Sang Yeob in this drama but it turns out that his character is the scummiest of all scum – right from childhood. And they aren’t even being subtle about it! Waaah, why won’t drama bad luck leave me alone?!?!?!

Lee Jong Suk’s face captures my emotions exactly. Le sigh. Why can’t I have nice things?

Acting-wise, I won’t pretend to be satisfied with Suzy’s crying scenes but she’s otherwise passable  and thus, isn’t ruining the show for me.

I really like Hong Joo’s relationship with both parents and loved their reactions to their impending deaths.  They kept their cool, supported her and didn’t make her feel crazy. I think seeing them panicked and desperate would have made her feel guiltier and more responsible for their deaths.

Anyway, I am glad that her mom is alive for now because I was quite pissed when they killed her off so early.

I don’t think I’m missing much by feeling lukewarm towards the main couple’s budding romance as I’m enjoying the overall story. I’m however keeping an open mind and will gladly hop on the ship if convinced.

It makes sense that Jae Chan gets roped into these rescue missions because he’s personally affected by them. He was preventing history from repeating itself the first time around and will now save his brother. I wonder whose future he will see next.

I’m all in for this drama and my body is ready for next week’s episodes.

Till then!


  • Grethel says:

    I am already in love with this!!! I love all of the writer\’s work in the past and most especially, I Can Hear Your Voice, which I watched because of Lee Bo Young. I was then apprehensive at first on how it could end but somehow, it made sense to me and I love how riveting Pinocchio was.
    Also, the fact that it\’s an SBS production so cinematography is really good!
    I am looking forward on how the entangled dreams and realities of Hong Joo and Jae Chan get unraveled and how it will affect the fabric of time.

  • ilchul says:

    I was ready to love this drama but I ended up loving it waaaaay more than I expected which is a great thing for sure and Jae Chan having these dreams as well made things more interesting!! can’t wait to see more of this drama!! ^__^

  • Marie says:

    I’ve always enjoyed this writer works and I love LJS, so I was going to watch anyway. But it has been a pleasant surprise. I liked the story, it felt fresh and thrilling. LJS was good and Suzy was ok too; in fact, they make a good pairing and their interactions have the necessary spark to make me root for them. At least I want them teaming up to solve the mess they got themselves into; and maybe I will root for their romance later…we’ll see.
    And I’m glad that this time LJS is not impersonating a genius doctor/entrepreneur/webtoon hero, but a clueless and maybe not that smart prosecutor. He’s the most adorable when he is being petty or cute.
    I don’t want to have too high expectations but I hope the show keeps being this good. 🙂

  • Beez says:

    I was on the fence about this one but since I see one of my favorite actresses in your screen caps, I’m in. When will Park Jin-Joo get a lead role?

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