Doom at Your Service is a 2021 South Korean television series starring Park Bo-young and Seo In-guk. It aired on tvN from May 10 to June 29, 2021.
Tak Dong-kyung (Park Bo-young), an editor for a web novel company, lives a fairly ordinary life until she stumbles into an unexpected fate. All in a single day, she finds out she is dying from glioblastoma and has only three months to live, learns that her boyfriend is a father-to-be and has a wife, gets scolded by her superior at work, and is spied on by a pervert before the pervert falls into a sinkhole.
Drinking her problems away, she happens to see a shooting star from her rooftop apartment and drunkenly wishes for the world to be doomed. Her wish is heard by Myul Mang (Seo In-guk), a messenger between gods and humans. He was born between dark and light: when he breathes, countries disappear; when he walks, the seasons collapse; when he smiles, a life is extinguished. All he has to do is exist for something to fall into ruin. This is not his intention but simply his fate. On his birthday, he gets to choose a human’s wish to fulfill. Sick of his fate, he chooses to fulfill Dong-kyung’s wish to end the world.
Dong-kyung ends up signing a hundred-day contract with Myul Mang, risking everything she has ever known.
Review: by The Blue Zephyr (link)
Everything ‘Doom At Your Service’ Gets Right – A Comprehensive Essay
This is my first post on this subreddit, and it’s very long and rife with spoilers, so be warned! I have way too many feelings about this show, and I really wanted to articulate my thoughts into a review + analysis of sorts, as well as hear from you wonderful folks!
I never thought another K-drama would check off quite as many boxes as CLOY did for me, but DAYS was an instant favourite. Everything about the show, from its concept and cast to its soundtrack and cinematography hit the mark for me. While it wasn’t perfect (is any show, really?), it’s overflowing with charm and humanity, and that’s what drew me to it.
Our protagonist, who recently learned that she is terminally ill, wishes doom on the entire world in a fit of exasperation. A few minutes later, Doom himself knocks on her front door. After some back-and-forth, she finally takes his hand and agrees, under incredibly dramatic circumstances, to sign a contract that seems to benefit them both. I’m already intrigued! The second episode ends with her asking him to move in, and the third episode ends with her vowing to love him and doom him in her stead! By this point, the show had me thoroughly hooked, and I just had to keep watching. And right as I was struggling a little to keep track of the exact terms of their contract, Dong Kyung very kindly breaks it down for us in her journal, after which it’s quite easy to grasp.
For a show with cancer, DAYS isn’t very depressing at all. There’s a light-hearted and cosy feeling that pervades each episode, and even the saddest moments are laced with a delicacy that touched my heart. Don’t get me wrong, Episode 14 was a complete sobfest, but it was treated in such a lovely, sincere manner, I couldn’t even complain. The fairly upbeat tone of the show is owed largely to the characters and their attitudes, but I’ll get to that in a bit!A Supernatural Fantasy.
The supernatural elements of the show were fascinating, and there was an underlying note of realism throughout. First of all, the portrayal of the Creator of the world as a very young, very sick girl was an extremely unconventional and interesting choice. Then we have the personification of Doom/Destruction – someone who is winter, darkness and the end of everything. This is a man who feels chained to humans and deeply resents them, yet finds himself falling deeply in love with one. Myul Mang constantly insisted that he wasn’t human – after all, he didn’t eat, sleep or cry. But it isn’t these things that make us human (except very literally), it is our ability to love and feel compassion. This is an idea the show spent episodes developing, and we get to see his gradual transformation, which finally culminates in his momentous return as a human in the final episode.
The main characters are constantly slipping into dreamscapes, which was a very creative and fun element of the show. I loved their shared living arrangements – the combination of his sophisticated man-cave and her charming little flat made for a very visually interesting experience. They also spend a great deal of time in each others’ subconscious – Dong Kyung’s beach and Myul Mang’s garden of dead things. You know they’re fated when Dong Kyung walks in Myul Mang’s wake and everything around her bursts into colour and blossoms to life!
I appreciated the prevailing metaphor of the Eternal Garden, and the heavy flower/butterfly symbolism. The ending of the show was in front of us all this while, and they did a fantastic job weaving it into the narrative and alluding to what was to come.Self-Awareness and Humour
One of the coolest aspects of the show, in my opinion, is its self-awareness. Dong Kyung and her colleagues work at a publishing agency, and are in frequent contact with various writers. As such, the characters are constantly thinking in literary terms, and this lends a very meta, story-like quality to the plot of the show. When Dong Kyung asks her colleagues what they would wish for if they were going to die in a 100 days, they immediately think it’s for a story she’s editing. When she tells her best friend about the strange doctor that keeps showing up around her, Ji Na’s first instinct is to gush at the thought of a potential hospital romance. Park Young, in particular, is a character that seems almost representative of the audience. He provided legitimate theories as to how to resolve Dong Kyung’s predicament, and in their ensuing conversation, they talked about how a sad ending tends to remain with the readers for a lot longer. This foreshadowing was a little too ominous for me, and Park Young echoed my exact thoughts towards the end – “I cry easily, so I need to know if it’s a happy ending.” To my great relief, it was!
The show has its fair share of clichés (like the brief amnesia arc), but I thought they did a great job keeping things fresh and subverting common tropes. It was also really, really funny, with humour and charm shining through in the most unexpected moments. I love how Dong Kyung grumpily wonders if Myul Mang is American, because he trailed his dirty footprints into her house when they first met. My favourite running gag was that of the “ghost in the hospital”, because everyone sees Myul Mang completely differently, which led to a lot of hilarious conversations. There was so much banter and teasing and genuinely wholesome interactions between the characters, I spent most of the show with the biggest smile on my face.The Main Characters and Their Relationship.
The characters and their relationships are without doubt the biggest strengths of the show. Every single character was singularly likeable, realistic and mature, which is something few shows manage to nail. I was thoroughly invested in all their arcs, and it never felt tedious when the scene switched to other characters.
From the very first shot of her politely bemused expression when she learns about the tumour in her brain, Dong Kyung’s character is established. She has spent most of her life putting others before her, so much so that she rejects a potentially life-changing surgery because she can’t take any more days off work. Her traumatic childhood gave her the determination to work hard to protect the ones she loves, but it came at the cost of her own well-being. She takes care of and provides for her immature and flighty younger brother, she got the first job she could find so her aunt would be free to live her own life, she constantly pushes her best friend so she can find success in her field. So unwilling is Doing Kyung to be a burden to others, she has learnt to successfully compartmentalise her emotions, repress her tears and never express what’s really in her heart. All this builds up to the powerful scene in the beach where she cries like a child, finally expressing how badly she wants to live, and love.
Dong Kyung is exceedingly charming, kind and funny, and I instantly adored her. Her tendency to joke around and make light of situations is an automatic defense mechanism to protect herself and others from pain. Myul Mang gently questions this approach, after she dismisses his very serious intent to marry her, and asks why she always hides what she’s truly feeling. As the show progresses, we see Dong Kyung slowly begin to open up her heart and let love in. Her grief and desperation when her soulmate dissipates before her eyes is gut-wrenching, but she doesn’t spend all her time moping around. Instead, she does her best to live a full life, in order to honour his sacrifice – because he wanted her to be happy.
Park Bo Young does an absolutely stellar job portraying Dong Kyung’s strength, stability and grace, all while looking incredibly soft and warm in those comfortable jumpers and skirts! Her wide-eyed shock, her little quips, her lovely smile – she was a joy to behold everytime she was on screen.
We now move on to one of the most interesting characters I’ve encountered – Doom himself. He’s tied to an immortal existence, and his every movement leads to destruction. We’re told very little about his past, except the time he tried to keep himself completely still and the world perished. While Myul Mang is responsible for maintaining the balance of the universe, it isn’t something he enjoys. There’s a certain self-loathing there, and he’s quick to blame himself entirely for Dong Kyung’s misfortunes. He resents the deity that created him, he resents the humans that control him, so he latches on to the one person who drunkenly verbalized exactly what was on his mind – “I wish doom on the entire world!” He begins to feel stirrings of compassion for her, and, confused and conflicted, he lashes out. But he’s never truly evil – he has a strong sense of justice and fairness, even when he’s violently punishing and killing people. Dong Kyung helps bring out the goodness that is inherent in him. Without her love to anchor him, he reverts back to the dark, merciless, avenging angel he was in the first few episodes. When he finally returns as a human, he seems softer and happier somehow, which is highlighted by the change in his hair style and colour, his outfits (the white shirt!), and his general demeanor. His choice to become a doctor, because he’s always wanted to save lives and do good, is a fitting one for his character. His humanization was a work in progress for the entire show, but he still expresses some anxiety at the thought of being average, of being nothing, of not being able to do things for Dong Kyung. Life seems to stretch on endlessly before him (something he’d ironically never felt as an immortal), the uncertainty of it all compelling him to always do his best. Love and happiness is finally within reach.
Myul Mang is playful, brooding, witty, tormented and supremely confident in his own good looks. His unique dynamic with Dong Kyung was one I greatly enjoyed. When she saw how distressed and guilty he was about the perceived negative consequences of his actions, she explained to him that he was not at fault for what happened to her parents. She likes winter, darkness and endings, because those things lead to beautiful new beginnings. She even scolds the deity for putting these thoughts in his head! Myul Mang, once he comes to terms with those pesky human emotions he’s been feeling, does everything in his power to make Dong Kyung happy, because she’s special to him. He observes her carefully, and pays attention to her smallest wishes – like telling her about an empty seat in the subway because she’s tired, taking them back in time so she can see the spring flowers bloom, recreating the happiest day of her life and letting her catch a glimpse of her parents.
One thing I really appreciated was when Dong Kyung first asks him to kiss her at the beach, he bends down to do just that, but overcome with doubt, she slightly turns her head at the last moment. He immediately straightens up and says, “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that”, no questions asked. This was such a simple moment, and it was the decent thing to do, but it really underscored how much respect he has for her. This mutual love and admiration is a common theme in the show. Dong Kyung is unwavering in her faith that he’s a good person, and she does her best to convince him of this fact. She chooses to give up the memories of the love of her life, so she could save him. Myul Mang sacrifices himself for her, but even his smallest, least grandiose gestures show his love for her – from playing along and pretending to eat the jellies she affectionately feeds him, to offering to kill anyone who bothers her. The two of them were absolutely perfect together. Against all odds, they loved each other the most, and never gave up on the other person.
Can we talk about how Seo In Guk absolutely nailed everything about his character? His portrayal of Myul Mang is complex, nuanced and sympathetic – from his intense, narrowed eyes and cold smirks, to his rare tears and mischievous smiles. His chemistry with PBY is unmatched, and they really elevated the show to another level. The dialogues were poetic and well-written, and their emotional delivery was spot on. Every interaction between the two of them was electric, and it took me nearly twice the time to watch an episode, because I was constantly rewinding to watch the cute moments. So! Much! Hand-holding! (for plot reasons, of course). I love how Dong Kyung always wore the red string (of fate) on her wrist, even when she lost her memories. When Myul Mang returned and proclaimed that he was her hand-holder? Literally the most adorable thing ever. The scenes where Myul Mang plays out common romantic scenarios so Dong Kyung can fall in love with him might just be the best thing I’ve seen in a drama. It’s going to be a while before I get over SIG with slicked-back hair and a parking ticket in his mouth as he reverses his car.The Love Triangle
No show is complete without engaging side characters, and DAYS absolutely delivers on that front. Now I’m not a fan of love triangles in the slightest. I think they’re usually trite, unnecessarily histrionic, and most of the time, one of the candidates never stood a real chance anyway. That being said, I quite enjoyed the way they executed it here. Each of the three characters is real, flawed and endearing, and I found myself rooting for them in equal measure.
Lee Hyun Kyu is a star swimmer and general nice guy, with the most gorgeous smile ever. He’s also a bit of a coward, and chooses to break his girlfriend’s heart (through a text he didn’t even write himself!) because he didn’t want to fall in her esteem. He lets this go on for a decade, before finally getting his act together. Na Ji Na is still hopelessly in love with her first boyfriend, and her inability to move on gets in the way of her happiness. In a haze of lovesickness, she uses him as inspiration for her pen-name, and spends her days writing several versions of the same story, all based on her own failed romance. Cha Joo Ik is a stubborn man who knows what he wants and does anything in his power to get it. He’s attracted to the crying woman he saw on his doorstep years ago, but also lives with the man who is the reason for her tears.
Now that the scene is set and the characters have been introduced, let me go in-depth about my interpretations of each of their motivations. Hyun Kyu is like most teenage dudes – pleased with the female attention he gets and always wanting to maintain this pretentious façade of coolness. He ran away in order to avoid facing the consequences of the problem he created, instead of having an open, honest conversation. When he reconnects with Ji Na years later, the food at the restaurant they used to frequent tastes the same to him, the ground in their high school still feels just as big. This represents the fact that he hasn’t changed very much, and that he’s willing to go back and start over.
On the other hand, Joo Ik is everything Hyun Kyu is not – he’s decisive, straightforward and says exactly what’s on his mind, regardless of the consequences. He’s good with his words, and more than a little prickly. He kissed Ji Na out of pity and regret for the way she’d been treated, and perhaps the desire to give her the experience of a first kiss, one she was lamenting she didn’t have yet. Was that move presumptuous and a little questionable? Definitely. I don’t think he was fully in love with her until he met her again years later. He even said that she wasn’t his first love, just that love comes in new and different forms each time. Nevertheless, the kiss and the girl remained on his mind for a decade, and he took the first opportunity to confess his feelings.
Pining after Hyun Kyu stunted Ji Na’s emotional growth in many ways. Against her better judgement, she decides to go on a few dates with him, but she finds that the spark that burned so bright when she was a teenager has effectively died out during the years of separation. They’re just not on the same page anymore, and too much time has passed for things to go back to the way they were. She’s conflicted about the feelings she’s developing for Joo Ik, and eventually chooses him, after letting Hyun Kyu down gently. For Hyun Kyu, who was previously naive, this is a learning experience that helps him grow and stand on his own feet. The show ends their arc the same way it began – them looking back at each other and smiling, thus coming full circle.
What sets this particular love triangle apart from others is the interesting relationship between the two men. Joo Ik is a mentor/big brother figure to Hyun Kyu, who, in turn, looks up to and relies on him. The two of them genuinely like each other, which is why it’s even more impactful when there are cracks in their friendship because of their interest in the same woman. Their rivalry (if it can even be called that) never feels toxic or juvenile. When things come to a head, the two of them sit down and have a refreshingly mature, emotional conversation expressing their sides of the story. Both don’t want to lose their years-long friendship, nor do they want to give up their love, so it makes for a complicated, riveting situation. Even after the love triangle is resolved, all the characters come out of it on good terms, which was very satisfying to watch.
The two men are very visually different (stocky and tan vs. tall and pale), which is a great representation of their opposing personalities. They have a lovely bond, built from years of living together, and at no point did I, as the viewer, feel compelled to pit one against the other (which is a tactic many shows employ). I was able to understand and relate to both characters, and ultimately wished for them to find their own happiness. Kang Tae Oh and Lee Soo Hyuk do a wonderful job with their characters. I was a goner the second I saw Hyun Kyu’s smile and his good-natured, sunny countenance. As soon as I saw Joo Ik defending Dong Kyung to their boss and correcting her trashy ex’s spelling (“Actually, it’s M A N N E R”), I knew I was going to like this guy. I love how they allude to Lee Soo Hyuk’s uncanny resemblance to a vampire in the show!
Now, on to the best friend a girl can ask for, Ji Na! I honestly adored her relationship with Dong Kyung, because of how realistic and heartfelt it was. Again, the two of them are very different from each other, but they complement and are always 100% supportive of the other person. Ji Na was unlucky in love for years, but she did her best to live her life, further her career and be there for her friend. She is bold, feisty and headstrong, and Shin Do Hyun perfectly captures the spirited, lively nature of the character. After prolonged agonizing over her dilemma, Ji Na does what feels right to her. She takes some time for herself, to clear her head and discover who her 29 year old self really is. She even ditches the romance genre and switches over to writing about fantastically sexy demons! The final scene of her date and kiss with Joo Ik was incredibly gratifying. I adored their literary back-and-forth, her reaction to his deliberately heart-fluttering lines, and how they make each other smile.The Minor Characters
The minor characters, like the deity, Sun Kyung and Aunt Soo Ja, were also compelling. I never could make up my mind if the deity was on our OTP’s side or not, nor could I figure out her intentions right until the end. Seeing her in the school uniform with a gentle smile on her face, emphasized the fundamental innocence and goodness of her heart. Sun Kyung showed a great deal of character development, from lying to his sister and blowing off his responsibilities, to saving up money for her and finding his own dream. Aunt Soo Ja never faltered in her love for her niece and nephew – she took them in as her own children when tragedy befell them, and she dropped everything and moved to another country when they needed her. Dong Kyung also had a lovely relationship with her colleagues and most of the writers she worked with (Jijo King can piss off).The Secondary Relationships
Besides the main characters and their relationships, there were so many amazing interactions between characters whose storylines didn’t necessarily coincide.
I love how Hyun Kyu became a mentor to Sun Kyung, and nudged him in the direction of his dream. Sun Kyung admired and respected him, and also gave him profound advice about his love life. He also had a similar, if slightly more formal, relationship with Joo Ik.
Sun Kyung and Ji Na had a hilarious Tom & Jerry relationship, full of teasing and fondness. The two of them bonded over Dong Kyung’s illness, and had numerous entertaining moments together. Sun Kyung the love guru strikes again, as he was the one who made Ji Na see that the man she really likes is Joo Ik, because she wants to kill him in present tense!
It was very funny to see Dong Kyung be the protective best friend, and make passive-aggressive remarks and veiled threats to Hyun Kyu.
Joo Ik and Dong Kyung had a very droll boss-employee relationship, with them constantly making snarky remarks and quietly caring for each other.
Ji Na’s horrified offence when Myul Mang drops his honorifics and talks down to her, and his general disregard for her theatrics was also fun to watch.
Sun Kyung and Myul Mang had an adorable dynamic. Sun Kyung was always so smitten with his “brother-in-law”, and after the initial overprotective brotherly suspicion, he becomes their #1 shipper! His delighted cries of “Hyung-nim” and abundant physical affection, coupled with Myul Mang’s mildly uncomfortable expressions, made for excellent content.
Everything about Myul Mang and Park Young. That’s it. Park Young as a character was a treasure, and the final revelation of his crush on Dong Kyung made his beef with Myul Mang even more amusing. (Plus, it gave us pouty, jealous Myul Mang!)
Myul Mang and Joo Ik also had brief instances of competitiveness towards the end, when they tried to one-up each other in how much they suffered for their respective relationships.
And finally, the only two main characters who don’t interact until the final minutes of the final episode – Hyun Kyu and Myul Mang. We love two handsome bros who genuinely compliment each other, and I melted at how proud Myul Mang was when he told Dong Kyung about his very first friend (after their very cute and vigorous waving at each other).The Soundtrack
I will never be over the utter gorgeousness of this show’s soundtrack. The OST line-up is absolutely stacked (why am I just finding out that SIG sings, how is this man even real??). Each song perfectly suits the atmosphere of the show, and really enhances specific moments between the characters. My favourite, however, has to be Ailee’s Breaking Down. It’s such a pretty yet powerful song, and her vocals are top-notch (as usual). They always played at it the most pivotal, romantic moments in the show, and now I get Pavlovian butterflies in my stomach and a dreamy smile on my face everytime I hear that first note, followed by “It’s about to fall off 위험해”. This was the first time I was tempted to buy a physical album of a drama OST, it’s so pretty, just look at it!Concluding Remarks
This is the first drama I watched as it was airing, and it was definitely a different experience. My general perception of the pacing of the show was a little distorted, given that I had to wait days for the next episode to come out. Even so, it held my full interest throughout. The characters and their interactions were compelling, even when the plot slowed down. The dialogues were lovely, but I can’t help but feel like some things were inevitably lost in translation. The narrative was straightforward and not overly complicated, with more focus on the characters and the little, important, human moments in their lives. Every shot was deliberate and stunning – the cinematography and colour grading really enhanced the quality of the show.
I loved the recurrence of the rain and everything it represented for our main characters. Dong Kyung, who felt like it was constantly raining in her life, finds someone who tells her it’s okay to be the only one without an umbrella. Sometimes, we just need to run and get wet in the rain, and before we know it, we’ll be home. Isn’t that such a beautiful sentiment? It’s raining when Myul Mang dissipates, sacrificing his life for his love, and it’s raining when he returns to her as a human. Their first kiss, fittingly in the rain, was everything I could’ve asked for. I know I said this before, but their chemistry is seriously off the charts.
The show’s ending was simply lovely. I’m glad they didn’t have a wedding, it would’ve felt a little too rushed, in my opinion. There were so many domestic, intimate scenes between them, and the way they kept hugging and cuddling each other made my heart full. (Their considerable height difference made these scenes so much cuter!) The final scene of them making wishes on a shooting star was a very sweet callback to the circumstances under which they first met.
The show engaged with intriguing philosophical ideas about life and death, light and darkness, gain and loss, and how a proper balance between them is necessary. I also liked how Myul Mang was not only in charge of human death and destruction, but also the decline of inanimate objects, cultural traditions and language. It reminds us to live in the moment, cherish what we have and not take things for granted, lest it be too late. There was an overarching theme of hope in the show – that perhaps one day, even if we don’t realize it, we will all have our happy ending.
Watching DAYS has been a part of my routine for weeks – it made me feel all the feelings in the world, and I’m not ready to let it go yet. This is a show filled with heart and warmth and love, and I already want to rewatch it!
If you somehow read to the end of this monster of a post, I really appreciate it! I had a vague idea of the points I wanted to cover, but this essay really got away from me, and I discovered I had far more I wanted to say than I’d thought. Please feel free to share your thoughts about the show and my review, I look forward to reading them 🙂