Dealbreaker is the latest book in L.X. Beckett’s Bounceback series, and it drops a vast conspiracy into the laps of a not very traditional family. In Dealbreaker, Frankie Barnes, Maud Sento, the sentient app Babs, and the rest of their packmates find themselves embroiled in something that looks like it might mean the end of the world!
Lex joins us to talk about some of their favorite supernatural and science fiction dramas from South Korea, shows where the adventures are huge, the stakes are high, and the characters’ unorthodox bonds of love and found family are tested by everything from corporate shenanigans to mermaid health emergencies!
By L. X. Beckett
The King: Eternal Monarch: When a portal opens between parallel versions of South Korea, the young king Lee Gon discovers his father’s assassin may be hiding in our world. Detective Jeong Tae-eul is the best person to help, and thanks to a twist of interdimensional temporality, Gon has had a crush on her his whole life. Now that the two have finally met, they need to resolve all of those feelings and unearth the truth.
This show didn’t make quite the splash that Netflix was expecting. Frankly, that’s a shame. There’s two of almost everybody, and it messes beautifully with all the family and friendship dynamics. Gon and Tae-eul are moving within circles where everyone’s neighborhood barista might wear the same face as a palace assassin, a goofy best friend’s counterpart is an elite, sharpshooting royal bodyguard, and someone’s lost love probably has a mysterious double lurking on the other side of a very unstable portal. Like Frankie in Dealbreaker, whose fight against offworld colonialism drags her repeatedly from her family to a space station 11 lightyears from earth, Lee Gon’s responsibilities to his kingdom and his struggle to manage his double life loop him ever further from Tae-eul, forcing both to juggle their own personal responsibilities with those of the greater good.
Are You Human? Where would we be in science fiction without tormented scientists making questionable life choices? When widowed AI researcher Oh Ro-ra loses custody of her son to her husband’s family, she builds a robot doppleganger of her darling, Nam Shin. All well and good, right? Except then her son comes looking for her, only to fall afoul of a murder plot.
Ro-ra instantly drops all her research in favor of a scheme to get her robot faux-son to stand in for her badly injured birth child. All robot Shin has to do is move into a fabulous mansion, do the real Shin’s job, flirt with his bodyguard while fending off his fiancé, and, ideally, manage not to get caught in deep conversation with his household Roomba or the self-driving car his company is developing.
Robotic Shin has a sweetness of character that wins over all the people his understandably damaged human brother has alienated over the years. He pulls in a nucleus of people who are desperate to believe in his too-good-to-be-true transformation.
Anyone who’s read Gamechanger and Dealbreaker knows I am a sucker for lovable and helpful AIs. The robot Shin is a truly humane and altruistic entity, and I’d like to think he’d get along with Babs and Crane, but especially Happ.
He is Psychometric: A drama about three survivors of an apartment fire takes several dark turns. Lee Ahn and Yoon Jae-in meet as adults years after the infamous fire, and begin to uncover the many layers of systemic deception hiding the truth about the accident that deprived them of their parents. They are taken under the wing of an unofficial elder brother—Prosecutor Kang Sung-mo. Sung-mo is especially protective of Lee Ahn, who came away from the fire with peculiar psychic powers: when he touches murder victims or evidence from crime scenes, he sees the victims’ last moments. Using psychometry is physically damaging—possibly even life-threatening—and much of the info he gathers in this way is trivial and useless for police. Sung-mo asks Jae-in to help Lee Ahn refine his abilities as they all investigate the past case.
As Lee Ahn and Jae-in learn more about the crime and the cover up, the story behind the fire becomes ever more disturbing. A lot of shows promise viewers that the characters are digging into a mystery that may well destroy them, but few narratives truly deliver on that promise. He is Psychometric’s final revelations are truly blow-up-your-life stuff, offering a dramatic and nuanced conclusion and no easy answers.
Mystic Pop-Up Bar: Wol-ju has to settle scores and resolve regrets for thousands of ghosts and mourners before she can go to heaven. She redeems these longstanding regrets by becoming a bartender on the streets of Seoul. She and her chef, Manager Gwi, are approaching a deadline set by the Lord of the Underworld. Time’s running out and if she fails to help the required number of souls, Wol-ju is bound for hell.
Fortunately, the two of them meet Han Kang-bae , a young man trapped in a minimum wage job. Kang-bae is cursed: anyone he touches reveals their most intimate secrets and problems to him, whether he wants to hear them or not.
Wol-ju hatches a scheme—she’ll recruit Kang-bae as a part-time waiter in the bar and use him to compel people to tell her their problems. He’s reluctant at first, but she promises she can help him get rid of his terrible confession-inducing superpowers. As the three of them start to clear cases Wol-ju and Gwi eventually adopt Kang-bae—who desperately needs some parenting—and dig into the mystery of how he got his powers in the first place.
Kang-Bae’s feelings of abandonment make him something of a spiritual match for Frankie in Dealbreaker. Frankie finds herself in an awkward relationship with a stepparent—Rubi Whiting, from Gamechanger, while coping with estrangement from her own parent Gimlet and the death of two beloved grandparents. The importance of intimacy, mutuality, and friendly affection in so many of these shows and the way that damaged families can reinvent themselves—especially when everyone behaves with affection and good faith—is one of the many things that makes these supernatural dramas so compelling.
L. X. Beckett is the author of The Bounceback series, a new spin on near-future science fiction in this series set on a high-tech Earth that has clawed its way back from environmental collapse and is now on the brink of a technological revolution. Gamechanger and Dealbreaker are both available anywhere books are sold now.
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