This resident maknae is taking on episode 2 of Prison Playbook, so I thought I’d take a second to introduce myself. I am the maknae because I just started watching kdramas a year ago and writing for the blog about six months ago. In real life, I’m the oldest of three, six months older than my husband, and the mother of four children. Being the maknae in ANYTHING has never been on my radar! I can attest to Kmuse’s mad recommendation skillz — she has rarely steered me wrong. 😀 If you want to know anything else about me, click that handy “Karie the Maknae” label just under the banner. It’s got a headshot and everything.
Seriously, that’s how it looked when I was talking to the Fangirls about Prison Playbook coming to Netflix. I’ve loved the Reply series and this had all the hallmarks of a good story. So far, I have not been disappointed.
For all you gentle watchers out there, be warned: THIS IS A PRISON DRAMA. Prisoners don’t use pretty language, and Netflix has decided that they say the f-word a bit. It goes in one eye and out the other for me, but it’s there. So if that’s not to your liking, either learn Korean and turn off the subtitles, or give this a pass. We won’t judge you.
And lastly, I am also super excited to be discussing Prison Playbook as the Come Watch with Me! feature for March!! We’ll still be doing the School 2013 one in February, so I am going to be a busy little drama-watcher for a while. Come play with us! It’ll be a blast.
All right, enough of the housekeeping stuff. On to the story!
So I’m absolutely delighted by Je Hyeok’s chatty friend. He needs a good nickname. I’m torn between calling him Luis (that’s an Antman reference for you) or 1004, which is a Reply 1997 reference. The Korean word for 1004 is the same as “angel”, and Chatty Boy has definitely been Je Hyeok’s guardian angel. Yeah, he’s 1004.
We meet Guard Lee’s younger brother, the avid blogger who was passed out on the floor as Guard Lee went to work one morning. Turns out that Little Bro has always been a fan of our Je Hyeok, but has too much of a man-crush to meet him in person until Guard Lee insists on it. I find this a bit funny, since all the other guards seem to think that Guard Lee is a total Je Hyeok fanboy, but I guess he’s just proud of his friend and talks about him all the time. Honestly, I would probably do that too.
There’s been a bit of a time skip, and Je Hyeok is close to his appeal. 1004 has been readily informing him all about the prison superstitions surrounding appeal time — how to eat your food, what to do with your clothes, and so on. Tensions are still high in the cell they share — Seagull is being a pain in the butt, whining about the amount of food they’re getting and needling Je Hyeok. He decides he needs to acquire a knife and bullies the delivery boy about getting him one. Yeah, that’s not going to end well.
The story gets laid out as we go along, the threads weaving together into an interesting tapestry that looks one way until the flashbacks are revealed and a new picture emerges. I love this storytelling technique, because it keeps things fresh and surprising and tends to blow up my expectations.
It also reinforces that Je Hyeok is not a dumb man, as his ex-girlfriend seems to think, but a very deliberate one. He gathers information in every situation he finds himself in and does his best to set things right with the abilities and resources he has — like throwing a pitch just right to eliminate a security camera’s blind spot. Drama Geek and I had an interesting conversation about smart versus stupid characters, and I had to clarify that I think Je Hyeok *is* a smart character–not a blindingly brilliant one, but one who thinks outside of himself and works to help others. He doesn’t let fear dictate his choices.
I loved the repeated scenes of everyone, including the Buddhist monk, telling Je Hyeok that church services are a good time to scream. By the end of the episode, he definitely needed it. In spite of all his good deeds — correcting some long-time corruption and manipulating events so that the violent Seagull put into solitary for being in possession of that knife — Je Hyeok still ended up losing his appeal. And he needed the time to vent his frustration. The director could have gone for the cheap joke, the stupid joke, here and had Je Hyeok screaming when the song ended, but instead, he paid attention to his surroundings and kept his venting to the appropriate times. It’s touches like these that keep me smiling and invested.
At the same time, my anxiety is a little high, because “no good deed goes unpunished” seems to be the theme for the episode. 1004 gets transferred right before Je Hyeok’s appeal, and then there’s the end of the episode, when Crony (WHAT?? Really, Netflix?) comes back from the hospital and stabs Je Hyeok with the toothbrush shiv.
I’m with Je Hyeok — I want to believe the best about the people he’s surrounded with. But Guard Lee has been making a good point all along–these men are in prison for a reason. Even 1004, who seems good-hearted, has encountered most of the inmates during his various stints behind bars. I want to love him, I DO love him, but there’s a story there and I’m concerned about how it will affect Je Hyeok in the long run. Ji Ho, the ex-girlfriend? She’s an interesting character too–the only one that Je Hyeok tells the truth to, and the one who keeps everyone else’s spirits up on the outside. Krystal is doing a good job with her role.
I loved Little Brother’s impassioned response about Je Hyeok at the end, when Guard Lee is trying to comfort him about the failed appeal. “Who is Je Hyeok?” “The man who never gives up!” And we’ve seen that. Je Hyeok moves slowly and deliberately, and he may get frustrated, but even though it’s only been two episodes, we already know he’ll never give up.
I am invested and delighted in the drama, drama fans, and I hope you are too!
Until the next roll call, I remain–
Karie the Maknae
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi