Lee Kwang Soo as a tough as nails gangster with a soft inner core playing hockey? Uhm, YES PLEASE! That was my reaction when I heard about this drama special, and I could not be happier about the end result. While there were a few “What the Heck” moments of disbelief, for the most part, I really enjoyed episode 1. Which of course prompted me to share my thoughts with the world and maybe convince others to give this show a chance. So come join me as I chat about my first ever thug/hockey/college con/romantic melodrama special.
Originally I thought I would just breeze through the two hours of the series and do a quick overall review. But turns out I really liked the show, so I decided that Kwang Soo’s first leading role deserves some extra buzz. So here I am sneaking in two extra recaps between all my other recaps I started this week. Mostly because I am a kaddict through and through and can’t stand good dramas not being watched. Just a quick note, I don’t like doing step by step recaps, so this will be more my thoughts about various aspects of the episode. If I missed anything that you want to discuss or have questions about, feel free to ask me in the comment section or on our FB page.
If you were expecting a comedy due to Kwang Soo’s involvement, then you will be a tad bit disappointed. He plays Jo Joon Man, an indentured thug for a loan shark. It turns out his ex-wife had a bit of a spending problem and Joon Man ends up with her debts. In order to pay them off, he spends his days beating up people and collecting loan money. In the start of the drama, we don’t see much humanity within our lead. Joon Man coldly terrorizes his victims at home, at work, wherever the job takes him. Even after severely beating a man down a flight of stairs which required hospitalization, our lead doesn’t show much remorse.
It is only when he starts connecting with one of the people he is supposed to be harassing (a timid girl, Yeo Eun, who keeps trying to feed him and distract him from his loansharking) that we see a softening. I thought that the director did a great job on creating almost an oasis for Joon Man whenever he was near Yeo Eun. The music and camera style changed and we got some truly beautiful shots.
Sadly, I felt that Joon Man knew that this type of innocence and beauty were not for someone like him. But watching him come back and eat with Yeo Eun was somehow sweet. Especially when Joon Man kept trying to figure out ways to make it look casual that he was showing up.
You might be wondering where the hockey theme comes into play? It turns out that Joon Man’s boss is a progressive gangster who likes to think outside the box when it comes to getting his money. When Big Boss finds out that the local hockey coach can’t pay back his money, because his team is being shut down because of lack of players, he orders Joon Man to join the team.
With no other solution in sight, Joon Man joins the team as a member that had been out because of an injury (just so happens there is a new dean who doesn’t know any of the boys so he can sneak in undetected.)
With minimum skating skills and a lack of understanding of the game, the first match does not end well. The following photo kind of says it all, as Joon Man stops using his stick to hit the puck and instead bats down an opponent.
Realizing that he isn’t going to get his money if the team can’t win, Joon Man gets serious and we witness a musical practice montage where his skills increase significantly. At the end, Joon Man comes out as the team’s new enforcer.
But being a talented player is not enough to save them. The schools Dean is determined to shut down the hockey team no matter what and calls in one of the players to throw the next game. When Joon Man goes to investigate Hockey Boy’s situation he finds a mom who is overwhelmed with debt and a father hospitalized. And as kdrama fate often does, it just so happens that the father is the man Joon Man had previously injured.
Joon Man hunts down Hockey Boy at his part time job and is shocked when Hockey Boy asks him to kill him. Ya knows, since that is what thugs do and all. It looks like someone is a tiny bit depressed.
The next morning Joon Man is waiting for Hockey Boy and takes him out into the wilderness saying that he is going to grant his wish. They hike through some wonderfully scenic country to some train tracks. Joon Man handcuffs Hockey Boy and himself saying that they are going to die here together. They might as well since Joon man is dead if the team doesn’t win.
Hockey Boy goes along thinking that Joon Man is joking and just trying to scare him back into playing hockey. Which is what was happening, until a real train starts coming down the track. Joon Man mutters to himself that his friend said there were no trains here as he reaches into his pocket for the key, which slips out of his hand and lands away from his reach. Both boys frantically try to get the key and starting screaming as the train comes barreling towards their location.
Is it only me, or did this last scene feel really jarring? The sudden switch to comedy felt totally out of place despite the gorgeous cinematography. It makes me a little concerned for where the next hour is going to take us.
On the flip side, I really enjoyed a more serious tone of the drama. It is an interesting glimpse into the lives of thugs and how they have their own stories as to why they are doing this type of despicable work. I found myself really rooting for Kwang Soo even though he is mostly a bad guy. And while we can see Joon Man doesn’t always enjoy his work, he is just too good at it for us to say he is morally misunderstood. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next episode and if the writer is going to be able to tell all the story in so short a time.