Episode 1 of A Model Family begins with a man thrown into a grave and buried alive. Hooded, tied up and struggling to breathe, it looks like the end of the road for him.
This ominous opening cuts us across to Dong-Ha. Married to Eun-Joo, and with his son Hyun-Woo and daughter Yeon-Woo, our protagonist is about to find his life turned upside down. Eun-Joo acts coldly toward her husband, eventually deciding they should get a divorce. She tells Dong-Ha nonchalantly that she’s going to stay at her mums for a while and leaves with the kids.
Dong-Ha’s problems stem from an issue at work involving Professor Kim. He needs to see the foundation’s Director because the man has lost a good deal of Dong-Ha’s money. He took out a loan to pay for Hyun-Woo’s surgery but his colleague at work suggested bribing the director with these funds in order to get a promotion. That’s backfired, he’s lost his money and he’s not able to pay for the hospital fees.
Out on the road, Dong-Ha finds a car sporting a couple of bloody dead men. He starts to phone it in to the authorities but notices stacks of cash on the backseat and decides not to. After all, this is just what he needs to pay for his son’s healthcare. There are two bags worth of money and Dong-Ha hurriedly scoops up all the notes, greedily stuffing them inside and taking off.
A car does pass on the road though, but Dong-Ha keeps his face hidden and manages to avoid being seen.
After dumping the cash back at his place, Dong-Ha returns to the road where he unceremoniously dumps both bodies in the trunk and takes off, avoiding the cameras and deciding to drive back home. The trouble is, there are checkpoints on the road.
Dong-Ha manages to avoid the police and eventually drives back home again. He intends to destroy the evidence so it can’t be traced back to him, so he grabs some tarpaulin sheets, buries the men in his garden and takes off with the car, damping it in the middle of the woods.
The other belongings inside the vehicle are dumped in the river, while Dong-Ha wipes down the car to avoid his fingerprints and eventually heads home.
The thing is there’s a tracker in the car and it doesn’t take long for it to be found. A woman called Joo-Hyun rings through to her boss, updating on the investigation. It turns out she’s an undercover police officer and this car is part of a larger operation involving a gut called Kwang-Chul.
At the front of this operation is a guy called Yong-Soo, who berates his subordinate, Kwang-Chul, for not picking the right guys for this trade-off. With his own life hanging in the balance, Kwang-Chul is tasked with finding out what happened to the men on the job and getting the money back.
Kwang-Chul arrives on the scene and finds the car down by the river. Of course, with the money gone, he does a thorough search of the car and realizes it’s been wiped down. He tasks his men with taking the car back to the office for further inspection – and to be crushed.
Meanwhile, Eun-Joo checks her bank balance and realizes there’s only 4000 won inside. The family are completely broke, but of course they have no idea that Dong-Ha is sitting on a massive goldmine of money. Blood money, but money all the same.
Eun-Joo returns home, where Dong-Ha explains he’s started a new business with Byeong-Gu and they don’t need to worry about money anymore. The thing is, a lot of these notes have blood on them and even worse, a high deposit will be subject to tax inspections. So how is Dong-Ha going to launder the money?
Dong-Ha’s not the sharpest guy and it turns out that those bodies he’s buried in the garden actually had phones on them. One of those phones starts ringing, with Yeon-Woo complaining that she can hear it from her bedroom late at night.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Kwang-Chul figures out that a local neighbourhood (the one Dong-Ha lives at) is suspicious and they decide to go in and take a closer look.
After digging up the bloody phone from the grave outside, Dong-Ha takes off out the neighbourhood. In doing so, he passes Kwang-Chul and gets a good look at exactly who’s calling the phone… it’s Eun-Joo!
The Episode Review
Most of the drama in this show hinders on Dong-Ha burying the dead bodies and covering up the crime scene. I’m a little confused as to why he didn’t just leave the car and take the money but I guess that defeats the object of the show. One could argue that if the police found the car they could launch a big investigation into finding the money, which would cause Dong-Ha to be in trouble anyway.
Either way, it’s a minor contrivance in what’s otherwise shaping up to be quite the thrilling cat and mouse chase.
There are definitely echoes of Ozark here in the way this has been set-up but A Model Family certainly has a lot of potential with its storyline. The poverty-stricken family clearly have a lot of secrets, namely that involving Eun-Joo who happens to be involved with these shady men. How? Why? I’m sure we’re going to find out in the future episodes!