Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -|Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 -|Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 -|Review Score – 3/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Big Bet is an interesting crime drama but it’s also a very slow and ponderous one too. Unlike other crime K-dramas, this gritty, grounded series revels in the reality of its subject matter and as a result, this one is surprisingly uneventful for large stretches of its run-time. That’s not to say nothing happens but instead of a gripping, thrilling cat and mouse chase between the authorities and crooks, Big Bet instead decides to opt for a slice of life feel and it doesn’t always work.
The series is all over the place too, with a timeline that sporadically jumps between different time periods to tell its story. On the one hand, you can see the influence Pachinko has had on these Korean “life story” dramas but the way Big Bet tries to emulate that here is a bit rough around the edges.
The story starts at the end, naturally. Cha Moo-sik is a big time gangster and he ends up arrested by the authorities. But how did this occur? Well, that’s where the plot kicks in, jumping back in time to Moo-sik’s upbringing, forward to him running a casino bar, back to his personal issues, and forwards again to his time in the Philippines thereafter.
While the first half of the series predominantly focuses on what’s led Moo-sik to the Philippines, the second half is much more driven as it centers on Moo-sik framed as a suspect in Min Seok-joon’s death. He’s tracked by Oh Seung-hoon, an officer working with the Korean police, who slowly closes in on him.
The show flirts with the idea of a proper cat and mouse chase but it doesn’t really materialize all that much. Instead, the slice of life drama is much more prominent, with several subplots involving politics and a romantic love interest wrestling for screen-time. It’s all pretty standard stuff but it also requires a good deal of patience to get to the few glimmers of brilliance.
The other problem with the show’s narrative format is the sheer lack of tension. While the opening scene of episode 1 grabs you completely, it also completely undermines any danger for our protagonist occurring prior to this incident. We know Moo-sik survives until this point so there’s really no need to worry.
Moo-sik himself isn’t exactly a great character to rally around either and the entourage of shady characters he runs with don’t have that much in the way of narrative depth. There’s definitely some nice ideas here but none of it materializes in a way that makes you want to get invested in anyone.
There will be some who enjoy this of course, and there’s definitely some stand out moments as I mentioned before. Some of the shocks are genuinely surprising and will catch you off-guard while the characters themselves are brought to life really well by great acting across the board, even if the material they’re given is a bit underwhelming.
And that pretty much sums up Big Bet. There are glimmers of promise here and there, while the show does have some memorable segments, but it all happens so infrequently that it’s hardly worth sticking with it for the long-haul. This one’s surrounded by a sea of mediocrity, in a series that can’t quite get the balance right for all of its elements.
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Verdict - 6/10