Big Mouth – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Welcome to Gucheon

We jump into the world of Big Mouth with a dark and grimy title track, affirming that we are now in noir thriller territory. The first scene follows a truck as it dumps a heap of gold into a pit.  The gold bars are then covered in cement, as a man shrouded in darkness watches.

This is followed by a montage of robberies, stabbings, and police chases, backed by aural news reports. We learn of Big Mouse, a notorious criminal who seems to have a finger in every pie of organized crime but whose identity remains a mystery.

A voiceover describes the fictional city of Gucheon, how it seems perfect on the outside but is rotten with crime on the inside. The short speech ends with our protagonist, Park Chang-ho looking out at the lights of the city. A knock is heard and his wife, Go Mi-ho, and his father in law, Go Gi-kwang, enter the room.

The room turns out to be part of a luxury restaurant, where the three commemorate the couple’s anniversary. Chang-ho, a lawyer, then gets a phone call, through which he reveals that he is the defence counsel for the Gucheon hospital murder.  He leaves to meet someone and on his way out, a server offers him a free drink. He sips on it while driving but soon loses hold of his senses and gets into an accident.

We shift to a flashback from 7 days earlier and are introduced to Chang-ho’s ordinary family life. Chang-ho and Mi-ho are a typical married couple who are living with her father. We learn that Mi-ho saved up lot of money but Chang-ho used it for what he thought was a lucrative cryptocurrency deal — only to get scammed. Now, he is trying to fight the case in court. He even borrowed money from a loan shark to bribe the judge. Sadly, in the face of a new judge and new lawyers, he loses the case.

As he is berated by the angry mob of people he was representing, we learn that his nickname is Big Mouth since he is all talk, but can’t back it up with skills. Mi-ho, who works as a nurse, is angry when she finds out about the case and the two argue about getting a divorce, but neither are serious about it.

As Chang-ho makes plans to stay away from home and sleep at the office for a few days, he gets a phone call from none other than the mayor of Gucheon. He heads to a remote cabin by a lake, where the mayor is fishing. Mayor Choi Do-ha tells Chang-ho about the Gucheon University Hospital murder case where three people were caught in an accident and the body of a doctor was found in the trunk of the car.

The three are incredibly privileged people associated with the hospital – a surgeon, a lawyer and the son of the chair of Gucheon University Foundation. They also belong to the Nine Rivers Forum.

As they discuss this, Chang-ho realises the trial for these three powerful men is already planned out and they just need an obedient lawyer to be a front man. But Mayor Choi really wants him to only pretend to be the front man while actually getting to the truth of the matter. He uses the idea of a righteous lawyer fighting Goliath to entice Chang-ho into playing double agent.

All Chang-ho needs to do is find the missing dashcam footage from the car that night. We see the mayor reel in a fish and the camera pans to a spider in a web. Is Chang-ho getting caught in something much bigger than it seems?

Chang-ho takes advice from one of his lawyer friends and heads to the prison where the three suspects are kept. Jung Chae-bong, Han Jae-ho and Lee Du-geun may be in prison but they live in comfortable accommodation and with luxurious amenities. Chang-ho introduces himself as their lawyer and the three are convinced he is the obedient fool they need. While he’s there, they get a phone call orchestrated by Chang-ho’s friend — someone has found the dashcam footage.

As the three start to panic, Chang-ho exits but leaves behind a bug. He overhears them talking about how the dashcam footage had been given to Dr. Han’s wife for safekeeping. They also reveal that the footage is their insurance against ‘that man’, a mysterious fourth accomplice.

Chang-ho and Mayor Choi go to meet the wife, just as she is attacked by a man clad in all black.  On being threatened with jail time, she hands over the footage to Chang-ho but not before warning him that this case could bring him a lot of misery. She also reveals the fourth accomplice is Gong Ji-hoon, a powerful man who is the president of Gukdong Daily.

The dashcam footage shows the three suspects attacking the doctor in the car itself, trying to threaten him into withdrawing a certain paper. When he refuses the attacks get more violent, consequently resulting in the doctor losing his life. The suspects then make a phone call to someone, who says he’ll take care of the body.

Chang-ho watches this and contemplates his two choices — of going to Mayor Choi with the footage or approaching Gong Ji-hoon. Meanwhile, the loan shark sends people to Chang-ho’s house to seize his property. The mounting money problems seem to strengthen Chang-ho’s resolve.

He comes back home and coaxes Mi-ho into a good mood with gifts of chicken and the money he received form Mayor Choi. They make up and talk about having a baby and their three-year anniversary the next day.

In the morning, Chang-ho drives to Gong Ji-hoon’s vacation house where he attempts to blackmail him with the dashcam footage. Ji-hoon remains unfazed and tells Chang-ho to ‘get lost’.

Later, Chang-ho finally picks up Mayor Choi’s calls and tells him he will give the footage to the prosecutor of the case directly.

The flashback completes its arc to the present and we return to the dinner scene from the beginning of the episode. Chang-ho gets a call from the prosecutor and leaves to meet him. On the way, he accepts a drink from the server and eventually gets in an accident.

After the crash, he wakes up with a gasp. His voiceover says that when he woke up, he was a completely different person.

The Episode Review

The first episode is an engaging one, sort of like the slow start to a rollercoaster ride where you know things are going to get very intense very quickly. The episode lays out a few things — Chang-ho and his family, the NR Forum, Mayor Choi, Gong Ji-hoon and the mysterious Big Mouse — like setting up a chess board. By the end we get a decent grasp of all the players and the last scene sets up the first move.

The characters stand out here. Lee Jong-suk plays the bumbling but genial lawyer to perfection but, of course, the crux of the show lies in how his character will change. From the concerned but strong-willed wife to the calm and collected mayor, each character seems well-rounded. We can only hope that this thoughtful writing of character keeps pace with the building plot.

Overall a fun, if slightly slow, episode that pumps one up for all the action yet to come.

Next Episode

You can read our full season review for Big Mouth Season 1 here!

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