Following the recent announcement of Netflix’s future partnership with JTCB, Chocolate is the newest Korean drama showcased on Netflix and if the first episode is anything to go by, things look very promising indeed for this collaboration going forward. As long as this 16 episode structure remains intact, with episodic releases, the injection of Netflix’s funds should be enough to produce some really impressive, big-budget k-dramas in the future.
We begin with Cha Young staring out at the ocean and as she does, the scene cuts to a man staring out too, seemingly across the same ocean. Riding his bike, he races up the mountainside before coming face to face with Cha Young, where we cut back in time.
Wando 1992 is where we begin our tale and a fisherman arrives with a good catch. After handing it over to an older woman, we cut to see her prepping the lavish sea-food cuisine. It’s a lavish meal too, and one that brings the customers closer together as they chow down. A girl outside sits weeping over the food though, prompting Lee Kang to head out and ask her why she’s crying. It turns out the meal is the most delicious she’s ever tasted, and after drying her eyes we find out her name is Moon Cha-Young.
Back home we see Cha-Young’s controlling Mother, a woman lamenting her daughter eating so much while berating her Father for bringing her food. As she hangs her head in shame, we cut back to Lee Kang who spills a boiling pot of bubbling water all over himself. Against the odds, he makes the shasha as agreed and awaits Cha-Young’s arrival, a bandage over his wrist from the burns.
Instead, he has to contend with Tae-Hyun who starts kicking his sick dog-house before throwing a stone at his face. As the two fight, they’re both rushed to hospital where we see Kang being forced to wait as Tae-Hyun is given priority at the hospital.
From here we cut forward to Spring 1993, where little Cha-Young hops off a bus, intent on tasting the fine cuisine again from the restaurant but it turns out the family has moved away. Another time jump sees us skip forward again to show Kang as an adult, living in Seoul mourning the death of his Mother. As he stares at her picture, we cut back in time to see the moments she decided they’d move away together.
As we soon learn, Kang is now a neurosurgeon and after an altercation with a patient and her boyfriend in the hallway, he squares up to a fellow surgeon and they clash over them being discharged. Meanwhile, Cha-Young leaves the hospital too and heads home, where she eats chocolates and reminisces over her past. It turns out her Mother died during a roof collapse in a department store. As a montage kicks in we see Cha-Young working as a chef while Lee Kang works as a surgeon. Ironically, the former brings cupcakes to the hospital but neither of them seem to recognise each other, despite Cha learning Lee Kang’s real name after an awkward encounter with leftover food outside.
Back in her room, Cha-Young finally pieces together who Lee Kang is and begins stalking him around the hospital. Until he runs into her after she drops her drip that is. Bringing her back to her room, he spies the burn mark on his wrist and realizes where she knows him from. As we soon see, Lee Kang doesn’t have the happiest of familial relations but as we turn to New Years in 2013, we see Cha Young working hard in the kitchen. As she does, Lee Kang heads off to Libya and works there as a doctor. As we see a split screen of our two protagonists working, the episode closes out with a large explosion rocking Lee Kang and sending him flying while a single teardrop stains the plate of food Cha-Young is preparing.
I went in completely blind to Chocolate and didn’t really know what to expect. After the first 20 minutes however, I was absolutely sold. With a good amount of time jumps, some nice tonal shifts between comedy and drama, right the way through to a truly shocking conclusion that leave things wide open, Chocolate may just prove to be the biggest surprise of the year.
There’s clearly a relatively big budget on this one too and the split focus between Cha Young and Lee Kang does well to add some variety to proceedings. Unlike many k-dramas that seem to throw flashbacks in at inopportune times, Chocolate actually places these at the best moments which is good to see for a drama of its kind. The soundtrack already looks like it may be a winner too but it’s far too early to speculate that far ahead just yet. For now though, the future looks very promising for this k-drama and I can’t wait to see what happens in episode 2 tomorrow!
Have you watched Chocolate? What did you think? Feel free to leave a rating for this episode and a comment below!