The Big Night Out
Taking over the previous time-slot occupied by The World Of The Married, Graceful Friends is the latest JTBC late-night drama and it certainly looks to be an intriguing prospect going forward. With an interesting cast and a future crime interwoven around the character drama in the past, Graceful Friends gracefully moves through its first episode with precision and lovely characterisation.
Episode 1 of Graceful Friends is certainly a sign of things to come as a rage-fueled Goong-Cheol bursts into a bathroom and seemingly murders someone. With blood staining the floor, interspersed around this opener are various cutaways involving our central cast against a black background being interviewed about what happened.
It’s here we cut back in time and see Goong-Cheol awakening after a nightmare about jumping from the roof. He has a big work do coming up – the opening of the 1000th chicken store to be precise – and boasts about receiving praise from the Chairman.
At the same time, his psychiatrist wife Jung-Hae also has a business meeting and winds up wearing some pretty revealing clothing before she leaves the house, refusing to get changed. After an altercation with a motorcyclist on the road, Jung-Hae arrives at her office and starts seeing patients.
One of them happens to be a friend of hers, Myeong-Sook, who has self-diagnosed herself with depression. As we soon learn, that depression is felt by her husband Man-Sik too who goes through the wars at work thanks to his oppressive boss.
That evening, the men and women of their respective marriages start drinking separately. Interestingly, the men (including Goong-Cheol, Hyung-Woo and Man-Sik) all eat out at a bar while the women (including Jung-Hae and Keong-Ja) drink in a fancy apartment.
The men talk about work before contemplating whether to go hiking together as a way of strengthening their “lower-half”. After toasting, they agree to go. However, Hyeong-Woo’s plan to join a group of girls sitting at a table adjacent to them doesn’t go down too well and it turns out they were actually smiling at a poster on the wall next to them, not at them directly
Defeated, the men walk out and after getting involved in a fight with a group outside, a bathroom incident sees them all splashing water at each other. It’s typical male tomfoolery and the characterisation for each of the main players during this time really shines through.
With the evening drawing to a close, our various couples all head home after their big nights out. Hyeong-Woo is forced to look after his drunk Mum while Myeong-Sook and Man-Sik’s relationship continues to feel awkward and contrived. Meanwhile, Eun-Sil struggles to sleep and instead turns the TV on where she watches a steamy couple kissing in their car.
Goong-Cheol and Jung-Hae both discuss their evenings and in particular her encounter with the golfing coach, whom we saw earlier in the episode getting a little too close to her. After some verbal sparring, they both tuck in for the night.
The next day our various characters go about their lives like normal. Goong-Cheol picks up Jung-Hae from work and takes her out for her birthday. While waiting in traffic, the bus that pulls up alongside them happens to hold Man-Sik who clutches his chest in pain after all the stress he’s been experiencing.
We then cut back to 1995 and see Goong-Cheol meeting Jung-Hae for the first time in college. During a party, Jung-Hae leans forward and kisses him. Juxtaposing this fate, is a previous instance of the future where we see a solemn Goong-Cheol looking over images of Jung-Hae with the golfer.
With a lot of characters to juggle and the early indication that a lot of these martial issues are going to spill over into some messy melodrama going forward, Graceful Friends gets off to a great start.
The 70 minutes establish the tone – flitting between surprisingly well-written comedy and darker themes – while the central issue of Gong-Cheol presumably murdering someone is an incident I’d assume we’ll be building up to over time.
So far so good though and it’ll be interesting to see what direction this one takes going forward. For now, this is certainly one to watch.
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