Gyeongseong Creature – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review


Gyeongseong Creature Episode 1 begins with a Japanese troop receiving the order to retreat. The troop’s leader tells his men to pack their things and burn everything else, they must leave no evidence behind. We see men in hazmat suits carrying what looks like dead bodies. They are dumped in large piles and dynamites are set on the wall. An officer wearing glasses enters a nearby room.

He’s told they have 12 serums and 8 Najin. The ‘other two’ have to be left behind. They all hear sinister noises coming from behind a metal door as if something is trying to break out. They walk away after dousing the entire place in gasoline.

As two officers are pouring gasoline near a metal door, something bangs into it, making indents. One of the officers lights a match. The senior officer wearing glasses is seen leaving with the rest of his people as the building burns behind him. Inside, a large humanoid creature is seen through the flames.

In March 1945, Gyeongseong (as Seoul was known then), we see a man and a woman disembark from a train. They look like travelers and take a newspaper from a small boy selling them. The boy also slips them a leaflet with ‘real news’ describing air raids in Tokyo. It’s been written by Korean insurgents. But soon, the Japanese authorities arrive and round up the people who are found with the leaflets. All the people rounded up are forced to sign up for the army.

The scene shifts to a man who is tied to a chair and is being tortured. This is Jang Tae-sang, the owner of the House of Golden Treasures, a pawnshop. And not just any pawnshop, a really successful one where people line up with their valuables. However, the concierge, Manager Gu, is able to see through the phoney items that some people bring.

A young boy, Boem-a, delivers a tray full of valuables to an older woman named Mrs. Nawol, who sets them inside a securely locked vault. Tae-sang enters and asks if she’s prepared the tea set for Lady Maeda. Her family has valuable connections that could be useful to Tae-sang. Tae-sang then describes himself as a self-made man who can get anything he wants. So how did he end up getting tortured?

Turns out, it’s not because of any suspicions of insurgency but an affair. Commissioner Ishikawa, the man torturing him, suspects him of having an affair with his wife, Lady Maeda. Tae-sang insists he was only delivering a tea set and turns the tables on Ishikawa, asking if he’d be okay with Maeda finding out his suspicions.

Tae-sang then asks Ishikawa what he really wants. He hands over a picture of a woman and tells him to find her. She’s been missing for a week. Tae-sang isn’t inclined to take this up but Ishikawa threatens to take all his possessions and have him sent to the war if he doesn’t. He has time until the cherry blossoms fall. Tae-sang returns to the pawnshop, worn and tattered. Mrs. Nawol enters and Tae-sang admits that he’s worried.

The travelers from earlier are still walking on the street. The man enters a bar and asks the woman there for a man named Sachimoto. She suggests that the man go to Tae-sang, since he is known as Mr. Omniscient of Gyeongseong. Meanwhile, the girl, Chae-ok, sees a broken-down motorcycle in a shop and buys it after some haggling. She fixes the thing up herself and drives off.

At the pawnshop, Manager Gu wonders if they should sell everything and run away. Mrs. Nawol says that Ishikawa will hear about it long before they can run away. Tae-sang looks out the window and sees Ishikawa’s men keeping an eye on him. He then tells Manager Gu to ask around about the woman, Myeong-ja.

He tells the boy, Beom-o, to set up a meeting with a Master Kwon Jun-taek, the only man brave enough to mess with Ishikawa’s girl. As for Mrs. Nawol, she must discreetly sell their most valuable things and find out about ships sailing from Gyeongseong, should they need to escape.

Everyone goes about their duties. The woman traveler from earlier stands outside the pawnshop and watches. Tae-sang sees her from his window.

Ishikawa learns that Tae-sang has started looking for the woman. A flashback shows that the woman told Ishikawa that she was pregnant with his child. A secretary tells Ishikawa his wife has called but he returns a message saying that he’s busy with a missing person’s case. At home, Lady Maeda receives the message.

We then see a prison packed with women. A man in a lab coat arrives with several soldiers and two women are forcibly pulled out. A woman who seems like a new inmate is terrified watching it. She notices a necklace on one of the women before she is dragged away. The officer in glasses turns up again. He approves of the two women and they are taken away.

They are put in two individual cells where, to their surprise, each finds a plate of dumplings and water. Ravenous, they help themselves. All this while, the group of officers watches them carefully. In the officer’s cabin, we see a group of glass vials, half of which are empty. The rest are filled with a liquid and inside is what looks like a three-pronged worm.

Meanwhile, Tae-sang heads out and cajoles one of Ishikawa’s spies into giving him a ride. Elsewhere, Mrs. Nawol meets with a man to go about selling the pawnshop’s valuables. The man has heard rumours of Tae-sang’s pickle and suggests they take the help of sleuths. He’s heard that sleuths from Manchuria, experts at finding missing people, are in town. Nawol is definitely interested.

Chae-ok follows Tae-sang’s ‘cab ride’. Tae-sang enters a restaurant and tells the manager he simply wants to exit through the back door. The woman follows him all the way, but Tae-sang seems well aware. She loses him in a dark alleyway and suddenly Tae-sang is holding a gun to the back of her head. He asks who sent her but she fights him off.

They fight until they each are holding something pointed at the other’s neck, neither trusting the other. Tae-sang is the first to lower his gun and Chae-ok claims she’s looking for a Japanese man named Sachimoto, a painter. She then admits she’s looking for her mother who went missing ten years ago. When Tae-sang assumes she ran away with Sachimoto, the woman is offended and slaps him. She disses his title of Mr Omniscient and leaves.

We then see an artist’s workshop where a man is drawing something. This is Sachimoto and someone knocks on his door and tells him he’s been summoned.

Tae-sang meets with Jun-taek, who knew the courtesan Myeong-ja before she went with Ishikawa. Jun-taek doesn’t know where she is now. But since Tae-sang is going to lose everything to Ishikawa anyway, Jun-taek suggests Tae-sang donate his wealth to the Korean independence movement. Tae-sang isn’t inclined to and the two argue about how he should spend his money.

The officer with glasses is told that the first test subject is showing symptoms. She’s getting intense headaches, so bad that they make her bang her own head into the wall. The officer calls her a failure. Test Subject 2 is quiet. The officer tells his man to inject the serum. Later, we see the woman throwing up in the cell. Something like a worm moves under a skin.

Tae-sang returns home to find that Nawol has contacted the sleuths. He’s surprised to see Chae-ok although she is now accompanied by the man. He turns out to be her father. Chae-ok doesn’t want to work with Tae-sang. That is until he offers to look for Sachimoto. He also says he will find her mother. Chae-ok’s father asks Tae-sang if he’s a good or bad person. The reply is, he’s a person who wants to survive.

Sachimoto is called to the room with the two prison cells. He’s told to draw what he sees in the second cell. He shines a light into the cell and something jumps out at him at the end of Gyeongseong Creature Episode 1.

The Episode Review

Episode 1 of Gyeongseong Creature sets up a captivating thriller drama, with compelling characters and a convincing historical setting. The production value is sleek, with everything from the set to the costumes giving off a highly polished look. The scenes in the Japanese soldier’s prison where they experiment on two inmates are executed well, building up a sense of suspense and horror. The music only amplifies this feeling further.

Story-wise, the episode does a good job setting up a web made up of several characters. We understand who Tae-sang is and his place in Gyeongseong’s society, but the episode also doesn’t waste too much time on exposition. Tae-sang is dropped into a severe conundrum right in the beginning. This keeps the momentum high and a 70-minute run time doesn’t seem as long because of the steady pace.

Chae-ok and her father haven’t received as much of the limelight and yet, the scene with the motorcycle is enough to establish who she is as a person. The action sequence between Tae-sang and Chae-ok stands out from the episode, the fight scene showing off some sleek choreography. The cinematography is smooth as well making it an exciting watch. All in all, the episode has set some high expectations for the rest of the show.  


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Read our season 1 review of Gyeongseong Creature here!

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