Heartbeat – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

A Chaotic Beginning

Heartbeat Episode 1 starts with a chase in the woods. Set in the Joseon period, we see a couple, Seon Woo-hyeol and Yoon Hae-sun, running away from men clad in black. They soon get surrounded and Woo-hyeol lifts Hae-sun in his arms and flies up out of their reach. One of their pursuers has a special arrow with a silver arrowhead made to kill vampires.

As Woo-hyeol flies through the air with the woman, the man shoots from behind and the arrow hits its mark. They fall to the ground. When one of the men targets Hae-sun, Woo-hyeol grows angry. His teeth and nails elongate, revealing his true vampire form. He fights and brings all the men down.

Hae-sun hugs him and he returns to his original form. When she sees one of the wounded soldiers aiming for Woo-hyeol, she stands in his way and gets shot instead. She bleeds out and Woo-hyeol drinks her blood.

In a different time period now, we see Woo-hyeol listening to his friends read out a eulogy for him. Lee Sang-hae and Park Dong-seop are vampires while the third man is a human, Butler Joo.

When Sang-hae and Dong-seop get into an argument about who will get Woo-hyeol’s coat and hat, Woo-hyeol reveals himself from behind a desk. He asks them if they will treat his house the same way. Ultimately, he hands over the keys to the house to Butler Joo instead. The friends then ask Woo-hyeol why he wants to become a human but he doesn’t provide a straight answer.

A narration from Woo-hyeol gives us the gist of vampires in this world. He tells us that vampires need only a little bit of human blood and the lesser they consume, the longer they live. They hate the sun but can go out in it. It just means they need to drink more blood to survive. They can fly as well but while others can see vampires’ reflection they themselves cannot.

Woo-hyeol comes out of a suit shop after a fitting and several women fawn over his handsomeness. He gets into his car and Butler Joo informs him that ‘that person’ might come today. We then move to the Shaded Oasis, a pub where those who don’t like the sunlight can gather at night. Woo-hyeol watches the party unfold while his friends mill about.

Sang-hae gets a drink for himself and a woman in the pub but she seems more interested in the owner, Woo-hyeol. A group of women approach Woo-hyeol and ask him if he has a girlfriend. He excuses himself. Outside, he finds a vampire sucking blood from another man. He reprimands the vampire for breaking the rules and drinking blood from a human in his pub.

Elsewhere in the pub, a group of vampires sit around a table and deride Woo-hyeol’s desire to become a human. They’re stopped by Dong-seop who defends Woo-hyeol. As the party rages on, Woo-hyeol stands atop the roof and watches two humans in love. It’s one of his hobbies. As a vampire, he laments not having a beating heart. He remembers when Hae-sun had once described love as a fluttering heart.

He wants to experience that too. Apparently, he tried several things to become human but none worked. He then gives a stray cat some food and to his surprise, the cat turns into a man named Ko Yang-nam. The man, really a 1000-year-old cat, asks Woo-hyeol why he wants to become human. Woo-hyeol claims it’s because he wants to feel love.

As Hae-sun was dying in the snow, she promised Woo-hyeol that they would meet and love each other once again. She then tells Woo-hyeol to drink her blood and remember her.

Yang-man tells Woo-hyeol to sleep in a coffin made of Hawthorne for 100 years. That will turn him into a human.

Back in the present, Woo-hyeol gets ready to go inside the coffin. He wishes Butler Joo a good life. Joo promises him that his descendants will take good care of the house. He gets in the coffin, along with a mirror so he can finally see himself once he’s human. Dong-seop and Sang-hae close the coffin over him.

Years later, a woman named Joo In-hae wakes up in her apartment to find the heater broken. She gets ready and heads out, ringing the bell downstairs. The resident, a shaman, opens the door and she complains about the broken heater.

She reaches her workplace, a school where she works as a nurse. She’s barely stepped inside when another woman attacks her. In the principal’s office, the woman accuses In-hae of cutting her daughter’s hair because it had gum in it. In-hae reveals that the woman’s daughter was being bullied and this was her way of getting the parent’s attention.

Meanwhile, Dong-seop is now running a snack shop and struggling to pay rent. Sang-hae arrives and we find out that he spent a lot of Woo-hyeol’s money on gambling and failed businesses and is now a tarot card reader. Sang-hae rants about how they need to pay money even for human blood. They discuss how Woo-hyeol will awaken from his coffin in two days.

In-hae returns home to find the shaman leaving in a hurry with a suitcase. He promises the handyman will come by to fix the heater the next day. In her apartment, she drinks on her own and looks at a picture of her father. She asks him to at least tell her if he’s alive or dead.

We then see a man named Shin Do-sik being interviewed for bringing dying neighbourhoods to life through his real estate company. On the way home, he talks to his driver about some health issues he’s been facing and then gives him some work-related instructions.

In-hae wakes up in the morning to find that her building is to be torn down and her landlord was a serial scammer. The police say she probably won’t get her money back and the bank says she’s reached the limit for a loan. While eating in a store, she looks up Shin Do-sik and his real estate company.

She then gets a phone call that changes everything. After five years of being missing, her father has been declared legally dead. As his heir, she gets his leftover money and the old mansion in his name. She heads over to the place and uses the gold key she got to open the gate. She explores the house and finds her way to the basement.

Curious about the coffin there, she opens it to find Woo-hyeol inside. He suddenly wakes up. All the candles in the room light up and he crawls out of the coffin. Woo-hyeol seems unperturbed, he’s in fact pleased to see Butler Joo’s descendant. He thanks her for protecting his house while he slept. She surprises him by attacking him and threatening to call the cops. He then smells the blood from a scratch on her arm and realises something’s wrong.

He finds the mirror and looks at it to see a reflection but a blurry one. He then confirms the date with In-hae and realises he was woken up one day too early. He gets angry and tells her she will be punished, going in to bite her neck. To his surprise, she bites his neck instead.

The Episode Review

To be quite honest, this first episode of Heartbeat is a bit messy. The story jumps around too much, across three different timelines! And this is all before we’ve even had the chance to know everybody’s names. While I understand the need to have elaborate exposition I do think it would have had more impact if the events were narrated in a more sequential way.

But while it is hard to follow, Ok Taec-yeon makes this episode an absolute delight. He’s charming while in love, ferocious when angry, and hits the right note during the humorous scenes. Along with Ko Kyu-pil and Yoon Byung-hee, I can already tell that this trio of vampires are going to create the show’s most rib-tickling scenes.

Won Ji-an makes In-hae come across as strong-willed and feisty. We haven’t spent too much time with her but I can see just how she would be an obstacle in Woo-hyeol’s path. Her range of expression doesn’t seem as wide as Taec-yeon’s, but that’s probably natural considering the difference in experience levels. And that could change as we spend more time with her.


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You can read our season 1 review of Heartbeat here!

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