Itaewon Class – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Standing Up For Your Beliefs

Fresh off the success of Chocolate, JTBC return with their next Friday/Saturday night Korean drama; Itaewon Class. With a few different timelines introduced and a really artistic, vibrant feel to a lot of the scenes, this series gets off to a good start, with a decent enough foundation and a shocking climax that sets the scene nicely for this 16 episode drama to play out.

“I hope the world comes to an end”, Yi-Seo says as she sits in therapy and expresses how she feels. It turns out her boss, Sae-Ro-Yi told her he wants her to die. As she leaves the room, we learn this tale is one that revolves around the small street of Itaewon.

We then cut back 15 years before to see Sae-Ro-Yi being punished by the teacher. It turns out this was a common occurrence and he had no friends either. As Yi-Seo narrates, we learn she had a crush on him back in school. He’s on the verge of transferring schools though and on the eve of him leaving, Yi-Seo gives him some chocolates as a gift but he simply walks away and refuses to engage with her.

We then cut to Pajin City as Sae-Ro-Yi gets off the bus and speak to an arrogant girl there called Soo-A, who brushes him off as he tries to make her apologise for an incident involving a homeless man. The National Police Exam looms and despite getting a perfect score in strength, an injury to Sae-Ro-Yi’s knee sets him back. However, somehow he still manages to impress them.

After his Father faces some hardship in the face of the Chairman, he picks up his son Sae-Ro-Yi from the police exam and discusses one of the comments regarding him being socially awkward. They drive to Pajin Orphanage together where Sae-Ro-Yi finds Soo-A working. Things clearly become awkward given their earlier encounter too and as the former realizes this, he walks away.

The next day, Sae-Ro-Yi prepares for school while Soo-A refuses a lift from Geun-Won, instead deciding to take the bus. Sae-Ro-Yi sees this from afar and decides against getting on the bus with her but at class, he’s introduced to everyone, including the class bully Jeun-Won who pours milk over Ho-Jin and proceeds to humiliate him. Sae-Ro-Yi looks set to interfere but Soo-A advises against it; the boy is the Chairman’s son and most people don’t interfere.

Sae-Ro-Yi doesn’t listen though and instead stands up for Ho-Jin. The teacher arrives and turns a blind eye to Geun-Won’s bullying. Sneering, the arrogant boy tells him the school rule is that everyone listens to him, prompting Sae-Ro-Yi to punch him square in the jaw.

Unfortunately this incident spills over to the Chairman who calls Mr Park out of his meeting while his son is beaten with a stick at school. The meeting is tense, to say the least, as the Chairman decides that Mr Park will have to settle things. Sae-Ro-Yi remains hot-headed though as he’s told to kneel before his son and apologise, which is the only way they’ll settle things. Sae-Ro-Yi stands up against this corription and mentions Geun-Won’s bullying incident and accepts that needs to be punished too. He refuses to apologize to someone who bullied a fellow classmate and remains defiant.

Unfortunately Sae-Ro-Yi’s pride causes his Father to be forced to resign from his position. As they sit together and share some father/son bonding time later that evening, Sae-Ro-Yi apologises for his actions but his Father tells him how proud he is and how he stood up for himself earlier in the day.

High atop his mountain, Chairman Dae-Hee laments Park’s rebellious attitude and ponders over what to do about it. Soo-A runs with Sae-Ro-Yi into town after she forgets her test ID and they make it just in time for her exams. He wishes her good luck as she heads in to her interview, waiting for her outside all that time. Soo-A runs into him and the two start to bond, sitting by the lake together and discussing the Geun-Won incident.

After obtaining Soo-A’s number, Sae-Ri-Yo heads home to his Father, who remains in high spirits as he prepares to open his own bar. Things look like they’re on the up until a car ploughs into the back of his Father and knocks him off his bike later that evening. Bloodied and bruised, he mutters that he has to survive before passing away; a single blood-stained tear falling from his face.

Sae-Ro-Yi is a mess, cursing how much he’s taken for granted, as Detective Byung-Heon arrives and reveals the suspect has turned himself in. He wants to reach a settlement and as Soo-A looks at the photos it turns out the car is Geum-Won’s. Sae-Ro-Yi purposefully marches toward the hospital where he finds Geum-Won outside nursing a broken arm. As rain pours down, Sae-Ro-Yi beats the bully down as he screams in vain for help. He apologises for killing his father which causes Sae-Ro-Yi to snap, beating him to a pulp and telling him he needs to apologize to his dead father. As Sae-Ro-Yi grabs a large rock, he looks set to hit Geum-Won as the episode agonizingly comes to a close, and with no preview for tomorrow’s episode either.

With some bright, vivid colours and really impressive acting, Itaewon Class gets off to a pretty good start here after a slow-burn opening. The characters are engaging, there’s a good scope of progression to escalate from here on out and the entire episode really sees Sae-Ro-Yi grow and evolve over time, letting his guard down and subsequently being punished for it as his Father meets an untimely end.

The shocking nature of this incident is the big talking point here though and the good work done to build up this likable character is an example of how well this show has done so far with its opening 75 minute slice of drama. The frenetic energy early on and the timeline jumps do feel a little messy but once the show settles down during the “15 years ago” segment, things do improve.

For now though, there’s enough here to suggest Itaewon Class could well be a slow-burn success but it’s far too early to tell whether it will or not. So far so good though and roll on tomorrow’s episode for more development to this conflict that looks set to consume the series.


Itaewon Class is available to watch on Netflix. Feel free to click here and sign up now to check this show out!

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