Times Gone By
Given the sheer mass of new TV content released worldwide in January, it’s telling then that on the eve of Parasite gaining critical acclaim the world over, arguably the four best dramas of the year so far are all Korean. Between Crash Landing On You, The Game: Towards Zero and Chocolate, Itaewon Class looks set to be another sure-fire hit, with a duo of exquisitely shot and well-plotted episodes, setting things up nicely for the season ahead.
Of course, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Three of the shows previously mentioned are still on-air and as such, could take a drastic turn in fortunes over the coming weeks. For now though, the partnership between Netflix and Korea appears to be a very positive move for the industry and one that hopefully sees a whole wave of content hit the Western shores.
Episode 2 of Itaewon Class begins with Sae-Ro-Yi consumed by rage and preparing to kill Geun-Won. Thankfully, Detective Byung-Heon and Soo-A arrive just in time and stop him. As he flashes back to memories of his father, Sae-Ro-Yi drops the rock. As the police take him to the station, a beautiful montage begins.
We then cut back to that fateful night as Geun-Won looks genuinely devastated and beaten up about hitting Sae-Ro-Yi’s father. Perhaps this wasn’t on purpose after all. At the juvenile centre our protagonist finds himself in, the Chairman arrives and talks to him through the glass. Struggling to hold back his anger, Sae-Ro-Yi tells the boss that Geun-Won should be the one on his knees but he simply laughs, telling Sae-Ro-Yi he lacks ambition and he’ll leave him to reflect in prison.
Soo-A is invited up to see the Chairman and asked about the nature of her relationship with his son and Sae-Ro-Yi. He offers her help but she immediately senses something afoul and asks what the stipulations are. He laughs, telling her there’s no hidden strings but as she leaves, he tests the waters and asks what she would do if there were terms. It’s an ominous question and one he immediately dissuades by telling her he was “joking”.
Geun-Won then arrives and pleads with his father to release Sae-Ro-Yi from prison given it’s all his fault this has happened. He stares Geun-Won in the eye and tells him he’s the successor to the company and as such, won’t allow it. To teach him a lesson, he brings Geun-Won outside and forces him to kill a live chicken as his Father laughs maniacally.
Sae-Ro-Yi stands silently infront of the court as they berate him and hand out his sentence – 2 years in prison. When he arrives at his cell, the prisoners inside tell him to kneel and introduce himself. One of them kicks him square in the shin too, prompting Sae-Ro-Yi begin laughing bitterly at the prospect of getting down on his knees. Instead he stands tall, the words of his father echoing in his head, as the trio of prisoners beat him senseless while the leader watches on.
Soo-A comes to visit and apologises, telling him she’s not as strong as him. He smiles though, thanking her for calling the police and looking on the positive side of things. After all, there are a lot of books – including the Chairman’s autobiography. As his time comes to an end, she asks why he wanted her number, prompting him to smile and admit to still having feelings for her.
We then cut forward 2 years with Sae-Ro-Yi offered a lift from the boss, the guy who had his men beat him all those years ago. Having seemingly earned their respect, he heads to a local bar alone and drinks alcohol; a second shot glass is left on the table as a sign of respect toward his Father. Stumbling out drunk, he leaves the Chairman’s autobiography behind – the words “I can beat you” written on the front.
On the news Geun-Won is jailed for assaulting a worker, throwing his life into turmoil. Sae-Ro-Yi scoffs at the news and gets on a bus, where he reads a note from Soo-A asking how he is and how she misses him. It’s here she mentions living in a neighborhood called “Itaewon.” which is where he’s heading. Sae-Ri-Yo arrives in Itaewon and takes in the sights and sounds as Soo-A narrates about Halloween, the American festival people on this street happen to celebrate. As he walks through the streets, he bumps into Soo-A who hugs him and shows him the local hang-outs.
There, he talks about starting deep sea fishing but with the insurance money, plus his college fund, there’s a lot of money to open his own business – which he plans to do in Itaewon after 7 years. Deciding to leave on the first bus home in the morning, he and Soo-A head out for an action-packed evening. They have a lovely time too, with drinking and face painting, all of which allowing Sae-Ri-Yo to momentarily forget his quest for revenge. As he carries Soo-A back to her house, she asks outright if he’d like to stay the night but he refuses, telling her he’s not rich yet.
In the morning he begins his quest for deep sea diving, looking back one last time with a tinge of regret. We then jump forward 7 years. Soo-A is working at the Chairman’s company and pitches an idea for a new “evil” bar. However, Geun-Won speaks up until his father agrees to give her a chance. As she heads home, she notices a store opening and, lo and behold, Sae-Ri-Yeo is back and intending to open his business where the episode ends.
With a few big time jumps and plenty of material to chew over, it’s ultimately the artistic cinematography that really stands out here. The scenes early on feature a lot of characters reflected through glas; a reflection on how they perceive themselves and others perhaps? As the episode progresses, this is replaced by a much more bright and vivid colour palette until the final act in Itaewon, where the entire episode explodes into colour and neon-lit splendor. It’s a very clever idea and one that matches the feeling of progression echoed within the storyline itself.
The story has taken its time to settle into a rhythm, with a few big time jumps along the way, but now it looks like Itaewon Class is heading for a really dramatic and tense revenge thriller to play out. With the preview for next week looking set to introduce more of the main players we’ll follow over the weeks, this Korean drama is setting itself up nicely for a dramatic season ahead.
|Itaewon Class is available to watch on Netflix. Feel free to click here and sign up now to check this show out!|