Money Game – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

The Financial Crisis

If there’s one thing you can always rely on TvN dramas for it’s in-depth and absorbing shows tackling a variety of interesting and complicated topics. Much like school-drama Black Dog, Money Game takes a behind-the-scenes approach to a profession, this time focusing attention on a bank in the midst of a financial crisis. The first episode gets off to a decent start too, introducing all our characters and allowing a good amount of time spent with each across the 70 minute run-time.

Episode 1 of Money Game begins with us introduced to Jeongin Bank. It’s on the verge of being liquidated and the chairman of FSC finds himself under fire and in the hot seat. While he faces an angry mob of investigators before him, the government struggle to come up with ideas on dealing with the situation. Our Chief of Financial Policy Yi-Hun meanwhile, drives purposefully down the road to the building.

After ignoring a call from Byung-Hak, he makes it to the meeting room, taking a seat behind the accused and attempting to soften the blow of questions by feeding him answers. Unfortunately Yi-Hun is called out for it and forced to stand up. There, he’s put in an awkward position, forced to openly admit that he and the bank were wrong and are in trouble. He then goes on to admit the bank could be bought out as a possible solution, causing the room to erupt into incredulous rage.

We then cut to the Training Centre where we see eager Hye-Joon attending a lecture and asked why she became a civil servant. However, given they’re on the verge of a financial crisis in Korea, she throws the question back and asks why he’s chosen this line of work. After some debating, the Professor decides not to answer.

News of Yi-Hun’s outburst spreads to Chairman Heo too, who reads the news report surrounding the bank. As he does, we then cut back in time to see Hye-Joon hurrying with her Mother as a woman named Shannon leaves the building surrounded by government officials. Because of the issue with the bank, they aren’t able to cash any checks leaving them in a really difficult financial situation. As little Hye-Joon watches on, the officials all smirk and seem to find it funny as her Father pleads with them for help.

Back at the Financial Services Commission, Yi-Hun makes himself a tea before being berated by the other officials over his words infront of the committee. After Joon-Pyo shouts at him, word gets down to the main floor that the Chairman wants to see Yi-Hun. When he gets there, he learns the Chairman has actually gone to visit Professor Byung-Hak. The Chairman begs him to phone the President and explain the situation but the Professor is stubborn, instead telling him to go home. Soon after, Yi-Hun heads in and the two talk, where it’s revealed that the Professor is his Father.

Meanwhile, Hye-Joon returns home where we see a little more of her family life. That night she reminisces over times in the past when she looks at her piano, with her Father drunk in the other room and requesting songs while he drowns his sorrows in alcohol. The next day she arrives at the Ministry of Economics and Finance and is shown around the business. Eager to make a good impression, she tells the others her aspirations before taking a seat in the Foreign Exchange Bureau where she’ll be working.

Vice Chairman Heo requests to see Yi-Hun in his office where he agrees to his proposal of selling the bank and wants to hear his ideas on how to make this happen. After listening to the plan of getting the government involved, Heo reveals a far more drastic idea – rip up the business and start again. At the centre of this cataclysmic event, Yi-Hun will be the one to stand tall.

We then cut back to 1998 again to see the Korean financial crash, with Heo there acting as a level 5 civil servant. In the room, everyone looks over the losses before the American woman from before, Shannon, tells them the branch will close. Despite Joon-Pyo pleading with her to stop in English, she pays no attention to him. This is where we see the previous scene involving Hye-Joon’s Father again but from the perspective of Heo, who watches everything unfold before seeing first-hand the pure greed of the financial system and why the branch is being shut.

Back in the present, Heo meets with Shannon to discuss business before eventually meeting Professor Byung and telling him he should go to the Blue House but this time not get in his way (a direct reference to a previous flashback of them coming to blows during the financial crisis). Unfortunately they come to blows again, leading Heo to lose his temper and push the Professor off the steep cliff they find themselves talking on. Shocked, Heo looks down and sees the Professor take his last breath as spattered blood on the rocks below begin to mix with the rain, where we leave things hanging in the balance.

There’s an awful lot to digest from this opening episode but so far Money Game has done a good job introducing all of its characters and setting things up nicely for the season ahead. The trio of central characters all have enough depth to them to make for compelling characters and the shocking conclusion with the Professor promises some serious tension to bubble over in the weeks ahead.

With the bank on the verge of financial ruin, seeing this from the perspective of those at the top, the bottom and the workers caught in the cross-fire is a nice touch and the three protagonists perfectly portray this struggle. It’s still too early to see exactly which direction this one is likely to go going forward but for now, TvN may just have a decent thriller on their hands with this.


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