Episode 1 of Navillera begins with Deok-Chool paying his respects at a funeral. As he sits with his friends, they all comment how less of them seem to appear there every day. The passing of time is cruel, and 70 year old Deok-Chool is well aware of this. He’s quit soju and is trying to stay positive.
After the funeral, he heads to the dance studio where he notices the majestic Lee Chae-Rok dancing. As Deok-Chool slips away, Chae-Rok continues to practice.
His teacher, Mr Ki, grills him over his technique and hesitation. He notices something is up and confronts his student after class. Chae-Rok brushes aside his concerns though and simply tells him he’s feeling a little heavy. In fact, a lot of his stresses stem from the death of his Mother, and with his Father released from prison shortly, he promises to visit her again soon.
Seung-Joo quizzes his ex girlfriend So-Ri over what it means to be in a slump. He admits that Chae-Rok is having difficulty adjusting and doesn’t quite know how to deal with this turn of events.
That evening, Chae-Rok starts working at a cafe but a boy called Yang Ho-Beom arrives. He confronts Chae-Rok and tells him he doesn’t deserve to live a good life, especially with his Father being released from prison soon. Feeling guilty, he agrees to pay for the boy’s dinner.
Deok-Chool meanwhile continues to deliberate over his life choices. Now retired but constantly thinking back over his days of ballet, this 70 year old celebrates his birthday but it’s mired in drama.
The family begin bickering about finances and money at the dinner table. Eventually dysfunctional Uncle Seong-Gwan shows up and the family immediately start another road of bickering. This eventually sees him stand up and walk away.
With everything a bust, Deok-Chool heads to Ae-Ran’s work for lunch but his granddaughter is busy and has already eaten. Instead, Deok-Chool finds himself alone, deliberating over how the days are becoming longer and everyone around him is moving on and living their lives.
That evening, Deok-Chool spies an advertisement on a bus shelter for Swan Lake, and heads there to watch it. With a big grin plastered on his face, Deok-Chool claps enthusiastically when the show concludes. On the way out the door, he catches a glimpse of Chae-Rok who also happens to be there watching. As fate would have it, they both end up on the bus together too.
Chae-Rok is heading for the orthopedics where he’s bandaged up ready for his big audition. It’s clear he’s in pain though and with every spin and twist, his leg continues to give way. To make matters worse, Mr Ki arrives and sees him trying too hard, commenting how there’s no emotion and it’s all very robotic. In fact, Mr Ki even tells him he doesn’t deserve to dance.
Chae-Rok eventually attends his audition in the morning. Knocking back some pills, he prepares to show what he’s made of on the stage. Only, he changes his mind at the last second and hurries away, charging for the bus and heading to the Correctional Institute instead.
He waits patiently for his Father but he doesn’t show up. It turns out Mu-Ryeong has already been released at 7am but he didn’t bother to tell his son. Instead, he rings from a payphone to let him know. It’s a brief chat, and one that sees him admit he’s got a job and he’ll be in touch shortly.
That evening, Deok-Chool receives a devastating letter from his friend at the nursing home. He admits he keeps hearing the ocean and that his pain is getting worse every day. Because of this, he just wants to be at peace. It’s a real hammer blow for Deok-Chool, who finds another of his old friends has passed away. This one hits particularly deep, especially given they knew each other for 50 years.
Eventually this leads Deok-Chool back to the dance studio where he witnesses Chae-Rok dancing majestically. He wants to join and get involved too.
Despite his old age, Deok-Chool promises that he’s stronger than he looks and wants a chance. Unfortunately he’s not given that opportunity. However, his passion does remind Seung-Joo of Chae-Rok from 4 years prior. This is enough to spur Seung-Joo on to make a big decision. He wants Chae-Rok to teach Deok-Chool how to dance.
The Episode Review
After the disappointment of Love Alarm season 2, it seems like Song Kang has been given another life line in the form of Navillera. This beautiful Monday/Tuesday drama gets off to a really promising start, with some great characterization and excellent foundations to work off.
The whole idea of this old/young divide and both characters essentially feeding off one another to better themselves looks like it could have a lot of promise going forward. It certainly promises a lot of tender and heartwarming moment between the pair too.
For Deok-Chool, his whole motivation is clinging to the fragments of youth that are slowly slipping away with the sands of time. By comparison, we’ve got Chae-Rok who’s going through the motions and struggling to find himself.
There’s a real ‘Do You Like Brahms’ feel to some of the melodrama, although this one feels a little more light and thematic than last year’s music-driven K-drama.
Speaking of which, the music choices here are a little on the nose at times and the supporting cast haven’t had a lot of screen-time either. However, it’s still early days and these are minor quibbles in what’s otherwise a very promising opening episode. Roll on tomorrow for the follow-up!