Hot Sweet Potato
Episode 1 of Racket Boys begins with an introduction to Hyun-Jong, a devoted Father and a man currently struggling to pay his rent. He’s four months late on rent and in desperate need of money.
After a few odd jobs and a failed attempt at getting his son, Hae-Kang, into a baseball camp, the family are forced to pack up their things and relocate.
We then skip forward to February 2021 as the family drive up to Ttangkkeut Village in Haenam. Hyun-Jong has been offered a coaching gig there, and this could be just what the family need to start anew. Only, it’s not exactly what the kids expected.
Their house is pretty nice but Hae-Kang is just as shocked as his father when he realizes how much it’s actually going to cost to live there. Even worse, Hae-In notices footprints on the floor which happen to be for bears.
In the morning, the kids are left with some cash to order food. This gives Hae-In and Hae-Kang the perfect opportunity to head into town and meet the residents. Among those is a sweet old lady who’s clearly losing her eye sight. Hae-Kang and Hae-In are given some food by her before being sent on their way. They’re also shooed away from a mysterious door by the side of the house. What could be in there?
Meanwhile, Hyun-Jong heads to school but finds the place locked up. Head Coach Bae is there to greet him though and introduces himself. Hyun-Jong immediately asks for three months pay in advance, desperate to pay the bills.
Given thee illustrious history of the school, Hyun-Jong is shocked to learn that the badminton team is in disrepute and only has three members – Bang Yoon-Dam, Yong-Tae and Na Woo-Chan. In order to enter competitions though, they need a fourth player. Will Hae-Kang step up?
No. No he will not. At least not to begin with anyway. An exchange student called Jonathan joins the team but he doesn’t pan out, eventually deciding to leave after all the kids shuffle in to Hyun-Jong’s place.
Thanks to some reverse psychology, the kids convince Hae-Kang to join their team – The Racket Boys.
As we draw closer to the Sweet Potato Competition (a four person badminton competition) Hae-Kang and Yoon-Chan battle it out to see who’s the better player. Yoon-Chan wins but it also seems like Hae-Kang is starting to take things more seriously. And soon we find out why.
Hae-Kang actually happens to be a really good player, having previous earned awards in junior school playing the sport. Now though, his attention has turned to baseball.
Although he agrees to get involved with the competition, he tells the others that he intends to switch over to baseball when this is all done and dusted.
However, Hae-In soon goes missing sending the team out on the hunt for her across town. She’s at the old grandma’s house, as it turns out, in a beautiful room full of trinkets and toys. This is what was being hidden in that room after all.
When Hae-Kang catches up, she mentions sadly about her grandchild and how she bought these items to try and spend more time with him. As her grandchild ages, it reminds her of her own mortality. It’s a pretty touching story, one that Hae-Kang carry with him to game day.
That’s right, the Sweet Potato competition is about to begin. We also get our first look at National Athlete Se-Yoon too, who’s competing in the female badminton team.
After Hae-Kang mistakes her for a boy and gets involved with her jump roping (two things she despises) Hae-Kang gets his head in the game and prepares for his match. Unfortunately he loses 21-15… to a talented sixth grader.
When Hae-Kang finds out, he begins laughing uncontrollably and decides to set his focus on the next badminton competition to get revenge.
The house back home grows a bit more crowded too when Yeong-Ja and the two girls from the badminton team arrive to join them for food and drinks. Yeong-Ja happens to be Hae-In’s Mother, which explains her connection to all this.
That evening though, Hae-Kang and Hae-In head over to see the Grandma. They decide to stay there for the night, enjoying the free wifi and treats laid out by this old lady. There’s a really touching flashback in this too, as Hae-Kang showed her how to face-time with her grandson. He’s happy to see him too and the two manage to connect together.
As the episode closes out, our Racket Boys learn who’s made the cut for the first round, prompting them to work extra hard to run laps around the badminton court, cursing as they do.
The Episode Review
Racket Boys gets off to a pretty good start, with (I’m guessing anyway) an extended opening episode to set things up for the season ahead. Fresh off the success of Crash Landing and Move to Heaven, the incredibly talented Tang Joon-Sang returns for another great performance here, working well as one of the leads in this sports drama.
Of course, the usual plot beats of an underdog team rising up seem to be in play, but it’s given an extra kick by a good array of supporting characters and an interesting dynamic with the girls’ badminton team.
I think it’s fair to say Hae-Kang and Se-Yoon will probably end up romantically linked at some point, while Hae-Kang will undoubtedly square off against the blonde-haired kid at another upcoming competition.
Either way though, Racket Boys sets things up nicely with some pretty good humour sprinkled in too.
Hyun-Jong is a good inclusion to the story, playing the “down on his luck” trope well to give the family a reason to relocate and move forward with this badminton gig.
While perhaps a tad overlong, there’s an awful lot in this opening episode that’s used to set the foundations for what should be a very enjoyable season ahead.
|Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!|