Daredevil Version 2.0
Sci-fi Korean dramas haven’t had the best of times lately. From Memories Of The Alhambra’s promising but flawed concept to Abyss’ bizarre medley of tones that blended together as effectively as cabbage-flavoured yoghurt, if there’s one weakness to Korean dramas it’s this. Let’s not even mention Melting Me Softly either! Rugal is the latest Netflix heavy-hitter throwing its weight in the ring, based off the webcomic “Rilmae”. Although the story feels a little cliched and predictable, the first episode gets off to a promising start nonetheless.
After seeing a wedding scene play out, episode 1 of Rugal begins with Ki-Beom and his wife lying in pools of blood. With his eyes gouged out with a knife, our main protagonist is rushed to hospital by paramedics. The press contemplate whether Ki-Beom himself is responsible for the death. In the aftermath of this, Ki-Beom is interviewed by Geun-Cheol, mentioning that the criminal group Argos are behind what happened.
We then jump back 2 months prior to this scene where we see our happy couple talking on the phone. Only, the conversation is interrupted by a violent gang in masks arriving and knocking her down to the ground. When Ki-Beom returns home, he’s attacked by that very same gang.
By the lake Deuk-Gu holds hostages and after killing a young woman with her child it turns out this is the one witness to the crime that occurred involving Ki-Beom. Deuk-Gu continues on, killing the other officers currently held hostage and burying them in barrels at the bottom of the ocean.
In the aftermath of this, the Commissioner steps down from his position and Ki-Beom finds himself alone. At the same time, Argos Chairman Yong-Deok prepares to run for Assembly. While he does, Ki-Beom snaps and approaches him, desperate for Argos to pay for what they’ve done and attacking him and his wife at home.
Ki-Beom heads home to find Jin dead. As he tries to make sense of what’s happening, the Argos thugs blindside him, beating Ki-Beom to the ground with one of the gang members, Dal-Ho, orchestrating the entire thing. While two guards hold him still, Ki-Beom is stabbed through the eyes.
With Ki-Beom blamed for Jin’s death, we cut back to the present where Geun-Cheol wishes him luck and leaves after handing him a communication device to slip in his ear. Ki-Beom’s transferred to prison and with the communicator on, it allows Geun-Cheol to talk to Ki-Beom from afar. He decides to train him in how to use his senses and a montage follows as Ki-Beom tries to get used to being blind.
Six months pass and Ki-Beom finally seems to be doing well with his training. An officer knocks him down and calls in ambulatory care for him as Ki-Beom’s transferred to the hospital and tied to the bed.
In the middle of the night, Argos arrive and sabotage Geun-Cheol’s plan, with one of the men injecting something into Ki-Beom’s IV stream. As the man watches, Ki-Beom senses something afoul and chokes him out, managing to break free in the process.
After escaping the building, Ki-Beom follows instructions from Geun-Cheol and tries to get away but bumps into a bystander in the process. As he scrambles back to his feet, he runs straight into a wall. With the sensor out of his ear, Geun-Cheol saves him at the last second before police can get to him and approves Ki-Beom for emergency eye treatment.
The surgery is conducted by Susan and Bradley, two geniuses in their own fields, and they aim to turn Ki-Beom into a human weapon with artificial eyes. While this occurs, Deuk-Go and Dal-Ho return to Argos where an internal struggle brews between Deuk-Go and their current leader Yong-Deok.
Ki-Beom awakens and finally starts to get used to his new, artificial eyes. As it turns out, Mi-Na didn’t die that night at the docks and as she stands infront of Ki-Beom, they talk about that fateful night and what happened.
Training begins again and Ki-Beom goes toe to toe with Mi-Na. Unfortunately seeing the knife triggers a bad response and Mi-Na takes advantage of it. The team leader Tae-Woong goes one step further and adds special gloves into the fold, punching Ki-Beom repeatedly to try and build up his defences.
In the aftermath of this, Tae-Woong and Ki-Beom go toe to toe but the former wins easily. As he looks set to walk away, Ki-Beom rises back to his feet and stumbles back over to him, exerting as much energy as he can to try and beat his opposite.
Although Ki-Beom is beaten, when he awakens he hones in on the next targets he intends to beat – the hierarchical group of Argos – where the episode closes out.
With Ki-Beom now essentially a walking weapon and a clear path of bloodshed and revenge in the future, Rugal sets the foundations nicely in this opening episode. In a way, Rugal has a lot in common with Daredevil in terms of a blind man learning to use his surroundings and fight for justice. While the emergency eye treatment at the end does go some way to help steer this show in a different direction, it still gives off the same sort of vibes for much of the run-time here.
There’s a good motive and arc for our main character and although the Argos group don’t have an awful lot of characterisation this early in the game, there’s still plenty of time to flesh this out in the coming episodes. Thankfully, there’s a great visual design and stylistic ideas thrown into the mix, with split-screens, rotating cameras and a nice musical score accompanying the entire premise.
So far so good but whether the show can elevate its material from here and become another heavy hitter in the world of Korean dramas remains to be seen.
Expect A Full Season Write Up When This Season Concludes!