The Plane Crash
With fast paced action, some nicely implemented jokes early on and a simple premise, Vagabond gets off to a flying start here with an action-packed episode full of thrilling chases and great plot development.
We begin in the dry, choked deserts of North Africa. A sniper sits peacefully atop a hill-top range waiting for a target to arrive. A white limousine sticks out like a sore thumb among the sea of brown and yellow and as it stops, a mysterious woman our sniper seems to recognize steps out. His comrades scream for him to take the shot on the headset, before we zoom in to his eyes and hear a gunshot as we fade out.
We then cut across to martial arts teacher Cha Dael-Gon, showing the other students his moves which admittedly aren’t very good. He does manage to break some bricks though, but also breaks his face in the process, as trickles of blood ooze down from a cut on the roof of his nose. Through a series of montage segments, we see a mix of his own action movies and stunts while his nephew Hoon learns martial arts and rises the ranks to black belt. After being invited to go to Morocco for a tournament, Hoon tells his Uncle he doesn’t want to go and they fight about his future.
It’s here we cut to Africa, where we see Go Hae-Ri arriving late to the Korean embassy. After clearing the room, she takes a picture off the wall and takes a hidden lipstick container from it. We then jump forward one week to see Cha and Hoon packing their things up and preparing for Morocco.
Meanwhile in Lisbon a man hurries away as he’s chased by a shadowy man down the empty streets, only to find another masked thug hiding out down the other alleyways, leading him straight into an underground club. As the guards charge after him, he manages to hop on-board a tram and escape. He scrambles to find a pay phone and phones through to airport security, telling them they need to stop the plane as it’s going to crash. Dragged away, the Portuguese man leaves the phone swinging on its hook as the men catch up to him. A
At the security terminal, the building is evacuated thanks to a fire drill. However, in the ensuing chaos the phone operator is stabbed with something that knocks her out midway through spreading the news about the imminent attack.
The message never gets to the plane either as we cut to see it high up in the air. A shadowy figure gets up in the middle of the night while the other passengers are asleep and sneaks into the toilet. From here, he manages to find his way down to the main engine room and sabotage the jets. Losing altitude, the plane begins to descend as Hoon writes a message to his Uncle saying goodbye. As he falls out of consciousness, the plane spins to the ground and explodes.
With the officials 90% sure the aircraft crashed due to engine failure, the President meanwhile isn’t so sure. As he makes an official statement, we cut back to Cha who watches through the footage from the plane of Hoon forgiving his Uncle and excitedly discussing the tournament. Interestingly, the man responsible for the crash can be seen in the background of the video.
With the rest of the other grieving families, Cha heads off to Morocco for the mass funeral. As he arrives at the airport and splashes his face with water in the toilets, he glances over and sees the shadowy man from Hoon’s video. Sensing something is amiss, he hurries out the airport and follows the man through the winding streets and into a bustling market place. After a brief skirmish that sees the man get the upper-hand, Cha scrambles across rooftops and eventually jumps onto the car below that he’s driving.
The chase continues through to the shore where he slams on the breaks and knocks Cha partway down the cliff before speeding off. As the episode closes out we see Cha is still alive but the fight is far from over.
With great choreography and some impressive action, Vagabond’s simple premise ultimately acts as the backbone for what’s otherwise a really impressive action series. With a globe-hopping story and Cha’s revenge taking centre stage, Vagabond bows out its first episode with an exhausting and well paced chase sequence. The entire thing is frenetically shot too and combined with the adrenaline-soaked musical score, it all feels like a homage to the Bourne films in the best possible way.
Just who is the shadowy man? Why was the plane taken down? And who is responsible for the entire operation? Plenty of questions remain hanging over this Korean drama but the first episode does a fantastic job laying the foundation for these questions to fester over the weeks.