Episode 1 of Vincenzo begins with Vincenzo Cassano watching as a building collapses to the ground. A thin smiles crosses his face as smoke and fire curl into the air.
We then cut back 72 hours as we skip west to the beautiful province of Italy. Church bells awaken this legal advisor as we learn that he’s a consigliere, someone who works for the Italian Mafia’s boss.
After getting dressed he’s driven straight to Emilio’s; a lush estate back-dropped by endless vineyards and fields. Security is tight, as he’s escorted up to a gorgeous balcony overlooking the rolling hills.
Vincenzo threatens Emilio, telling him to sign to prevent there being any problems going forward. Instead, Emilio swallows his pasta and tells him to head home. With the Lucino family by his side, Emilio is certain that if they go to war then he’ll be victorious. After shockingly calling Vincenzo an uncivilized yellow, our protagonist vows to get his revenge.
When he leaves, it turns out the crop duster overhead isn’t actually spraying pesticides, nor was it ordered by Emilio. It happens to be carrying gasoline. Vincenzo immediately throws a lighter on the ground and drives off as the entire estate burns to the ground.
With the mob boss dead, Vincenzo is targeted by his eldest son, Paolo, who tries to assassinate him that night when mobsters break into Vincenzo’s house. Vincenzo outsmarts the trio and shoots them dead without a moment’s hesitation. As retaliation to Paolo’s betrayal, he blows his car up and leaves Italy, telling him not to come looking. If he does, then Vincenzo will blow his car up with him inside.
Meanwhile, Cha-Young heads up to court where she’s kept waiting by her subordinate. Cha-Young eventually heads inside, where we start with day 1 of the hearing for the law-suit against Babel Pharmaceutical. Cha-Young is working on the defence’s side, managing to buy herself a week with an extra piece of evidence; buying off a key witness to try and get the win. For now, she manages to postpone and gain another hearing.
It turns out that his Father is her opposite number in court and promises to help him if he stops. Yoo-Chan sees straight through her façade of crocodile tears and tells his daughter to ditch her career and try out as an actor.
While it fails to work with him, it does work with her boss, Seung-Hyeok, who hastily transfers funds for her.
Vincenzo returns to Korea where he’s forced to hand over his ID to show he’s a Korean-Italian. Apparently they’re after a wanted man that matches his description and after a dud joke about his name, Vincenzo gets a ride into town.
On the way, he vows to get everything done within a month and then leave for Malta. Unfortunately the taxi driver happens to be a fraud and after drugging him, take all of his money and belongings, leaving Vincenzo a mess on the ground.
Word of Vincenzo heading back to Korea reaches the police too, as Mr An runs this by his boss and believes that they’ve become a target for the mafia, especially if the consigliere is here. Ki-Seok wants to launch an investigation, or at least tail him, but his boss is having absolutely none of it.
Vincenzo is not happy when he awakens, alone and with 50,000 won to his name. He does make it to Geumga Plaza, deciding to take out this building to prove a point. This is all tied to the past, an incident from 5 years back in Milan to be precise. This building happens to be a front for the Mafia’s gold, which is hidden underground with an elaborate security system, including biometrics.
For now, Vincenzo stays in one of the rooms but it’s incredibly basic compared to what he’s been used to in Italy. As he settles in, Lee Cheol-Wook happens to be watching from afar and feeds back to the other residents what’s going on. There’s only a few of them left, and it’ easy to see why. The roof is leaky and the lights flicker ominously.
When Vincenzo passes each room, the residents do their best to try and unsettle him. Nothing seems to stir him…until he realizes that the tenants downstairs have been changed to monks in a temple. The monk that’s inside the basement has no idea he happens to be sitting on gold.
Anyway, aside from all the hostile greetings, Vincenzo introduces himself to all the different residents, who believe that his surname is actually Cassanova. The chef claims to be Italian too, but he fakes his way through a conversation with Vincenzo who promises to drop by later in the day. Vincenzo’s homecoming is less than ideal though, as he’s distracted by a bird on the ledge outside and the shower playing up.
Vincenzo instead hopes that his meal is better. With Chef Toto watching, he’s dismayed to find the Italian food in bad taste. He calls Toto out for being a con artist and leaves.
Vincenzo’s visit to Korea brings with it bad memories too, away from the con artists and thieves. He meets with Jang Han-Seo, the representative for Babel E&C, but Vincenzo rejects his offer. The man scoffs, threatening Vincenzo. Only, given his history Vincenzo warns the businessman against doing that.
Vincenzo heads back to Geumga Plaza and rallies the residents together, asking them all to trust him and sign. While some of the residents believe this to be a ruse, all of them raise their hands and decide to put their faith in him.
Yoo-Chan is wise to his games though and admits that he never trusts people like him. Despite them both being lawyers, Yoo-Chan claims he represents people while Vincenzo is driven by money. He warns Vincenzo over what’s coming and implores him to take the offer. As we know from that opening shot of the building collapsing, he does no such thing.
Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse that evening when thugs show up and force Ki-Seok to stamp and sign the Geumga plaza contract of sales.
Speaking of signing, Yoo-Chan relinquishes his parental rights to Cha-Young. She struggles to get through to him, eventually bursting into his office asking for an explanation.
She’s not the only one after an explanation though, as Vincenzo has his dry-cleaning order ruined. To make matters worse, Hong-Sik rings Vincenzo and apologizes, telling him he had no choice but to sign given his wife and daughter were taken hostage. As he talks, a truck slams into the side of his car in one of the most shocking moments from this opening episode.
On the back of these shocking occurrences, a notice is put up on the front of the building lot. Babel have bought the property. The chairman of Babel Tower, Seok-Do, shows up and lets them all know that the compensation team will visit each of the residents and settle things. If they receive any grief, though they’ll hit back – and hit hard.
Just before things look set to take a turn for the worst, Vincenzo rocks up in a brand new suit and confronts the shady Babel group. He tells them he wants to talk and reveals that he represents the owner of Geumga Plaza.
The thugs have absolutely no chance trying to take him out, as Seok-Do agrees to talk. That talking comes from a swift fist to the face and a pretty brutal demonstration of power with a tape measure.
Vincenzo promises not to forgive the illegal way the building was bought and vows to make the team pay for what they’ve done. In Italian, he tells them all that the building belongs to him.
The Episode Review
The first 10 minutes or so of Vincenzo is nothing short of epic. The entire scene in Italy, with the sweeping establishing shots, cinematic verbal dual between Emilio and Vincenzo, right through to the ensuing fire, set the scene for a formidable action-packed series to follow; a Korean version of Gangs of London or Narcos.
Tonally though, Vincenzo is a bit of a mess. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a suitably fun and lively affair but the slapstick comedy tone and light bites of horror that follow feel completely jarring to that opening.
The problem with this style is that it undermines Vincenzo Cassano’s ruthless streak. Seeing him struggle with a bird on a window ledge or the hot water may seem like funny gags – and they most certainly are – but it also brings with it a host of problems for this show, as it flits between comedy and more serious thrills a little haphazardly.
It also seems like we’ve got parts of a law drama bleeding through too, mixed in with an underdog fight to save the residents, along with a shady past for Vincenzo. That’s before mentioning the possible threat of a cross-country war spilling out with the Mafia. Right now it’s not initially clear how this all fits together but the tone really needs to settle down soon.
The moment involving the Geumga Plaza resident getting hit by a truck for example was an incredibly unnerving and shocking segments. It comes completely out of left-field too…and then is followed up by a heavy dose of slapstick. It just doesn’t quite click here, which is a real shame because that opening 10 minute flurry is up there with one of the best openings of a Korean drama in recent memory.
There’s certainly a lot to like with this though – and an awful lot of promise too. The humour is genuinely quite good but Vincenzo really needs to settle into some consistency if it’s going to stand out as one of the best dramas at the end of the year. Still, it’s early days so we shall see how this plays out going forward.