With a whole slew of new dramas starting this week, Suspicious Partner was the one I was looking forward to the most, because of the wacky teasers and also because I enjoyed Ji Chang Wook’s work so much in Healer and felt he was very shortchanged by how poorly written his character (Kim Je Ha) was in The K2. I was looking forward to this show as a chance for him to shine once again and for him to challenge himself by taking on a new genre. To be fair, romantic comedy isn’t exactly new for him because there were elements of that in Healer and he did well, especially as the awkward bumbling Bong Soo. From that perspective then, Suspicious Partner does a decent enough job in convincing me that Noh Ji Wook is someone whose journey I may eventually become invested and interested in. However, besides that, I did feel that the premiere was a little bland.
Premieres are where the basic world of the show is built, where we get to know the characters and their relationships and we get some insight into what will eventually drive the narrative for the series. To that end, I felt we didn’t get enough of our characters to be interested in their worlds and circumstances. In fact, most of what we learnt about our characters seem to be told to us, rather than shown. For example, we had a whole scene of Ji Wook’s colleagues talking about how he’s the worst prosecutor, but it would have been more meaningful if we had actually seen him as a prosecutor. That would actually then serve as a useful contrast to what’s coming up with him taking on that role for Bong Hee. Nam Ji-hyun’s character, Bong Hee, fares better, but even so, I felt that voiceovers were used far too much to explicitly tell us how she was isolated, cut off from the world, without us actually being drawn into her world of isolation and despair. Several comedic scenes were effective, but dragged on for too long – for example, the so-called ‘morning after’ scene where Bong Hee wakes up but is unsure of what happened the night before, same for the scenes of Bong Hee fumbling her way through dispute resolution efforts. I do like Bong Hee’s spunk and wackiness, but I feel like we’ve seen characters like her before in other dramas.
What I did enjoy about both characters though were their brief moments of connection and their awkwardness around it. At the moment, bickering and putting each other down is their way of connecting. Yet deep down, there’s a connection that Ji Wook recognises more than Bong Hee, but is unaware or perhaps even afraid to express it too explicitly. Both of them are connected by their isolation, and it is that isolation that will eventually drive them together.
While I found the premiere generally bland, there was one scene in particular that won my heart and made me decide that I will follow this show till the end, and that’s the scene where Ji Wook stands up for Bong Hee in front of Hee Joon outside the prosecutor’s office. That scene was such a perfect blend of comedy, romance and drama and there were certainly Bong-Soo vibes as Ji Wook tried to express affection for Hee Joon but couldn’t help mentioning continually that she was dirty – LOL. I loved how Bong Hee cringed and looked upon him with apprehension, yet Ji Wook still persisted in putting on his display of affection for her. What follows them with both of them sitting under the tree with falling petals is so beautifully directed that it makes me look forward to more of these scenes when they eventually get together.
While there was generally little narrative momentum for most of the first episode, the death of Hee Joon cranked up my interest a huge notch and I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen in the next episode.