What a ride this show is! I’ve been meaning to watch this show as it has been touted as the show to get someone addicted on kdramas. I can definitely see why: exciting action, captivating leads, intense political machinations and sweet romance. This show has something for everyone, which probably explains why it was such a ratings monster during its time.
The premiere was so busy and fast-paced that I was worried it was going to be yet another action-packed, soulless drama, but the pace mellowed in subsequent episodes, providing space for the characters to breathe while also advancing the plot very swiftly. Not many shows are able to do both pacing and character development well, but somehow this show has found that fine balance while also breathing life into commonly used tropes.
The separated parent and child trope is so commonly used in kdramas, but most shows delay any possible sighting or reunion till the second half of the drama. Not in this show! We’re at episode 3 and Yoon Sung has already seen his mum, which complicates an already tense relationship between him and Jin Pyo.
I’m really loving the characterisation of Yoon Sung. What I like is that he is driven by revenge but he is being smart about it and not blindly following the desires of Jin Pyo, his adopted father. What he says about Jin Pyo losing his comrades but him losing his family captures his predicament so perfectly. Jin Pyo is blinded by rage and vengeance; he would kill anyone (possibly even his own son) just to avenge his comrades. Yoon Sung, however, still wants to live a guilt-free, peaceful life after he has completed his mission. His motivations are clearly laid out and perfectly relatable, which make him such an enjoyable character to watch.
The struggle between Yoon Sung and Jin Pyo also adds a layer of intrigue and tension because we not only have them trying to take out the Council of Five, but we have both of them trying to outwit and outsmart each other through the “first one to the target” battle. Nonetheless, the battle is not a simple no-holds-barred winner takes all as they know each other so well, have learnt from each other and still care for each other. What could therefore have been a straightforward assassination attempt for Yong Hak (the upcoming presidential candidate) in episodes 4 to 5 becomes an exciting battle between Yoon Sung and Jin Pyo, ultimately with Yoon Sung saving Jin Pyo from the lift and persuading Jin Pyo that his methods may be better because Yong-hak would have been hailed as a champion of democracy if he died today.
While Yoon Sung’s interactions with Jin Pyo are full of energy and high-strung, his interactions with Kim Na Na are so natural and genuine. There’s always such a wonderful ease and joy when we see both of them on screen, teasing each other and getting to know one another. Park Min Young really excels in these hero/heroine dramas, just like in Healer. However, what makes her character stand out is that she’s not a damsel in need of saving; in fact, she possesses both the mental agility and physical prowess to defend herself. And she clearly enjoys being in the heat of action and being the heroine – after saving Yong-hak, that look of pride and joy in her face is so evident. Regardless of how dire her circumstances may be, Na Na always remains fiercely independent, which is what I like about her. She never declares she needs anything and in fact, is offended when Yoon Sung tries to step in gallantly with his money and wealth of resources to try to ‘save’ her. This is where Yoon Sung needs to grow in, because while his intellect and resources may easily help him win the battles, winning someone’s heart certainly takes more respect and honour.
A minor complaint I have is that I wish the politicians that Yoon Sung were up against were just a tad more capable and an equal match to him, at least in intellect if not strength. Since he barely disguises himself when he’s in “City Hunter” mode, I’m surprised that none of these highly capable politicians have managed to muster up the resources to identify and locate him. I always prefer our bad guys and good guys to be equally matched, but of course, it’s early in the series and our so-called “good guys” now have the first mover advantage. I’m sure as we progress through the Council of Five, they will wisen up and start taking more decisive action to defend themselves against Jin Pyo and Yoon Sung. Of course, we can foresee that the cracks will further deepen between the two of them before being recovered and that will definitely add to the complication.
I can’t wait to finish watching the rest of this series!