THE SHORT VERDICT:
Show is a lot of things, and attempts a lot of things (some with more success than others), but one thing I can say for certain, is that Show is bold, and dares to try new things. When the things that Show try don’t go so well, Show can come across as rather uneven, but when Show is at its best, it is a wild, absurd and completely absorbing ride of the best kind.
Our story world and our characters lean dark, yet this is all served up with strong lashings of screwball comedy. It sounds weird, but when Show makes it work, it’s glorious. Our cast is very solid, but hands down, the one who shines the brightest, is Song Joong Ki, as our titular antihero. So much matter-of-fact, cool badassery, served up with a side of comedy; I just couldn’t look away.
Sometimes Show got uncomfortably dark for my taste, but Show gets brownie points, for unabashedly daring to be its own thing, for better or for worse.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Honestly, I wasn’t really intending to check out this show, but since the show’s premiere, I’d heard enough positive things that I became intrigued. The FOMO is real, y’all.
The thing is, I’d heard that this show feels like Chief Kim and The Fiery Priest came together and had a baby, and since I’ve never felt inclined to watch either of those dramas, I didn’t think I’d like this one either. Also, this drama’s synopsis mentions that our main characters are lawyers, and that didn’t sound that appealing to me either. Legal stuff just isn’t typically my cup of tea.
And so, I was honestly kind of shocked that I liked this show right away. I didn’t even really feel the length of the first episode, even though it’s a whopping 1 hour and 25 minutes. This is the best kind of drama shock, to be sure. 😉
Show did land a bit unevenly for me at times, but it was so fantastic when it was firing on all cylinders, that I couldn’t help but want to see what else Show had up its sleeve.
Also, on a tangent and for the record, I will be referring to our protagonist as Vinny instead of Vincenzo, because, 1, it feels more familiar and affectionate, and I like feeling affectionate towards Song Joong Ki, hur, and 2, this way, I can easily differentiate between referring to the character (Vinny) and referring to the show (Vincenzo).
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here are two OST albums for you to choose from, in case you’d like to listen to Show’s OST tracks as you read the review. The first is a comprehensive collection, with a whopping 67 tracks, that effectively shows how eclectic Show’s background music is. The second is a smaller collection of Show’s 12 main tracks.
I have to admit that as interesting as Vincenzo’s OST selection is, the ones that stay with me, are Tracks 8 and 9, the instrumental versions of Adrenaline. They were used to such great effect in the show, that in my head, they perfectly embody the mix of class and badassery that is Vinny.
Here is track 8, in case you’d like to listen to it on repeat instead. Just right click on the video and select “Loop.”
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
I did find that I needed to do some lens adjustments in order to maximize my enjoyment of my watch, so here are a few things that I think might be helpful to think about.
It occurs to me that in a manner of speaking, this show is kinda-sorta like Bad Guys, because the premise of Bad Guys is bad guys getting out there and catching badder guys, using their bad guy know-how and badassery. In this case, we have one bad guy – our titular mafia consigliere – who’s definitely done bad things and gotten blood on his hands, who’s going to get busy dealing with badder guys using his bad guy know-how and badassery.
It’s all about the antihero being cool and fierce, while having a relatively better moral showing – key word being relatively – than the badder guys that he’s up against. It’s about wanting to root for him, even while knowing that he’s not really such a good guy, and having that mess with your head a little bit, in what should feel like an addictive, delicious, guilty pleasure sort of manner. Like, am I bad, for wanting this bad guy to succeed?
Our key characters are not supposed to be good people
On a related note, I find that it’s helpful to remember that our protagonists aren’t actually supposed to be good people. Show makes a point of setting that out right from the start, that neither Vinny nor Cha Young (Jeon Yeo Bin) consider themselves good or moral people. They just want to punish the evildoers in their world, is all.
I think this is helpful to keep in mind, because as we start to root for our main characters, we might well start to want them to be good people, but that’s something that they never claimed to be.
The screwball comedy
There are definitely times in our story where suspension of disbelief is required. Here are two quick examples.
E4. There’s suspension of disbelief required in Vinny’s revisit to the crime scene, like how the blood is still wet on the ground even though it’s been many days since the supposed accident, and how Vinny can see the driver’s gleeful expression while he sits at the wheel.
E7. I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure Show takes a whole lotta liberties with the court hearing scene, what with the surprise witnesses being called and all the drama that erupts in the courtroom.
The thing is, though, with this show, it really doesn’t matter. This isn’t supposed to be a serious legal drama. This is a screwball comedy at its heart, and the farcical, slapsticky touches are just part of Show’s innate nature. I’s best to just throw all need for realism out the window, and just sit back to enjoy the hyperbole that Show serves up, because that’s when Show is most entertaining.
The comic book lens
Another lens that I found useful, is the comic book lens. Sometimes, that helps to take a scene from convenient, to entertaining.
E10. There’s a comic-booky sort of flavor to how Vinny catches the two dirty cops splitting the bribe money and knocks them out with a few slick moves, before we cut to the scene of him holding them captive on the ledge of deserted building, ready to kick them off the ledge, while they’re haplessly tied to those office chairs. Viewed through a comic book lens, this is all quite entertaining, and I can’t help getting quite a bit of satisfaction from the sight of them quaking in their boots.
E12. The whole thing with the Guillotine file being linked to Wang Shaolin, the rich Chinese dude who’d commissioned the secret basement for the gold, is a little too convenient, honestly. However, it lands a lot better, through a comic book sort of lens.
I thought it would be helpful to give a bit of a macro overview, of the things that I liked and didn’t like so much, about Show’s general handling and execution, before getting into actual characters and relationships.
STUFF I LIKED
There’s a general sense of confidence that permeates this show, that makes me feel like Show knows exactly what it wants to do, and isn’t afraid to do it. Not only that, the journey that Show’s prepared is one that’s filled with unpredictable turns and touches, and that all adds to the general sense of freshness and surprise, which I found very appealing. When Show was at its best, I loved that feeling of not knowing, yet having full confidence that Show would pull it off, and in a way that would likely surprise me and entertain me, at the same time.
Here’s the quick spotlight on 2 different episodes, just to illustrate my point.
This episode has all the appeal of the Space Mountain ride in Disneyland; not only do we get all the twists and turns of a rollercoaster, the thrill is amped up because that rollercoaster takes place in the dark – you just can’t predict what twist or turn is coming up, until it rises up to hit you in the face, heh.
I didn’t expect how the whole arc of Vinny getting Cha Young out of the holding cell would go. From Cha Young blurting out that she knows Vinny’s a Mafia Lawyer, and charging him – while grabbing him by the collar through the cell bars, no less – to get her out, regardless of what it takes, to him cutting a deal with Lawyer Choi (Kim Yeo Jin), to him getting Chief Prosecutor Hwang’s (Seo Jin Won) son into the European League, it’s all so unexpected and entertaining that I find myself just grinning in my seat, through it all. I love how resourceful – and in Joon Woo’s (Taecyeon) words, creative – Vinny is, in getting what he wants.
The episode’s final arc, of Vinny arranging for Head Thug Park Seok Do (Kim Young Woong) and his minions to stage a raid of the Plaza, using decoy protestors, was very surprising to me as well. Trust Vinny to use such “creative methods” to create the delay in demolition that he needs. It’s unfortunate that the decoy protestors never make it, and I do feel sorry for Agent Ahn (Im Chul Soo), who gets beaten up just because he happens to be wearing a red jacket. But, it is pretty great how the rest of the tenants come out in drunken full force to defend their plaza. My favorite bit was Chef Toto sprinkling pepper over the thugs, presumably so that the pepper can get in their eyes. Hahaha. That’s so in character.
It’s all completely bizarre and surreal, and it works perfectly for this show. That last shot, of everyone in the brawl arranged just so, to echo the painting of Liberty that Vinny talks about in the beginning of the episode, is just the perfect ludicrous cherry to top off this absurd, farcical, pitch-perfect sundae.
Whatever writer-nim is smoking while writing this show, it’s working. 😆
Everyone else working together to create a distraction for the art director (Lee Hye Jung), while Mi Ri and Ms. Yang (Kim Yoon Hye and Jung Ji Yoon) work together to get into the director’s computer and get the evidence on the paper company’s illegal dealings, is both funny and edge-of-your-seat tense.
It’s hard to laugh when your heart’s in your throat wondering whether the team will succeed, but honestly, Hee Soo’s (Lee Hang Na) entitled rich lady act reached such an unexpected peak when she plucked that piece of gum off the wall and put it back into her mouth, that I couldn’t help chuckling, in spite of myself.
The other thing that took me by surprise, is the cover story that Vinny and the Geumga team fall back on, when the art director calls their bluff. How brilliant, that they pretend to be undercover agents from the Italian secret service, investigating paintings that have been smuggled from Italy. Ooh. Clever. Talk about turning the tables back around, in one fell swoop! Nicely played, Vinny. *slow clap*
Show’s tonal mashup
One of Show’s hallmarks, is its huge tonal shifts. Right away, in episode 1, we get a taste of said tonal shifts, when the swelling High Melodrama of our opening scenes in Italy, complete with imposing buildings and impressive aerial shots of sprawling estates, gives way to strong lashings of screwball comedy without missing a beat, when Vinny arrives in Korea.
[EPISODE 1 SPOILER] Who knew that I’d get such a kick out of Song Joong Ki’s hotshot, suavely dangerous mafia consigliere fighting with a shower head that’s apparently spazzing – and getting oh-so-hot – at the sight of his soapy, nekkid body? Ahahaha. 😆 Too funny! [END SPOILER]
I’m quite surprised by Show’s huge tonal shifts, and, I’m even more surprised by how I actually (mostly) don’t seem to feel at all whiplashy from said tonal shifts. One minute I might be cracking up at the hijinks on my screen, and the next, I’m all bloodthirsty and rooting for our badass consigliere to put our Psycho Villain out of his misery. So many feelings! And I am completely entertained.
Show’s got its tongue firmly in cheek this episode, and what a lot of fun that turned out to be!
First of all, I freaking love how Inzaghi does repay the favor after all, and literally saves Vinny’s life by summoning what looks to be his entire village, and attacking Vinny’s attackers as one synergistic gang of fluttering protectors. Pwahaha. I could not stop laughing at my screen, this scene was so hilarious. 😆
This scene is a perfect example of when Show’s tonal mashup is at its best. We get hilarity from the pigeon brigade showing up to save Vinny, but we also get a good dose of badassery from Vinny turning the tables on his attackers, and taking them down with swift, sharp moves. And then there’s the (hilariously stirring) emotion of Vinny then rushing to Inzaghi with tears in his eyes, only to have Inzaghi fly away, leaving us with his bird’s eye view of Vinny wistfully standing there in his wake. It’s a rollercoaster of feels, and I love it.
I love that Show doesn’t leave it there, and gives us an epilogue of sorts, with Inzaghi returning to his perch on Vinny’s windowsill, and Vinny tenderly putting food on the windowsill for Inzaghi, and asking him if he was returning the favor. Tee hee. I kinda love Inzaghi’s gurgled replies, even though Vinny doesn’t appear to understand him.
Show’s pretty great at serving up unexpected twists as part of its confident and playful nature, and I really enjoyed the surprise reveals, as they were served up.
Here are a few examples of when I enjoyed those reveals – and one example, where I’d basically gotten to know Show well enough, to be able to predict that it was going to be unpredictable. I guess that’s the whole problem with trying to be consistently unpredictable; it’s a paradox? 😉
That said, Show managed to surprise me more often than not, and deserves a bunch of credit for it.
I gotta say, Show’s twist, that Vinny had used a fake gun when threatening Joon Woo, because that was all part of his plan to pressure Joon Woo to out himself, is quite brilliant. I mean, sure, Show did omit to let us in on the fact that Vinny had changed his mind about wanting to kill Joon Woo, but the surprise was fun enough, that I’m willing to just let it slide.
I mean, it’s always fun when you can’t see any way out of the corner that Show’s got your lead character in – and then Show pulls a reveal that changes the whole game, in a manner that feels plausible, while remaining organic to our characters and our drama world. This reveal checked all the boxes for me, and is in keeping with Show’s playful nature. I just felt gleeful to have Vinny released from custody, while Lawyer Choi speculates that the reason given by the prosecution – which is completely true – is a cover-up. Muahaha. Vinny’s succeeded in pulling the wool over her eyes, and that feels so satisfying.
I was so nervous, watching Vinny and Mr. Cho (Choi Young Joon) enter the gold storehouse. It just felt like something was going to go wrong. Maybe someone would come along and close the panel on them, trapping them with the gold; maybe the tenants would come back and barge in on them. As it turns out, something does go wrong, but it’s Mr. Cho who turns on Vinny. Huh. I hadn’t quite seen that coming, until a few seconds before he pointed the gun at the back of Vinny’s head.
First of all, I’m genuinely taken aback by the reveal that Mr. Cho is actually Agent Cho, a rogue agent from the International Security Intelligence Service. Say, what? 🤯 Ok, I definitely hadn’t seen that coming. What a world-tilting sort of reveal; I literally am seeing Mr. Cho with new eyes. No wonder he’s able to bust out some solid fight moves, when facing off with Vinny.
The other thing I hadn’t seen coming, is the way Vinny responds to Agent Cho’s betrayal. I’d expected Vinny to turn on Agent Cho, the way Agent Cho had turned on him. After all, guy had literally gone from friend to gun-toting attacker in two seconds. And, Vinny’s Mafia-trained and all, right?
Instead, Vinny lets Agent Cho have the upper hand for a while – which allows him to see that Agent Cho doesn’t actually want to hurt him, and only seems to want the Guillotine file, which is embedded in one of the gold bars – and then turns the tables, by grabbing the gun and turning it on Agent Cho instead.
The twist that really gets my attention, is that Piano Gal Mi Ri is actually an ex-hacker, and she’d actually been involved in setting up that secret gold basement. HA. And, woah. 😳🤯 Ok, I absolutely had not seen that coming, despite Show giving us many glimpses of Mi Ri looking deeply suspicious, with her dark looks in Vinny’s direction, every time he was doing anything about the gold situation.
I do love this twist, though, because it makes sense within the context of our story. Of course Mi Ri would have feared for her life and done whatever she could, to disappear, once she realized that other people who had worked on the basement were dropping like flies. And of course she’d choose something completely unrelated and innocuous, like being a piano teacher in a dinky academy in Geumga Plaza.
Now, we have a new way for Vinny to get into the basement, even though the only way in prior, the iris recognition device, is now locked into the basement itself. Plus, Mi Ri’s a great addition to the team, since they could really use her hacker skills. Nicely played, Show.
The whole final scene of the episode is pretty shocking, with Han Seo deciding to betray Vinny, and shooting him in front of the Interpol officers. However, Show’s been twisty quite often with its surprise reveals, so my gut says that Han Seo and Vinny are in cahoots – and I turn out to be right. Go, me?
That said, I didn’t manage to accurately predict the details of this twist, so Show still wins, in the end. 😏
There might be more of these that I missed, but I spotted a couple of meta nods in episode 15, which tickled me quite a bit. Also, I’m impressed at how these meta nods don’t detract from our main narrative, even as they work to add interest and flavor to the watch experience.
The deal between Han Seok and CEO Oh of Daechang Daily amuses me, because Han Seok’s dad’s name is Jang Guk Hwan, and the actor who plays CEO Oh, Jeon Jin Ki, plays loyal dog to a Jang Guk Hwan in Money Flower, a show that I recently rewatched for our Group Watch. The idea that Jeon Jin Ki keeps finding himself protecting a dirty conglomerate Chairman by the name of Jang Guk Hwan is quite funny to me. 😆 If this is deliberately meant to be meta, it’s nicely done.
I love Vinny’s shaman disguise, because it’s such a strong callback to his role in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (where he was, in a word, delightful). Not only does his styling evoke the flower boy persona of his character in Sungkyunkwan Scandal, his fake name is even Yeo Rim, which was his character’s nickname in Sungkyankwan Scandal. Tee hee. This is great.
Despite the strong nods to Sungkyunkwan Scandal, I’m pleased that Vinny actually manages to stay in character, through the entire shaman ruse. I also like the fact that Vinny’s not alone in this, but has the support of the whole Geumga crew, down to Cha Young and Manager Nam (Yoon Byung Hee) playing supporting roles in his shaman outfit. I love how they are so immersed in their roles, heh. And, how clever, really, that they use the information on the Guillotine file, to convince CEO Oh of “Yeo Rim’s” powers as a shaman. 😆
STUFF THAT WORKS OUT TO OK
Show’s brand of rogue justice
Like I mentioned earlier, this show really is about bad guys punishing badder guys. Sometimes this worked well for me, and I easily rooted for Vinny and his team to succeed at their missions. Sometimes, though, I found that I had to work to rationalize the actions that they take. At those times, at a fundamental level, my gut said that our team had taken things too far, which I’ll talk more about, in a bit.
For now, suffice to say that Show’s idea of rogue justice worked for me in part, and didn’t work so well for me, in part, and that’s why it sits in this section; it pretty much evens out to okay.
For the record, here’s an example of when Show’s rogue justice was easy for me to get behind. I’ll talk more about other instances that I struggled with, later on.
E4. I kinda love how Vinny and Cha Young corner and threaten Lawyer Choi with a truck of doom, just like she’d used a truck of doom to get rid of Lawyer Hong (Yoo Jae Myung).
There’s a sense of poetic justice in this, just like in how Vinny gathers the victims of Babel Pharmaceuticals and together, set fire to the whole place, while disguised as a sanitization team. It’s pretty much what Lawyer Hong had envisioned, with vigilantes taking justice into their own hands where the law has failed.
Show’s brand of funny
Given Show’s screwball comedy tendencies, Show does serve up quite a bit of Intended Funny. I’d say that the Intended Funny worked for me more than not, at a ratio of approximately 60:40.
Here’s a quickish spotlight on both, for the record.
Funny that worked for me
E6. The way the entire farce of a court hearing went down was pretty entertaining, and while one might ask why our Jipuragi team didn’t just lead with the hornets in order to ensure that the hearing couldn’t proceed, I’m gonna say that it was mainly for our entertainment, as viewers. Sure, there’s also probably some logic there too, in terms of using their ammunition sparingly, and keeping bigger tricks up their sleeves, for bigger occasions, but my gut says that this was mostly for our entertainment, and I was duly amused.
E6. The mounting uneasiness, as we realize that the power cut isn’t doing anything much to delay the hearing, is the perfect overture before Show unveils the details of Operation Hornet. I love how unorthodox, detailed and devious the entire scheme is; from acquiring unconscious hornets, to smearing the dirty judge with honeyed water, to modeling panic for everyone else in the room, it’s ridiculous and perfectly perfect. The use of Flight of the Bumblebee as background music is the ironic icing on this completely absurd cake, and I couldn’t stop chuckling at my screen. 😆
E9. Pfft. Show is so tongue-in-cheek, the way Cha Young announces that henceforth, they will refer to Babel’s real boss as “Babo” – which literally means “fool” or “idiot.” Ha. That’s funny and irreverent, and I like it. 😆 I kind of wish the subtitles would make that pun clear, because not all viewers would know that, particularly those who are new to kdramas.
E9. Vinny’s continued struggle with the pigeon on his windowsill is rather amusing; it’s the kind of thing that gets funnier, the longer it’s drawn out. And now that Vinny’s named the bird, it almost feels like Vinny’s adopting him? 😆
E9. I’m sure Show’s doing some tongue-in-cheek mirroring, with Inzaghi bringing home a friend to roost, at the same time that Cha Young comes knocking on Vinny’s door, too skittish after the break-in at her house, to stay at the hotel on her own. Ha. I guess if one roommate gets to bring a friend, so does the other? 😆
E11. The Geumga Plaza tenants earnestly addressing Vinny as Corn Salad instead of consigliere, complete with banner to match, made me laugh so hard, seriously. What on earth is writer-nim smoking, because this random funny stuff is so great. 🤣
E13. The way Vinny and Cha Young take the traitor union leader (Yoon Kyung Ho) captive, and influence him to make threatening calls to the head of the Vision Team (Jeon Jin Oh) – with relish, no less – is quite funny. I actually laughed out loud at the shot of Cheok Wook (Yang Kyung Won) practically dancing in pursuit of the hapless office dude carrying the box of evidence. Agent Ahn leaning into his secret service persona and lording it over the guards at the Babel office, is quite funny too.
E13. Ha, that random scene of Vinny feeding Inzaghi on the windowsill, and reminding him to repay the favor one day, is quite amusing. It also makes me think that one of these days, we’re going to get an arc where Inzaghi swoops in to save the day, out of loyalty to Vinny. 😆
E14. The monks’ (Ri Woo Jin and Kwon Seung Woo) chant to the real couple’s proposal is so hilarious, I had to give it a shout-out too: “Congratulations.. Your wedding, love forever.. Don’t fight.. From black hair to white hair..” Pwahaha! It’s funny enough the first time, but when it’s repeated ad nauseam, it becomes hysterical. 😆
E18. That moment when Lawyer Choi gets all suspicious and asks Han Seo why he’d attempt to kill Vinny even though there were already Interpol officers on the premises, and Han Seo replies, “Lawyer Choi, are you perhaps stupid?,” is just so hilarious to me.
I mean, for one thing, Lawyer Choi’s suspicion is completely on target, since Han Seo is in cahoots with Vinny, and for another, it’s just so funny, that Han Seo, who’s consistently the one that everyone looks upon as the not so bright one, is the one calling Lawyer Choi stupid, for her very correct suspicion. 😂 Well played, Show. It’s even funnier, that she buys Han Seo’s very logical-sounding explanation, that being part of the Mafia, Vinny would definitely come back to kill them, if they don’t kill him first.
Funny that didn’t work for me
E5. Joon Woo and Vinny pitting their egos against each other is definitely meant to be funny, but personally, I found it unnecessary, petty and childish and also.. a waste of screen time.
E12. Vinny’s efforts to throw the tenants off the scent of the gold do lean a little lame, I feel. Of course, this is meant for comedic effect, so I don’t actually think Vinny is lame (because he’s Vinny, after all). Also, I feel like the tenants joining forces with Head Thug is supposed to funny and conciliatory, but.. I haven’t forgotten how Head Thug used to intimidate the tenants, so this is landing uncomfortably for me at the moment.
E13. I found that the funny around the Geumga gang turning the bus around and heading back to the Plaza, which results in Vinny and Agent Cho scrambling to put everything back in place, and accidentally throwing the iris scanner down the hatch and locking it in, didn’t work so well for me, personally.
I do think that this is very subjective, so I might be the only one who doesn’t find it as funny as everyone else probably does. It’s all pitched to be very ridiculous and silly, and I think if this works for you, it’ll probably tickle you silly. It just.. didn’t work for me, this time.
When Cha Young tells Hong Sik to focus on the finding the gold in his heart, I didn’t laugh. When Vinny and Agent Cho burst into tears on realizing that they’ve lost the only access they had, to the gold, I didn’t laugh either. And when Vinny jumps along with Cha Young and Manager Nam, pretending that everything is ok, until he tells them that it isn’t, I didn’t laugh either. I can’t explain it. Sometimes this show’s humor works for me, and then sometimes, it just.. doesn’t. 🤷🏻♀️
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Sometimes Show feels uneven
One of Show’s biggest hooks, for me, is how fresh and interesting it felt. The problem with this, is that it’s really hard to sustain that feeling of freshness, especially for a show that’s 20 episodes long (versus a shorter show of, say, 12 episodes). Plus, like I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to be unpredictable on a consistent sort of basis. Your brand of unpredictability just becomes.. part of your brand, and therefore, somewhat predictable, after a while.
I loved Show’s audacity from the get-go, but I have to admit that by Show’s middle stretch, I’d become cognizant of the fact that I simply wasn’t enjoying Show as viscerally as at first; I still liked it, and I still laughed out loud from time to time.. It’s just, Show wasn’t sweeping me off my feet like it had at first, and I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed about that.
I mostly liked the episodes in a selective manner. Some bits were great, and others were.. a little flat, for me.
Happily, Show does manage to serve up some excellent episodes in its final stretch, which definitely helped to make up for the sense of flatness that had gone before. When Show managed to serve up a lot of emotional heft, and a lot of darkness, even while retaining its lashings of warmth, suddenly, Show became uber cool, all over again, in my eyes.
Sometimes Show goes too far or gets too dark
Like I mentioned earlier, there were times when I felt like Show went too far, or went too dark, in weaving its tale. Here’re the details around that.
Going too far: Episode 8
I personally found the gay baiting of Kim Sung Chul’s guest character, Hwang Min Seong, President of Shinkwang Bank, quite uncomfortable to watch.
Granted, the way Min Seong treats Vinny’s mom at the hospital is completely awfuly and unforgivable. How inhumane do you have to be, to threaten a dying patient, and even go so far as to give her money for her funeral? 🤯 That’s so atrocious that I don’t even have words for it. And, it was so hard to see Mom (Yoon Bok In) get so aggravated that she’d use her failing strength to fight back, knowing that it would likely shorten the time she has left. 😭
However, the entire arc around our Jipuragi team sending Vinny in as a homme fatale to win Min Seong’s heart, so that Vinny can get Min Seong to withdraw Shinkwang Bank’s investment to the Babel Group, was just as uncomfortable to watch.
Maybe it’s because of Kim Sung Chul’s innocent baby face; I found it rather difficult to stomach the way Vinny is sent in to flirt with him and toy with his feelings. I mean, Min Seong is such putty in Vinny’s hands, that it almost kinda comes off as Vinny leading a lamb to slaughter. The part where our Jipuragi team uses Min Seong’s zombie phobia to torture him feels particularly cruel to me, because that really is his deepest fear, and this way of taunting him could do lasting psychological damage to him.
I had to keep reminding myself that Min Seong is an awful human being who is capable of equally cruel treatment of others, and that he deserved to be brought to justice, rogue or otherwise, in order to get through this stretch of the episode. And even then, I have to admit that it still doesn’t quite sit right with me. However, thinking of this through a more comic book sort of lens does help; in a comic book sort of world, a lot of this stuff lands a lot more comfortably.
Going too dark: Episode 17
I was enjoying Vinny’s big undercover event, where the crew infiltrates Babel’s special auction. However, I have to say, my jaw literally dropped, when the supposedly fake explosives on one of the “crystal ball” guys Vinny’s taken over from Lawyer Choi (Lee Do Guk), is actually real, and they go off, killing him on the spot. This, after we’d seen Vinny tell him amicably, that after the day’s operation, he will be free, and should leave the country immediately after receiving his payment for the job.
I know that Vinny had once told Cha Young that he would help her throw both men into the tiger’s cage for killing her father, but this still feels very disturbing to watch. After thinking about it, I realize that it’s because both men had been under the impression that they were working out their redemption, by doing Vinny’s bidding. They’d clearly thought that they were earning their pardon, and had therefore worked hard and unquestioningly, under Vinny. To then suddenly kill them, during their final job, feels particularly cruel.
Granted, Vinny only kills one of the them, but I’m sure that he could guess that the remaining guy (Kim Tae Hoon) would have been too terrified to not seek out possible protection from Lawyer Choi, and that Lawyer Choi would have held too much of a grudge, to let him live. I’m pretty sure Vinny knew that the other guy would die, too.
It’s clear that Cha Young struggles with Vinny’s explanation as well; that instinctively, she is disturbed by this. And yet, she rationalizes that it’s the right thing to do, by thinking back to what the men had done to both her and her father. This act of hardening her heart, and steeling herself to accept what I’d essentially call betrayal of trust, feels kind of wrong and disturbing too. 😐
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Song Joong Ki as Vinny
Vinny shapes up to be a pretty classic antihero, and I really dig Song Joong Ki in this role.
I feel that this role not only taps on his ability to be a too-cool-for-school charismatic leading man, but also his comic timing, which he has oodles of, as evidenced by his delightful turn in Sungkyunkwan Scandal, but which has largely gone untapped in his recent roles. I love that this role gives him the opportunity to flex in both directions.
Having watched the whole show now, I feel that this role is perfect for Song Joong Ki, right in this moment, in his career. He’s young enough to still capitalize on his baby face, thus making Vinny appear innocent and cherubic when necessary, but he’s also old enough to have naturally acquired a gravitas and world-weariness that is also very befitting of the role. It feels like this role is written for him.
Despite Vinny’s dark leanings, I just seemed to naturally want to root for him. It absolutely helps that I wore an absurdist sort of lens, and therefore did not taking everything too seriously, but beyond that, I also think a lot of it has to do with Song Joong Ki’s personal charm.
On a shallow note, I had stars in my eyes any time Vinny demonstrated any kind of badassery, and I also spazzed often, at just how handsome Vinny looks, all spiffed up.
In particular, I loved this scene in episode 7, because we get Vinny in a white shirt and vest, with his collar and tie undone just enough to make him look like a sexy rogue. All while he’s wearing a furrowed brow, a smirk, and a whole lotta swag. So deliciously mesmerizing! 🤩
E1. Vinny is clearly very well-versed in dealing with dirty thugs, and my inner fangirl legit cheered when he shows up, and with what feels like a single flick of his wrist, has Head Thug hanging on for dear life by the measuring tape that Vinny’s conveniently nicked off Drycleaner Dude. Ooh. The badassery; I dig it. 🤩
E2. It is quite amusing that the tenants don’t quite know what to make of Vinny. Sometimes, he seems like an innocent newcomer, who isn’t even familiar with makgeolli. At other times, he seems dangerously badass, like when he dangles Head Thug off the side of the building. And then sometimes, he seems studious and earnest, like when he goes to Jipuragi Law Firm and spends time studying the documents to do with Babel E&C.
Sometimes, he’s a harsh critic, like every time he eats Chef Toto’s (Kim Hyung Mook) food, and at other times, he seems more kindly, like when he tells Chef Toto to continue to feed him until he can taste a mom’s touch in his food. I can’t blame the tenants for not knowing what to make of him, and whether to trust him.
E2. Given how Show’s set Vinny up to be quite funny, I was rather startled at the rush of memories that we gain access to, as he contemplates everything while fingering that gold lighter; he’s clearly done some very nefarious things in his time with the mafia. There’s blood, murders, and even what looks to be the slicing off of an ear. Vinny’s not to be trifled with, that’s for sure.
E2. That was clever of Vinny, to prevent the stealth demolition, not by the use of force (like I might’ve expected from a mafia consigliere), but using a party. An elegant, apparently high-profile Sicilian Wine Party for Insiders, no less. How very shrewd. I love that Vinny’s a smart guy.
E3. I kinda love the juxtaposition of Vinny’s cool badassery, with his dorky comic timing, like when he finds himself awkwardly in the way, while Cha Young and Lawyer Hong have a heated father-daughter moment. Vinny’s skittish reactions and awkward shifty gazes are pretty fantastic.
E4. I know it probably goes without saying, but any time Vinny whips out some sharp fight moves, I can’t help getting stars in my eyes. The way he just grabs that clothes hanger and uses it to subdue the guy in the toilet, is so swift, sharp and efficient. 🤩
E5. Vinny feeling awkward and a little uncertain, in engaging in that bow with the grateful group of revenge-by-fire team members, makes me feel that even though he’s very used to the mechanics of rogue justice (&/or revenge; call it what you will), he’s not used to the depth of emotion that these people are showing. It looks like this exchange is giving him food for thought, and I like the idea that this might give us a deeper glimpse into Vinny’s psyche and conscience.
E5. I love that even while Lawyer Choi gives Vinny the knowing evil eye when she matches his voice to the voice on the phone from when she’d been threatened with a Truck of Doom, Vinny is not only unperturbed, he willfully confirms her suspicions, by repeating his signature line, “It’s up to you whether to accept or not. But… you should remember that freedom comes with a price,” while looking her right in the eyes. Ah, he’s so daring, so unruffled, and so unafraid. I love it.
E6. I love that Vinny doesn’t even try to hide his involvement, as he just sits there and meets Lawyer Choi’s gaze, with amusement and confidence. I mean, there’s something quite charming about a man who isn’t afraid to own what he’s done.
E6. I also really like the conversation where Vinny asks Senior Monk about whether he’d be able to leave his rage behind, if he were to move to the middle of the ocean. He’s trying to process his anger, and is looking for a way to live without it; that’s so universal, that search for peace. I’m glad that Senior Monk’s words, that it doesn’t matter where he lives; that it all boils down to whether the anger is still inside him, gives Vinny food for thought.
E6. YESS. Vinny didn’t let me down; he’d been suspicious of the plant from Lawyer Choi too, and I’m so tickled that the plant now sits in the dance studio, so that all Lawyer Choi gets to hear are random sounds of music, dancing and interpretative hissing. It’s a petty thing, but I find it so satisfying!
E7. One of my favorite things in the whole court scene, is how much Vinny himself is enjoying the proceedings, so much so that he regularly slaps Chairman Jang (Kwak Dong Yeon) on the arm, as if they’re besties watching a funny movie at the theater. 😆
E9. I do love the spot of badassery that we get from Vinny, as he effortlessly clocks the presence of people on their tail, and even anticipates the attack that they launch on Cha Young, the moment she’s alone. Badass Vinny with the sharp fight moves is one of my favorite things in this show, and I couldn’t help the stars from popping into my eyes, the moment Vinny started unleashing his fight skillz. 🤩
E12. I do love how casually Vinny answers the phone call from Joon Woo, nonchalantly admitting to tampering with the bottled water, all while leaning back on his sofa and enjoying some classical music. Ha. That’s such a classic Mafia-esque sort of vibe. 😆
I like how Vinny just brushes it off as something he did because he’d had a bad experience related to bottled water when he’d arrived in Korea (nice callback!), and had no one to take it out on. Pfft. Way to aggravate Joon Woo even further. And the way Vinny cuts off the call, for no other reason than because the music was approaching its climax, is so perfect. It effectively shows Joon Woo that he’s lower down on Vinny’s priority list, than his enjoyment of a piece of music, and I revel in the vicarious glee.
E13. It’s pretty satisfying to see Han Seok’s discomfiture as the scheduled video switches to an incriminating conversation between the traitor union leader and the head of the Vision Team, which names Han Seok as the mastermind behind everything.
What’s even more satisfying though, is the moment when Han Seok spies Vinny and Cha Young up in the balcony, and realizes that this is all their doing. Even better, is the moment when a huge honking amount of pig’s blood is dropped all over Han Seok, in the Mafia tradition that Vinny had talked about earlier, of splashing pig’s blood on a rival family’s new boss, to intimidate them. OH MY. It’s grotesquely glorious, and the cherry on top, has to be the joyous way that Vinny and Cha Young toss popcorn into the crowd, blithely shouting for an encore.
Ahaha. I just love how unabashed Vinny always is, when it comes to associating himself with his work. He never pretends that it’s not his doing; he owns it, and celebrates it with exuberance and pleasure, right in his enemy’s face, and I love it.
E14. How like Vinny, to turn Han Seo down immediately and unequivocally, saying that he never exploits betrayal within a family, because if he exploits a betrayal within other families, his own family might betray him in the end.
E15. Ha. Prosecutor Jung (Ko Sang Ho) might be sharp enough to realize that Vinny isn’t going to take this lying down, and ask for extra bodyguards, but he’s’ no match for Vinny’s Mafia ways.
I love how terrified Prosecutor Jung looks, when he arrives home and realizes that not only have his additional bodyguards been silenced in their vehicle, Vinny’s actually pleasantly sitting down to dinner with the people who are most precious to Prosecutor Jung – his wife and daughter. That’s gotta be downright scary for Prosecutor Jung. In his shoes, I’d worry that the pasta was poisoned, since Vinny had cooked it.
But, Vinny turns out to have a much longer view of things, as it turns out. When Prosecutor Jung begs for his life on a private walk with Vinny, Vinny’s answer is genial but frightening, “I don’t plan on killing you yet. Since killing a traitor early is an act of great generosity. Do whatever you want to. When you have everything you wanted, I will kill you, then.” Ooh. Prosecutor Jung’s going to be quaking in his boots for years to come, which strikes me as a much more agonizing punishment, than killing him right away. Vinny sure knows the ins and outs of torment. 😅
E15. Ooh, how neat, that Vinny actually has the Guillotine file in his possession, because he’d managed to nick it out of its gold bar casing, while Agent Cho wasn’t looking. That’s convenient for our story, but it’s organic too, because I’d expect Vinny to have that kind of meticulous foresight, and that kind of sleight-of-hand moves.
E16. I feel sheepish now, for doubting Vinny’s ability to get himself out of the wrongful arrest for CEO Oh’s murder. He’d never needed Inzaghi for this; he just badass fought his way out of the situation, by taking down each police officer with his mad fight skillz. Ahhh! So sharp, decisive and efficient. I love it when we get to see Vinny demonstrate his fighting prowess. 🤩
And how excellent, really, that Vinny gets unexpected help from his Geumga pals. I’m really happy to see that Hong Sik is there to provide Vinny with a getaway ride; it’s so cool that he and Vinny get to bond a little bit, and we get to find out that Hong Sik had used to be a gangster. That explains A LOT about his amazing scissor stabbing fight skills! Also, I kinda love what he says to Vinny, “Leaving the past behind and becoming a new person… Forget all that. Do what you do best. That’s what you can do to help the world.”
..Not that I’m against anyone becoming a new person; I just like this idea that Vinny doesn’t have to become a new person, in order to help the world.
E16. I hate to admit it, but I did feel quite the thrill, at the sight of Vinny – with his hair swept up again, yes! 🤩 – making his deliberate way to the hitman’s apartment, to seek revenge for his mother’s death. I can’t help rooting for Vinny, even though this is all clearly illegal. How badass is he, though, as he methodically subdues the hitman, and then basically tortures him until he can’t help but run to Lawyer Choi for help.
Vinny fighting his way through each bodyguard, to get to the private room where Lawyer Choi is celebrating with Han Seok, Han Seo and CEO Han (Jo Han Chul), is so fierce and badass, yet completely inscrutable and methodical; it’s mesmerizing, really. He doesn’t hurry, but he is very intent, and his every step feels firmly deliberate and quite menacing.
That moment when Vinny enters the room, and Lawyer Choi’s eyes flicker with terror, is quite satisfying to witness, honestly. She’s been so scheming and had been so gleeful over Mom’s death, that this feels like good payback. In this moment, it feels like even Han Seok is looking at Vinny with new eyes, as he should. With that gun in his hand, and his face full of dark resolution, Vinny cuts quite the sinister figure.
E17. First, though, I did still find it quite thrilling to watch the rest of the scene where we’d left off last episode, where Vinny calmly threatens Lawyer Choi with the gun in his hand, after offing the hitman who’d killed his mother. Because all of our baddies in the room – particularly Lawyer Choi and Han Seok – are such cruel people themselves, it felt satisfying to watch them quake in their boots, wondering whether Vinny was about to kill them all. The terror that they felt was very evident, that felt.. well, rather delicious to watch, because I did want them to suffer.
Also, Vinny’s a badass sharpshooter indeed. We haven’t seen Vinny use a gun all that often in our story, which means that he hasn’t exactly practiced in a while (I feel like), so it’s extra thrilling to realize that extent of the precision that he’s capable of. Not only does he shoot the various lamps in the room in quick succession, thus sending everyone cowering, he also precision-shoots Han Seok’s earlobe, to give him a foretaste of the punishment that Vinny has in store for them.
That was all pretty darn badass. Vinny comes across as so controlled and unruffled, even though the reason that he’s here in the room with them, is because they’ve had his mother killed. I’m impressed that he’s even able to speak about this to them, without losing his cool. I kinda love how he matter-of-factly informs them they’ll have to die now, even though he’d seen killing them as a hassle before, and then tempers their fear by telling them that it won’t be immediate.
“‘A painless death is a blessing.’ I will give you two things. A humiliation worse than death, and a slow death, where you’ll experience it every step of the way.”
This statement is great TV, in that it’s satisfying to see Vinny be so cool and quietly threatening, and it also makes for a more interesting punishment for our baddies. And of course, trust our incorrigible baddies to quickly turn around and start scheming to kill Vinny – because if they don’t, he’ll eventually kill them.
E18. I do like the fact that even though Lawyer Choi says that anyone at Babel’s gathering could have been responsible for taking the secret recordings, Han Seok is fully aware that this is all Vinny’s plan, because of how Vinny had called him to inform him that he’d be playing a chess game with him. It makes me feel even more, like Vinny’s a master at what he does; he can afford to let his opponent know ahead of time, that he’s targeting them, and in the end, he’ll still succeed, despite the heads-up given. That’s maestro level.
E18. I love that Vinny comes back in the nick of time to save our Geumga crew, and I love how badass he is, right away. I love it best, when Vinny steps up to protect his family. 🤩 I hope Show at least tells us how Vinny decided to take care of the pressing matters in Italy in the end, though, because.. if there had always been another way, why hadn’t that been his first choice, when Luca had first broached the subject?
Last but not least, I have to love that shot of the book that Vinny’s reading on the plane, “How to befriend a bird.” Tee hee. So part of the reason that Vinny decided to get off that plane and come back, really was for Inzaghi after all! 😆
Jeon Yeo Bin as Cha Young
I have to admit that it took me a while to warm up to Jeon Yeo Bin’s character Cha Young.
I have a fondness for Jeon Yeo Bin from Be Melodramatic, so I wanted to like her in this. However, Show introduces Cha Young as a rather bemusing character, in that I immediately found her OTT and in-yo-face, and rather too blithely materialistic for my taste.
[MINOR EPISODE 1 SPOILER] Her fake tears in front of her boss, because she’s fake-moved by the bonus he’s just given her, feel unnecessary and excessive to my eyes. [END SPOILER]
Cha Young did settle into a more likable character within just a couple of episodes, and it wasn’t long before I found her more sympathetic and likable. Over time, Cha Young turns out to be a strong and interesting character, with multiple lashings of humor and sarcasm. I thought the deadpan quality that Jeon Yeo Bin injects into her gaze served that sarcastic side well, and added a nice layer of irony to almost everything Cha Young says and does. Also, the oddly affectatious swagger that she adopts when she walks, weirdly works.
All in all, Cha Young works out to be a very different and unique female lead, for sure.
E2. I think I might be slowly warming to Cha Young, as a character. This episode, she gets really worried about her father, when she hears that Babel is planning to surprise the tenants and demolish Geumga Plaza “accidentally” while in stealth mode. The fact that she practically goes crazy with worry for Dad makes me feel more kindly towards her. Also, we’re starting to get hints that things aren’t all that rosy for her at Wusang Law Firm, and this makes me feel that her larger than life persona might just be a blustery facade that she uses as a shield.
Also, I do like that she’s sharp. She very quickly deduces that there must be more to it than meets the eye, with Vinny’s determination to take the building back from Babel.
E3. I am growing quite fascinated with Cha Young. The bravado she puts up at work is no small deal. She simply refuses to be cowed, whether it’s to do with her superiors reprimanding her for not reporting that a researcher on the Babel case has gone missing, or with being told to perform at an office gathering for everyone’s funsies.
What makes her so confident, that she would defy any and all attempts to tame her, I wonder? I mean, I don’t doubt she’s capable at her job. It’s just.. there are always factors that would be out of her control. What makes her so confident to take on an assignment where the failure of which, would cost her her job? That said, Cha Young’s imitation of Lawyer Choi is Quite Something to behold. She’s so bold, blithe and no-holds-barred. I’m impressed.
E4. I’m glad that Cha Young makes a stand and quits Wusang, once she realizes that Wusang is likely involved in her father’s death. And, I’m glad that she refuses to be intimidated, even though Lawyer Choi tries to threaten her. This is one moment where I feel like Cha Young’s well-practiced bravado comes in really useful. She doesn’t even bat an eye when grabbing Lawyer Choi’s hand off her neck, and snidely thanks her for motivating her. This is also the first time that I’ve felt a sense of appreciation and glee, while watching Cha Young use her bold attitude and exaggerated swagger to make her point.
E4. I’m glad to see Cha Young choose to keep Jipuragi Law Firm going, in honor of her father, and I also like the idea of her moving back into the family home as well. It seems like a symbolic indication that she’s going to rediscover her roots.
E5. Cha Young is definitely growing on me, which is a relief, since I had started out not liking her very much. It’s in the little moments, like the look of wonder and gladness on her face, as the revenge-by-fire team members bow in gratitude, and she returns the bow. In this moment, there’s a purity and innocence in her countenance that feels honest and genuine, and I liked that a lot.
E6. Jeon Yeo Bin’s comic timing with Cha Young’s instantaneous pop-up recovery from her dead faint is pretty darn great, and a treat to behold all on its own, heh.
E6. It’s quite stunning, really, the way Lawyer Choi seems so disdainful of the tricks employed by our Jipuragi team, considering the depths she herself has stooped to, to get what she wants. Double standards, much? I’m so pleased that Cha Young doesn’t miss a beat in correcting Lawyer Choi,
“What are you talking about? Wasn’t it like a musical? It had a well-organized narrative, and the climax was just wonderful. And what did you say? I insulted the sacred court? The judge who was bribed by the Babel Group, Wusang who colluded with him, and us, who planned this scheme, are all in the same boat.”
And then, when Lawyer Choi blusters at Cha Young, asking her when she’d become a hero of justice, I have to love Cha Young’s sardonic honesty in her reply, “How can you be so cheesy? I don’t care about justice.” … “[I’m fighting back] because you’re despicable. Both Wusang and the Babel Group are despicable.” … “Isn’t it just human instinct to have the urge to slap those who are despicable?” … “See you in a week.”
There’s something very satisfying in how Cha Young doesn’t claim to be noble, and doesn’t pretend to fight for justice; she lays it out admitting that she is as dishonorable as Lawyer Choi when it comes to loving justice, and then she also slaps it down, with equal conviction, how despicable Lawyer Choi and her ilk are. Like, “Bam! Here’s the truth that you’d rather not admit to.”
E11. It’s interesting to me, that when Vinny calls Cha Young with the information that Joon Woo is Jang Han Seok, Cha Young doesn’t bat an eye, and simply reminds Vinny to act according to plan. Which, if we recall, is to kill Jang Han Seok. This means that regardless of her personal affiliation to Joon Woo, Cha Young feels strongly enough about Jang Han Seok, that she wants him dead.
E12. I love how Cha Young doesn’t waver one iota, when Joon Woo attempts to keep up his Earnest Puppy act with her, when their paths cross at the police station. No matter how much he insists that it’s a misunderstanding, she plows ahead with her disdainful, sarcastic shredding of his character, and when he persists, she goes, “You’re incredibly consistent. I’ll give you that, you jerk.” Ah! I love a woman who isn’t easily swayed by sweet talk and earnest puppy eyes.
Vinny and Cha Young
This story is definitely not a romance, but there is a loveline between Vinny and Cha Young.
What I like about how Show handles this, is that the burgeoning feelings between Vinny and Cha Young feel like they are growing organically in the crevices that naturally occur in between all the revenge-scheming and takedown plotting. It never takes over the main narrative, and yet, feels like its own thing, with its own place in our story world. We don’t spend too much time on touchy-feely things like emotions, but there’s just enough space for them, in between our larger plot developments, so that their growing feelings for each other feel organic, and not like it sprouted out of nowhere.
The chemistry between Song Joong Ki and Jeon Yeo Bin is pretty sparky, and shows up well, whether they are bickery reluctant partners, or mutually appreciative comrades, or people who genuinely care deeply for each other.
Also, the kisses, when we get them, are 🔥.
E3. It’s an interesting dynamic, to have Cha Young, who’s no angel herself, be all suspicious of Vinny’s intentions and motivations. She’s spot on too, in observing that Vinny must have real reasons for wanting to save Geumga Plaza that are not in the vein of him falling in love with the place. I guess it takes one schemer to know another? Heh.
It’s entertaining and amusing so far, to see her so perplexed by Vinny, and yet get nowhere, in her efforts to tease the information out of him. It somehow gives me a sense of satisfaction that Vinny’s well able to deflect her probing questions, while offhandedly switching the power dynamics, like when he tells her to walk the other way after him, after she’s already told him to step aside with her. It’s a small thing, but so effective, and it amuses me, that it annoys her. To be clear, I don’t think I’d be amused if Cha Young were some ordinary person; it’s amusing to me because she’s trying – and failing – to exert some kind of control or power over Vinny.
Also, it just boosts my desire to root for Vinny, to see him coolly and smoothly evade whatever little traps Cha Young attempts to ensnare him with. Like, ah, my chosen antihero is capable and likely to be the winner in any situation. Yayyy. 😅
E4. Although Vinny tells Cha Young not to do anything further in terms of investigating her father’s death, with time, it becomes clear that the whole thing does bug him too. I feel like that smashed wine glass is the first proper indication that we get, that Vinny’s not so willing to stay still, like he’d advised Cha Young to do.
I’m also pleased to see Vinny go to Cha Young’s rescue (in spite of his determination to not get involved, hee), after the police detain her on suspicion of her being the person behind Chairman Jang’s syringe threat. I love seeing how smoothly confident and capable Vinny is, and how the police officers, who’ve been paid off by Wusang and who actually want to keep Cha Young as a suspect, can’t do anything but let her go. Trust Cha Young to lean into the moment and demand breakfast before she leaves, though. Pfft.
E4. With Vinny’s skillful rescue of her when she’d just about lost hope at the police station, combined with other moments like when she’d realized that he’d bought her an umbrella at the convenience store because he knew she’d need it, it’s little wonder that Cha Young seems to be growing a special degree of interest in Vinny. I do quite appreciate that she continues to be herself, like how she questions Vinny belligerently about why he would rescue her, even while she lets slip the occasional interest-filled gaze, heh.
E4. I have to admit I kinda love Vinny and Cha Young’s rather bickery partnership, as they work to track down the person behind Lawyer Hong’s murder. Vinny’s always smooth, calm and controlled, while Cha Young’s face is often scrunched up with emotion, whether it’s fake-crying for the concept of the con, or reacting with real shock at Vinny’s actions. They make a pretty great odd couple.
Also, it does seem like Vinny takes Cha Young’s feelings seriously. When she expresses that she’s upset because they can’t do anything to the driver even though he’s admitted to driving the truck of doom with intent to kill Lawyer Hong, Vinny’s response, after a quick pause for thought, of loudly thanking the driver for his cooperation, works out to be quite the death knell for him. It’s all quite terrible because Vinny did this knowing that the man would likely die as a result, but it’s also a twisted kind fo sweet, that he took Cha Young’s feelings seriously enough to want to satisfy her desire for closure.
E5. I am very much enjoying the reluctant, slowly burgeoning partnership between Vinny and Cha Young. There’s a curiosity between them, but at the same time, there’s also a sense of incredulity that’s never far away.
Like in the rooftop scene where Cha Young asks to guess what Vinny’s next step is, there’s curiosity on both sides: Cha Young is curious to know what Vinny plans to do next, and Vinny is curious to know whether Cha Young is actually able to read his mind. At the same time, when Cha Young’s invited to make her guess and goes all dramatic, theatrical and self-aggrandizing, I love that, in the blurred foreground, we can see Vinny shaking his head in disbelief. I love those little touches; they add so much to the scene.
Also, even though they have different backgrounds and often have different ideas of what’s best to do next, I like the idea that Vinny and Cha Young are on the same wavelength a lot of the time as well.
Like when Vinny starts to talk about the best way to find out the puppet master behind the puppet, and Cha Young finishes the sentence for him, stating that it’s to destroy the puppet. It’s a little dark, that they both think along these destructive lines, but the light touch of pleasant surprise on Vinny’s features is not lost on me; it feels like he’s more pleased with this partnership than he’d expected to be, which is nice.
E5. One of the highlights I consistently look forward to, is Vinny unleashing his badassery, and I got a nice dose of that in the restaurant scene, where Head Thug and his cronies are back, and trying to intimidate Chef Toto into closing his restaurant.
I love the way Cha Young shouts a halt to everything as she enters, and then Vinny takes over, singlehandedly taking down all of the thugs, mostly with simple frontal slaps to their faces, combined with some sharp, slick moves – like when he caught the flying glass that was shot in his direction. The coolness and the badassery! 🤩 It’s just extra funny that as he’s taking down everyone, Head Thug’s imploring his guys to stop – because he’s learned first hand, not to cross Vinny. 😏
I love that Cha Young wraps it up by rattling off the legal implications of disrupting a business. Ha. I love the symbiosis of this partnership. Also, how sweet of Vinny, to pay Chef Toto handsomely for the broken dishes, even though those dishes had been broken by Head Thug even before he’d arrived on the scene. Aw. I love how we wrap up the scene with Piano Gal Mi Ri musing thoughtfully after Vinny, “He’s not even hiding it now. He’s just outright hot.” Hahaha. I can’t say I disagree.
E5. Oooh, what is this moment of thoughtful hesitation, before Vinny gives Cha Young the weakest forehead flick in the history of forehead flicks? I mean, the lead-up is played comedic, like Vinny can’t find the best angle, even after all the warming up that he does, but the vibe of the scene changes dramatically, when he steps up close to her, to “finish it quickly” like she requests. The air feels thick with contemplation and a touch of amusement, and I wonder if it’s too early to squee about potential burgeoning feelings on Vinny’s part.
E5. I do enjoy Vinny’s amused indulgent sort of vibe at the sight of Cha Young hamming it up, as he accompanies her back to Wusang, where she announces that she’s taking over the BLSD case.
I’m also pleasantly surprised at the moment of gentle honesty that we get between Vinny and Cha Young later in the episode, when she asks him what plans he has for after the trial. The way she says that she was wondering whether he was planning to stay in Korea is so.. bare and genuine. There’s no trace of her usual theatrics and feints, and all that’s left, in this moment, is a gentle curiosity about Vinny. It’s quite disarming, to be sure, and I do think that Vinny feels it, even as he counters that he’s never had much attachment to the country.
E6. I absolutely did not expect Vinny to tell Cha Young the truth, when she asks him for the reason that she should help him get Geumga Plaza back. That was very unexpected, I thought. I mean, people have literally been killed for knowing about that gold.
E7. I do like the admiring, appreciative looks that Cha Young keeps giving Vinny, as he does his thing. I completely understand the sentiment, since I’m pretty sure I’m wearing a similar look on my face, while watching Vinny do his thing, heh. 🤩
E8. It seems significant to me, that Vinny is shown walking Cha Young home, after the celebratory dinner. I mean, why would he? It’s not like she’s drunk and unable to get home on her own. This gives me the impression that they’ve grown closer, and the whole manner in which they interact, is definitely several notches cozier than before.
The easy boldness of Cha Young asking him about being in the Mafia gives me the impression that she’s asking the questions as someone who has the assurance and confidence that her questions will be accepted or tolerated by her listener, not based on the substance of the questions, since this is about Vinny’s secret, after all, but based on her perceived level of acceptance, of her as a person, by her listener.
And Vinny backs that up completely, by the good-natured, rather indulgent way he allows her to ask the questions. It’s true that he gives rather vague answers, and cuts her off after two questions, but he is honest in his vague answers, and the fact is, he remains good-humored, and I’d venture, even a tiny touch affectionate, through it all. Plus, there’s the half-wistful, half-appreciative look in Cha Young’s eyes, as she watches him leave, as well. There are varying levels of changing feelings afoot, yes?Baby squee?
E8. I appreciate the way he instinctively moves to protect Cha Young from the crowd of reporters, and get her out of the fray, and I like the way he whispers to Cha Young that they need to leave. It all feels very much like they’re on the same side, and that he kinda cares. I do like that nuance. And how significant, that as they walk away from the crowd, they smile at each other – even though Cha Young’s just been threatened, and might have woken any sleeping serpents, with her retort.
E9. As can be expected, besides the forced proximity that Cha Young’s visit (along with Inzaghi’s taking over of Vinny’s bedroom) entails, we get some time for conversation between Vinny and Cha Young, and Cha Young takes the opportunity to ask a few more questions about Vinny’s time with the Mafia.
It’s interesting that Vinny chooses to lie that he’s never killed anyone before; it seems that he senses that if Cha Young knows about his murderous past, it would put a distance between them that he’s not keen to have. There’s a wistfulness about Vinny’s gaze, as Cha Young muses about how she’d have felt if he had killed people, and it makes me feel like he regrets his past.
Of course, the nightmares that we see him have later on, confirms that these memories are not sitting easy with him. It’s becoming clearer that while Vinny was very good at doing what he did for the Mafia, it wasn’t a life that he’d wanted for himself. I feel like he enjoys the “cosplay” that he gets to engage in; with Cha Young not knowing the details of his past, he gets to live as a good guy type, in front of her.
E10. I am glad that Vinny tells Cha Young what her dad had asked him to tell her, that he couldn’t win against the corrupt because the world had changed, but that she, being as bold, persistent and tough as she is, is exactly the kind of person who can do it.
Even though Vinny remarks that he didn’t actually have to relay the message because Cha Young’s doing so well, I do think that it makes a difference, that Cha Young gets to hear that her father had thought well of her. I feel like one of the things that had really eaten away at Cha Young, was the belief that her father thought poorly of her because of the way she chose to approach her work. She needed to hear that he saw beyond that surface to her potential beneath, and I’m glad that Vinny gives her that.
E10. The twisted sense of solidarity between Vinny and Cha Young, as she agrees that he shouldn’t keep his promise not to hurt people, is quite compelling, and I think that rides on the burgeoning mutual interest between Vinny and Cha Young, and the chemical sparks that result from that.
Credit to Show for setting up the background pieces that, 1, Joon Woo’s impressed with Vinny and wishes to see him in action, and 2, Joon Woo cares about Cha Young more than he’d like to admit. With that context in place, it makes perfect sense to me that Joon Woo would volunteer to drive Cha Young to where Vinny is.
And what an efficiently lethal figure Vinny cuts, as he singlehandedly takes down not one gunman, but three. Ahh. I know it’s dysfunctional, but I can’t help getting stars in my eyes every time Vinny whips out his sharp moves to incapacitate someone. 🤩🙈
Given how worried Cha Young is for Vinny’s safety, and how she’s been unable to reach him all this time, I am not at all surprised that she greets him with a dramatic slo-mo running hug. Feelings! They are being given (momentary) free rein!
E11. Vinny and Cha Young drinking makgeolli together until the wee hours of the morning – much later than their original plan of stopping at 2am – definitely indicates that they are enjoying each other’s company. The way they eagerly jump on excuses like they shouldn’t waste food, so that they can keep sitting together over makgeolli, is clear evidence of that.
I’m surprised that tipsy Cha Young’s hugging experiment turns out a negative result. I could’ve sworn that she’d felt the flutters for Vinny, and that’s why her heart was racing. I might have found this more believable, if Cha Young had been sober during the experiment, but she appears to be quite drunk.
E12. In terms of Vinny’s change of plan, I do think it’s significant that part of his stated reason, is that he doesn’t want to leave Cha Young to keep fighting Babel on her own, if he were to kill Joon Woo and leave the country. Things are getting personal between Vinny and Cha Young, and the significance of this decision is pretty huge. He’s willing to change his entire plan, out of consideration for Cha Young. That says a lot, and I wonder whether Cha Young realizes this.
E12. Even though the bet between Vinny and Cha Young, about the difference between bungeoppang and ingeoppang, feels quite random, I do like the effect that this has, of showing us that they allow space for silly bits of randomness between them, even as they work together to take down Babel.
Also, that finger flick moment, where Cha Young hesitates to flick Vinny on the forehead because she’s suddenly hyperaware of his presence, is a great little callback to when the same situation had been reversed. Unlike Vinny, though, Cha Young doesn’t hold back, and instead gives Vinny a really hard flick. Pfft. It’s so dissonant, that afterwards, she looks all shy and self-conscious, after inflicting such pain on him. 😆
E14. I do like how jaunty and cheerful Vinny and Cha Young are, as they walk away from the interrogation room. They know that Han Seok will be released from custody soon enough, but they’re pretty jubilant about the pig’s blood thing, and also, they know that the anti-union stuff is just a distraction tactic. I like how focused they are, and it’s somehow nice to see how much pleasure they take in their small wins. On paper, it looks like a small thing, but somehow, I feel vicariously jubilant, alongside Vinny and Cha Young, over Han Seok being doused in pig’s blood. His obvious annoyance and aggravation is very satisfying to witness. 😈
E14. Trust Show to make Vinny’s first date with Cha Young part of a heist, ha. Because, of course they wouldn’t have time for it otherwise, nor would either of them admit to catching something like feeelings. 😏
The entire arc, where Vinny and Cha Young get to role-play being a lovey-dovey couple, all while intent on breaking into the art director’s office, is the kind of tonal mashup that is quintessential of this show.
On the one hand, it’s all OTT and comical (which, like I said, worked for me in part), like in the way Cha Young speaks in an awkwardly exaggerated mix of broken Korean and Konglish, while they tour the art gallery, or in the way Vinny’s coerced into self-consciously eking out a marriage proposal, because the guy he’s pretending to be, had planned on proposing, complete with a ring and a string section.
On the other hand, there are moments of swoon, like when everyone eggs our fake couple to kiss, post-proposal, and Cha Young reaches for Vinny and plants her lips on his. The initial impetuous dive for his face, quickly turns into a mutually ardent and sensuous exploratory kiss that’s tinged with forbidden wonder, and it’s gosh-darn schmexy while it lasts. Ahem.
It’s rather ironic, isn’t it, that this moment of bare-my-soul honesty between Vinny and Cha Young, where they allow their feelings free rein, takes place in the thick of fraud, technically?
E15. It’s rather affecting to see Cha Young, who’s usually so blithely exuberant, show a moment of tearful dispiritedness and despondency, because of Prosecutor Jung’s betrayal. It’s also quite poignant to hear Vinny somber reply Cha Young’s question about why he doesn’t appear angry, that he is angry; he’s just used to it. It feels like there is a lot of history behind those words; like Vinny’s been betrayed many times before. I suppose that’s not surprising, considering his Mafia background, but I do feel like this has definitely contributed to jading his soul.
E15. I like the way Cha Young talks to Vinny about reconciling with his mom. She shows concern, but she isn’t overbearing. It’s a nice touch, to quote Vinny back to himself, “Regret is the most painful thing in life,” and tell him with matter-of-fact sincerity that she hopes that he won’t have to go through such a painful thing. I really like how she nudges him in the right direction, but gives Vinny plenty of space to make his own decision. That’s respecting boundaries.
E16. The way Vinny and Cha Young drive up to the police station, lay out the real perpetrators, and list all the evidence, is so epic. They are in a completely different league from the police officers, and it shows. What these officers might have taken days, weeks or even months to conclude, they finished up in a matter of a few hours. So cool! 🤩
E17. I appreciate the vulnerability that Vinny shows during his conversation with Cha Young by the river. I’m sure it takes a lot of courage to even articulate the thought, that if he had never come back into Mom’s life, she would still be alive; that the only thing that she got out of seeing him again, was death. He basically thinks that he’s responsible for her death, and that’s such a heavy burden to bear. I’m glad that he’s able to tell Cha Young how he feels, so that she can help him change that narrative.
I’m with Cha Young on this; even though the time he’d had with Mom was short, that time that she spent with him, was worth a lifetime of happiness to her. I’d wager that Mom wouldn’t have exchanged that for anything, even if she’d known that she could have lived longer if she had.
E18. That moment when Cha Young goes after Vinny at the airport is a little cheesy, but completely understandable, given the emotion of the moment, and the fact that Vinny isn’t exactly en route to a vacation, but is expected to engage in dangerous Mafia activities.
“Friends are like two souls in one body. Don’t get hurt.. since it’ll hurt me too.”
Vinny and Lawyer Hong
Even though this relationship only forms a small part of our story, I wanted to give Vinny’s connection with Lawyer Hong a shout-out, because of how gently warm and fatherly Lawyer Hong was, to Vinny.
E2. This episode, I enjoyed the reluctant burgeoning connection between Vinny and Lawyer Hong, as Lawyer Hong slowly lets his guard down and begins to trust Vinny, at least a little bit. Also, Lawyer Hong does have a fatherly air about him, and the way he teaches Vinny how to drink makgeolli, then makes hangover soup and invites Vinny over, all feels very familial and warm. And, I’d guess that that’s not something that Vinny’s experienced in his life, even though he’d addressed his late boss as “father.”
The fact that Vinny would dissuade Lawyer Hong from getting involved with the Babel situation because, as he puts it, these people are monsters and don’t care about the lives of others, tells me that he’s growing fond of Lawyer Hong, in spite of himself. Why else would he tell Lawyer Hong to stop fighting them?
What an interesting twist, that Lawyer Hong had actually known from the start, that his client Oh Gyeong Ja is Vinny’s mother. I love how empathetic and non-aggressive Lawyer Hong is about this. He doesn’t try to tell Vinny what to do, all he says to Vinny, is to not allow his yearning to turn into regret. That’s powerful and wise, and definitely seems to give Vinny food for thought.
E3. Now, I had fully expected the informant to die, because the moment he said he’d testify, I knew that he likely wouldn’t survive till his appointed meeting time with Lawyer Hong the next morning. But, I hadn’t seen the truck of doom coming at all. That’s quite the twist, because I’d been growing fond of Lawyer Hong, and had fully expected him to be a long-term participant in our story.
Now that Lawyer Hong’s made his final wish known to Vinny, that he really just wishes that someone badder than the bad guys would come and teach them all a lesson, never mind if he does it legally, I guess that’s Vinny’s cue to make Lawyer Hong’s dying wish come true?
I’m sad that we have to lose Lawyer Hong, since he turned out to be such a warm, sweet, fatherly guy, but I can see how this would facilitate driving this story forward.
Vinny and Mom
I found Vinny’s arc with his mother to be one of the most touching and poignant arcs in this entire show, and so I had to give it a bit of time in the spotlight as well.
E2. There are hints of melancholy and plaintiveness about him, particularly when Lawyer Hong talks about his public defender case. In the spirit of kdrama tradition, I’m guessing that Oh Gyeong Ja must be Vinny’s mother, who had abandoned him as a child.
E6. Augh. Vinny and his brokenness around being abandoned by his mom is just the kind of stuff that makes my heart ache. It’s so clear to see, that he’s deeply torn, when it comes to his mom.
The flashback to little Vinny crying at the orphanage, not wanting to be adopted because he wanted to wait for his mom to come back for him like she’d promised, is so heartbreaking to watch (also, that little kid, Kim Si Woo, is perfectly, PERFECTLY cast as little Song Joong Ki! 🤩), and it’s clear that the memory still haunts Vinny today, along with the feelings that go with it. At the same time, there’s an intense sense of bitterness that’s palpable in Vinny, around how Mom hadn’t gone back for him like she’d promised, and had effectively abandoned him, never to look for him again.
The fact that Vinny struggles to be cold and distant with Mom, really makes my heart go out to him. He may be embittered and cynical and entangled with the mafia, but the way he has to wrestle with himself, in order to abandon his mom the way she’d abandoned him, humanizes him and makes him sympathetic, I feel.
E9. Vinny’s growing more and more affected by stuff that has to do with Mom. The very mention of her name while he’s throwing darts causes him to go from hitting the bullseye to getting a much lower score. Clearly, the thought of Mom and her illness affects Vinny more than he’d like to admit.
I foresee that it won’t be long before Vinny feels ready to reveal his identity to Mom. For one thing, we see that he’s found out that Mom had been diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer, just a few months before she’d left him at the orphanage, and that it had been a miracle that she’d survived. This means that Mom had likely left him at the orphanage because she’d expected to die, and she needed some kind of assurance that Vinny would be taken care of, after her death. Ack. That’s really sad.
This also means that, quite likely, by the time Mom had gone into remission, it had been too late for her to get Vinny back, since we’ve seen that Vinny got adopted and had moved to Italy. There are very few reasons that a child would find it understandable that his parent would give him up for adoption, but being terminally ill is certainly one of them, and I can imagine Vinny going through a complete mindset change, in terms of how he views Mom’s decision.
The way Vinny arrives at the hospital, thundering at the doctors for not paying enough attention to their patient, and then blustering at Mom to be more cooperative with her doctors, is such a big indication that he’s softening towards Mom. Aw.
E11. Vinny’s definitely softening up towards Mom, with the way he tells her that her son’s probably living well, and therefore she should stop feeling guilty, and just focus on getting better. Short of telling her who he is, this is the most he can do, to set her free from her conscience. Mom’s tears are so heartfelt and gut-wrenching to witness, especially with the context that she doesn’t have much time left. I hope that Vinny will decide to tell her who he is, and soon.
E15. I’m a little disappointed that Vinny doesn’t act on Cha Young’s advice right away, and therefore doesn’t reveal himself to Mom when they visit her, but I rationalize that it’s a big decision for him, and he deserves some time to process what Cha Young has said.
Mom is just so sweetly grateful about everything, though. She’s almost ethereal, in how gentle and thankful she always is. I’m glad that she decides to apply for a retrial, even though it’s rather late in the game.
E16. Augh. Vinny’s day out with Mom is just so full of feels. Cha Young’s a great wingwoman, creating opportunities for Vinny to have his picture taken with Mom, and then leaving them, so that they can have some quality alone time together. And the conversation that Vinny and Mom end up having, is so full of poignant emotion.
It’s clearly a case of “I know that you know that I know” between them; even though neither of them says it out loud, it’s clear that she knows that he’s her son, and he knows that she’s his mother. The words that they say to each other are so loving, and so liberating. Even without putting their relationship on the table, there is so much care that is expressed. I love the idea that each of them most wants to set the other person’s heart free.
“I can’t face [my son] now. I’d only be a burden to him like this.”
“Don’t think like that. I’m sure your son wouldn’t.”
“Do you think so?”
“Yes. I’m sure your son has been waiting for you his entire life. And I’m sure your son… tried to grow up strong so he wouldn’t be ashamed when he met his mother someday.”
“That doesn’t matter. No matter how he’s grown up, he’s still my son.”
Gurgle. This was such a viscerally moving moment, where mother and son cry together, while pretending not to see the other’s tears. 😭😭 I’m so glad that Mom gives Vinny that hug when they’re back at the hospital. There are no words exchanged, but that hug absolutely contained a lifetime of love. ❤️
E17. Vinny’s last farewell with his mom, before they take away her body, is suitably heartwrenching to watch. The tears that he’s kept pent up all this time – and even from all the years of feeling abandoned – all come pouring out now, and I feel like even now, we are only seeing a fraction of his pain, because this amount of tears is just what his body is willing to release; there’s probably a lot more that are still stuck on the inside. 💔
How poignant and heartbreakingly lovely, that Mom had actually made that scarf for Vinny, and even written him a letter, where she’d poured out her heart. I know it’s not the same as him being able to respond to her, if she’d told him everything before she’d died, but I do feel that this is a hundred times better than not hearing her heart at all. And, because of her shame and guilt around abandoning him all those years ago, this is all she could give.
I’m just grateful that she could give it, and that she and Vinny had had that healing time together, even without this letter.
Taecyeon as Joon Woo / Han Seok [SPOILERS]
I feel that Taecyeon really leaned into the theatrical nature of his character, whether it was playing Joon Woo as overly bright and peppy, or channeling Han Seok’s psychopathic nature.
I’ll say that Taec does a solid job of the role, and it’s also clear that he enjoyed hamming it up while playing both sides of his character. I will also say that in the hands of an actor with more range, I do think that Han Seok could have been a much more nuanced and interesting character.
I feel bad for saying this, because Taec famously works so hard, but I did feel like Han Seok came across a little one-note and therefore less interesting than I think he could have been. However, thinking of Han Seok as a comic book villain definitely helps, because it’s ok for a comic book villain to be a little flat and one-note, after all.
On a shallow note, I’ve felt before, that the typical kpop physique (read: very beefed-up and often too sculpted to look real) looks out of place in a drama, like when Jinwoon took off his shirt for Marriage Not Dating. I’d thought then, that he’d looked like a mannequin among real people, heh. In this case, however, I feel like Taec’s similar unreal sort of physique works well for the character of Han Seok. After all, Han Seok as a villain is larger than life; this physique fits the bill perfectly because it looks unreal.
There are 3 main things that I’d like to highlight about Han Seok as a character.
1. He really is evil. The way he delights in the cruelty of his actions is chilling to think about, and he doesn’t even seem to regret any of it. In fact, he seems rather proud of the fact that he’d ordered the death of his own father, and successfully murdered several of his friends at age 16, and kept their watches as trophies.
We see him show that cruelty time and again during our story, and it’s clear that Show is setting him up to be a thoroughly evil and unrepentant sort of villain.
2. Han Seok’s liking for Cha Young feels unnecessary and inorganic. As a true blue psychopath, Han Seok shouldn’t have the ability to like anyone. Also, his crush on Cha Young doesn’t really go anywhere, I feel, so this feels like a weird hanging thread.
3. I appreciate that Han Seok admires Vinny’s genius.
It strikes me that Han Seok sees himself as superior to just about everyone, and is looking for people who can play in the same league as he. In his eyes, Han Seo is not in that league, and neither is CEO Han, nor Cha Young (since he assigns Lawyer Choi to Cha Young’s takedown).
However, he does see Vinny as being in the same league, since he deigns to take down Vinny personally, and is, like I said, quite admiring of Vinny’s creativity and daring. In fact, Han Seok’s suitably impressed when he receives intel on Vinny’s true background as a mafia consigliere. I feel like if they weren’t up against each other, Joon Woo might even want to be friends with Vinny; he has that much admiration for Vinny’s work.
I guess that’s fitting, that a comic book arch villain, has a healthy amount of respect for the (anti)hero that he’s up against.
Kim Yeo Jin as Lawyer Choi [SPOILERS]
As one of our main villains, Lawyer Choi is rather interesting because she isn’t like most other villains in Dramaland. For one thing, she is unabashedly evil and cruel, and she is unrepentant about it. For another, there’s no explanation given, for her strong evil streak. There’s no sob backstory, and there’s no psychiatric diagnosis (which even Han Seok has). She just is evil, because she wants to be.
She’s dark and ruthless, and doesn’t hesitate to send trucks of doom to silence people whom she finds troublesome, nor does she balk at dishonoring the dead.
For example, in episode 4, I find it bad enough that Lawyer Choi’s had Lawyer Hong killed, but it’s just so much worse, that she destroys his reputation as well, making him out to be a dirty lawyer who’d threatened people for money, while claiming to be a lawyer for the people. That’s really, really low. And it really gives us a good idea of the kind of person she is, because she seems to take it all so casually. That scene of her dancing while the news is reporting all this falsehood, makes it feel like she’s literally dancing on his grave.
There are two things that I find oddly refreshing about Lawyer Choi, however.
1. She’s surprisingly loyal – when she wants to be. She might throw a lot of people under the bus, but we see that she is oddly loyal to Han Seok. I feel like she admires Han Seok’s evilness, and identifies with it, and that’s why she sticks with him, even when he starts going down towards the end of our story.
2. She is allowed to be pretty crass and rather boorish in general. It reminds me of the types of gross characters that are traditionally played by men. Not that I particularly gravitate towards gross characters, but it’s just novel that this time, it’s a strong female character who’s being presented as uncouth and who doesn’t care what people think because of it.
Kwak Dong Yeon as Han Seo
Kwak Dong Yeon is this show’s breakout star, and it’s not hard to see why. The role of Han Seo gives him a lot of room to shine, because the range of emotions that Han Seo experiences, is very wide indeed.
Kudos to Kwak Dong Yeon for being able to embody every facet of Han Seo so well. Han Seo goes through such an extensive evolution, and Kwak Dong Yeon makes that evolution so convincing, that by the time I got to the end of my watch, I’d mostly forgotten the kind of person we’d seen Han Seo to be, in the beginning of our story.
[ENDING SPOILER] By the end of our story, Han Seo’s such an earnest good boy type who’s eager to please, that it’s only upon revisiting Show’s early episodes for this review, that I realized with a start, how menacing and cruel he had once been. That’s skillz, but also, I conclude that this is the reason the writers decided that Han Seo needed to die by the end of our story. He’d once been one of the villains, who had tortured people for fun, and he needed to be punished for it. [END SPOILER]
Because Han Seo’s progression is so.. eclectic, I thought it would be worth a revisit, because it helps to bring home just how versatile Kwak Dong Yeon is, in inhabiting each part of this wide-ranging journey.
E5. I’m intrigued by Chairman Jang’s statement in the car, that he can just cut off the puppet strings, since he’s just a puppet; does he really think that he has what it takes to go up against Joon Woo on his own? I do think, though, that the way Joon Woo exerts power over Chairman Jang, in turn fuels Chairman Jang’s own brand of crazy when he’s lording it over his staff at Babel. He’s so emasculated, and treated like less than human, when he’s with Joon Woo, that he needs to regain some sense of power and control, by intimidating his people.
E8. Ooh. What is this about Chairman Jang ordering a gun? He’s been really harsh on his staff, and that puck to the chest was dangerous, and now, he’s got a gun? I’ve been feeling like his unhappiness at the way Joon Woo disparages him is growing, and that this unhappiness would eventually reach a boiling point, but I am a little surprised to see him get a gun this soon.
E9. It seems that Chairman Jang’s set people on Vinny and Cha Young. Vinny doesn’t think the hitmen are sent by Babel because the work is sloppy, but I’d venture that Chairman Jang’s just not as precise and experienced as Joon Woo, at this sort of thing.
It does seem like Chairman Jang is hatching a plan of his own. Even though he blubbers nervously in front of Joon Woo, the moment that Joon Woo leaves, Chairman Jang’s able to sit down and calmly continue eating his breakfast. I guess his nervous schtick might be more of an act than we might have originally picked up on, and I’m curious to see how effective Chairman Jang is, when he’s operating on his own, and not under Joon Woo’s thumb.
E10. I have to confess that I did not see it coming, that the group suicide had been staged, and had, in fact, been a case of murder instead. I guess I’d underestimated our baddies at Babel, and in this case, it seems that it’s Han Seo who’s our dark horse. He’s always appeared to be so dim-witted and jumpy-nervous, that it floors me, really, that out of our group of villains, he’s the one who’d actually thought to look through Babel’s company records, in order to trace the people who might have an interest to partner with Jipuragi to burn down Babel’s warehouse.
It’s pretty fun to see our villain team members taking turns to freak out at the ominous warnings orchestrated by our Geumga team, complete with Vinny’s signature bloody “C”s as sign-offs. I was especially amused by the sight of Chairman Jang trying to outrun the remote-controlled car. Kwak Dong Yeon’s got some excellent comic chops.
E12. Kwak Dong Yeon is doing a great job of the role of Chairman Jang, I have to say. This episode, Chairman Jang shows such a complex range of emotion. He’s clearly terrified of the idea of killing Joon Woo, and yet, at the same time, there’s a wild sense of desperation that we can see in his eyes. He wants to be free from being under Joon Woo’s thumb, and he also wants to be acknowledged as his own person. There’s something quite childlike about him, in that he comes across as somewhat clumsy and guileless, even though he does his best to be scheming and cunning.
Also, from the way that he hesitates, even though he has a clear shot at Joon Woo, I feel like he’s perhaps not as evil as his brother.
E13. Han Seo certainly seems to appreciate Vinny’s work, judging from his entranced, slightly thrilled expression, as he watches Vinny and Cha Young whooping with delight.
E14. I have to say, Han Seo’s little leaked smirks, as he takes pleasure in Vinny’s pig blood victory, is pretty great. He looks like a thrilled little boy, trying not to look too excited at the forbidden fun that he’s discovered.
E14. I do feel quite sorry for Han Seo, because he’s been terrorized by his brother for so long, getting hit, strangled and choked any time Han Seok feels that Han Seo deserves it; it’s no wonder Han Seo seems a little crazy. That moment when Han Seo decides to confess to the crime of ordering the anti-union activities, I do feel rather sorry for him. He’s clearly doing this out of fear of Han Seok, and wants to possibly use this opportunity to get back into Han Seok’s good books.
When Han Seok rejects his efforts, saying that he should reserve himself for bigger crimes, the dread in Han Seo’s eyes is unmistakable. Poor Han Seo. I feel like he never knew what hit him, in the sense that I don’t think he consciously chose to be in this position; he just found himself in this position one day, because of his brother’s actions. He probably went along with whatever Han Seok wanted, because he’d been scared of what Han Seok might do to him, if he refused. I’m not surprised that Han Seo would want to make an alliance with Vinny, if he could.
E16. That scene where Han Seok throws the blunt object at Han Seo’s head as punishment for the explosion not being successful, is really quite telling. Han Seo looks so wan in this scene. With the dark red blood dripping down his forehead contrasted with his wan pallor, he reminds me of some kind of Edward Scissorhands; almost non-human, and deeply damaged. I actually feel really sorry for him, in this scene.
It’s cute though, how Han Seo shows up at Jipuragi the next day, ready and eager to claim the credit for calling the fire brigade – when he’s the one who’d set up the gas explosion in the first place, albeit under Han Seok’s orders. Significantly, Vinny agrees to Han Seo’s request – which was to take down his brother, so that he’d be able to run Babel as an upright company.
E18. Han Seo’s reaction to Han Seok’s arrest feels prematurely confident, I feel like. I mean, he’s asserting himself and defying Han Seok to his face and even tightening the cuffs on Han Seok’s wrists, when it’s entirely possible for Han Seok to punish him severely for it, once he gets out of prison. I know that Vinny’s got a plan to keep Han Seok in jail, but this still feels a little precarious, for Han Seo, to me; almost like counting his chickens before all the eggs are laid.
The Geumga Plaza crew
The gaggle of dispossessed tenants at Geumga Plaza are a quirky, eccentric lot, and it’s as entertaining as it is heartwarming, to see them go from treating Vinny with suspicion, to embracing him as one of their own.
I found myself growing very fond of the Geumga crew, so here are a few Geumga crew highlights, just because.
E5. It’s super heartwarming to see the various tenants of the plaza offer whatever they can, in support of Vinny and Cha Young, as they prepare to go to court. From Dry Cleaner Guy Hong Sik offering to press their clothes, to Chef Toto serving up a feast that’s personally cooked by his mother (so that Vinny can have a taste of mom’s touch, like he’d once said), it’s all very communal and warm, and I love it.
E5. The chaotic pre-hearing crowd outside the courthouse, complete with cool sports car entrance by our power duo, isn’t very surprising, but I was definitely taken aback in the best way, by the performance that the Plaza folks put up, in support of Vinny and Cha Young. Dance Studio Guy’s writhing interpretative dance, complete with fake blood, takes the cake, for weirdness AND for appropriateness, ha.
E9. I love that Cheol Wook and Yeon Jin display some pretty impressive moves, in wanting to protect Vinny’s apartment from the intruders. Ha. Looks like Cheol Wook’s martial arts prowess isn’t pure legend after all, and it also looks like Yeon Jin’s got some superpowers of her own, the way she lifts up one of the intruders and drops him like a pro wrestler during a fight.
E9. Head Thug and his cronies now becoming tenants at Geumga Plaza is a twist I didn’t see coming. Ha. It’s actually kind of heartwarming, that they end up fighting alongside our tenant crew.
E10. What a fun twist, that our Dry Cleaner Hong Sik has some badass gangsta moves up his sleeve. Surprise badassery is one of my favorite drama things, and I couldn’t help but gasp with awe, as I watched Hong Sik take down the entire group of menacing new thugs, all by himself. 🤩🤩 Who would’ve guessed?!?
E16. How surprisingly delightful, that Head Thug who turns into our MVP, by pouncing on the suspicious masked man, and then holding on and not letting go, whether it’s by sparring with him, or literally hanging onto him, even while his face is getting bashed in. And then later, he looks super proud of himself, when he and Soo Nam (Lee Dal) present the intruder to Vinny, like he’s a little boy who deserves a star, for having done well in his homework. I never thought I’d say this, but Head Thug is growing on me. 😅
It’s also pretty heartwarming, that the little Geumga gang on the rooftop all refuse to let Vinny go alone, when he’s about to head off to prove his innocence. Aw. That’s endearing, really. They count him as one of their own.
E16. Pwahaha, that the wish that Head Thug wants Vinny to grant, for doing a good job of catching the masked intruder, is for Vinny to model for his Byebye Balloon Travel company. 😂😂 I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting that! Vinny reluctantly posing for photos, even while telling Head Thug to put his camera away, is kind of silly, but also kind of endearing.
E17. It’s comforting to see that the entire Geumga crew is there to mourn with Vinny during Mom’s funeral wake. It feels like he’s part of a community now, and that community is there for him, in his hour of need.
The Geumga crew all closing their businesses temporarily, so that they can focus completely on helping Vinny take down Babel, is also heartwarming to see. They may not be skilled members of the Mafia, but just that practical expression of care and solidarity is so precious. The hug that Hee Soo gives Vinny on everyone’s behalf, is so full of palpable care too.
E17. The entire crew getting cool outfits as one big Cassano Family, is really gratifying to watch as well. I love that they really are one big united village now, and I’m also loving the fact that when they’re all dressed up, they seem to channel some of Vinny’s swag. 🤩
E18. Luca’s arrival and Vinny’s subsequent departure feels like an empty diversion on hindsight, but it is admittedly heartwarming to see how the Geumga crew prepares little treats for him to take along with him, to remind him of them, and of home. These guys really are a family, aren’t they?
Im Chul Soo as Agent Ahn
Im Chul Soo as Agent Ahn is one of my personal highlights of the show. Even when Show was being uneven, and I felt my interest flagging a bit, I could always count on Agent Ahn to spice up my watch with his hilarious antics.
I enjoy Im Chul Soo, so much, and this role really made such great use of his elastic reaction faces, and his excellent comic timing.
I loved all his moments so much, that I’ve collected a bunch of them here, just so that I can relive their comedic glory, all over again. 🤩
E3. Agent Ahn deciding to become Chef Toto’s apprentice in order to keep Vinny under surveillance is such a hoot. Poor Chef Toto’s self-esteem is so torn up after Vinny’s scathing reviews of each meal, that he jumps at the chance to be assisted by someone who seems completely besotted by his cooking. The concept itself is entertainingly ridiculous, especially with Agent Ahn getting all confused by Vinny’s kind acts around Geumga Plaza, but Im Chul Soo’s very elastic, very expressive faces just takes it to the next level and makes it hilarious. I love him.
E3. The sight of Vinny unleashing some sharp fight moves while dealing with the delinquent students just amps up the pleasure of watching this. On the one hand, I’m giggling at Agent Ahn’s wonderful confused faces, and on the other hand, I’m spazzing at Vinny’s badassery. What a great contrast of flavors. Kinda like having a sweet and salty dessert. 😋
E6. Agent Ahn and his foibles while keeping tabs on Vinny continues to amuse me greatly. The way he misinterprets Vinny’s body language in the temple to mean that Vinny’s praying to Buddha is hilarious enough on its own, but it’s even more hysterical, that this leads him to send both Wusang and Babel, who’ve both asked for intel on Vinny, reports that are completely glossed-up, and perfect. His loyalty to Vinny is taking on a life of its own, and I love it. 😆
E8. It’s pretty cute how chuffed our tenants are, by the fact that they managed to fight off Head Thug and his minions. All the good vibes, and their genial thanks to Vinny, is nice to see, but the thing that tickles me the most, is Agent Ahn’s starry-eyed appreciation of Vinny, which just seems to be growing stronger and stronger. At this point, Agent Ahn’s a legit Vinny fanboy, heh.
E9. Tee hee hee. I love Agent Ahn. The way he literally hides under Vinny’s car, and then comes crawling out, bearing a pop-up card with hearts on it, along with his face and contact number, in case Vinny ever needs his help, is just hysterical. Agent Ahn’s so earnestly in love with Vinny, and wants so badly to protect him; it gives me the giggles. He’s adorable.
E10. Shout-out to Agent Ahn again, for some laugh-out-loud hilarity this episode. I couldn’t stop giggling at the way he just pops out of nowhere, like when he hides behind the table at the Jipuragi office, then delivers the pasta, and slow walks in place, while pretending to leave, all so that he can eavesdrop on the team’s conversation a little longer. I luff him. 😂
E11. Vinny getting taken in by the police officers for being part of the Mafia, is the source of much of my enjoyment, this episode. I love how Agent Ahn leaps into action, and basically pep talks his boss (Kwon Tae Won) into allowing him to take over Vinny’s case, as a matter of pride and principle. Ha. Little does Boss know that Agent Ahn is just so personally smitten with Vinny that he’ll do anything it takes to protect and help Vinny. 😆
That jaunty entrance that Agent Ahn makes, as he half walks, half dances his way down the hallway to get to Vinny and the dirty detectives, is just GOLD. 🤩
E11. It’s just so funny to me, that Agent Ahn is so eager to help Vinny, and his third condition – to get a hug from Vinny – is a total hoot. Omigosh, the way Agent Ahn basically leaps into Vinny arms like a fangirl leaping into Oppa’s embrace, is hysterical, and I cannot stop giggling at my screen. 😂
Also, shout-out to Im Chul Soo’s many contortions and leaps this episode, as Agent Ahn sneaks around in service of his dedication to Vinny, this episode. Who knew that Im Chul Soo is so.. limber?
THEMES / IDEAS / MOTIFS
1. The idea of found family and the bonds that come with
2. You don’t have to be strong in order to fight
3. Friendship can be stronger than betrayal
E13. I’m fascinated by the idea that the friendship between Vinny and Agent Cho is literally stronger than the betrayal. Most friendships would be thrown out the window, if one party were to turn on the other party with a gun. Or, if one party discovers that the other party is lying to them. But in this case, the friendship wins out over both these things, and they even agree to keep working together. Or at least, that’s what it looks like – until we get a suspicious-looking glimpse of Agent Cho meeting someone else.
4. Sweet potato and cider motifs
E9. The sweet potato motif is also the kind of thing that gets more amusing, the more it pops up. According to my casual research on Google, sweet potato is Korean slang for the frustrating, dry feeling that’s akin to how you might feel when eating sweet potato on its own, without a drink to wash it down. This is possibly Show’s nod to how things aren’t quite moving along smoothly for our Jipuragi team, this episode.
E10. Show leans into its sweet potato vs. cider (soda) motif this episode, and the difference is that this episode, our Jipuragi team is drinking cider instead of nomming on dry sweet potato. That’s code for how things are going more smoothly for them this episode, and while the sweet potato motif isn’t quite doing it for me, I appreciate Show’s consistency.
5. Regret is the most painful thing in life
6. Evil is prevalent and must be punished
7. You don’t have to become a new or different person, in order to help others
This is one of Show’s key ideas, which is why I thought I’d reiterate it here. Although Vinny is lauded as a defender of the weak in our story, Show emphasizes quite often, that he is not a hero, and still lives by the same Mafia code that he always has.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Given that this is our penultimate episode, I’m not exactly surprised that things get shaken up, before the finale. Despite that presupposition, though, I still felt that the penultimate episode leaned solid, confident and even rather surprising.
I like that Vinny shows up to protect his Geumga family, and is suitably badass about it, singlehandedly taking on a whole lot of Secretary Kim’s men, before being knocked down himself. I found it equal parts cheesy and confusing for the Geumga Gang to chant “Dante” as they marched in to save the day (I take Michelle’s point, which she shared on my Patreon page, that the crew probably mangled the Italian pronunciation. For the record, 1, I did look up as many Italian translations of “stop” as I could find, and none of them even faintly look like “Dante,” and 2, either way, this still struck me as quite cheesy 😅).
However, I love the idea of the Geumga crew stepping in to actively fight for themselves, instead of always depending on Vinny. And, the title cards introducing each of the Geumga crew members’ unique fight cred, were amusing and rather surprising. I loved the surprise of finding out that Chef Toto is a former Ssireum champion, but the cutest one, I have to say, must be Agent Ahn’s title card, which reads, “President of Vicenzo’s fanclub, ‘Oh My Consigliere.'” Tee hee. Cute!
It’s quite thrilling to see how effective the crew is, in taking down the thugs, and it’s also pretty satisfying when Cha Young steps in to take out Secretary Kim with a sharp knock on the head, cutting short his snooty attempt to negotiate with Vinny. More than that, it’s really nice to see the entire crew celebrate with Vinny afterwards; there’s a lot of warmth and solidarity in the air, and I like that.
And, like I’d guessed, the monks’ daily outings to beg for alms did have something to do with the gold! It was all part of a plan where each of our players, including Mi Ri, the team from Jipuragi and our pair of monks, would remove the gold in small batches, thus eventually emptying out the basement. We’re not told where the gold is now being kept, but it’s great to see some teamwork on display, and there’s an element of satisfaction to this as well, because it’s just like Show, to pull this off, so that when Secretary Kim forced his way into the basement, there’d be nothing there.
Afterwards, as Cha Young and Vinny share a chat on the roof, we find out that Vinny had basically taken care of the pressing issue back in Italy, by offering 80 million Euros in exchange for his family’s safety. That’s.. a lot of money. I suppose that could be one way of spending part of the gold? At least, that’s my guess, in terms of how Vinny’s financing this contract.
More importantly, Cha Young tells Vinny how glad she is, that he’s back safely, and Vinny and Cha Young share a bit of a Moment, where they each acknowledge how glad they were, to meet the other, at that party so many episodes ago. This feels low-key but significant, like they’re saying – but not saying – that the other person is important to them.
There’s a bit of back-and-forth this episode, with Lawyer Choi’s side trying to block the Babel trial from happening, and Vinny’s side pushing it right back, by using the Guillotine file as leverage against Prosecutor Jung, who’s facilitating the whole thing. Admittedly, this non-movement feels a bit like filler on hindsight, but I will admit that Show had my attention, while the back and forth was happening.
We get another, even more Significant Moment between Vinny and Cha Young, as she asks him over a casual coffee, if he’d ever be able to come back, after he leaves upon the completion of their mission. Vinny is serious, as he gives her his answer, “I never make promises unless it’s for business purposes. But I promise you this. I will come back.” Ooh. She’s important enough to him, that he’s giving her his personal word, that he will return. Also, he looks ridiculously handsome in this scene, with that intent expression. Squee! 😍
How significant, that Vinny seeks out the dirty judge who’s presiding over Han Seok’s trial, to ensure that he allows for the quickest release possible for Han Seok. Vinny must feel that it’s time to do battle with Han Seok, face to face. Also significant, is the fact that Han Seo openly sits with Vinny’s side, and snubs Lawyer Choi’s side, during the trial. That’s openly declaring his allegiance to Vinny; I’m.. still worried about Han Seo, to be honest. This combination, of him publicly aligning himself with Vinny, and Han Seok’s release being expedited, does not bode well for him.
How interesting, that Vinny releases the hidden camera footage from Babel’s secret shady meeting, and yet has Chief Prosecutor Han’s and Lawyer Choi’s faces blurred out. Lawyer Choi’s conclusion is that he doesn’t want them in prison, because he wants to kill them. That’s.. quite possible. And the matter-of-fact way that she says it, is quite badass, to be honest. She doesn’t even appear that fazed, that her life is literally in danger.
I feel like the way Vinny keeps visiting Han Seok in prison, is specifically to bait him and stir up his frustration and anger. This time, he politely apologizes for breaking into Han Seok’s home, as he shows him the photo of the Babel Tower miniature that he’s destroyed. Vinny informs Han Seok that he’s a hungry cat now, and Han Seok makes his own dark promise, that he will now go back to the depraved version of himself, that Vinny has heard about. He even eyes Vinny’s watch for part of his murderous collection. Uh. This makes me less nervous for Vinny, than for all the people that Vinny’s come to care about. Han Seok’s not the kind to play fair, after all. 😬
I appreciate that Vinny tries to get Han Seo to go abroad for a few months, to keep him safe. And, I do think that Han Seo should’ve listened to Vinny. Actually, given how much respect Han Seo has for Vinny, I’m quite surprised that he doesn’t take Vinny’s advice, and instead, declares that he wants to stay and fight. Show’s just amping up my sense of unease for Han Seo by now, ack.
I also appreciate that Vinny offers Cha Young the option to not be involved, as he proceeds with his plan to finish off Han Seok. Essentially, things are going to get darker, and he wants to give Cha Young the chance to, well, not become a monster. I think this is the point where Show is also giving us as viewers, a reminder of why we are rooting for Vinny, even though he is clearly an antihero. “..Do you know why I supported you? There’s no law that can punish a monster like Jang Han Seok. And there are no other options. That’s why I supported your method, the lesser evil.”
It feels like a reminder of sorts, to gird us up for the final showdown that is to come. I’m.. slightly nervous? 😬
Lawyer Choi creates a bunch of fake evidence that makes it possible for her to take the fall for everything, thus paving the way for Han Seok’s release from prison. Geez. This woman sure is dedicated to the pact that she’s made with the devil. I get where’s she’s coming from, though. She believes that Han Seok is the only capable of bringing down Vinny, and that’s why she’s throwing in her lot with Han Seok, and trusting that he’ll get her out of prison, once he’s dealt with Vinny.
I’m a little surprised at how Prosecutor Jung responds to Vinny’s offer, that Vinny will let him live, if he cooperates with Vinny (at least, that’s my interpretation of Vinny’s invitation for him to be humble). For a man who had seemed to fear for his life so much the last time Vinny had confronted him, Prosecutor Jung is oddly undaunted this time around – which, I guess, is why Vinny decides to kill him after all, and throws him over the ledge of a building. First man down, in what looks like will be a takedown spree?
Han Seok wastes no time after he gets out of prison; the way he kidnaps Cha Young, and knocks out Han Seo, and then sends Cha Young’s bloodied accessories to Vinny, there’s just no way that Vinny wouldn’t show up.
While I appreciate Vinny’s acceptance of Han Seok’s offer, that he be beaten to death by Han Seo in exchange for Cha Young’s life, and I also appreciate Han Seo’s own choice, to direct the blow at Han Seok instead of Vinny, I don’t like the way this last scene is managed.
For someone as skilled and sharp as Vinny, I’d expect that the moment Han Seo created the diversion, that Vinny would snap to, to assist him in taking down Han Seok, instead of busying himself with freeing Cha Young and escorting her out of the room. I mean, Vinny knows Han Seo’s limits, and I’m sure he’d know that leaving Han Seok in Han Seo’s hands is not going to be very safe nor effective. Han Seok’s sure to overpower Han Seo, and quite quickly too. It just seems out of character, for Vinny to not take this into consideration.
I can rationalize that Vinny’s so invested in Cha Young’s safety, that he’d act out of character, but.. I’m not buying that line of reasoning too easily, I’m afraid. At this point, I’m reasonably sure that Cha Young should survive, since she was shot in the shoulder and not near a vital organ, but I’m not so sure that Han Seo will get out of this alive.
I feel that Show just wanted to create a situation where Han Seo would sacrifice himself for Vinny, and Cha Young would do the same, thus triggering an even darker rage in Vinny, to power him through the finale. I’m ok with the idea, but not so hot on the execution, unfortunately. Hopefully I will still like what Show has in mind, for the finale.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
So I’d heard enough in terms of mixed reactions to this show’s finale, to seriously wonder where I’d land, when I got to it myself. Would I hate it? Would I love it? I had no idea. Now that I’ve finally seen the finale for myself, I’ll say that I don’t hate it, and, I don’t love it, but.. I can accept it, with some robust lens reinforcements.
First of all, like I mentioned with regard to the penultimate episode’s closing scene, I do not like how Show manages this plot point. Seeing how the scene eventually plays out does nothing to change my opinion of it. In fact, all it does is reinforce my thought, that Show just wanted to set Vinny on the path to an even darker revenge on Han Seok, by having Han Seo sacrifice himself, and Cha Young injured – and therefore out of the action.
None of this scene makes sense to me, not least how Han Seo works to point Han Seok’s gun away from Vinny and Cha Young – and to himself instead. I mean, that really wasn’t necessary, was it? And again, it doesn’t make sense to me, that after Han Seo goes down and Han Seok runs off, that Vinny would come back in from the balcony, and go to Cha Young first. I know that he likes her and everything, but dude, Cha Young was shot in the shoulder, while the bullet went right through Han Seo’s torso. Even a layperson like me can tell that Han Seo’s much more seriously wounded. I’d have expected someone with as sharp a mind as Vinny, to instinctively know to tend to Han Seo first. 🙄
That said, I do appreciate the notion that Han Seo sincerely wants to help and protect Vinny, and is willing to lay his life on the line to do so. I also understand the idea, that now that Vinny’s acknowledged that Han Seo’s worthy to call him “hyung,” that Vinny’s even more determined than ever, to punish Han Seok.
Like I said before, though, this feels rather belated, and I would have much preferred Vinny’s sense of Han Seo’s brotherhood to have kicked in, the moment Han Seo tackled Han Seok with the baseball bat. But, oh well. Moving on.
I do like the fast pace of Vinny’s plan of vengeance, and he does absolutely live up to his promise to Cha Young, to finish everything up within 24 hours.
The thing that really requires lens reinforcement, for me, is how cruel Vinny’s chosen methods are, when it comes to killing Lawyer Choi and Han Seok. Because we’ve come to view Vinny as a fundamentally kind person who doesn’t actually enjoy killing (otherwise why would he suffer from nightmares, right?), it’s hard to reconcile the fact that he chooses to kill Lawyer Choi and Han Seok in such creatively brutal ways.
For the record, I didn’t particularly revel in Vinny’s chosen methods of punishment; the deaths that Vinny chose for Lawyer Choi and Han Seok were slow and excruciating, and really quite upsetting to think about. However, I do think that it makes sense, within the framework that Show has set out. Therefore, I think that bearing these next few things in mind, helps to make Show’s chosen direction more acceptable, even if you don’t like it.
1. Lawyer Choi and Han Seok are set up to be incorrigibly evil villains, in that they remain unrepentant, all the way to the end. Even though they do beg for mercy, it’s important to note that they do not express any regret for the heinous crimes that they have committed. They own their crimes, and are simply looking for a less painful way to die.
The idea here, I think, is that such criminals need to be given punishments that will not only be commensurate with the crimes they have committed (which the law would not be able to do), but also, (and I am perhaps inferring here) these punishments must be horrifying enough, to deter others from similar behavior. This idea that the punishments are also designed to deter others, helps me to accept the unusually cruel forms that these punishments take.
2. Vinny’s is merely fulfilling the promise that he’d made to them in episode 17, after they’d killed his mother. “‘A painless death is a blessing.’ I will give you two things. A humiliation worse than death, and a slow death, where you’ll experience it every step of the way.”
From the start, Vinny’s not made any pretenses about who or what he is. This episode, we simply get to see him in action, as he metes out his dark, rogue justice.
3. Show sets up Vinny’s brand of rogue justice to be something that works to protect the innocent. He even gets a blessing of sorts from the head monk, who tells him that even though Vinny won’t be able to become like Buddha, he can fight for the people, and get compliments from Buddha from time to time.
So, while Show doesn’t try to make Vinny forsake his dark Mafia ways, it does frame it in such a way that he uses his “powers” for good instead of evil.
I know that this might invite debates over whether Vinny has the right to play god, since he’s essentially doing that, in meting out punishments to sinners, but I don’t think that that’s Show’s intention. I think that Show’s just trying to make Vinny a dark avenger sort of persona; an antihero who vibes more like a dark hero, which therefore makes the love and regard that he receives from the people around him, understandable.
I thought the time skip leaned rather indulgent, but it isn’t out of character for Show, in the sense that I’ve mostly felt that Show is generally quite indulgent of itself, heh.
It was nice to see the Geumga crew still hanging tight together, and still defending Geumga Plaza, in the Cassano name. It’s also good to know that Cha Young’s managed to win the retrial for Vinny’s mom, thus clearing her of murder charges posthumously. It’s also nice to see that Agent Ahn is now Chief Ahn, from his upgraded nameplate, and that he and Agent Cho will now be working together.
I’m also glad to see that Cheol Wook didn’t die after all. I’d had an inkling, though, that he’d survive, the moment Seok Do announced that he’d used to be a surgical nurse, the White Angel of Geumga-Dong. Ha. With the White Angel giving him first aid, I was pretty sure Cheol Wook would make it, and I also noted that Manager Nam did not specifically say that Cheol Wook had died, when he’d updated Cha Young at the hospital.
I wasn’t so hot on Show bringing back Min Seong, by showing us that he’s still pining over Vinny while in jail, however. I’d always thought Min Seong’s arc had been unnecessarily cruel, and this just brought that sour aftertaste back to the forefront, for me. 😬
We see that Vinny’s been sending Cha Young postcards, consistently of Malta, so we can conclude that that’s where he’s been, even though Chief Ahn says that he’s been unable to track down Vinny for the year that he’s been gone.
I like that Vinny does come back, like he’d promised Cha Young. The way he nonchalantly walks up behind her at the celebration of Korea and Italy’s Diplomatic Relations, while she’s admiring a painting, and remarks, “War and art are best observed from a distance,” reminds me so much of how he’d approached that Director’s wife in episode 7. All casual and smooth, but with definite intent driving it all.
Vinny says that although he can’t come to Korea unless it’s via events like this, he will invite Cha Young to his island, which he’s bought and named Pagliuzza (which means “straw,” ie, Jipuragi. Aw! That’s sweet). Apparently, the Cassano Family’s settled there, which means that Vinny’s no longer a consigliere, but a boss. I like that idea, that Vinny’s not working for someone else now, and is free to forge his own path. Plus, I’m sure Cha Young would be happy to visit Vinny on a regular basis, now that she knows where to find him. And, how cute, that he says he’s already got a room set aside for her.
We even get a confirmation of romantic feelings, finally, when Cha Young expresses disbelief at Vinny’s claim that she’s been on his mind ever since he’d left. He pulls her in for a kiss, and.. let’s just say that it was a kiss well worth waiting for. Ahem. 🔥
Vinny thanks Cha Young for helping him to hide the gold – which is how we learn that the gold’s become a literal bed of gold in a rundown little annex to her house, ha. I’d been wondering about that, and I’m glad Show remembers to let us in on the gold’s location before our story is up.
As Show winds down to its closing, we hear Vinny in voiceover, “I’m still a villain and couldn’t care less about justice. Justice is weak and empty. One cannot win against any villains with justice alone. If merciless justice exists, I am willing to yield to it. Even villains long to live in a peaceful world. However, since that’s impossible, I’ve taken up a new hobby. Getting rid of garbage. If I don’t do that, people will die buried underneath the garbage. There’s one last thing I’d like to say from a villain’s perspective. Evil is… prevalent and vehement.”
..And along with this, is, I think, the idea that because evil is so prevalent and vehement, we continue to need dark heroes like Vinny, who are willing to fight darkness with darkness, in order to protect the innocent.
That’s a pretty intriguing hook for a comic book universe, even if you can’t buy it in real life, yes?
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Sometimes exhilarating, and sometimes uncomfortable, but consistently daring and different.
FINAL GRADE: B++
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Vincenzo, is Racket Boys. I’ve taken a look at episode 1, and I must say, Show is growing on me very nicely! 😄
If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️