MBC’s new weekend drama AIR CITY promised a lot — being the return vehicles for big-time stars Lee Jung Jae and Choi Jiwoo — and its first episodes turned out to deliver. The series is laden with star power, and it looks spectacular. MBC really sank a ton of money into this production, and you can tell.
You know what Air City is? It’s like really yummy dessert that you can almost convince yourself is a decent meal, because maybe it’s got fruit in it. It’s fun, it’s fast, and it’s got a good balance of action, thrills, stunts, mixed in with some humor and hints of romance to come.
Plus, it’s also got just the slightest hint of a cheese factor to keep it from taking itself too seriously, and keep it entertaining.
(Soundtrack) SONG OF THE DAY
Air City OST – “하루달” (haru dal) by Dong Bang Shin Ki
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EPISODES 1 & 2
In the darkened streets of Hong Kong, one black-suited guy is being chased (and shot at) by another black-suited guy. Running behind them is our hero, Kim Ji Sung (Lee Jung Jae!!), who’s too late to save his friend from being killed. He finds his friend’s body — noting a particular pendant clutched in his bloodied hand — and takes off after his killer, but to no avail.
On a plane heading to Korea’s Incheon International Airport, Ji Sung scrutinizes the passengers, noting one mean-looking dude in particular, whose passport he swipes surreptitiously while the guy’s in the lavatory. Ji Sung inspects it, while the guy swallows some pills, emerges from the lavatory, and collapses. Also on the flight is Han Do Kyung (Choi Ji Woo), whose brief flirting with another passenger is cut short as everyone looks at the collapsed passenger.
Responding to the emergency on the Incheon Airport side is Kang Ha Joon (Lee Jin Wook), the manager of airport administration who monitors suspicious activities from the “situation room” and its hundreds of security cameras.
Do Kyung attempts to pass herself off as the man’s fiancee to accompany him, but Ha Joon stops her — it’s clear Ha Joon doesn’t buy her story. Ji Sung silently watches with suspicion, keeping a close eye on Do Kyung. He also clocks three questionable Chinese travelers and follows them to the airport hotel, where Do Kyung is also checking in.
She checks into three separate rooms, all for her own use. Her peculiar behavior arouses curiosity among the airport staff, who take bets on who she could be — a spy? an employee appointed from the top? When she leaves her room, Ji Sung sneaks in using some kind of magnetic override keycard, and rifles through her belongings.
In the airport cafe, Do Kyung witnesses a strange briefcase exchange, and her Spidey sense tells her something’s wrong. She follows them into the terminal — and Ji Sung, who’s been secretly watching, follows her out.
However, their behavior has triggered the notice of security, and they’re arrested and brought in for questioning (Do Kyung accuses Ji Sung of being the culprit, and is surprised when she’s brought in as well).
Ji Sung is not too happy with her for mistaking him for a criminal, and she’s surprised that he knows who she is.
Ji Sung is taken to the head of security (NIS, or National Intelligence Service), where we find out he’s a government agent who’s technically taking a leave of duty. Initially stationed in Cairo, Ji Sung followed his friend’s killer from Hong Kong to Korea, although it’s not his assignment. The chief orders him back to his post, but Ji Sung is determined to get to the bottom of his friend’s death. The news is reporting it as an uneventful tourist death, and Ji Sung feels the indignity of his friend not being recognized for his service.
Ji Sung outlines his theory and tells the chief that the three Chinese tourists at the hotel are definitely involved. Ji Sung insists that even if the NIS doesn’t help him, he’ll do it alone. The chief tells him if he’s not gone by tomorrow morning, he’ll report him for violating orders.
(They made such a good choice with Lee Jung Jae here; he’s really good. You can see immediately that he’s a star, a big-time actor with tons of experience. He commits to this role in a way that you don’t usually see in kdramas — adding to the feel that Air City is a series on the scale of a movie. I love him.)
Do Kyung is introduced as the new head of operations, who’s been scouted particularly from Singapore, becoming the source of gossip among the airport employees. She and Ha Joon don’t exactly hit it off.
Ha Joon, on the other hand, knows everyone who works at the airport and gets along with them like family, from the upper-most tier down to the cleaning ladies and runway repairmen. The airport is his turf, and it’s clear he’d rather be there than anywhere, since he never leaves.
Do Kyung sees security footage of Ji Sung entering her room, and visits his room in a burst of indignity to demand what he’s up to. Ji Sung asks for her help, and they spend the night monitoring the Chinese trio, getting enough info to deduce that they’re planning a drop (exchange) in the bar.
With help from security agents, they intercept the exchange, but Ji Sung is confused to see only money and passports. It’s not what he was looking for. An idea occurs to him, and he goes off running for the medical ward…
…where the badass mofo guy has obviously taken the Romeo & Juliet Pills of Fake Doom, because he AWAKENS! He gets up without any difficulty and walks out, before Ji Sung and Do Kyung can arrive to stop him.
Knowing the escapee must still be in the airport somewhere, military teams are brought in and security is on high alert.
Spotting a suspicious man dressed as a maintenance worker, Ji Sung and Ha Joon take off after him, first via car chase on the airport runway, then through the inner chambers of the luggage belts and warehouses.
Ji Sung manages the capture the guy, but unfortunately he’s not talking. Without any additional proof, there’s nothing they can do but let him go, to Ji Sung’s frustration.
However, his troubles aren’t over, as he’s reprimanded (first by the head of intelligence, then by his supervisor at the NIS) for his reckless behavior — insubordination, violating procedures, endangering others.
He visits his dead friend Young Jae’s wife (mother?), who’s not only grieving for the loss but upset because nobody will tell her anything. Ji Sung sits by in frustration because he cannot divulge that Young Jae died in duty, rather than as the everyday target of robbery in a cover story that makes no sense to his family.
Ha Joon has been trying to figure out why Do Kyung looks so familiar, and asks about her past, wondering if they used to know each other. Do Kyung brushes him off, but the name of a school triggers something in her memory, and as she looks through her old things, she recalls they went to the same grade school. She tells him she’s Yi Kyung’s older sister. And immediately, they drop formalities and speak in banmal (informal speech) like old friends.
She asks him to take her someplace, where she talks to a woman who clearly has no affection for her. The woman calls her cold-hearted and hard for cutting off contact with her mother and sister. Do Kyung asks her to pass along her contact information to her sister, although the woman tells her there’s no way Yi Kyung will call her. She’s even more offended to hear that Do Kyung works at the airport, which apparently carries some cruel meaning that we can only guess at. Do Kyung left Korea when she was young to live with her father in France, and Yi Kyung refused to leave the airport, crying for hours.
Although she doesn’t divulge the source of all this family angst, Do Kyung tells Ha Joon that if she were her sister, she wouldn’t contact her either.
Meanwhile, Ji Sung drives to the home of a woman we can assume is his old lover, remembering happier times together. He doesn’t approach her, however, although she notices him drive away and possibly recognizes him.
Ji Sung’s given the order that he’s not being sent back to Cairo. If he’s so determined to get to the bottom of Young Jae’s death, he’ll be stationed at the aiport to monitor, waiting for the culprits to pass through.
So Ji Sung finds himself back at Incheon International…….