Padam Padam: Episode 1
Padam Padam… The Sound of His and Her Heartbeats got off to a strong cable ratings start of 1.6%, and I can definitely say those ratings are well deserved. Strong directing, editing, deft camerawork and nuanced characterization make this show something more than your usual melodrama. I personally loved that this drama isn’t afraid to be daring, with an in-your-face gritty realism that ends up being the perfect setting for the supernatural elements that come into play. Also, there’s bromance. Lots of bromance.
If this year is just the start of all the goodness that cable is going to offer us, then us viewers are in for a real treat.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
Talk about a dark opening. We get an up close and personal shot of prisoner number 7774, YANG KANG-CHIL (Jung Woo-sung), unselfconsciously eating his fill of chicken wings. It’s sad that this turns out to be his last meal, as he’s taken to be executed by hanging right after. He has no last words or prayers, and bravely fights his tears as his face is slowly covered by a canvas bag. And then he is hung. Yikes.
The magic of time travel brings us back to one month before the execution. Kang-chil (very much alive, but still in prison) is reading a letter from a woman who claims to be friends with an Im Soo-mi, who’s dying and desperately wanting to see Kang-chil. Popping our somber lead’s personal bubble by cheerily reading over his shoulder is effervescent LEE GOOK-SOO (Kim Bum) who promises to give Kang-chil two “white stars” if he’s told who the woman mentioned in the letter is.
Maybe they’re only friends in Gook-soo’s mind, as Kang-chil continually fends him off both verbally and physically, especially when Gook-soo tries to adorably link arms with him. Gook-soo doesn’t seem to take the hint (or just blatantly ignores all of them) as he’s happy to inform his tall friend that he’ll go to heaven if he gets enough white stars (only if they’re drawn by Gook-soo, of course). This might be rhetoric Kang-chil has heard before, since he easily dismisses all of Gook-soo’s star talk by wondering how such things can get anyone into heaven.
They’re interrupted by the kind and gentle Warden, who comes bearing permission slips for the both of them to embark on a seventy-two hour leave from prison. Along with an allowance, Kang-chil and Gook-soo are each given cell phones that can only receive incoming calls from the prison – which, from this moment on, will come every four hours. If they don’t answer the calls within five minutes or return within the three days they’ll instantly become wanted men.
Although both men are going to be released in one month, the Warden is of the belief that Kang-chil has suffered in prison for sixteen years for a crime he didn’t commit and wants him to see the world he’s about to be released back into. The leave is a retirement gift for himself, and one that the Warden painstakingly worked to obtain – and though normally only family members of prisoners can apply for leave, it was Gook-soo’s father that went out of his way to apply for Kang-chil’s leave. Aww, that’s oddly sweet.
We don’t know how long Gook-soo has been imprisoned, but we do know that this is the first time Kang-chil has seen the outside world in sixteen long years. The first thing they notice? Women – and women’s legs. Ha. Gook-soo marvels at the world with boyish wonderment, all too happy to drag the slightly more somber Kang-chil along by the hand. Every time Kang-chil tries to free himself, Gook-soo never takes it personally and just latches right back on.
However, Gook-soo’s fixation with hand-holding continues to cause the two of them trouble. Even when they end up in an overly-crowded subway, Gook-soo refuses to let go of Kang-chil’s hand. Gook-soo apologizes sincerely to all the disgruntled passengers, but simply explains that he just can’t be separated from Kang-chil. Aww.
The cramped circumstances force Kang-chil to all but smother JUNG JI-NA (Han Ji-min), who’d bumped into the two of them on the escalator while she was en route to the subway earlier. She tries to remain polite even as the swaying subway car and the crowd of people within keep pushing Kang-chil to literally grind on her, but it’s not long before she asks him to do something about his situation down there. He realizes (just as we see it) that he’s having an Unintentional Pants Party as a result of the close proximity, and though he claims he’s not doing it consciously, he does use a sudden lurch of the subway to plant a kiss on her forehead.
However, the moment the subway doors open she wheels around, punches Kang-chil in the stomach with her bag, and flips him the bird. Ha.
Gook-soo, who has been silently watching the whole time (still with a death-grip on Kang-chil’s hand) looks after her with a mixed expression as he tells Kang-chil that she’s the woman of his destiny.
Gook-soo’s pleased as punch to be sidled up next to his hyung on the bus, already talking about how they’re going to spend every minute together for seventy-two whole hours. Yay! Kang-chil suggests that they go see a mutual friend from prison, but Gook-soo is the goody two-shoes of the bunch and reminds him that the Warden told them not to go. Gook-soo offers his house instead, but Kang-chil refuses on the basis that he doesn’t want to see Gook-soo beaten up by his father or brother.
Here’s where we find out Gook-soo’s offense: he’s been incarcerated for four years for bank robbery. Ha! I don’t know why that idea is funny, but it is. Either way, the two of them are at odds about whether to go to this friend’s house or not – and Kang-chil takes the first opportunity to sneak off the bus. By the time Gook-soo realizes that he’s been dumped, it’s already too late.
It’s time for a completely necessary shower scene and other completely necessary shirtless scenes. These actually serve a purpose (oh, who am I kidding) in showing that Kang-chil is enjoying the little things we take for granted… like a private shower, and the ability to wallow in a soft bed with only a towel on.
But it’s not long before he’s back out in the world and off to his friend’s house, but in a twist of fate(?) he sees the girl from the subway, Ji-na, having an argument with a man whom she believes is guilty of dog-napping. If you’ve seen City Hunter (and if you haven’t, you should), you’ll recognize this ajusshi as the very same one who got into almost the exact same fight with that show’s resident veterinarian/City-Hunter-Fixer-Upper. Weird? Yes.
Kang-chil ends up distracting the dog-napper long enough for Ji-na to grab the dog and run away. He finally becomes aware of a man who’s been tailing him from the moment he was released, and in the process of chasing him down he ends up back in close quarters with Ji-na. When the scary dog-napper comes looking for her, he puts a hand over her mouth to keep her quiet and pretends as though they’re kissing to get the man to move on.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Kang-chil isn’t the most adjusted member of society since he’s been removed from that society for sixteen years, but I don’t know if he realizes when he’s being frightening or not. Ji-na is clearly scared of the manic sort of energy he possesses, even though he displays no intention of harming her. He is upset, though, that she made him out to be a sexual predator on the subway. It’s extra funny when he uses her abject fear of him to spook her as she’s running away with the dog – he pretty much just goes “boo!” and she screams bloody murder. It’s a nice dose of dark humor.
Poor Kang-chil. He goes to his friend’s house, the one that owes him (for saving his life twice in prison), only to overhear that same “friend” denounce him as the worst type of gangster, one so bad his mother even ran away from him. But how has prison taught him to respond? By utterly destroying his non-friend’s car, of course. The funny thing is, it really is just Jung Woo-sung the actor going all-out on a car. That automobile never saw it coming.
We’re starting to see just how volatile Kang-chil is, and how threatening he can be in the blink of an eye. But I don’t get the feeling that he’s malicious, he’s just got some adjusting to do.
Left to wander the city alone, Kang-chil eventually calls the number from the letter he was reading at the top of the episode, concerning a girl named Im Soo-mi. Turns out she just died recently, but the woman who wrote the letter didn’t contact him just because of the death. Apparently Kang-chil and Soo-mi had been in a relationship when he was nineteen, but it’s been sixteen years now since he’s been in prison. Still, the woman is claiming that he has a son from that affair. Whoa, way to ease us into that one…
Kang-chil is incredulous that he could have a son, and though the maybe-son JUNG-HEE says nothing to his maybe-dad, I kind of love him already. Their interaction together is the most fun to watch, as Jung-hee produces a photo of Kang-chil and his mom together with this unimpressed look in his eyes. When Kang-chil still denies it, Jung-hee responds by calmly spitting on his face.
It’s hard to even describe how awesome this moment is, and mostly because the facial expressions on his maybe-son’s face are just perfect. He’s not melodramatic or upset, and it already seems like he’s more mature than his maybe-father, which is always a dynamic I love. Kang-chil proves that he never learns to let one go, as he runs up behind his maybe-son and swipes him a good one on the back of the head for being disrespectful to an adult.
Whoa, okay. Thus far this show has shown a penchant for raw and very physical action (and by that I mean: no glorious slo-mo shots), and it shows as Kang-chil is suddenly and brutally hit by a car. It happens so fast you almost barely see the hit, and all of a sudden Kang-chil is lying on the asphalt and bleeding from the head.
The person who hit Kang-chil just happens to be Ji-na, the same girl from all his previous Fated Encounters. She checks to see if he’s breathing before she calls an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Unfortunately, with him being unconscious he’s unable to answer that once-every-four-hours phone call – and his cell phone goes on ringing and ringing as he’s wheeled into the emergency room. Uh oh.
Apparently the car ended up sustaining more damage than Kang-chil, who deftly leaves the hospital the moment he wakes only to answer his ringing phone once he’s outside. The Warden had said that the cell phones could not make or receive any calls that weren’t from the prison, but it soon becomes clear that it’s not the Warden on the line.
I’m getting some distinct Oldboy vibes from the “I called to tell you that I don’t ever stop watching you” line, and it becomes clear(ish) through a flash back that the man on the other end of the line is the one responsible for framing him in the first place, just by switching the murder weapon from his own hand to Kang-chil’s.
So not only do these two have that long and sordid history, but the true murderer of this duo, CHANG-GUL, has been working behind the scenes during the years in order for Kang-chil to stay in prison. We do get some unveiled exposition from Chang-gul in the form of: “As long as my father is a judge, and I’m a district attorney, we’re going to be very careful about you.”
Here’s the interesting thing: all of a sudden, Chang-gul is no longer trying to keep Kang-chil in prison. Kang-chil is fast enough to pick up on this immediately, and asks why he’s being protected only now. If he wanted, Chang-gul could frame him and keep him in prison for another four years. So why now? We’re not sure, but it is revealed that Chang-gul’s father is up for a Supreme Court position, so maybe it has something to do with power plays and politics. At least we hear about the rumors floating around that Chang-gul has made some shady deals with some shady people, just in case we didn’t think he was diabolical enough.
I really like how in such a short time, the Warden has established himself as a really upright and caring person. Even though he’s been unable to reach Kang-chil he doesn’t lose hope (and doesn’t immediately place him on the wanted list), and finally calls Gook-soo as a last-ditch effort.
Fortunately, Gook-soo manages to find Kang-chil sleeping on a public bench and wakes him like one wakes all fairytale princesses – with a kiss. Aww, bromance. When Gook-soo gets the inevitable call from the Warden, he’s happy to report that both he and Kang-chil will be returning to the prison together.
On the bus going back, Kang-chil sees the man who framed him, District Attorney Park Chang-gul, on the news. He’s under scrutiny for the arrest of a drug ring, and Kang-chil can only watch and say: “I wish I could die and go see Kang Woo-young.” Ah, so that’s the name Kang-chil has tattooed on his arm. Gook-soo presents an argument as to why Kang-chil couldn’t even meet Kang Woo-young even if he died – because he doesn’t have enough white stars of good deeds to go to heaven. He only has one-hundred more white stars than black.
Kang-chil finally asks Gook-soo who he is to dole out stars and decide who does and does not go to heaven. Gook-soo simply replies that he’s an angel, and he’s impervious to Kang-chil’s incredulity. Just like people can live anywhere, he says, angels can too. Who says they angels only live in heaven?
Back in prison, Gook-soo is all smiles as the kind Warden reminds them that it’s a given that other prisoners will mess with them just because they’re about to be released. He warns them not to fall into their traps, and Gook-soo assures the Warden on Kang-chil’s behalf – like he’ll take care of the both of them. Aww. Why so cute?
Meanwhile, Ji-na and her father share a (very) strained meal. In the interim we’ve found out that she has an adorable job as a veterinarian – and though I thought there would be some daddy issues ever since she ignored his call at the station, this is downright miserable. Her dad seems pitiable and only wants her attention, but clearly something has happened to her mother that she blames him for. Whatever the case, she’s put their house on the market (without telling her dad) and plans to go study abroad the following month.
And so it begins. Exactly what the Warden claimed would happen is happening, as one of Kang-chil’s fellow prisoners has chosen to pick on a weaker one to try and provoke Kang-chil into a fight. It’s an interesting way for that prisoner to really get at Kang-chil while showing us that he’s inherently good-natured, since he only wants to protect the poor man being tortured. But all is not well, since one of the prison guards that’s been after Kang-chil since Day One seems to be the one doing the maneuvering. For whatever reason, he wants to provoke Kang-chil so that he won’t be released.
Gook-soo, to his credit, does everything to hold Kang-chil back. He’s always there to warn him that it’s all a set up, and that they only have weeks left. Then ten days. They’re so close…
…But the strain from the rigorous field exercises added to the torture of seeing his fellow inmate tortured proves too much, and no amount of Gook-soo’s pleading holds Kang-chil back. Gook-soo tries to tell him that they’re almost there, they’re almost out, but Kang-chil can’t take it anymore and tells Gook-soo that he can go out by himself, and he’ll continue to live in prison.
He’s chosen the higher(?) path in trying to protect his fellow inmate, but the fight turns into a downright beating as all of Kang-chil’s pent-up anger at being unable to help thus far comes raging to the fore. The guard that’s been against him purposefully stops the other guards from sounding an alarm so that the fight can continue.
Gook-soo fights valiantly to break through the line of prisoners to stop Kang-chil, but fails.
The Warden finally comes on the scene during the midst of the beating, being the only one who genuinely cares about Kang-chil. But Kang-chil is too lost in his rage, and when the Warden tries to stop him he roughly fights him off before swiftly returning to beat the crap out of the inmate. But slow realization dawns on Kang-chil as he looks up to see blood on a post, and the Warden on the ground… Oh no. He didn’t mean to hurt him, but apparently the one blow he gave to the Warden caused his head to fatally collide with the post behind him.
Kang-chil is distraught as he keeps calling Warden Kim’s name, but the blow was fatal. The poor Warden, the only one on the prison staff who treated Kang-chil like a son, is already dead.
It’s the Warden’s death that puts Kang-chil under trial for the death penalty. We see him undergo an investigation, and then it’s straight court sentencing (where he’s found guilty of murder), but he chooses not to settle or make deals. He’s been wanting to die, and now he can. With that, we move back to the opening scene where he’s about to be hung – and we see small flashbacks, like him getting beaten by a man (who curiously looks like Ji-na’s father), and of him calling his mother when he was beaten and bloody, only for her to ignore his call.
And then, the death sentence is carried out. But that surely can’t be the end, right? Because this would be an epically short drama…
But, all of a sudden, Kang-chil awakens at the exact scene where he’d been hit by Ji-na’s car. Wait, so this was all a dream? It doesn’t seem to be so, since he’s fully aware of what’s going on. He knows that he was hung to death, but now he’s suddenly… here. Is he in heaven? Hell? But all of the events are happening exactly as they did a few days ago, and he finds himself time-skipping through those days until he’s back at the shower scene that happened right before the fight in the field that cost the Warden his life. All the events that happened before are happening again, but he’s looking at them from the perspective that he’s dead, but reliving these moments… somehow.
Bewildered and in shock, he turns to Gook-soo in a panic. “Gook-soo, what’s wrong with me?!”
This drama surprised me, to be honest. I went into it with a completely open mind (I didn’t really know what to expect), and was pleasantly surprised with what I found. I remember hearing that Kim Bum was a ‘guardian angel’ in the promotional material, but I definitely don’t think I expected that he’d be a bonafide angel. But in the very real world this drama has set up, that supernatural element seems to strangely fit right in. In fact, were it not for the supernatural element, I may not have responded as well as I did.
Perhaps it’s because Gook-soo seems human, with a human life with a criminal history and a family. He’s probably going to be one of the enigmas of this series, and I’m interested to see how all of that pans out. Also, how cute was it that his shirt had wings on the back? But the look he gave at the very end, after Kang-chil realized that he was dead but somehow not dead, was perfectly enigmatic and left me itching to watch the next episode just to see what the supernatural rules turn out to be, or what actually is happening with this death/non-death/Korean Groundhog Day.
Melodramas aren’t normally my favorite cup of tea, but Padam Padam is quite unlike any other drama I’ve seen recently in terms of style, mood, and excellent characterization. It is quite a dark drama though, but it balances it with lighter moments and on the saving graces of Gook-soo, who really captivated me from the start. Jung Woo-sung is in top form playing the volatile but inherently good Kang-chil. He’s an interesting lead for sure, just because I haven’t seen many others like him. In fact, this whole episode was just different. Lush cinematography and lots of physicality kept the scenes engaging and interesting.
But most of all, I think the strength lies in the characterization. Sometimes it takes me a few episodes to fully be on board with the characters, but this script seems so focused on even the smallest of character moments that we already have a good foundation of who these people are. And we even have an intriguing question looming over the series – like what exactly is the reason that Park Chan-gul allowed Kang-chil out of prison, after trying so long to keep him in? That storyline, along with the maybe-son storyline, are what’s keeping me extra excited for the episodes to come.
There were a little too many Fateful Encounters, but it might just be something that we’ll have to buy in this show since some higher powers actually seem to be involved. Han Ji-min seems like a fine actress, if not a little too perfect on paper (this is a writing issue, not an acting one). Of course she’s an adorable, caring veterinarian that saves dogs from dog-nappers, even at the cost of her own safety. I just hope that she gets fleshed out a bit more in the coming episodes, and I get the feeling she will be just based on how well everyone else is being written.
Just from watching the pilot, Padam Padam is a uniquely unexpected ride. Though I probably won’t be able to write recaps for the whole series, I’ll definitely be tuning in for more.
- Padam Padam posters are out
- Jung Woo-sung and Kim Bum’s date for Padam Padam
- Jung Woo-sung’s image transformation in Padam Padam
- Scenes from Padam Padam’s recent shoots
- Character stills from Padam Padam
- Jung Woo-sung and Han Ji-min in Padam Padam
- Padam Padam’s first shoot with Kim Bum and Jung Woo-sung
- Jung Woo-sung models watches, apparently
- Kim Bum and Han Ji-min join Padam Padam