It’s like The Musical redux – my weekends are all music’ed out. However, I was definitely more excited for this drama than The Musical. And… I think my gut was right in this case. What’s Up is decidedly more quirky, more serious, and darker than its predecessors this year (Dream High, You’ve Fallen for Me and The Musical). But I think that’s what’s so great about it – I like that it starts off in a haunting way. The cast is like Dream High, if the students were older; You’ve Fallen for Me, if the drama was set in winter rather than sunny summer.
Plus, it starts off with a great soundtrack. Les Choristes, anyone?
SONG OF THE DAY
“Lunatic” by Daesung – What’s Up OST Part 1 [download]
The series starts off with a montage of our main characters all dressed in black, looking mournful and wistful. Someone died, from the looks of it. The question is, who?
But let’s start with the characters. With a big cast, there’s plenty of story threads to keep track of. In the first two episodes, we build a foundation for these characters, and understand more of who they are (or were). All it does is get us to the school, where all of them enter the theater department.
JANG JAE HUN (Im Joo Hwan) is a bit of a slacker. Or more like a productive slacker; rather than going to school, he and his two friends pickpocket drunk guys around Hongdae. Taking advantage of the fact that the drunkards stumble around a lot, Jae Hun “accidentally gets bumped into” by these fellows, and then creates a ruckus over the drunkard’s behavior. While he grabs the attention of onlookers, his guy friend palms the wallet, and drops it into the hands of their female friend pretending to be a passerby.
They go around to different neighborhoods, but in one street, Jae Hun spots some cops in the distance. He quickly calls up his friends and tells them to run, rather than go through with the scam, because if they cause a ruckus the cops will come running. Unfortunately, they get that message a little too late, when they’re already in the midst of robbing the guy. The police come running with a detective who happens to be on the scene, and his male friend is caught.
Jae Hun assumes the air of a fellow detective and says that he’ll take care of his friend the “criminal” since he’s been chasing him for a while. The detective is skeptical over Jae Hun’s credentials and reasonings, but before he can probe further, Jae Hun distracts him, and they run off. They split up, and Jae Hun steals a motorbike along the way.
In the meanwhile, a father (Kim Chang Wan) and receives some photos and an address from a private investigator; he’s searching for someone. As he leaves the office, he walks into Jae Hun’s oncoming bike. Jae Hun swerves to avoid hitting the father, and crashes into some nearby boxes. The father falls backwards on to the street… and right into an oncoming truck.
Shocked, Jae Hun gets up and sees the father looking up at him, still holding on to his life. Jae Hun picks up the piece of paper with the address and clutches it. Then, instead of helping the father, he runs away, and lets the truck driver and other bystanders take care of him.
As this is all going on, it’s also the night of Hades’ concert. Hades, or HA DO SUNG (Daesung) is one of those pop idols whose mystique lies in the fact that no one has ever seen his face. But behind his mask is a weak, insecure guy. Do Sung is managed by his uncle, and his main worry is about his mother. It appears she abandoned him when he was younger, claiming that she needed to keep him hidden for her to continue living. HMM… Nevertheless his mother also can’t find out that he’s Hades.
Getting ready for his next act, Do Sung takes off his mask in the safety of his dressing room, and in a way releases himself from suffocation. But then, a photographer who was hiding behind his clothing rack starts taking pictures, and he catches the true face of Hades.
The photographer runs out of the dressing room and bumps into the uncle. Security grabs the guy, but the photographer is quick. He removes the film from his camera and throws it out into the crowds of screaming fans. A mysterious hand catches it and walks off.
The jig is up, and there’s no way Do Sung can continue with his act. He calls up his mother, and she’s surprised to hear from him since it’s not their scheduled day for a call. She promises to help him and clear up this mess this one time, but if he does something as dangerous as this again, she’ll never see him again. I get this feeling she’s the wife of a powerful man and he’s a bastard child that can’t be ever discovered.
For his encore, Do Sung returns onstage and sings a final song. He then announces to his fans: “Hades is dead.”
Jae Hun wanders around the streets in shock, and he finds himself wandering around. But he sees the police, still on his tail, and joins a couple of movers to help transport a set piece. He hitches a ride with them, and ends up in a theater. Onstage, a young woman sings “The Phantom of the Opera” in a haunting voice. It stirs up memories of the accident, and he grips on the address even more tightly. Tears stream down his face, and he doesn’t let go of his breath until the soprano lets out her final note.
Jae Hun returns to the scene of the accident, and asks if the store keeper heard anything about the man who was hit by a truck. She doesn’t have any information for him, or which hospital the man could have gone to, as she’s more engrossed by a news report about how “Hades is now dead.”
He leaves, unsatisfied, and another store keeper comes out from the back room to announce that the victim – the father – died. No one knows how or why he ended up in the middle of the road, so everyone else thinks it was a suicide. Too bad Jae Hun doesn’t know this yet, and he’s going to share a sad fate with another student.
Jae Hun later raises the topic of reentering college to his mother. But not just any college – how about an arts college? A college where he can be a musical star?
Time to do the *rolls eyes*. Or as his mother does it, shove a large piece of fish cake in her mouth and pretend she heard nothing. Of course she’s not going to agree. Why does he want to be a musical actor of all things? Jae Hun admits that when he saw an actress practice her song, he felt his heart pound, and he was so moved by her performance that he wanted to do the same.
Mom doesn’t look convinced. Jae Hun tells her to forget about it. Then Mom surprises him by giving him some money to pay for the school. And with the money, he goes and asks his friend to write his admissions paper and take the test for him. Screw the fact that he’s never auditioned before. He’s going to Haneul Arts College.
Now we go to PARK TAE HEE (Kim Ji Won), a lovably naive girl who also wants to audition for . She gets on the train, and being a non-Seoulite, she’s unfamiliar with the directions on going. But that’s fine – because she has her trusty father to talk to her in spirit, and encourage her. Yes, it’s the father whom Jae Hun accidentally and indirectly killed.
KIM BYEONG GUN (Jo Jung Seok) is nervous like heck, but he’s not the only one, as a bunch of other students are terrified to be standing before the department head, YANG SOO JEONG (an imperious Kim Mi Sook). Meanwhile Tae Hee and Jae Hun are having difficulty finding the location of the audition place. Jae Hun demands to know the audition location from a security guard, but he wryly replies that if Jae Hun did the application himself and knew where he was applying to, he would have known where the audition room was. Poor Tae Hee – she gets so lost and confused that when she finally faces the same security guard, she nearly breaks down into sobs. Security officer’s face: *blink blink*.
EUN CHAE YOUNG (Jang Hee Jin in a surprising turn from her vacuous Spy Myung Wol performance) enters the audition room, and she is actually a well known actress already. Rather than watching her audition, we see her trying to convince Professor Yang that she is worthy to enter the musical department, that she wants to learn the basics of a musical and star in a role that is suited for her.
Finally it’s Byeong Gun’s turn. He enters the audition room… and completely bombs. Singing? Flat, weak, totally nervous. Acting? Monotone. But to his credit he did manage to memorize the entire monologue piece. Honestly, he’s just wasting the time of the panel of judges. It’s a miracle that he even gets in to the school. But despite this achievement, his family of boring business executives are nonplussed.
And then OH DOO RI (Im Joo Eun) comes in with her overbearing mother (Yang Hee Kyung); her mother is like a show mother where she wants to make sure Doo Ri will perform her best and reminds her on her breathing, etc. For her audition, Doo Ri does an acting piece. It starts off quite typical – super dramatic, full of gestures – but as she progresses in her monologue, she becomes matter-of-fact, more blunt, and more angry. She even stalks towards Professor Yang’s table, scaring the professor, as she demands that she live her own life the way that she wants. She definitely has range. And some mommy issues?
Tae Hee finally makes it to the audition room, and she quickly latches on to Do Sung, who’s lurking in the corner. She’s so bright and bubbly to his “leave me alone” attitude. Jae Hun joins them as well, and he has a more pressing issue to ask these two: “What’s a musical?” Crows squawk in the distance. Dude – what the hell are you doing here?
Tae Hee does her audition – which is a monologue – and we can see from the way she acts that she’s like a fairy. Next up is Jae Hun. He goes in and announces that he’ll do a song. However, the guy who’s managing the songs for each audition can’t find Jae Hun’s tape. Jae Hun goes over, and then he pretends that the guy, Ahn Jeong Dae, lost his tape. He keeps muttering random things to Jeong Dae, which makes Professor Yang think that the two know each other. Poor Jeong Dae – he’s utterly lost. Professor Yang calls them out on their games, and Jeong Dae insists on not knowing Jae Hun at all.
Jae Hun: “I thought we were close. Very close. We loved each other.”
WHAT THE HELL!?
Har har – Jae Hun laughs it all off and says that he was actually acting for them. Improvising. Do they like?
Next up: Do Sung. Do Sung starts off practically whispering the first two lines of “This is My Moment.” Pathetic coming from Hades. But he closes his eyes, and gains confidence in his voice. His voice becomes stronger, and he starts belting out all the notes. He impresses Professor Yang so much so that she takes off her glasses. He sings so powerfully that he falls to his knees and becomes out of breath.
He’s so amazing that the girl taping his audition squeals like a fangirl. Literally.
Needless to say, everyone gets in. Tae Hee celebrates by telling her grandfather and other villagers; Doo Ri’s mother finds out over the phone while Doo Ri plays some first-person shooter game on the computer; Do Sung calls his mother and she in turn says she has no time to speak with him. A little boy in the background calling for his mother clues us in to her other family.
As for Jae Hun, he goes to help his mother wallpaper an apartment He’s no longer going to be able to help her…because he got into the college!
So now we are at the first day of school! The students all move into the dorms. Do Sung’s uncle is reluctant to let him go because he doesn’t want others to find out he’s Hades. But Do Sung is stubborn. He ends up being Jae Hun’s roommate too! As soon as they enter their room, they spot a bed on the far side with a huge stain on the mattress.
“Rock, Paper, Scissors!”
Jae Hun wins. Boy is he happy – and he settles in for a nice long nap.
Meanwhile a new girl spazzes over the fact that she’s Chae Young’s new roommate. Tae Hee settles into her new room and has a one-on-one talk with her father’s spirit. Byeong Gun meets LEE SOO BIN (Lee Soo Hyuk – the assassin with the face of plastic in Tree With Deep Roots), a second-year who’s a quiet violinist. Soo Bin warns Byeong Gun that the room is quite messy. Byeong Gun is speechless at the state of his “new” room and the fact that his roommate is so messy… until he finds out that quiet Soo Bin is his roommate, and the reason for all the messiness. Doo Ri enters her room to find Lee Da Jung, a second-year who acts like a drill sergeant despite her small stature. She gives doo Ri some papers and informs her of the orientation at 5pm. Doo Ri has one favor: does she have a pair of scissors?
*Snip* And Doo Ri’s long hair transforms into a shaggy bob. Doo Ri is now living her own life, and rebelling against all things cute, pink, and sweet.
Napping, Jae Hun falls into a nightmare, dreaming of the night when his friends were driving and got stuck in traffic. He was (and still is) haunted by the memories of the accident that he ended up blowing up on his friends for no reason and running out of the car. Jae Hun wakes up in a cold sweat to an empty room and realizes he’s late for orientation.
Every group has a different sort of gathering, but for Jae Hun and the musical group, they end up in a large gym. As soon as Jae Hun enters – late – the doors all close shut and the curtains are drawn across the windows. The lights turn off, and a spotlight shines to a door above them – where the senior students come in.
“Orientation” becomes something like a hazing session as the senior students order the first years around, making them do push-ups while chanting and other strenuous physical activities. Only Jae Hun won’t take that kind of crap. The leader singles him out, but Jae Hun won’t take part in all this ridiculousness. He even starts flipping over plastic chairs and throwing all the basketball racks down.
Stirrings of a bromance between Soo Bin and Byeong Gun are making me super excited. Soo Bin smacks Byeong Gun until the latter wakes up to shut off his alarm. Then when Byeong Gun mutters grumpily, Soo Bin throws a pillow to shut him up again.
Everyone scrambles to the gym, which doubles as an auditorium, for morning hazing. I mean, morning training. Do Sung tries to wake up Jae Hun, but Jae Hun won’t budge. The leader tells everyone what their schedules will consist of, which includes a lot of training, forming a buddy system where they greet all their sunbaes with a proper bow and greeting, and cleaning the studios. Of course, the one still missing is Jae Hun.
They undergo such strenuous exercises that Doo Ri recognizes it as torture. She glares at the leader at one moment during practice, and then pretends to throw up, thus running out of the room and out of the training session. Taking a cue, Chae Young pretends she hurt her ankle and that she’ll need to rest for the rest of the day. Since she’s famous and flirtatious, the leader lets her go. HEHE.
Class time with Professor Yang. Their first lesson is on acting convincingly. It can’t sound like a lie. She then has them all start running in place. Of course the person who’s late is Jae Hun (and the security guard isn’t all that approving of it. I feel like he’s going to be the Daddy to all these kids, keeping them in line with his no-nonsense attitude). Professor Yang asks who his roommate is – and Jae Hun points out Do Sung. She kicks out the both of them – Jae Hun for being late, and Do Sung for not having dragged Jae Hun to class.
An even later student arrives – and it’s Tae Hee! Once again she goes into her long spiel about how she got lost and explaining why she’s late while being half in tears. Um – how do you respond to that? The professor doesn’t – she just orders everyone else to start jumping in place, and still kicks out Jae Hun and Do Sung.
At lunch time, Jae Hun is basically treated like a pariah – everyone looks at him derisively. Even Do Sung doesn’t want to sit with him, but Jae Hun forces his way over. They then spot Tae Hee, and she joins them at the lunch table, also quite bummed out. She even admits she wants to die, which makes everyone awkward. I think Do Sung has a mini crush on her. But something brings Tae Hee out of her funk: it’s the sighting of Chae Young!
All eyes in the room follow as Chae Young makes her way to Byeong Gun, who’s too speechless and gaga over the fact that she spoke to him. She just wants to know if there’s room at his table, to which he shakes his head, and then nods vigorously. But she’s not really going to sit there. Byeong Gun gets pushed out of the table by a bunch of other girls who want to sit at that table now, in the event that Chae Young does end up sitting there, and so he joins his roommate Soo Bin.
He gushes to Soo Bin over how Chae Young just spoke to him, but to Soo Bin, it’s just a mouth moving. His music is blasted so high up in his ears that he doesn’t even notice a fan girl coming over asking for an autograph. That’s when Byeong Gun realizes that his roommate is the Lee Soo Bin. How famous? I have no idea. But Chae Young flirts with Soo Bin a bit too.
Jae Hun, Do Sung, and Tae Hee (our little Trio) start hearing a voice around them, and it turns out to be Doo Ri, lurking beneath their table with her camera. She aims the camera at Do Sung, and he immediately covers his face out of habit. But before Jae Hun can find out who she is, Doo Ri flutters away.
A homeless looking guy with his shopping cart gets dropped off at the school by a truck. He walks right past security, and the guard lets him through without a second glance. He makes his way through campus and enters the Musical department. An assistant rushes into Professor Yang’s room and fearfully informs her that “that guy” is back.
“That guy” is SUNWOO YOUNG (Oh Man Seok).
I knew I would like this drama more. Even before The Musical aired, I was looking more forward to this one. It’s definitely darker than any of its musical predecessors this year. When you start off with all your main characters crying or looking somber, you’re just curious at how they got there.
I think episode 1 was more solid than episode 2, but these two episodes were great in building up our characters. What I truly enjoy is that every character has a different background, a different personality, and holds their own dark secrets. It’s not like you have your typical rich brat, your outgoing hero/heroine, your pretty-and-talented wallflower, or your sweet second male lead. You have your quirky fairy (Tae Hee), your shy pop idol (Do Sung), your adorable chaebol son who just might be a black sheep if they knew he was studying musicals (Byeong Gun), your rebel actress (Doo Ri), your haunted but cocky hero (Jae Hun), your music genius slob (Soo Bin), and your famous actress who wants to prove she can act (Chae Young). Admittedly, Chae Young is probably the one character that falls under some K-drama stereotype of pretty girl, lots of talent, and also quite possibly b*tchy. But I think there’s something shady with her, that she’s not exactly who she portrays herself to be. I actually hope there’s a darker side to her, or a more serious side that hasn’t been tapped into yet, because everyone so far seems to be quite a contradiction.
I hate how a lot of dramas have started out quite promising but then flagged as it wore on. I do have high hopes for this one, but it is pre-produced and therefore they can’t change the story anymore. A lot of conflicts have already been introduced in this drama that there is so much fodder for plot, so I hope the writers delivered. For one thing, I’d like to see Byeong Gun’s family find out about what he’s really studying. I’d like to see Tae Hee and Jae Hun face the truth on each other’s involvement with Tae Hee’s father’s death. I’d like to find out more about Do Sung’s mother, and why he was rejected. I’d like to see Doo Ri put Chae Young in her place. I’d like to see Soo Bin and Byeong Gun become the bestest buds, pig pen aside.
One thing important to note is that this drama isn’t really trying to be a musical drama. The first two episodes make that clear. It’s really about the characters, and about how our main seven characters (the students) pursue their dreams and overcome their obstacles in their personal and school life. You’re really only watching for the improvement of the characters’ talents and well-being, to see them grow up and realize fully who they are. It’s a true college drama of finding yourself during the start of your adulthood. And if it’s a character drama, I think I’m going to like this one. The characters singing and performing is just fudge and sprinkles on an already-awesome sundae.