I love this drama already; Episode 1 delivered just what I’d hoped for, and what I wanted. I’ve watched a lot of high school shows — an embarrassing number, actually — and if the rest of the series maintains the premiere’s moody atmosphere and underdog narrative, I think it can rank up there with my favorites.
True, we will be losing Lee Min-ki soon since he’s just an extended cameo, and he’s definitely one of the best, most charismatic aspects of the show so far. But I like what I see of the rest, even the newbies, and if the smooth directing can continue to showcase the strengths, I’m not too worried for the other cast members. Lee does have a star power that’s practically overwhelming, and I feel like the others will be able to shine more once he’s gone. (Hey, that glass is half-full, okay?)
SONG OF THE DAY
Lee Min-ki – “Tonite, Tonite” [ Download ]
Even with the numerous character posts I’ve done on this show, the names tended to get confusing — there are just so many of them — so here’s a cast list, off the top:
- Lee Min-ki: BYUNG-HEE, leader, vocals.
- Sung Joon: KWON JI-HYUK, guitarist.
- L: LEE HYUN-SOO, second guitarist.
- Lee Hyun-jae: JANG DO-IL, drummer.
- Yoo Min-kyu: KIM HA-JIN, bassist.
- Kim Min-seok: SEO KYUNG-JONG, keyboardist.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
Band practice time. Guylinered Byung-hee mans a handheld camera to introduce “my beloved friends.” The band is called Angujeonghwa, which I’m calling Eye Candy; the literal Korean term refers to visuals so pleasing to the eyes that they’re cleansing to your sight.
Byung-hee’s camera lands on drummer Do-il, who’s “always serious, all the time.” Casanova bassist Ha-jin is smooth-talking the ticket girl, and gets dragged away by the ear to join practice. Ha-jin has no shame about playing in the band to impress girls, and asks stoic guitarist Ji-hyuk (our series lead) why he plays. Byung-hee pipes up, “Because you like me!” Hee.
Ji-hyuk ignores that and says that he likes being in the band for himself, and Byung-hee says, mock-hurt, “Wait, I like being in the band to be with you — are you telling me I was in a one-sided love?” So cute.
Chic guitarist Hyun-soo says, “To be honest, doesn’t everyone want to hit it big?” Baby-faced keyboardist Kyung-jong chimes in with his Busan saturi accent that of course they do — he’s gonna hit it big and rake in piles of money.
They turn the camera on their “wacko leader” Byung-hee and ask him the same question. He waves that aside and leads them in the cry, “Shut up, and let’s go!”
Showtime, literally. Girls line up to get in to a dingy club; attendees range from the rich girl who bribes the ticket girl to give her a seat “where I can touch the oppas,” to tiny schoolgirls who plead to be let in (and also touch the oppas).
“Shut up” seems to be a motto with this band, and their poster includes the line, “Shut up, and feel honored!” Oh, I love this teenage braggadocio. The show kicks off in the packed club, and the song is actually great — melodic and pounding rock. (Phew for the music!)
Unfortunately, they’ve got an incompetent sound booth operator who accidentally turns the outside speakers on full blast, leading to complaints that draw the police. The boys see officers trying to push past the ticket girl, and Byung-hee yells, “Everybody run!”
Four of them run out the back, while the two leaders (Byung-hee, Ji-hyuk) get trapped and head to the second floor. They look out into the sea of girls and on the count of three, they make the jump. The audience happily receives them, and they crowdsurf their way out blissfully. Oh, this is a lovely sequence, surreal and atmospheric.
In the morning, Byung-hee wakes up in bed. Ji-hyuk sleeps on a subway bench, where a curious schoolgirl stops in concern — we don’t get her name yet, but it’s SU-AH — and leaves him a yogurt drink.
Ji-hyuk barely gets a drowsy look at her face, and the next time he opens his eyes, it’s his bandmates laughing at him, “See, I told you he’d be here!”
Drummer Do-il wakes up in an empty pool hall, having slept on chairs. His mother calls him: “You didn’t come home and slept at the store again?” Right off the bat we’ve got three boys who didn’t sleep at home, wherever that is; broken families seem a norm with this crew.
Do-il joins his friends (sans Byung-hee) as they make the morning walk to school. The boys talk about what to buy next with yesterday’s proceeds — a new drum kit, or an amp? — but apparently there is no money. Sigh. Sucks to be poor and playing with crappy equipment.
Turns out Byung-hee’s sleeping in a girl’s room, and her dad knocks on her door. The sight of Byung-hee sends him into a rage, and the girl tackles Dad while insisting, “We just slept!”
Byung-hee jumps out the window and the girl tosses his clothes down to him. Or rather, some of his clothes. He runs into his posse now wearing a dress and dashes off first; his friends spy Angry Dad running their way and start running too.
Dongnae High School. Clearly no learning goes on here, with kids running pell-mell through the halls or sleeping, or otherwise goofing off.
The teachers have a meeting to discuss the upcoming Seoul redevelopment plans that’ll close down the school and force the students to transfer out. Oh ha, Angry Dad is one of the teachers. That explains his heightened reaction, and totally cracks me up.
The principal brings up the police complaints of a high school band causing a disturbance and asks the teachers if any of the kids are theirs. Angry Teacher/Dad fumes, knowing exactly who they are.
Not that they’d admit it, of course. The teacher calls them into his office to demand alibis and guitarist Hyun-soo offers up, “I was reading at the library.” Nobody can keep a straight face at that. Ha-jin says that he and Kyung-jong went to sleep early, and Teacher barks, “What are you, married?” Hee.
Ji-hyuk sighs, “We had some real fun last night,” which gets the boys looking worried — is he gonna crack? Byung-hee steps up and barks, army-style, “Last night! I met up! With a girl!” and the teacher hurriedly shuts him up. It was his daughter, after all.
Angry Teacher offers to jog their memories with the aid of a punishment stick, and wails on Kyung-jong first. Ji-hyuk steps up to stop him — ah, so he’s the one with the hidden steely spine — and takes over the challenge…
…which ends with his neck in a firm chokehold. HA!
They receive their transfer assignments, opening them together nervously, lest they get split up. Thankfully they’ve all been reassigned to the same school, Jungsang High.
They don’t know much about the place, but they get filled in by another student who’s head honcho of his own posse. This other group is basically the No. 2 posse at Dongnae, and No. 2’s Leader is particularly annoyed because one of his minions now wears Byung-hee’s girl’s dress. HAHA. Well, that explains how Byung-hee got his uniform.
Rival Leader smirks that while our Eye Candy boys may be hot stuff here, at Jungsang High they’ll all be trash, so today’s the last day they’ll get to put on airs, acting all cool. This leads to a schoolroom brawl.
Over to Jungsang High School with its manicured lawns and pristine buildings. In a spacious rehearsal room, YOO SEUNG-HOON (Jung Eui-chul) leads his band in a practice session, all jazzy proficiency on the piano.
Seung-hoon is distracted throughout class, fixated on an empty desk, though he still manages to answer a question in fluent Japanese about the nature of humans as social animals. So he’s the annoying perfect one, huh?
Seung-hoon relaxes upon finally finding Su-ah (Jo Boa), having worried over her lack of contact. She assures him that “complicated matters” have now been solved and he reminds her of his birthday in two days. She smiles, “How could I forget our prince’s birthday?” He tells her to look forward to the song he wrote, which he’ll be performing.
Seung-hoon’s friends join them to gossip about the delinquents who’ll be transferring soon. The brainy Maro mocks not-so-brainy Pyo-joo, saying at least now he won’t be last place in the rankings anymore.
Su-ah’s best friend is Deo-mi, which is an unfortunate name since it basically sounds like Dummy. Aw. In any case, Su-ah balks at Deo-mi calling Seung-hoon her boyfriend, insisting they’re “just friends.” Deo-mi scoffs, since the whole school knows they’re together.
Seung-hoon’s the guy who has everything, which makes birthday-gift-hunting difficult, and Su-ah wonders what to get him. It doesn’t help that Seung-hoon’s personal philosophy is: “Don’t work hard at something you truly like.” He explains this to his posh older sister (who has her own entertainment agency), explaining that if you have to try to hold on, it means it’ll leave.
It’s twisted logic, but I guess it makes sense to the boy who gets everything without trying, who has the luxury of only keeping what he likes, tossing the other stuff back like undersized fish unworthy of eating. Ha, why bother holding something in your grip when you can just expect it to stay there on its own, grateful for the honor to be near you, right?
Byung-hee argues in favor of quitting school altogether, but one look at the Jungsang homepage changes his mind. The school has lots of pretty girls and he’s in need of a creative muse (“There’s no hope in this neighborhood”). He gives his boys a lecture about the necessity of a muse to inspire the creative soul, pointing to a Van Gogh calendar and informing them that it’s the “totally famous Picasso.” Haha. Kyung-jong cutely points out that it’s a Van Gogh, and Byung-hee corrects, “It’s Van Gogh, painted by Picasso.” HAHA.
Ji-hyuk points out that he could use last night’s girl as his muse. Byung-hee practically recoils, saying, “That noona… um, that wom… that chick… She’s dangerous to be with.” I’ll say.
The boys head off to “Paradise”… which turns out to be the name of a huge marketplace for musical instruments. Su-ah’s here as well, looking for potential gifts for Seung-hoon. Byung-hee spots her at a distance and is immediately struck with conviction — his muse!
He heads off to talk to her, and she clearly knows nothing about instruments as she asks for a guitar a band leader would play, particularly an expensive one.
Byung-hee leans in super-close, making her nervous, and says, “My voice… isn’t it awesome?” Hehe. He says that guitars are like his voice — to find the awesomest one, you have to try them out, not judge on price.
An exasperated Ji-hyuk interrupts to drag Byung-hee off to join the group again, ignoring his protests.
Byung-hee comes back in search of Su-ah shortly afterward, only to find that she’s gone. She has hurried off after worriedly taking a phone call from Dad.
At Paradise, Byung-hee sees a poster for a rock festival so now he’s more determined than ever to find a muse in time to write a kickass song. He doesn’t mention the festival to the boys but drags them along to go muse-hunting. The group tires of waiting in vain, and after an hour Byung-hee agrees — while pointedly saying that he could’ve found her if Ji-hyuk hadn’t interfered — to designate the first girl to cross the street as his new muse.
There’s one pretty girl who heads toward them… and gets into a taxi without crossing the street. Then there’s an unattractive girl, whom womanizing Ha-jin tries to wave aside. At the last moment, a girl darts in front of her and heads in their direction. The boys all sit up and take notice, especially Byung-hee — it’s Su-ah.
She trips on the curb and falls into Ji-hyuk’s arms. Hilariously, Byung-hee looks down at his open arms and says, “That was supposed to happen here.” Su-ah barely registers them and darts off, while Byung-hee declares that this must be fate.
The reason for Su-ah’s distraction: She’s finally made contact with Dad, who picks her up. He’s been having business problems and is on the run from loan sharks, though he tells her not to worry. He hands over some cash and an address — she can live there for a short while, and he’ll come back for her soon.
The boys gather at Ji-hyuk’s rooftop room for ramyun, while Ji-hyuk looks over Byung-hee’s new muse-inspired song, only partially written, which he says is pretty good.
I love that they hang a lantern on Byung-hee’s excessive love of eyeliner, which he defends as an expression of his free-spiritedness: “It’s the essence of completing me.” Kyung-jong quips, “So you’re saying you’re embarrassed of your bare face, huh?”
Su-ah tentatively makes her way to her new temporary home, which is across the way from the boys’ hangout. It’s definitely not what she’s used to, all grim and bare.
Hyun-soo has good news for the band: They can play at his parents’ nightclub tomorrow to fill in for a cancellation. The boys get ready, which includes hair and makeup treatment by ticket girl Woo-kyung, who is sort of like a band roadie though she’s not officially with the band.
The boys are game enough for the makeover except Ji-hyuk, who squirms and protests. Byung-hee designates Woo-kyung as Ji-hyuk’s muse, which she loves it since it means she’s his “official woman,” at least in one sense.
Hyun-soo drops by the club to see his parents, only to hear them being chewed out by the owner, who rails on them for bringing in some punk kids who’ll ruin the mood. His parents hang their heads and assure their boss that their son “isn’t like us, he’s really good.” The boss warns them to remember their places, and Hyun-soo watches with clenched fist.
Hyun-soo delivers the bad news to his boys, though the reason he gives is that they’re too young to play a club like this. They’re bummed, but what can ya do? Byung-hee decides that they’ll just perform in the street, then, like the free spirits they are. The band cheers up, though notably Hyun-soo remains in a funk. They drive on to Daehakro, a neighborhood of Seoul known for being theater central, with lots of musicals and plays and performance halls.
Seung-hoon and his boys, called Strawberry Fields, head to a show of their own. For them, venturing outside their posh Kangnam neighborhood to a club north of the river is a step down in status, but Seung-hoon says he’s bored of the usual and wants something different and interesting. Spoken like the privileged rich boy he is.
Arriving outside a venue, our Eye Candy boys start setting up their instruments, just as Su-ah arrives bearing flowers. Byung-hee recognizes her and sweeps her up into a hug, telling her, “Muse, I totally missed you.”
Too bad that’s when Seung-hoon and his band arrive, and Seung-hoon clocks Byung-hee in the face while his friends sneer about these punks setting up shop outside somebody else’s show. Ji-hyuk steps in front to get Byung-hee to stop him from escalating the fight, telling him to calm down, adding that the girl is no muse. He has a way of speaking about Su-ah that’s got a little edge to it, and she looks angry and a bit hurt at it.
Su-ah talks sharply to Byung-hee, while Seung-hoon orders the “hoodlum friends” to get lost. Byung-hee returns, “If we left because you told us to, that wouldn’t make us hoodlums, would it?”
So Seung-hoon waves a stack of cash and throws the bills at their feet. There’s something so insulting about throwing money, and the fact that these are the equivalent of hundred-dollar bills just rubs that in even more. Could he announce any more clearly that he’s saying, “I’m better than you”?
Then a second Strawberry boy calls their equipment trash and shoves a cymbal over. That breaks the camel’s back: Ji-hyuk launches himself at sneering Seung-hoon while Do-il throws a fist at Strawberry boy.
A full-scale fight erupts, but the rich boys have the luxury of stepping back while the bouncers — or are they bodyguards? — take over the fight for them. Seung-hoon haughtily turns away with Su-ah on his arm.
End result: The rich beat up the poor, until the boys are left lying in the street, bruised and battered. They curse those Jungsang assholes for even outsourcing their brawling, and Byung-hee decides, “Hey, let’s go there.” Why not join them on their turf? His muse goes there, after all — though Ji-hyuk can’t resist grumping, “She’s not even a muse!”
Next thing we know, the six Eye Candy guys are arriving at Jungsang, marveling at the resort-like facilities. The guard tries to block them, asking what school they belong to. They answer, “Jungsang!”
If you watched the long trailer last week, most of this episode comes as no surprise. A lot of this first hour was setting up the world and dealt with things you already know if you’ve been following pre-show information. That being the case, I still found it totally satisfying, because in addition to painting characters you root for, the execution is damn solid. The directing, the music, the ambiance — all wonderfully assured and cinematic.
I love the little mood moments we got that you’ll have to watch the show to see, because words don’t convey the feel of it. There’s the crowdsurfing scene, for instance, with slow-motion surrealism capturing a heightened, time-suspended moment. Or the silent beats that give us a glimpse at a character’s inner vulnerability, whether it’s Do-il avoiding home to sleep on chairs at a pool hall, or Hyun-soo watching his parents being disrespected and unable to do anything about it.
It’s those individual moments that make the group camaraderie all the more engaging; these really are lost boys, facing unpromising futures. We had a pack of lost boys in Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, and while I loved those kids and all their adorable bonding moments, what we have here is a different level of lost. This show is much less silly, more gritty.
This is not a depressing or dark show, but I absolutely love that there’s that edge that you won’t find in a lot of “pretty boy” dramas. It’s why I kinda wish, even though the “flower boy” descriptor isn’t exactly wrong, that this drama’s title didn’t trumpet that quite so blatantly. Yes they’re pretty, but the term carries a tonal suggestion that I don’t think really describes the show. But I get it; you’re establishing a brand, and you want continuity, et cetera.
In any case, these boys are street rats, not just because it’s cool to be a delinquent but because they don’t really have options, and they’re doing the best with what they’ve got. I’m sure they enjoy being bigshots in their little pond, but I also get the sense that they’re not posturing to be cool; more than anything, that cool facade is a cover for something else. It’s an intriguing dichotomy that I look forward to exploring. We saw it in half our characters — Ji-hyuk, Do-il, Hyun-soo — and I’m anticipating we’ll get more from the others in due time.
One pleasant surprise I found with the show is with the character of Su-ah. I think it’s safe to say that there was concern over her as an actress (for being in her debut) as well as her as a character; I’ve seen the term (reverse) harem drama being mentioned a few times. There’s always the risk that this kind of heroine can get infuriating, because she somehow gets everybody to fall in love with her for no reason other than that she’s pretty. Furthermore, I find that in a lot of romances and rom-com dramas, the guys get interesting character trajectories while the ladies remain static Mary Sues. So would this be an exercise in fanservice and wishful thinking, and nothing else?
To the contrary, I thought Su-ah was well-handled, particularly regarding Ji-hyuk’s reaction to her. Byung-hee’s instant muse-obsession is the kind of thing we might expect in those aggravating examples of perfect princess heroines, and even the rest of the band had a moment of slackjawed admiration at her prettiness. And if our hero Ji-hyuk had responded like Byung-hee and given us an instant two-brothers-fight-for-the-girl conflict, I might’ve felt the urge to throw something. At him, preferably.
Yet Ji-hyuk looks at Su-ah and his first reaction is dismissal. At the music store, he sizes up Su-ah’s upscale appearance and judges her for it, like she’s a poseur or something. Like she’s trying to commodify his world to look cool like some yuppie hipster. He’s wrong about her, but he’s jaded because he’s ostensibly seen enough of “her kind” to lump her in with the rest of the pack.
In fact, his reaction is akin to a kind of fan reaction that can erupt as a reaction to the Mary Sue type. On one hand, we balk at being made to believe everybody loves this bland character for no real reason. But on the other hand, it seems equally reactive to hate someone for being deemed attractive, too. And Ji-hyuk seems to hang a lantern on that — he judges her for looking a certain way, like he’s got her all figured out. She’s a pretty little rich girl, so she must be just like that stereotype in his head: privileged, spoiled, frivolous.
At the club when he tells Byung-hee to let it go because she’s not a real muse, he says it in this disparaging tone, insinuating she’s just some rich boy’s trophy girlfriend, a groupie. It’s like he’s giving voice to our worries about the character, thereby assuring us that all is not what it seems. This sets us up for a nice reversal later, and I’m eager to see how he’s brought around.
Plus: Underdogs at the fancy school! I love it. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and the rest of this series.
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