Moorim School: Episode 1
Moorim School makes a very good first impression, with interesting characters and a mysterious school that promises a lot of secrets to be revealed. A touch of magic gives things a bit of flavor that should have viewers coming back for more, to see if it can fulfill the promise of a mystical and bizarre world just out of reach. There’s a lot of potential here, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A man runs through an ancient forest, carrying a tiny bundle in his arms — a child. He’s chased by several men, and seems more concerned about his young charge than himself. He leaps obstacles in a way that seems unnatural… and so do the men following him.
The man confounds his pursuers for a moment by climbing a tree, but one of them sees his reflection in a very dangerous-looking dagger. He flings the dagger but the man avoids it easily, though his evasion lands him right in the middle of his three would-be captors.
They fight, and the man leaps, twists, and avoids injury without ever letting go of the little girl in his arms. He takes a few minor injuries but finally gets away, and when it’s safe, he stops to get his breath and whispers, “We’re almost there,” to the little girl.
The man gathers some sort of energy into his hand, and when he places it on a nearby tree, the energy ripples into the tree and then through the ground, infiltrating the nearby forest. Gathering speed, the energy races through the forest, igniting glowing, mystical symbols on any tree it touches.
The pursuers catch up, but the energy the man has put out has created some sort of barrier that distorts their perceptions while it protects him. They have no idea they’re only a few feet from him and the little girl, and they finally turn and leave.
Eighteen years later, a young man sleeps peacefully, while elsewhere giant posters of his face decorate a concert venue. He’s YOON SHI-WOO (Lee Hyun-woo), an idol from a group called Mobius. He apparently makes it a habit to sleep through rehearsals, as his manager is taking a verbal beatdown about his latest absence.
Shi-woo wakes slowly, only belatedly realizing that his phone is ringing frantically. His ears ring as he finally hears his phone, but he makes the excuse to his frustrated manager that the phone was on vibrate. When he hangs up, the ringing and pain in his ears worsens.
Another young man walks through an airport and groans, “Here we go again,” when a virtual army of suited men comes to greet him. He sees a photo of Shi-woo modeling for his father’s company, Sanghae Group, and takes offense to the color of the poster. At first he’s angry that the color hasn’t changed per his order, but when told his father wanted it kept the same, he pretends that it was all his idea.
This is WANG CHI-ANG (Hongbin) son of a large Chinese-Korean conglomerate. He imperiously orders the suited men to bug off, but he’s told that they’re here on the chairman’s orders. One of the men comments that his Korean is very good (his mother is Korean)1, and Chi-ang’s face goes quietly furious. He doesn’t even need to utter a threat — just his obvious displeasure is enough to have the man quaking.
Chi-ang is expected to put in an appearance at Shi-woo’s concert that night, which his father’s company is sponsoring, but he declines the car his father sent for him in favor of his own motorcycle. He finally gets some alone time while riding, taking in the sea air and almost certainly breaking several traffic laws.
Later Chi-ang calls his mother, and promises to make his father proud and bring her back to China with him. He’s not happy that she practically lives in exile, but she’s quick to tell him that she’s moved. They make plans to meet at her new home in the morning, but she looks worried once they hang up.
As it turns out, Chi-ang’s father is in Korea, and they’re planning to send him to private school instead of back to China. Mom is concerned that it’s a strange place, but Chi-ang’s father (Lee Bum-soo) tells her ominously to just do as she’s told. After Mom is gone, Chi-ang’s father tells his assistant that his son won’t be easy to deal with. But he’s determined to send him to this school, as it will make him useful. How, we don’t know yet.
Shi-woo looks worried as he showers (a broody shower scene, so soon?) and rubs his ears uncomfortably. The camera lingers on an unusual pendant that he’s wearing, as if it’s important.
Chi-ang walks into a hotel room and sneers at the mess, and calls for someone to come clean up. Then proceeds to shed his own clothes and leave them laying wherever he throws them.
He’s startled when someone walks out of the bedroom — it’s Shi-woo, who still hasn’t checked out of this room. The two half-clad youths glare at each other, neither wanting to be the first to react… and then Shi-woo groans, assuming that Chi-ang is a sasaeng fan here to harrass him.
A young girl, SHIM SOON-DEOK (Seo Ye-ji) makes dumplings by hand and brings them to a booth at the concert venue, but the ajumma running the booth complains that the spoiled Seoul kids here aren’t buying their country food. Soon-deok doesn’t let that get her down, and says in a loud voice that these dumplings are Shi-woo’s very favorite thing to eat. That gets the fans’ attention, and it’s only second before their booth is overrun.
Shi-woo and Chi-ang both call their men in to figure out this mistake, but neither boy is willing to concede to the other and move to another room. Shi-woo is gobsmacked when Chi-ang has no idea who he or Mobius are. When he explains that they’re the star act in tonight’s concert sponsored by Chi-ang’s company, Chi-ang says that they can just be taken out of the show, then.
Shi-woo looks momentarily stunned, then just laughs that he can rest tonight. Chi-ang’s assistant tells him that Shi-woo’s fans make up the majority of the festivalgoers, and they’ll have to refund all that money if Mobius cancels, but Chi-ang is just all, That’s fine, I have enough money.
Mention of his father’s displeasure if that happens finally sways Chi-ang, and he’s forced to relent, though you can tell it just kills him. But he pretends that he’s being magnanimous, and warns Shi-woo to be grateful and do his best tonight. He exits, accidentally taking Shi-woo’s jacket and leaving his own behind, and leaves Shi-woo looking like he wants to bite someone.
Word of the boys’ confrontation reaches the concert venue, where Shi-woo’s company CEO is furious with Chi-ang for trying to throw his weight around with the talent. Shi-woo’s manager complains about his charge as well — he doesn’t come to practice, he doesn’t talk with the other members of Mobius, and he never answers his phone. There’s a rumor that he’s about to jump ship to another management company, which would mean bankruptcy for his current company.
Soon-deok sells out of her dumplings, and she think she sees a girl she knows. When the girl doesn’t turn at her call, Soon-deok figures it must not be her. She’d never come to a place like this anyway.
The mystery girl makes a point to watch Chi-ang as he throws his weight around at the VIP entrance (excuse me, VVVVVIP, ha), but he can’t back it up because his company ID card is in the jacket he left in Shi-woo’s hotel room. He does find Shi-woo’s medicine dispenser, which is bad because Shi-woo is backstage having a bad attack of pain and loud ringing in his ears.
Chi-ang finally gets to his seat, whining at his assistant as if it’s his fault he lost his ID card. He finally smiles when the lead singer of a girl group seems to toss him a wink, and we see that the mystery girl is also in the audience but paying little attention to the show.
As Mobius is announced, the mystery girl slowly reaches into her jacket. The group takes the stage lead by Shi-woo, and she yanks a sign out of her clothes and shrieks, “Shi-woo oppaaaaa!!” Meanwhile Chi-ang’s expression goes sour to see that annoying guy from the hotel again.
Shi-woo seems to be on autopilot, and in the middle of their song his ears begin to ring again. He pulls himself together and finishes the performance, though the momentary blip leaves a few people concerned. As the group strike their final pose, the stage lights above Shi-woo start to spark alarmingly. Suddenly the entire bank of lights falls directly towards where Shi-woo is standing, but he doesn’t move, unable to hear everyone screaming at him.
The mystery girl rushes the stage, and it’s her frantic approach that makes Shi-woo finally look up. He sees the lights falling stright for him and puts up his hands defensively — and a familiar-looking cluster of energy reaches up and stops the lights’ fall, holding them in midair. But it only lasts a moment, long enough for the mystery girl to see it clearly, then starts to fall again. She grabs Shi-woo and tackles him to safety, just as the lights crash down.
He’s shocked, so she speaks quickly: “Are you okay? Can you not hear well? Does it hurt? Come to Moorim School, Dean Hwang can probably fix it.” She’s dragged off the stage by security, but she calls the name Moorim to him again, telling him not to forget.
Shi-woo tells CEO Choi that he just couldn’t hear people telling him to move because he was focused on the song, refusing a trip to the hospital. But he does ask for a break, and not just for a day — he wants to take a year off. CEO Choi wants to argue, but says they’ll talk about it tomorrow.
Once he’s alone, Shi-woo shrugs off his bravado and sinks with exhaustion. He’s already seen a doctor, who warned him that he could lose his hearing permanently. All the doctor knows is that the hearing loss isn’t physical, it’s psychological, and he suggested taking a break. From Shi-woo’s sad, weary eyes, I can believe it.
But it’s not as secret as Shi-woo would like, and his manager tells CEO Choi that Shi-woo’s recent meeting wasn’t with the rival company’s CEO at all, but a doctor. Strangely, CEO Choi just laughs, even when the manager reminds him that their company won’t make it without Shi-woo.
CEO Choi crows that the heavens have helped them, because he can’t afford to pay Shi-woo anymore, and has been wondering how to get rid of him. He suggests they make use of a recent rumor about a female idol that Shi-woo dated and broke up with.
Chi-ang shows up to retrieve his jacket and ID card, but Shi-woo isn’t answering his hotel phone. Chi-ang wonders if Shi-woo went to the hospital, but he’s out thinking by the river. Shi-woo hears his phone ping, but there’s no message, and he wonders if he’s hearing things now. It’s actually Chi-ang’s phone, which is still in the jacket in Shi-woo’s car. Shi-woo sees that the message is from “Mom.”
Chi-ang’s father talks to someone named Chun Hee-joon on the phone, assuring them that Chi-ang will be “at that place” in the morning. He advises the person not to rush, that all will happen in due time. But once he hangs up, his assistant asks what will happen if Chi-ang quits like he’s quit all his other schools. “There is always a solution. He thinks the world of his mother.” ~shudder~
Soon-deok (in an adorable chicken helmet) delivers takeout to a hotel, but when she calls the customer to come out to get it as the hotel doesn’t allow outside food, she’s told they don’t want it anymore. But she’s resourceful, and sells it to a couple walking out of the hotel.
A girl stops Shi-woo’s car by standing in his path, and jumps in despite his protests. She’s frantic with worry over him, and he assures her angrily that he’s just fine thankyouverymuch, and orders her out of the car. Instead she hugs him with a shaky, “Oppa!”
But this is all a setup, and we see that she was instructed to do this by CEO Choi, and that she’s not at all happy about it. She’s Da-rim, the girl-group rookie who was supposedly dumped by Shi-woo recently, and she’s eager to get back at him for the cold way he treated her.
Shi-woo has to physically throw Da-rim off himself, and walks around to open her door and angrily invite her out. She warns him that if he refuses her, she won’t be able to save him. This makes no sense to him but he assumes she’s being irrational, and pulls her out of the car. They’re immediately approached by some big threatening guys, and Da-rim says that she tried to warn Shi-woo. The men loom over Shi-woo, while his manager cringes around a corner.
Soon-deok happens to drive by on her scooter right at that moment and sees what’s happening, and wisely advises herself to stay out of it. But when the men start to physically threaten Shi-woo, one of them gets a chicken helmet upside the head. Tiny little Soon-deok stands there smiling like an angel, and sweetly asks the men not to fight.
She says she’s already called the police, and right about then Shi-woo sees someone in a nearby car taking pictures. He whirls to Da-rim and tells her to leave, and that he’ll take care of whoever was snapping photos. He follows them in his car, while his manager texts CEO Choi that “it has begun.”
The paparazzi arrive before Soon-deok can respond to Da-rim’s question of whether she’s also working for CEO Choi, and Da-rim bursts into crocodile tears for the press’s benefit. She tells a story for the news which makes Shi-woo look as though he abandoned her to the thugs, and paints Soon-deok as her bewildered savior.
Shi-woo defends himself to CEO Choi, saying that the thugs were after him and Da-rim was never in danger, so he went after the person snapping pictures. But of course by then the truth is no longer relevant, so Shi-woo wants to find “that chicken girl” and do a press conference with her to tell the real story. He’s suspicious that Da-rim set this whole thing up, what with thugs and reporters just happening to be right there. But Shi-woo’s bad reputation among reporters (he gives cranky interviews) don’t make them inclined to report in his favor.
Shi-woo’s manager makes a slip that the reporters hate him so much, one from a scandal rag was there without even having to be asked… oops. That doesn’t get past Shi-woo, and he wants to know what it means, though we don’t hear the answer.
Later Chi-ang finally catches up with Shi-woo and demands his belongings back. But Shi-woo’s had about enough of people demanding things from him today, and just gets in his car and drives away, which does little for Chi-ang’s regard of him. But Chi-ang barely has time to complain before two men grab him from behind and wrestle him into a car.
We see that Shi-woo had figured out that CEO Choi was behind Da-rim’s approach and the thugs’ attack, and asked if it was because he’d asked for a break. CEO Choi had non-answered that Shi-woo should just take some time until his ear heals, and he’ll contact him.
Soon-deok ignores a lecture from her father about fighting with street gangs (and aww, he’s blind, and yells in the wrong direction), since he seems all bluster and no bite. Her aunt (I think?) has the exact opposite philosophy, that his daughter should fight when she witnesses injustice. Aunt starts to mention Moorim School and gets her mouth plugged with a rice cake by Soon-deok. She runs off to go fishing for dinner before Dad can ask any more questions.
Chi-ang isn’t about to go quietly, and continues kicking and biting his captors even after they’ve got him in the car and on the road. To get him to calm down, they call his mother, and he calmly tells her he’s been kidnapped. Again. Mom tells him that it’s Dad who’s kidnapped him this time, in order to send him to Moorim. Apparently he refused when they asked him the first time.
Chi-ang doesn’t want to go to college at all, thinking he can just inherit the company without needing education, and anyway there’s no school in the world who will take him anymore. At that, Dad grabs the phone and informs Chi-ang that being the heir isn’t a given, and orders him to go to Moorim for one year and behave himself.
Dad hangs up and tells Mom that this is necessary, because Chi-ang “needs to be reprogrammed.” Mom objects, but Dad promises that if Chi-ang graduates without being expelled, she can take him to China with her. She’s a little dim, but she does figure out that Dad has some sort of ulterior motive, wondering if it’s that hard to graduate from Moorim.
Chi-ang pretends that talking to his parents took all the fight out of him, and asks to go to the bathroom. He’s let out by the side of the road, though the men stay within a few feet, but he calls them perverts and makes them turn around. He makes a break for it, yelling that he won’t go to Moorim School, but he ends up cornered on a cliff over the ocean.
Chi-ang threatens to jump if the men come any closer, saying that he can’t swim, and that his parents will have their hides if he dies (even though he was born out of wedlock, he says, which is an interesting tidbit of information). Then he manages to overbalance himself, and falls into the ocean anyway. I kind of love how he gets karma-slapped every time he tries to pull rank on someone.
But Chi-ang wasn’t lying about not being able to swim, and he quickly starts to lose consciousness. Someone — a girl — dives into the water to save him, and he opens his eyes to see Soon-deok, and thinks to himself, “she’s pretty.”
Soon-deok pulls Chi-ang to safety (huffing and grunting and not at all elegantly, ha), and she whines when she realizes that she’s going to have to give him mouth-to-mouth. She psychs herself up and leans in, but just before their lips touch, Chi-ang opens his eyes and asks, “Are you a mermaid?” Then he passes out.
Shi-woo arrives home to find that his fans are now all anti-fans, screaming for him to leave Mobius. They rush his car, pelting it with eggs, and Shi-woo just sits there taking it, until they all leave.
He remembers meeting Mystery Girl onstage at his concert, and how she’d known about his hearing loss. She’d said that someone named Dean Hwang from Moorim School could help him. A quick internet search turns up nothing, and he chastises himself for even considering it.
Chi-ang’s phone (which is still in Shi-woo’s backseat) rings with another text from his mother, asking him to call her when he gets to Moorim School. Shi-woo perks up to see the name of the school, and now he knows that Chi-ang is expected there.
Chi-ang wakes to a stomach massage, which makes him smile until he realizes that it’s not his mermaid, but her blind father. Alarmed, he runs outside in only a pair of ajumma pants, but outside has even scarier things like weird aunts butchering fish with gigantic knives. Aunt admires his bare torso (she’s not alone) and Chi-ang takes in the strange surroundings… and passes out again. He’s really kind of a wuss, isn’t he?
He wakes with an appetite and eats like a horse, and tells Soon-deok’s father and aunt who he is and how he ended up in the ocean. He makes grand promises of a reward for saving him, but they both just think he’s gone nuts.
Chi-ang asks about the girl who saved him, so they send him outside to find her. When he sees Soon-deok hanging laundry, everything goes all slow-motion and Chi-ang gets starry-eyed at the pretty. Soon-deok is not so affected, and actually wrinkles her nose when her aunt informs her that he claims to be a chaebol.
Chi-ang eagerly and magnanimously offers to grant Soon-deok a wish for saving his life, which really only serves to make him look more insane. She’s just all, It’s fine, just go home, I have to go to school now, hee. Aunt tells him that Soon-deok could kick his butt because she’s a student at Moorim School, and suddenly Chi-ang perks up.
Soon-deok covers his mouth, since her father would kill her if he heard she goes there, which is right when his parents show up. Mom is ready to scrap this whole thing and take her baby to China, but Chi-ang’s changed his mind. He wants to go to Moorim. His father is skeptical of Chi-ang’s motives, but Chi-ang swears that he’ll do things right at this school. In return, when it’s time to go back to China with his mother, he wants to bring one other person along.
Shi-woo follows the map that Chi-ang’s mother helpfully texted to him, showing that Moorim is actually a mountain. He finds himself on a remote forest road on Mt. Moorim, and gets out to walk.
Chi-ang and Soon-deok are also walking in the forest, with Chi-ang whining, “Are we there yet?” every few feet and driving Soon-deok crazy. She tells him that not everyone can find this school when he asks if it’s always this hard to get there, and she wonders why doesn’t he know anything about it already.
She stops to pick herbs on the way, and Chi-ang gets distracted by a butterfly (I’m dying at how he gets less tough and more childlike, the more we know about him) and he tells Soon-deok that in China, that breed of butterfly is said to bring good luck. He runs off to catch it for her, and gets himself good and lost.
Soon-deok wonders if Chi-ang ran away on purpose and goes looking for him, but she runs into Shi-woo instead. She’s as surprised to see an idol in the forest as he is to recognize the girl who beat up those thugs the other night. Shi-woo assumes that Soon-deok was part of the setup then, and that she’s been sent here by CEO Choi for some nefarious purpose.
He loudly demands to know how much she’s being paid to ruin his life, but she swears that she was just helping. He grabs her arm and asks who she’s working for, which is when Chi-ang finds them and yells for Shi-woo to take his hands off her.
Chi-ang tackles Shi-woo and they both go rolling down the hill, which seems to trigger some reaction in the mountain itself. The wind picks up, thunder rolls, and all the trees start to grow a layer of vines around their trunks. A path seems to open between the trees, and the boys watch, wary but unafraid.
The disturbance can be felt at Moorim School as well, and the whole place shakes. A man looks up, sensing something important, and we see that it’s the same man who saved the little girl in the woods eighteen years ago, DEAN HWANG ( Shin Hyun-joon). All of the students and instructors are affected by the school's rumbling, and wonder what's happening.
When the wind dies down, Chi-ang and Shi-woo can see the path clearly, which leads right to an old building… Moorim School. They forget their fight and walk the path together, as the forest closes itself up behind them.
The students and teachers come out to see what caused their school to shake as if an earthquake hit, and they seem to come from many different cultures and countries. They watch Chi-ang and Shi-woo approach, and when Dean Hwang comes out to welcome the newcomers, the students all bow to him respectfully.
Dean Hwang looks over the two new students, and thinks to himself, “The seal has been unlocked.”
First impressions are good, very good. I’ve been burned by strong starts that fizzled out by the end a few times recently, so I’m cautious to get too excited, but I can’t help it — I’m a little excited. At first look, this drama has quite a lot of my favorite things going for it, and a solid premise that still manages to feel as though it’s going to be doling out surprises for some time to come. Aside from my love of dramas with a mystical element to them, the casting in Moorim School is spot-on, with a few notable newcomers who impress me on first viewing (not to mention, I love how multi-cultural Moorim School itself appears to be).
Lee Hyun-woo is a particular favorite of mine, so I expected him to be good, and I’m not disappointed. It’s been over three years since he played a non-cameo role in a full-length drama, and his break from television to make movies seems to have served him well. He’s developed a maturity he didn’t carry before, and I’m enjoying just watching him even when he has no lines in a given moment. He can play an entire scene just with his eyes, without saying a single word, and the character of Shi-woo will need that sort of groundedness as he tries to find his footing in a scary new world. I have every confidence that Lee Hyun-woo is the right man for the job, and I hope we get more of him and his story in the next episode. Hongbin in particular is a lovely surprise, as I’m unfamiliar with his acting work (and though admittedly I’m a huge VIXX fan, he’s never really been on my radar much), and I’m pleased that he seems better than most, as green idol-actors go. He’s got the intensity needed for a character of this type, and plays the spoiled overindulged chaebol son to the hilt without going over-the-top with it. Occasionally I caught him acting, but I believed him more as the character shed his tough exterior and turned out to be a little unsure and insecure. I’m looking forward to seeing more out of him. Seo Ye-ji is also a recent discovery of mine, and I find her a breath of fresh air that promises bring some sparkle to the show. She’s so expressive and fearless as an actress, unafraid to get down and dirty, or look silly, or whatever the part calls for. She impressed me greatly in Last, and I’m looking forward to seeing her play a more lighthearted and spunky role.
In fact, my only complaint at this point (and it’s not really even a complaint, since it could phase out) is that while trying to be mysterious, the show is simultaneously a bit heavy-handed with the hints to the audience. Lingering camera shots on things we’re supposed to note are Very Important Clues, or bits of random exposition, as if we’re not capable of understanding what’s happening without being explicitly shown. But I’m willing to overlook this if it fades out once the story really kicks in, because I much prefer when a show assumes its audience is smart enough to catch onto the Very Important Clues all on our own.
I like that Shi-woo and Chi-ang have a history together, though it’s a short one — it will make their interactions at school that much more layered, knowing that they have reason to dislike one another, even if it’s a short-lived dislike. It’s much more compelling than just finding themselves simple school rivals. They’re both very much Alpha males in their personal lives, though for different reasons: Chi-ang for his money, and Shi-woo for his talent and fame. Neither of them is used to being unsure and off-balance, and trying to maintain that Alpha status without the thing they’re used to falling back on will be a hard lesson for them both. Seeing them stripped of their confidence and superiority, and forced to compete on equal-yet-unfamiliar ground, will prove to be a whole lot of fun, I think. And they’re a lot more alike than they realize — I sense an epic bromance in the making.
There are a lot of quirks about the show’s storytelling style that make it a fun watch so far, and I really hope those things carry through as we delve deeper into Moorim School itself. The way Soon-deok looks like an angel but does everything with little to no grace or tact. How Chi-ang tries so hard to be the hardass chaebol but only ends up embarrassed every time. There were many times just in this premier that, just when I thought I knew what was coming next, things suddenly flipped and something entirely different happened. Let’s admit it, often dramas can get pretty predictable, so it gets me excited to find one that keeps me on my toes. The show seems to have a sense of fun and whimsy about it, while still promising to tell us a compelling and serious magical tale. It makes me all bouncy, anticipating what’s to come. At this point it’s all just one big mystery: Why does Moorim School exist? What are the students being trained to do? What is this strange power they seem to have and why is it important? Why does Chi-ang’s father want him there, and was the mystery girl sent to the concert to tell Shi-woo about the school, or was that just a happy accident? I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait to find out the answers.
- Light vs. dark in new set of posters for Moorim School
- Lee Hyun-woo goes from idol factory to Moorim School
- Moorim School’s foursome invites you to its mysterious school
- First look at Moorim School’s bad boy bromance
- Lee Hyun-woo confirms action romance drama Moorim School
- Seo Ye-ji, VIXX’s Hongbin for youth drama Moorim School
- Lee Hyun-woo, Yook Sung-jae courted for KBS’s Moorim School
- KBS announces global youth action romance Moorim School