Old School Intern: Episodes 1-4 (Review)
Do you smell the karma in the air? In its opening week, Old School Intern sets up the story of a hero with the opportunity to take revenge on his old nightmare of a boss. But the drama also shows us that a comedy full of hijinks and role reversals might just make us think twice about how we treat the people around us, too.
Note: This is an opening week review only.
EPISODES 1-4 REVIEW
Park Hae-jin is back on our screens playing our hero, GA YEOL-CHAN. When we first meet him, it’s as a curly-haired intern at Ongol Food, where he reports to his “kkondae” boss LEE MAN-SHIK (Kim Eung-soo). As Yeol-chan narrates for us, we get our first glimpse of Man-shik… and what the term kkondae really means.
“It’s slang for an old person or teacher,” we’re told, as we see Man-shik acting like a jerk on the subway. But, as we watch some grade school bullies on the same subway ride, we’re told that, “Young kkondaes also exist. A kkondae is a person that forces others to accept their old school beliefs regardless of how old they are.” Then, we see what happens when our sad sack Yeol-chan works under the oppression of Man-shik.
His treatment of Yeol-chan is actually worse than I was expecting. Rather than just forcing him to be a gopher and coffee-getter, Man-shik is downright cruel. That wasn’t in the definition of kkondae that I heard? He bullies and picks on Yeol-chan to the point of it being today’s workplace harassment. And Yeol-chan endures everything from having his fabulous ideas stolen, to bowls of boiling hot jjigae thrown at him, to getting set up for failure and a forced resignation.
It’s not that much fun to watch, actually, but don’t worry, our underdog doesn’t stay on the bottom for long. Episode 2 opens five years later, where Yeol-chan has more than proven his smarts and his self-worth. He’s the general manager at Joonsu Food and responsible for creating their viral ramyun, Spicy Chicken Ramyun. In other words, he’s the ticket to their success.
Yeol-chan lands deals and is highly successful at work, but man, he’s also a super nice guy. His team obviously looks up to him, and he makes decisions with the all-too-near memory of what it was like when he himself was an underling. He seems to have gotten over the scars of his past thanks to his success — he’s thriving both professionally and financially (hello mansion penthouse!). I like a tale of good guys winning, but where’s the story? Well, Man-shik joins Yeol-chan’s team as a “senior intern” and things get crazy.
There’s a little bit of corporate espionage in the works, too. Joonsu’s Chairman has a son by the name of NAMGOONG JOON-SOO (Park Ki-woong) who’s in a tangle of jealousy over our hero’s success, and seems ready to scheme (in a comedic sort of way) to bring Yeol-chan down. He and his henchman purposefully choose the worst of the prospective interns, and then leave them with Yeol-chan to deal with.
The new interns are super quirky, but I think they’ll blend right in since the permanent staff is just as quirky themselves. Yeol-chan seems to be a step above them in sanity — but he’s also pretty shaken when he’s forced to confront the dreaded man from his past. No one knew of their past connection, and Yeol-chan wants to keep it that way, but we know our baddies will try to exploit that forth with.
To make matters worse, Man-shik has basically no shame regarding how he treated Yeol-chan in the past, and that seems to get to Yeol-chan more than anything. He tells Man-shik that his age won’t protect him and not to expect to be treated well — and with that, the action begins.
While it’s pretty funny to watch the hijinks at play (and it’s only just the start, I’m sure!), I honestly found it a little hard to watch this old guy getting put in his place. I know the drama is all about poetic justice and role reversals — and obviously our kind Yeol-chan won’t go too far (right? right?!) — but it’s still a little uncomfortable. I feel kinda sorry for him. Maybe I’m just kkondae myself? Or maybe it’s because Kim Eung-soo is just so great here.
Old School Intern’s premiere week has a good setup of power dynamics, but I’d like to see a little more about the characters. At least, that’s what it will take to get me hooked. Comedy and petty revenge are all well and good, but I always look for a story with strong characters… and a little more development maybe? I’d like to learn more about Yeol-chan besides what we’ve seen in the past. The backstory was full of pathos, and gave us good context for their current scenario — but I’d like to see inside present-day Yeol-chan, too, so we can get more invested in his conflict, instead of just watch it.
Right now we really only know Yeol-chan as he exists in the workplace. He’s respected as a leader, thought of as an “angel,” and even pretends to be golden towards Man-shik to maintain that image. It’s a promising setup, but I think we need to learn more about who Yeol-chan is now in order to get more emotionally involved in the story, and I hope that’s coming with our episodes next week.
And I can’t close this review without a word on the instantly-infamous commercial that Joonsu Foods made with their successful entry into the Indian market. Yeol-chan (who seems to speak every language under the sun) successfully closes the deal, and also somehow winds up as the star of the CF used to sell “Hot Chicken Noodle” ramyun to their newest consumers. It’s a lavish and wacky satire of a Bollywood production — except I’m not sure they actually mean it as a satire. In fact, I’m not sure how I feel about this at all. I see what they were going for, but is it silly, or just tone deaf?
Speaking of silly, I do hope our drama packs on the madcap. If we’re going to be focused on workplace shenanigans and dinners for the entire show, I’m going to need a lot more laughs. Will Old School Intern go for those laughs? Or will they take a step back and humanize our villain, showing us that at the end of the day, people are people, and maybe payback isn’t so great after all?
I don’t think we’ve seen enough of what the show has planned to be able to tell yet, so we’ll have to stay tuned to find out. I’m also hoping to see more of the crazy chicken mascot that lurks in their office, but maybe that’s just me.
- Premiere Watch: Old School Intern, Mystic Pop-up Bar, Team Bulldog: Off-duty Investigation
- Kim Eung-soo fetches coffee for Park Hae-jin in Old School Intern
- Park Hae-jin shows Kim Eung-soo who’s boss in new teaser for Old School Intern
- Park Hae-jin, Kim Eung-soo, Han Ji-eun are working hard in new stills for revenge comedy Old School Intern
- First script reading for MBC comedy Old School Intern with Park Hae-jin, Kim Eung-soo
- Park Hae-jin chooses next project, MBC’s Old School Intern