Chicago Typewriter: Episode 1
Every stroke of a typewriter key and every word uttered in tvN’s newest fantasy romance Chicago Typewriter will hold great significance when a hotshot bestselling author comes face to face with the woman who is his biggest fan, and with whom he shares a mysterious past. He won’t have an easy time writing her off when her words fly faster than a bullet and leave an impact deeper than any gunshot wound.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
On a dark night, a group of gangsters arrives at an underpass to rough up the homeless taking shelter there. One bearded man in a hat is unfazed by their arrival and writes in his notebook. His face makes a gangster do a double take, and he moves swiftly before the gangster can get a closer look and twists his arm.
He abruptly lets go of him, apologizing in a voice much younger than his shabby appearance. His notebook falls to the ground when he’s pulled up to his feet, so he shoves the gangster aside to retrieve his “bread and butter.”
He reacts quickly when the gangster takes his arm, deftly spinning him around to put him in chokehold before letting go again with the hands that are also his livelihood. He avoids getting punched when the gangsters find the man they were looking for. Seeing the man being beaten, he grabs a crutch to knock the gangster off his feet.
The noise attracts the other gangsters, and the bearded man wields the crutch against them, even lifting it just in time to prevent a punch to the face. Saying he can’t let them harm his head — his most important means of living — he knocks the gangsters down with the crutch.
A lone gangster chucks a flaming stick in his direction, which he bats away. Hobbling over to the gangster, he advises him to pick up a book sometime.
He walks away, leaning on the crutch for a few steps before straightening his gait, Keyser Söze style. He removes his beard to reveal a youthful face—meet bestselling author HAN SE-JOO (Yoo Ah-in), who arrives at his lavish home office and announces to his staff that his latest trip proved useful for inspiration.
While Se-joo gets cleaned up, we hear him give an interview explaining that a writer uses his entire body when he writes, and sometimes it’s necessary to disguise himself to embody a character. He shares his opinion on writer’s block with the actor Steve Martin, who called it “a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.”
He considers writing as a test of strength, and while he does his best to remain physically fit while he works, he lets himself have a cup of hot cocoa and a slice of cake… only after he meets a deadline. He finds the stereotype of a writer with a smoking habit amusing, since he quit two years ago and finds a cinnamon stick an excellent alternative.
Like a true writer, Se-joo doesn’t pay attention to mundane details like his schedule; he suggests to his secretary that they raise deer to spruce up the garden. Cut to: a pair of deer grazing outside.
His latest novel “Unfair Game” is a roaring success and lands a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list. Se-joo travels across the globe on a multi-city book tour including a stop in Chicago, where he smiles for his many fans.
After the book signing, Se-joo spends his time reading alone. Unbeknownst to him, a spotlight behind him suddenly comes to life and angles its beam at a mirror, blinding him for a moment. But then his eyes fall upon an old typewriter, and he immediately feels drawn to it and its Hangul keys.
He reaches out to touch a key when a sudden voice asks, “Do you know what [this gun’s] nickname is?” He looks around to find where that voice came from, but finds himself alone.
The camera sucks us into the typewriter itself like a time slip, spitting us out into the 1930s, where a woman (Im Soo-jung) sets down a submachine gun before a man who looks like Se-joo typing on the typewriter.
She explains that this gun is also called a “Chicago Typewriter” because the sound it makes resembles the sound of a typewriter’s keys. Using the adage “the pen is mightier than the sword” to say a typewriter is also mightier than a gun, she encourages him not to write for fame and women, but to write an actual masterpiece.
Se-joo is snapped back to his present by the cafe owner, who politely declines the offer to sell the 1930s typewriter from Kyungsung, Korea. Once alone, Se-joo lingers for another minute before deciding to walk away… and then a voice booms from the typewriter: “Hey, buddy!” He looks behind him, but there’s no one there.
Later that night, the typewriter comes alive and the keys click as if of their own accord. The record player also starts spinning, and the music wakes up the cafe owner, who grabs his gun (you didn’t have a baseball bat?) and heads downstairs to face a possible intruder.
He checks out the cafe, where only the music continues to play before that comes to an abrupt stop. A painting falls, so he shoots his gun in that direction, and then the typewriter starts up again. He shoots another bullet and the music starts up again, then he runs away in terror when the chairs fall to the floor.
As the storm rages outside, the typewriter continues writing out the same message over and over: “Send me to writer Han Se-joo.”
A gunshot interrupts the sequence, followed by several more. The camera pans around to reveal the other side: a poster of Se-joo which now bears a hole in his pupil. A mysterious man in black drills into a gun.
Back in Korea, a woman (whose 1930s likeness we saw earlier) plucks Se-joo’s latest novel from the bookstore’s bestsellers shelf and drinks in the new book smell. Her friend who works there clucks disapprovingly at her for buying more copies of Se-joo’s book.
Undeterred, she believes that it’s fandom which will change the world and admires a sign bearing Se-joo’s face, saying, “His face could even save a country.” At her friend’s remark that people claim Se-joo is just a pretty face and a sellout, she grabs her friend by the shirtfront, thoroughly insulted.
Her friend amends her statement, and she lets go to take a call. She works as an errand girl, and makes sure to warn her friend that she’ll hurt anyone who speaks ill of her beloved Han Se-joo.
Her Se-joo superfan reputation precedes her, as the friend, MA BANG-JIN, identifies her to the other employees as JEON SEOL (whose name also means “legend”). Seol isn’t your typical fan: when other teens were busy writing fanfics about idols, her stories were based on writers. She’s always been persistent, dead set on marrying a writer since the age of 10.
Her tenacious spirit spilled over to sports such as rock-climbing and various martial arts. She even dreamed of being an Olympian before giving it up for personal reasons. She was accepted into a veterinary program after studying for one year. Everyone thought she’d be a vet, but she also gave that up for personal reasons.
Bang-jin says Seol’s parents “weren’t around,” and her friend has worked a myriad of part-time gigs. But the biggest tragedy is how Seol wastes her sharp mind on obsessing over a writer.
Se-joo returns to Korea to a throng of fans waiting for him at the airport. Seol is there running an errand, and it takes her a few moments before she recognizes her favorite author.
She’s pulled away by an urgent text from her frightened client, who stresses that this box which came from a cafe in Chicago must be delivered in person. Seol gasps to learn that this box is intended for Se-joo.
Speaking of whom, Se-joo continues writing in the car while his editor GAL JI-SEOK (Jo Woo-jin) tries to convince him to take a break. But Se-joo blames Ji-seok for making him a workaholic faced with an endless to-do list, and Ji-seok immediately shrinks.
They head over to an Italian restaurant for lunch, where Ji-seok is constantly interrupted by the loud chef belting from the kitchen, determined to impress. He tries selling the idea to have Se-joo’s next serial novel as a multiplatform business, but Se-joo would rather take the rest of the day off.
He gives the rest of his staff the day off as well and reassures his secretary that he’ll be fine despite a recent stalker incident. Annoyed, Ji-seok loudly demands to be heard. The chef comes by their table during dessert and requests an autograph for his friend Seol.
Se-joo obliges, and the chef asks for another to hang in his restaurant, Riccardo, making sure Se-joo spells it correctly. Se-joo keeps his smile up and promises to open the fortune cookie later.
At home, Se-joo finds an unmarked envelope among his mail. He opens it to find a bullet-holed poster of himself, the same one we saw earlier. Sighing, he chucks it away.
He later opens up the fortune cookie which contains a quote from Stephen King: “The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.” He suddenly feels an eerie presence and looks to the window, and whoever might’ve been there is gone. Before he can check it out, the doorbell rings.
It’s Seol, who practices how to cheerily greet her favorite author, only to shriek at him when he finally answers. Ha. When he tells her to leave it at the door, she relays her strict instructions to deliver the parcel in person, but he claims to be working and hangs up.
Seol beats herself up for wasting such a priceless opportunity (“I must’ve been the greatest traitor to my country in a past life”) and buries her face in her lap. But then a glimmer of hope appears in the form of an adorable furry dog.
Petting him, she figures the dog lives here and says it would’ve been nice to get to go inside. As if on cue, the front gate opens and the dog runs inside, even looking back to see if she’s following him.
Se-joo is just about to settle down to work when Seol knocks on his front door. He answers it, wondering how she entered the grounds, not believing her answer that he opened the gate for her.
He asks if she’s a stalker, and is on high alert when she reaches for something in her pocket. He warns her that he’s an expert in the martial arts, but Seol cheerily hands him a business card, belatedly realizing that she gave him the wrong one.
She introduces herself as an errand girl and insists on bringing the package inside, but Se-joo stops her, saying she can leave it out on the stoop. But Seol remains persistent, which only tries his patience until Se-joo barks at her in annoyance.
He composes himself before calmly explaining that he doesn’t accept parcels before they’ve been screened. This is to prevent any stalkers or any other envious people, and Seol swears she isn’t a stalker. But Se-joo has seen all sorts of things delivered to his house from cut-up photos to animal corpses to explosives. Not only that, people have tried to install cameras in his home or sneaking into his house to steal his manuscripts.
Therefore, there isn’t one single person or thing he lets into his home without careful screening. Just then, the furry dog slips through the front door, much to Se-joo’s surprise. Seol figures it’s his dog, but he claims to be allergic to dog fur and orders Seol to catch the intruder.
Seol’s eyes widen in surprise, then tells him that she’ll need to enter his house. He allows it and finds her trying to coax the dog in his office. He gasps to find the dog staring at the dog bone USB drive he uses to store the blood, sweat, and tears of his work.
He scolds her for letting this stray dog inside, though the dog barks to get their attention. Seol tells Se-joo not to provoke the dog and tries tempting him with a snack, but that only reminds the dog about the dog bone USB.
Se-joo turns desperate, and he and Seol both try to convince the dog not to eat the USB. But then Se-joo gets worked up when the dog starts to nip at the USB… and eats it. His shock barely has time to settle before the dog makes a run for it, and Se-joo yells at Seol to catch him.
But Seol refuses, and he reminds her of the motto at her errand service Do Anything. He then offers to pay her more money, and she bolts after the dog. Se-joo runs with her down the street, not trusting her to return his USB to him safely.
Seol shouts back that she was a vet and would never manipulate a dog to pull a con. But that only makes her more suspicious in his eyes—what if she trained the dog to become a vicious animal?
They eventually corner the dog at a dead end and Seol covers his mouth from speaking ill of the animal. She then pulls him close to the ground and says they need to treat the dog kindly. She gently calls out to the dog, and shoots Se-joo a fierce look when he says otherwise.
So Se-joo holds out his arms and calls out to the dog too, who is faced with a decision to the tune of Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love.” The dog runs toward Se-joo’s direction… only to land in Seol’s arm. HA, is that disappointment on Se-joo’s face?
Seol and Se-joo rush over to an animal hospital to have the USB surgically removed. He breathes a relieved sigh when Seol appears with the USB in hand, along with the happy news that the dog excreted the drive naturally. He gasps, horrified, while she reports that the drive is in safe working condition.
She insists that it’s clean, but Se-joo doesn’t want to touch it. He makes another request for her to email the files in his USB, which requires her to be inside his home. He offers some coffee, and Seol admires him while they drink and wait for the laptop to be wiped clean.
He catches her staring at him, though, and she asks if he doesn’t remember her. He shakes his head in amusement at the cliche line, but he humors her, asking her when they last met. He interrupts her before she can get a word in—was it a century ago? Or a millennium?
He already knows the usual answers to his next question of why people are fixated on him: typically, they point to an inexplicable tie to destiny or past lives. Seol says she’s not an obsessed fan, but his first fan, but Se-joo have heard people claim to be his number one fan too.
The computer beeps in timing to the end of their conversation, and Se-joo tells her to throw away the USB and keep the laptop. He even pushes her out of his house, and when Seol offers to screen the box for him, he swoops down to grab it himself.
Seol realizes that she didn’t mention who sent it and relays that it was a cafe owner from Chicago. Knowing exactly who that is, Se-joo heads back inside.
Bang-jin has drinks with her co-workers at a restaurant and tells them that her friend Seol loves Se-joo because his books helped her through some of life’s hardships. One of them asks why it’s him out of all the countless authors out there, and Seol appears repeating the cliched answers Se-joo told her about his other fans.
She’s upset that Se-joo didn’t recognize her, and then we see same chef we saw at lunch appear behind them. He’s Seol’s other childhood friend WON DAE-HAN, who presents her with Se-joo’s autograph.
Seol is unenthused, taking out the laptop and explaining that she ran an errand at Se-joo’s house earlier today. Bang-jin and the other girls clamor to touch it while poor Dae-han sinks.
Seol and Bang-jin arrive home after a few drinks to be greeted by Bang-jin’s stern mother and fortuneteller. She senses a dark energy around Seol and asks if Seol is seeing things again. That isn’t a new question for Seol, who says she hasn’t seen anything for ages—plus, that’s the reason why her mother abandoned her and she gave up on becoming an Olympian. Curious.
Bang-jin’s mother squawks that Seol’s mother ran off with a man, and can’t shake off the feeling that something’s off.
Se-joo, meanwhile, settles the old typewriter in his bookshelf, content that it’s now in his collection. As he types on his keyboard, the room spins around him and we flash back and forth between the modern era and the past as his things disassemble and reassemble again.
We soon find ourselves in the 1930s as a Past Se-joo types in a hideout. He looks back to a Past Seol assembling a gun in record time as a voice in the shadows remark that “the kid” is a quick study who could prove useful.
The man in the shadows praises her and Past Se-joo continues typing until she sets down the Thompson submachine gun before him, calling it a “Chicago Typewriter.” The shadowy man chuckles when she encourages him to write a masterpiece, and then knocks off her hat to reveal that Past Se-joo has been schooled by a woman.
Se-joo wakes up in the present at his desk, his glasses askew. He gets a call from Ji-seok complaining that it’s already mid-afternoon, and he retorts that he’s never missed a deadline. When prompted for an item for his next piece, Se-joo remembers his dream: “1930s. Kyungsung.”
He says it’ll be a love story between an independence fighter and a writer, and Ji-seok eats it up. With that, he hangs up and looks at the old typewriter. His thoughts are interrupted by another call about the stray dog who doesn’t have anywhere to go.
Seol learns that Se-joo has refused to take the dog in, which she finds strange because the gate opened when this dog arrived. Though she’d like to take him, she’s unable to because she’s living at her friend’s place.
She offers to swing by his place again later that night, believing that someone in that large estate will take care of the dog.
Se-joo reads up on the Thompson submachine gun at a bookstore, where he notices a book written by another author. Just then, that very author appears behind him: BAEK TAE-MIN (Kwak Shi-yang), who invites him out for coffee. Se-joo initially brushes him off before realizing that they’re being watched, and accepts.
Tae-min dishes to Se-joo about his family: his father is also a famed writer who will publish an entire series soon, his mother still paints, and his younger sister is in France. Se-joo isn’t interested despite having previously lived with Tae-min and his family.
He finds talking about the past boring even if as an orphan, he once considered living with Tae-min’s family as a present. Tae-min is sorry for how things ended, but Se-joo fires back, “Does it make you feel better to talk like that?”
Although putting on a facade for business reasons is doable, he finds doing so much harder for personal matters. Tae-min says his father worries about Se-joo writing such “dangerous words,” but Se-joo retorts those so-called dangerous words were written ten years ago… when Tae-min’s father ruined both of their lives.
“Could there be anything more dangerous than that?” Se-joo poses, then advises him to write nonstop like he does, words that stick with Tae-min.
Se-joo returns home to hear music playing from his office. As he goes to turn off the record player, a pair of eyes in a portrait follow him. Creepy. He then walks over to his desk and feels an eerie presence in the room.
He goes to close the window when he sees the fortune about some muses being uninvited guests on his windowsill. He calls out into the darkness and hears the doorbell ring. It’s Seol and the dog, and she explains the gate was unlocked when she rang the doorbell.
She assures him that his gate is locked now and is here about the dog. Se-joo advises her to be more creative since his locked gate always seems to be oddly open for her. He credits her for trying to use a dog to let a person’s guards down when she broke into his house.
Seol refutes the accusation, but Se-joo is quick to size up the people who claim to be superfans. They usually become obsessed with him saying they like and respect him, but once their idealized perceptions of him shatter, they blackmail him. He tells her to get lost before he calls the police because “I don’t need a fan like you.”
She’s speechless but keeps her tears in check and takes the dog with her since Se-joo doesn’t seem interested.
She stops outside a Subway where she used to work (let’s just move past this) and Se-joo used to frequent, ordering the same thing every day and eating leftovers. Even back then, she guessed he came here to write. Then she breaks out of her reverie when the dog runs.
In Se-joo’s home office, Past Seol’s voice reverberates in his head. He reaches for his sleeping pills, and then the power in his entire house goes out. Irritated, he asks who’s out there, and wonders if it’s Seol.
But then a male voice responds: “Writer-nim, do you not remember me?” The man in black appears from the shadows, saying that he sent Se-joo emails and letters every day for three years. Taking stock of the gun, Se-joo tells him to put it down.
The man in black says Se-joo never wrote him back, but believed that the writer was sending him a message through his book and followed the book’s advice to eliminate everyone who bothered him.
Taken aback, Se-joo asks if he committed murder after reading one of his books, to which the man in black replies, “That’s what you told me to do.” He wants to know why the protagonist dies at the end when all he did was take out the dregs of society.
Se-joo cries out that the book wasn’t based on the intruder’s life, but the man in black raises his gun, and the lights flicker as he yells, “Don’t lie to my face! I told you that story!”
He charges at Se-joo, screaming, “Your novel destroyed my life!” and Se-joo grabs him before the gun goes off. Pinning him to the ground, Se-joo punches him and lunges for the gun, only to be thwarted by his attacker.
The man in black grabs the gun and points it in Se-joo’s direction. Two shots ring out in the darkness, and then the power flicker back on. Se-joo finds himself unharmed and looks up…
…To see Seol, with the gun in her hand. Pointing the barrel at the man in black, she levels, “Don’t be ridiculous. No idiot would let a novel ruin his life. You’re the one who ruined your life.”
We learn that Seol used to specialize in pistol-shooting, but gave it up when she kept seeing flashes of her past life whenever she held a gun—of shooting someone dead in her past life. Apparently, Seol already established herself as a legendary shot even before the flashbacks began.
We see Past Seol holding up a gun to the back of a man’s head that flashes between Past Se-joo and the man in the shadows. And now Se-joo makes the connection that the woman in the newsie hat bears the same face as Seol.
Ooh, I like. Coming into the premiere, I honestly wasn’t sure what sort of show Chicago Typewriter would be, but I’m really digging the character and narrative elements it has to offer. Right off the bat, I can see similar brushstrokes from writer Jin Soo-wan and Kill Me Heal Me in the mystery of our lead characters, with a steady and patient hand in penning their backstories both in the modern time and in the 1930s. I’m also enjoying the stylish flair in the show’s direction, which transports us between the story’s time periods with ease.
For now, I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to know the people who populate this dramaverse. We learned a great deal about Se-joo and Seol in this opening episode with a mix of the exposition fairy and first person commentary. As a bestselling author, Se-joo knows the importance of public image and the constant pressure to deliver high-quality work. I found his relationship with Jin-seok amusing and his sincerity with his secretary heartwarming. My curiosity about his connection to Tae-min’s family is tertiary to the developments with that mysterious typewriter and his interactions with Seol, though I’m sure his past in this life has shaped him into the hotshot writer he is today, who is suspicious about nearly everyone and everything in his life.
Not that I can blame him when he’s likely dealt with many people in his professional and personal life who have either been disingenuous or broken his trust or has been after his life. He’s learned how to guard his heart (perhaps to an extreme) and his body (as a master of self-defense), though I can feel the loneliness every time he shuts someone out, whether that is Jin-seok or Seol at his doorstep. I do enjoy his mysterious attraction to the typewriter, and can’t wait to learn more about his character in the 1930s and his part in the independence movement during the years of Japanese occupation. Even though if it’s a bit of a stretch that he didn’t put the two faces of Seol together until the end of the episode, I’m glad that he did, since at the very least, it’ll give him reason to keep her around.
In that same vein, I really like Seol and how her name (meaning “legend”) can be applied to so many areas of this world. Her determination, resilience, and dash of shamelessness is admirable, and I’m happy to see Im Soo-jung back in dramaland. Even though Seol is an avid fan of Se-joo’s and harbors a childhood dream of marrying a writer, I like how grounded she is when she separates herself from the sasaeng fans, especially when she told the crazy man in black that he’s the one who carves his own life. Still, there’s only so many times someone can slam a door in a person’s face before they’ve had enough, and the show’s premise warns us that she’ll eventually become Se-joon’s anti-fan.
I’m intrigued by how Seol’s connection to her past life is tied to a gun, much like Se-joo is drawn to the old typewriter. We’ve yet to be formally introduced to the third leg of that independence activist trio, and I can’t wait to see how he’ll add to the mix. Seol’s musings that Se-joo must’ve “saved the nation in a past life” is that ubiquitous phrase among Koreans for when good things happen to people (and conversely that bad things happen in life because one “betrayed the country”), and a narrative tie to the idea that the Seol and Se-joo in the present day are reincarnations of their 1930s selves. Those expressions then give Seol’s belief that she shot someone dead in a past life even more weight, since she wonders if her present life’s sufferings are because of her actions in a past life.
Still, I like that what has remained with time is how Seol speaks her mind—that is, whenever she gets a chance to speak. Now that we know that she’s a sharpshooter, I can only hope that her words will continue to be as deadly as her aim.
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