Smart Prison Living: Episode 1
The long-awaited comeback of our Answer Me production team is here, and it’s a promising start. It’s a combination of dry humor and rootable characters that are familiar to the Answer Me audience, but the prison setting compels the story and our ensemble in a new direction. It’s a long first episode, but we’re given solid introductions and backstories to our main characters with a couple surprises in the mix.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
It’s October, the height of baseball season, and the fan chants echo through the baseball stadium. As the game starts to conclude, the coach calls for a pitcher change. Pitcher KIM JE-HYUK (Park Hae-soo) is called up to the mound from the bullpen, and he walks toward the bright stadium.
It’s another night, and pitcher Je-hyuk positions himself to swing at the batting cage. Fans line up against the fence to take pictures, and they wonder aloud if he’s forgotten to put in the coins for the ball machine. Bingo—Je-hyuk was waiting to bat without loading the machine, and the fans post on social media about how he may be a talented pitcher but he’s an idiot with common life skills. Ha.
Later that night, Je-hyuk walks on dimly-lit streets listening to his mother nag him on the phone about checking up on his younger sister. We see the different points where the street surveillance cameras catch him as he enters his sister’s apartment building.
Then, we hear a woman’s scream, and Je-hyuk chases a man down the stairs. He chases the man through the streets and to the edge of a building, where they exchange blows. Je-hyuk ends up being choked on the ground with a shard of glass directed dangerously close to his face. In the struggle, he spots glass trophy in the corner of his eye, and his fingers inch towards the trophy until he finally grabs it to hit the assaulter.
The assaulter crumples to the ground, unconscious. Je-hyuk lies on the ground catching his breath, and the surveillance cameras catch everything.
We speed up to the day of the first trial, and the news reports on the famous pitcher, Kim Je-hyuk, who had attacked a man who tried to sexually assault his sister. The reporter predicts that Je-hyuk will likely receive probation for his crime since it was in self-defense, but a jail sentence is still plausible because the man suffered serious injuries resulting in a coma.
A car pulls up in front of an apartment complex and LAWYER RYU (Yoo Jae-myung) calls Je-hyuk to warn him about the swarming reporters. Je-hyuk tells him that they can take his car.
Je-hyuk gets ready in his fancy apartment, buttoning up his shirt (through which we see a scar on his abdomen) and sipping on coffee leisurely. He reads articles about his upcoming trial, and the security guard rings his doorbell to notify him of a package of abalone. Je-hyuk assures the guard that he’ll be home shortly and can pick up the food later that night.
Just before leaving his apartment, Je-hyuk peeks over at his open window and looks a little somber. In a close-up to the window, we see his calendar on the month of January and a plane ticket receipt for a flight from Incheon to Boston scheduled to depart in a few weeks.
In the car, Lawyer Ryu scolds Je-hyuk about eating a popsicle in such cold weather. They chat casually about the forecasted snow that day and seem generally unconcerned about the upcoming trial. While Lawyer Ryu searches for sunglasses to upgrade his look, a picture of Je-hyuk and another woman (his girlfriend?) falls from the visor. Je-hyuk quickly snatches it and hides it.
Je-hyuk scrolls through a fan blog about himself and asks Lawyer Ryu if he runs the blog. Lawyer Ryu vehemently denies being this stalker and warns Je-hyuk to watch out for such ardent fans. Je-hyuk stops browsing on his phone because of his low battery and looks out the window, pondering that snow would be impossible when the weather is so nice right now. Lawyer Ryu comments that the impossible often happens.
We see newspaper cut-outs of Je-hyuk, shelves of videos, and piles of hard drives belonging to our hardcore Je-hyuk fan as the radio plays “Time To Say Goodbye,” as requested by many Je-hyuk fans on the day of his trial. A man gets ready for his day, and we’ll later know him as LEE JUN-HO (Jung Kyung-ho). Jun-ho checks on a sleeping figure covered in a blanket in his living room before heading off to work.
As Lawyer Ryu approaches a tunnel on the drive, Je-hyuk prepares to hold his breath because he’s heard that his wish will come true if he can hold his breath through the entirety of the tunnel. Lawyer Ryu tells him not to worry and assures him that the momentum is on their side.
We enter the dark as the car goes through the tunnel, and we hear the sentence in voiceover: Due to excessive violence that caused serious injury, Je-hyuk is sentenced to one year in jail. By the time he exits the tunnel, Je-hyuk is sitting on a prison bus with other inmates in handcuffs. His younger sister calls him, but his phone dies. He looks out the window, and it’s snowing. The impossible has happened.
Behind him, a young man asks if he’s the famous pitcher, Kim Je-hyuk. The young man (Kim Sung Chul), who we’ll later know as “LAW MAN,” says that everyone knows who he is and lists all of Je-hyuk’s accolades, including his plan to join the Boston Red Sox. But he says drily that he’s a fan of another pitcher because he’s better looking (pfft). He wonders why Je-hyuk has been sent to the western county jail location, since all the famous people are committed to the Seoul and southern county jails, which are like hotels.
A confused guy (Lee Kyu-hyung), who we’ll later know as “Second-generation Chaebol,” next to the young man asks in a slurred high-pitched voice if they’re headed to a hotel. The young man recognizes that the guy is drugged and sympathizes that he’ll have a rough time in jail if he’s used to the hotel life. Chaebol requests something of the bus driver in Japanese, and a water bottle gets thrown at his face, along with a string of curses.
Law Man notifies Je-hyuk that they’ve arrived at the facility, a 20-year-old institution with questionable showers. Je-hyuk wears a look of disbelief as the bus rolls into the jail.
An older woman hails a taxi and asks to be driven to the western county jail to see her son. The taxi driver gives her a pitiful look as the mother says that she’s packed some food for her son. When they arrive at the jail, the taxi driver refuses payment, but she seems offended that he won’t take her money.
At reception, the jail guard rudely denies visitation due to her stack of food, but she’s saved by her son, who’s actually a guard, not an inmate. This is jail guard Lee Jun-ho, and he eats with his mother, who worries about him working with all these thieves. Jun-ho assures her that the prisoners are human too, and he heads off to respond to a call.
Jun-ho has a skip in his step as he tells his junior guard that he’s headed off to meet Kim Je-hyuk, but the junior guard reminds him of their supervisor’s call. That kills fanboy Jun-ho’s vibe, and he reluctantly heads to his responsibilities, wondering when he’ll get to see Je-hyuk.
Je-hyuk stares blankly at the welcome sign in the jail, and we see that he’s surrounded by a variety of inmates, from hostile mob rivals to drunk drivers. Law Man sits next to Je-hyuk and explains his tub of jail necessities and the prison account system, where his friends and family can send him money.
Je-hyuk asks what’s left, since he’s already finished his physical exam. Law Man informs him that the real exam awaits: the rectal exam. The young man explains that inmates often hide weapons and drugs up there, so they check their assholes with a camera. The jail guards listen in on this conversation with amusement.
Law Man is called for this rectal exam and tells Je-hyuk that he’ll see him later, since they’ll be roommates. The guards wonder who that guy is, and drugged Chaebol says that the young man is obviously a mansplainer. Chaebol slides over and lies down on Je-hyuk’s lap, which makes him visibly uncomfortable.
Je-hyuk enters the examination room, and he’s ordered to drop his pants and squat on the rectal examination device, which is basically a camera in the floor. Other guards enter the room one by one with random excuses, but they’re all really there to get a look at Je-hyuk’s unmentionables. Luckily, Je-hyuk is saved from any further mortification by CHIEF JO (Sung Dong-il), who orders the guards to get back to their posts. As the guards leave, they giddily confess that they’re fans of Je-hyuk.
Guard Jun-ho accompanies his junior on an emergency transport of an inmate who swallowed game pieces, a spoon head, and a nail clipper. The ambulance doctor suspects that the inmate will be hospitalized for a few days, which irritates Jun-ho because he won’t be able to see Je-hyuk until later. Everyone who works there seems to know that he’s a huge fan, and the doctor assures him that he’ll get a chance to meet Je-hyuk before his appeal.
Je-hyuk and Law Man are escorted to their jail cell, where PROFESSOR MYUNG (Jung Jae-sung) introduces himself as the room leader. He tells the new inmates to introduce themselves, and it seems like a few of the current inmates recognize Law Man from his frequent visits to jail. They call him “Law Man,” meaning that he’s a child of the justice system, as he’s frequented jail since he was young.
Professor Myung turns to Je-hyuk for his introduction, but the news on the TV introduces Je-hyuk for the room as a famous prisoner who’s joined the western county jail. Professor Myung reaches out his hand as a gesture of welcome, and the whole jail erupts in cheers, welcoming the famous baseball pitcher.
Back in the ambulance, the doctor remembers that there’s a really bad guy in Je-hyuk’s jail cell: low-life gangster Gal Dae-bong (Lee Ho-chul). In the cell, Gal Dae-bong introduces himself as “SEAGULL” and his minion as “HENCHMAN.” An elderly man seems starstruck as he greets Je-hyuk, and it’s finally Professor Myung’s turn. Professor Myung says that he has another name, but everyone calls him “Professor Myung” because he’s very knowledgeable.
With that, Professor Myung suggests that they call it a night, but Seagull won’t pass up the opportunity for an initiation, especially for Je-hyuk. The roommates hold down blindfolded Je-hyuk, and Professor Myung prepares the ceremony with the sharpened end of a toothbrush and a sanitary cloth. He tells Je-hyuk that they will become blood brothers through this ceremony.
They change from Je-hyuk’s left to right arm because he’s a left-handed pitcher, and Je-hyuk begins to shake with anxiety. Professor Myung tells Je-hyuk to lift his right foot if he feels his body becoming cold from the bloodloss, and he begins the ceremony. Professor Myung ties a cloth as a tourniquet and stabs Je-hyuk’s arm, which starts gushing with blood.
Je-hyuk cries out in pain and lifts his right foot as he feels his body temperature drop, begging for mercy. Professor Myung lifts Je-hyuk’s blindfold and tells him that he’ll let him by this one time because they are brothers. Then, he licks the stick, and Je-hyuk sees Seagull holding a tub of kimchi in front of him. The oozing cold blood was actually just kimchi juice, ha! With that, they call it a night, and Je-hyuk rolls into fetal position.
The inmates lie side by side in the room, and Seagull orders Je-hyuk to turn off the lights. Je-hyuk searches all over the room for the light switch, and Chief Jo asks what he’s doing after noticing Je-hyuk wandering aimlessly in the room. Je-hyuk says that he’s looking for the light switch, and Chief Jo clarifies that there are no light switches in jail. The inmates hold in their laughter, and Chief Jo tells them to take it easy on Je-hyuk.
Je-hyuk lies awake in his bed and seems fed up with the radio still playing “Time To Say Goodbye” due to the relentless requests. We peek into Je-hyuk’s apartment, where the rain seeps in through the open window and soaks his plane ticket receipt for Boston. It’s truly time to say goodbye to that dream.
In the morning, Je-hyuk looks hopeless as he stands in the tiny bathroom. Professor Myung hands him a fancy face cleanser and offers to procure any items that he needs. When he’s done washing up, Professor Myung tells him that he’s ordered room service, also known as their morning food ration.
The server (Lee Hoon-jin), known as “PORTER,” walks through the hall delivering the breakfast meal. Seagull isn’t pleased with the amount of food and demands for more side dishes, but Porter apologetically says that he can’t give them more until everyone has gotten their share. Professor Myung stops their bickering, and they proceed with the meal.
Seagull asks Law Man why he was convicted this time, and Law Man explains that he couldn’t repay the loans he took out for his mother’s hospital bills. Professor Myung compliments his honorable conviction and asks Je-hyuk if he’s enjoying the food. Je-hyuk confirms that the food tastes good, and Professor Myung says that the chef was convicted of murdering someone and chopping them up into little pieces, but has great cooking skills. Je-hyuk stops eating immediately.
Lawyer Ryu visits Je-hyuk and assures him that he’ll probably only be in jail for another month until his appeal, considering the public sentiment. Je-hyuk asks for a favor, and Lawyer Ryu assumes that it’s a request for a single room.
But actually, Je-hyuk asks that Lawyer Ryu pay his bills, pick up the abalone at his apartment, and turn off his heater. Plus, he remembers that he promised to send gloves and baseballs to Lawyer Ryu’s son’s baseball team. Aww, that’s sweet. Lawyer Ryu tells Je-hyuk that he should worry about himself and reminds him to keep training.
But Je-hyuk barely has room to do anything in the tiny jail yard and stands stoically in disbelief. He’s asked for name suggestions for a fellow inmate’s newborn, and things get awkward when he says Law Man’s name suggestion—his mother’s name—sounds stupid. Fortunately, the awkwardness is quickly dissipated by Chief Jo, who breaks up the group.
Je-hyuk asks Professor Myung if he can acquire a baseball, but Professor Myung seems doubtful. Je-hyuk requests his second-best option, an apple, and Professor Myung finds this to be a more feasible request. They make a deal, and they’re interrupted by Chief Jo’s call for visitors—one for Law Man and two for Je-hyuk.
In the waiting room, know-it-all Law Man explains that they only have ten minutes with visitors. Je-hyuk’s first guest is his mother, and Law Man asks who his second visitor is.
In the visiting room, Je-hyuk’s mother worries about the jail conditions, and Je-hyuk assures his mother that he’s fine. He also tells her not to bring his younger sister, since she’s probably crying too much anyway. His mother then steps aside for Je-hyuk’s second visitor.
Je-hyuk’s second visitor, KIM JI-HO (Krystal), sits down with a pout and asks if hasn’t told his mother that they’d broken up. Oh, so they were a couple. Ji-ho starts to bite her nails, and Je-hyuk reminds her to stop. She asks if he’s doing okay, and he honestly replies that he’s not okay, that the food is bad, and that it’s cold at night.
Then, Je-hyuk comments that Ji-ho’s shirt seems a little too revealing, and Ji-ho reminds him that they’re broken up. He smiles, which seems out of place, but he can’t help it. Ji-ho tells him to beware of people, and he reciprocates the warning. Ji-ho says that she’s always careful, and Je-hyuk jokingly asks if they should fight again.
The one-minute warning goes off, and suddenly, Ji-ho seems to realize the brevity and reality of the visit. Je-hyuk tells her not to worry and not to visit, and Ji-ho irritably says that she doesn’t plan on it, though her tears say otherwise. Crying, she tells Je-hyuk that he didn’t do anything wrong and says that they’re all on his side.
The timer goes off, and Ji-ho continues to cry and tries to fit in one last word. But when she looks up, Je-hyuk has already left the visitor’s booth. She curses at him and wipes away her tears.
In the cell, Seagull orders the old man to clean the bathroom, and the old man obediently follows the orders. When Je-hyuk walks in, they ask who his visitors were and if he has a girlfriend. He says that it was his ex, but they interpret that as “X,” as in “no.”
Seagull goes to the bathroom to take a leak while the old man is cleaning, peeing practically on top of him, and Je-hyuk is shocked. He tells Seagull to stop and apologize to the elder, but Seagull refuses to. He’s angered by Je-hyuk’s audacity and looks like he’s about to burst, but the old man intervenes, grabbing Je-hyuk’s collar and begging him to ignore him. Seagull smiles in satisfaction, and Je-hyuk looks enraged.
Today’s deliveries arrive in the cell, and Je-hyuk looks incredulously at Porter as he hands out a variety of material goods in the cell, including the face wash and other snacks, like it’s a personal shopping mall. Porter hands Professor Myung the apple and wonders why he wanted it. Porter then turns to Je-hyuk and tells him that he can order anything he needs here. Ha.
Professor Myung throws the apple to Je-hyuk and says that he was messing with him. But the teasing doesn’t seem to sit well with Je-hyuk, who looks annoyed and betrayed.
In the locker room for the shower, Law Man explains to Je-hyuk that the old man doesn’t have any money, so he needs to work for any goods that he wants to order, since the roommates each take turns paying for the deliveries. So when Je-hyuk stood up for the old man, he wasn’t doing him any favors.
Law Man asks how Je-hyuk’s visitation went and presumes that his mother cried a lot. Law Man shares that his older sister visited to update him about their mother, who’s in critical condition and needs surgery that day. He calmly says that there’s nothing he can do, and he seems completely unaffected. He shares the misfortunes of his family very matter-of-factly—his father’s death, his uncle stealing all the insurance money, his grandmother dying in a fire, and his older sister suffering a major burn in the fire.
Law Man says that his mother worked constantly and was hit by drunk driver on her way back from work. She suffered severe brain damage in that accident, and he took out lots of loans because he thought that this most recent surgery would be her last. Still emotionally distant, Law Man says that he thinks that she’ll inevitably die this time.
The wave of men come out of the shower, and Law Man signals that it’s their turn. He seems excited about the hot water, but Je-hyuk still seems to be absorbing the heavy life story.
Je-hyuk stands still in front of the showerhead while others around him scrub furiously. Law Man offers his soap to use, but when that seems ineffective, another man offers the remnants of his shampoo. Je-hyuk accepts it gratefully and begins to wash his hair, but suddenly the water goes cold. You snooze, you lose.
Jun-ho returns from his transport shift and looks up news articles on Je-hyuk. A fellow guard greets him and updates him that Je-hyuk is doing just fine. But he adds that Je-hyuk seems a little clumsy and may request a single room soon. Jun-ho isn’t surprised by this fact and says that Je-hyuk’s fans all know that his personality is unique.
In the cell, Je-hyuk holds his apple-baseball and observes Seagull ordering the old man to eat all of his snacks at once. The old man complies, and Je-hyuk stares at Seagull, who’s provoking him under the guise of a joke. Seagull says mockingly that he can’t do anything under the watch of a superstar.
Back to the guards, Jun-ho explains that Je-hyuk is usually slow and a pushover, but when he’s provoked, he’s no joke. He becomes real scary and crazy.
As everyone sleeps in the cell, Je-hyuk throws his apple-baseball in the air, deep in thought. Then he suddenly gets up and shakes Seagull awake. Seagull gets up and asks if he’s crazy, and Je-hyuk tells him to speak with respect and punches him in the face.
Je-hyuk stands with his crushed apple in his hand while the rest of the inmates hold back a furious Seagull. Chief Jo arrives at the cell, and Seagull calls Je-hyuk a madman and accuses him of punching him. Je-hyuk acknowledges this, and Chief Jo orders Je-hyuk to come with him.
In his office, Chief Jo offers Je-hyuk special goods—like cigarettes and glass bottle drinks—saying that these items are hard to obtain in jail. He explains to Je-hyuk that there are rules within the prison society, and he also needs to abide by them. Friendly Chief Jo decides to let him off this one time, and Je-hyuk promises to return the favor.
On that note, Chief Jo requests that Je-hyuk return the favor now, in the form of money. He writes down his bank account information and tells Je-hyuk to wire the money in through his lawyer. He wants a large sum of money (about $30,000), and Je-hyuk’s eyes show his disbelief.
Jun-ho interrupts the conversation and reports another incident that Chief Jo needs to address. Chief Jo stays amicable and whispers a reminder to Je-hyuk before heading out. He tells Jun-ho that his fanboy wishes have been granted and tells him to escort Je-hyuk back to his cell.
Jun-ho sits across from Je-hyuk and takes off his hat. Je-hyuk’s head has been down this whole time and he finally looks up… and his expression changes immediately. He lets out a huge breath and says, “Jun-ho-ya!” They’re friends?! They speak informally to each other, like they’re longtime friends. Je-hyuk didn’t know he worked here, and scolds Jun-ho for visiting so late, to which Jun-ho blames the spoon-swallowing moron.
Je-hyuk asks about Jun-ho’s arm, and Jun-ho says that he’s fine and that it’s been a long time since then. Je-hyuk also says that he’s fine.
We go back to 2005 at a high school baseball championship game. It’s the final pitch to decide the game, and the pitcher winds up while the rest of the team nervously waits. The pitch lands in the catcher’s mitt as a strike, and the team goes wild in victory.
Two of the boys eat ramyun together at home with a young girl, and it turns out to be their coach’s home. They’re living with their coach’s family, and Coach buys them beers to celebrate their victory. The boys look excited and rush up the stairs to indulge in the beers.
Coach’s wife can see that Coach is saddened by the idea of the boys leaving Gwangju and moving up to Seoul. He seems more worried that only one of the boys—the pitcher who closed the championship game—is making it big and getting professional team offers. He seems to believe that the other boy would make it big in the long-term, but Coach’s wife seems doubtful.
Closing Pitcher wakes up and laughs at his friend, who’s passed out drunk. He goes downstairs for a drink of water, and Coach’s wife informs him that his friend already did his morning workout and passed out.
The boys pack up their things for their move up to Seoul, and each one thanks Coach’s wife for her generosity. They load the car, and Coach drives them up himself. Coach’s wife tells her daughter to say goodbye to Dad because he’ll be going far away for the long drive.
But then the news reports of a car crash that killed a Gwangju high school baseball coach and left two boys in the hospital in critical condition. Closing Pitcher receives the news from the doctor that his injuries are not severe, so he can get surgery and recover fully to play baseball. But the other boy hears bad news that his shoulder injury was very severe and could affect his sports career.
Jun-ho is the one who decides to go home, and the doctor seems regretful about his decision because surgery could have allowed him to continue his career. He was the one who suffered fewer injuries, but he decided that he didn’t want to continue to play baseball.
Coach’s wife visits young Je-hyuk in the hospital and thanks him for his commitment, and Je-hyuk turns out to be the friend, the one with no major league prospects. She says that Coach would have cried with regret if both of them had given up, and she forewarns him that recovery will be a long process. Je-hyuk accepts this and says that he’s slow anyway, which makes them both laugh a little.
Coach’s daughter sits next to him on the bed, and he pulls her hand away so she stops biting her nails. Omo, is that Ji-ho? Je-hyuk says that he’s ready to be patient and fix everything to make this happen.
Back in the present, Jun-ho asks about Je-hyuk’s conversation with Chief Jo, and Je-hyuk doesn’t say anything about it. He requests to make a phone call, and Jun-ho stops at the door to listen in on the conversation. We hear Je-hyuk calling Lawyer Ryu, but we’re not privy to the details.
Jun-ho comes home to a mess, and his roommate urgently asks him for details about Je-hyuk. He calls Je-hyuk his hyung, and Jun-ho smacks him for ignoring his real older brother right here. Jun-ho’s brother is Je-hyuk’s superfan blogger, and he says that his hyung should feel lucky to be friends with Je-hyuk. Jun-ho tells him that he was actually better than Je-hyuk at one time.
Jun-ho’s brother says that they’re completely different, saying that Jun-ho is like a crystal—light and easily breakable—but Je-hyuk is someone who doesn’t accept defeat. He asks for Je-hyuk’s jail cell number again, but Jun-ho just walks away silently, ignoring the explosion of geekiness.
The next morning, Henchman sings along to the morning tune but replaces the words about laws protecting them to money protecting them all. Seagull complains aloud about rich people not facing their punishments.
Then the door to their cell slams open, and Chief Jo harshly orders Je-hyuk to get up. He’s placed in solitary confinement as a punitive measure, but Je-hyuk celebrates in monotone about having a room to himself.
Seagull seems satisfied with justice being served, but Professor Myung finds the timing of the punishment curious. Instead of punishing Je-hyuk last night, Chief Jo punished him today. We see that Chief Jo did not find the promised amount in his bank account in the morning, which explains his sour mood and delayed punishment.
Je-hyuk’s stomach growls, and just as he asks for food, a ramyun gets delivered to him. It’s from Jun-ho, and he scolds him for not telling him about Chief Jo last night. Despite his friendly demeanor, Chief Jo has a nasty personality, and Jun-ho says he could have helped him handle the situation. Je-hyuk assures his friend that he can handle that much on his own.
At the breakfast table, Law Man stuffs his face while bawling, and Seagull wonders why he’s so emotional about food this morning. But we see in flashback that Je-hyuk had called Lawyer Ryu last night to ask that he pay for Law Man’s mother’s surgery.
Sitting against the door, Jun-ho warns Je-hyuk against being so kind and generous, because all of these inmates are bad people. He says that the old man in his cell has nine previous convictions and has come back to jail with a murder conviction. Apparently, he stabbed a passerby twenty times for no reason.
Jun-ho warns him not to trust anyone because everyone here is a thief. He tells Je-hyuk to control his temper better and heads out to work. Je-hyuk stops eating and leans his head against the wall, knowing that he’s hardly going to adjust to prison life.
I liked this first impression of the show. The characters, their motivations, and the potential for growth are all there, and fortunately, I also like our main character. Je-hyuk is an interesting hero to read and root for because he barely emotes. Situationally, it was funny to see the deadpan face with everything happening around Je-hyuk—his expression remained the same through the bus ride, the rectal exam, his first day in jail. But I think Park Hae-soo is skilled in subtly changing his expressions and glances, which allows me to understand his mood shifts. It’s a lot of body language that he uses to communicate his emotions, and as long as he doesn’t get stuck in being too subtle to the point of obscurity, I think it’s unique.
I enjoyed the introduction of Je-hyuk’s past relationships, which seemed so important to his current being. I was surprised that Jun-ho wasn’t the fanboy but actually Je-hyuk’s longtime friend, which completely shifted my expectations in their dynamic. It was a good shift in dynamic, since it melted the hard exterior shell that Je-hyuk carried through most of this first episode. It’s interesting to see how both Je-hyuk’s and Jun-ho’s life trajectories changed after the tragic accident, and I’m eager to learn more about their motivations. I also found the relationship between Je-hyuk and Ji-ho kind of sweet, and very reminiscent of the Answer Me 1994 relationship. Je-hyuk is really giving me Oppa vibes, but I’m not complaining (#TeamOppa).
I don’t find this show to fit the “black comedy” genre—outside of the fact that it’s literally dark and set in a prison—but I don’t think that’s a flaw. It was just the advertising. I think this show will be too genuine to be satirical, which I think is actually a strength of the show. I sense a theme of nostalgia and the trope of a generous hero who’s too pure and noble to betray his values. He’s a fish out of water, and he’ll possibly never fully adjust, but there’s beauty and comedy in that. I’m looking forward to seeing how Je-hyuk proves his friend wrong—that all these inmates may not all be so bad after all.
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