The Fiery Priest: Episodes 1-2
Kim Nam-gil returns to dramaland in The Fiery Priest, an “extreme investigative comedy” about a priest with an out-of-control temper, a prosecutor with a questionable moral compass, and a violent crimes detective who’s terrible at his job. While the show doesn’t seem to be paving new ground, it is a lot of fun to watch our mismatched trio of anti-heroes bumble their way through their jobs. Hopefully once they start working together they’ll help each other improve – but not too fast, because right now, their incompetence is the best part of the show.
In a small village, an exorcism is taking place, with a man writhing and snarling on a dais while a shaman dances, throws salt, and beats him with various instruments. The shaman orders the evil spirit out of the man’s body, then tells the man’s mother that for enough money, the spirit promises to leave. Uh, right.
The villagers all chip in while the shaman confirms with the “evil spirit” that it will leave. But a voice calls out for them to stop, and a cocky priest attempts to make a badass entrance, only to trip and skid down a hill, hee.
FATHER KIM HAE-IL (Kim Nam-gil) recovers his chill and slams his briefcase onto the dais. He opens the secret compartment and pulls out a taser as the shaman protests that he had the demon under control. He puts duct tape on the “possessed” man’s legs, then rips it off (along with the man’s leg hair, ouch) while praying to Archangel Michael.
The man bursts into tears, barely remembering to growl like a demon. When Hae-il pulls out a police nightstick and threatens to beat the demon out of him, the man sits up and says in a perfectly normal voice that the demon is gone now, thanks ever so much.
He starts to confess that the shaman talked him into this, and the shaman says he’s still possessed, but his scam is revealed. The shaman tries to escape as a pair of burly guys threaten Hae-il, but Hae-il neatly incapacitates them with a few well-placed blows and goes after the shaman.
The shaman unwisely runs out onto a sandbank, and Hae-il catches up when he trips and faceplants into the mud. This is not the first time Hae-il has told the shaman to stop scamming people, and he grabs him by the collar and frog-marches him back to land.
Hae-il goes looking for the loan shark who runs the scam ring, only to be stopped by a group of thugs. But again, Hae-il manages to singlehandedly injure every one of them, quipping that they’ll go to hell for hitting a priest. He works his way just as easily through a second wave of thugs, clearing the way to the loan shark’s office.
It appears to be empty, but Hae-il makes himself comfortable and yells for the loan shark to come out of hiding. A woman in a flashy outfit backs butt-first out of a cabinet, and she wisely scoots out of the room. The loan shark emerges next, complaining that he’s only trying to make a living.
Planting his muddy boots on the coffee table, Hae-il says that he’s here about the scamming shaman. The loan shark appeals to Hae-il’s priestly vows of forgiveness and love, and Hae-il growls, “God just told me to beat you up,” then unleashes his fiery fists of redemption. LOL.
A woman, her hair still in curlers, barely steps out of her taxi before she’s swarmed by reporters. She’s PARK KYUNG-SEON (Honey Lee), a prosecutor who’s currently in charge of a high-profile meth case. She casually takes the curlers out of her bangs and checks her reflection in a camera lens as the reporters ask about her case.
It’s a meth case where two people were found in possession of the drugs, an idol and a chaebol. The public thinks that Kyung-seon is going easy on the chaebol and unfairly pinning the distribution charges on the idol. Kyung-seon says that, regardless of whether people are “eating candy” at your house, if someone takes the “candy” and gives it to others, they’re a distributor.
Security stops the reporters as they near the prosecutor’s office, but they beg Kyung-seon to explain. She just purrs, “I hope you all become rich,” and flashes a sly smile.
She’s a lot less composed up in her office, where she yells at a fellow prosecutor because he wants to arrest the chaebol. Kyung-seon snarls that he only wants to arrest the chaebol because he’s the son of Hanjoo Group’s chairman, which would make him look good and her like a villain for going after the idol.
She pulls up something on her phone, batting her eyelashes as she flashes the CCTV footage of the prosecutor taking a bribe from an illegal “massage” parlor. She says that unless he wants her to destroy his entire career, he’ll do exactly as she orders.
That evening, priest Hae-il is at the police station along with a very battered loan shark. When the loan shark asks if he has any proof he was working with the shaman, Hae-il nearly vaults over the desk at him and it takes another cop and his fellow priest, Father Kang, to hold him back. Things get even louder when a monk and a minister join them to back up Hae-il (and now the whole thing sounds like the lead-in to a bad “three guys walk into a bar” joke).
Elsewhere, a detective wearing a banner that says “Take Your Punishment” walks the streets, calling out his own name, GU DAE-YOUNG (Kim Sung-kyun), and promising to help people who’ve been victims of a violent crime. Bored and embarrassed, he calls the station to find out what time tonight that his team is confronting the Exit Three Gang, but the team leader, Detective Lee, says he’ll call him later with details.
At dinner with the director of the prosecutor’s office and several colleagues, Kyung-seon defends her ability to handle her drug case, promising to do an excellent job. She’s flattering and subservient to the director, but a few insulting comments made by one colleague piss her off badly enough that she confronts him near the restrooms, leaving him scared.
The minister, the priest, and the monk (lol) talk to the cop at the station about releasing Hae-il, who’s been locked up for exacting vigilance justice. He evidently does a lot of good for the neighborhood, but the cop argues that he does it by beating people up. The trio make a huge scene to get their way, praying loudly and chanting until the cop says there is one way…
In a cathedral, a young priest and an old priest (okay, this is getting silly now) practice their hymns, but the younger priest’s voice keeps cracking on the high notes because he’s having trouble quitting smoking. The older priest, Father Lee, gets a call from Father Kang at the police station about Hae-il, and his smile fades. In his rooms, he looks at a photo of himself with Hae-il and wonders if he’s still suffering.
As he sits in jail, Hae-il nods off to sleep and descends into a nightmare. There are guns and fire, explosions, people dying, and a woman speaking fearfully in a foreign language. Hae-il jerks awake as a cop comes to release him.
Dae-young’s team heads out together to catch the Exit Three Gang, who run an illegal gambling house. One asks if anyone called Dae-young, but another says that Detective Lee probably called him already. Of course, nobody has, but Dae-young sees something strange while he’s waiting and ends up walking all alone into the middle of a gang’s hideout. Oops?
The Exit Three Gang arrest is suspiciously easy — the gang was called ahead, and they wait obediently with the evidence laid out neatly on a table. They even handcuff themselves when the detectives arrive. The detectives wonder where Dae-young is, but Detective Lee is watching TV on his phone back at the station (in the bathroom, ew) and can’t remember if he texted Dae-young or not.
We don’t see what indignities poor Dae-young suffers, only that he’s thrown out of a van into an alley wearing nothing but his sash, HA. He hugs a life-sized photo of a woman and flags down a policeman (“What are you, a terminator?”), who eventually recognizes him, and he jumps into the cop’s car while bystanders snap pictures of his naked bum.
Hae-il learns from Father Kang that the condition of his release is that he has to move to a different parish before morning, or the loan shark will press charges. He’s being sent to stay with Father Lee for a while, which infuriates Hae-il, but Father Kang snaps angrily that if he can’t learn to control his temper then he should stop being a priest.
Hae-il goes to the chapel and looks up at the stained glass over the pulpit, hurt and betrayal written all over his face, then he leaves at sunrise.
Dae-young is napping in his cubicle at the station (still naked) when Detective Lee drops a bag on him — it’s his own clothes, sent express by the Exit Three Gang. But didn’t the cops catch the gang? Who beat up Dae-young? I’m so confused.
A woman is interviewed on television (ha, the same woman from the sign that Dae-young hugged naked) about her job at the Gudam Office. Her name is JUNG DONG-JA (Jung Young-joo), and when the interview concludes, she asks the man who’s been observing if the site for the history museum has been settled. He says he’ll wrap it up with President Seo today.
Gudam just happens to be where Hae-il was sent, and when he stops to eat, he sees another street interview of Kyung-seon on the restaurant television, where she’s made to look impatient and unreasonable. Just outside the restaurant, some rough-looking guys are harassing a foreign man about the way he speaks.
When their leader slaps the man, Hae-il snaps his chopsticks in half, but he tries to stay in control. He watches as the cops arrive and the jerks leave, then sits back down to his meal.
Dong-ja’s… friend? Employee? Anyway, HWANG CHUL-BEOM (Go Joon), volunteers at an event to feed the elderly until he’s alerted that President Seo has arrived. He speaks to President Seo in a dark, gloomy basement, asking why he’s not accepting his very reasonable offer to sell him the land for the museum. President Seo looks terrified and asks for more time, which causes Chul-beom to go after him with his fists.
Father Lee is in a great mood, expecting Hae-il to arrive any moment. He even goes shopping and vows to do all the cooking today. The happy atmosphere is dampened when the same jerks that Hae-il saw harassing the foreign man earlier show up at the cathedral, but Father Lee says cheerfully that they can tell their boss he hasn’t changed his mind.
Unhappy with that answer, the thug leader, Jang-ryong, kicks their groceries, shoves Sister Kim, and warns Father Lee that he’ll be back every single day. Father Kim merely smiles serenely.
Back in his office, Chul-beom eats lunch and tells his assistant that President Seo will sign off on the land sale now. He confirms that Jang-ryong visited the cathedral, saying that they need to keep up the pressure because there’s not much time. Ah, so he’s those guys’ boss.
Hae-il finally shows up at the cathedral, and Father Lee grabs him in a huge hug. He invites Hae-il inside where he’s made his favorite foods, seaweed soup and boiled beef (Hae-il: “You make it sound like I just gave birth.”), but over dinner, Hae-il is deliberately vague in answering Sister Kim’s questions.
Eventually the younger priest, Sung-kyu, asks Sister Kim to stop talking, but Hae-il blurts out, “I caused some trouble. I beat a believer and his underling to a pulp. One of them still can’t close his mouth.” Everyone looks at Father Lee like Is this guy for real?, then they burst into nervous laughter. But Hae-il says that he’s not joking.
Sister Kim just can’t stop talking, and she asks why Hae-il ate on the way since Father Lee was making all this food just for him. Hae-il explodes, yelling that he just wanted to eat, and he excuses himself. He blows up again when Sung-kyu offers to show him to his room, wailing that he already knows where it is.
After dinner, Sister Kim asks Sung-kyu how Hae-il passed the personality test that all prospective priests take. Sung-kyu says that priests can be short-tempered, but Sister Kim thinks that Hae-il is on a whole different level, and possibly a bit mad.
At a knock on his door, Hae-il hides his soju, but Father Lee comes in and tells him to get the soju back out. HA, he even brought his own shot glass. They share a drink, then Father Lee tells Hae-il he can only have two more because he’s leading the service in the morning.
Hae-il asks why Father Lee hasn’t asked what he did to get sent here. Father Lee says that Hae-il was always a troublemaker, and Hae-il asks why he let him come here. Father Lee says that he and Hae-il are linked, so no matter what, they’ll always meet again. He tells Hae-il gently not to get into any more trouble because it pains his spirit, and Hae-il nods sheepishly.
In the morning, Father Lee welcomes his parishioners to service. Kyung-seon happens to go to his church and notices the new priest, finding him very cute. Chul-beom is also a member, and he arrives just as service is about to start.
While giving his sermon, Hae-il keeps hearing an odd crackling noise coming from the pews. When he sees a man eating in the eighth row, he yells at him, but he reels in his temper and calmly asks the man to leave. The guy makes even more noise trying unsuccessfully to push the door open, until Hae-il growls, “Pull…”
Hae-il prays to God for patience, then resumes his sermon. But he goes off-script and starts asking why people come to church to ask forgiveness, when they should be asking those they’ve wronged to forgive them. He pretty much tells the entire congregation that the church can’t do anything for them, and after the sermon, everyone leaves thinking that the new priest is pretty weird.
After the sermon, Kyung-seon goes to the confession booth and confesses how she’s been acting with her colleagues. Hae-il repeats himself — ask their forgiveness first or he can’t do anything for her. Kyung-seon follows Hae-il out of the booth to ask what that was all about, and she melts a little when she sees the handsome priest up close.
But she confronts him for going against canon law, and she tells him to apologize or she’ll report him to the diocese. Hae-il rolls his eyes and tells her to go right ahead, and when she plays the “Do you know who I am” card, he accuses her of bragging that she’s a prosecutor.
He does a hilarious impression of her unflattering expression caught on the news, and sticks her with the nickname “old man.” She objects, but he says that old men attend church, make big offerings to pay for their big sins, and don’t care about the people they hurt.
He tells her that attending church so you can sin in peace won’t get you to Heaven, leaving her gaping. She tells herself that she’s letting him off the hook this time, but only because he’s so damn handsome.
While Sung-kyu takes Hae-il to the orphanage to meet the kids, Chul-beom gives Father Lee an envelope bursting with cash. Father Lee cheerfully gives it back, saying that he knows Chul-beom wants a favor. Chul-beom wants Father Lee to entrust him with the facility management, but Father Lee chuckles that he doesn’t need money or help. Chul-beom complains that he’d rather see Father Lee get angry when he pressures him, so Father Lee obligingly yells at him to eat before he goes, hee.
Dae-young gets a call about a robbery case, but Detective Lee stops him from going, saying that he needs to attend the Gudam History Museum groundbreaking ceremony instead. Okay, why is he keeping Dae-young from real cases? Dae-young whines, but he relents when he hears that Chief Nam will be at the ceremony.
As soon as the ceremony begins, a huge crowd of people shows up to protest Chul-beom’s illegal site acquisition practices. One protester breaks through the police line just as the official groundbreaking is starting and throws an egg at Chul-beom, and Dae-young tackles the protester and drags him away.
Chief Nam motions for the SWAT team to take over, and Chul-beom’s thugs also march over, with Jang-ryong grabbing the egg-throwing man away from Dae-young.
Hae-il and Sung-kyu happen by on their way to the orphanage and see the police just walking away while the SWAT team and Chul-beom’s men beat up the protesters. Hae-il remembers Father Lee’s request that he stay out of trouble, and he really tries to walk away. But the cries of the protesters get to him, and he hears a loud clap of thunder coming from a completely clear sky.
The ceremony concludes and Chul-beom walks Dong-ja to her car, then a few protesters break free and attack him, breaking a sign over his head before his men stop them. Chul-beom seems calm at first, but then he grabs the guy who hit him by the collar and hauls back a fist…
… which is snatched by Hae-il just in time.
So far, so good! This is yet another show that on paper, sounds contrary to the type of dramas I generally go for, but the first episode was a lot of fun. I like our three main players a lot so far, and Hae-il and Kyung-seon’s one prickly interaction has got me excited to see more. All three of them are awful in some way (awful temper, awful values, awful at their job), and you can already see how they’re going to drive each other absolutely batcrap crazy… and these three actors do “batcrap crazy” particularly well. I’m so in for that!
I actually didn’t think I’d like Kim Nam-gil’s character much, because the description of him being a man of God yet out of control sounded unrealistic to me. Priests are supposed to be gentle and loving and understanding, not wild card vigilantes with uncontrollable tempers. But now, having met Hae-il, not only do like him, but I find him the most sympathetic of the three main characters. He cares about people and genuinely wants to help them, he just can’t help it that he’s got a background that makes him an amazing fighter, and that training kicks in when he sees injustice. It’s going to make him the perfect unofficial partner for a detective, if he can keep his baggage from weighing him down — and he does seem to have a lot of baggage.
I’ll confess right now that I have a massive, uncontrollable girl-crush on Honey Lee, so apologies in advance if I gush over her in my recaps. Doesn’t she just seem like someone who would be awesome to hang out with? She’s so ridiculously beautiful, but she’s not afraid to sacrifice beauty in the service of a good character, which I really respect in an actor. She’s good at everything — melodrama, romance, comedy — but I particularly love her when she gets to play a character like Kyung-seon, because you can tell she’s having so much fun. And I especially love Kyung-seon’s little crush on the good-looking priest… I mean, just because he’s a man of God doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate the pretty, right?
I think that this first episode of The Fiery Priest was very promising and did a pretty decent job setting up the plot, though at times some of the characters’ actions didn’t make much sense (like how Dae-young just randomly went looking for a gang and found one). Kim Nam-gil, Lee Sung-kyun, and Honey Lee are on point with their slightly off-kilter, slightly overblown characters, all three managing to come off as quirky in their individual ways without seeming unrealistic. The supporting cast is great too, and contains some of my favorites in roles different from their usual (Jung Dong-hwan as a good guy for once, and Jung Young-joo looks like a baddie here instead of comic relief). I’m still a bit fuzzy on some of the details such as Kyung-seon’s drug case, but I’m staying open-minded in the hopes that it will all make sense in the next episode. Overall I really like the show so far — it has fun characters, and nicely balances the humor and drama so that neither overshadows the other. I don’t think we’ll be seeing anything unique here, but The Fiery Priest seems to be offering a good, solid story that promises to go interesting places.
- Premiere Watch: Haechi, Item, The Light in Your Eyes, The Fiery Priest
- Kim Nam-gil, Kim Sung-kyun paired up in new stills for The Fiery Priest
- The Fiery Priest releases character posters for main players
- Kim Nam-gil and Honey Lee bicker in upcoming drama-comedy The Fiery Priest
- The Hot-Blooded Priest fights his way through a sinful city in SBS comedy
- Go Joon joins cast of drama Hot-Blooded Priest
- Kim Nam-gil, Kim Sung-kyun, and Honey Lee cast in Hot-Blooded Priest