Rating:
Average user rating 4.6
43

Extracurricular: Series review, part 2

The criminal extracurricular activities continue into darker territory, with rumblings of the exposition discussed in part one taking a steep climb to the climax in the second part of the series. As retribution in all forms catches up to the perpetrators, the pace and violence pick up dramatically. Be warned that there is plenty of bloodshed as the violence comes to a head. Vengeance and desperation extinguish any remaining innocence left in these youth, and severe consequences for the criminal extracurricular activities await.

 
SERIES REVIEW, EPISODES 7-10

Shit has hit the fan: Ji-soo is taken into custody by Gangster Ryu Dae-yeol, Mr. Lee is drugged and beaten to a pulp, and Min-hee is a witness to this all. In utter shock, Min-hee manages to call Officer Lee Hae-gyeong for help, and as Mr. Lee gets hospitalized, she belatedly remembers Ji-soo’s abduction and spirals into panic. Officer Lee tries to persuade Min-hee to start talking, but her tactics are incompatible with Min-hee’s fragile state. She triggers more intense panic from Min-hee as she speculates the worst case scenario for Ji-soo, and fortunately, Teacher Cho saves Min-hee from further investigation.

Officer Lee’s attempts to coax information from Min-hee are rooted in good intention but her urgency comes off as unsympathetic. On the contrary, Teacher Cho is acutely aware of his students’ comfort zones and communicates with them in a balanced manner. He never forces his students to open up, but he remains unconditionally supportive. He’s as concerned, if not more, about Ji-soo as Officer Lee is, but he manages to embrace Min-hee in the process, not corner her. His protectiveness of his students is a strength but also a trait that blinds him from the truth.

Speaking of Ji-soo, we find him with his limbs tied and mouth taped shut in a plastic-lined room at Banana Karaoke. When it comes to Dae-yeol, plastic lining = murder. Dae-yeol briefly explains why Ji-soo must die — for sleeping with his future wife — and Ji-soo nearly gets his arm sawed off. His arm (and life) is saved by an unexpected visit by Mi-jung, Banana Karaoke’s owner and Dae-yeol’s girlfriend, who stopped by the room with real estate brokers, and she’s pissed at the sight of Dae-yeol’s plastic activities. Dae-yeol quickly tries to clean up the room, but Mi-jung is already enraged.

Mi-jung controls this relationship and seems to be emotionally abusive. She belittles Dae-yeol for his repulsive behavior, and even though Dae-yeol funds all of Mi-jung’s endeavors and slavishly seeks her approval, she only treats him with disrespect. He’s totally emasculated by her authority. Their relationship is one of three main dysfunctional relationships highlighted in this second half, the other two being Min-hee/Ki-tae and Gyu-ri/Ji-soo.

Mi-jung doesn’t recognize Ji-soo, so Dae-yeol stops his killing rampage. To further convince Dae-yeol of his innocence, Ji-soo shows him the transaction app and lies that he’s merely the messenger working under a pimp boss. Once they start talking business, they’re speaking the same language, and Dae-yeol’s excitement about Ji-soo’s intelligence is amusing. He nicknames Ji-soo “AlphaGo” (lol), but the gangsters soon realize that keeping Ji-soo alive is a liability. The swinging pendulum of hilarity and fear is a brilliant kind of whiplash that keeps us on our toes and stops me mid-chuckle a few times.

Survival instincts in full gear, Ji-soo calls his other Uncle phone in Gyu-ri’s possession. After tracking down Min-hee’s location to the hospital, Gyu-ri already knows they’re in trouble, so she’s visibly relieved to hear Ji-soo alive on the other end. Her wheels start to turn as she assesses the situation with Dae-yeol and his trafficking business under the Banana Karaoke façade. With the recent exodus of their sex worker network, Gyu-ri proposes a partnership deal to Dae-yeol with Ji-soo as her bargaining chip. From her perspective, she’s killing two birds — saving Ji-soo and the business — with one stone.

Ji-soo completely disagrees and accuses Gyu-ri of treating this life or death situation with levity. He blames Gyu-ri for making a deal with the devil and yells at her for blowing this out of proportion. Having experienced the wrath of their partners, Ji-soo is terrified of where this could lead, but is that fear greater than his fear of exposure? Even though Ji-soo now carries trauma about this near-death experience, his fear of exposure remains his prime motivator. Ji-soo’s self-preservation instincts reemerge when he hears about the exodus of employees, and he continues to encourage Min-hee to keep silent about her sex work, fearful of his exposure and the consequences.

Min-hee keeps her secret from the police, but she finally comes clean to Ki-tae. Beyond the phase of mortification, she admits that all the money that bought his cigarettes, alcohol, gifts, and condoms were from her transactional sex earnings. She asks if Ki-tae still likes her, and she seems resigned to the expectation that Ki-tae will find her revolting. Instead, Ki-tae is irritated. He already knew Min-hee’s secret and asks why she’s disclosing this to him now. He’s bothered by the inconvenience — that he can’t just ignore the truth now. Incredulous, Min-hee breaks up with Ki-tae, and when he threatens to expose her secret, she calls bullshit. Good riddance.

With this toxic relationship behind her, Min-hee dedicates her efforts to tending to Mr. Lee. As unconscious Mr. Lee lays in the hospital, Min-hee gingerly holds his finger, and it’s a gesture of genuine care and concern. They’re both protective of each other, and I adore Min-hee for feeling this obligation toward someone literally twice her size. Mr. Lee is possibly the only person in recent memory who cared for her wellbeing, and she’s trying to return the favor. In this world of transactional relationships, their mutual care feels particularly sincere and unconditional. Even in her minimized and broken state, Min-hee does her best to protect Mr. Lee, and that protectiveness only grows as Mr. Lee recovers.

When Mr. Lee wakes up, he asks Min-hee to find his phone in his car, and Officer Lee overhears this conversation. Officer Lee retrieves the phone and calls “Uncle” with the suspicion that this is a complex case in disguise. Ji-soo picks up the call from Mr. Lee but quickly hangs up when he receives a message from Min-hee that the police have Mr. Lee’s phone. Officer Lee correctly deduces this casualty case is a larger sex trafficking case, but she can’t investigate this phone any further. Ji-soo is freaking out, but rational Gyu-ri makes this same conclusion as Officer Lee: The police have no basis to investigate a victim’s phone.

Gyu-ri goes back to business and asks when Ji-soo plans to meet up with their psycho business partners, who’ve been bothering her about next steps. Bothered by Gyu-ri’s nonchalance, Ji-soo berates her for doing all the easy work in the shadows. As Ji-soo diminishes her for remaining distant enough to keep safe from punishment, Gyu-ri’s eyes water in anger, and she decides to handle their psycho partners.

Though Ji-soo projects blame onto Gyu-ri, he still tries to protect her from harm. When Gyu-ri sets up a meeting with the psycho partners, Ji-soo intervenes and attends in her place. In the meeting, Dae-yeol instructs him to drop out of school to work at their brothel full time, and Ji-soo numbly confronts his new reality. He breaks down upon realizing that they’re taking control of his life and his dreams, and he begs Gyu-ri for help. Gyu-ri genuinely cares for Ji-soo and tries to keep the business afloat because she knows that Ji-soo’s livelihood depends on it. She becomes Ji-soo’s scapegoat for everything that’s going wrong, accepts Ji-soo’s stinging words, and responds to his plea for help.

I’d been wondering if Mr. Lee knew Ji-soo was Uncle, and I think the answer is yes. Though Mr. Lee claims that he has no idea who Uncle is, their conversation in the hospital indicates that he knows Ji-soo’s alter ego. In the brief interaction, he stares at Ji-soo intently and says that they got unlucky with the gangsters. The vague solemn delivery of that message feels intentional and brimming with subtext. I suspect that Mr. Lee knew about Ji-soo’s real identity for a while, maybe even since the beginning.

The history of Mr. Lee and Ji-soo goes back to one year ago when Ji-soo had already started his business. At the time, Mr. Lee was a homeless man camping out in a tunnel where Ji-soo happened to pass through with bullies trying to steal his loads of cash. Mr. Lee beat up the bullies and proceeded to ride away on his bike, uninterested in the money. The next day, Ji-soo left a phone next to sleeping Mr. Lee, and their business partnership began.

At the hospital, Ji-soo also interacts with Min-hee and insists that she keep her secret. Ji-soo warns Min-hee that she may be targeted by Uncle if she doesn’t lie to the police, and that concealed threat feels more menacing coming from innocent-faced Ji-soo. Although Min-hee seems ready to tell the truth to charge Uncle with his crimes, she hesitates to put Mr. Lee in danger. When she sees Officer Lee at the hospital with back-up, she swiftly escapes with Mr. Lee.

Another disappearance: Gyu-ri. After his breakdown, Ji-soo leaves behind the bundle he received from Dae-yeol. Upon opening the bundle and discovering the money, Gyu-ri takes the money chest to school to stash it under the couch cushions in their club room, their hiding spot for business money. Little does she know, Dae-yeol attached a tracking device to the bundle. He tracks her down to the school, abducts her, and calls Ji-soo. When Ji-soo realizes that Dae-yeol kidnapped Gyu-ri, he loses it, shedding his meek innocent façade and exploding in anger.

Gyu-ri once again is the impetus to action. Until this point, Ji-soo refused to confront the consequences of his exposed business. He took the cowardly route, choosing to blame Gyu-ri and silence Min-hee to escape punishment. But his self-victimization ends when he realizes that Gyu-ri is in danger, and he lets the gangsters take him hostage. While unconscious and kidnapped, Ji-soo dreams about the people that influenced his vices (Dad, Gyu-ri, Min-hee) with Teacher Cho as the moral judge. He shares his simple dream of living a normal life to Teacher Cho, and then his world morphs into a kaleidoscope of money. It’s a trippy dream that reflects the warped reality he’s living in.

Mr. Lee and Min-hee escape to an old car repair shop owned by a fellow army veteran, who patches up Mr. Lee’s injuries and worries about the war he’s continuing to fight on his own. Mr. Lee asks his friend to track down a car covered in anime (Dae-yeol’s car), determined to finish this war. Min-hee tries to take care of Mr. Lee, sweetly offering her vape and attaching the gauze on his forehead. When Mr. Lee asks her to buy food, she gets excited about something she can help with, but she quickly turns around, catching on that Mr. Lee plans to abandon her and track down the gang with his broken body. She takes the car keys and angrily tells Mr. Lee to order delivery food.

When Gyu-ri stirs awake, she spots the knife that she hid in her wallet in preparation of the meeting with the psycho partners. The next time Dae-yeol checks on her, she stabs him multiple times and debilitates him. She then takes Mi-jung hostage with the knife at her throat and demands to know where Ji-soo is. This girl is smart and ruthless. She gets her response in the form of a racing car that crashes into Dae-yeol’s van. Ji-soo electrocuted his abductor with his trusty taser and carjacked his abductor’s vehicle. Gyu-ri and Ji-soo manage to escape by the skin of their teeth and burn the car to destroy any evidence.

Every questionable move from these two was instigated by the other. Each action from Ji-soo was followed by a response from Gyu-ri, then counter response from Ji-soo, each move dragging the couple further down this rabbit hole. They resemble and bring out the worst in each other, but this sinister chemistry is also coupled with some actual chemistry. After successfully escaping the gangsters, Ji-soo and Gyu-ri check into a motel — the only place where they can remain anonymous and untraceable. Finally having a moment to breath, they ask each other why one risked their lives for the other. The tense question sits between them, and it’s clear that the extreme measures from both of them exposed their mutual growing interest.

Gyu-ri reaches out to gently stroke Ji-soo’s face, and Ji-soo also reciprocates the affection. Ji-soo leans in for a kiss, but Gyu-ri stops him at the sound of sirens. She quickly realizes that it’s ambulance sirens, not police sirens, and they laugh. The mention of the police grounds Ji-soo back in reality and he laughs in delirium, unsure of what to do next.

Ever the problem-solver, Gyu-ri sneaks into Banana Karaoke the next day and attempts to frame Dae-yeol. She replaces Dae-yeol’s “AlphaGo” labeled phone with the Uncle phone, and she nearly makes it out. Sensing an ominous presence behind her, Gyu-ri turns around to find scornful Dae-yeol, who whacks her leg with a metal bar. He finds her despicably similar to Mi-jung and starts to choke Gyu-ri. The act of vengeance is interrupted by a rowdy group of high schoolers led by Ki-tae, who yells for Banana Karaoke’s owner. How the hell did he get there? Problem-solver Gyu-ri, of course.

Though Ki-tae’s reaction to Min-hee’s confession was demeaning, the confession broke his willful ignorance. He suspected that a pimp was managing Min-hee’s transactions, and he was determined to find and punish the pimp who took advantage of his girl. Putting his underlings to work, Ki-tae scoured through all the trafficking sites and finally got a response to meet at Banana Karaoke. Before planting the phone in Dae-yeol’s room, Gyu-ri directed Ki-tae to the final battleground.

While Dae-yeol is distracted by Ki-tae, Gyu-ri slips away and blasts the fire extinguisher at Dae-yeol before fleeing. Ki-tae and his high school bully gang incite a fight at Banana Karaoke, and Dae-yeol chases after Gyu-ri with Ki-tae on his tail. Another player arrives at the Banana Karaoke battleground seeking vengeance: Mr. Lee. After confirming the location of the anime car, Mr. Lee left Min-hee behind to fight his final battle. Upon realizing that Mr. Lee left to fight to his death, Min-hee reports the anime van to Officer Lee, who quickly searches for the van’s whereabouts.

Ji-soo arrives at Banana Karaoke just in time to save Gyu-ri, and just as the gang overpowers them, Mr. Lee emerges. Mr. Lee slowly makes his way toward Dae-yeol, and his terminator-like domination has Dae-yeol scared shitless. Before Mr. Lee follows Dae-yeol, he turns to Ji-soo to bid farewell, stating that it would be best not to meet again. With that, Mr. Lee marches up to the attic, where he fights Dae-yeol in a bloody battle to their deaths.

When Officer Lee arrives, the students and gangsters are arrested, and we see Ki-tae looking numb after finding Min-hee’s gifted cap at Banana Karaoke. Backstory on the cap: Min-hee bought the cap as Ki-tae’s birthday gift in the place of the stolen expensive phone case. Pissed at Ki-tae’s ungrateful acceptance of the gift, Min-hee donated it to Ji-soo instead. So when Ki-tae finds the cap, he assumes Min-hee was there when it was actually dropped by Ji-soo.

At the police station, Officer Lee tries to figure out the relationship between Mr. Lee and the high schoolers. She thinks that the high schoolers were part of Mr. Lee’s gang. Frustrated by the misinformed conclusion, Ki-tae reluctantly shares his motive for wreaking havoc on Banana Karaoke: Min-hee. Mi-jung and the rest of the gang are investigated simultaneously, and Mi-jung claims innocence by disassociating with Dae-yeol entirely. When the police officer shows her the Uncle phone with all the sex trafficking records, Mi-jung checks for the label on the back. It doesn’t have a label, so she knows that this phone doesn’t belong to Dae-yeol, but she continues to feign innocence.

Gyu-ri destroys Dae-yeol’s “AlphaGo” phone with their records and tries to talk business again. Ji-soo is scared out of his mind to reengage in any business as one should be, but Gyu-ri looks unfazed. Exasperated by Gyu-ri’s insistence, Ji-soo shakes her, trying to get her back in touch with her senses. He’s realized that the two of them together are extremely dangerous and calls it quits. But Gyu-ri can’t quit because her desensitized opulent life is unlivable. This is the main thing keeping her alive, so she takes the Uncle phone to continue on alone.

Min-hee also realizes that she’s alone once she hears that Mr. Lee died in the fight. She takes a moment to confirm with Officer Lee that it’s all over, and she breaks into tears. Mr. Lee had bid farewell to his army friend and even to Ji-soo at the very end, but he never had a proper parting word with Min-hee. There was no way for him to say goodbye to Min-hee because she would have never let him leave. Anger quickly follows the grief, and Min-hee blames Ji-soo for silencing her. She regrets not telling the police earlier because she believes that her confession could have saved Mr. Lee’s life. With the belated reveal of the truth, it’s not the alienation and dirty looks at school that bother her — it’s the death of Mr. Lee that hurts.

Ji-soo learns about Mr. Lee’s death through Min-hee, and he has another nightmare. He’s burying Min-hee as Teacher Cho reads off his charges in the form of a report card. For Ji-soo, everything has been justified as a means to the end goal of living a normal life, and that jarring conversation between teacher and student shows how he consciously and unconsciously normalizes his crimes. In the process of burying Min-hee, the roles suddenly switch, and Min-hee is burying Ji-soo while repeating Mr. Lee’s last words. The content of this dream, including the white butterfly omen symbolizing death, foreshadows the grim future events.

Gyu-ri doesn’t actually conduct business on her own and instead cleverly uses the Uncle phone to blackmail her parents. She plays the recording of the idol trainee Lee Tae-rim agreeing to engage in sex work. Knowing that this recording could ruin the company’s upcoming investment deal, she demands their biggest offer. Gyu-ri ironically gets the money to fund her financial freedom from her parents, and she offers to take Ji-soo along. Ji-soo only briefly entertains the idea, as the guilt of his crimes weighs heavy on his shoulders, and he rejects Gyu-ri’s offer. Gyu-ri stops herself from comforting Ji-soo and reminds him to check their hiding spot in the extracurricular club room.

At school, Ji-soo finally checks under the couch and discovers the cash in the bundle from Dae-yeol. He quickly covers up the spot before Teacher Cho arrives, and he solicits advice from his supportive teacher. Ji-soo asks about Teacher Cho’s observation of him — that he endures too much on his own — and asks if Teacher Cho personally experienced this. Teacher Cho shares that he did and eventually exploded, but fortunately, he had someone who always handled this explosion. He admits that he never realized that this person was at his side until then. For Ji-soo, this was always Gyu-ri. Teacher Cho offers to be that person now, and Ji-soo eagerly accepts.

They agree to meet after class to talk, but that plan quickly goes awry when Officer Lee arrives at the school. She’s brought along the box of Dae-yeol’s phones, and one of the phones rings with a tracking notification for the money. She follows the tracking app to the couch and discovers the money. Teacher Cho leaves class to accompany Officer Lee, and Ji-soo quickly realizes that he’s on his own.

Ji-soo rushes home and manically drafts apology letters about his crimes. He shivers in panic and considers calling Gyu-ri for help. Then, he gets a call from Min-hee to meet. Min-hee was confronted by Ki-tae earlier about the cap he found at Banana Karaoke, and she realized that Ji-soo may have a larger role in the organized crime that exploited her and resulted in Mr. Lee’s death. Min-hee presents the cap found at Banana Karaoke and demands the truth from Ji-soo. Suddenly exposed, Ji-soo dwindles into panic and profusely apologizes to Min-hee.

In the process of fishing for more information, Min-hee learns that Ji-soo is Uncle. Ji-soo accepts responsibility for the crimes and claims that Gyu-ri wasn’t substantially involved, that she just considered this a joke. The fact that her dignity was a joke to Gyu-ri hurts Min-hee even more, but she swallows her anger and decides to forgive them for this unfathomable crime. Min-hee’s apparent mercy is a huge relief for Ji-soo, but he’s not off the hook. Min-hee recorded the full conversation, and Ji-soo overhears her replaying the incriminating conversation.

Ji-soo begs Min-hee to delete the evidence and vows to turn himself in, but Min-hee isn’t feeling the least bit merciful. She wants justice and punishment for Ji-soo and Gyu-ri. At the mention of Gyu-ri, Ji-soo becomes protective and curses at Min-hee for not accepting his sole responsibility. Min-hee isn’t moved by Ji-soo’s “noble” gesture and fights for her phone. In the scuffle, Min-hee gets pushed and rolls down the stairs. With blood pooling around her head, Min-hee gasps weakly, and Ji-soo apologetically takes her phone before running away.

Post-explosion, Ji-soo seeks help from the only person he can rely on to handle this mess. He begs Gyu-ri to save him, and he packs up his things to run away. As he’s about to leave, he’s met with an unexpected guest, Ki-tae, who learned from Mi-jung that Ji-soo and Gyu-ri sold Min-hee. Ji-soo pretends to be innocent, but when Ki-tae calls Min-hee, the phone rings from his backpack. Ki-tae finds the bloody phone and begins to beat up Ji-soo. He then takes scissors and stabs Ji-soo multiple times, and before the fatal stab, Gyu-ri knocks Ki-tae unconscious.

Teacher Cho, who’s always a strong advocate for his students, defends his students at the police station. He sincerely believes that they’re innocent, and Officer Lee admits that this case has inflated to be quite serious. Noting Teacher Cho’s concern, Officer Lee assures him that he shouldn’t worry too much, but those comforting words are spoken too soon. After meeting with Officer Lee, Teacher Cho gets a call about Min-hee’s injury. He rushes to the site, and it seems that Min-hee is still alive but critically injured.

Ji-soo also looks severely injured as Gyu-ri helps him out of his apartment. When they reach the escalators, Ji-soo resorts to the stairs and tells Gyu-ri to leave him there. He pleads that she save herself, but Gyu-ri refuses. Then, Ji-soo looks to the top of the stairs. Is someone there? We never know. By the time Officer Lee arrives at the apartment, it’s emptied out. She follows the bloody handprints to the stairs and only finds one shoe at the site where Ji-soo and Gyu-ri were. The loss and regret look heavy in her eyes.

 
FINAL THOUGHTS

The ending is the epitome of the whole series. Just when you think it’s over, our characters manage to make another wrong move. I thought they had already reached the pits of their despair, but I guess there’s always room to dig yourself deeper into trouble. In the midst of their messy escape, I was surprised to find the partnership and loyalty between Ji-soo and Gyu-ri touching. Even though they are largely dysfunctional, their simultaneously discordant and compatible partnership somehow still works. I think a similar juxtaposition also worked well in the storytelling. Though the chaos and bloodshed were shocking to watch, the story unfolded quite elegantly. Each piece of the chaos was crafted and timed so that the climactic moment at Banana Karaoke felt like a proper accumulation of all the players.

This second part of the series is when I found Min-hee incredibly compelling because she sheds the helplessness and takes control of our own voice. Ji-soo’s relentless silencing really bothered me because he was only ever looking out for himself. Once Min-hee realized the power in her own voice, she reclaimed control of her life and even wielded power over Ji-soo. The reversal of power dynamics was satisfying, though it did end poorly for both Ji-soo and Min-hee, as foreshadowed in Ji-soo’s grave-digging dream. I noticed the show referencing the white butterfly at the end — the same one from the dream sequence — and I wonder who that death omen is directed at: Min-hee or Ji-soo? Is it both? Or is it simply hinting at the near-death experience they’re sharing?

I commented on the praiseworthy acting in the previous review post, but I’m going to do it again. These young actors tackled a difficult and heavy issue, and they all approached their roles and the story with the attention and awareness it required. They’re all antagonists in this story, yet they all depict their antagonism with a sense of humanity. It’s clear that this cast has thought through the intricate complex backstories of their characters and how to weave in those elements into their acting. They’ve all mentioned how this series has literally been a “life lesson” (the literal translation of the title in Korean) for them because of the challenges in acting and with the content. For these actors, this show is going to be a turning point in their careers.

In the promotional interviews for the show, I’ve seen comparisons of the story with the Nth room scandal in Korea, a big sex trafficking scandal that was recently exposed. Though this series did not adequately highlight the gravity of these crimes, I think the entire production team was well aware that this series would draw attention to the topic and ensured that they were responsibly prompting discussion on sex trafficking. A larger conversation on sex work and exploitation are important, and for a topic that is often intimidating and unapproachable because of its overwhelming and triggering nature, the facilitation of that conversation can be aided by a medium like TV. Within the realms of the genre, I think this show did a laudable job in presenting the issues and consequences surrounding sex trafficking.

It’s too soon for any news on a second season, but the ending naturally opens the door to a follow-up season to answer all the questions that arise from that ending. What lies ahead for Gyu-ri and Ji-soo? I think (and hope) that Min-hee is still alive, so what will she do? Where did Ki-tae go? I think there’s plenty of content to cover in a second season, but my desire for a second season doesn’t diminish the valuable commentary from this ending. Our last glance at the characters encapsulates the cyclical nature of crime, perilous partnerships, and the dangers of allowing others to silence your voice. Here’s to hoping for redemption, healthy partnerships, and Netflix listening to our demands for a second season!

 
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Thank you a lot for this review! I hope this drama will get a season 2.

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I really feel like this should be a stand-alone show. I think that this show was wonderfully acted, but I feel like it should end where it did. I don't normally have a problem with ambiguous endings, but I feel like the ending was designed to open the door for a second season. No, Netflix! Don't do it.

It's true, most of the main players were neither black nor white. However, they still chose to make certain choices, even if they probably believed that the circumstances in which they found themselves limited their choices. Good acting. Sad story. :(

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I'm in two minds about a second season.
On the one hand, the ambiguity of this ending is absolutely perfect. All we know is that they're lost. We don't know where they are, if they're dead or alive, if they're together or if they're living a life of crime somewhere. They are the people the system failed and they have dropped out of society. It's actually perfect.

On the other hand, when you start to think about it, there are so many threads still sitting there unpulled. It reminds me a little of the wonderful British series The End of the Fucking World, which had similar themes and a similar ambiguous ending to what I thought was its only season but managed to pull off a fantastic second season a year or so later.

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I see what you are saying. I personally still feel that, even with the remaining threads, there doesn't have to be a second season. And I wonder if there would be enough content for an equally good second season. I might be surprised. One big issue for me is that I am resistant to multiple seasons, lol. Thanks for sharing your views! :)

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Don't you think to say they are lost is to choose one of the possibilities? The drama didn't tell us one thing or another. The past eps have established that people can suddenly heal from multiple stabs. Many commenters considered they were on the run, choosing a darker ending, while others imagined they managed to escape. Both are possible but the drama itself chose not to say anything. Morally or psychologically they have been lost from the first ep, though after many bad, and sometimes unrealistic, decisions, they have reached a step further down, so what is the gain in not choosing any outcome? Besides trying to please everyone and get another season. I guess the fact there was very little character development is what made me dislike this choice to just not say anything. I like the drama though, it was very entertaining.

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The way this series teased hope at the end of episode 9 absolutely killed me. The other moment that killed me in episode 10 was when Jisoo called Gyuri for help. For all his anger and projection towards her, she was the one person he believed cared about him and that he could rely on. And when he called, she came - even though she was free and clear.

I said in the recap for part 1 that this show reminded me of Breaking Bad and it did so until the end. Jisoo ostensibly started this business for money but underneath that he was more driven by his own feelings of social impotence and emasculation. This impotence was reflected in Ryu Dae-yeol who was a there but for the grace of God character for Jisoo. Continue on this path as the type of person you are and this is where you end up. Ryu Dae-yeol and his 'not wife' were a clear parallel for Jisoo and Gyuri if they weren't careful and with that ending we can see them starting down that road.

Their options - family, school, normality - were burned down around them. They have only one path left. And that's why this show was the greatest tragedy I think I've seen come out of Korea. Because in a true tragedy, your own personal flaws contribute to your undoing as it did for these kids.

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Beautifully I written.

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i agree i love this analysis

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The moment of hope that I felt at the end was in the skyline. My ignorance of the look of Australian city skylines allowed me to pretend that Jisoo and Gyuri were able to escape and somehow have a future that was less desperate. Never did I feel that Ryu Dae-Yeol and Jisoo had parallel paths because Jisoo was actually brilliant and excited by ideas and technological possibilities. While Gyuri did some terrible things to Jisoo, she also gave him a connection he had never had before in his life. I was very impressed by this drama, although I want it to end where it did. I don't want to see those two (not to mention all the other characters) go through any more torture and violence and pain. I just want it to end there. The fact that Mr Lee survived was a huge relief. I want the rest of them to live on as well.

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Mr Lee died

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Go ahead and burst my bubble of hope. :-( I thought the last scene with Mr Lee was not a flashback, (which would have meant he survived) but I suppose it was just a flashback.

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Such an amazing show, here are my thoughts:

1) Surely Jisoo would be eligible for financial aid as he is a top student who lives by himself. Problem solved and no need for a show lol.

2) One of those rare kdramas where the second half is better than the first. It was frenetic, edge-of-your seat stuff with each chaotic choice having nasty consequences.

3) Jisoo’s dream where he is digging Minhee was soon funny 😅

4) If Jisoo would put his bloody phone on silent, not of this shit would happen in the first place!

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This video talks about why jisoo wouldn't have been able to afford college... https://youtu.be/UMbcF3Hwo-g

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I loved this show. My only complaint - and I don't really know that it can be called a complaint - is that I found the ending very sad. I found myself sympathizing with Ji-soo a lot, despite his bad deeds, and wishing he'd be rehabilitated.

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Jisoo was eminently sympathetic. He'd been taught from birth that nobody could rely on anybody else, that money was the only thing that was important, and that if you have something somebody will come and take it from you. And those moments where he let his dumbass teen boy side out were heartbreaking. Boy didn't need 60 million won or an emotionally-stunted girlfriend who only knew how to express her feelings by desperately trying to increase his net worth. What he needed was parents.

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This was something that was rolling around in my head. Though the show is about the misdeeds of adolescents, the real villains in this show are the adults who persistently fail these kids (and yeah, they really are just kids). From Ji-soo's dad (who steals from his own son) to Gyu-ri's mom (who turns the other way when her business partner turns the other way when her business partner sexually harasses her daughter) to the homeroom teacher (who means well but who ultimately fails to understand what these two really need and is thus an enabler), basically all of the adults in this show (Mr. Lee being a possible exception) were not responsible in the way they ought to have been for these kids.

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In the blog post on this show that may never be I also referred to it as the more tragic Nobody Knows. Because in that show an adult showed up for the lost youth and guided them through. In this one they are basically on their own.

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enabler has 2 definitions ( according to google)
1.a person or thing that makes something possible.
2.a person who encourages or enables negative or self-destructive behavior in another.
If we take the second definition, the teacher is not an enabler, but if we take the first definition the one "that makes something possible," then teacher makes it "possible" by "not knowing what they needed". If this is true then pretty much everybody is an enabler, because nobody... nobody knew what they "needed" not their classmates, the staff in the school, even the police didn't know what to do...., ( arguably like Lt said, even Jisoo didn't know what he "needed") . For the teacher to be an enabler, you would have to argue that there was some foolproof way for him to "know" or for him to find out, which there isn't. The whole story is a continuous hot potato game of who is to blame? Is it the parents that left Jisoo? Is it Kyuri that interfered? Is it the girls that took the job? Is it youtube for teaching Jisoo ? Is it the school for not noticing he has practically an orphan? Is it the bullies that ostracized him and so prevented him from creating ties with other students that might've eventually helpe him cope in more healthy/ethical ways? Is it the Korean government for not solving their problem with illegal prostitution rings? I could go on and on but it would be irrelevant, everybody in this show is a villain, they all made their decisions, they all took their paths and at the same time they were all pressured by a hostile environment that gave them no "option".

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Help! Would reading the series review completely spoil me? What I mean is that are there interesting twists that one shouldn't be aware of to fully enjoy the show? Because what I really want to know is that in any case they are hinting at justifying his work/business because as a kid he was lead the wrong way. I don't think I want to see that but there might be enough justification for that which could either be good justification or sth thay borderline supports people going that path because that's the only option they had. I don't really think I know what I mean by good justification but atleast it's not the latter, I have issue with the "support" part. Does it go there?

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Yes reading the series review would absolutely ruin the show. You need to go on this journey with the characters unspoiled.

One thing this show did well was choose sex work for Jisoo's "job". Because culturally we have a Robin Hood mythologising of the Noble Thief. If he was stealing or doing cyber crime there is the chance the audience will sympathise with his criminal activity. By making him a pimp that cultural comfort with his crimes is taken away.

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I think making Ji-soo a pimp actually complicates matters. From a quick scan of various forums I get the impression that some viewers deeply resent Gyu-ri for interfering in what they see as a perfectly harmless activity, almost akin to a service to society. Cos rescuing damsels in distress is also a trope, and it can’t be denied that Ji-soo, Mr Lee, their database and their magic bracelets have done their bit in that area. What viewers might miss is that (1) by pimping out the women Ji-soo is the one who put them at risk in the first place; and (2) his system is far from foolproof (as proven by Dae-yeol and even Gyu-ri). Then again, both (1) and (2) might be countered by the old argument that the women themselves have chosen to take that risk. Ultimately, the character of Ji-soo is entangled in much large issues, which to me is the main reason why he is so difficult to unpack.

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I really liked the growth of Min Hee as character. She was the strongest at the end. Her relationship with Mr Lee was cute. I would have liked to know more about Mr Lee. Choi Min Soo was so good in the role.

For Ji Soo and Gyu Ri, it was sad to see them take the worst decision everytime... But I didn't feel pity. Ji Soo didn't want to hurt people but he did and Gyu Ri showed no empathy for the sex-workers.

If there is a second season I wish it was about Min Hee and Mr Lee (not as a couple of course).

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I simply adored Choi MIn-soo in this role. The guy seems to have perfected the art of minimalist acting. Apart from his fight scenes, he barely moved (or spoke), yet he managed to convey volumes about who Mr Lee was and what kind of life he had led. Like when he was standing behind the Pervy Punter who was about to upload horrible photos of Min-hee. He radiated disbelief, contempt and sheer menace, and he did it with just the look on his face and the tilt of his head.

Actually I only started on this show because of Choi Min-soo and the PD Kim Jin-min. I think they're a great team, and I'm a big fan of Kim Jin-min's work at MBC, so I was really looking forward to this Netflix debut of theirs. I've also just discovered that Extracurricular's writer, Jin Han-sae, is the son of Song Ji-na, whose legendary Sandglass starred... Choi Min-soo.

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I agree! Choi Min Soo has a natural charisma. He doesn't need to overact to be imposing.

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Truly a different kind of kdrama which makes it a compelling watch. Yes, it is dark and bitter.. but provides a refreshing break from the vapid, tropey dramas lately. Agree on the acting as well, this is a show where the usual dreamy idol-looking actors were not afraid to show snot and saliva dripping all over during their emotional scenes, bravo!!!.

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I actually wrote my thought, so here it goes:

a) the no OST makes a difference, that i didnt know before. I think it is the first time i watched a drama without an ost, and by the episode 6 i was like "there is something missing..."

b)I feel like... after episode 7 (the fight in the park), the drama gave us a different energy. I cant point out what it is (or maybe I was feeling overwhelmed by all the things that happened already), but there was a different vibe, it started going down the hill for me.

c)I am still not sure how I feel about Jisoo. I dont know if I feel sorry for him. I dont know if I feel like he is a bad person. I know how I feel about Gyu-ri. I know how I feel about Min-hee, but by episode 8, I was still not sure about him. I wish there was a bit more.

d) I wish there was more about the prostitutes, more about the CEO creepy guy, I wish Mr Lee would kick his ass, more about Min Hee (she was the most interesting one by the end). BTW, is the word "prostitute" forbidden or was a translation thing?

Now the part that really confused me e) when they are in a room together and Gyu-ri suggests that they share the bed together and Jisoo kinda freaks out. That scene bugs me until now. In a show about a teenager pimping out girls, prostitutes, gangs and a high school selling herself, I was kinda confused with his reaction. Are we supposed to believe that his freak out was natural? Or was just a remind that he was doing that for the money to pay his classes? It just felt very unnatural to me. Out of place.

Last: is the open finale the new truck of doom? In a sense that they dont give us a answer, they run out of ideas and we have to accept it as "ok, cool"? I hated the end. I hated. That was the worst end of a series for me. Because I dont know what happened, I dont know what they are.

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Oh, there is an OST it is just very low key. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3W2FIlkvNwgLyN7Pq8xpJl

As for the end, since it is what it is, just use all the clues you remember from the drama and carry on with your own imagination from there. Let it end the way you want it to end. After all, anything can happen in a Kdrama

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About open endings (Open ending is the new Truck of Doom, lol): sadly, I feel like it's becoming more common. I don't mind ambiguous/open endings done well, and used sparingly. In this case, I feel like it's the work of Netflix, which likes to have, or at least tease the possibility, of multiple seasons for shows. I' m not a fan of multi-season shows for the most part. (There are exceptions: especially when the creators know how many seasons they will need to tell a complete story. Bates Motel was one such case. Early on, it was mentioned that it would be a five-season show. Each season consisted of ten 45-minute episodes).

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IMO Ji-soo's freakout is consistent with his always being at one remove from his clients, and also with what I think of as his half-formed nature. He is blasé about his clients being prostitutes, and knows his job well enough to break in the newbie when the guy gets cold feet. But if he can do his job while attending classes or doing his homework literally at the same time (and I'm sure one of his reasons for choosing this business model is that it's compatible with the pressures of high school), then I don't think he can have a very clear picture of what his clients actually do for a living. Moreover, I don't think he has the maturity or the experience to understand what sex really entails (physically, psychologically or emotionally). So I don't think his freakout is out of character or a kind of special pleading. In fact it makes it all the clearer that he's just a kid who has bitten off far more than he can chew.

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Regarding point c, I think that's exactly the creators want you to feel about him. Jisoo is a character that challenges your beliefs and opinions despite appearing very harmless. So not knowing how to feel about him is normal, don't worry! He's (all of them) the true depiction of morally gray characters.

Regarding point e, I personally don't think it's out of place since Jisoo has really been distancing himself from his "extracurricular" since day one. I think him freaking out isn't really because he gets reminded of his job, but rather because he simply doesn't see himself as "that kind of guy." It goes back to Gyuri's "Jisoo sees himself as a pup but he's actually a wolf" statement.

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GAAAHHHH having only finished this a few days ago thoughts about this damn fine drama still rounds in my mind and a dramabeans review is what I definitely need! And been awhile since I read a drama review that discuss about stuffs I notice too!

I do think there are some stuff in this drama that's too coincidental or trivial as to drive the story's narrative. But despite those unnoticeable hiccups, this one really took my heart and mind.

Also, at the beginning I was confused as to how the press promotions kind of put Jung Dabin as the 2nd main character because in thd first 6 episode I thought her character is on the lighter side of thd bunch (as in she just had to be the most annoying, rude delinquent high school queenka borderline bully). But starting from 6/7th episode and finally in that final confrontation with Jisoo, gah, Jung Dabin is far from common girl and I hate to say that I enjoy that argue scene more than I should.

Ps. I think we all know the moment we have an argument and stairs in a drama something is about to go wrong, th only matter was WHO's gonna meet their tragic fate lol.

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Thanks for the review.

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it’s been a while since I’ve seen drama protagonists who are so fatally flawed and so unsuccessful at rising above their unfortunate circumstances. Ji-soo and Gyu-ri are clever but lack the depth and insight that come only with maturity. Each has a moral compass of sorts, but it’s warped by exposure to terrible adults and bad ideas. GR’s theft of JS’s phone kicked things off, but I think even on their own each of them would eventually have come to a tragic end, and neither Mr Lee nor Gyu-ri's random pals would have been able to stop it.

Incidentally, I think Mr Lee did recognise JS in episode 6, and was perfectly aware that this kid whom he’d rescued from bullies had repaid him with a job that had given him a measure of stability and self-respect. That, plus the fact that JS did save him from Dae-yeol and his gang (a selfless act that I didn’t expect from JS at all), probably cemented his loyalty to JS. Thus I don’t think his final attack on Dae-yeol was motivated by vengeance - I think he did it for JS, so that Dae-yeol would never threaten JS again.

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Oh yes! Jisoo mostly does everything for himself but he really surprised me there... or maybe he just didn't expect he would actually get kidnapped hahaha. But the fact that he and Mr Lee have always recognized each other totally explains why both are so loyal to each other (given their history).

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The second half really had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Power and freedom have a very complicated relationship. And people often mistake power for freedom. In order to have freedom, you need power. Our characters are willing to do anything to get freedom, and money is power. When you have too much power, you have more freedom, but also more responsibilities. Suddenly you have so MANY things to lose, and it's not just the money. It's ironic how money buys freedom, but the moment you take the wrong step, it's not about whether money buys you freedom. It's about whether it buys you LIFE. In many cases, money can't do that. Especially not if you're reckless, lost high school students who get involved with an actual mafia gang.

Now about our kids...
I expected Kitae to have more impact but he was pretty much an "outsider" until the 2nd half, and I must say I'm disappointed in him as a character. He KNOWS what Minhee's been doing and where she gets all the money, but is never bothered with that fact until people start to find out. He doesn't like Jisoo being seen with Minhee but where are YOU when she needs help and support? Suddenly he's mad that people know "his girl isn't innocent" and starts attacking whoever he thinks is responsible for "selling Minhee" while in fact HE said to her face that he stays with her for her money. I don't care if he destroys Banana Karaoke fearlessly and declares he does it for her. Dude, that's just your ego, you don't care about Minhee.

Jisoo does everything he does to save himself, but at the end of the day, he wants to save Gyuri. I've been telling myself that these two are so toxic together but I can't help it :(. But I do hope that they'll get all the help they need before returning to each other. I don't want them to end up like Daeyeol and Mijung, which is another toxic-but-interesting dynamics to see.

I want a second season since I do feel there are so many things we can explore. And I just NEED to know that they're somehow safe, especially Minhee. But I also feel that the ending was perfect and don't want anyone to ruin it. Overall, I really adore this show, and there's nothing touches my heart more than Minhee standing up for herself and the mutual care between her and Mr Lee (who will forever live in my heart. A true hero).

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And I just want to applaud everyone's acting! I initially thought Kim Donghee was an average actor. I didn't watch Itaewon Class but personally I didn't find him special in Sky Castle and A-Teen (tbh I hate his character) so I was very surprised to see him go all out here. He earned my approval, now I'm excited to watch his future projects!

I talked about Park Joohyun before but seriously this girl has a bright future. Watch A Piece of Your Mind too and you'll know what I mean.

Jung Dabin did an exceptional work in portraying Minhee, the shift between "bitchy school bully" Minhee and "vulnerable, big-hearted, strong" Minhee was always a delight to see. We didn't get to see Nam Yoonsu's range but he's been getting offers so I think we'll be able to really see it soon.

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Totally agree about Ki-tae. It was bad enough that he wrecked the club and tried to kill Ji-soo, but his hypocrisy made his actions a million times more despicable.

Nam Yoon-soo was perfect as Ki-tae, though! And Jung Da-bin as Min-hee was simply spectacular in that scene where she realises Mr Lee has died. I am pretty impressed by Kim DH and Park JH, but it's Jung Da-bin's Min-hee - mean, petulant, reckless, insecure, yet capable of so much love - who has left the deepest impression.

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All throughout the story I was rooting for Jisoo, I guess because we were seeing the story from his perspective. All the time I was wishing that he would get a break somehow . Then in the end when he is with Minhee and he says "it was me but I didn't have any bad intentions" I understood something, Jisoo had been an ass all through out the story and I never once hated him for it or saw him as anything other than a victim.

I wanted to find a villain in which to deposit my hate, then it would be their fault that all the bad things happened in the story, and I would've been able to go to sleep thinking "Ah if it weren't for this villain all wouldn't have been ruined for our protagonists" . If I had found said villain, I wouldn't've had to think about all the ways that Jisoo, Kyuri and even Minhee were accountable in the end too.

Jisoo didn't do his business hoping to harm another, yet he did, and the first time he noticed that he harmed someone he decided to continue ( when Minhee was hurt the first time) on the same path because he had a dream. His dream was worth more than the victims that might be created by his business endeavour, the price of his "normal" life was putting people in danger. His hubris is what ultimately brought him this fatal destiny. Although there are many other things that factored in his mistakes, like his neglected upbringing, him being bullied, and plenty of other things, they don't take away the fact that he, like many other men before him decided to make women's body a commodity, a product that could bring profit. Neither he nor Kyuri ever saw the women working the job as anything other than a source of income, they used them when it was convenient and abandoned them when it wasn't ( Jisoo knew that the reason why he defended Minhee, "helped" her, and gave her advice was only to save his own ass, every single time he intervened for her he had something to gain). I think I zeroed in too much on Jisoo, but Kyuri was a dumpster fire on her own, she was even more business driven than Kyuri, she knew the risks of the job, yet she constantly pushed her "friends" and acquaintances to it, Jisoo included. The way she exploited Taerim, how she manipulated him, and then sthrew him under the bus for her own gain when she blackmailed her parents is an example of her ruthlessness and selfish behavior, she is also very much accountable in all this disaster.

I have digressed too much, and I have left plenty of characters unscathed in this search for accountability ( because so many of the other characters have plenty of involvement in making this story a wreck) I think I have gone so hard on Jisoo in an attempt to revindicate myself since I feel guilty for falling into the "cute protagonist/sappy love story " trap. I started to catch on to my own mistake when I realized I kept getting angry with the cop whenever she got nearer to finding the truth, I thought "hey, wait, this cop is doing her job,...

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Also, a second season isn't necessary to tie the "holes", our understanding of the story does not diminish from our ignorance of the outcome of Kyuri, Minhee, Kwakki, or Jisoo. The only exception for making a second season would be an prologue. It has been said here in the comments that the story needed more character development, but it also needed a lot of explanations, like, of all things how does Jisoo choose prostitution? What type of abuse did he endure that made him think this business was ok? how did kwakki remain unbothered by teachers when he was such a bully and had such a loyal and huge following? How did Minhee start on the job? how did these experiences feed into their decisions?

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Really enjoyed this gem of a show! Thought its impressive writing and captivating pacing helped to elevate the piece to an artistic level that rivals that of the award-winning film Parasite. Tasteful cinematography choices and the noticeable absence of a loud soundtrack both contribute to the exemplary artistic value of the show.

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I just finished this series on Netflix. Good drama on human. These students grew up without having responsible adults next to them. People should really have children or be around children if they know how to be a responsible adult.

The newbie actors portrayed their characters well. How Ki tae able to gather around so much students to wreck havoc at Banana karaoke. He is reckless bully, going down path of becoming a criminal adult.

I have too many kdramas where we see how these students wreck their lives into adulthood by making a series of bad decisions. Wouldve been good to see how Ki Tae's family is like for him to be like this, a horrible bully and everyone turn a blind eyes. This comes from someone who sees high school dramas having many school violence meetings which much lesser things done compared to Ki Tae's level of bullying.

Great series with many uncensored smoking, hope these young actors take good care of their health. Everything done in moderation.

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