Good Casting: Episode 1
Good Casting is what happens when you cross ajummas with Charlie’s Angels. Considering the premise, I admit I was expecting the show to have a campier vibe and while there were certainly some silly moments, the premiere was much more action-packed and serious than I’d anticipated. As long as it keeps the quirky elements coming and doesn’t delve too deep into dark waters, this has the potential for being a pretty fun ride.
EPISODE 1: “The new team”
A ship waits in the middle of the ocean, using a flashlight to signal a second ship for their rendezvous. The men speak Mandarin as the second ship passes a create to the first. Confirming a small memory card hidden within the fish, the ship crew hand over a sack of cash. As the second boat drives away, the crew of the first discover a bomb, conspicuously marked with the letter “M.” They open fire on the boat, but their bullets fail to penetrate the glass of the captain’s booth and a faceless man in a blue scarf detonates the bomb on the ship.
Afterwards, at NIS (National Intelligence Service) headquarters, Seo Kook-hwan reports the casualties to Deputy Head Geum Dong-seok. DONG GWAN-SOO (Lee Jong-hyuk) takes over for the fallen team and we learn the mystery man responsible is Michael Lee, a Level 1 criminal on their watchlist. He was initially identified after stealing classified US Air Force Intelligence and defecting to China. All parties involved in Michael’s deals later disappeared or were found dead, so his identity remains unknown.
The previous team was investigating Il Kwang Hitech, a company preparing to apply for a patent on some new tech. They’re suspected of gaining a large investment from Qingni Yuhua Group for the stolen info. If the tech is leaked before the patent is granted, the Korean economy will take a 3 billion dollar hit. Gwan-soo wants to infiltrate. Deputy Head Geum argues even their best agents die when facing Michael but Kook-hwan says there’s a few people who will accept any mission.
We cut to a woman entering an elevator with another trio of women. She sighs loudly about a fire and when the women take the bait, she laments dramatically how the woman whose house burned wouldn’t have suffered so much if only she’d had fire insurance. Hee. The trio are so busy considering the offer, they ignore the son’s announcement of a gun poking out of the insurance saleswoman’s pants. She quickly tucks it away and scampers off as Kook-hwan informs us her name is HWANG MI-SOON (Kim Ji-young). He lists her extensive skills as a negotiator for over two decades as we see her narrow in on a receipt.
Next is IM YE-EUN (Yoo In-young), and Gwan-soo balks that she’s a white agent (meaning she’s never been in the field). Kook-hwan argues she’s successfully supported agents over her 4-year career and as an IT specialist is ideal for hacking Il Kwang Hitech. Ye-eun frantically guides a female agent, Gan Tae-hee, through a parking garage, hacking the sprinklers at a critical moment so her partner can escape an assailant.
Deputy Head Geum recommends one more agent: BAEK CHAN-MI (Choi Kang-hee), their best and craziest agent. We flash to Chan-mi kneeling in prayer, vowing to love all of God’s creation… before a prison guard orders her out of her cell. Chan-mi gets to work cleaning windows as her fellow inmates gossip about her nickname – Royal Psycho -and how she was a civil servant until she killed someone and took bribes. Chan-mi eyes them and the women smile nervously until she skips off to her next task.
A gang is busy tormenting another inmate and although she eyes them suspiciously, Chan-mi simply tells them to keep it clean. The gang nods but when they slam the woman into a wall, the tile crashes around her and Chan-mi grumbles. The gang attempts to attack her, but Chan-mi single-handedly dispatches all the lackeys, while the leader cowers. Chan-mi just tosses her the mop to clean up, before sashaying out to the applause of a crowd of inmates who’d gathered to watch.
Afterwards, she sits in solitary and the guard tsks that she really is crazy to volunteer when she’s up for parole. Deputy Head Geum orders them to bring Chan-mi back, and though the other men protest, he warns them the department is in danger of vanishing if they fail again.He places Gwan-soo in charge and effectively ends the meeting. Gwan-soo declares he can’t handle Chan-mi and Kook-hwan agrees he doesn’t like her either. Gwan-soo offers to quit, but Kook-hwan points out Gwan-soo’s alimony comes out of his paycheck.
Mi-soon slams the offending receipt for coffee in front of a coworker, growling he can’t claim reimbursement for money spent outside of work. He tries to argue but she points to the timestamp – 2 am – and he recoils in defeat. Her coworker is saved from further ribbing when her phone rings and Mi-soon confusedly tells the caller they have the wrong number.
Meanwhile, Ye-eun brings coffee to her teammates and both praise her profusely. Tae-hee wonders why she never tries fieldwork and Ye-eun laughs she’s happy working quietly in the office until she’s old enough to retire. Her smile wavers when another coworker lauhs plenty colleagues are fired for failing performance standards. Ye-eun’s phone rings and next thing we know, she and Mi-soon sit across from each other, clearly displeased with Gwan-soo’s offer.
Mi-soon argues she’s too old and both women are concerned with Ye-eun’s inexperience. Ye-eun adds she has a three-year old and Mi-soon freezes… and asks if she’s interested in early childhood insurance. Hehe. Unsympathetic, Gwan-soo says if they refuse, Mi-soon needs to repay her loan while Ye-eun must move out of employee housing.
With a sigh, Mi-soon asks who the target is, and the women’s eyes widen when Gwan-soo breezily replies, “Michael.” At home, Mi-soon digs out a dress, unwrapping it to reveal her gun. She flashes back to the last time she’d worn the dress, frantically screaming for a bleeding man to hold on. In the present, she cocks her gun and whispers she’ll kill them all… only to hurriedly hide it when her child calls for her.
Ye-eun watches her sleeping daughter, thinking she’s the only one who can protect her. Ye-eun says the father would be so upset and the camera focuses on a photo of her with a man. Meanwhile, Chan-mi attacks the wallpaper in her cell, grumbling this is the last cell. She slumps to the ground in frustration but when morning comes, she finds what she was looking for – a name carved into the wall.
Skipping along outside, Chan-mi plucks a pair of headphones from another inmate and energetically performs a one-woman music video to the horror of her fellow inmates. She only stops when the young woman she’d saved from the gang offers her a snack and she swaps the headphones for it before bursting into the greenhouse. She cheerfully greets a Russian woman, Barbara, to whom the name in the cell belongs. Chan-mi says a woman who died in solitary 3 months ago passed her an item, but Barbara feigns ignorance.
Chan-mi insists and when Barbara starts to walk away, the women engage in a fight. IT doesn’t take long for Chan-mi to pin her and Barbara asks what she’ll get in return. Chan-mi throws out a sum and follows Barbara’s gaze to a flowerpot with a memory card hidden in the soil. She then informs Barbara she’s receiving 10 months for violating immigration on top of 3 years for industrial espionage. As guards drag Barbara away, she curses at Chan-mi.
In the warden’s office, Chan-mi finds Kook-hwan waiting for her. She throws down the chip and he tosses her the personnel transfer. Chan-mi sniffs he’s aged in 3 years and Kook-hwan retorts they lost Michael because of her. She argues it’s her only mistake and asks for a chance to make up for it, grimacing when he says that’s why she’s in prison. Kook-hwan warns her not to mess up again.
Waving him off, Chan-mi promises to wrap things up on time without going overboard. Instead, she asks if her new team is trustworthy, sniffing someone lied to their boss she took a bribe to let Michael go. She assumes it wasn’t Kook-hwan and he says the team will be fine as long as she behaves. Chan-mi cheerily agrees, but her excitement fades when she walks into the meeting to find her new team.
High-fiving Mi-soon, Chan-mi turns her gaze to Ye-eun, balking at her lack of experience. She asks if Kook-hwan is trying to ensure she fails and Kook-hwan smiles that’s why Deputy Head Geun recommended her. Gwan-soo finally speaks, warning Chan-mi she isn’t a team leader anymore and he’ll kick her out if she acts up. She agrees he does as he says: “You were like that when we broke up.”
Gwan-soo winces but Chan-mi points out everyone talks behind their backs, anyway. He accuses her of only caring for herself and thinking she’s the best. Chan-mi easily agrees, adding she went to prison alone because she’s so good. Mi-soon breaks the tension for food but when Gwan-soo and Chan-mi cross paths in the hall, she stops him to demand what he’ll do if she teams up with Michael.
“I was dismissed because our bosses wanted to save face,” Chan-mi says, “But I doubt anyone trusts me anymore.” Gwan-soo says no one knows because it’s confidential, but he never believed Chan-mi would do something like that – she may get out of control, but she never crosses the line. In the ladies’ room, Ye-eun asks why Chan-mi went to prison and Mi-soon replies Chan-mi didn’t do anything wrong – she was undercover.
Mi-soon warns Ye-eun to brace herself and leaves as Chan-mi enters. Ye-eun promises to try her best but Chan-mi waves her off, saying she won’t have time to teach her in the field and trying her best won’t bring back the dead. She orders Ye-eun to bring 100 shooting papers by next week as well as join her at the gym every morning. Ye-eun says morning is difficult because of her child, so Chan-mi switches to evening and sweeps out of the room.
PART 2: “Three years ago”
While at the playground with her daughter, Ye-eun is bullied by another pair of moms, throwing thinly veiled jabs that it’s a shame she’s too busy to come to the indoor playground because of work and all the dads will be there. Ye-eun tries to keep a smile even as the catty moms walk away giggling. That night, she promises to take So-hui to the playground next time and flashes back to looking at the sonogram with the father we’ll later identify as KWON MIN-SEOK (Sung Hyuk).
Grinning at the photo, Min-seok had wished to meet their baby soon, vowing to be the coolest dad. He admitted he’d always been jealous of kids with dads and despite his excitement, Min-seok felt anxiety over losing the only family he’d known. Snuggling closer, Ye-eun promised to stay with him forever. “Let’s get married as soon as I finish this job,” Min-seok proposed, but Ye-eun reminded him he’d wanted to keep their relationship a secret until the mission was over.
Ye-eun reports to Chan-mi at the gym but is painfully outmatched when they spar. Chan-mi knocks her to the ground repeatedly until Ye-eun shouts: “I give up!” Sighing, Chan-mi calls her physically and mentally weak and Ye-eun cries that she works for NIS to make a living, not for civic duty like Chan-mi. With a smirk, Chan-mi corrects that she works here for fun. She helps Ye-eun to her feet… and then knocks her down, warning her to keep on her toes.
In the NIS Martyrdom Hall, Chan-mi stares up at the list of names and flashes back to the fateful mission 3 years ago. At a theme park in Busan, Chan-mi tells her team to stay alert. Mi-soon arrives in the dress, chattering loudly in Mandarin as Tae-hee slips her a note on a ticket. While looking for her location, she knocks into Min-seok and he texts Ye-eun, asking if she wants him to pick up anything on his way home.
She says there’s something she wants to hear, rather than eat but Min-seok can’t bring himself to send an “I love you message.” Ye-eun tuts that he still can’t say it, before gripping her stomach and collapsing in pain. Acting as a tour guide, Chan-mi points Mi-soon in the direction of her post while Ye-eun begs the paramedic to text Min-seok. The text he receives, however, is from an unknown number: “2 o’clock, blue scarf.”
Mi-soon finds the ladies’ toilet but just as she’s about to go in, a man yanks her back demanding to go first. She points out this is the women’s but he nods at the “out of order” sign in front of the men’s and barks at her to leave before he hits her. He enters and Mi-soon moves the sign in front of the women’s, glancing around before following him inside. The man continues acting tough until Mi-soon gags him with paper towels and slams his face into the sink. She kicks him into a stall and asks if he understands how badly she needs to use the restroom.
Nodding furiously, the man runs out whimpering. Mi-soon opens a panel and plugs a cord into the computer concealed in her luggage. The screen blinks with security footage of the park and she announces “I’m in” into her earpiece. Chan-mi is following behind Min-seok and orders everyone to say at their posts and shout if they see Michael. Min-seok crashes into a blind man, but after he helps him to his feet, the man removes his glasses and stares after him.
Min-seok continues to chase the blue scarf, and just when he loses him, a pipe comes down on his head. It’s the blue-scarfed man (the same blue scarf we saw on the ship) and he grabs the memory card from Min-seok’s pocket before stomping on Min-seok’s transmitter. Mi-soon reports the loss of transmission and Chan-mi finds Min-seok just as the blue-scarf man walks away. “He took it,” Min-seok wheezes, “Blue scarf…”
Chan-mi calls Tae-hee to watch the tower elevator, but when the doors open on Chan-mi, they realize he gave them the slip. From the window, she sees the man darting through the crowd and runs out to a vertical zipline attraction. Without pausing to strap herself in, Chan-mi grabs the harness and jumps.
She literally hits the ground running and reaches the park’s entrance just as the man zooms away on a motorcycle. The agent in the taxi is reluctant to follow as they’d been ordered to stand down, so Chan-mi kicks him out and speeds after the bike. Mi-soon races after her while Kook-hwan, furious Chan-mi ignored orders, barks at the team to track her. The high-speed chase ends at a warehouse and Chan-mi races inside.
When she sees a shadowy figure, Chan-mi tackles it… but it’s only Min-seok, who’d followed after her. Noticing movement behind her, Min-seok manages to shove Chan-mi out of the way and takes a bullet to the abdomen. He collapses and the shooter runs. Chan-mi places Min-seok’s hands over his wound and gives chase, as Min-seok weakly calls after her.
Ye-eun gives birth to So-hui and as he bleeds out, Min-seok finally receives the text messages from Ye-eun, smiling down at the photo of her and the baby. He goes limp just as Ye-eun receives his response: “I love you.” Mi-soon arrives at the warehouse and it’s the scene from her original flashback as she cries for him to hold on.
Chan-mi catches the scarfed man as he’s leaping a fence and screams. Aiming her gun, she starts to declare his arrest, but in her rage, she shoots instead. Kook-hwan appears just as she fires, grabbing her arm so the bullet only hits the man’s shoulder. The man runs away as Kook-hwan wrestles with Chan-mi, shouting there are civilians watching. Chan-mi screams in anguish as the man escapes.
Ye-eun’s phone calls go unanswered as a medical team attempts to revive Min-seok. He’s pronounced dead just as Chan-mi, Mi-soon, and Tae-hee arrive. Wracked with grief, Chan-mi has to be pulled off his body by the other two women.
In the present, Chan-mi grips Min-seok’s ring – the couple-ring he shared with Ye-eun – and vows to catch the one who killed him and make them bow before him. The next day, Chan-mi, Ye-eun, and Mi-soon step out of a surveillance van while inside Gwan-soo warns them if one person messes up, they’re all doomed.
Epilogue – Kook-hwan sits across from a woman as she flips through Chan-mi, Ye-eun, and Mi-soon’s files, telling her they’re going undercover at Il Kwang Hitech.
I’m not sure how I feel about Good Casting just yet. I love a female-centric plot and so far, I like our spy trio, but I’m most interested in seeing how they interact. I’d been expecting it to be quirkier and I’m hoping that with the backstory and introductions out of the way, we’ll get more of that because frankly, action is a touchy genre. Flying kicks and badass women are my jam, but even the best choreographed fight scenes grow tedious if dragged out too long. It might be my short attention span, but I can only handle so much acrobatics before I want to hit the skip button.
The epilogue was strange because they gave us this big reveal with the woman… but I don’t know who she is? The only person who looked even vaguely similar was one of the prison gang… If I missed something, feel free to chew me out in the comments, y’all, but since this wasn’t an easy connection, that landed a little funny. The exchange did seem to confirm my suspicions that Kook-hwan is shady. When Chan-mi said he couldn’t have been the one to spread rumors about her accepting bribes, he looked a little funny. Not to mention, the shooting incident. His argument about civilians being present makes sense why he wouldn’t let her kill the suspect, but something just smelled fishy.
I could be wrong, and I’ll admit my conspiracy brain was on hyperdrive throughout the episode. I’m not convinced the man they were chasing at the theme park was the elusive Michael. In fact, I could argue Min-seok is actually Michael. He’s too sweet and that would be the most heartbreaking twist, would it not? We saw him die, so there isn’t much foundation but any good criminal mastermind knows how to fake that. The text he’d received was bizarre and then for him to show up at the warehouse without Chan-mi seeing… Another oddity is the “blind” man Min-seok picked up had the same M tattooed on his wrist as was on the bomb that blew up the ship. But then there’s still the scarf. Hopefully next episode has more answers.