Start-Up: Episodes 3-4 Open Thread
After a strong introduction to our premise, it’s time to learn more about our characters and their goals and dreams — and business plans — when they all converge at a hackathon competition. The interplay between the characters continues to be the highlight of this drama, and for only being in its second week, the story is solid, and the writing literally made me want to jump for joy at certain parts, it’s just that delightful.
EPISODES 3-4 WEECAP
So much ground is covered this week in Start-Up (thanks to its super competent writing, and almost 90-minute episodes) that when you look at where we start at Episode 3 and where we end at Episode 4, you might get whiplash. So, buckle up — here we go!
The networking event that jumpstarted our characters coming together does exactly what everyone intended. Dal-mi is able to put on a show in front of In-jae and her mother, and Do-san fulfills his role cosplaying the penpal of the past, and hotshot start-up CEO of the present. Dal-mi’s bluff is pretty much her own, but Do-san’s successful charade is 90% because he’s got Ji-pyeong helping him out (and 10% of it is sheer heart).
I’m going to make an attempt not to only rave about how great our story and writing is here, but I make no promises, because my first stop is the interactions between Do-san and Ji-pyeong. They are positively golden on the screen together, and their scenes are so well-done that I was pretty much shaking my head through each one. How do they do it? How is each scene packed with so much feeling, humor, and heart?
Whether it’s a scene of really good dialogue, great physical acting from our entire cast (I particularly love our flannel trio fumbling around to set up their fake office), or the sarcastic commentary to come out of onlooker and maestro Ji-pyeong this week — all of it is ten out of ten.
The giant charade that Ji-pyeong and Do-san strung along this week, while definitely a disaster in the making, was so much fun to watch. Their exchanges, Ji-pyeong’s tutelage and tips, and the general comedy is so great. But then it’s also balanced out by the deeper emotions and intentions of each character. I think that’s what I love about this drama the most, and why the plot works so well — it’s so much about everyone’s heartfelt intentions and hopes.
The drama digs even more into our characters’ hopes and dreams when we see them all at Sandbox, entering their names to join the start-up residency program. Again, what a tight piece of writing — we literally watch each of our main players write down their dreams. It’s such a well-embedded moment that we almost don’t realize it’s also Storytelling 101: character + character’s desire for something = plot.
So while the Sandbox wish scene spells it all out for us (literally) in one sense, at the same time it’s a meaningful part of the story, not only in terms of the mechanics, but the emotions. Do-san: “I want to turn a misunderstanding into reality!” In-jae: “I don’t want to be seen as chewed-up gum.” Ji-pyeong: “I want to repay my debt.” And Dal-mi: “I want to take the upper-floor elevator.”
Even though much of Dal-mi’s story this week is her getting tricked by Do-san and Ji-pyeong, we also see a lot of things crystalize for her, as well. After being used and spit out at her job, I’ve never been so happy to see someone resign! Although Dal-mi’s pivot to becoming a business owner was a bit fast, I bought it all, mostly thanks to the very purposeful hook in the story that connects her father’s entrepreneurial streak with hints that the same vision lies within her. (I’m also looking forward to neck pillow CEO making this connection between father and daughter, too!)
Indeed, we’ve seen Dal-mi assess and decision-make her way through K-pop madness at the coffee shop — this and several other details are meant to show us that she has the stuff. She’s a diamond in the rough, and I can’t wait to see the kickass CEO that she can become.
Speaking of diamonds in the rough — so is our little Do-san. And boy is Nam Joo-hyuk nailing this role! From his doofy awkwardness, to his determination, to his adorable crush on Dal-mi, I love everything about him. In contrast to Dal-mi’s business sense, we’ve seen Do-san make some rather poor business decisions (case in point: his MTV-style CODA acceptance video), so it’s already clear how these two could make a strong partnership.
Ji-pyeong was dead-on when he said that Do-san needs a different CEO if his business is going to succeed, and I loved everything about this moment. That Do-san is willing to see and accept it. That his ego doesn’t get in the way of his dreams for his business’ success. That Do-san sees what Dal-mi has to offer as CEO (versus In-jae).
It’s also really fun to see Ji-pyeong get more invested in their plot, their company, and their success. We know how intuitive and smart he is, so it was satisfying to see him recognize the potential in Samsan Tech. Ji-pyeong is harsh and doesn’t even try to sugar coat the truth, but at the same time he also protects our three little developer foundlings again and again. In fact, he might have come to their rescue a bunch of times already, but I didn’t get enough yet, and I’m looking forward to a drama full of these rich character interactions. Each of them is enjoyable, but the winner for me is the Do-san/Ji-pyeong dynamic, with one character who’s led by (literal) logic and thinks like a computer, the other who’s led by intuition and street smarts.
The first layer of cover might be blown as we end Episode 4 (that Do-san is a struggling, not successful, CEO), but the deeper lie is still here — that he’s the penpal from the past. Dal-mi’s graciousness and understanding of Do-san’s lie made me smile — the two understand each other so well, and there was so much cute between them this week.
The bus handhold was adorable, but my favorite was definitely the accidental bookstore meeting, and how the flannel trio worked together to make Do-san presentable. Do-san’s desire to become someone and prove himself is truly touching, especially from a boy who makes sure his father knows he didn’t slam the door on his way out.
If the first week of our drama was to set up its construct, and the second week was for that construct to bring them all together at Sandbox, well, here we are! Everyone has arrived for a different reason, but each reason is meaningful and character-driven.
We’ve even seen a big development for In-jae this week, and I like that now she also has something to prove, instead of just something to show off. I had figured she would be at Sandbox as a mentor, but I like the path we’ve taken so much more — not because I’m dying for a sister face-off, but because it levels the playing field between them.
I’ve focused most on the plot development this week, and the richness of the character dynamics, but I think the element impressing me the most overall is just how every detail of this show is so intentional — and it is a very detailed drama. From the sets, to the dialogue, to the Samsan business cards, endless flannel, and even the boys’ careful attention to their own body language, this drama knows how to take the smallest touch, and make magic out of it.
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