Fly Dragon: Episode 1
A strong start to what seems like a fun underdog story of two rags-to-riches characters who fight for justice. The show unabashedly roots for our heroes as they beat all the odds and prove to the world that credentials don’t prove everything. With a strong cast, zippy dialogue, and a slight oddball humor, Fly Dragon may hit the spot for those looking for their next legal comedy.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
December, 2009. The police and forensic team surround a high school field and carefully uncover a dead body buried in the snow. Flash forward ten years to May of 2020, the case of the murdered schoolgirl is on retrial. The prosecution accuses Defendant Kim for retracting his confession because of his “stray cat” nature, and the defense attorney, PARK TAE-YONG (Kwon Sang-woo) interrupts the proceedings to scream at his opponent.
Contrary to the initial introduction, Tae-yong resumes the rest of the trial in a calm and levelheaded manner as he presents two additional pieces of crucial evidence. First, a record of the evening’s snowfall, and second, a security video footage of the defendant drinking outside a convenience store during the time he initial confessed to moving the body.
The prosecution objects, citing how the defendant could have moved the body earlier, but Tae-yong came prepared. He submits the school’s study hall timetable which shows students staying until 10pm, making it unlikely that the defendant moved the body earlier without detection. Fourteen days later, the court renders their verdict: not guilty.
For the first time in history, the courts have overturned a conviction, and Tae-yong and his crew cheer when they hear the news. Celebrating their history-making win, employee and fellow lawyer, KIM KANG-WOO (Hong Hee-won), asks if he’ll finally get his paycheck, and Tae-yong brushes it off since that’ll be chump change to them now. Stuck in traffic, Tae-yong tells his paralegal to use the bus-only lane, and he happily agrees… by pretending to accelerate. Even if they’re stars, they can’t break the law. Pfft.
Tae-yong holds a press conference in his office, and he stumbles with Defendant Kim as they try to sit down (heh). Going on a tangent, Tae-yong describes his mom’s dream about a train that flew into the sky and turned into a dragon. Though he was a public defender making 300,000 won (roughly $264) per case and a high school graduate with few clients, Tae-yong never lost faith in his mom’s dream.
A reporter asks Defendant Kim why he falsely confessed ten years ago, and the defendant tells them that the police forced him to confess. The only person who believed him was Tae-yong, and playing up the moment for the cameras, Tae-yong hugs the defendant. However, more than the cop, Defendant Kim tells the reporters that he’s angry at Judge Jo.
Cut to Supreme Court Justice JO KI-SOO (Jo Sung-ha). He bows over the phone to (former Prosecutor General and Minister of Justice) Legislator KIM HYUNG-CHOON (Kim Gab-soo) who called him about the position for chief justice.
Legislator Kim says that he was considering Justice Jo as a potential nominee, and casually mentions the overturned verdict in today’s retrial. He believes that they shouldn’t let this slide since granting more retrials will destabilize the legal system and eventually destroy the country. If Legislator Kim’s shadiness wasn’t obvious enough, he makes a few more calls to the other justices, promising them the same thing.
Despite overdue paychecks and loans, Tae-yong treats his team to beef since he’s bound to be swimming in money soon. After their meal, he nods towards a room filled with judges and a table of prosecutors. Ignoring his paralegal’s pleading look, Tae-yong pays for both tables, too.
In his office, Tae-yong cheers when his name hits the top trending spot, and continuing the good steak, a guest drops by. Unfortunately, the guest is a sweaty, middle-aged man and not a rich client as Tae-yong was hoping.
Despite his obvious disappointment, Tae-yong sits down with the man and asks if he hit someone or stole something. Alas, the guest is Reporter PARK SAM-SOO (Bae Sung-woo) from News and New. Suddenly, Tae-yong is very busy with work, and Sam-soo gets the hint and leaves.
Sam-soo’s superior, Chief Shin, chews him out for coming back empty-handed, but Sam-soo has a better story for her: a case of a middle schooler strangling her father to death. His idea gets panned, but he convinces her to trust him.
He asks for an assistant, so Chief Shin offers him the closest new male recruit. Sam-soo immediately complains since two-scary men won’t work, and Chief Shin sighs as she calls for another new reporter, LEE YOO-KYUNG (Kim Joo-hyun).
Talking a mile a minute, Sam-soo points out her inappropriate shoes and takes a detour to buy Yoo-kyung a pair of hiking shoes. Though they’re unstylish, she thanks him for the expensive gift, especially since he wears cheap ones.
As they hail a taxi, Sam-soo quizzes Yoo-kyung about their first destination, and she guesses the police station since they don’t know the student’s identity. Sam-soo scolds her for coming unprepared and tells her the student’s name, grade, and school, which were all revealed in online petitions. Once they arrive at the school, Sam-soo sends Yoo-kyung inside by herself while he waits at the beach.
At Tae-yong’s office, clients overfill the small space as he predicted, but not in the way he imagined. Word of his cheap legal fee spread fast, and people in difficult situations have come from far and wide. To make matters worse, Tae-yong’s only rich client fires him because he’s a high school graduate, and Tae-yong wonders if he misspoke in his press conference.
After her interviews, Yoo-kyung calls Sam-soo in tears, but hearing him slurp noodles on the other end turns her sadness to anger in a heartbeat. She yells at him for eating in this situation, but he just chuckles and tells her to get the poor student out of jail.
Salvaging what they can, Tae-yong and his team counsel the many clients at his doorstep, and a reporter covers the scene, explaining that Tae-yong is offering free legal consultation. Tae-yong interrupts the segment, emphasizing the fact that it’s not free.
Meanwhile, Sam-soo and Yoo-kyung visit the student’s home in hopes of meeting her grandmother. When they arrive, Sam-soo notices a door, and it triggers a traumatic memory from his childhood. Yoo-kyung asks if he’s alright, and Sam-soo acts like he’s fine, though he clearly looks shaken.
After their long day, Tae-yong and his team can barely keep their eyes open as they count their earnings. They sigh over the paltry sum since even this was a lot for many of their clients. As they try to rest, a man pokes his head into the office.
Back at the student’s house, the grandmother recalls the fateful night: her drunk son was choking her husband, and in order to stop him, her granddaughter choked him. She says that she’s living in hell, and neither reporter knows how to respond.
Sam-soo asks if they can see the student’s room, so the grandmother shows them to the door from earlier. Hearing the doorknob turn, Sam-soo winces as memories of his past come flooding back: Little Sam-soo opened the door and cried for his mom as he saw someone stand over a bloody body. While Yoo-kyung takes photos of the room, Sam-soo finds a diary and gets permission to borrow it.
Three men walk into Tae-yong’s office, claiming that they’ve also been falsely accused of murder. The man in the middle acts as the spokesperson since the other two have developmental disorders, and he asks Tae-yong if he’s heard of the Samjung three-man murder.
As Sam-soo and Yoo-kyung leave the house, the grandmother hands the reporters a few old apples as thanks. While they walk, Sam-soo coaches Yoo-kyung on the basics of reporting and chomps on an apple. She asks if it’s good, so he hands her the other one, assuring her that she won’t die. As soon as she takes a bite, Sam-soo jokes that he was lying. Heh.
The next day, Sam-soo reads over Yoo-kyung’s article and gives it his stamp of approval. Though he gives her the exclusive, she wants his name on the article, too, since he basically spoon-fed her the story. After he sends her away, he reads the diary and weeps, but Yoo-kyung catches him crying and teases him for being a big old softie. As Sam-soo promised his chief, their article becomes a huge hit.
Tae-yong’s office is bustling the next day as well, and the crowds have caused some problems for the other building occupants. A neighboring lawyer complains to Tae-yong for his smelly clients, so Tae-yong responds by treating everyone to lunch to “stink up” the entire building.
Sam-soo smiles as Chief Shin congratulates him on the exclusive, but she sees through his tricks and guesses that he used the student’s diary without permission. He hardly registers the warning and asks about his bonus. She hands him the company card and tells him to treat the newbies.
The new recruits ask Sam-soo why his article got so much attention, so he tells them that it’s because he’s a good reporter. Jokes aside, Sam-soo explains how all the articles simply regurgitated police briefings, and no one bothered to investigate the case.
He advises them to always go to the site, listen, and write in detail. However, he doesn’t think any of them are cut out for the job since you have to be born a good reporter. He points out the new recruits’ prestigious educational and economic backgrounds which contrasts with his own lack of sparkly credentials and money.
Since they don’t have stories of their own, he claims that they can’t write other people’s stories as well. One of the recruits asks why he loves murder cases, then, mentioning his most popular article about a wife who killed her husband. Sam-soo doesn’t get to answer as the topic gets off track when Yoo-kyung calls him a pervert.
After a company meeting, CEO Moon calls Chief Shin over and asks to borrow Sam-soo for a couple of months. The mayor of Seoul is looking for a ghostwriter for his autobiography since he’s running for president, and the company could benefit from getting on his good side.
Sam-soo joins a dinner for prosecutors and reporters in Seoul, and the head honcho, Prosecutor JANG YOON-SUK (Jung Woong-in), strolls in late. While they eat, Prosecutor Jang reads over the reporters’ profiles and comments on the lack of Seoul University graduates. However, one particular resume catches his eye: Sam-soo.
He jokes about having one “S” university alumnus and calls Sam-soo to his side. He mocks Sam-soo for graduating from Soocheon University and laughs even harder when he learns that Sam-soo took a gap year. Sam-soo cheerily replies, “Documents don’t lie. Only people do.”
Still laughing at Sam-soo’s expense, Prosecutor Jang pinches the reporter’s cheeks and parodies the movie Friend. With a smile, Sam-soo chuckles, “This bastard talks too much.” He pulls the prosecutor to the floor and gets in a hit before the others stop him.
The next day, Sam-soo pays the head prosecutor a visit and immediately drops to his knees, apologizing for last night’s behavior. Prosecutor Jang bops him on the head and tells him to sit. Pointing to his busted lip, the prosecutor says that they’re even now and hands Sam-soo an envelope from his boss. All the other reporters received one, and Sam-soo gently nudges the envelope. They play a game of “will he take it or will he not” and it seems that Sam-soo declined (or did he?).
Chief Shin treats Sam-soo to breakfast and yells at him for kneeling before the prosecutor. She asks if he has no pride, and he tells her that he doesn’t. Unlike her, he can’t afford such luxuries, so she tells him to use his talents to “massage the hearts” of the rich instead of the poor.
Unlike their earlier beef party, Tae-yong treats his team to pork, and they worry about their future. He shares a story about his father who ran a funeral home, and we see little Tae-yong helping his father make paper carnations for those who couldn’t afford real ones. His father told him that those who earn their keep from others’ tragedies needed to work with sincerity, but back then, Tae-yong just wanted to play.
With four months of rent due, Tae-yong accompanies a senior lawyer to meet with a former chief judge and chief prosecutor as potential sponsors. When they hear that he’s a high school graduate who only came in 976th (out of 1000) during his training, they call him “too high risk.” Returning to his office defeated, Tae-yong notices the documents about the three-man murder case and starts anew.
A woman scrambles up the stairs and hides in her apartment. She calls Sam-soo and asks for his help since she keeps hearing the murderer’s voice. He doesn’t believe her at first, but when she keeps insisting, he starts to take her seriously. However, CEO Moon comes by, and Sam-soo promises to call her back.
In his car, CEO Moon reminisces about their first meeting and thanks Sam-soo for proving his intuition correct. This time, he needs Sam-soo’s help and tells him about the mayor’s autobiography. While Sam-soo tries on a new suit, CEO Moon explains that they need a plot in Techno Town—the land the mayor is selling.
Sam-soo isn’t too keen on hanging out with the mayor, but CEO Moon tells him that his sacrifice will help others. He places a new pair of dress shoes in front of Sam-soo and tells him that it’s time for him to become an editor as well. At that, Sam-soo accepts the assignment, and CEO Moon throws away his old shoes.
Sam-soo and CEO Moon meet with Seoul Mayor KANG CHUL-WOO (Kim Eung-soo) and talk about his upcoming autobiography, The Legend of the Desert. Mayor Kang asks about Sam-soo’s schooling, and CEO Moon interjects, saying that he graduated from “S” university.
When asked about his family, Sam-soo says that his father owned a bosintang (dog meat soup) restaurant, and the mayor notes their similar rags-to-riches stories. Though Sam-soo smiles during the meal, afterwards, he scoffs at the rest of the mayor’s story, which includes fraud, malpractice, embezzlement, and DUI.
Yoo-kyung sees Sam-soo in his new suit, and naturally assumes he’s dressed for a funeral. Sam-soo scolds her for not keeping up with the times but compliments her on still wearing the shoes. He then teases her about washing them since they stink, and Yoo-kyung frowns, calling him smelly.
At his desk, Sam-soo grimaces as he remembers the woman he forgot to call back, but despite being a day late, she is more than eager to talk to him. Ms. Choi claims that the murderers from the Samjung three-man murder were never caught and has proof to back it up.
Meanwhile, Tae-yong is also working on the three-man murder case, but when he tells his team the plan, they share their own news: they’re quitting. Lawyer Kim is moving to the biggest law firm in the country, and Tae-yong congratulates him.
Later that night, Tae-yong meets with Defendant Kim who takes him to his rundown apartment. He lends Tae-yong a large sum of money, and despite the odd situation, he’s more than happy to help the man who believed him when no one else did. They laugh at themselves until a drunk neighbor yells at them to be quiet. Heh.
Ms. Choi drops by Sam-soo’s desk to hand him the tape, and Sam-soo calls over Yoo-kyung to find a cassette player. Continuing their conversation, Ms. Choi explains that she ordered rice cakes for her new restaurant, but when the delivery person arrived, she instantly recognized his voice as the murderer’s. She insists that the murderers are still out there, and the prosecution caught the wrong people.
That night, Sam-soo reads over the case files and sees that the presiding judge is Justice Jo and the prosecutor was Jang Yoon-suk. Scowling, Sam-soo says that they’re all dead and calls Yoo-kyung about the cassette player. However, he realizes that she stole the tape and warns her not to listen.
Yoo-kyung brings over the tape and player to Sam-soo the next day and admits to listening to the tape. She heard three men confessing as well as the prosecutor, and Sam-soo plugs in his earbuds to listen.
After closing his old firm and moving into a new office, Tae-yong gets right into work with the three-man murder case, not willing to roll over and die just yet. As he reads over the files, the scene cuts to Sam-soo who looks alarmed by the contents of the recording.
Vowing to get these jerks, Sam-soo carries the files into CEO Moon’s office and passes on the mayor’s assignment. He slams the papers on the table and promises to build him a building with this. Likewise, Tae-yong throws the case files down and points to his invisible enemies, swearing that he’ll kill them all.
With a cast populated by heavy hitters, I will admit that the actors were the biggest draw for me, and I’m happy to announce that they haven’t let me down. I love how everyone is so expressive in their roles, and there aren’t any noticeable weak links so far. The comedic timing is good, and it’s fun to see the actors bounce off each other to pull off jokes and scenes. As for the main trio, all of them seem like interesting characters who are easy to root for, and though they haven’t all met, I’m looking forward to the camaraderie that’s bound to happen.
As one of the titular heroes, Tae-yong is a passionate, albeit hotheaded, attorney who’s come from nothing to make a name of himself. While he dreams of becoming a millionaire and doesn’t seem to have any qualms about serving the rich, he’s ultimately a kind person who can’t ignore an outstretched hand asking for help. The role of Tae-yong really plays to Kwon Sang-woo’s strength, showcasing the actor’s natural energy and charm. The other rags-to-riches success story is Sam-soo, but like Tae-yong, he knows that reaching the top of one mountain only means there are higher peaks ahead. Bae Sung-woo is a hoot, and he perfectly captures Sam-soo’s mischievousness and grumpiness along with his more hidden tender side. At times he feels like a goof, but behind his shabby appearance is a sharp and compassionate mind.
Though the show has two main characters, I really think the story is about a trio (or at the very least, this episode was). Finishing off the triangle is Kim Joo-hyun who has less credits to her name but held her ground as the spunky and forthright reporter. Yoo-kyung is relatively green compared to the others, but she doesn’t let her inexperience deter her from speaking her mind. She wears her emotions on her sleeves, and I love how open she is to her new experiences and genuinely listens to Sam-soo’s advice, even if they’re couched in jokes.
While the episode only had a sprinkling of the “bad guys” here and there, I like the direction the show is hinting at with these characters. There’s clearly a larger conspiracy going on, but it doesn’t necessarily feel shadowy or all-powerful. With the few bad people we have been introduced to, they don’t feel outright evil in the cartoonish sense. Prosecutor Jang is a jerk, but he knows how to come across as reasonable and, dare I say, almost personable. His behavior at the dinner was uncalled for, but afterwards, he lets the incident go without much hullabaloo. He clearly abuses his power but doesn’t flaunt it in every occasion. Similarly, Mayor Kang is human trash, but there’s a part of his story that feels almost admirable. He’s also a rags-to-riches case (if you believe him, that is), and he presents himself as a good person. Thus, the bad guys probably don’t know that they’re the evil ones, and will laugh jovially with the main characters, unaware of the fact that our heroes won’t buy their lies for even a second. They might smile and play along for now, but when the chance emerges, they’ll strike at their enemies with everything they have.
The opening episode mainly focused on introducing its main trio and the world they inhabit. It was less about an overarching plot, but I enjoyed the dive into these characters and their work. Despite only having an hour, it feels like I already know so much about this world, and part of the familiarity comes from the fact that the story, itself, follows a well-worn path. However, the show doesn’t feel stale. Maybe it’s thanks to the writer who’s penning his first drama or maybe the credit is due to the director who’s very familiar with this genre. More likely, it’s a combination of the two—the synergy that comes from a veteran hand working with a newbie to bring a fresh air to a tried-and-true story. Overall, I’m looking forward to what Fly Dragon has in store, and at the very least, I know it’ll be a well-acted show.
- Fighting the odds, Bae Sung-woo and Kwon Sang-woo pair up in legal comedy Fly Dragon
- Premiere Watch: Kairos, Penthouse, Fly Dragon
- Kwon Sang-woo, Bae Sung-woo fight corruption in Fly From Rags to Riches
- Script Reading for SBS’s Fly From Rags to Riches with Kwon Sang-woo, Bae Sung-woo, and Jung Woong-in
- Kwon Sang-woo, Bae Sung-woo form partnership for Fly From Rags to Riches