Vincenzo: Episode 1
The tvN dark comedy Vincenzo starring Song Joong-ki as a mafioso sounded so bonkers that I just had to check it out. Since the story is only beginning to take shape, it’s hard to know what to make of it yet. But I have to say, it’s more coherent than I anticipated. The premiere episode focuses predominantly on setup and introducing the large ensemble of characters central to the story. The wacky premise and cast of characters suggests we could be in for a lot of fun and hijinks. And, of course, there’s Song Joong-ki being all dark and mysterious which doesn’t hurt.
VINCENZO CASSANO (Song Joong-ki) stands staring at a building and proclaims, “My goal is to tear this building down.” We see it crumble to the ground.
72 hours earlier, Vincenzo wakes in Rome and readies for the day. A chyron tells us he’s the consigliere – or legal advisor – for the Cassano mafia family. He’s driven to the heavily guarded mansion of someone named Emilio and presents him an offer from his recently deceased boss Fabio.
It’s less of an offer and more of a threat, really, since Emilio killed a close friend of Vincenzo’s boss Fabio. When Emilio refuses complete with racist remarks, Vincenzo smiles and curses him in Korean before walking off.
During their conversation, a plane has been flying overhead crop dusting. But rather than pesticides, it’s been spraying the grounds with lighter fluid that Vincenzo ignites by tossing his lighter behind him on the way out. The vineyard goes up in flames. Emilio is very angry which we know by his intense gesticulating, grit teeth, and screams to the heavens.
Vincenzo goes straight to Fabio’s funeral where he stares at his open casket, calling him, “Father.” There’s tension between Fabio’s biological son Paolo and Vincenzo with Paolo whining about how his father trusted Vincenzo more. As the new boss, Paolo wants his “brother’s” loyalty which Vincenzo would happily give were he to deserve it. Damn.
That night, three men sneak into Vincenzo’s and shoot several rounds into his bed only to find it empty. Vincenzo strides out of the bathroom, gun raised, and shoots all three dead.
He calls Paolo who’s stunned to hear he’s alive. Aboard a plane, Vincenzo tells him he let him live out of respect for Fabio. He does blow up his car, though. Vincenzo is leaving Italy for good and warns Paolo not to look for him because he’ll kill him next time. On the flight, Vincenzo examines files on Geumga Plaza, a building slated to be demolished due to a conglomerate’s “tyranny.”
Elsewhere, HONG CHA-YOUNG (Jeon Yeo-bin) strongarms a whistleblower with threats of a suit from her client. She literally has him pull laminated bills out of a cake, so it’s safe to say she’s a bit eccentric and, shall we say, spirited. Deed accomplished, she meets up with her bubbly intern JANG JOON-WOO (Taecyeon) at the courthouse.
In court, she argues for a pharmaceutical company the opposition claims is responsible for the deaths of its test trial participants. That whistleblower was a star witness, but she got him to recant, so the trial is adjourned.
Outside, she and the opposing counsel get into a little tiff. It turns out, he’s her father HONG YOO-CHAN (Yoo Jae-myung). They’re not on good terms, and he even accuses her and her client of being like the mafia. She begins crying and begging him to call it quits, worrying this is taking a toll on his health.
He deadpans that she should be an actress so she’d have less chance of hurting people. Cha-young’s crying immediately ceases, and she asserts that he can’t beat her. Her father insists he’ll find a way to disown her, at least.
Meanwhile, Vincenzo arrives in Korea with a plan. He’ll wrap things up within a month and head to Malta. But the big bad mafia consigliere immediately gets swindled by a fake taxi driver who spikes his water.
While he’s out cold, the authorities in charge of Italian organized crime get wind of Vincenzo’s arrival in Korea. Zealous TEAM LEADER AHN (Im Chul-soo) wants to track him, sure he’s here on mafia business, but his superior chastises him for overreacting. Team Leader An petulantly marches out in silent condemnation.
In her office, Cha-young’s celebratory song and dance ode to her own awesomeness is interrupted by her boss ATTORNEY HAN (Jo Han-chul). When he tells her she’s getting a bonus, she sucks up to him by turning on the fake tears of gratitude. Alone, she grumbles at the amount.
Vincenzo wakes up as the pair of swindlers are pilfering his cash and designer products. They knock him out and leave him stranded with only about $50 on him. Dirt on his face, Vincenzo throws a tantrum in Italian and boards a bus where passengers gawk at his handsomeness and pity his disheveled appearance.
He arrives at Geumga Plaza, and we flash back to five years ago in Milan where a friend of Fabio’s had asked for Vincenzo’s help hiding his gold. Vincenzo employed their tried-and-true family method of buying a dilapidated building in Korea (Geumga Plaza) under a friend’s name, making a business front, and hiding the gold in a biometrically-secured, underground saferoom.
Vincenzo meets his friend CHO YOUNG-WOON (Choi Young-joon) who’s been handling his affairs and gets an update on Geumga Plaza. The pharmaceutical company Babel bought up the surrounding shops and has been pressuring Young-woon to sell which he’s refused on Vincenzo’s behalf.
He leads Vincenzo to his new abode which is a far cry from his old life of luxury, which he tries to take in stride. Young-woon has already moved in Vincenzo’s belongings and informs him he’ll set up a meeting with the tenants for the next day.
LEE CHEOL-WOOK (Yang Kyung-won), who had been following Young-woon and Vincenzo, reports back to Yoo-chan and NAM JOO-SUNG (Yoon Byung-hee). They wonder what the man giving off a “handsome movie villain” vibe is doing renting a unit above their law office Jipuragi. Yoo-chan decides they should alert all the tenants.
Most occupants have moved out, but Yoo-chan’s law firm and a handful of other tenants remain. Young-woon gives Vincenzo a tour through the halls where the lights flicker and the roof leaks. With each business they pass, they’re treated to dirty looks and hostility.
Vincenzo is increasingly put off by the uncouth behavior of the tenants and just wants to get to the saferoom. Young-woon had to choose a new tenant for the business directly above it: Nanyak Temple.
Vincenzo smirks to see a Buddhist monk sitting lotus position right atop the entrance to the gold-filled room. One of the monks spots Young-woon and announces that Nanyak Temple has joined the Development Opposition Committee (led by Yoo-chan).
After the monk passive aggressively comments on his dirty suit, Vincenzo heads to the building dry cleaner’s. TAK HONG-SHIK (Choi Deok-moon) laughs off his claim that the suit is rare and expensive, even mistaking the brand name for the similar sounding Korean word for “testicles.” He further frustrates Vincenzo when he says he can’t get it cleaned by the next day.
A crowd of tenants has gathered outside to stare at the newcomer. Yoo-chan approaches Vincenzo and introduces himself. Vincenzo introduces himself likewise as an attorney and confuses everyone with his foreign name.
When they hear he’s from Italy, they boast that CHEF BAEK (Kim Hyung-mook) trained as a chef in Milan. His inability to specify where in Milan he studied makes that claim dubious as does his look of panic when Vincenzo greets him in Italian.
Yoo-chan acts cautious with Vincenzo, guessing that Young-woon brought him there to advise on legal matters about selling the building. None of the tenants believe Young-woon that he won’t sell, but Vincenzo promises to clarify at the meeting the following day.
At his temporary home, Vincenzo struggles with the temperamental shower and about scalds himself to death before collapsing in his bed. Thanks to a noisy, persistent pigeon outside his window, he stays up and reviews a court document for OH KYUNG-JA (Yoon Bok-in), a woman currently serving time.
We flash back to her trial where Vincenzo watched from the gallery. She was a housekeeper accused of attacking and killing her employer Chairman Hwang. Her lawyer sat back while the prosecution tried to use how she’d given her child to an orphanage to smear her character.
She’d lost her cool and yelled that Chairman Hwang had sexually assaulted her and many other women, but no one seemed to care. Now, Vincenzo reads that Yoo-chan has been appointed as her lawyer, but Kyung-ja is refusing a retrial.
The next day, CHOI MYUNG-HEE (Kim Yeo-jin) dances her heart out in the laundromat and brazenly confronts two men who laugh and take pictures of her. Elsewhere, Vincenzo dines at Chef Baek’s restaurant and does not appreciate the food. He haughtily deems it trash and calls Chef Baek a con artist for his claim of studying in Milan.
Vincenzo next heads to the prison, presumedly to see Kyung-ja, but chickens out and leaves without going inside. Yoo-chan arrives right behind him and meets with his client. He visits monthly and has helped Kyung-ja get treatment, although we’re not told what her illness is.
They’re clearly on good terms, but she adamantly refuses to talk to him about a retrial. She seems to be punishing herself, claiming that she’s committed many wrongs in her life.
Yoo-chan intercepts Vincenzo’s meeting with a Babel representative and insists they all go to Jipuragi’s office. The representative is incredulous that their generous offer is being soundly rejected. Vincenzo’s “client” intends to raze the old building and erect a new one, allowing the tenants to keep their lots. When the representative threatens him with the might of Babel, Vincenzo coolly advises him to never threaten him again.
The tenants gather for the meeting where Vincenzo informs them he’s drafting an agreement for them to sign, ensuring they’ll keep their lots. They’re suspicious since Vincenzo isn’t even licensed to practice law in Korea, but they end up voting to trust him and Young-woon.
Yoo-chan remains unconvinced and privately tells Vincenzo he doesn’t trust him “You represent money, but I represent people.” He’s prepared for when they’re betrayed and Babel buys the building; he’d rather Vincenzo honestly go about his business rather than deceive them all with this act.
Young-woon returns to a dark, quiet house that night. As he calls out to his family, he’s struck from behind. Men drag him into the living room where his wife and daughter are being held hostage. A man pulls out a sale contract for Geumga Plaza.
The next day, Cha-young finds a document on her desk. It’s a notice that her father is relinquishing his parental rights due to “ethics violations.” That’s some hardcore disowning. She can’t even reach him since Yoo-chan treats her calls like spam. Elsewhere, the enforcers get Young-woon’s stamp on the contract and leave after the transaction is complete.
Cha-young rushes into her father’s office, demanding to know what he’s trying to do. The family registry system was abolished, so it’s not like he can remove her from his registry. “I can try, can’t I?” he responds. All she can do is laugh, although it sounds a bit unhinged.
Vincenzo, meanwhile, is livid when he finds his precious suit has shrunk and resorts to cursing Hong-shik out in Italian. Hong-shik is unapologetic and blames the suit’s “cheap fabric.” Vincenzo’s tirade is interrupted by the building’s loudspeaker calling everyone outside.
As the tenants head outside, Vincenzo gets an apologetic call from Young-woon who promises to make this right. Before he can explain further, the driver’s side of Young-woon’s car is viciously struck by a Truck of Doom.
In Yoo-chan’s office, Cha-young is still going over the document he sent her detailing that she’s no longer allowed to call him anything meaning “father” and that all childhood photos of them together are to be donated to the Geumga-dong History exhibit. Pfft. Being dramatic obviously runs in the family.
They get in a shouting match about their values and end up agreeing to cut ties. As they yell back and forth, “No, you shouldn’t call me!” Cheol-wook runs in and tells Yoo-chan to hurry outside.
Notices are being posted all over the building about the sale. Flanked by gang-type enforcers, CEO Park from “Ant Company” introduces himself as the chair of the Development Committee and threatens the tenants to peacefully comply.
Yoo-chan isn’t scared to stand up to them and cite the illegality of their actions. When one of the men shoves him hard, Cha-young jumps in and shoves him right back. Ha, even in this situation, Yoo-chan objects when she names herself his only daughter.
Right as things escalate and the man goes to strike Cha-young, Vincenzo makes his dramatic entrance. His request to talk is met with one of the men trying to attack him. Vincenzo quickly and efficiently incapacitates him.
Then, Vincenzo punches CEO Park in the nose. He whips out Hong-shik’s measuring tape he swiped and in a few swift moves, he has CEO Park dangling out the widow by the tape wrapped around his wrist.
He notes CEO Park probably wouldn’t die from a fall of this height unless he’s unlucky and lands on his head. Vincenzo calmly states that he won’t forgive the illegal buying of Geumga Plaza. “I’ll get this building back no matter what.”
Vincenzo smiles coldly while the tenants erupt in cheers. Only Yoo-chan looks concerned by the fact that a lawyer is nonchalantly dangling a man out of a window.
Well, that was a long premiere, although lengthy episodes have become par for the course with tvN, so I shouldn’t be surprised. There was a lot going on, though, and it seems we’ve barely scratched the surface. So far, we’ve only got an outline of how events and characters intersect. Because there were so many characters to introduce, some like laundromat lady Myung-hee remain a mystery for now. I’m assuming she’ll be important later, or else that scene was just a very strange aside. Also, I somehow missed that Taecyeon was in this, so his brief appearance surprised me. This is shaping up to be quite the ensemble drama which I do enjoy, even if the deluge of characters this hour was intense.
One thing that has become apparent is that this writer (Park Jae-bum) has a distinct comedic style. Like in his past works Fiery Priest and Chief Kim, we get an absurd premise, quirky characters, and a playful atmosphere where nothing is taken too seriously. I appreciate how the comedy comes from multiple angles – the ridiculous situations, the characters, and even the music: the romantic swells of violins that died out whenever something didn’t go as planned or how the music mirrored the sputtering shower. He intentionally plays on absurdity and leans into it rather than trying to make things “realistic,” and I think that’s necessary for this type of comedy. We always get at least one truly bizarre and zany character, and Cha-young most definitely fits the bill. I loved Jeon Yeo-bin in Be Melodramatic, so I was looking forward to her performance here, and wow is this a different role! We haven’t even spent that much time with her yet, but she’s already made an impression. Cha-young is hyper and downright weird, and it’s hard to tell who she is under her animated persona. She’s obviously smart and savvy and willing to use whatever tactic gets her a win. I’m curious to find out who she is under the surface.
I like how neither of our leads are “good guys,” so to speak. They’re both unabashedly in it for themselves and willing to get their hands dirty. Although, I’m sure Vincenzo’s are a bit dirtier than Cha-young’s. Despite his politeness and air of elegance, he always seems poised to strike like. Of course, his outbursts show a crack in his suave façade and indicate he doesn’t have it quite as together as he tries to project. My favorite Song Joong-ki drama to date is Nice Guy, so I’m excited to see him in this kind of semi-villain role again. He’s already killed three people, blown up a car, set a vineyard on fire, and dangled someone out of a window, so I’d say he’s safely in antihero territory at a minimum.
All the signs point to Kyung-ja as Vincenzo’s birth mom, and I’m guessing that’ll be his tragic backstory that led to his mafia career. His return to Korea five years prior must’ve been for her trial. It looked like she recognized him at the trial, so either they’ve been in touch or she’s kept tabs on him somehow. Since Yoo-chan is her lawyer, I’m guessing his and Vincenzo’s relationship is going to get a touch more complicated. I love a good reluctant friendship, and we know from Chief Kim that this writer can do those well. I’m looking forward to watching Vincenzo navigate the residents of this chaotic community at Geumga Plaza as he tries to get his gold out from under their noses.