My Roommate Is a Gumiho: Episodes 1-2 (Review)
Fluffy gumihos, fox beads, barf, and teleportation — oh my! I wasn’t sure the tone this drama would take, but its opening week was as fluffy and silly as our hero’s many tails. Rather than take itself too seriously, My Roommate Is a Gumiho goes all in with its somewhat ridiculous premise, comedic antics, and fun stylized moments. In short, it’s pretty watchable.
Note: Coverage will continue with weecaps.
EPISODES 1-2 REVIEW
I do love a drama that jumps all in and gives 110%, and I think that’s what sold me the most about the opening week of My Roommate Is a Gumiho. The drama wastes no time getting right to the point. It tells its story in a playful way, but by the end of the first episode, our characters and their “frightening cohabitation” (to reference the drama’s literal title) are already explained and set in motion.
We first learn about our 999-year-old gumiho hero SHIN WOO-YEO (Jang Ki-yong). A quick montage of his life in the Joseon era through the centuries, all the way to present day Seoul, tells us all we need to know about him. It’s as utilitarian as you get as a storytelling mechanism, but it’s also just enough detail to characterize him for us: he’s smooth, sexy, enigmatic — and has been passing off his bead for centuries to beautiful women, trying to become human.
However, in Woo-yeo’s own words, the longer you live, the more detached you become, so there’s a hint of that in his character as well. People, relationships, eras — everything comes and goes. It’s not as much about nihilism as it is the fact that his extremely long existence has given Woo-yeo this almost playful aloofness. As we learn about Woo-yeo and see him in action, I couldn’t help but think of Dracula a bit, and some of those quintessential characteristics — luxury, seduction, mystery, danger, and detachment. Oh, and secrets.
However, Woo-yeo doesn’t really keep his secrets long — in fact, he is surprisingly quick to reveal his true identity to our heroine LEE DAM (Hyeri). The two meet by coincidence one night, when Dam is carry-dragging her drunk friend home and he just so happens to projectile vomit on Woo-yeo’s outrageously beautiful car. After a bit of comedic scuffle and save, the fox bead flies from Woo-yeo’s mouth right into Dam’s. And when she wakes up, she’s in his domain.
Woo-yeo is swift to come up with the cohabitation scheme. He matter-of-factly tells Dam that he’s a gumiho, tells her she must now protect his bead, and he also shows himself to her in his true form (read: huge, white, and fluffy — kinda like Falkor).
We follow Dam through her stages of terror, outrage, and eventual acceptance. It’s fast, fun, and it really doesn’t matter how buyable it is, because the suspension of disbelief is what this drama is all about.
Funny enough, I don’t think it’s the story itself that’s the strongest part of this drama — rather, the cast brings the story to life, so the story is almost subsidiary to the characters. In other words, I really like the casting here; the fun they’re having is self-evident.
Jang Ki-yong is at his best here (and I’m not just talking about his fabulous hair). Maybe this is a suitable role for him finally? For once, he doesn’t have to be only sexy, or only standoffish and silent. He gets to be both — and also a bit goofy — and it turns out it’s a good combination.
For instance, Woo-yeo will be creepily staring at Hyeri through the window, and then the next second, teleport in front of her with a gentlemanly smile and carry her suitcases for her. Or, in a bit of a reversal (which the drama seems to love), he’ll find her staring at him one night, and then it’s his turn to be spooked.
I’m also really digging Hyeri in this role. Granted, she’s not the most well-rounded of actresses, but she does these utterly artless and comedic characters so well (here’s looking at you Deok-sun!) that the character of Lee Dam feels like it’s actually her. Hyeri has alllll the space to scream, flip out, have her eyes roll back in her head, and ride her emotional rollercoaster. After all, she’s living with a terrifying — and charming — gumiho now, and her everyday college student life has become a wacky inversion of traditional tale of Beauty and the Beast.
Speaking of the cast, we also have a bit of a Start-Up reunion to enjoy here, with Kim Do-wan playing Dam’s bestie, and Kang Hanna as the smoking hot but also kinda dumb YANG HYE-SUN, who is a recent gumiho-turned-human. Hye-sun has had a 700-year friendship with Woo-yeo, and though the two seem to enjoy antagonizing each other, I’m sure there’s more backstory yet to come. In the meantime, Hye-sun is as confused about Woo-yeo’s sudden cohabitation as we are.
But there’s more to that cohabitation than Woo-yeo’s immediate oversight of Dam and his fox bead. Woo-yeo soon reveals that Dam’s very life might be at stake (though he promises to protect her). Additionally, there are complications that Dam didn’t expect: she can’t drink alcohol, eat chicken, or come in contact with any men born in the Year of the Tiger (which is everyone in her class), as these things negatively interact with the bead, and cause her great physical pain.
Believe it or not, I’m buying it all — because it’s fun. Dam comes home in agony, and is restored by a gentle touch from Woo-yeo. Dam intrigues the new playboy on campus, and the more she avoids this Year of the Tiger hotshot, the more he pursues her. (Shoutout to Bae In-hyuk who debuted in the recent web drama XX. I knew he was going places!)
All in all, it was a quick and wild premiere week, but one that set the tone of the drama well. And however madcap My Roommate Is a Gumiho gets in moments, there’s something magical that K-dramas are able to do, taking a crazy premise and making it into a story that’s easy to join for the ride.
After all, a drama with an “every girl” college student in the lead, who just wants to get through her semester and hang out with her friends, is pretty easy to relate to. The mystery of the story, of course, lies in Woo-yeo — what’s the truth around his history and his bead? Why does it seem to behave uniquely while Dam is holding it? Is there something about her we haven’t learned yet? I’m guessing the answer will be yes.
- Premiere Watch: Mad for Each Other, My Roommate Is a Gumiho
- Jang Ki-yong and Hyeri are incompatible roomies in new character teasers for My Roommate Is a Gumiho
- First look at My Roommate Is a Gumiho and a new cast member announced
- Kang Hanna turns into a former gumiho for Frightening Cohabitation
- Kim Do-wan to join Hyeri and Jang Ki-yong in new drama