One Ordinary Day: Episode 1 (Review)
It might be called One Ordinary Day, but there’s actually nothing ordinary about the events we see play out in the first episode of our drama. It’s fast-paced and electric, and I don’t think I blinked once. And with that, Coupang Play bursts out of the gate with their first TV production.
Note: This is an opening week review only.
EPISODE 1 REVIEW
It only takes a few minutes of One Ordinary Day to realize that Coupang Play isn’t going to be holding back in their K-drama productions. More akin to what we’d expect from Netflix than tvN, it seems the days of the fluffy, sun-drenched telenovela-esque K-dramas are drawing to a close, and being replaced with high-caliber and mature productions like this one. It’s not that I’m sorry to see a riveting story, great cast, and film-like production value brought to dramaland, it’s just that every time a new content player brings something new to the table, it’s more edgy and less… K-drama?
Brief mourning period aside, this drama is wow, just from a critical standpoint. It sucks you right in from the start — and buckle up, because it’s full steam ahead. In the first twenty minutes of the drama, we meet our unfortunate hero KIM HYUN-SOO (Kim Soo-hyun), and see the “ordinary day” that unfolds into an absolute nightmare.
What the story does best — and what makes it so terrifying — is the look at how easy it is to get in a horrible situation without realizing it until you’re neck deep. And the night we first meet Hyun-soo, we see him make a string of decisions that have dire results. But what makes your hair stand on end is the fact that it’s not the seemingly meaningless decisions themselves, but how they can stack up into incriminating evidence.
Hyun-soo’s first bad move that night is to “borrow” his father’s taxi to go meet his friends from college who are partying it up. It just so happens that his group project is cancelled. It just so happens that his father isn’t out driving that night. It just so happens that he flips off the blackbox. That he takes a wrong turn off the road. That a girl hops into the back of the taxi thinking it’s in service. And just like that, piece by piece, everything goes wrong.
The girl is HONG KOOK-HWA (Hwang Se-on), and she’s obviously trouble with a capital T. But, she’s also gorgeous and mysterious, and Hyun-soo is absolutely caught in her web. He buys her alcohol and cigarettes at the gas station, he steals ice cream from a truck with her, and then, he even takes a random pill she offers him.
It only gets worse when Hyun-soo drives her back to her house. The house is cold and empty and features photographs of women in lace lingerie in her kitchen – surely a bit of a warning sign? The two drink and drug themselves to abandon, and Kook-hwa is so absolutely disturbed that she’s actually turned on when she “tricks” Hyun-soo into stabbing her hand with the knife they’ve been using to cut limes for their shots. The alarms are going off at maximum volume in my head, but poor Hyun-soo is a college-aged boy who’s basically blinded by sexual desire at this point.
Kim Soo-hyun is an absolute live wire here — what a fantastic, and gut-wrenching performance. We agonize while Hyun-soo makes a string of idiotic decisions, but we also share each of his emotions with him, from the waffling right before he makes a poor decision, to the thirst for conquest when a gorgeous girl comes on to him, to the terror and panic when the night ends in absolute horror.
After they have sex, Hyun-soo wakes up, finds his clothes, and plans to head out. Perhaps he realizes all his rash decisions are about to circle back on him. But as he soon learns, a stolen taxi is something entirely different from a woman stabbed a dozen times in her bed.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen sheer, unbridled panic so well-portrayed as when Hyun-soo realizes what has happened and that he has to get the hell out of there. Then the reality sinks in: how everything in that house points to him as the murderer. And then, in response, he’s fueled by that adrenaline and makes a dozen more terrible decisions, like stealing the knife from the kitchen.
The story in itself is harrowing and full of adrenal panic, but it’s also an amazing examination of cause and effect. Hyun-soo soon finds himself in police custody (that in itself is another nail-biting section of the story), and the case looks like it wrote itself. He couldn’t look more guilty. Even his hysterical cries of innocence look guilty.
This is when our other main character appears on the scene — the greasy lawyer SHIN JOONG-HAN (Cha Seung-won). He’s nosing around the precinct for his next case, and the “kid that looks like an idol” catches his eye. He’s immediately skeptical that a kid so good-looking actually committed rape and murder, and a few scenes later he’s in Hyun-soo’s holding cell shaking hands with him.
After setting up our crime and our players, the drama that lies ahead will likely be fascinating — I’m imagining a deep investigation of everything that Hyun-soo remembers and the two of them trying to piece together what went wrong. Because really, what’s happened is a string of evidence that looks one way from the outside, but is in fact something else entirely.
That is, of course, if we believe that Hyun-soo is innocent. That’s the other great stroke of the drama — we don’t actually know if he is. He seems like a normal enough dude, and not a malicious killer, but we don’t really know him enough to say for certain what he might do, especially when pumped with unknown drugs. There’s also a few hours in the story (between the sex and the wakeup) that we know nothing about. So there’s that layer too, and it’s very skin-crawly!
I have some theories about what actually happened, and that’s that Kook-hwa was somehow in on it. There’s the witness who was parked outside her house that saw both her and Hyun-soo earlier that night. My gut tells me he’s the killer, and that he and Kook-hwa masterminded this whole thing — with all the bits of evidence and black spots in the story that they knew would work to their advantage. Of course, this presupposes that Kook-hwa was deranged, and that they would be able to predict Hyun-soo’s behavior, so I might be off the mark. (Also, this theory doesn’t take into account how the story capitalizes on all these little random and unpredictable details actually becoming incriminating evidence.)
As curious and excited as I am to see how this story plays out, I don’t know if I’ll be sticking around as the mystery unravels. The drama was fantastically done, and I can barely find reason to critique it, but the story itself is not for me — man, there’s no reason to get this stressed while watching a drama! I practically needed Hyun-soo’s inhaler after watching. But, in the end, perhaps that’s a testament to how well the story is told. Coupang Play, color me impressed.
- Premiere Watch: School 2021, One Ordinary Day
- Kim Soo-hyun remembers One Ordinary Day in new teaser with Cha Seung-won
- Cha Seung-won fights to clear Kim Soo-hyun’s name in One Ordinary Day
- Lee Seol confirmed for new drama alongside Cha Seung-won and Kim Soo-hyun
- Kim Soo-hyun confirms next project with Cha Seung-won