Rookie Cops: Episode 1 (First Impressions)
I imagine most of us who watched Police University went into Rookie Cops expecting something very similar – a lovable, youthful ensemble with big dreams and lots of lessons to learn – and I’d say we weren’t wrong. (I’m not complaining, either.) Although this first episode of Rookie Cops wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, overall it delivered on the cute, fun premise, while promising plenty of heart-tugging emotions along the way.
EPISODE 1 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
I will say, as soon as I pressed play, I had to do a bit of a double-take. The drama opens on a prologue that was much darker than I expected (and much darker than the rest of the episode), wherein we see a man (cameo by Kwak Si-yang) engaged in a bloody fight with what looks like an entire gang. Every time it seems he might get away, more of them show up, and eventually he’s taken out by a Truck of Doom. As he bleeds out in the street, a voiceover tells us everything started with that man’s death.
From there, we jump into the cute, youthful vibes we were promised as we meet our two main characters. In particular, the scenes that feature our main female lead, GO EUN-KANG (Chae Soo-bin), are often sprinkled with whimsical little animations to illustrate her emotions.
After drifting from one life ambition to the next, she’s finally landed on becoming a police officer, at least initially so she can be close to her crush. (Notably, the two of them do seem to be good friends, and he’s very supportive of her aspirations. So it’s not quite as stalkerish as it sounds.)
However, she also views attending the police academy as an escape of sorts — a way for her to break out into a life that’s solely her own. As the younger of two sisters, she always seems to shoulder the blame and the responsibility when things go wrong or there’s extra work to be done.
Our male lead, WIE SEUNG-HYUN (Kang Daniel), on the other hand, seems to be driven more by outside expectations. His father is a famous and decorated officer, and he definitely carries the weight of having to live up to his father’s reputation.
While Seung-hyun’s father tries to keep their relation on the down-low to avoid placing more pressure on him – and says he wants him to choose his own path in life – he’s also pretty absent from Seung-hyun’s life in exchange.
Naturally, Eun-kang and Seung-hyun have an antagonistic first meeting. This meeting happens when Eun-kang’s sister is caught with a new boyfriend just a few days after dumping Seung-hyun’s close friend (whom she dumped right after accepting an expensive handbag from him for her birthday).
The encounter shows us that both Eun-kang and Seung-hyun are fiercely protective: though she disagrees with her sister’s actions and later presses her to return the handbag, Eun-kang defends her sister from the accusations in the moment. And Seung-hyun, who had demanded an apology on his friend’s behalf, immediately steps in when the new boyfriend gets wrist-grabby and belligerent.
When we get to the police academy, we’re introduced to a slew of important characters, but I thought the drama did a pretty good job of presenting them to us succinctly and effectively. For one thing, it contains the major characters in two groups of four roommates, which makes it easy to have several of them interacting at one time, and provides a natural excuse for them to introduce themselves.
I especially appreciated the scene where they had to exchange their personal belongings for academy-issued ones. Each student is permitted to keep one or two small items from their personal luggage, so we get to see a glimpse into their personalities and priorities by what they choose to hold onto.
Bubbly SHIN AH-RI (Chun Young-min), for example, pouts when she has to part with all but one pair of shoes, while quiet and aloof KIM TAK (Lee Shin-young) packed almost nothing in the first place, and opts to leave behind his beanie, too.
One major takeaway that I got from this first episode, is that our heroine is in for a bit of a rude awakening. Like I mentioned earlier, her scenes are punctuated by cutesy animations, and she’s full of hope for a wide-open future. Though she’s initially rejected from the academy, a spot opens up for her last-minute, which means she joins the rest of the characters a few days into their training. That causes her to miss an incident that drives home to the others just how difficult of an undertaking they’ve begun.
One of the new recruits (cameo by Shin Ye-eun) is so exhausted and beaten down by the harsh instructors, that she buckles. It’s hard for the other trainees to watch, but if they try to advocate for her (as Seung-hyun does, earning him the instructor’s disdain), they’re chewed out, too. Eventually, the recruit drops out of the academy altogether… opening up the spot for our heroine.
In contrast to the sobering conditions that gave her that coveted spot at the academy, Eun-kang arrives after all of this goes down, and is blissfully ignorant. She literally skips through the hallways, certain that her new life is going to be full of freedom and promise.
Eun-kang narrates at the end of the episode that her twenties were about to become a roller coaster ride — and if this episode is any indication, I have a feeling that’s exactly what Rookie Cops is going to give us.
From dark and grim to silly and cute, there’s a little bit of everything in this drama so far. Here’s hoping Rookie Cops will keep the emotional core it establishes in Episode 1, and take us on the journey with Eun-kang and her hopes and dreams for better things to come.