Showtime Begins!: Episode 1 (First Impressions)
What happens when you combine a secretive magician, ghostly hijinks, and a murder mystery or two? A lot more than sleight-of-hand, that’s for sure. If you’re like me, you’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, and the moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here – it’s showtime!
Editor’s note: Continued drama coverage is pending based on Beanie feedback.
EPISODE 1 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
It’s tricky to pinpoint the tone of Showtime Begins! from just the first episode. We open on a chilling exorcism that ultimately kills the shaman performing it, but we also get moments of poignancy, slapstick comedy, and kind of everything in between as well.
The shaman (Kim Won-hae) is the grandfather of our hero, famed magician CHA CHA-WOONG (Park Hae-jin), and as his strength fades, he says that Cha-woong will have to take up his duty of serving the family’s spirit known as the General.
Cha-woong, however, has no intention of doing so. Growing up, he’d watched with pride as his grandfather helped their neighbors drive out spirits and solve problems, all while declining gifts of thanks… only for them to turn on him when he was arrested in connection with a serial killer case.
It seems Cha-woong’s grandfather was trying to catch the killer himself and got in the way of the police investigation; hence his arrest. As Cha-woong watched their neighbors curse his grandfather to reporters, he swore off ever helping anyone but himself.
So instead, he performs magic shows with elaborate effects like pyrotechnics, levitating, and escaping from chains inside a locked water tank. His big highlight performance involves riding a motorcycle around a ring while a volunteer shoots flaming arrows at him.
Of course, he dodges all the arrows – except the last one, which launches late due to a technical issue and lodges square in his chest. Except, when everyone rushes to check on him, his suit is empty, and he appears back on his platform, completely unharmed.
In performance, Cha-woong carries himself with a confidence that errs on the side of cocky, smugly declaring that there’s a difference between a real magician and a trickster (placing himself in the first category) and pledging to refund the ticket price tenfold to anyone who can guess the secret to even one of his stunts.
But in private, he’s actually terrified that someone will discover his secret – which, of course, is that he relies entirely on his assistants, who are a trio of ghosts.
NAM SANG-GOON (Jung Suk-yong) acts as his body double; MA DONG-CHEOL (Go Kyu-pil) is his strongman; and KANG AH-REUM (Park Seo-yeon) handles mechanical props.
They all have their reasons for needing to earn money before they can enter the afterlife, so they work as Cha-woong’s employees, and he pays them, gives them a place to stay, and even feeds them from his table – but only the food he likes to eat, naturally.
Meanwhile, our female lead, GO SEUL-HAE (Jin Ki-joo), is a young police officer with a dogged sense of justice and a slight tendency to put her foot in her mouth. She also turns into a puddle of goo any time her sunbae, SEO HEE-SOO (Kim Jong-hoon), is in the vicinity, and while he definitely regards her with affection, it’s unclear if it’s of the romantic or brotherly sort.
Seul-hae’s path crosses Cha-woong’s when she chases a purse-snatcher into his magic show and mistakes him for the culprit. Then she accidentally takes Cha-woong’s helmet, leaving in its place the one she borrowed from her neighbor, which has a built-in camera.
That camera is a problem for Cha-woong, because it recorded him talking to his assistants and could expose his secret to the world. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t realize this until after Seul-hae has switched the helmets back.
There were glaring hints throughout the first half that Seul-hae’s neighbor was going to die, but it’s still shocking and saddening the way it plays out, with Cha-woong swerving to avoid hitting him with his car, only to realize he’s already dead and wandering around as a ghost. But it’s even worse for Seul-hae, because she’s out searching the woods for a reported corpse and only learns it’s her neighbor when she finds his body.
Cha-woong, desperate to protect his secret, has followed her, hounding her about the helmet and the camera footage. She gets rid of him in the moment, but later puts the encounter together with the fact that: 1) glass from Cha-woong’s headlight was found near the bakery her neighbor visited just before dying; and 2) Cha-woong knows exactly what her neighbor bought at that bakery. It all points to Cha-woong as her primary suspect, so she goes straight to his house to arrest him.
Half-blinded by grief and rage, Seul-hae tries various weapons from a taser to a baton to subdue him, but his ghost assistants block each one, leaving her staring in shock as the weapons fall harmlessly to the ground or are wrested right out of her hands. After a brief moment of calculation, Cha-woong leans in and whispers that this is the work of ghosts.
On paper, I’m not sure I’d expect to like either of our two leads as much as I did. He’s all bluster and arrogance – until his mask slips just enough for us to see his insecurity and pain underneath. And while she’s not the most competent cop you could ask for, her interactions with her neighbor and even some of her bickering exchanges with Cha-woong went a long way toward endearing her to me.
Even at the end of this first episode, it feels like we’re still working our way through the setup, but overall I found the episode pretty fun and engaging, even with its more somber turns. Most of the comedy bits tend to lean very silly (which to be honest isn’t my favorite), but the emotional parts and the characters themselves were compelling, so I’m tentatively but hopefully buckled in for whatever kind of ride it turns out to be.