The First Responders: Episode 1 (First Impressions)
It’s an action-packed premiere for The First Responders, a drama all about the joint first response unit that deals with all matters of emergencies. The drama wastes no time introducing a case where we get to see our frontline team in action as they race against the clock to save a kidnapping victim. Teamwork is the name of the game since they’ll need every bit of expertise they can get. But for our police officer, firefighter, and paramedic, working together during a crisis isn’t always easy, especially when not everyone plays by the rules.
EPISODE 1 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
What got me most excited about this drama was actually director Shin Kyung-soo, who directed my all-time favorite sageuk Nokdu Flower, as well as two of my other favorites Tree with Deep Roots and Six Flying Dragons. A drama about frontline responders feels like quite the departure, but he didn’t disappoint. Right off, I appreciated how little exposition we got; instead, we dive right into the action to see how our team operates under pressure.
The first team member we’re introduced to is police lieutenant JIN HO-GAE (Kim Rae-won). It’s not the warmest introduction – the drama opens on his disciplinary hearing for punching a perpetrator in the face. Ho-gae can’t even bring himself to apologize for the assault and instead doubles down, arguing that the man deserved it.
This is our first taste of his stubborn, hot-headed, and abrasive nature. Ho-gae isn’t exactly beloved by his colleagues and has a reputation for causing trouble. His nickname is “Jindo Dog” for his tendency to bite and not let go once he’s got ahold of something. The fact that his father is a powerful chief prosecutor doesn’t help endear him to his colleagues since they assume he’ll get out of every scrape unscathed.
I’m not a Ho-gae fan so far, but I’m hoping his reassignment to the first response team will help him learn to be a bit more tempered. He barely has time to finish his hearing before he gets a call for his first case with the team.
A woman named KIM SO-HEE is knocked out in the street and wakes in a super creepy man’s apartment. It’s a whole serial killer setup, complete with a room covered in plastic. The man stabs So-hee in the leg, but thankfully, she proves smart and slips in her Bluetooth earbuds. He leaves her alone in the room, so when her mom calls, So-hee is able to tell her to call the police.
Now we get to see our first response team in action. It’s truly a coordinated effort between the police department, fire department, and emergency medicine with Taewon police chief BAEK CHAM (Seo Hyun-cheol) leading the team. They have one hour to save So-hee before her leg wound causes her to bleed out, so there’s no time for introductions when newbie Ho-gae shows up.
We learn a lot about each of our leads just by watching them work and how they respond to crises. SONG SEOL (Gong Seung-yeon) is the paramedic and stays on the line with So-hee, keeping her calm and gleaning as much information as possible about her condition and location. She’s even-keeled and compassionate, with all her attention on saving the victim.
BONG DO-JIN (Sohn Ho-joon) is our firefighter. He immediately butts heads with Ho-gae who jumps right in with the risky plans, seeming more concerned with catching the perpetrator than protecting the victim and other civilians. Do-jin has a bit of a temper himself, but he comes off as more empathetic and driven by a desire to protect.
Ho-gae may be impulsive and have some anger issues, but he is quick on the uptake. He immediately gathers from the info So-hee gives them that the man is squatting in someone else’s apartment. But then, his assumptions and impulsivity lead them to break into the wrong apartment.
Ho-gae is not what you’d call a team player, which spells trouble for a first response team that only has minutes to react as a unit. He does think outside the box, though, which ultimately helps them find So-hee. He encourages Do-jin to help her start a fire so they can identify the apartment by the smoke. It’s risky, and neither Do-jin nor Seol are happy about it, but So-hee will die in minutes if they can’t reach her.
Then, it’s all hands on deck. As the firefighter, Do-jin breaks in and rushes into the flames to save the victim. While Ho-gae fights to subdue the perpetrator, Seol works to revive and treat So-hee. Despite some hiccups – like the perp briefly taking Ho-gae hostage at knife-point – everyone makes it out alive, including So-hee.
It’s quite the first day on the job for Ho-gae, but he doesn’t seem fazed. Later that day, he moves into his new apartment, which happens to be not only in the same building but on the same floor as his new teammates Seol and Do-jin. (Their disappointed looks in the elevator when he presses their floor button says it all.) But Ho-gae doesn’t even have time to settle in to his questionably-cheap-and-possibly-haunted apartment before they get a call, and it’s off to the next case, which is where we end Episode 1.
Talk about dropping you right into the action! It was a strong opening with tight storytelling, good pacing, and a no-filler introduction to our team. I already feel like I have a good idea of our characters’ personalities simply through watching them in a crisis. I love when a show effectively shows you what you need to know and doesn’t rely on info dumping to get you up to speed.
Judging from this episode, I think we’re in for an intense ride. I’m looking forward to seeing the range of scenarios our team responds to and watching them work together to solve tough problems. They each bring something different to the table, so as long as Ho-gae doesn’t go all lone wolf during a life-or-death crisis, I think they’ll make a great team.
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