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[Drama Chat] Great dramas with great first episodes

We can argue all day about what makes a drama great — and everyone has their personal favorites. But independent of the great dramas on your list, it’s not every day that a show hits its mark straight out the gate. In fact, it’s a special event when a drama nails it from start to finish, and you leave with that glowy feeling of an exceptionally well-told story.

One example is the recently aired drama Lovely Runner, which from the get-go set up all its epic potential and had me raring for more. But at the risk of over-gushing about that show (deserving as it is!), I’ll go with another great: Yumi’s Cells.

The first episode introduces us to the wacky world of the heroine and her brain cells, gives us the cringey-sweet tone and sense of humor, and teaches us how the storytelling works as we glide between internal and external atmospheres. Plus, the first scene has our heroine dreaming of her current crush in a compromising position in her bed, which, for me, is quite a way to set the stage! (Shoutout to Minho on that one.) With so much color, craziness, and fun, I was a goner for this show from the jump — and it never disappointed me, even as it careened on to a second season.

What dramas do you consider great that started out that way right from Episode 1?

*And just a note: don’t get caught up in thinking about great dramas with crappy first episodes yet — we’ll be chatting about that next time.

 
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Hyena
A drama that pretty much fires on all cylinders from the word "Go", the writing, the perfomances, the worldbuilding are pretty much aces from the first episode.

World of the Married
An artistic, highbrow take on the makjang drama that does an excellent job at setting up the trashy rollercoaster that will follow for the following 15 episodes, its also far superior to its british original imo ( Surrane Jones was absolutely fantastic in the original though)

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Hyena was fantastic from minute 1 and sealed the deal by blasting that ost at the end of the hour!

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The most recent ones that I can recall having great first episode are:
Extraordinary Attorney Woo
Taxi Driver 2

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EAW was attractive and engaging beginning with the credits, even!

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Yeah, EAW had me at the opening credits. That train ride across the river into Seoul, and the animation

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I agree with all of you.

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EAW-The music also is intriguing and draws you in immediately.
Another good thing about Taxi Driver! When will I have time to watch🥰

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What a fun prompt! I can't wait to read everyone's answers. A short list of what I would consider great first episodes to great dramas includes:
Like Flowers in Sand
The Matchmakers
Bossam: Steal the Fate
Mr. Queen
Healer
I would also add, for my personal preferences of greatness/first episodes, Unlock My Boss and Into the Ring. While I wouldn't say I loved the whole drama, While You Were Sleeping has an EXCELLENT first episode, too.

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I think exactly the same about While you were sleeping. The first episode was very good.

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Money Flower

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The list is endless but...

Trolley
Queenmaker
Why Her?
Our Blues
- I pressed play on this solely because of the first 3 episodes.
Uncle Samsik - You have to watch this to know this.
Queen For Seven Days: This one is beyond the first episode. The introductory minutes alone is something else.
Arthdal Chronicles 1.
Tell Me That You Love Me.
The World of the Married.
Cheat on Me If You Can.
Behind Every Star
: Jo Yeo-jung and Seo Hyun-woo sold this drama to me with their bickering chemistry in episode 1. The people who matched that bickering chemistry again in the show was Park Ho-san and Oh Na-ra.
Adamas.

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Jo Yeo Jeong's episode was the highlight of BES.

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Tell Me You Love Me is chef’s kiss 💋

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Perfect Marriage Revenge it was prefect from the get-go. 🤣🤣🤣

Episode 1 wasted no time, set up all characters, we knew what we could expect and wowza 😱 did it deliver. 🙌

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I'd say episode 2 instead of 1.

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I agree. If the FL had stayed the way she was in ep 1 I would not have been able to finish this drama. 😬 It wasn't bad, but I thought ep 2 did more to establish the tone of the rest of it.

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I appreciate both your views. Indeed episode 2 did more to set it up.

For me I went in with zero expectations - thinking it would be a "so bad it's good watch". I was hooked from episode 1. 🤷‍♀️

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* the views of both of you

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Mr. Sunshine
Young Eugene (Kim Kang-hoon’s) performance was just amazing.

Happiness
I blindly jumped into this without watching any teasers and all I can say is the lead’s instant chemistry is probably one of the best I’ve seen in the last few years.

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I second Happiness. When she pushed him off the roof and he had surprised yet delighted/intrigued look on his face. I was hooked.

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The look on Park Hyung-Shik's face was the look of a smitten dude taken by surprise LOL!

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It's probably one of the most memorable scenes ever.

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HAPPINESS definitely presents one of the best friends-to-lovers OTPs ever.

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I agree on both counts. Kim Kanghoon was mesmerising. I was disappointed that Lee Byunghun never vibed for me after those striking early scenes,

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I firmly believe both Byung hun and the ending did a disservice to an otherwise outstanding drama. Kim Kang hoon set the bar sky high you root for him so much, yet the entire Byung hun arc is kind of déjà vu

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Agreed. Their chemistry was off the charts and outshine the zombies plot. I couldn’t press Next fast enough.

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I haven’t watched all of it, and I’ll definitely get back to it at some point but the first episode of MY LIBERATION NOTES is incredible.

I’ll also add ATYPICAL FAMILY as well, it’s pilot episode is confusing and yet unique and intriguing, pretty much as the title suggests ATYPICAL

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Gonna also add AGE OF YOUTH S1&2

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*And just a note: don’t get caught up in thinking about great dramas with crappy first episodes yet — we’ll be chatting about that next time.

LOL
And we need crappy dramas with great first episodes as well 😂

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This would be an unfortunately long list.

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I have an ongoing list of 'Disappointing dramas with one brilliant episode' Her Private life, Episode 4, Queen of Tears, Episode 10...

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I think I agree with @panshel that we could add Castaway Diva, Episode 1 to this list.. though Episode 8, with the confession by the ML (I spent weekends going out to islands/of course I love her) is also in competition.

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Wow! Smart idea. If I’m going to watch something I’ll just ask you what episode to experience 🌸

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You might need to read some recaps so you know who the characters are and what the general situation is though :)

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Seconding this😂😂

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In a way, this prompt is that because everyone's definition of great dramas is different.

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I think the difference is if one considers the rest of the drama lived up to that first episode for them.

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I've lost count of the shows where I've said, "This is fabulous!" after the first episode or two, only to be disappointed with all or part of the rest. It's much less common for me to feel "meh" at the beginning and then see an improvement in subsequent episodes. I will usually drop a show if there's no discernible improvement after the first few episodes, or if I'm just not connecting with it. There are way too many other dramas out there for me to spend time with something I'm not enjoying.

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I honestly don’t remember first episodes good or bad ahhhh! I probably need to be taking notes.

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Actually I take that back. I know exactly what show would say for bad. Next time

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The opening of HAPPINESS is both bonkers and immediately establishes the OTP's respective characters. Can't ask for more than that from a first episode.

I also loved the first episode of ROOKIE HISTORIAN GOO HYE-RYEUNG with the OTP's hilarious meet-cute in the bookshop and where we get a very clear picture of how awesome the FL is.

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Honorable mention goes to the first episode of HOW TO SELL YOUR HAUNTED HOUSE.

Jang Nara single-handedly sells the viewer the show concept of a matrilineal line of psychic exorcists in the haunted house real estate business.

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Kang Mal-geum as her spunky business partner with all the right things to say is also a hard sell in the early episodes of Haunted House!!

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Jang Nara also made the opening episode of The Last Empress a delight, playing the awkward, timid, fashion-challenged actress who is unexpectedly tapped to be the next (and ultimately the last) empress of Korea.

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I think Jang Nara is one of the best K-Drama actresses around. Like Meryl Streep, she can inhabit any role she takes on and make it WORK no matter how outlandish or subtle.

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Healer.

This is a gimme, but I'll take it. That first training scene in the hideout (video game tennis, of all things)...straight into the subway/train spy action with Ajumma.

I was there from the first seconds.

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Strangely I had to try Healer's first ep a second time to get interested.

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LOL. I will say that Ajumma had me sold faster than Healer...but soon, the whole cast had me hooked. Well, in all honesty, the weak link for me in this drama has always been Park Min-young's hair. 😉

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Really? I thought it was different and cute - it suited the personality of her character. My favorite hairstyle on PMY is the ultra high, ultra long pony in Secretary Kim.

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I think Seon-ha just doesn't like PMY.. I'm with you though, like PMY and the Secretary Kim hair

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@mazarin Ahhhh... I see 😉

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HEY! Who knows who I do and don't like here?? 🤔😂

I really didn't like PMY in Healer that much at all, and her first-half hair was a big part of it. I don't think "gamine" is where she shines. I liked her best in Her Private Life when she played the mental sasaeng without the capacity to tell real men from fake men. Ryan-Lion sure showed her!

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Well, if you ignore the strike out, your comment does say the weak link is PMY... :)

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sorry if that was an assumption, was just going with what the comment said :)

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@mazarin It's OK. But, fret not, I can always make myself clear in my own time. I'm usually misunderstood due to the depth of my sarcasm.

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Healer is the only show of PMY I finished, so I guess I don't like her acting either. But to me, she did ok in Healer.

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Interesting. I have started and finished four Park Min-young dramas: SBS’s CITY HUNTER (2011), KBS’s HEALER (2014/15) (Viki US) and both ‘’Weathers”: JTBC’s I’LL GO TO YOU WHEN THE WEATHER IS NICE (2020) (Viki US) and JTBC’s FORECASTING LOVE AND WEATHER (2022) (Netflix).
HEALER (natch) is my favorite PMY performance. Frankly by the time she performed in the ‘Weathers’ her appearance had changed so much I wondered if it was the same actress as in HEALER.

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That’s because the Ji Chang-Wook and the other cast made up the difference. But I did like her in Sec Kim. But sort of same thing, strong ML and cast

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Remember the famous make over at the salon at the end of episode 9? (Probably my favorite scene un the drama.) Both Park Bong-soo (JCW)
**slight bow** and Young-shin (PMY) came out with new ‘do’s. His hair was above his forehead and hers was pulled back.

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I do remember this. And it is why I am confident in my belief! No one need agree with me, but the difference...ahem...made all the difference. 😘

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Wow, ya'll have great memories. It's been too long and I have no recollection of the haircut scene at all.

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@zindigo, I already am in trouble for going O/T and reminiscing about HEALER’s episode 9 when we should be concentrating on episode 1 I think. Mea culpa!
Anyway, to refresh your memory, our couple was sent to a salon to get a new look/makeover so they could go undercover. It occurs the last few minutes of episode 9 and it is probably the most comedic sequence in the drama. Iirc there is no actual hair cutting but an overall before and after contrast.
JCW really hammed it up in his Bong-soo persona.

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But...I HAD forgotten the moment when Bong-soo actually tries to escape the dressing room in his undershirt with all of his belongings clutched to his chest, though, @marcusnyc20.

Thanks for that timestamp--what a romp! So good. Even if it's in (shhhh) episode nine!

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@marcusnyc20 Ok, I had to go back and rewatch it. NOW I remember! JCW really is a natural comedian. And YES @attiton, their hair looked much better after their traumatic makeover 😂 It may be time to rewatch this drama.

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I loved PMY's hair in the first part of Healer -- it looked cute and perfectly suited her personality. I didn't like the way they "fixed" it for the 2nd half.

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I remember Alchemy of Souls having a really fun first episode. It has a lot of history to establish right off the bat but doesn't falter as it moves into the present, and then the introduction of our two leads was just glorious. We know who Jang Uk is immediately, and Naksu/Mu-deok is at her most murderous. We get amazing interactions with Uk being held at crab-leg-point and telling Mu-deok she has beautiful (soul-shifty) eyes. His request at the end that she be his master is an incredible intro to the rest of the whole story. Makes me want to rewatch right away!

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Kingdom - they had my complete attention right from the title opening credits. It really was a terrific opening right from ep 1.

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This is very interesting. Because with many of my favorite shows I skip the first episode on rewatches.

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🙃 Guess you will have a good and long list ready for the next drama chat.

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If the next chat is about: Shows that you love and watch hundreds of times, but prefer to skip the first episode, then yes, I will.

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I do this too! It's how Healer came to mind, actually, as I knew I'd start from the beginning... When I rewatch I usually go back straight to the heart of the matter, like episodes 6-12. Or, if it's really good 4-14 ;)

I might join in the The Matchmakers crew though, having been given this time to reflect. I'd probably watch that from beginning to end again, if I rewatch it (right now it just sits perfect in my mind). Knowing that you've never fully watched any Rowoon drama though, @midnight, I know you're not with me on this one 😉...

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I usually start at episode 2, or watch half of 1, half of 2, and start 3... Most of my favorites have either a rocky start, or a tragic or deliberately frustrating one...

I tried The Matchmakers twice, both times clicked stop in the middle of Rowoon talking... Don't think I can survive it.

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I think it depends a lot on the drama. Sometimes, they exaggerate the main traits of the characters or the humor, etc. and the first episodes are over the top. But it calms down later and it's finally pleasant to watch.

In other cases, the childhood or backstory are very compelling.

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Exactly what I mean.

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I can totally understand this. Because dramas are a longer form of storytelling, they often spend the first episode setting things up. So there is often lots of history and character introductions, but if you've already seen it, you don't really need all that information and you can just get to the parts that you love. I'm a very new re-watcher so I don't really have established patterns yet, but I can understand both sides here.

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That actually makes a lot of sense. In a way the "set-up" is expendable.

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Also kdramas have a habit of going over the top in the beginning to, I don't know, drive the point home? To establish the story and characters more quickly? To draw in the viewers? Whether in comedy, or gore, or cringe, or sloppyness, or luxury, or tragedy... It doesn't matter at all which one, the show dials it to eleven in the beginning, then settles down afterwards. I usually prefer to skip that part because it's not in synch with the rest of the show, and kinda irritates me.

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You fail to mention the ones that jam-pack all the teasers and promotional materials into the first episodes. Like...why?

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Because they quickly edited and aired all the teasers and promos immediately after they started filming? Still...why?? Sigh.

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A Korean Odyssey. That might be partly because I grew up watching Monkey, so I was giggling at a contemporary Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy even without any story. (Bull Demon King was an extra character, but done so well he had me giggling too)

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So many :
- Goblin : I need Gong Yoo in a sageuk!
- A Piece of Your Mind : I loved the atmosphere of this drama.
- Extraordinary You : the world of manhwa with Danoh discovering she's not the FL.
- Heartless City : just for Jung Kyung-ho knife fight.
- Start-Up : Nam Da-reum was too good as the SML's backstory. It ruined the whole drama.
- Castaway Diva : these teenagers were very good, I could have watched a whole drama with them.
- The Matchmakers : It was so beautiful and funny.

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If the first episode ruined the whole drama, do you still consider Start-Up a great drama?

I agree with Castaway Diva's great first episode, but IMO, it was the best episode of a not-great drama.

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I liked Start-Up, I had some issues with the writing but it was entertaining and I liked the idea of start-up.

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I didn't ruin the drama but perhaps giving the childhood arc to the 2ML was a risky decision. Still, that was the drama decision.
I wish to hear more about your reasoning and things that you disliked.

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*the drama premise

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I didn't like how the female characters were written. Suzy had no reason to be a CEO in a start-up, she knew nothing about creating an app, neither about managing. She was very luck to get 2 genius in these 2 fields.

For Kang Han-na, they wrote her as a villain because she chose her mum when she was a teenager, they always separated her from her family when the mother was forgiven. Suzy told in interviews that she was closed to Stephanie Lee, it showed how they screw what it could have been a great sistance.

For the romance, I didn't really mind she ended with NJH, he was the ML after all. But the letters were dismissed when they built the story about how they were important for her. It was weird.

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I see. Those are good points indeed. I agree with you that it was strange she got to be a CEO without any prior indications she is qualified for that position. Same goes for Kang Han-na's arc and the sismance. But I have to say Kang Han-na's character had some greed to it as a child but I won't say she was a villain just an antagonist. I found her journey compelling and respected her from stopping her employee from making fun of sam san tech team after they got disbanded. She was multi layered, wanting to run a business and protect it so that no one could steal it from her and being humane as well.
As for the letters, I think by the time she discovered the truth she was much in love with Do-san that she forgot about the letters. Still, getting back to it somehow might have made for a better story.

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The first episode of While You Were Sleeping is a self-contained movie.

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Sky Castle's bombshell cliffhanger in Episode 1 is the reason it became the highest rated drama in Korean cable television history.

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Getting back to my list, I was surprised that there are countable ones that fit the bill.
Under The Queen's Umbrella
Bloody Heart
Extraordinary Attorney Woo
Tomorrow
Our Blues
Me Sunshine
Twenty Five Twenty One minus the ending
Call it love minus the time jump
My Dearest 1
Doctor Cha
Flex X Cop
Me Queen
Kairos
Defendant (I am 4 episodes in but I added it to my favorites)
Little Women

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Yes on Flex X Cop! Great beginning

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I loved that you mentioned 2521 in this list, but I have to especially agree to disagree- I think 2521 is marvelous from beginning to end.

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*respectfully

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Perhaps, since it was really marvellous, the sad ending shattered our hearts more.

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Under the Queen's Umbrella. I was sold from the first minute!

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It is a very big call for a great first episode - which normally comes around episodes 2 - 4.

Since no one has mentioned it, I’d say One More Happy Ending hit that rare note of getting you in the first 60 minutes. I was so enthralled by that very first episode as we saw the opposite-attract meet of Jung Kyung-ho and Jang Nara, getting drunk together to marriage registration - all within 24 hours. So charming and funny! I was thinking what an amazing first episode and looking forward to a nice romcom….but no.

I would rewatch it every now and then - but only the first episode to re-live that great promise.

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D-Day had a pretty unforgettable opening episode. And I thought Flex x Cop did a great job setting up the characterizations in it’s first episode.

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I don't have a good memory for details, but I still remember how I was impressed by the cinematography and how one scene morphed into another in It Is OK to Not Be OK.

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But I remember I was disapointed because it didn't last the whole drama like her being a giant.

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Interestingly, most kdramas truly take off in Ep2-3, not the very first one. Esp older shows where those initial episodes were all about setup/flashbacks. Take LOVELY RUNNER for example - it's not like Ep1 was objectively weak or anything, but people really got invested after the twist in Ep2. Plus sooo many sageuks that are better with their prequels than actual story - GU FAMILY BOOK, MOON EMBRACING THE SUN... legion of them!

Since people already mentioned HAPPINESS, I'd go with FLOWER OF EVIL, that opening episode was fire (look, PD who knows how to do tension and cliffhangers!). Now that we're talking about it, BEYOND EVIL (precisely Ep1 ending) was quite good too. Right, THE CROWNED CLOWN! All the titles we already mentioned these days))) REVENANT too. I also loved THE FIERY PRIEST's one but I'm probably in minority here... Right, k-SUITS! Another PD with a solid vision. ARANG AND THE MAGISTRATE as well.

For cdramas - TILL THE END OF THE MOON says hello, that intro alone should be in fantasy genre textbooks. Also counts for the most epic introduction scene of ML - twice in the same episode, 3 times in the whole show because tiny LYX can outrizz a crowd without breaking a sweat^^

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Flower of Evil ep 1 was something! I watched it 3 times in 2 years and couldn't press play on ep 2 after that ending. In the end I begged for spoilers!

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Ahaha, that's a cute reaction)))

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yay for another FoE fan ♥️

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Yumi's cells would be one of them, no doubt. Amazing drama with an almost perfect script.

Other dramas with a great first episode which kept being very good until the end:

_ Prison Playbook. Wonderful from the first minutes.
_ At a distance, spring is green.
_ Twinkling Watermelon.
_ Live up to your name.
_ The Nokdu Flower (such a powerful and hard start).
_ My Dearest. (But the best episode was the sixth).
_ The Atypical Family (this drama got better from the fourth episode, though).
_ Weak Hero Class 1.
_ My Ahjussi (currently watching it for the first time. 7 out of 16 so far. But my favorite episode has been the first one).

One of the best first episodes I have ever watched is from Start-up, but even though I really like that drama, I think the first episodes were above the rest.

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Start up was really good. I also agree with Prison Playbook, Live up to your name, and Twinkling Watermelon. I can't remember anything outstanding about episode one of At a distance but I did like the drama so it's probably just my poor memory.

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I think At a distance did very well presenting the main characters and their circunstances.
And the bungee-jumping scene is hard to forget.

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That scene is when and why I started hating the male lead 🙈

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I admit that was something difficult to understand. But I didn't hate him. He grew on me.

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As a person who is deathly afraid of heights and bungee jumping, I would never ever forgive him. No matter what good he did after.

But apart from my own fear, he was extremely pushy and manipulative in every way. I only forgave him in the instances where he was able to get through Bae In Hyuk's character's unrelenting mulish thick skull. And even that when I read recently that this story was originally a bl, I was angry at him again.

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After posting a quite harsh comment, I remembered something I have been meaning to write for some days now.

I really love how your comments and reactions are always very soft, but quite clear and concise! Wish I would learn from you! 🫰

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But I think I read somewhere that the BL part of the story wasn't about the ML and the character played by Bae In Hyuk. It seems it was something about ML's big brother (Na In Woo in the drama).

Thanks for your kind words! ❤️ ☺️
I like your comments too. I love the way you express how much you like/enjoy some character, or show, or sequence!

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Oooh! I'm glad you told me that! Now I can like that storyline again!

Thank you for your kind words too 😅❤️ I tend to get carried away in my rants and raves, hope I never offend anyone.

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Start Up had a fantastic first episode. Agree with Atypical Family for sure

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I just rewatched Yumi's cells and it really was that good, just as I remembered. The other standout first episodes for me were The Producers, Racket boys, Hospital Playlist and Reply 1988.

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Missing words Yumi’s cells *first episod’. It pulled me back in for a much needed rewatch. It seems that this is going to be the season of rewatching my top dramas after avoiding rewatches for years, I have gradually found myself working my way through them.

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Ice-cold Kung Jyung-ho in the first ep of Hospital Playlist really does it for me! He's my favourite character. He roasts those junior doctors and dispatches the alcoholic girlfriend -- great stuff.

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He was a very different person with his friends so it took me a while to warm to him because of his attitude towards his staff.

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He and the ob-gyn doctor were my two favourite characters because of their chilliness and social ineptitude. (The other three had enough warmth and kindness to flood the whole hospital.)

It made his slow-developing relationship with his wonderfully friendly but bumbling junior doctor so satisfying.

As for the ob-gyn doctor, without his withdrawn personality (and we get lots of great family back story about why he was like that), we wouldn't have had that beautiful character reveal where he is making sure the mother couldn't hear her baby cry when he was born, the baby who had no brain.

I think I identify with the more buttoned-up characters!

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Yes, his care for the junior doctor was when the two sides began to merge. I agree the ob-gyn doctor was very sweet. The scene that always stands out for me with his character’s storyline was the complaining pregnant women and partners in the waiting area. There was an immediate change of attitude when a woman’s cry of anguish from the consulting room reminded them that a long wait not that important in the scheme of things.

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Oh I remember that cry of anguish too, and the effect on the women waiting outside....

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Often I find dramas take a few episodes to get rolling, but Twinkling Watermelon was the most recent one that grabbed me right from the start. I also loved the initial episodes of Search WWW, although I found the rest of the drama a bit more hit or miss. For non-k-dramas, I really liked how A Journey to Love jumped right into the middle of the action and never let up. It was also incredibly efficient at introducing each character in ways that showed us rather than told us about their personalities and the challenges they faced.

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Hyena
Under the Queen's Umbrella
My Secret Terrius

Live Up to Your Name 

Life on Mars
Crash Landing on You
(I'm among the minority who were satisfied with the way it ended.)

I have two episodes to go on A Shop for Killers. It grabbed me from the very start, and up to this point hasn't let go. Please, show—don't let me down! 🙏🏻

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I've been waiting for someone to mention A Shop for Killers. I was hooked from start to finish and it ended beautifully 🤭

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Yup. It not only ended beautifully, but left the door wide open for a season 2. I’m there for it!

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- Arthdal Chronicles (mostly S2, though S1's first episode is good too)
- Parasyte: The Grey
- Taxi Driver
- Extraordinary Attorney Woo
- Marry My Husband

And probably a lot more, but I'm keeping it to my top 10 dramas, or recent dramas, otherwise the list would be too long.

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C-dramas
Lost You Forever, Season 1
The Longest Promise
Both of these dramas had a wonderful and very talented child actor/actress cast that really set the stage and presented a really solid foundation for the rest of the story and drama to unfold as the drama transitioned to it’s adult cast. Hypothetically, if a drama were to be made featuring just the child talents of these 2 dramas, I’d be glued to my seat from beginning to finish— they were just that good!! 🥰

Save Your Last Dance for Me (circa 2004/05)
An oldie but a goodie, this drama did well despite it being a drama from the early 2000s wherein that was the era of tropes and makjang galore. This drama did well in presenting said makjang-y tropes in a very concise and to-the-point manner, rather than dragging everything out much like the dramas of those times (seriously, some dramas of that era would and could drag out a trope for the entirety of the drama sheesh), and used the tropes much more as a diving board to the rest of the unfolding of the drama than anything else, and it definitely worked in it’s favour

Marriage Contract
This drama could be seen as a mishmash of the aforementioned two above, in the sense that it has an extremely talented child actress portraying the daughter of the FL (portrayed by Uee), but also has some trope-y characteristics (e.g. Rich playboy ML and financially struggling FL), but again, it works because everything presented in it’s premiere episode is done in a clean and concise manner that helps set the stage for the rest of the drama, but not overtake it

Angel Eyes
Just watch the first 11 (12?) episodes of this drama with the teenage cast (Kang Ha Neul and Nam Ji Hyun) and that’s really all you need from this drama— they were just that good 😍 Honestly, even when I’d gotten to the adult (i.e. main cast) parts of the drama, the acting and the story, and the setup that was given to us via the younger cast just stole my heart completely and I just wasn’t able to get into the rest of the drama once they were off my screen even though the adult cast (Lee Sang Yoon, Gu Hye Sun, Kim Se Jeong) wasn’t necessarily bad in their acting in any way (I KNOW!!! GHS is good in a drama? She surprised me, too tbvh)

All in all, I think it can be said that the general consensus as to what I personally think is an element to a good First Episode(s) to a drama lies heavily on a young talented cast that truly does simply act their hearts out with raw and real emotions and whom aren’t so tied up with how they look— I’d even go as far to say that their looks is probably the last thing on their minds as they’re delving headfirst into the roles they’ve so beautifully gifted me heart ♥️

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*my heart

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I'm Sorry I Love You

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Goblin - i wanted to see the saguek scenes
Mr Queen - it set up the story really well
Queen for Seven Days - i love the cinematography and childhood scenes
Our Beloved Summer - I love the high school scenes and documentary style
Bossam: Steal the Fate - I like how they introduced the characters and set up the story

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Healer: It literally only took five minutes for me to be completely hooked all the way through. That first episode is a microcosm of everything the series would offer: action, suspense, mystery, romance with insane chemistry, and great characters. Excellent final cliffhanger shot as well.

My Liberation Notes: I was skeptical that this show would live up to the hype, but as I watched the first episode, I knew I was going to love it when even during extended scenes of people eating and not talking I was spellbound.

The Smile Has Left Your Eyes: I know not everyone agrees that this is a great drama, but I was hooked from start to finish thanks to SIG's enigmatic, sexy, and ultimately tragic performance. The first episode is dark, mysterious, confusing, and so compelling I immediately re-watched it after finishing the final scene. I had so many questions about who these people were, what they wanted, and whether or not I should trust them. And as the drama unfolded, I only grew more obsessed with getting the answers.

My Dearest: From the first shot, I could tell this production was made with a great deal of care--and money. Gorgeous costumes, music, sets only enhanced the clever dialogue and "GWTW" vibes. The second half wasn't quite as compelling as the first, but I'd still define this as a truly stellar drama.

Seven Days Queen: That opening shot of the queen heading to the gallows was masterful, and the drama really never let up all through its 20 episodes. Tragically romantic, but somehow not depressing, everything about this drama grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

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DoTS, Song Joong Ki's boyish charm was oozing out of my screen

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The top of my list - Happiness, Extraordinary Attorney Woo and Under The Queen's Umbrella have already been mentioned, so I will go with two more that left a very strong impression and made me want to keep going:
Business Proposal
Just Between Lovers

I think EAW probably has the best start because it not only tugs on the heart strings, but it deep dives into the heart of it right away. And of course those whales.....

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Goblin
Lovely runner
Mr. Sunshine
See you in my 19th life
Attorney Woo
Castaway Diva
My Ahjussi
Forest of Secrets
White Christmas
Circle: Two Worlds
Pretty Noona who buys me food
Fated to love you
Gaus electronics
Korean Odyssey
Romantic Teacher Doctor Kim
Moonlight drawn by clouds
Hotel Del Luna
Tale of the nine tailed—1 and 2
Red sleeve

These are the shows I remember I was on board the first episode. Whether it was cinematography, acting, or just a gestalt of high quality production, these all had that spark that I would have bet money would have been great dramas. And I’ve been right more times than not—except pretty noona, that one burned.

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This is a great topic, as one of my main complaints about kdramas are the first episodes. So Healer is the first one that comes to mind, as I think of it as a City Hunter remake with a much better first episode. Another Oh Hae-Young comes to mind, as does Forest of Secrets, and Let's Eat. They all do a nice job of setting the tone for the rest of the series.

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Seo Hyun-jin was marvelous in Another Oh Hae-young

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Sticking to ones that have yet to be mentioned.
Awaken: great idiosyncratic character played by Namgoong Min, and a very intriguing mystery.
Signal: starting with the ending is tricky, but it paid off here in spades.
Moving: I fell in love with the teenage protagonists first.
Extraordinary You: original premise, great protagonist in Kim Hye-yoon.
Bulgasal: haunting and harrowing origin story that sets up the rest of the series beautifully.
Our Beloved Summer: loved these two characters from the get-go.
Dali and the Cocky Prince: don't know if it was a great first episode, but it was funny, and sexy, and I love seeing strong men completely smitten at first sight.

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Signal (I prefer the Korean remake to the US drama somehow)
On the Verge of Insanity (This feels like the Korean version of a marriage between the UK Office and the <IT Crowd but actually written by someone who's got a clue about programming and hardware tech)
Korean Odyssey (by far one of the strongest and tightest plot by the Hong sisters, and the actual source material is so fun too...)
The 8 Show (Oh those gorgeous little opening sequences paired with the insanity of the opening credit music! You'll need to acknowledge the source material before jumping to this one and accept that this is a marriage of Big Brother and Lord of the Flies - I've seen a lot of hate but I feel approaching it with the right mindset can make a big difference; this is one for those who enjoyed Strangers from Hell too because the descent into human darkness is fast)
Moving (from the first scene, you know you'll be in for a cinematographic treat)

Probably many others, but right now nothing else comes to mind!

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Well, almost all of my faves were mentioned from "another oh heayoung" to "little women" and Mr. Sunshine, "prison playbook" and "cruel city" and "yumi cells" and....
But I'm here to say, what's that grabbed me in episode 1 of Romantic doctor S1 was the Kiss. imo, it was not just a kiss it was THE kiss!! 😅😂
The best kdrama kiss ever!
It was so delicious that I stayed all throughout the medical things (I usually avoid them in dramas) Just to watch this couple. Their chemistry was out of this world.

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I was pretty intrigued by the foreseen kiss in the first episode of Kiss Sixth Sense. It was intense.

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In September, 2019 I wrote about PEGASUS MARKET: "I like the first episode because of its absurd humor. It had a Monty Python stitched skits together quality to the show. I just wonder how the show can keep up the intensity level of the first episode." Well, it did and more through each succeeding episode.

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Ah thank you for reminding me about this one! It's be on my to-watch list for a while and constantly being pushed lower down the list by new dramas!

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@welh640 Which would you recommend more highly (in terms of humor) Gaus Electronics or Pegasus Market?

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PEGASUS MARKET by a wide margin.

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I second Hyena here, but my favourite-first-episodes-of-a-consistently-great-show are the ones of "Piece of your mind" and "Chief Kim".
I particularly loved the first episode of Piece of your Mind and won't ever skip it on a rewatch. It is so beautifully filmed, it has an airy feel to it and wonderful colours. What I found most intriguing on my first ever watch was that I had no idea where this show was going. In most dramas, k or not, you see the characters and the setting and you know who will end up with whom and what obstacles they'll have to overcome, or what the general message of it all will be. Here it was just very open. I love/d it! And I love Chae Soo-bin and Jung Hae-in in it, they are just the right cast for this drama.
With Chief Kim in the first episode are just the first great scenes of many more to come, and it might just be the funniest art of introduction you'll ever see in a kdrama. 😁

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A Piece of Your Mind was a little gem! I will always be angry with TVN for cutting it! The production didn't deserve it.

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I consider most of my top 10 best kdramas in this list. But there's just something special about My Mister. The show is dark, depressing, and real from the get go that it wrings my heart and I just can't let go.

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Oohhhh, that could be a long list for me. Since I am a not a fan of waiting everyday drama, nowadays I always wait until series is finish/like 12 eps aired before sat down and watch. First 2 eps that really caught my attention and great until finale:

Designated Survivor: 60 Days
Lovely Runner
While you were sleeping
Kingdom
Queen for 7Days
Under Queen Umbrella
It's Okay to Not be Okay

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Castaway Diva imo was a great drama and has an amazing first episode. I think even people that disliked it loved the first episode.

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*Flower of Evil*

I will always toot this horn

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Marriage not dating (ny favourite favourite)
Another Ms Oh
Reply 1988
Fated to love you
Lovestruck in the City (Gosh)
Dreaming of a freakin fairytale

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