Well, this sure is one for the history books. The acting, the directing, the special effects, I’m lovin’ it all. What a brilliant and captivating first episode 8)
The drama starts off all secretive and dramatic and very James Bond-like, with official looking captions stating that none of the following events are true blah blah. We open in October 9, 1983, in Burma, at the Martyr’s Mausoleum in Yangon (Rangoon). The drama incorporates the real 1983 visit of South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan and his cabinet, who arrive just as a bomb goes off, killing sixteen people and completely destroying the venue… So some of it IS true…? O= Two agents survive the blast, LEE JIN-PYO and PARK MU-YEOL, best friends and spies in an anti-North Korean unit. In horror, they take in the carnage of their compatriots in the wake of the blast.
Meanwhile, 5 highly secretive government officials devise a plan to get back at the North Koreans. One official in particular, and the most driven of them all, is future president CHOI EUNG-CHAN. He turns to Jin Pyo and Mu Yeol and puts them in charge of the attack.
Mu Yeol is a new father, and his best friend Jin Pyo tries to convince him to not do the mission as he has a wife and son to return home to. Mu Yeol dismisses his pleads and carries on like the hero he is.
However, on the night of the attack, things go horribly wrong with the South Korean government. Plans for this mission were not approved by the SK president, in addition to various reasons to do with the UN, 4 out of 5 officials pulled back the plan. But there was only one problem: all the agents had already been sent out. Now the officials had to come up with a way to make sure no one will EVER find out about the mission. 21 people were sent out for this mission, and guess how many made it back alive?
Finally, Choi Eung Chan was informed by his other 4 colleagues about the abort mission plans… and just like playground bullies, the 4 outnumber 1. And so, as the 21 agents – including Mu Yeol suffering from a knife stab – swim into the dark ocean towards the submarine that supposedly is their ticket home. As the first agent climbs on board, he reaches down to help his friend… Suddenly, a bullet slices into his chest. And then the next, and the next, and the next. The remaining agents are sitting ducks in the vast ocean. Wiping them out is no challenge. Finally there are only two left: Jin Pyo and the injured Mu Yeol. As the sniper spots them and prepares to shoot, Mu Yeol pushes Jin Pyo into the water and takes the bullet himself, saving Jin Pyo’s life.
So far, I’ve only described the first 15 minutes of the drama. Yes, that’s right, THIS IS SO FREAKING INTENSE!
Anywaysss… Jin Pyo – obviously feeling betrayed – visited Choi Eung Chan in his office, immediately after trekking back to South Korea. Or more like snuck up behind him and put a knife to his throat. However, he did not kill him. Instead, Jin Pyo vowed to carry out the cruelest revenge possible – making it his sole reason for living. The first thing he did was visit Mu Yeol’s wife, Kyung-hee, who was still expecting her husband home anytime soon. And, as crazy as this seems, he stole her baby son and left her a note, telling her to start a new life. Jin Pyo continued to catch a ship to Thailand with baby in tow…
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how this story comes to life.
Flash forward 10 or so many years and we meet little Lee Yoon Sung. *sigh* we sure have to be patient and wait to see Lee Min Ho’s beautiful face. =( Jin Pyo has become father to Yoon Sung, and as far as Yoon Sung’s aware of, his mother is dead. Jin Pyo has become a hardened drug boss, ruler of a compound of military-like men, in the Golden Triangle of South-East Asia. He is no longer compassionate, and shoots and kills anyone and everyone who breaks the rules at his drug camp. We see the young Yoon Sung shooting (yes, using guns) at targets over seen by a western soldier. His ‘father’ makes a visit and degrades his shooting skills, drilling it into his head that the moment he misses, he is dead. We see that Yoon Sung lives a hard life, with an unforgiving father who uses harsh ways to raise him. One night, young Yoon Sung finds the photo that his father carries around with him – a picture of Mu Yeol, Kyung-hee, and more of their comrades – and talks to it, desperately hoping that this woman is his mother. When Jin Pyo catches him in the act, he snatches the picture and rips it to shreds, reminding him once again that his mother is dead. Just dead. Young Yoon Sung runs out heartbroken. He sees a village woman consoling her son, and looks on longingly, and the woman, calling him Moo Chai, gives him a spot in her lap for him to rest on.
Next, we see a happy young Yoon Sung, playing in the water among elephants, and in the most majestic transformation possible, the young Yoon Sung grows into a mischievous, impetous teen, 7 years later. He sneaks away from the compound – despite his worried father, who is afraid of land mines surrounding the compound – and cruises the village with his buddies. He overhears a man speaking Korean and looks about curiously… There is a Korean gambler – Bae Shik Joong – that is about to be killed by a bunch of Thai gangsters. And in an epic chase seen, Yoon Sung showcases how his tireless practice of shooting targets and fighting skills have paid off, as he saves the Korean Gambler and brings him home, earning a slap from daddy who warns him never to bring outsiders home. Yoon-sung protests that the guy was about to be killed, and Jin-pyo relents a little, asking if there’s anything Shik-joong’s good at. Thankfully, the man can sputter a response: “Cooking!”
Proving his facility with Korean cooking earns Shik-joong the right to stay, which comes with Jin-pyo’s warning that “If you try to run away, you die.”
Yoon-sung looks curiously at the photo of a pretty girl Shik-joong carries with him, Kim Nana, who he initially presumes is the man’s daughter. But they share different surnames, meaning that for now, her relation to him remains unclear. And so, life goes on at the compound as Shik Joong and Yoon Sung become friends, with Yoon Sung helping the new chef become to life at the compound – such as Jin Pyo’s fearsome sleeping habits, where he sleeps in a sitting position with gun in hand. As Yoon Sung shows off his improved target shooting skills to Shik Joong, they are interrupted by the arrival of his father’s men, who drag along that village woman with them — the woman who’s become like Yoon-sung’s surrogate mother — and tie her to the target for her execution. Her crime: Her husband ran off with some drugs.
Worse yet, Jin-pyo orders Yoon-sung to be the one to shoot her, insisting that his rules be followed to the letter. When Yoon Sung balks, Jin-pyo takes out his gun, ready to do it himself. A desperate Yoon Sung tries to bargain his way through this, so he hurriedly proposes a deal — that he’ll do the shooting. But if he manages to accurately shoot all the targets, Dad will relent and try exercising forgiveness, just this once. Dad agrees, and Yoon-sung prepares himself mentally, then fires. He shoots a few hanging fruit and the wooden target, then throws the gun away angrily, having proven his point.
He runs to his room, and lying on his bed, looks over at the picture of Kim Nana at his bedside. He’s apparently taken talking to it, and asks how in the world is he expected to shoot one of his loved ones. He expresses words of jealousy at Kim Nana’s life over in happy Seoul.
At the same time, a team of gangsters infiltrates the compound, taking out a few guards and making their way to the inner rooms, where the leader spies Yoon-sung lying in bed. This is the gangster he’d saved Shik-joong from, and they’re here for some payback.
Thanks to Yoon-sung’s finely honed battle skills, however, he hears the telltale click of a gun and rolls out of bed smoothly, ducking in time to get Shik-joong under cover before the attackers open fire.
The rest is an intense battle scene that includes Yoon Sung single-handedly beating many of the gangster’s men. This results in him finding shelter from their bullets behind a pillar. But it’s that woman, his surrogate mother, who fears for his safety and runs toward him to shout a warning. That gets her shot, and his shock is so tremendous that Yoon-sung doesn’t even care about being exposed as he rushes to her crumpled body, sobbing at her to wake up. As he’s about to be shot through the back, his trust Daddy arrives just in time to shoot the the potential murderers. A furious Yoon Sung cocks his gun, and vows to kill all responsible for this woman’s death. He chases after the remaining gangsters as his father shouts a warning. He runs through the forest, shooting at the same time, until he hears a click under his foot. He freezes, while trying to fend off the gangsters. This click is the sound of a land mine being activated by his weight. But this lands him in a very sticky situation: he’s out of bullets, gangsters have him cornered, and he’s standing on an active landmine. And, just like before, Daddy arrives just in time to kill the gangsters. Yet Daddy still has one more problem to solve: the landmine that will explode as soon as Yoon Sung flinches. Jin-pyo quickly gets to work on the land mine under Yoon-sung’s foot, not betraying any fear while Yoon-sung sweats bullets. Dad gives him a reassuring look — right before he launches himself at him and knocks him out of the way as the land mine explodes.
The blast takes off one of Jin-pyo’s legs, and Yoon-sung carries him home on his back, crying frantically all the while, begging the doctor to help him. Jin-pyo bears the pain stoically and tells Yoon-sung to listen up: If he’s about to die, he has something more important to address, and starts to explain the story of Yoon-sung’s true father. Yoon Sung listens horrified, as Dad says in a half-request, half-command: “Put a bullet through the heart of your father’s and my enemy.”
He fades into unconsciousness but survives, and throughout his pain-fueled recovery, Jin-pyo is assailed with flashbacks of his life, begging his friend not to die while also apologizing to his wife.
Yoon-sung finally understands why Jin-pyo had raised him the way he had, and why he’d trained him so fiercely. He contemplates the old photo of his mother that he’d taped back up at some point, now understanding that the other man is his father. And then he goes to Jin-pyo for more information before committing to this plan of vengeance, and is told that there are five men who must be killed. He is informed that his mother is indeed still alive, and grimly informs Shik Joong: “I’m going to change now. That’s my fate.”
Now, flash-forward another 7 years, as a new Yoon Sung arrives at the airport in Seoul, having come from the States, no longer the playful, laughing youngster but now a serious, determined man on a mission. The first thing he does is take a call from Jin-pyo confirming his arrival, in which his first target from the council of five is named: Lee Kyung-wan. One last reminder: “Forget your life in the States, but never forget your father’s death.”
Yoon-sung asks his driver to pull over for a moment, and gets out of the car to look around a plaza in the midst of the city, which is marked by the famed statue of Admiral Yi Soon-shin. He takes in the sights of ordinary life, closing his eyes contemplatively as Jin-pyo’s words echo in his ears: “Don’t love anybody. If your identity is uncovered, you and those around you will be stained blood-red.”
And then, a face comes into view – and it’s no other than Kim Nana – smiling and handing out cards to passersby, oblivious to Yoon-sung standing so close by, also unaware of her presence.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is episode 1. =) This is probably the most eventful episode of them all, so I apologize for the long recap. Stay tuned for more on City Hunter ;)