A revenge story might be a very simple thing to develop once framed well, but building a good emotional connection to the heroes and aversion for the villains can be difficult to pull off. Past that hurdle, it is easier to follow certain steps that build up to the goal of justice being served. 'The Joseon Shooter' does give the basic elements an introduction to such a story requires, but it does have a couple of issues which keep it from feeling as grand and engaging as it could have been.
One thing that is noticeable right away is that the series has a nice presentation. There is a bit of an issue with the overuse of computer generated special effects and also some distracting sound effects, but other than that, this is a visually and aurally pleasing work. The sets and costumes, the environment and all the props are used well, making the world feel inhabited and alive. Weapons being an integral part of the story, the battles and the objects used get some of the nicest eye-candy shots, promising quite an exhilarating and action-packed future. Likewise, the PDs are good with more character-based and emotional moments, taking a less flashy, less fast-paced approach and letting the performances and writing carry the interactions. While the scale does feel a bit small and perhaps smartly so, given the channel's problems with "Inspiring Generation" and its budget earlier this year, it does not feel overly cheap in any way.
When it comes to the characters and plot, 'The Joseon Shooter' has mostly hits, rather than misses. Despite throwing viewers right into the action with very little backstory for the era and none for the characters, it slowly reveals more and more about them, building their characterization well. The romance is also done very nicely, up to a point. It feels natural and sweet and it really shines due to the great chemistry between Lee Joon-gi and Nam Sang-mi and how well they play their characters, which are also quite likable people. Yoon-gang and Soo-in make a cute couple and this is lovely while life is still good for them.
However, this takes a bit of a disappointing turn when things turn dire. The series tries to present the romance as more developed than it is at this point, with the characters suddenly treating their relationship as if it is a deep lifelong connection and meeting of soul mates. This feels jarring, given their romantic interactions are mostly built on adrenaline rushes during dangerous situations and some casual moments of enjoying each other's company. Casual flirting being treated as profound love just does not work. This makes what could have been emotionally charged final scenes to the introduction part feel a bit silly. It is not a major issue, considering where things left off after the introduction, but perhaps a less glorified approach would have had a bigger impact.
While speaking of issues, the other major one is that the villains feel very flat. The ones weaving the threads behind the scenes are the usual wicked patriarchs, the highest ranked of which could only be more cartoonish if he were actually animated. On the other hand, the villain which does matter and takes action is presented as a tool, a goon following orders. This creates a disconnect, because the people one can easily get angry at and want punishment for do nothing but sit around and cackle at their evilness, while the more central one, who is actually fulfilling their wishes, has not been given any characterization, despite his environment having been explored enough for the writers to have what they need for it.
Given that we are only four episodes in, the series has plenty of time to tread more carefully on both issues. The romance will inevitably take on a different form which allows it to go back a few steps before becoming grand again and the villain should start getting a bit more of a personality now. These problems aside, the drama has a lot of potential. The writers can clearly create and develop characters well, they seem good with handling the relationships between them, for the most part, and they have enough to really build this up into something exciting. While not as thrilling as it could have been, 'The Joseon Shooter' has everything it needs to become an epic story. It will hopefully at least be an entertaining one.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama First Look] "The Joseon Shooter""
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