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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 1

2018/01/11 | Permalink

Bong-tae (played by Lee Jong-hyuk) is a cybercrimes investigator who is appearing on a cable news program to talk about his work. Bong-tae is a moderately awkward man who doesn't look or act like a cop at all, so the question is immediately begged- what could he have possibly done to warrant being put on television? Flash back to a couple of weeks earlier, when Bong-tae runs across Ryan (played by Brian Joo) busking in the park. These apparently random events are related, although it takes some time for "539 Yeonnam-dong" to explain how.

That's because the first episode of "539 Yeonnam-dong" is pure exposition. We jump from cast member to cast member, lingering on each one just long enough to identify their current goals in life and what factor or factors are keeping them from achieiving them. Most of these goals are short-term, like just trying to live life one day at a time. The more ambitious characters are the ones likely to cause headaches later, since they're going to start demanding things of the more laid back ones.

"539 Yeonnam-dong" is being marketed as a situation drama. While not actually an English-language word describing genre fiction, the term is surprisingly apt. Superficially "539 Yeonnam-dong" looks like a situation comedy. But the characters are so dead serious that the only jokes are accidental. Like that awkward moment at the vows renewing ceremony. It's funny, but the kind of funny where you're not allowed to laugh because the social situation is already painful.

Likewise, even though there's inherent humor in how Bong-tae busts the case using information obtained from busking, the production team treats the whole investigation in a fairly dignified manner. I rather like Lee Jong-hyuk as the hapless detective. He's got this serious face that makes him look really important, but most of the time Bong-tae is just this totally normal guy. Even Ryan is surprisingly down-to-earth, in spite of having an explicitly goofy introduction.

While all the characters are introduced fairly effectively here, Bong-tae and Brian are the only ones with storylines that have a clearly defined beginning and end. So there's not much to say about anyone else yet except that they, too, fall in to some fairly standard archetypes, and have very modest goals which are unexpectedly difficult to attain. Such modest characters deserve modest expectations. All the same, I rather liked the first episode of "539 Yeonnam-dong" more than I was expecting.

Review by William Schwartz

"539 Yeonnam-dong" is directed by Han Yool and Kang Hoon-I, written by Kim Jin-kyung-I and Lee Ji-hyun-V, and features Lee Jong-hyuk, Oh Yoon-ah, Lee Moon-shik, Brian Joo, Go Na-eun, and Yang Jung-won.

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