[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Road: The Tragedy of One" Episode 1

After a three week break, tvN has started a new Wednesday/Thursday drama following the end of "My Roommate Is a Gumiho" last month. The break makes a lot of sense, considering what a wildly different project "The Road: The Tragedy of One" is. Far from the romances that are tvN's brand, "The Road: The Tragedy of One" is an extremely serious and plodding Japanese style thriller, where even eighty six minutes of exposition feel weirdly incomplete when it comes to grasping what this drama is even about.

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Soo-hyeon (played by Ji Jin-hee) is a national news anchor who's in the middle of reporting on a prostitution scandal involving South Korea's elite. Somewhat awkwardly, his father-in-law Gi-tae (played by Chun Ho-jin) is one of those elite. He does not appear to have dabbled in prostitution personally, although he does seem to have an illegitimate son. Gi-tae's legitimate daughter Eun-soo (played by Yoon Se-ah) loves her husband, and also their young son Yeon-woo (played by Kim Min-joon-III).

The family dynamic on its own is the most intriguing part of the drama. We're introduced to the characters, not through an explanation of who they are or what they want, but by a weird deer hunting scene. The dark implication of this scene is that Gi-tae tolerates Soo-hyeon in the hopes of making his son-in-law his powerful political heir, while Soo-hyeon tolerates Gi-tae because he loves his wife very much.

The chemistry between Ji Jin-hee and Yoon Se-ah is palpable. Their forty-something married passion is so strong it borders on aspirational. There's also unfortunately not really enough of it, because as the subtitles constantly remind us, all of this background is just a build up to a kidnapping plotline. Yet despite these reminders, I kept thinking the promise of a kidnapping was kind of jarring. It certainly seems like there's enough conflict here that kidnapping isn't really necessary.

The preview already hints that the kidnapping is a lot less straightforward in motivation than it looks. Still more characters which I have yet to name may or may not have their own compelling motivations. And in total the entire situation is just kind of...exhausting. Like literally, it's hard to keep track of all that's going on in this drama. It's a bit of a chore. I didn't hate the first episode but it's a massive exercise in genre patience that seems geared toward an audience with unusually strong tolerance for deliberately slow pacing.

Review by William Schwartz

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"The Road: The Tragedy of One" is directed by Kim No-won, written by Yoon Hee-jung, and features Ji Jin-hee, Yoon Se-ah, Kim Hye-eun, Chun Ho-jin, Ahn Nae-sang, Kim Sung-soo. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2021/08/04~Now airing, Wed, Thu 21:50 on tvN.