Almost two years after Empress Ki, writers Jang Young-chul and Jung Kyung-soon are back with another grand project that is a 50-episode drama. Monster (previously titled Tyrant) premiered yesterday on MBC, going head-to-head with the premiere of Neighbourhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho on KBS2 and Jackpot on SBS, and the first episode retains the same feel as the duo’s previous works: dramatic with fast-paced plot. I love what I have seen so far, and I trust for it to only get better from this point.
2010. The city bustled with people going around attending to their business as news flashed across the screens and billboards, and a voice which would be soon a familiar one to us spoke in voice over: 1% of the population dictates the fate of the other 99%. We met a shabbily dressed Kang Ji-hwan entering a subway coach blowing a harmonica, while others stared at him with mixed emotions, mostly disgust. He tripped and fell onto the floor with the changes he had in the small bowl but no one lent a hand to help the blind man. He nearly got hit by cars and had to steal dog food for his meal, for the sake of staying alive. He got some revenge planned, and it had something to do with the people he once called family…
6 years ago. A family of five was having lunch at a posh restaurant, but the two women in the group were having a small argument: Jung Man-ok (Bae Jong-ok) was trying to change her sister’s mind about letting a certain Dodo Group to invest in their hospital that was performing badly in financial terms, but her sister would not sell their conscience over some money. The youngest in the group had enough and we were introduced to the only son of his parents, Lee Gook-chul (Lee Ki-gwang). He complained since they were arguing about business matters on his birthday, and they stopped. Byun Il-jae (Jung Bo-suk), Gook-chul’s uncle, was approached by his secretary and he received something in an envelope, which made his eyes pop out before he excused himself.
Gook-chul and his parents left in one car, with his father driving the car while it was raining outside. They soon realized that the brake was not working, and the car swiveled after avoiding a truck before hitting the highway border. They were knocked into unconsciousness before mother woke up, but her legs were stuck. She managed to push a half-conscious Gook-chul out of the car as the car barely hung on the edge of the highway. A passing car stopped and a man in a red raincoat went out but not to help them; instead, that person pushed the hanging car off the highway down the cliff. Gook-chul could only hear his mom’s voice screaming at that person she recognized and saw the red raincoat man before he passed out again.
Waking up in the hospital, Gook-chul did not have much time to process all the things that happened, and Man-ok delivered everything in one breath: his parents were dead, he could possibly become blind forever, and he should not act like a boy because he had to protect the hospital at all cost. She left in a haste after it was reported that their drug research center caught in a fire, and Il-jae tried to comfort his nephew. On the other side of the city, Dodo Group’s President Do Choong (Park Young-gyu) learned about the incidents happening to Sudo Medical Center one after another: the CEO couple who turned down their offer died in a car crash and the hospital research center was destroyed in a fire. His son Do Kwang-woo (Jin Tae-hyun) reported the incidents with glee, but the president was well aware that they were all Kwang-woo’s deeds. He handed over Dodo Pharmaceuticals to Kwang-woo not for recognizing his talents, but because of the Heaven’s help.
At the wake of his parents, Gook-chul could hear people talking behind him, pitying him over having his assets under Man-ok’s care until he come of age. He actually suspected his maternal aunt for murdering his parents on that night, but she had strong alibi proving her whereabouts during the car crash, and police concluded the case as an accident. Asking the help from Attorney Park, Gook-chul urged him to find the evidence that would be able to implicate Man-ok for the crime. Kwang-woo, who was not that happy to know that the household’s son survived the accident, made a visit to the wake and that stare he gave Gook-chul could easily made people feel uneasy.
1 year later. (Is that Gu Jun-pyo’s house?) Looks like Gook-chul developed a super hearing sense in place of his lost sight, because he could hear every murmurs and whispers of the workers in the house. He fired yet another batch of helpers because he couldn’t trust them after he overheard their conversations. His life seemed to be tiring and full of fears, because he felt that he would be killed before he turns 20, because he would be considered an adult and could manage his own assets. He visited Sudo Hospital, where Cha Jung-eun (Lee Yeol-eum) was taking care of her autistic brother. Her father went to greet Gook-chul, whom he aptly called a bad-tempered tyrant. Gook-chul went to the washroom and suddenly, someone jumped on his back. Is someone trying to kill him there? No, it was Jung-eun’s brother, and she was about to lash out at Gook-chul for not using his eyes when she realized that he couldn’t see anything in front of him. Gook-chul fired her dad and ordered for the brother to be expelled from the hospital, just like the tyrant he was known as.
A few days later, Jung-eun assured dad that she found a part-time job with a decent pay this time, and it turned to be an opening at Gook-chul’s house. He recognized her voice and expected her to lie about their previous encounter so that he could reject her at once, but she came clean and even apologized to him. Gook-chul reminded her of her duties but Jung-eun was willing to become a housemaid who followed her master’s order so that she would not lose the job. I guess it’s comforting enough for her to secretly call him names behind his back, although we know that he’s always listening.
As Kwang-woo tried to persuade Man-ok into striking a deal with Dodo with her authority, the real owner that was Gook-chul still treated jung-eun coldly, and he warned her not to collect three strikes from him; or else, she would be fired. jung-eun could not not help but to be mesmerized by the pretty eyes of Gook-chul’s, and her staring earned her another strike. Man-ok seized the chance to make Jung-eun her spy to report to her about Gook-chul, and he overheard everything. Later, he fired her for that reason, but Jung-eun found him even more pitiful because of his way of living. She thought that he couldn’t trust anyone not because of his blind eyes but because of his rotten and sick heart. With that, she left the room but only after throwing the pillow in Gook-chul’s face.
At least he was not lonely in his fight, because Secretary Ok (Lee El) seemed to be on his side for now. She informed him about the contract that was about to be signed between Man-ok and Kwang-woo, and Gook-chul told Attorney Park about it. It turns out that the attorney was not his person, because he was the one who ordered for Gook-chul to be blocked from leaving the house by locking him inside his room. Gook-chul was determined to catch his aunt red-handed at any cost, and wagered his own life. He cut the curtains and tied them into a rope to go down through the window. He escaped and tried to hail a taxi before Jung-eun passed by on her way to make a chicken delivery. She left him behind after telling him that there would be no taxi there but seeing how he almost got hit by a car, she gave him a ride. He was holding on to her jacket and soon her waist to avoid falling, but the bumper made him wrap his hands around her waist. He blamed the fear for his racing heart but we know, boy. We know!
They arrived just in time to stop Man-ok and Kwang-woo from signing the contract to hand over Sudo Hospital to Dodo. Gook-chul refused to sell the hospital even with the possibility of its value going down, but he just told Kwang-woo to buy it at that time. Man-ok was puzzled upon hearing her nephew accusation and found out that Attorney Park and the bodyguards had resigned to take responsibility after locking Gook-chul. She found it suspicious, considering how Attorney Park was brought in by no other than her own husband, Il-jae. Dundundundun~
Well, to be fair, Il-jae a.k.a. our Prosecutor Byun was blackmailed by Kwang-woo, and we were shown the content of the envelope: proof of dearest uncle’s affair with Kwang-woo’s maternal cousin. He used the photos to make Il-jae his hunting dog in clearing the hurdles that was the Lee family. Man-ok overheard his conversation with Kwang-woo and we saw that the man in red was Il-jae, although he did not admit to killing them in front of his wife. He gave the excuse of helping her to take over the inheritance, and he also knew that she arranged for the operation to make Gook-chul blind. Plus, Man-ok would be the prime suspect in the murder since she got the most out of it, or they could cover it up and enjoy what they already got.
Gook-chul woke up greeted by his housekeeper and he asked about Jung-eun, who did not come back. He recalled the conversation they had on the other day when she gave him a ride home. He offered double the wage if she come back to the house as his means of saying thank you, but she just smiled and told him that the should not meet again. He tried calling her mobile (he was listed as Tyrant on her phone. How cute is that?) but Jung-eun did not answer it. Instead of finding out her whereabouts, Gook-chul ordered for Jung-eun’s dad to be reinstated and her brother to be admitted to their hospital again.
Man-ok put Secretary Ok to follow her husband and he was caught in the act when he met with the lady he had an affair with. This is Hwang Ji-soo (Kim Hye-eun), a close friend of Man-ok’s. She headed straight to the place and told Secretary Ok to leave before reporting the adultery to police. After confirming that it was indeed her husband’s car, Man-ok entered the house and overheard their conversation, in which Il-jae told Ji-soo that he was just waiting for the hospital to fall into his hands before divorcing Man-ok. They were surprised to see her in front of the room, but Man-ok was faster to grab a handful of Ji-soo’s hair and told them about her plan, calling police and even reporters. Ji-soo tried to grab the mobile from Man-ok but unfortunately, Man-ok slipped off and fell down the flight of stairs.
The damage was done when Il-jae confirmed that his wife died on the spot and no amount of wails would bring her back to life. He took Ji-soo away before the police arrived and hid Man-ok’s body inside the car trunk. Posing as the aunt, Il-jae sent a text to Gook-chul telling him that Man-ok would be spending some time in the countryside. Looks like Il-jae was cooking something inside his head, because he was keeping Man-ok’s corpse to frame someone for that crime.
Jung-eun decided to return to the mansion and Gook-chul could not hide his happiness, although he still put on his cold exterior in front of her. He wanted to hear her saying thank you, but all he got was ‘I hate you’ from her. Teeheehee! But the happy moments did not last long, because Gook-chul received a call from someone who claimed to know who killed his parents..
[END of Episode 1]
Okay, I know that it is still early to judge but I like the premiere..despite the disappointment I have over the show’s change of title. Tyrant had such a nice ring to it while Monster is too generic, and the search result will be mixed with Monstar, the brand Monster, or all the monsters available in this world. I hope I am not the only one who is reminded of Incarnation of Money after watching the episode, because there are similarities between it and Monster, apart from being Kang Ji-hwan’s dramas from the same writers. Maybe it’s the setting, or maybe it’s the hero’s background with families torn apart by the deeds of others.
Although it will take some time for us to get back to Kang Ji-hwan and Co., right now I’m enjoying the younger version of the leads. They are so cute, and I love the adorable chemistry between them! I can see how Jung-eun will grow up to become Sung Yu-ri and Kang Ji-hwan as the older version of the already bitter Gook-chul channeled by Kikwang, although it would be a stretch to assume that he’s younger than, say, Lee El? Or maybe she won’t be around for long…? I hope not, because we have to have someone on Gook-chul’s side!
So far, we have seen three people died in one episode, and possibly many to come in the future, although it won’t be as many as those in historical dramas. Too bad we did not get to see much of Gook-chul’s pre-orphan days but the pacing of the plot is to my liking, because it doesn’t dwell long on some things. Still, there are things that can be improved…like music choice? Dramas these days tend to get excited with the background music in the first few episodes, and I hope Monster will tone it down.
We’ve only seen a few of the big bad and there are more to come, and Jung Bo-suk certainly doesn’t disappoint here. I thought that he might be a good guy here, but alas, he does evil really well! I’m actually anticipating more of the Dodo siblings, and only Jin Tae-hyun appeared in this episode. I hope to see the siblings strutting in their high horses while kicking people around before Gook-chul returns to take back what originally belongs to him as his incarnated self, Kang Ki-tan. Oh wait, maybe I should study the family tree because things are going to get even more confusing with more people getting aboard in the next episode.