[Review] History of the Salaryman – 샐러리맨 초한지

OH, THE PLACES YOO BANG’ll GO!

Really, I had no expectations from this drama before it started airing.  I saw the strange promo pictures but I really didn’t know what to make of it or what the plot was about.  But sometimes that’s the best way to approach a new drama.  It’s a little tough to explain the premise for the drama as there are many elements, many characters and many storylines.

It’s basically a drama set in the corporate world and at the head of this corporate world is Chun Ha Group’s Jin Shi Hwang (Lee Duk Hwa).  Yoo Bang (Lee Bum Soo) enters the corporate world and starts from the bottom up.

Lee Teuk & Key – Bravo

이특(슈퍼주니어) & Key(샤이니) – Bravo

(**In my haste, I forgot to post this song.  Hearing the song on its own, I didn’t take to it at first.  Within the context of the drama, the song is awesome making it part a fighting song in support of the underdog and expressing the humor that is HOTS.)

Choi Hang Woo (Jung Kyeo Woon) aims to takedown Chun Ha Group and Jin Shi Hwang because his father’s death was caused by being loyal to a company that did not return the favor.  Baek Yeo Chi (Jung Ryeo Won) is Jin Shi Hwang’s granddaughter and next in line for succession despite being inexperienced and having an uncle who believes he should be next in line.  Cha Woo Hee (Hong Soo Hyun) is Chun Ha Group’s Chief Pharmaceutical Researcher who is testing out the company’s new Eternal Youth Pill, which is at risk for being stolen by Chun Ha Group’s competition.

The writers used Chinese history as the basis for this drama and so it clearly has this sageuk feel to it.  It’s based on Qin Shi Huang who was the first emperor of aunified China and Liu Bang, who was born from a peasant family but grew up to become the emperor during the Han Dynasty.  Because of the sageuk genre, I kept wanting to compare it to The Moon that Embraces the Sun but alas that’s not really fair as that is a romance and this is a dark comedy.  Dark comedy isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea but I definitely liked this drama more for its uniqueness.  From dual meanings to setting a sageuk in a modern world to homages to old films to the epilogues, the drama was jammed packed with stuff to fangirl about.

The writing wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without a great cast so let’s start with Lee Bum Soo.  There’s no doubt that he’s a great actor… and a comical actor.  He does have a face for comedy.

However, who knew that so many girls would swoon over his portrayal of Yoo Bang?

It’s part that Yoo Bang’s an underdog but to do it with such flair in the way that he does it is clearly something that should be credited to Lee Bum Soo the actor.

And suddenly, he has me thinking, ‘My, he does look good in a tux.’ Or, ‘Who knew he could pull off guyliner?’  Or, ‘Sigh, there he is in another great 3-piece suit.’

I know, I sound like Yeo Chi in that Epilogue video where Jin Shi Hwang asks her what she sees in him.  She gushes, ‘I… I don’t know.  He’s just so… good looking.’  LOL.

I’ve been following Jung Kyeo Woon for a while now from Sign to Romance Town and I’ve decided that he’s better suited playing guys that aren’t completely moral or little bit jerky.  Jung Kyeo Woon is very good-looking and with that Greek god-like face of his he’d be boring if he played just a nice guy.

As Hang Woo, while he’s starts out playing a guy hell-bent on avenging his father’s death and subsequently, his older cousin’s death, he meets Woo Hee and he starts to change because of her.

That makes him far more interesting than him being the guy who is simply trying to use her because what Jung Kyeo Woon does so well are his facial expressions and exasperated voice when things aren’t going according to his plans.

Jung Ryeo Won.  I don’t know.  As a celebrity, I just never warmed up to her.  I just don’t feel like we’d get along if we ever met and even her recent appearance on Happy Together had me thinking she was a bit bonkers.  Does she have Tourettes?  Or maybe she’s a method actor?  Because there was a bit of Yeo Chi that would peek out in that appearance.  (Ugh, method actors.  Jesus Christmas!)

This role though… is totally a game changer for her career.  It had me seeing her in a completely different light.  She’s a complete bitch who takes joy out of seeing other people being miserable.

I guess I was somewhat satisfied to see her life on the run.  She got to see that life doesn’t work out a certain way just because she deems it so.  And suddenly when she doesn’t have her grandfather to protect her anymore, she becomes a human being.

In that way, she’s a bit like Hang Woo but she learned the human being lesson much earlier and got much farther than him.  Her guttural crying had me rethinking her as an actress and I feel like maybe this is the first time a project didn’t just view her merely as an idol-turned-actress.

Hong Soo Hyun.  The only thing I liked about Lie to Me.  I also loved her character in The Princess’ Man.  She’s a great actress and has some great comedic timing.

As Woo Hee, she traveled that line between being easy and playing hard to get.  Unfortunately for Hang Woo, she was easy when he wanted her to play hard to get and vice versa.

Along those lines, Woo Hee was conflicted between her friendship with Bang and her feelings for Hang Woo but her conscience ruled on how she would become involved in the corporate matters.

Mo Gabi (Kim Suh Hyung) starts out by being a background character and graduates to our main villain.  I enjoyed Kim Suh Hyung’s performance here because she starts out being just like all the other employees under Jin Shi Hwang and then elevates it to uber femme fetale to loony-bin batty.

I suspect she’s also half-vampire.

I love that she’s this strong woman in this mostly male business world and while the men are being flirty and ridiculous, she’s savvy enough to use her feminine wiles to get her way.

Yes, she was outrageous but that’s exactly what dark comedies do.  Her maniacal laughter is supposed to unnerve viewers and show hints of where her character is heading.

I just wish we got a backstory on her.  Other than being greedy, it’s hard to determine what caused that dark turn and I think Mo Gabi was enough of an interesting character to warrant seeing it.  I would have been more sympathetic to her in the last scene if I knew what led up to this.

Mo Gabi’s lack of a backstory wasn’t the only thing that was a flawed with this drama.  With the comedy aspect of it, a degree of reality has to be given up and I am okay with that.  I don’t know if it was because of the extension but we got two cliffhangers where Cha Woo Hee’s life is put at risk.  And someone as smart as Hang Woo doesn’t suspect that the enemy could be right under his nose?  Or the thing with the blood glucose monitor.  The need to put labels on the prototypes when they are already engraved with the company’s initials at the bottom.

(And would it have killed them to make another wacky music video?  Okay, maybe as the schedule was tight.  But the extra epilogues were a great bonus.)

Luckily, most of these cracks were contained at the end and although they were there I could live with them as the story moved along.  All in all, it was a great drama and I can’t wait to see these four main actors in their next project.

Rating

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One thought on “[Review] History of the Salaryman – 샐러리맨 초한지

  1. I want to read more! More insights! 😀

    It’s just that I missed this drama so much now. How could just listening to one tiny bit of song the images of the horse running in the screen and eagerly waiting for the epilogues flashes in my mind. I missed the wacky first half of the series. The showdown between the two companies running and battling on the golf course, the childish betting on poker over their properties, YB and HW’s business battle.

    I admit the last few episodes it feels that the plot to turn down Mo Ga Bi is a bit draggy and the last episodes it feels as if they cut down scenes of Wo Hee dissapearance. I honestly think JRW outshines HSH here. Lol. It probably because WH characters became gradually weak eventhough she has the most important key to everything.

    And yes! I agree with you on JGW’s character. I hope he’s not going to be a nice guy anymore (enough of Romance Town, I can’t finish that series T^T) and god, he’s so damn cute when he’s pouting! Rawr. XD

    Like

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