This premiere did not disappoint!
The Rabbit Hole
I think I’ve mentioned before that I consider world-building as one of the crucial elements of fantasy series. Unlike other genres, those under the fantasy category needs to create an alternate universe and make unbelievable creatures believable. Hwayugi has successfully introduced its audience to a world where entertainment CEOs could be a bull demon king, celebrities are energy-sucking monsters, a ghost-fighting monkey king, and the female lead’s yellow umbrella withstood 25 years of usage. The storytelling and the enthralling cinematic colors have concocted an air of intrigue among the characters, leaving viewers enchanted and curious with their back stories.
The Mad Hatter
Hwayugi opened with Woo Ma-wang (Cha Seung-won) asking ghost-seeing girl Jin Sun-mi (Kal So-won) to retrieve a special fan for him in order to stop a mountain fire in the Gangwon region. Seung-won clad in a very Johnny Depp-esque outfit has immediately created a distinction of this Mad Hatter-looking character from his previous roles. The way he sometimes drawls his sentences was an obvious attempt to differentiate this eccentric character from his Greatest Love and You’re All Surrounded characters. Some may find it an exaggeration but I don’t find it irksome.
Alice and the Deceitful Monkey
I thought we’ll spend an episode or two before our main leads will finally see each other. 25 years after their first encounter, the now real estate CEO Jin Sun-mi (Oh Yeon-seo) and the mischievous monkey king Son Oh-gong (Lee Seunggi) met again. I can’t get the right words to express my feelings for their first banter. I realized I really missed Hong sisters-written dialogues. Some would brush it off as the usual K-drama bickering but I really love that the scene showed how Sun-mi’s first meeting with Oh-gong changed her. She learned to rely on herself and became stronger after this Great Sage broken his vow to become her protector. My romanticist self even went on and imagined it like Sun-mi saw an almost-ex who she didn’t have any closure with (lol). Anyway, I was surprised with the chemistry between Seung-gi and Yeon-seo. I didn’t doubt Seung-gi could pull off a faux romantic relationship with any actress but these two have an uncanny sexual tension (yep, I’m using that term) that made me crave for more scenes of them together.
Maknae’s Episode Verdict
Please forgive my Alice in Wonderland references but Hwayugi‘s pilot episode reminds me of the Lewis Carroll fantasy novel, except for the scary ghosts and beautiful supernatural creatures.
Full disclosure: I have no background with the Chinese novel Journey to the West but I think this is a strong premiere for this much-anticipated series. I was able to grasp the main plot even without the knowledge of the original story. It must be because the Hong sisters decided to modernized the setting and whisked it up with their own story lines and interesting version of the original characters. I have no complaints about the series premiere as it lived up to its hype. For the meantime, I’ll lend my Christmas and New Year’s wishes that this would be a hit comeback drama for one of my favorite K-drama actor!
Afterthoughts of a Dongsaeng
– I would totally let PK (Lee Hong-ki) take my energy!
– This guy is everywhere! This time he is Lee Han-joo (Kim Sung-oh), Sun-mi’s employee.
– I just watched The Crucible and I can’t help but sent dagger looks to Jang Gwang.
– General Frost is hot! Sung Hyuk should have worn that man bun from the start.
– Can we have Woo Ma-wang x Ma Ji-young (Lee El) couple instead? This girl would kill anyone for her CEO.