We are still in the second quarter of 2021, but so far, it’s been a generous year for K-drama fans. Maybe drama genies are in a good mood these days that’s why they have been gifting us quality dramas that make our quarantine lives much more bearable. Another addition to 2021’s streak of ~best~ dramas is the tvN hit Vincenzo. Song Joong-ki starred in the titular role as the cold-blooded anti-hero we never knew we needed – a ratings king and a global phenom.
To set the mood, I found this gem on YouTube. Fellow Vincenzo fans are the best! You may want to play it while reading this review:
Vincenzo revolved around the story of Vincenzo Cassano, a Mafia consigliere of Korean descent. He was adopted to an Italian family when he was a young boy and was raised in a foreign surrounding where death was as normal as sleep. I’m almost sure Park Jae-bum writernim is a football fan because of the wordplay he used in naming the titular character. We met Vincenzo as someone who’s brutal and smart. He played his cards well, and after the death of his adoptive family’s patriarch, he flew back to his homeland to fulfill one goal – retrieve the piles of gold bars hidden in the basement of a dilapidated building named Geumga Plaza located in the heart of Seoul. This was the drama’s main premise, and the showrunners delivered it thoroughly. It was never advertised as a love story, and I think the romance that we got through its run was just a welcome bonus.
The drama has always emphasized that Vincenzo is a villain and has told his narrative from the perspective of a villain. His execution was always satisfying and way beyond everyone’s imagination. Just when you thought you know him already, he’ll show you another layer of him that you can never predict. He defies the expectations of the people around him because he is not afraid of breaking the law. And that’s what made the drama very exciting for the audience – it’s a different level of catharsis that only his caliber can carry through.
“Only evil can punish evil”
Vincenzo explains in an episode that only a devil can punish another devil. His arch nemesis in the drama, Jang Han-seok (played brilliantly by Ok Taecyeon) was a force to be reckoned with. He is the Lex Luthor of this drama’s universe. I can’t compare Vincenzo to Superman, though, because he’s not good-natured but you get what I mean. Jang Han-seok started as a carefree intern at the Wusang Law Firm (where all the evil ideas were brainstormed). Honestly, I used to ship him (as Jung-woo) to Hong Cha-young (Jeon Yeo-been).
We all knew from the start that Taecyeon would never accept this role if it’s minor, so the main reveal of “Jung-woo” as the real bad guy “Han-seok” didn’t come as a surprise. What was admirable though was Taecyeon’s perfect portrayal of a psychopath killer who collects his victim’s wristwatches. Just like Vincenzo, he doesn’t even blink when he murders someone, but their ways are so much different. Han-seok kills innocent people who complicate his hunger for power and money while Vincenzo kills his enemies.
In his pursuit of the hidden gold bars, Vincenzo has to face head-to-head against Han-seok, whose Babel Group claimed Geumga Plaza through illegal means. Babel owning the building complicated everything and resulted to Vincenzo staying in Korea longer than he intended to. He can’t just move the gold bars because of its intensive security wall and the tenants in the building were completely unaware of its existence (at first). Along the way, he met Jipuragi Law Firm’s owner Hong Yu-chan (Yoo Jae-myung) and an unlikely tandem was born out of this predicament.
Another evil being in the drama was Choi Myung-hee (Kim Yeo-jin), a nasty prosecutor who fabricates evidence to her advantage. She is the perfect right hand for Jang Han-seok. Myung-hee started her journey as Luthor’s “Mercy Graves” (I’m really pushing the DC reference here) when she was recruited by Wusang Law Firm’s CEO Han Seung-hyuk (Jo Han-chul). She is the drama’s executioner – a ruthless partner who sometimes clashes with Seung-hyuk because of her sardonic wit. I was wrong for thinking that she had a humane side of her just because she spends her free time doing laundry and dancing Zumba. I was terribly mistaken.
Lastly, completing the foursome of Vincenzo’s “supervillains” is Babel Group chairman Jang Han-seo (Kwak Dong-yeon). He was Han-seok’s half-brother and the one who handles the corporation on his behalf. They were a tag team, but Han-seo was never really given the liberty to decide on his own. He was Han-seok’s puppet and sad to say, punching bag. He was tortured by his own brother, and his participation in this unscrupulous squad was against his will. In the entire drama, only Han-seo got it right in terms of character development.
As Vincenzo puts it, it was a chess game between him and Han-seok. When one pulls a trick, the other will surely retaliate. Countless people became collateral damage in this fight – including Vincenzo’s birth mother and Cha-young’s father Lawyer Hong. Their deaths all marked important milestones in Vincenzo and Cha-young’s fight against Babel.
I’m not sure if Vincenzo converted to Buddhism because it’s established in the premiere that he’s Catholic. But his conversation with Monk Jeokha (Ri Woo-jin) puts his heart at ease. Vincenzo knows very well that he can’t follow the path of Buddha but he can be like Vaisravana (the warrior god who punishes evildoers) because we need people like him – someone who’s ready to go after other monsters of the world. Borrowing his parting words – “Evil is prevalent and vehement.”
“Regret is the most painful experience in your life.”
Vincenzo and Cha-young’s relationship started with regret. Vincenzo’s first friend (aside from secret agent Cho Yeong-un [Choi Young-joon]) was Lawyer Hong Yu-chan. He was also the bridge to his birth mom, a heartwarming coincidence that played an integral part in Vincenzo’s growth as a character. This friendship may have ended abruptly, but the unfortunate incident led Vincenzo and Cha-young towards each other.
Cha-young is a tenacious associate at Wusang Law Firm. She’s the representative of Babel Group during its legal battles and she wins them with flying colors even if she has to butt heads with her father before the court. However, Lawyer Hong’s untimely death woke Cha-young up from the monstrous firm that she’s working for. She walked away from the financially stable life and took over her father’s Jipuragi Law Firm.
The meaning of Jipuragi Law Firm being a person’s last straw of justice was a poignant inclusion to the drama’s narrative. It’s where a desperate victim goes as a refuge for healing and justice – just as how Lawyer Hong describes his advocacy. Even though Vincenzo and Lawyer Hong had very different means, they have a common denominator – and that’s to make sure no innocent life is endangered. Vincenzo can employ all barbaric means if he wants to but he never hurts the innocent, especially women and children. And that’s what makes him a different breed of a villain.
Speaking of villains, the drama revolves around the narrative that villains can only be punished by other villains. And by a villain, it means an evildoer. Vincenzo showed Cha-young what it means to be a villain and how it feels to be one. It was purely for revenge at first – Cha-young wanted to finish off her dad’s advocacy and avenge his death. Cha-young fights alongside Vincenzo but still makes sure all those who sinned are being punished according to the law.
Cha-young’s character development from being a selfish daughter to an advocate of justice is proof that the show has a great job in storytelling. It seems like Cha-young is a completely different person from the pilot week to the finale. Of course, she’s still wacky as ever, but you can feel that she’s a changed person. It’s a shame that Lawyer Hong couldn’t witness his daughter’s evolution, but I know he’s very happy. Another hint of the Hong family’s influence in Vincenzo’s life – his island Pagliuzza also translates to “jipuragi” in Korean.
“Friends are like two souls in one body”
Vincenzo and Cha-young had one hell of a ride in this quest. What I liked about Vincenzo was his honesty even from the start. It took a while to loosen up to Cha-young as his partner in crime against Babel, but when he officially did, it was an unbeatable alliance. Add the wimpy paralegal Nam Joo-sung (Yoon Byung-hee) into the mix and we have another awesome trio in dramaland.
As I said earlier, this was never a romance drama so I wasn’t expecting Vincenzo and Cha-young to fall in love along the way. I was ready for them to stay platonic even though I admit there’s undeniable chemistry between Song Joong-ki and Jeon Yeo-been. They were cute together and their banters were entertaining to watch. Vincenzo and Cha-young complement each other. Vincenzo brings out the best in Cha-young while Cha-young grounds Vincenzo back to reality when he’s consumed with hatred. It’s obvious that they love each other but a slow burn romance is understandable in this action-packed setting. There’s too much going on in their world that a potential relationship could be set aside.
In terms of the revenge plot, Vincenzo, Cha-young, and paralegal Nam exhausted all means to bring down Babel Group through the help of the trusty Guillotine file (Pandora’s box of the corrupt practices by powerful personalities). The reliable Nam biso was a fun addition to this unlikely trio and he was the life of Jipuragi. Vincenzo and Cha-young couldn’t have done it by themselves, especially the paperwork and the thorough review of all the evil deeds contained in the Guillotine file. I think the paralegal needs a raise, too, don’t you think?
Another “friend” worth mentioning in this drama was Vincenzo’s accidental pet, Inzaghi! His role in the anti-hero’s life couldn’t be ignored. This pigeon “visited” Vincenzo’s room every day, knocking on the glass window for who knows what for. We saw him and two of his friends play inside Vincenzo’s room in one episode, which elicited various interpretations from the fans. However, Inzaghi’s most important contribution to the story was when he and his friends saved Vincenzo at the brink of death. It was a hilarious twist to the critical situation! It was never explained though how the hell did that came about, but I welcomed it with all my heart. Inzaghi jjang!! 👍👍
Lastly, Han-seo’s character growth from Han-seok’s puppet to Vincenzo’s dongsaeng was this drama’s most heartbreaking development. I still can’t accept that he had to die like that because as a fan of writer Park Jae-bum, Han-seo felt like an offshoot of the Han Sung-kyu character from The Fiery Priest. Both of them suffered the same fate against the drama’s villains but at least, (spoiler alert) Priest Han survived! Han-seo’s ending was hurtful and I strongly believe his death could have been avoided in the script. Besides, everyone else survived – but Han-seo, the sole person who wished Babel Group to become a decent company, died just like that. The only consolation we have was the crumbs of his hyung-dongsaeng relationship with Vincenzo. Han-seo didn’t deserve his ending. I don’t care if you disagree.
🤌🏻 Solar’s version of this OST is my favorite!
🤌🏻 I will miss our weekly dose of Geumga Cassano family interactions! Park Jae-bum writernim is well-known for always having a compelling set of characters and the Vincenzo cast has been added to his impressive portfolio.
🤌🏻 My most favorite of the bunch, Ahn teamjang! How can we apply to be an official member of the “Oh My Consigliere” fandom?!
🤌🏻 The low-budget Park Saeroyi inside joke will always be superior. 🤣
🤌🏻 Immortalizing my favorite scene in the drama – Yeorim’s guesting! Jk
🤌🏻 Best farewell gift for the fans – Vincenzo cast guesting on Na PD’s YouTube channel!