An uneven beginning, but one that got progressively better as the hour advanced. (To be honest, I was feeling that dull sense of bored disappointment halfway through, but at the 45-minute mark things picked up, and the last five minutes had my curiosity stirred and hopes rising. Things take an interesting turn.)
I’m not ready to make a decision yet, because the plot pieces are just getting put into place, and the stuff that draws me to this drama — the school, young aspirants working toward their dream, the rivalries — has barely even gotten any screen time. And yes, I suspect that if you were to decide based on the first half-hour, a lot of people might check out, but that’s mostly necessary background maneuvering; it’s really when they move to the school that things pick up.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
Oh, god. We start off with a rather self-important telecast of the Grammy Awards, ’cause the first-ever Korean is winning one. In 2018.
The singer is “K,” and therefore a reporter conducts an interview with JUNG HA-MYUNG (Mr. Hallyu, also this drama’s producer Bae Yong-joon), a starmaker whom K has credited for kick-starting his/her career. President Jung is also chairman of the board of Kirin Foundation, which operates Kirin Art High School.
K’s identity is kept a secret from us, and to pique our curiosity, all we are told is that K is in the photo Jung refers to — of our drama’s six leads — back from his/her high school days. The pendant in the shape of a K is a recurring motif linked to both K and Jung.
The reporter asks, “Did you have an inkling then, that K would become a World Star™ who’d win a Grammy Award?”
President Jung takes a roundabout way of answering, drawing a comparison to a billiards game, calling himself the “break shot” — the first shot that sets up the table for the rest of the game to proceed.
A series of images flashes of our leads, giving us an introductory shot of Taecyeon and, sadly, our only glimpse of Kim Soo-hyun in this episode. We land on GO HYE-MI (played by Bae Su-ji, aka Suzy), who is currently enjoying the spotlight singing the Lakmé Flower Duet by Delibes with famous soprano Jo Sumi (one of several star cameos).
In awe is Hye-mi’s friend and toady, YOON BAEK-HEE (Ham Eun-jung), who is in raptures over Hye-mi’s performance. After the show is over, a couple of other girls gossip about Hye-mi, who’s the type of girl who is easily hated — it’s due to a combination of her bitchy attitude and the fact that Hye-mi has everything. Looks, money, talent, and a bright future as a student headed to Juilliard.
Despite her overall snotty attitude, Hye-mi sticks up for her friend when the girls snipe about Baek-hee, calling her “Hye-mi-pa,” which means “Hye-mi’s slipper, who follows her everywhere.” Simple, sweet-natured Baek-hee doesn’t mind being called that, but Hye-mi does, and puts the girls in their place. Which only earns her greater adulation from Baek-hee.
Their walk takes them by Kirin Art School, which brings a sneer to Hye-mi’s lips — which is, by the way, no new look for her. She puts on airs about her superior pursuits in classical music, calling Kirin a cesspool that attracts dung flies. Keeping with the poo metaphor, the people affiliated with Kirin are “pieces of crap.” Such pretty words from this pampered, sheltered 17-year-old.
Kirin is no mere high school, but occupies a halfway point between school and management company, grooming the next generation of pop stars. Many are in training for future debuts, while some are even famous now. For this reason, a celebrity van drives by and a crowd of squealing fans accosts it, no doubt carrying some hot flavor of the month, and Hye-mi and Baek-hee are jostled in the process.
Hye-mi drops her wallet without noticing, and it gets picked up by a passerby. The name he reads on the ID catches the interest of his friend, JIN-GOOK (Taecyeon), who seems to recognize Hye-mi, and he takes the wallet to return. But not before his friend swipes the photo tucked inside, a polaroid of Hye-mi onstage with Jo Sumi.
He follows her to the subway, where he notes with amusement how she covers her face in a mask, then stealthily jumps the stile to avoid paying.