Episode 2 of Spy Myung Wol wasn’t nearly as entertaining as episode 1. It also makes clear just how preposterous the world of this drama is, and how much the viewer is going to have to take a giant suspension of disbelief to accept the premise and go with the flow. I don’t have a problem with wacky concepts and goofy constructs, and so far SMW continues to strike the right tone paired with a zippy execution. I remain overall a happy viewer.
SPW is like Alias-crossed-with-Charlie’s Angels, blended with some potential K-drama emotional angst. I’m not sure how tasty the concoction will be for 16 episodes, but right now it’s still a yummy treat. I’m also certain the acting from all four leads will remain just serviceable – when I say someone is well-cast, it just means that person suits the role and is doing fine, but sometimes it’s very clear they are just acting. I get that impression in SMW from all four leads. Regardless, I’m still well on my way towards a solid like for this drama.
Episode 2 recap:
The episode starts off by showing us the hordes of media streaming into the hospital to get their scoop. We see Kang Woo hiding under Myung Wol’s blanket while she’s still asleep. The media barges in and is quickly herded back out. Myung Wol wakes up to sense all is not right, lifting to blankets to find Kang Woo pressed up against her. Kang Woo looms over her and presses his hand over her lips to silence any impending screams. He silently shakes his head to indicate that she needs to keep quiet. Myung Woo understands and nods her head a little.
Kang Woo stands at the foot of Myung Wol’s bed, asking if she’s awake to speak with him. He thanks her, a student, for saving his life. He’ll give her anything she wants, but tells her not to dream too big. Her hospital bills are being paid for, and maybe she’ll get a hotel stay and some nutritious food out of it. But he doesn’t like making any deeper connections. He’ll remember her face, and always thank her for saving his life. But that is at most he can do for her.
Kang Woo tells Myung Wol that he’ll have Agent Kyung contact her parents. Kang Woo leaves and Myung Wol wonders why those fangirls like this arrogant guy so much? The nurses discuss Kang Woo being at the hospital, and wonder if perhaps the injured girl belongs to the same agency as him.
Hee Bok has deciphered the code as the name “Han Myung Wol.” He sneaks into the hospital dressed like a doctor to try and see Myung Wol, but he has to scrap that plan when a patient come asking for his assistance causing him to flee rather than commit malpractice.
Hee Bok ends up dangling from the roof Mission Impossible style and entering Myung Wol’s hospital room through cutting a hole in the window. Nice to see Hee Bok’s got some skills, though he grumbles about having to dig up his rusty spy skills now that he’s in his dotage as an elderly spy.
Hee Bok grumbles that he should have cut a bigger hole in the window as he has difficultly squeezing though since he’s been so sedentary now. Hee Bok finally enters and Myung Wol stares at him, asking who he is? Hee Bok walks up and asks if she is “Comrade Han Myung Wol?” After confirming her identity, he reveals that he’s the Northern operative known as Red Bear Claw and has been undercover in South Korea since 1985.
He’s asks Myung Wol why she sneaked into South Korea without permission and saved the life of Kang Woo? Myung Wol is silent and he presses her, asking if she understands her situation. By crossing the border without permission, she has already committed treason. Myung Wol says she is here on a mission.
Working for the Hallyu Control Division, they can only control the flow of the Hallyu wave to brain wash the Northern kids, but it continues to seep in. Myung Wol feels like she cannot do more while staying in North Korea. So she sneaked into South Korea to eradicate the plague at the source – assassinate Kang Woo! Hee Bok is impressed with her youthful initiative and tells her that he will report her mission duly to his superiors. He leaves her with a “hwaiting”, but sadly reminding her that it’ll likely be a difficult mission to get rid of Kang Woo.
Myung Wol chides herself for speaking before thinking, because why and how is she going to kill Kang Woo! She tells herself that her self-made order is still an order. She tries to climb out the window when the nurse and guards arrive and drag her back inside.
Agent Kyung is told that the patient tried to escape and perhaps is mentally unbalanced. She tells the guards to keep watch on her and make sure she doesn’t escape. If she does, she’ll likely try to blackmail them. Kang Woo meets with a French photographer and greets him in French, which impresses Agent Kyung that he keeps learning new languages.
Hee Bok goes back to composing and deciphering code. Myung Wol is grumbling about being stuck in the hospital. Hee Bok turns on the radio and hears the coded message he is sending to the North, which is unfortunately too complicated for the DJ to read correctly, so the DJ ad libs the content of the message. But Hee Bok gets enough to decipher the code, and his face falls in shock once he realizes what the DJ’s mangled reading of the original message will translate to.
The North Korean military is having a meeting and hears the message from Red Bear Claw. It reads: Han Myung Wol sneaked into the film set to…..take pictures. The officers all gape in shock that Myung Wol would commit treason to do something like this, wondering if maybe she is suffering from a mental defect that ought to have been detected when she joined the service.
The North analyze Myung Wol’s life, finding nothing of suspicion in her belongings. But they see pictures of her attending Kang Woo’s Showcase in Singapore and assume she went to watch him (but we know she accompanied the General’s daughter to the show). Choi Ryu is asked how soon Myung Wol can be eliminated.
After the meeting, Choi Ryu accosts the General, reminding him of the real reason Myung Wol went to Singapore. The General says that Myung Wol can cause more trouble, and it’s easier for everyone if they just eliminated one little girl. Choi Ryu tries to speak up on behalf of Myung Wol, saying she wouldn’t sneak to South Korea to take pictures of Kang Woo. The General reminds Choi Ryu that he described Myung Wol as act first, think later. That is the reason for her getting herself into this situation.
Hee Bok and Dae Kang go back to the hospital, this time with Dae Kang pretending like his crazy and needs medication. Everyone gets distracted by Dae Kang and Hee Bok manages to speak with Myung Wol privately. He explains that the North is now under the mistaken assumption that Myung Wol crossed the border to take pictures of Kang Woo (not explaining that his message getting bungled was the cause for this mistaken assumption). He tells her that she needs to escape now before the Northern comrades arrive to eliminate her.
Hee Bok will send a corrected message but it has to wait until midnight before it can be broadcast, and he doesn’t know what will happen to Myung Wol before the truth is received by the North. He hands her Kang Woo’s address and tells her to go do something big, i.e. get rid of Kang Woo and accomplish her mission.
Kang Woo is on set with his assistant and is shown the news that the media discovered a high school girl saved Kang Woo’s life. He’s told that the girl’s identity is still a mystery and with her mental condition it’s hard to get the truth from her.
Kang Woo meets with Chairman Joo, who asks how long he’s been taking care of Kang Woo. Kang Woo says it’s been five years. The Chairman heard from In Ah that Kang Woo recently bought a book. Afterwards, the Chairman tells his driver to book a flight to Singapore.
Myung Woo sneaks out of her hospital room and grabs some medical supplies and a change of clothes. Myung Wol watches a Kang Woo movie as she dresses her shoulder wound. She sees a tracking device in her discarded hospital gown and realizes that Hee Bok planted one on her the night he first visited her. Myung Wol tells herself that all she needs to do is get the book back from Kang Woo and she can go home, everything will be taken care of.
Myung Wol sneaks into Kang Woo’s house to look for the manuscript. Kang Woo comes home in the middle of her search leading her to dangle off the balcony to avoid detection. Too bad Kang Woo’s got some spidey sense because he sees her and actually reaches out to grab her hand when she starts slipping. Kang Woo pulls Myung Wol back up.
Myung Wol wakes up in Kang Woo’s bed, or more like he tells her to stop pretending she’s passed out because he knows she’s awake. He’s not interested in her life and death, but she appears to be using it to elicit his concern for her. He tells her to stop. A big star like him will never fall for a high school student like her, so she better stop daydreaming.
Kang Woo asks if Myung Wol’s from a chaebol family? She shakes her head. Since she’s still in high school she clearly doesn’t have the earning power, and her looks isn’t his type either. Myung Wol wonders why he’s yammering, and perhaps she ought to just off him now. Ahahahaha. Kang Woo says if all the beautiful, rich, smart ladies are all assembled before him, they would form a line from GuangHwaMun to Yeouido long. So why would he ever pick her?
Myung Wol thinks that Kang Woo ought to thank his lucky stars that he’s in possession of that book, otherwise she’d snap his neck right now. Kang Woo leans down and asks if she’s disappointed to find out that her beloved oppa is such a materialistic and practical guy. He tells her to study hard and not disappoint her parents and stop doing this from now on. He tells her to go home.
Myung Wol doesn’t get out of the bed and starts to pretend that she’s lost her memory. She asks where she is, and how she ended up here? Kang Woo tells her to stop acting, perhaps he needs to call the cops. Myung Wol suddenly clutches her head as if in extreme pain. She flops on the bed, telling Kang Woo that her head hurts so much and she has no idea who he is. She asks if he was the one who injured her, and what he’s done to her.
Myung Wol theatrically flops on the bed, leaving Kang Woo to wonder if she saved him because she was crazy, or perhaps she saved him and that caused her to suddenly go crazy? Kang Woo calls his assistant to find out where the pain medication is, and Myung Wol uses this opportunity to get away.
The General asks how operation eliminate Han Myung Wol is going, and is told it can be done within a day. Choi Ryu voices his concern that his operation is too hastily planned. The General chides Choi Ryu for having personal feelings for Myung Wol, but Ryu says that he simply doesn’t want his subordinate being a scapegoat. The General warns Choi Ryu that he will also get into trouble if he keeps speaking up for Myung Wol.
Suddenly another officer comes in to announce that a new coded message has been received. Hee Bok is listening to the message he composed being read over the radio, confident that it’ll be correctly be read. At another meeting of North Korean officers, the General is being taken to task for not controlling the Hallyu division.
The General suddenly says that he sent Han Myung Wol on the mission – he wants her to convince Kang Woo to defect to the North. The rumor that she was sent to assassinate Kang Woo is false, they want instead for Myung Wol to save Kang Woo and bring him to the North. The General tells his fellow officers that he has a detailed plan in converting Kang Woo.
The first step is already done – Myung Wol saves Kang Woo. When asked what step two is, the General hems and haws and says he will be sending Choi Ryu to the South to implement and oversee the rest of the mission. When pressed as to what the final mission is, the General says that it’s a secret.
The General gives Choi Ryu his order, and one of it is to get rid of Myung Wol’s critical weakness to act first before thinking. Choi Ryu wonders why everything is falling into place, and recalls an order to bring the item (the book) back. Hee Bok tracks Myung Wol to a room only to find it contains the tracking device which she has tossed in the garbage. Oops, lost your mark, Hee Bok.
Hee Bok goes back and types a new message into the radio announcement board. He wonders how best to inform the North that he lost track of Myung Wol, and perhaps they ought to just kill him instead. We see Choi Ryu flying to Singapore again. We see the Chairman is also in Singapore, where he exchanges a briefcase worth of cash for a briefcase containing a similar manuscript as the one Kang Woo won in the bid.
He asks if this is authentic, and we see Choi Ryu step forward as an authenticator. Choi Ryu authenticates the manuscript as fake. Choi Ryu quickly disarms the thugs and helps the Chairman get away. Myung Wol is at a bus station and sees a billboard featuring Kang Woo. The bus pulls up and he’s on the side of the bus as well. She looks up and his CFs are playing on various big screen TVs.
Myung Wol remembers Hee Bok telling her that her life is in danger and someone will be coming to eliminate her. Hee Bok comes back to his agency to find a client waiting for him. It’s Choi Ryu, who immediately provides the code phrase that identifies him to Hee Bok. Hee Bok salutes Choi Ryu once the correct code name is provided.
Kang Woo has his assistant looking for the missing Myung Wol, and the assistant teases Kang Woo that he appears to care quite a lot about this missing girl, when normally he doesn’t waste his time. Hee Bok and Choi Ryu set out to find Myung Wol. Fans are gathered outside Kang Woo’s agency waiting for him. Myung Wol has walked there and Kang Woo walks up behind her.
She takes out her knife and is prepared to stab him but doesn’t because Kang Woo immediately says that he was worried about her. He’s Seoul’s youth ambassador so he cares about the plight of kids like her and doesn’t want her causing trouble for society. Myung Wol wonders if Kang Woo will die if he just stops talking, and why he keeps jabbering on like this all the time. Kang Woo tells her to inform him of her every movement going forward.
Suddenly Hee Bok and Choi Ryu find Myung Wol as well. The three of them head back to the agency and sit down for a talk. Choi Ryu asks why Myung Wol undertook this mission alone, and if it’s true she wanted it eliminate Kang Woo. Did Myung Wol break the soldier code because she wanted personal glory? Myung Wol says she is willing to accept her punishment, even death, for her insubordination. Hee Bok tries to speak up on her behalf.
Choi Ryu asks if she’s ready to commit herself to her country from now on? Myung Wol stands up and says yes. She will have three months to secure Kang Woo’s allegiance, marry him, and have him defect to the North. Myung Wol’s eyes widen, asking if she can simply eliminate him instead.
Myung Wol paces around the room. She asks Choi Ryu if this mission is serious? He asks if she’s questioning her orders? Myung Wol says aren’t most missions well planned, and the possibility of success is factored into a mission. Choi Ryu aks if a mission with a low success rate ought not be undertaken, is that what she is saying? Myung Wol says no, she’s does not have faith that she can do it.
She can fight and attack, but this is beyond her ability. Choi Ryu tells her to do it because it’s for the greater good and glory of her country. Myung Wol mutters to herself that Kang Woo thinks she’s a psycho, so how the hell is she ever going to seduce him?
A shop owner ahjumma Ri Ok Soon manages to subdue a drunken customer while she hears a coded message on the radio. Of course she is another Northern operative and she heads to meet with Hee Bok the next day. Oooh, maybe we’ll have an older generation spy love story as well. The two older spies exchange coded confirmations of their identities.
Choi Ryu and Myung Wol sit behind them and watch this new operative. Myung Wol asks if that woman will be her tutor. She’s told the lady operative runs a café, and she once got in trouble for falling for her mark. The North Korean group is assembled, with the two older operatives playing Myung Wol’s parents. Hee Bok fantasizes that he gets to play a doted on husband by the pretty lady operative. She informs Hee Bok that she draws the line at disguising herself.
Choi Ryu gives the team four days to prepare before Myung Wol is to approach Kang Woo. Ok Soon has four days to teach Myung Wol everything she knows. The newly assembled family sit for family portraits. Their back story is that Hee Bok rented a room from Ok Soon and they fell in love and got married. They create a birth certificate and identification for Myung Wol.
Ok Soon points out that Myung Wol’s “feminine” traits appear to be lacking, but is told that it’s her job to bring it out of Myung Wol. Ok Soon asks Myung Wol how her male relations are, and is told she’s never had any male contact because she’s been busy training. Myung Wol confesses that she doesn’t have the confidence to be able to do it. Choi Ryu reminds her that all special ops members have a do or die mentality that she needs to dig up now.
Ok Soon trains Myung Wol on all the feminine behaviors and skills. Sadly, Ok Soon’s methods are outdated, as Myung Wol is dressed and made up akin to a cowgirl hooker. Ok Soon’s idea of making seductive faces and gestures are also ridiculously unsexy and downright nasty. Poor Myung Wol. She teaches Myung Wol the correct way to walk with a sexy hip wiggle as opposed to Myung Wol’s usually plowing down the street walk.
Ok Soon reports to Choi Ryu that Myung Wol can’t possible undertake this mission since she doesn’t even know what it feels like to be in love. Ok Soon says there is only one solution left – the blind love confession.
Kang Woo is sitting in his dressing room when he sees In Ah calling. He ignores her, but she walks in holding her phone and seeing Kang Woo purposely ignoring her call. She orders everyone out. In Ah doesn’t beat around the bush, she outright tells Kang Woo to marry her and become the heir to the hotel fortune and the husband to popular star Joo In Ah.
Kang Woo says she must be insane to think he’ll marry her. He moves to leave but In Ah grabs him for a back hug, saying he needs to marry her because there isn’t another woman in this world more crazy about him than she is. Kang Woo walks out and Myung Wol is waiting for him.
Myung Wol grabs his arm and tells him that she misses him so much her heart is about to burst. She just wants to stay by his side. She blurts out “I love you!” Kang Woo is taken aback and asks her again if she means it. Suddenly In Ah walks out and Kang Woo sees her. He mutters that even though she’s crazy, he wonders just how far they will progress.
Kang Woo pulls Myung Wol in for a kiss intended to tell In Ah to back off. In Ah looks on in shock, and Myung Wol’s eyes look like it’s about to burst out of her socket.
Thoughts of Mine:
Two episodes in, I think I’m more taken with the snappy execution of this drama more than any other element. The script is pretty fun but decidedly mediocre, the acting is honestly quite stiff, and the OST isn’t very engaging. But oh do I love how the PD’s deft touch really elevates all the run-of-the-mill pieces of the puzzle and makes it fit in a fluid way. However, I find the editing of episode 2 really choppy, and I hope whoever is editing this drama smooth over the transitions better because it got pretty annoying.
One hitch in creating a pseudo-real spy world like the one in SMW is that the characters naturally appear cartoonish at worst and pretty unrealistic at best. In the beginning the viewer accepts the broad strokes because we’re just getting to know the people and being entertained by the novelty of the story. As the newness wears off, so does our benefit of the doubt, and then the drama has to deliver more to make us care.
It makes it hard to connect with the characters on a personal level, to care about their successes, failures, and emotional ripples. This situation can be ameliorated if the actor in question has the charisma and acting chops to simply will the viewer to connect with the character. But I don’t see any of the four leads having the gravitas to do that. Which requires the script to humanize them and do so quickly so the audience doesn’t start checking out because the hijinks get old but the emotional hook hasn’t yet arrived.
Right now all the characters remain superficial plot device drivers, and I have yet to feel any deeper emotion from them or for them. I’m sure this will likely change, and I prefer it to happen sooner rather than later because the marriage hijinks can get old pretty fast. Also, poker face Choi Ryu and princess face In Ah are both starting to annoy me, in no small part to the complete lack of emotive ability from both actors. I’m hoping those two step up soon, if for no other reason than I don’t want them dragging down the drama which currently comes to a standstill when either of them pop up. It’s like a freeze frame effect.
I’m going to have to caution Han Ye Seul to really work on her tendency to emote by showcasing an extreme wide-eyed look of shock, worry, confusion – you name it, she delivers it the same way. This has dogged her for her entire career, and while I thought she really nailed it in Fantasy Couple, in almost everything else she’s been pretty bad. Okay, her performance was actually not bad in Tazza, but for the fact that she and Jang Hyuk has negative chemistry which sunk that OTP faster than a game of battleship.
Her chemistry is still stellar with Eric, and I can’t imagine that changing. In the quieter scenes so far she’s been quite solid. Eric disappointed me a bit in this episode as well. Both his character and his performance felt flat, especially in comparison to episode 1 because I feel like I’ve gotten no forward momentum from him. My only comparison for Han Ye Seul-Eric in terms of nailing the performance of their respective characters is to point to Song Seung Heon–Kim Tae Hee in The Princess. Both actors are more well known for being pretty faces rather than serious actors, and actually Eric has Que Sera Sera under his belt and is arguably a better actor than my Heon oppa.
Nevertheless, both Song Seung Heon and Kim Tae Hee showed a lot of potential in episode 1 of MP, and then proceeded to nail their performances in episode 2, and that drama took off and never looked back in terms of character chemistry. Yes, the plot went to pot in MP, but I’ll always look back fondly on the drama for changing my mind about those two. I’m hoping for the same here. While I currently haven’t seen it, I still believe is has the potential. Right now I’m fine with SMW coasting on simple yet rather entertaining plot, but pretty soon I want to feel that connection with the OTP that will keep me riveted to the story as it unfolds.