I am usually wary about North Korea spy thrillers — they can sometimes go very wrong (read: Level 7 Civil Servant, Doctor Stranger). So far, Spy has been keeping me on my toes…cross my fingers that it will continue this way.

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Main cast:

  • Kim Jae-joong (from Protect the Boss) as Kim Sun-woo. NIS spy, and a pretty good one at that. Cos of his profession, he has to keep his real job a secret from his family.
  • Bae Jong-ok as Park Hye-rim. Sun-woo’s mum, whom everybody assumes is an efficient and graceful housewife. She is actually a N. Korea spy in hiding.
  • Ko Sung-hee as Lee Yoon-jin. Sun-woo’s girlfriend, who claims to come from the same “hometown in China” as Sun-woo’s mum. However, Mdm Park thinks she is more than juz a normal girl-next-door, and notes her quick reflexes and her evasive answers.
  • Yu Oh-seong as Hwang Gi-chul. N. Korean spy, who has an axe to grind? with Mdm Park.

Synopsis:

Dramabean’s full recap of ep1 here. (Note: Spy releases 2eps back-to-back per week, a format new to kdramas, but very much used in HK serials)

In a staged accident, Sun-woo loses the briefcase to N. Korean spy Gi-chul, who notes the pic of his mum (Hye-rim) in his wallet and decides not to kill him. For being left alive, Sun-woo is investigated by NIS, but he passes his lie detector test with flying colors. He rushes home after the interview session cos he is introducing his girlfriend, Yoon-jin, to his family.

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Yoon-jin gets invited in when Sun-woo’s parents spot her standing in the cold waiting for their son. At first, Hye-rim is friendly with her prospective daughter-in-law, but she begins to suspect that she isn’t a normal girl when Yoon-jin evades her sensitive questions on where in Shenyang, China does her (dead) parents live, and clocks Yoon-jin’s fast reflexes at saving a fallen water jug. Sun-woo and his dad think Hye-rim may juz be jealous, and try to cajole her to accept the sweet Yoon-jin.

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Meanwhile, a N. Korean female spy decides to defect and warns NIS that the North has juz undergone a coup — and the decision of the coup is to hunt and kill all surviving N. Korean spies currently in the South.

Review:

Frankly, I have zero patience for kdrama’s interpretations of N Korea’s militarism and spy-elimination tactics. I’m not sure whether this is the psyche of S. Koreans, but going by how their dramas/ movies portray the North, it will always end with the North aiming to wipe out their existing undercover spies in the South. (or maybe this really happened)

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The same crisis is described in Spy. Since N Koreans in kdrama are usually portrayed as cruel, and finickle, I won’t go into the logic of why they need too eliminate spies in the South cos of whatever happened in the North. However, such plotlines usually encourage loads of action — evident as early as the first 30sec of Spy, when bad spy Gi-chul kills the Chinese informant which Sun-woo is teamed up with to obtain the silver suitcase. And later, in the closing of ep1, when Gi-chul manages to find Hye-rim (who betrayed him in one of their earlier missions) via Sun-woo’s wallet.

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I bet my money that sweet-faced Yoon-jin is also a spy (or a double spy). In that case, her intention of getting near Sun-woo may not be that pure. Coupled with the overarching North-killing-spies theme, she may be part of the team that is sent to eliminate defecting N. Korean spies or a spy who is sent to infiltrate NIS.

I’m keeping an open mind for Spy at the moment. So far, I am liking Kim Jae-joong‘s performance — he is the suave, cool spy yet at the same time, a doting son and boyfriend. Likewise for his capable mum. The action sequences are also tight and not sloppy. Hopefully it continues this way, without the usual degeneration into messy intrigues.

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