Yong-pal is one show which I didn’t start until late, and which I marathoned all the way to the “magical” ep9. It is an engaging show, as long as the romance stays non-existant. (how sad…but sorry, not sorry…Kim Tae-hee and Joo-won do not exactly convince me that they are madly in love)
Much of the positive engagement from Yong-pal comes from the pacing of the story telling. The themes of corruption and corporate takeovers are nothing new (even having them happen in a hospital setting has been done before in Jdoramas/ HK serials). What is interesting is the inclusion of a hero who straddles between the so-called Whites and Blacks.
And this hero — Kim Tae-hyun — sees both worlds side by side, and has the “privilege” of knowing that they aren’t any much different. By day, he is a professional, working as a surgeon in a renowned hospital which has a seedy underbelly. By night, he transforms into a fugitive-type persona, treating the “non-mainstream” patients — aka the mobsters who are all on the police’s Wanted list. Ironically, the ironclad mob rules in Yong-pal, and the strict adherence these mobsters pay to those rules make it seem like the Underworld is actually more orderly than the civilised (day) society.
Unlike CEO Han Do-joon and President Ko who choose to remove those with knowledge of Yeo-jin’s incarceration and “death”, Mob boss Doo-chul and his minion sidekick actually track down Tae-hyun to Hanshin Hospital in order to repay his kindness in saving their lives. Even if it means getting really injured (as opposed to initially faking injuries) in a brawl that has nothing to do with them (i.e. ep6’s Yeo-jin Suicide Operation).
The rule that Mob boss Doo-chul and generally, the entire Underworld, plays to may be simple — it’s always tit-for-tat, or you-rub-my-back, I-rub-yours. A rather old-school mob mentality, which is not seen in other shows like My Beautiful Bride. While this may be somewhat true in the “upper crust” society where Do-joon, Yeo-jin and Chae-yong operate, the rules there are much more complicated and never permanent. President Ko turns from Enemy to Ally overnight, leaving Chae-yong and her dad biting the dust. No wonder Yeo-jin refers to all her family members and associates as “crocodiles”. Like the proverbial tear-shedding crocodile, she cannot trust or rely on anyone within her circle.
Yeo-jin herself is also a pretty interesting character. On one hand, she is the damsel in distress, having been forcibly put to deep sleep by her brother (ok, initially her dad), and cos of the long term stasis, she can’t even walk a few baby steps without support. (it’s prob not coincidental they dress her in pure white)
On the other hand though, she is clearly someone not to be trifled with. Not juz cos she is a billionairess in her own rights, but she also has a strong vindictive streak enough to rival her brother. (juz look at how she drives Nurse Hwang mad with her twitchy fingers) Plus, she knows the rules of the game by heart, and fully understands her position as a valuable pawn in the complicated puzzle everyone is playing. Unlike Tae-hyun, who probably only grasps the marginal outline of the web.
I’d love to see more of Yeo-jin coming back in strength to overthrow her usurping brother (and that smile-ly-smarmy President Ko), hopefully matching them in their own game. One concern though is Yong-pal‘s extension — an additional 2 eps may mean the writers may drag out the story telling and slow down the current pacing. (or maybe that’s a good thing? cos so far, characters have been dropping dead like flies…)