My first new show after returning from holiday…and oh boy, I’ve got a gut feeling that Chicago is going to be epic.
· Yoo Ah-in (from Six Flying Dragons) as Writer Han Se-joo. Dubbed as Korea’s Stephen King, he is a popular writer of the thriller-horror genre. However, he is also a paranoid asshole (no thanks to his foster parents’ betrayal). By chance, he comes across an antique typewriter in the States, and strange things begin to happen to and around him when the haunted? possessed? typewriter makes its way to him.
· Lim Soo-jung (from Movie: Time Renegades) as Jeon-seol. An odd job handler, she has been plagued by strange visions since young, which impede her future as a professional shooter. Seol stays with her bestie (Bang-jin) and her mum after losing her last kin (her dad).
· Go Kyung-pyo (from Jealousy Incarnate) as Ghostwriter Yoo Jin-oh. He is probably more of a ghost than a (human) ghostwriter.
· Kwak Si-yang (from Mirror of the Witch) as Writer Baek Tae-min. Se-joo’s foster brother, whom he is now estranged with. No thanks to his foster mum, Mdm Hong, who seems to harbour the idea that Se-joo is an illegitimate son of her husband, another famous (but retired) writer, Baek Do-ha.
I have watched in one breath (ok, I exaggerate), all the way to ep4, so skip those bits which may be spoilers for you.
We are introduced to popular thriller fiction writer, Han Se-joo, as he tours the world on fan meets and book signing activities. In one of his world tour stops in a book café, he chances upon an antique (Hangul) typewriter, whom the café owner refuses to sell him. But within less than 24h, Café Owner immediately ships the typewriter to Se-joo…cos on that same night, the typewriter came “alive” and scared the pants off Café Owner.
Seol accepts the job of delivering the spooky typewriter to Se-joo, who treats her none too kindly even though she introduces herself as his number 1 fan. He continues to be rather caustic towards Seol, and accuses her of orchestrating “incidents” in order to stalk him. Even though Seol saves him on all three “planned accidents”, such as helping him retrieve the USB which a shaggy dog (that was possessed by Typewriter Spirit) ate, preventing him from being killed by a psycho stalker + serial murderer, and lastly, hauling his sorry ass from a car crash.
But to backtrack a little before the car crash, the run-in with the (real) stalker-psycho fan unhinged Se-joo, who begins to suffer from PTSD, as reports accuse him of using the material from the psycho’s fan letters as fodder for his novels. Se-joo gets even more stressed when the psycho hangs himself after meeting him at the police station, and his pushy publisher, Ji-seok, is totally unsympathetic and only concerned about the loss of contracts from Se-joo’s withdrawal. Ji-seok suggests using a “ghostwriter” (i.e. someone who writes under Se-joo’s name in secret) in the interim, but the idea is shot down by Se-joo (at least he takes ownership of his works, if nothing else).
Strangely though, a ghostwriter (by the name of Jin-oh) mysteriously appears and helps Se-joo with his writing. The new novella penned by Jin-oh (or rather, typed on the ancient typewriter) is a written account of the strange dreams Se-joo has been having ever since he received the haunted typewriter.
The dreams are set in Japanese-occupied Korea in the 30s, and Se-joo is also a writer (but of the romance genre). He has 2 other friends, a girl (Seol) who dresses herself as a boy and is a resistance fighter, and bestie, Jin-oh, who is also a writer. The dreams begin to become more and more vivid and start to overlap with reality as Se-joo struggles with overcoming his PTSD and writer’s block. But Se-joo isn’t the only one who has those strange visions. Apparently, Seol had them since ages ago.
According to Bang-jin (Seol’s bestie), Seol is a Jack of All Trades, but master of none…all thanks to those strange visions that keep distracting her. Seol was en route to be an Olympic shooter, but whenever she raises a gun, she begins to see herself in the 30s setting as a sniper/assassin…and being sent to kill someone she knows/ loves. In the end, Seol decides to work as an odd job runner as the constant change in duties somehow causes her visions to appear less often.
Truthfully, my synopsis does no justice to the rich layers in narrative and characterisation in Chicago. I’d advise you to read full recaps at Dramabeans, if you are hesitant to start watching. (or juz plainly have no spare time to squeeze another drama into your schedule…I know)
For the first time while watching a drama, I actually feel like I’m reading a book (or am reminded that I should go back to my other fav hobby). Chicago’s narrative crosses between 2 worlds, both of which are rich in unsolved mysteries and potential dangers.
The 30s cast in sepia tones is full of nostalgia for a carefree, simple era, but it is also a dangerous time where literature can be both an escape (in the form of Se-joo’s romance novels) from a dreary world and also a weapon (for the Resistance’s propaganda).
On the other hand, the modern world in Chicago is one that is familiar to us, with the conveniences of ready information. A different danger threatens Se-joo and his friends though – that which popularity brings. Se-joo’s works in the modern world may get him better recognition and a wider fan base than in the 30s, thanks to the Internet, but his fame also attracts several unsavoury characters. They may be anti-fans, people who spread nasty rumours juz to see him destroyed (like his foster mum), or at the extreme end, psychos stalkers.
And Se-joo, Seol and Jin-oh stand at the point where the two worlds overlap. Chicago teases us mercilessly with hints that Se-joo et. al. past lives have unresolved issues which very likely will carry over to this world. (reminds me of Goblin, which Chicago cheekily makes reference to in the noreabang scene)
Seol’s pensive musing about her inability to continue her veterinary career due to her past reincarnation “having killed an innocent or someone she loved” may be true, based on those jumpy scenes where she aimed a gun behind Se-joo’s? Jin-oh’s? head. But these two guys are her best friends, so what prompted her to kill one (or both?) of them? And there’s a shadowy off screen figure, who appears to be an older gentleman, training Seol to be a sharpshooter. Is he the one who orders Seol to assassinate Se-joo/ Jin-oh? And would his identity be revealed to be Se-joo’s current foster father, Writer Baek? Cos I do agree with Mdm Hong and Se-joo on his irrational decision to foster Se-joo, who apparently is the son of his first love.
Mdm Hong’s cryptic warnings to Se-joo at having to “choose between 2 Fates, one Good and the other, Bad” should be referring to Seol and Jin-oh. But exactly who is the “Bad Fate” here? My guess would be Jin-oh, since Se-joo and Seol are the OTP of Chicago. (duh) But exactly why is Jin-oh a “Bad Fate” then, when he and Se-joo + Seol were such good friends? Did Jin-oh set up Seol to assassinate Se-joo in the past, cos of romantic rivalry?
So many questions. Hopefully Chicago can answer them (logically) within the 16eps, and not brush them under the carpet, as some dramas tend to do. Clear up the mysteries AND develop the budding romances between present and past Se-joo and Seol, which are running on the old motifs of the chilly-exterior-warm-interior hero (for the modern timeline) and the love-at-first-sight (for the 30s timeline).