I am a recent arrival in the world of K-dramas. I have made it clear before that there is so much I do not know about the industry. But even in my limited capacity, I could see there was something different about Itaewon Class. Thinking back on it, this applied to all the Korean shows I’ve watched recently, a great ensemble cast.
While there is so much I can say about the color pallet of the show, the lighting, and the exquisite acting, the real winner of Itaewon Class was the ensemble cast. I don’t know how but Korean dramas seem to make every character in the show important.
Whether it is the grumpy soldier in Crash Landing on You or the loud nurse in Descendants of the Sun, every character gets their moment to shine. That is even truer in Itaewon Class than the former two shows I’ve mentioned above. A compressed and expressive cast that enhanced and expanded the scope of the show.
Itaewon Class – Something Different
I had this impression about Korean dramas, concrete jungles, grey color, cold climate, and long jackets. But from the first episode, it was clear Itaewon class was something new. The show spent less time in the large building areas and instead took us to the colorful neighborhood of Itaewon.
The impression I had of South Korea and Seoul flew away so fast. The vibrant lights, small buildings, small shops and stalls, and the color was something I had not seen before. Descendants of the Sun felt warm when they were in Uruk, Crash Landing on You felt vibrant when the characters were in the small North Korean village.
That type of warmth and color did not translate when the characters moved back to Seoul. But Itaewon Class managed to brighten Seoul and even the surrounding acted as a supporting cast member for the show. Half the time I was so enamored by the look and feel of the show, I had to rewind just to read the subtitles.
I am a purist, a movie from a certain local area should have its local language, no dubbing into English. But Itaewon Class was so vibrant and warm, a part of me wished there was an English dubbed version so that instead of reading the subtitle, I could take it in every frame.
In my opinion, the color and the way the show was shot played a big role in making Itaewon Class into something different. In my limited knowledge of K-dramas, I had never seen such vibrant background noise emanating from any of the past shows.
Itaewon Class is Fantastic – Ensemble Cast, Done Right
Itaewon Class excels with the help of a stellar cast.
Image Source: Netflix
When making a show a lot goes into writing, lighting, directing, and other behind the scenes work. But one of the hurdles a movie or TV show has to jump over is the process of casting. Casting, done right, has immense positive results on the writing and directing and Itaewon Class did everything right when it comes to casting.
Park Sae-ro-yi, played by Park Seo-joon, as an idealist/hot-headed but kind-hearted kid, was done with perfection. He conveyed the loss of his father, the struggle he had to endure, just so he can have his revenge was something that had me on the edge.
Then there was the scene when Sae-ro-yi wakes up in the hospital and in front of his friends, he cries. He cries for the first time in almost a decade, and that scene brought the whole show together. A show about a father-son relationship, culminating in a father asking his son to be happy and live a happy life.
This relationship was in contrast to the father-son relationship shared by Jang Dae-hee, played by Yoo Jae-myung, and his eldest son Jang Geun-won. The perfection of those two sets of fathers and sons brought showed how different life lived can be depending on the surrounding you grow up in.
Then, there is Jo Yi-seo, a possible sociopath who does not care about anyone. Played by Kim Da-mi, Yi-seo was the driving force of the show, from the first moment she appeared on screen, her presence was electrifying and warranted your constant attention.
The way her arc went from not caring about anyone to resorting to anything so no one would harm Sae-ro-yi was pitch-perfect. Well, this is a romance drama, after all, someone needs to be crazy about the other person, and seeing Yi-seo become more human was a sight to see.
Other cast members, Kwon Nara, playing Oh Soo-ah kept making mistakes and finally stood up for herself. That was a good storyline. Then there are Ma Hyeon-yi and Choi Seung-kwon, played by Lee Joo-young and Ryu Kyung-soo respectively, who had their own devils to fight and added so much to the story at large.
Kim To-ni, played by Chris Lyon, also added to the story a little when he first arrived but he waned off a little at the end. The other character I had a little trouble with was Jang Geun-soo, played by Kim Dong-hee. The character took a hard left turn, so fast, that I did not have time to brace myself.
I was half expecting Sae-ro-yi would show the Chairman how a young man should be raised by turning Geun-soo into a good man, but the writers took a different path. The somewhat evil turn and later redemption of the character was a little hard to swallow for me.
Other than those two characters, I was in awe of how well everything fits together. Whether they be the main protagonists or supporting characters like Kang Min-jung, Lee Ho-jin, and Oh Byeong-heon, everyone brought different flavors to the large stew that was Itaewon Class. In the end, it made for a unique show, one that made me even more interested in K-dramas as a whole.
You can catch all the episodes of Itaewon Class on Netflix.
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