Korean Drama Review : Vagabond –– Is It Worth All The Hype?
Korean drama Vagabond kicks off with a mysterious plane crash that kills over 211 civilians, including Cha Dal-geon’s (Lee Seung-gi) nephew. Determined to find out the truth behind the accident, Cha Dal-gun embarks on an investigation that leads him to a tangled web of corruption. His life intertwines with Go Hae-ri (Bae Suzy), a covert operative for the National Intelligence Service.
A Sneak Peek Into “Vagabond”
Cha Dal-Geon was a stuntman who dreamt of becoming a world famous actor. Despite his lack of experience in the field, when he first decided to embark down this path, he was determined to land the job one way or another. Not only because he really wanted to make it as an actor, but also because of his responsibility to feed and take care of his nephew, Hoon.
Dal-Geon had to attend auditions after auditions for a stuntman job at an action center, and the auditions certainly wasn’t easy with how the competitions that he had. In his auditions, he would brag about how his skills include taekwondo, hapkido, judo, kendo, and kickboxing. The movie directors and producers –– disbelieving that Dal-Geon was truly that proficient with all the martial arts that Dal-Geon mentioned –– decided to ask him to perform his skills.
First, he was asked to kick an apple off of someone’s head, which he ended up knocking the guy out cold. Dal-Geon was still given the benefit of the doubt and was next asked to break some bricks with his head, while he did as instructed, Dal-Geon also nearly gave himself a head injury while failing to break the bricks with his forehead. Despite his nerve-wrecking audition however, seeing how earnest and willing Dal-Geon was, the director and producer of the movie decided to give him a chance.
That wasn’t all Dal-Geon did however, because on top of having to balance his work and personal life, he also had to find sometime to take care of his nephew Hoon and also taught him martial arts class. As time goes on and Hoon started to grow older, Dal-Geon started to worry about his work and the dangers that it brought as a stuntman. He worried that one day he might be killed on set and would leave Hoon with no one to care for him.
So after further consideration, Dal-Geon decided to quit his current job and instead take on a job as a taxi driver. His work as a taxi driver, while much safer compared to being a stuntman, also had some challenges. Mainly due to the fact that being a driver, Dal-Geon earned less and much more inconsistently compared to when he was a stuntman. He tried to hide this from Hoon as much as he could, however, with the water cut off, and notices that their gas too was about to get cut off as well unless he started paying their bills, it’s getting harder to hide the fact from his nephew.
On the other hand, Hoon, thanks to the taekwondo training that he has been receiving from his uncle Dal-Geon since he was little, received a honorary invitation to Morocco with his taekwondo demo team to celebrate the good relation between South Korea and Morocco. However, knowing now that Dal-Geon wasn’t in the financial position to send him to the trip in Morocco, Hoon purposely mentioned that he didn’t want to go to Morocco.
Upon hearing that, Dal-Geon got annoyed. Mentioning how a child his age shouldn’t need to worry about money. After days of constant bickering and Hoon giving his uncle the cold shoulder, Dal-Geon in the end found enough resources to let Hoon go on that trip to Morocco.
On the day of Hoon’s trip, he was still upset and annoyed at his uncle–– for reasons that was unknown to both the viewers and Dal-Geon –– and left early in the morning to go to the airport. And that was the last time Dal-Geon ever saw his nephew in person, as Hoon’s flight never made it to Morocco.
3 Words to Sum Up “Vagabond”
MESSY, WEAK, CLICHE
Okay. Before we start, let’s get this out of the way. If you are one of the many viewers who genuinely enjoyed Vagabond and would love to hear me gush about just how wonderful and amazing this show was, it would be good to click out of this post right now. As the chance of that happening in this post is probably very little or none at all.
Also this probably won’t be much of a review at all, as your girl had trouble sitting through episode 2,3, and 4. And yes, you already guessed, I stopped at episode 4. So to summarize, this post will be more of a comprehensive rant of the puny 4 episodes that I’ve watched rather than a review.
With that said, let’s get down to business.
Two words : A Mess.
I mean, I guess for a Korean drama standard, it wasn’t exactly bad per se. However, don’t go into this show thinking that it would go up to the standard of Daredevil or The 100 just because it was backed by Netflix.
One thing that I have realized with Korean dramas that has high budgets is the fact that they like to jump between locations, even better if that’s between countries. For some reason, I feel like the Koreans think of switching between different locations and different languages are “cool” and “trendy”.
Well, let me tell you what’s cool and trendy right now mister and misses kdrama directors : a plot that’s easy to follow.
There were honestly so many moving parts in Vagabond, so many different characters in play that I couldn’t even remember more that 4 of the bazillion characters in the drama. Not to mention, the constant switching locations. One moment we’re in South Korea, and then Morocco, and then Portugal. I mean, it makes sense if it adds something significant to the story. But literally the only thing it does is confuse the viewers and well –– I suppose, diversity.
Ah. To be honest, I don’t know where to start with this woman. I’ll admit that her acting definitely has improved from her past dramas such as Uncontrollably Fond or Dream High. Has it improved by a lot however? The answer would be a firm, no.
She still seems to hold on to that poker face in a lot of her scenes. It wasn’t that she couldn’t show fear, anxiousness or lust, it was that she did it in such a way that let the viewers know that she’s acting. Not to mention, for someone who has had so many tv shows under her belt you’d think she’d be more well versed in acting and would know how to show different facial expressions for different situations, but oh well.
I don’t follow Suzy all that closely, but from a simple google search, Vagabond seems to be the first tv show where Suzy will play the strong and independent woman instead of the damsel in distress character that she seems to always favor. I’ll admit that in the first episode of Vagabond, her acting was spectacular. She truly portrayed the don’t-mess-with-me-i-will-blow-your-head-off character well. But then she started to interact with our main male character Cha Dal-geon, and everything quickly went to shit.
After all this time of watching Korean drama, I still have no idea how Suzy is so well liked by the public. I mean, not meaning to toot any horns, but Suzy couldn’t act for shit. A few years back, Scarlet Heart Ryeo premiered and IU received an immense amount of backlash for it, you can see how much IU has changed from that and worked hard on her acting skills in Hotel Del Luna. I can’t say the same for Suzy howevr. Sure, her acting has improved, but really, it’s not by a lot.
LEE SEUNG GI
As if to make up for the fact that his acting partner couldn’t act to save her life, Lee Seung Gi seemed to over-act to pick up the slack that Suzy left behind.
For the most part, it was bearable. But then again, I didn’t stay long enough to find out how his character change and develop throughout the show. Watching him in 4 episodes in Vagabond, I realized that he has the tendency to overdo his acting when he has to be emotional, especially when he has to portray anger or sadness.
I mean, obviously every actor has that certain something that makes them recognizable and different from the next actor. And that’s good for them, of course. Who am I to judge when I myself couldn’t act sick to fool my parents from going to school. However, there’s just something about already having to bear with Suzy’s bad acting, the constant location changing, shitty fighting scenes and shaky cameras, and now added with Lee Seung Gi’s over the top acting to the mix, it was like a stark realization on just how over-hyped this show was.
HIGH BUDGET KDRAMA
If you don’t know, the budget for Vagabond is estimated around $23.2 million. While that is not a lot compared to western tv shows which can go up to about $3 million per episode, for a Kdrama, this is actually quite a big amount. Vagabond is actually listed as the top 3 most expensive drama, under Arthdal Chronicles and Mr.Sunshine.
I mean, not going to lie, but for a tv show that’s listed as one of the top 3 most expensive kdrama of all time, it’s actually quite staggering just how lousily made this show was, at least for me personally. The general consensus however, seems to love the drama, which is great news for Vagabond.
BRAIN SHUT DOWN MOMENTS
There are a lot of scenes in Vagabond where logic just suddenly seemed to vanish for a few minutes before coming back to life again. And I mean this in the kindest and sweetest way, if you choose to watch Korean drama, this is a given. I’ve watched dozens of kdramas, and trust me when I say, you’d be hard-pressed to find Korean dramas that just flows smoothly without you having to play dumb for at least a few scenes.
And I usually just let these things slide, but with Vagabond, there are just way too many moments like those. Even from the very first episode when Suzy would suddenly point an empty gun at Lee Seung-Gi with no knowledge on how to defend herself whatsoever. I mean, she’s an NIS agent for god’s sake. I understand that there’s the term of “brain and brawl” but even then, you’re a fucking agent. Shouldn’t you at least be taught a basic self-defense at the very least?
On top of that, when Seung-Gi asked her for help and sent her a video about the incident, she agreed and then immediately sent the video to her sister to see if her sister could find out what was being said in the video. Isn’t this kind of a secret investigation? Knowing the video was a video about the plane that literally had just crashed a few days ago, isn’t Suzy deliberately putting her sister in danger?
If you are planning to watch Vagabond, please do go into the drama with a lower expectation and understand that there are times that you’re just going to have to roll with the punches to enjoy the show. If you’re anything like me, who likes to moan and groan over little details, then Vagabond might not be for you.
Other than that, do mind the cameras. I don’t know what the vagabond director/producers are on, but they seem to be investing on this new filming style of shake-until-you-feel-like-puking (i.e. episode 2) when filming fighting scenes. And mind you, there are at least 1 fighting scenes that lasted 5-10 minutes in every episode.
For those of you who genuinely liked this show, I am glad. I am sure this drama is highly enjoyable for many, unfortunately I’m not one of them as it seems like I nitpick and complain about mini details a little too much. *laughs*
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