First Impressions/Review: Last ~ Episodes 1-4
I wanted to start watching Last earlier, but i had to wait for a welcome amount of episodes and subtitles to appear on the horizon for my watching attempt to take place. Since the romantic comedy factor doesn’t seem to work as expected, especially during summertime, there’s always comfort into darkness. Since My Beautiful Bride has just reached the end i needed a substitution to fill in the void and Last seems to be offering the whole package even though i am only 4 episodes deep in its degrading and elevating world where hierarchy matters.
After My Love Eun Dong ended, Last feels like a grandiose attempt on jTBC‘s behalf with a strong and big in numbers cast giving life to a demanding storyline with many background stories lurking in the background. It’s based on Kang Hyeong Gyu‘s same-titled web-comic. I love dramas with so many broken figures who haven’t overcome their burden. On the contrary, it’s an inseparable part of them growing deep within like a parasite along with the host, day by day, but that’s what makes them stronger. They’re not alone, when you have so much hurt in one hand, on the other hand lie many villainous figures whose ambitions and hatred are immense, it’s the perfect counterweight!
Last is what the title says, it’s the story of a man, Jang Tae Ho (Yoon Kye Sang), who was a rising force in fund management. He had dreams and ambitions and a pompous plan in the making, a plan that would establish him in the elite of his field with enviable benefits lying ahead. However, information was leaked, the whole project turned out to be a failure and he was almost murdered whereas his partner and friend, Park Min Soo (Park Hyuk Kwon), didn’t make it. Between the joker and the king, in a moment’s decision a friend was lost and Tae Ho had to forget life the way it used to be and become a part of the last link in the chain of survival.
He turns into an outcast in order to survive and he becomes a part of a homeless world in the outskirts of life. Trust is a word that doesn’t belong inside his dictionary anymore and he’s always on the run for his own life as he can’t afford to get caught since it would mean the ultimate end of him. He gets close to a few people since loneliness would make his life way harsher, but soon he finds out there’s hierarchy in the homeless society as well! Once he stands for his own rights he finds himself in trouble and it feels like he got transferred from one level of hell to another.
All of his memories pass by his mind as he tries to adjust to this new reality. Even though he refuses to pace with the homeless universe’s flow, the loss of his prior life and the fact that he became the last one in life’s hierarchy never forget to force their presence as he tries to survive day by day. Suddenly and out of nowhere he managed to take out of the picture one of the Seoul Sevel, Snake Eye (Jo Jae Yun), who was imposing his presence upon the homeless in the district where Tae Ho had found refuge. Tae Ho became number 7 in the homeless hierarchy, a palpable and active form of hierarchy within the vast pyramid of society where different types of hierarchies struggle for the upper hand.
◎ ~ Seoul Seven hierarchy.
∠ ~ Number 7: Jang Tae Ho (Yoon Kye Sang)
Even though he was denying his homeless condition and was refusing to adjust to his new reality, Tae Ho managed to become the 7th head of Seoul Seven, an organization by the homeless for the homeless which in fact drains the already drained members of the homeless society. The higher the position the greater the benefits. Tae Ho intends to reclaim his life and the woman he loved, Yoon Jung Min (Goo Jae Yi), the illegitimate child of a wealthy and powerful group. She recently started dating the seemingly righteous and innocent Kang Se Hoon (Lee Yong Woo) in Tae Ho’s absence.
The only way to achieve this, except for taking revenge from loan shark Jung Man Chool (Lee Do Kyeong) who brought him into this condition and murdered his friend, is to climb the ladder of the hierarchy and eventually become the top member of Seoul Seven. In order to accomplish that he will have to triumph over the ones in higher positions one after the other.
He expands his own homeless-friendly sense of justice in his district as the 7th head of the Seoul Seven, it’s something Sergeant Bae, Crocodile and Poison Snake don’t approve since they earn less money and the less they earn the less they deliver to the headquarters. They decided to silence him once and for all and they enforced a duel with Sergeant Bae. It’s a duel he lost and soon his body would had been transferred to the “factory” for the organ-selling business to take place, but Heung Sam’s background research on Tae Ho saved his life since the headquarters intend to use him according to plan.
Tae Ho’s not alone though, he’s got a goth-looking figure by his side, Cha Hae Jin (Kong Hyung Jin), and a runaway geek, Gong Young Chil (An Se Ha). President Jo (Jeong Jong Jun) is a traumatic yet cult figure among the homeless and Foreman Oh (Kim Ji Hoon) is a nightmare which turned into a dream for Tae Ho who’s not inconsiderate of others, but he has to survive on his own way while still preserving a new status of justice and caring among those below him.
Lately i’ve been falling upon figures which were not so exemplary in the parody of a drama named Night Watchman’s Journal. In My Beautiful Bride i had the chance to find out Ko Sung Hee has progressed since then and now it’s Seo Ye Ji‘s chance in Last to prove she’s getting better. She presents Shin Na Ra, a nurse caring for the homeless by taking care of their health problems and organizing breadlines for the disadvantaged social groups of this world. She will play her own part in Tae Ho’s life and i’m looking forward to their further interactions.
∠ ~ Number 6: Sergeant Bae (Kim Yoong Woon)
He used to be in the special forces, but he was kicked out because he was beating up low-ranked soldiers way too much. Not many things have changed since then, he uses homeless people as labor and he disciplines them in his renowned military oriented way whenever he thinks it’s essential; always.
∠ ~ Number 5: Crocodile (Jang Won Yoong)
He forges fake identities, passports, etc and his arrogant stare is utterly represents of his greasy personality. He’s recreant, devious and he wouldn’t mind hitting women to quench his non-existent code of ethics.
∠ ~ Number 4: Poison Snake (Lee Cheol Min)
He’s the leader of the aforementioned two, they follow him around and they obey his orders. He’s into organ-selling business and it paces perfectly well with his cold personality and lifeless stare. Lee Cheol Min here looks like the Korean version of Tommy Lee Jones!
∠ ~ Number 3: Straw Cutter (Yoon Je Moon)
He’s currently in jail, but the rumors say he chops up everyone who dares challenge him in any way. Good things don’t last forever and soon he’ll be a part of the outside world again.
∠ ~ Number 2: Ryoo Jong Goo (Park Won Sang)
He used to be an Asian Champion, but women, drugs and alcohol ruined him. However, this doesn’t mean he has forgotten the art of boxing and he’s as lethal as one punch coming right away from his fist can be. His greatest weakness is his past and the fact that he’s unable to find his precious daughter tears him apart. He’s a broken figure who swims in oceans of alcohol losing himself in moments of regret under the devastating veil of memories and longing.
He’s probably the only one who can fully understand Tae Ho the most since he’s well aware of how it feels to find yourself in the last position after a few imbalanced steps. He eventually decided to become Tae Ho’s boxing teacher while at the same time he keeps a close eye on him so that he won’t find himself in further trouble, at least not before he’s trained enough in order to withstand the obstacles coming his way.
Even though he abides in loneliness and self-destruction he’s not left all alone. Seo Mi Joo (Park Ye Jin), a hostess under Heung Sam’s reign, has deep feelings for him and she always tries to bring him back to reality so that he’ll be able to find his daughter again one day. They’ve known each other for years and even though it may seem one-sided on Mi Joo’s behalf there’s definitely something electrifying Jong Goo’s heart’s outskirts, a heart too overburdened to accept such feelings in an openhanded way, but he’s always there for her.
∠ ~ Number 1: Kwak Heung Sam (Lee Beom Soo)
The underworld has two kings, Kwak Heung Sam who’s the head of the Seoul Seven and the loan shark Jung Man Chool, but lately their personal benefits seem to be in conflict. Everything began when Tae Ho’s plan was ruined and both of them lost billions of ₩. Ever since a chasm was created inside their relationship and as time passes by they’ve turned into enemies fighting for the peak of the underworld. And we all know that in the end there can be only one.
Times are dangerous and he wants to forge all of the Seoul Seven fractions into one united punch. He didn’t save Tae Ho’s life because he suddenly felt the urge to help one of his subordinates who lost a duel. He’s well aware of his whole background and that he’s the reason why he lost all that money back in the days. He wants Tae Ho to take care of Man Chool once and for all, but that mission is a two-edged knife and both of them know it. In one hand, Heung Sam wants Man Chool to get silenced and if Tae Ho succeeds Heung Sam won’t be suspected. On the other hand, both Man Chool and the police force are after Tae Ho who’s got no other choice but to comply to Heung Sam who will help him escape in case he succeeds; or not.
Heung Sam has a delicate psychosis with classical music. Of course, he would never listen to music the way most people do, his stylus and vinyls do the talking and he’s losing himself in a floating trance-like condition. He’s the most luxurious homeless after all and he preserves his style to the fullest! When he doesn’t work on a wide variety of “projects” he’s listening to music waiting for his subordinates to bring him the money. He doesn’t need many by his side, a faithful right hand is more than enough and he’s no other than Praying Mantis (Kim Hyung Kyu), a very specific, obedient and sharp-eyed henchman following Heung Sam’s vision.
Thoughts: Last is an intriguing and pretty different proposal in the world of dramas with a broadening sense of conflict while it still focuses on its main figures without neglecting the screen-time of the undeniably many characters that surround them. Each and every figure breathes a distinctive air and that’s always good in my book since a sense of well-conceived and well-executed variety is always welcome, especially when the pieces seem to fit together and that’s the case here.
The cinematography is competitive and representative of the drama’s theme since the shooting takes place in a wide variety of environments. The characters are well-placed in the surrounding environment and through angles and perspectives we get to witness the whole picture in a way which pleases the eye even more. The closeups emphasize on the characters’ emotional world and along with the intriguing storyline and the expressive acting we get acclimated in Last’s world.
It’s a world filled with webs where anyone could be a spider while still being a fly at the same time. What you see isn’t always what you get and terms like wealth, selfishness, power and ambition have their own dynamics as episodes pass by. It’s a cruel world and Tae Ho has to climb the ladder anew, but even at the top the weather forecast isn’t the finest and Heung Sam must preserve his reign at all costs.
In one hand, Yoon Kye Sang is highly representative as Tae Ho and one can witness the scars life left upon his face, but also the ones behind the surface which are being forged day by day as he acclimates himself in his new environment, an environment he was never used to but he has to adjust to in order to survive and reclaim his life. It’s a power struggle against himself and everyone else at the same time, but allies blossom where you least expect them and the same applies to enemies.
On the other hand, Lee Beom Soo is exemplary as Heung Sam who lives in his own pompous universe dictating the lower scales of the homeless society. He’s a king in his domain and not a homeless really, but for the good old time’s sake he still considers himself one. Heung Sam’s nothing like he appears to be, he may be presenting one side for you to see, but in the background he’s already plotting something else. Lee Beom Soo is ecstatic and classy, but also menacing and imposing in his own way through the way he summons Heung Sam’s spirit in front of the cameras!
There’s action and there will be more action, there’s careerism but there’s also dirty work lurking in the background, there’s struggle for survival but there’s also a power struggle for more wealth and/or power. There are pain and scars but there are also hatred and plotting, loyalty and mistrust, solitary paths and crossroads, loneliness and interactions and somewhere in the far horizon romantic hints shyly appear. Last is a chameleon in the sewers and hallways of the metropolis acclimating itself or changing skin like a snake under events and circumstances, it’s a tectonic vibration constantly being inflicted upon our characters.