Monster First Impressions / Review Episodes 1-8
The sudden urge to start watching Monster felt like a most welcome obligation after loving History of the Salaryman to bits and pieces and worshiping Giant to the fullest. Writer Jang Young Cheol can do wonders and the art of revenge along with the journey to resurface that kind of love that didn’t have the chance to blossom have already started shaping up.
“It may look complicated,
But there are two kinds of people in this world.
The chosen 1% that rules from above
And the 99% that is being ruled by them.”
The early years – One man’s demise is another man’s gain.
“I don’t regret being reborn as garbage.”
Lee Guk Cheol (Lee Gi Kwang) was living with his wealthy family and everything seemed to be flowing well for them and their company, Sudo Medical Foundation. However, the fact that they wanted to perform more accurate medical tests on Dodo Group’s Pharmaceutical company’s latest product changed their lives once and for all. After Guk Cheol’s birthday celebration the only one who survived a car “accident” was Guk Cheol. The last thing he witnessed before losing his sight was a figure in waterproof cloak pushing the car off the edge of the road while his mother crying out her sister’s name. This flow of events made him believe that his aunt, Jang Man Ok (Bae Jong Ok), was behind everything and Guk Cheol lost faith in pretty much everyone around him since he couldn’t trust anyone. Going blind enhanced his hearing and Guk Cheol was becoming aware of everyone’s intentions the moment a conversation was taking place anywhere inside his house. Everyone was expendable and he could fire anyone that was trying to take advantage of his condition.
Guk Cheol’s life started changing the moment Cha Jung Eun (Lee Yeol Eum) started working for him. It was all due to her honesty the moment she pointed out that they had met again in the recent past when he had fired her father and had thrown her brother out of the hospital. Through their interactions, Jeung Eun was able to start melting Guk Cheol’s ice until the moment his aunt asked her to keep an eye on him and Guk Cheol fired her. What Guk Cheol was unaware of was the fact that his uncle, Byun Il Jae (Jung Bo Suk), and Dodo Group’s chairman’s son, Do Gwang Woo (Jin Tae Hyun), had plotted together to take his family out of the picture in order to acquire their company and they had started convincing Guk Cheol’s aunt. Guk Cheol escaped his house and with the help of Jung Eun he managed to prevent his aunt from singing the acquisition papers.
Jung Eun’s father was hired back and her brother continued receiving treatment at the hospital whereas the only two people Guk Cheol could trust was Jung Eun and his aunt’s right-hand woman, Ok Chae Ryung (Lee El), who kept helping him in any way she could. Guk Cheol’s aunt found out that Il Jae was cheating on her with a friend of hers, Hwang Ji Soo (Kim Hye Eun), and she became aware of Il Jae’s real intentions. The moment she threatened them that she would reveal everything she ended up dying after Ji Soo pushed her down the stairs. Il Jae would help her take care of the body, but he wouldn’t stop there. While Guk Cheol and Jung Eun had started lessening the distance between them Il Jae had already started progressing with his own plan to either kill Guk Cheol or frame him for his aunt’s death.
Everything took place inside Guk Cheol’s company’s lab where he and Jung Eun found themselves in danger the moment they were exposed to a mutant virus and there was only one antidote dose. Jung Eun managed to inject him with the antidote and all she wanted from him was to help her brother throughout the years. Once Guk Cheol woke up he was accused of his aunt’s murder and found himself in jail along with the man who had framed him in order to kill him. Guk Cheol managed to make that man look as if he was trying to kill him by making it look like a suicide and once that man’s symptoms came to the surface he asked for Guk Cheol’s help to fight back the virus. Before that man passed away Guk Cheol found out that Il Jae and Dodo Group were behind his family’s death and the urge to avenge them became reality.
Il Jae wasn’t intending to let Guk Cheol regain his status and he wanted to take him to the psychiatric ward, but Chae Ryung and her right-hand man, Cha Woo (Go Yoon), helped him escape. Things didn’t flow as expected and Guk Cheol fell into Il Jae’s hands anew, but he jumped off a bridge. In the meantime, Ji Soo’s father who was dreaming of becoming the nation’s president had become aware of her relationship with Il Jae and he kept beating him up. However, Il Jae told him that Ji Soo was responsible for Man Ok’s death and Hwang Jae Man (Lee Deok Hwa) had no other option but to befriend him. While Il Jae was dreaming of becoming more powerful with the passing of years in order to payback everyone who looked down on him, Guk Cheol was reaching the shore and found himself at a dumping ground.
Stepping Stone – Sometimes it takes only one chance to start living anew.
“Every night, I die.
When I’m scared I punch the sandbag.
And when I want to give up or when I want to die.
Also, when I’m lonely.”
Years have passed and we reach 2010. Lee Guk Cheol (Kang Ji Hwan) has grown up, but he’s also one of society’s outcasts. He survives day by day by playing his harmonica while having to face the world’s cruel face to those who are powerless and eats anything he finds, even remains of food that were destined to be eaten by dogs. Revenge kept strengthening him all along the way and that was the only reason he never gave up life. Punching a sandbag was his only comfort when things were becoming awry, but late at night he was being visited by Il Jae oriented nightmares.
One day he heard a familiar voice, but Chae Ryung pretended she didn’t know him. However, the figure she was working for wanted her to find Guk Cheol in order to acquire the mutant virus’ vaccine serum. All the money Guk Cheol was keeping the money he had gathered for a surgery that would help him see again, but being a beggar wasn’t easy since a local gang wanted him to pay them. He fought back in the dark and managed to survive. Soon enough, Chae Ryung approached him and the preparations for him to start anew had begun. Guk Cheol would keep giving her his blood and she would help him stand on his feet in order to get his revenge. He would study in the US under a new identity; Kang Gi Tan. Chae Ryung would keep updating him on Il Jae oriented news and he wanted her to find more information about Cha Jung Eun.
Il Jae’s ambitions hadn’t ceased existing. He managed to find the other son of Do Choong (Park Young Gyu), DoDo Group’s chairman, who was born out of wedlock in the US. Do Gun Woo (Park Ki Woong) would become Il Jae’s most powerful weapon in the making and once the timing would be right he would reveal everything in an explosive way. He informed the chairman’s wife, Hang Gwi Ja (Kim Bo Yeon), that Gun Woo wouldn’t be a problem since he was a drug addict and he kept the truth to himself. In the meantime, Gi Tan was undergoing surgery to regain his sight.
Ongoing present – Contours of revenge.
“Being abandoned by someone you trust is betrayal.
You don’t trust me and I don’t trust you, how is this betrayal?
I won, you’re just a sore loser.”
Hwang Jae Man kept maintaining his congressman position throughout the years with the help of Il Jae who married Ji Soo and became his son-in-law. Il Jae became the legal manager of Dodo Group’s strategic planning department and was accepted by chairman Do Choong as a member of the family. Dodo Group was ready to hire new and trustworthy personnel that would become the future of its strategic planning department and our main figures were eager to sit for the exam.
Jung Eun had changed her name and she was Oh Soo Yeon (Sung Yu Ri) at that point. Working at Dodo Group would be essential in order to be able to keep paying for her brother’s treatment. Yoo Sung Ae (Soo Hyun) was working for the national intelligence and she would have to join the company in order to know things from the inside. Gun Woo who was being favored by Il Jae would receive all the necessary help, including the tests answers, in order to start catching the chairman’s attention. Gi Tan was staring at the first place for like-minded reasons in order to avenge his parents in the future. After passing the exam all of them would proceed with an interview that would include a lie detector since the company was well aware that a spy was among them. After passing that obstacle, our quartet entered the final phase that would determine the ones that would join the company’s most demanding department.
Through ongoing tests and missions of major importance for Dodo Group’s well-being, under the lead of instructor Moon Tae Gwang (Jung Woong In) everyone was working hard to acquire the first place for different reasons. Gun Woo kept receiving Il Jae’s help, but once things started becoming more complicated due to Gi Tan’s insightful approaches Il Jae tried to kick him out by making him look like the spy the company was after. Chae Ryung’s connections and precious help kept him safe and he managed to emerge victorious at the final assignment that helped Dodo Group overcome a crisis by winning a trial.
Among others, Gi Tan, Gun Woo, Soo Yeon and Sung Ae were the finest of the fine and the journey that would determine the ones that would join Dodo Group was about to begin. They traveled to Hainan (China) in order to spot a factory that was producing counterfeit drugs and was putting in danger Dodo Group’s sales. The man behind it was Michael Chang (Chen Bolin) and under Tae Gwang’s lead the major teams were formed. Gi Tan would be in the same team with Soo Yeon, Sung Ae would team up with Gun Woo and the rest of the passing candidates would aid them in various ways.
While Sung Ae was unable to do so, Soo Yeon seduced Michael Chang and changed his tie pin with a like-minded one that had a camera on it. Gi Tan caught Michael’s attention at Mahjong and everything seemed to be flowing accordingly until Gun Woo called him on the phone and informed him that Soo Yeon and Gi Tan were Dodo Group’s spies. Il Jae kept praising Gun Woo and his overall approach and he thought that he would find the factory’s location, but Gi Tan had already gained Michael’s trust up to an extent and put his life on the line.
Gi Tan found out that the factory was on a ship and with the help of Soo Yeon and Sung Ae the Chinese police was able to raid it. Even though Gi Tan ruined Michael’s plans he eventually let him escape since his mission was successful and Michael was never his target. Gi Tan ranked first and everyone passed, but only Gi Tan and Sung Ae became a part of the strategic planning department under Tae Gwang who became section chief. They will be trained to become shadow agents, the ones that will be taking care of all the unofficial tasks for Dodo Group’s well-being. Gun Woo, Soo Yeon and the others will be working on legal and financial documents.
Gun Woo had started thinking that the moment to appear in front of his father had arrived, but even though the chairman became aware of his other son’s existence he decided to bury that secret once and for all and never search for him. Gun Woo was boiling with vengeance whereas Gi Tan’s first task would be to pick up the chairman’s daughter from the airport. Do Shin Young (Jo Bo Ah) isn’t your ordinary young lady, she’s a spoiled and eruptive rich girl whose temperament is the female equivalent of Gi Tan back in the days when his name was Guk Cheol. After taking care of pretty much everything by any means necessary an interesting meeting took place. Gi Tan, Chae Ryung and Soo Yeon found themselves at the same place and the two women recognized one another while Gi Tan had been informed that Jung Eun had already passed away in a fire.
~ Thoughts ~
Just like Giant, Monster’s main theme evolves around revenge. The title of Giant possessed its own meaning when it comes to the drama’s storyline and i hope that the same thing will apply to Monster as well. If i can make a guess, the title will incorporate elements relating to how circumstances and society can create a monster, but also how one can struggle and eventually prevent himself from becoming the monster itself without this meaning that justice won’t be served (and as you may have guessed, i am staring at Gun Woo and Gi Tan respectively with people around them being potential monster-makers and/or monsters themselves). So far, Monster feels like a successful blending of Giant’s serious aspects and History of the Salaryman’s most comical characteristics, but unlike Giant, Monster’s main part of the story takes place at the present and in a more modern environment with its own cliches and liberties.
There’s an ever-changing balance of power through an ongoing power struggle on many figures’ behalf for different reasons. Revenge is a dish best served cold and the chill’s already here, but fueled ambition is a relentless process as well and it kept showing its teeth since the very beginning of the drama. Except for the writer who’s already proven his worth and he was one of the main reasons why i started watching Monster, another ace up the drama’s sleeve has to be its cast.
Kang Ji Hwan (Kang Gi Tan) was exceptional in Rough Play and i hated Park Ki Woong (Do Gun Woo) as Kimura Shunji with passion in Bridal Mask. Both of them are already shining as the tension around them keeps reaching higher peaks every time. Lee El (Ok Chae Ryung) with her beauty and classy temperament is emblematic, Jo Bo Ah (Do Shin Young) keeps making her starlight even more glowing with the passing of years and her spoiled character is a nerve-shaking pleasure to witness, Sung Yu Ri (Oh Soo Yeon) was highly representative of her role in Rabbit and Lizard and i wanted to witness more of her acting (i love her explosive character so far) and Kim Hye Eun (Hwang Ji Soo) breathes the right air through shattered yet ambitious figures.
I haven’t finished yet The Village: Achiara’s Secret, but i liked Lee Yeol Eum (Oh Soo Yeon) and her performance up to the episode i had watched and Lee Gi Kwang (Kang Gi Tan) was decent in Mrs. Cop, but during Monster’s first episodes one could easily tell that he has improved a lot through his more dramatic interpretation. Jin Tae Hyun (Do Gwang Woo) fits perfectly well the role of a deranged and ambitious offspring of a rich family and Jung Woong In (Moon Tae Gwang) doesn’t require a special reference, even his heroic voice is distinctive. The same applies to the veteran actor Lee Deok Hwa (Hwang Jae Man) and if you’ve watched Giant then i have nothing to say about Jung Bo Suk (Byun Il Jae) who was born to give life to extremely villainous roles! Last but not least, Soo Hyun (Yoo Sung Ae). It’s the first time i see her acting and her austere beauty captivated me to the extent of wanting to dedicate my life to her for the remaining 42 episodes. She’s minimal, charming and spot on in Monster so far!
As episodes pass by, all the lights gradually fall on Gi Tan. Everyone wants to find out more about him as they want to put him to ruin or see him prevail for different reasons that are related to each and every figure’s side-story and the way it meets Gi Tan’s course on various crossroads. Revenge, justice and ambition are three sides of the same triangle that can walk hand in hand from time to time in a way that perplexes things a bit more and brings people closer together or severs their ties. The world of Monster is a universe of intertwined and mainly ill-natured, but also fated, interactions that have already shown their contours and will keep expanding their territory with the flow of the forthcoming episodes.
One of the most ill-fated aspects of Monster has to be the relationship Gi Tan and Gun Woo share. Both of them have seen life from the pits of hell and Gi Tan a bit more since he had found himself one step before death. There’s not a single chance they would surrender to one another because Gi Tan has to avenge his family at all costs and Gun Woo has to cause his father’s decline and/or take over his company by any means necessary, especially now that his father denied his existence even after finding out about his other son. Gun Woo makes me feel sad because i will be forced to hate him even more from a point and on. He went through a lot in his childhood and Il Jae was the right person to push him towards the wrongest direction. He has all the potential to see it to the very end as it’s not easy escaping the nebula of negativity he has found himself in. Gi Tan is a major obstacle he must overcome and he has already proven that he intends to use unlawful methods to take him out of the picture.
We’ve only seen just a glimpse of his boiling rage and approaches that can detonate an unwelcome flow of events for many other characters. Gi Tan’s sharp and insightful decisions deepen the chasm between them as Gun Woo finds himself far away from his goals. Everything that started as a hilarious and competitive “bromance” with humorous moments has already turned into a tectonic plate that will keep causing earthquakes all along the way. The camps have already started forming themselves, but everything remains as alterable as the suspense factor of the drama which is plot twist friendly. We’re only at the very beginning and my experience from Monster’s writer tells me to expect anything, even the unexpected.
On a side note, Gi Tan’s satellite-range hearing could be a turnoff since such an empowered sense of hearing doesn’t exist as far as i am concerned, but i enjoy it so far even though it adds a supernatural touch in Monster’s world. I mean, people who have lost their sight can work on enhancing their other senses, but not to that extent. Every time the camera zooms in Gi Tan’s ear i can’t stop laughing for some weird reason, but okay, it’s neither the first nor the last time a drama incorporates an illogical ability.
Oh, have i told you already how much i loved the chemistry between Lee Gi Kwang and Lee Yeol Eum even though he was playing guitar with my nerves? Nope, i haven’t and i am deeply apologetic! Based on Giant, i thought that it would last for a few episodes and even though i knew that it was a condemned decision to ship them it actually lasted less than expected and made the torment real! The good thing is that i already ship Gi Tan with Soo Yeon at the present and their interactions are quite intriguing, especially the way he was trying to decipher if she was Jung Eun based on her voice and facial characteristics. One more reason to ship them even harder is Gun Woo because i can see where his character is going to and no matter how much i like Park Ki Woong’s acting i will be forced to hate his character even more and it will be a pleasure witnessing him in pain for being unable to acquire Soo Yeon’s love!
You can call me crazy and i would accept it, but i can ship Gi Tan with all four ladies in his life at this point and i can think of many possible stories even though Soo Yeon, especially after he will find out that she’s Jung Eun, will occupy his heart and mind. Even though the other ships won’t sail, it will be quite interesting to find out how they will affect him the moment he will sink Chae Ryung (there are vibes that she would like him to stare at her differently and not as a friendly partner), Shin Young (she could actually start liking him because he’s not obedient like other people in her life) and Sung Ae’s (she’s interested in his background due to her position as a spy, but she could become more interested in him in various ways) potential future feelings.
There are three revelations awaiting to take place and all hell will break loose in the way they will perplex things even more between our two male leads and our female lead, but also in general! The first one has to be Gi Tan’s revelation that he’s Guk Cheol, the second one that Gun Woo is the chairman’s son and the third one that Soo Yeon is Jung Eun, especially after she will find out that Dodo Group was behind her father’s death after he tried to save her from the lab.
There are many camps that can be formed and Gi Tan and Soo Yeon is the one to happen most likely (for emotional reasons too). One interesting plot twist would be Gi Tan and Gun Woo working together from a point and on, but Il Jae is a factor that would prevent something like that in any way since paying for his crimes would shatter his ambitions overnight. So i will just presume that Gi Tan and Gun Woo will see it to the very end amid vicious fights along with the forthcoming love triangle.
Monster dances on a thin red line on a web of thin red lines where spiders and flies can look so much alike in a world where trust is an extinct species . The predators and the hunted can switch positions in a blink of an eye simply because pretty much everyone is a predator and a hunted at the same time depending on the way his/her storyline is related to other figures’ side-stories. It’s a symphony of destruction that manages to maintain its brighter tunes so far. The rivalry and collaborations of outstanding individuals is over and the real challenge behind four walls and somewhere out there as shadow agents is about to begin. The humor remains and the feels are in the making, but so are the menacing vibes and I am more than ready!