...when the screen takes over...

My Mister, First (Week) Impression

A suspected wasp freaks a female employee in a construction firm office which draws everyone’s attention. Except Lee Ji-An (Lee Ji-Eun) who continues doing her menial work quietly. It finally lands on a partition, inviting an employee to squash it. But Manager Park Dong-Hoon (Lee Seon-Gyun) stops him, trying to catch it instead. It flies again and lands on Ji-An’s arm.

Dong-Hoon tells her to stay still but, after a moment, Ji-An takes a heavy binder, crushes the bug with it, and throws the bug into the nearest rubbish can [1]. All are done in silence and efficiency that astound everyone and force them, Dong-Hoon in particular, to adjust whatever impression they have on her.

excerpts from soon-to-be-discarded My Mister episode 1 recap draft



I should probably start with a disclosure: ‘Misaeng’ and ‘Signal’ are enough to make me follow Director Kim Won-Seok wherever he goes next whether hits or misses, because I found his directing among the best in Kdramaland. I am bound to follow this through.

On the other hand, I haven’t got a strong liking to Writer Park Hae-Young. I feel mostly indifference. The writer’s previous hit ‘Another Miss Oh’ was a mixed bag that leaned towards ‘not my cup of tea’ territory for it left an unsavoury aftertaste due to excesses. And the first episodes already reek of the writer’s previous workprint.

There is strong vibe of another ‘Another Miss Oh’ here. There is the lead’s big warm family with troubled and troubling siblings in the Park brothers — the youngest is an aspiring filmmaker waiting for a big break. The male lead has a failing relationship, with the wife having an affair. There are hints of strong use (hopefully not abuse) of booze to unwind and escape from reality. There is the mistaken identity shenanigans.

Alcohol drinking is nothing new, it’s part of the culture. But ‘Another Miss Oh’ took it to another level that made me cringe (‘love your liver, Miss Oh!’ I chanted over and over again). Misfortune due to name confusion is used again in the Park Dong-Hoon and Park Dong-Woon fiasco. The first incident is of little significance, a misaddressed letter. The second incident is of dire consequences, a misaddressed bribe. Ironically, despite the more sinister aftermath for it brings up our darker sides in order to survive, I find this funnier than the ‘Oh Hae-Youngs’. Incompetence makes for comedy — that’s why we sneer at politicians right?

Thankfully, right off the bat, I feel Kim Won-Seok PD’s clean and no-nonsense directing hands: fluidity and absence of clutter, be it auditory, visual, or narrative. There is also the screen aspect ratio prank. These familiar touches are very much welcomed.

There is definitely a nod to Misaeng, not just in the way office life is portrayed but also in the use of boardgame — It’s Janggi this time — in illustrating a power struggle. It was fun and effective way to illuminate the participants and their roles in the office politics. There is also rooftop scenes, although here, it’s used to avoid prying eyes and ears, and robbed of the familiar warmth I found in Misaeng.

Within the first few minutes, just as the employees were shocked by Ji-An killing the bug ([1]) and forced to form new assumptions about her, whatever that would be, I feel the effort to shake off whatever presumptions and expectations I have developed before the show started paid off. Although it’s still too early to tell if the cleanliness will be retained over the finished product, this is without a doubt a Kim Won-Seok’s production.

“So this is going to be interesting,” I thought. And is it? Based on the first week two episodes, I’ll say it is.


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