Friday, August 29, 2014

Triangle: Episode 1

Right on the heels of its sageuk predecessor, melodrama Triangle premiered on MBC on Monday to spin the tale of three brothers leading completely separate lives. As a 24-episode drama, the opening hour spends most of its time building up its large-scale yet remarkably small world with numerous character introductions. There’s still plenty of time to get to the meat and potatoes of a story, so the verdict is still out on what this show will shape up to be.
In that sense, it’s nice that we get to focus on each brother’s lives separately because who knows who will throw the first punch once they’re all thrown in the same ring to duke it out. Well okay, I’ve got an inkling, and it isn’t the gangster bro.

Roh Ji-hoon – “너를 노래해 (A Song For You)” Download ]

We open with a visual introduction to our three brothers: the eldest (Lee Beom-soo), middle bro (Kim Jaejoong), and the youngest (Im Shi-wan). Although separated, the siblings are of like mind, sharing in the sorrowful lyrics of “Broken Promises” that sum up their collective sadness: You threw me away and into whose arms have you gone / No way to forget / Deep within my heart you left only sorrow.
Riding on a motorcycle in the countryside, middle child HEO YOUNG-DAL (Jaejoong) brings us up to speed about this region in voice-over: Welcome to Sabuk, a small mining town nestled in the Gangwon Province. Once the coal mines closed down, however, the area fell upon hard times until a casino and resort moved in, breathing new life into the place.
Furthermore, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in town who doesn’t know his name. Given how Young-dal is sharing all this info to us in banmal, we can gather that he’s a guy who thinks he’s got everyone under his thumb.

That much is certainly true as we see him deliberately cause a scene at a restaurant, which has a woman (with whom I assume he’s having an affair) come running and plead with him to stop his ruckus. But… Oppa is shirtless right now.
She eventually drags him outside, and Young-dal returns her insults of being a trashy gangster with a smarmy smile. He’s got something up his sleeve that makes her literally fall to her knees—a photo of them in bed together—which he airily threatens to send to her husband.
Handing over a wad of cash, she says that this is the last time. He smiles, since the money was what he really wanted. And there’s this slick and swaggering quality to Young-dal as he tells noona that she can call him anytime she’s lonely.

Impressed by Young-dal’s playboy skills, his buddy Jang-soo suggests they celebrate over drinks, but scowls when Young-dal says they’re headed for the casino.
We cut away to the Seoul regional investigative unit to properly introduce eldest brother JANG DONG-SOO (Lee Beom-soo), a violent crimes detective. He grows increasingly impatient with the man he’s currently interrogating, as evidenced by an interesting character quirk: the corner of his mouth twitches in warning before he explodes with rage.
So when Dong-soo turns off the cameras, the other detectives rush in to stop him from pelting the guy to death. Their unsurprised but quick response suggests to me that this is a fairly common occurrence, but do we need to worry about his violent outbursts?

Dong-soo gets some good news when he’s informed that they’ve found their target, and doesn’t let a pesky thing like a warrant stand in his way. He does stop to listen that the bodyguards are armed, but orders his team to move out anyway.
One detective refers to him as a nut job, but Dong-soo explains in voice-over why he’s dedicated his entire career to bring down Chairman Go, the head of a real-estate conglomerate Chungjin Group and a mob boss.
The current score in their continuous war stands at 0:2 in favor of Chairman Go, and while Dong-soo has been able to arrest the chairman twice, he’s been unsuccessful to do anything else.

The detective team heads to one of Chairman Go’s hopping nightclubs (which evidently the mob boss set up to play with pretty young things, ew), and Chairman Go gloats to the ladies about the expensive food and drink before them.
Dong-soo crashes the party a minute later, and Chairman Go chuckles at their entrance, asking if the cops have got a warrant. Dong-soo: “We don’t need a warrant for the likes of you.”
The mob boss is unfazed to hear that he’s a murder suspect, advising Dong-soo not to overextend and humiliate himself, but he doesn’t stand for being yelled out either. Telling his lackey to call his lawyers, he plays along and gives himself up to be cuffed.

Getting out the club is another ordeal altogether, as a sea of gangsters come running. Dong-soo and his team charge ahead to deal with them, leaving Chairman Go cackling alone in amusement. Soon there are too many men for the detectives to handle, and when they start to lose the upper hand, Dong-soo starts fighting dirty and fires the gun into the air.
He then trains his gun on Chairman Go and orders the mob boss to call off his men. But Chairman Go simply smiles and raises his currently cuffed hands. So the message is: Let me go and I’ll call ‘em off.
You can see the quandary Dong-soo is in painted on his face, and now we begin to understand why he’s always been unsuccessful at putting the chairman behind bars.

We check back in with Young-dal, who rides back to Sabuk with his buddy. Jang-soo tells him to stop because he recognizes the casino greeter, who tells him to bug off. This is OH JUNG-HEE (Baek Jin-hee), whom Jang-soo identifies a hoobae and the most popular girl in school thanks to her beauty despite placing last in her studies.
There seems to be a tinge of interest on Young-dal’s end, and he laughs in disbelief that she was playing hard-to-get with Jang-soo.
Young-dal is denied entry into the swanky casino, though, and his buddy reminds Young-dal of his recent-ish drunken antics that got him thrown out last time. Young-dal demands to speak to a manager, with whom he complains about their treatment towards a regular customer.

He charges at the staff when they warn him that he could be banned permanently, causing yet another scene. His appetite for gambling still fresh, they head over to the opposite end of luxury in the form of a secretly run casino. The owner MADAME JANG sighs irritatedly to see them, but lets them in reluctantly.
Her lackey (Hong Seok-chun) laughs at the pitiful stack of chips and warns Young-dal against acting up again, lest he end up buried in the dirt. And I’m going to go ahead and assume he means it in the literal sense.
Madame Jang keeps a close eye as Young-dal situates himself on a table, placing the maximum bet. The overzealous move has the older gentleman sitting next to him scoff exasperatedly, but the game begins. (It looks like a game of baccarat, but who knows for certain.)

Young-dal’s got a lucky streak tonight as he wins hand after hand until his neighbor finally gives up. He goes all-in for his next hand again, and it looks like his luck has finally run out… but he survives the round just long enough to slam down what should be his winning card onto the table, only to look back to see that he lost.
Having lost it all, Young-dal lets out a frustrated sigh. He drowns his bad luck in soju as Jang-soo nags that the “feel” his buddy proclaimed was one of misfortune. Jang-soo balks when Young-dal suggests they borrow money from a hyungnim who’s still in jail—all they have to do is keep quiet and no one will know.

Jang-soo bails on that crazy dangerous plan, but we see him helping his buddy in the forest with a crane. Wait, how do you guys get THAT out there without anyone noticing? Slowly but surely the crane digs further into the earth until they strike gold.
Young-dal says they’ll replenish the stash before anyone notices, and when Jang-soo asks what they’ll do if they can’t (because even his father told him never to trust his buddy), Young-dal smiles, “Just trust me.”

Dong-soo gets reamed by his boss for acting without orders, not buying any of Dong-soo’s excuses Though his boss is sympathetic to Dong-soo’s career-long determination to see Chairman Go behind bars, he advises Dong-soo to give it up already.
We finally get to meet youngest brother YOON YANG-HA (Im Shi-wan) in a poshy restaurant. He admits to his psychiatrist that he hasn’t been taking his meds because of its side-effects (anti-anxiety or anti-depressants, perhaps?), which prompts her to question the usefulness of their appointments together.
His psychiatrist is none other than doctor HWANG SHIN-HYE (Oh Yeon-soo) and identifies that he’s currently fearful. When Yang-ha asks what he’s afraid of exactly, she replies that he knows the answer better than she does.

Before she leaves, she tells Yang-ha that he’ll never move forward unless he gets rid of that fear.
Shin-hye accompanies her father, police chief HWANG JUNG-MAN to the police station. She’s here to act as a profiler to analyze a detective who’s currently being investigated by the auditing team. And who should that detective be but Dong-soo himself.
They’re asking for her professional opinion about Dong-soo’s case, worried that his anger issues will continue to cause trouble for the police force. Thank goodness someone realizes that Dong-soo’s violent behavior is cause for concern.

Shin-hye recognizes Dong-soo’s face, but tells them that while anger doesn’t automatically classify him to be mentally unstable, she does mention that the symptom falls under Intermittent Explosive Disorder (in short, it involves repeated episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or outbursts that are grossly out of proportion to the situation).
And then to drill that point home, we see Dong-soo practice in the boxing ring and turn extremely violent in a flash—punching his opponent repeatedly until he’s finally knocked out.
In the car, Shin-hye thinks back to earlier times that helps explain why she recognizes Dong-soo. A teenage Shin-hye (aw, Kim So-hyun! Love her) is introduced to Dong-soo (No Young-hak), whom her father explains will be living with them from now on.

Shin-hye acts as his personal tutor, and Dong-soo takes nearly everything in silence until he finally works up the nerve to take issue with how she’s speaking banmal with him when he’s older than her. She laughs that it’s up to her.
Dong-soo shifts uncomfortably when she points out that he likes her, and then gulps nervously at the question of whether he wants to see her bare skin. She tells him to close his eyes (he obeys, hee) and then open them again… and she sticks out her tongue. Heh.
He lets out a dissatisfied sigh, and she teases him on his dirty thoughts. They’re cute. In the present, Shin-hye drops by the investigative unit to see Dong-soo (who has to be woken up from his nap, ha), and he sits up in recognition.

The two relocate to a cafe and they both laugh over how neither of them knows what a profiler does exactly. Their cheery conversation takes a solemn turn when Dong-soo asks how her husband is, and he sighs that he hasn’t gone to see Chief Hwang in a while.
Shin-hye comes right out with it and admits that she’s been consulted about his case. In her opinion, he’s in dire need of help—left untreated, his episodes will only get worse. But Dong-soo won’t hear of it, and tells Shin-hye to report that he’s doing just fine, notably avoiding her gaze.

Dong-soo turns to soju for his miserable mood. The restaurant ajumma asks if he’s lonely, to which he posits, “Who isn’t?” Then he croons “The End of Love” right then and there: I’m all alone because of the love my heart yearns for / Echoes of no answer fall in mid-air.
The female detective KANG JIN on his team joins him for a drink, and she asks if they should date if he’s so lonely.
Young-dal checks in at HQ for the first time in days, but he declines doing menial tasks like collecting debt. Hm, have we felt more confident with our recent stash of cash? Boss Yang asks what’s gotten into him lately, but gets no answer.

Young-dal heads to the Sabuk police station, where one officer says he’s been hearing some strange rumors that Young-dal’s got money to burn lately. He doesn’t seem to buy Young-dal’s straight-laced lifestyle excuse, but lets it pass.
Jung-hee shows up to collect her wayward brother, who shrugs off his sister’s scolding. At one point, he pushes her to the ground to get him off her back just as Young-dal exits the station.
Young-dal won’t stand for that, and slaps the kid upside the head for his rudeness. Jung-hee intervenes and slaps Young-dal across the face for laying a hand on her brother—as a stranger, Young-dal has no place to discipline her brother.

As Dong-soo works, he thinks back to Shin-hye’s cautionary words about how he’s missed the prime window to be treated and that his condition will worsen at this rate. He gets a lead on Chairman Go’s money laundering activities in a casino in Sabuk, and they head out immediately.
So it’s back to Dong-soo’s hometown of Sabuk, where he claims he has no family or ties anymore. It’s been about sixteen years since he’s last been, and when asked why, Dong-soo doesn’t answer.
As Dong-soo greets the local police station, we see Young-dal respond to a booty call. The Seoul cops are looking for an informant to get in touch with the loan sharks allegedly in contact with Chairman Go. They’re told that they know the perfect guy.

Cut to: Young-dal, who contemplates whether stealing a few bank notes before thinking deciding against it. There’s an angry voice at the door, and is it the same man who sat next to him at the shabby casino?
Next thing we know, Young-dal is being chased by a group of thugs as he runs away in his boxers. The local detective points out their key informant to Dong-soo, who can only watch.
At the same time, Jung-hee walks along the same street and her eyes widen as Young-dal runs past her in recognition.

Apart from my confusion of whether that slo-mo chase was supposed to make me laugh or not (but let me tell you, it did), I do think that Triangle achieved its goal in introducing our key players in a fluid manner, whether that be from one brother to the next or to their potential love interests. Sometimes a show can resort to a standard two-part (a) name (b) exposition format, which Triangle still did to a certain degree, but overall the transition appeared well done for an hour dedicated to setting up what looks like a world of complicated character relationships.
It feels like we’re still getting our feet wet in terms of the narrative, with casinos and gambling galore. This is the same production team from All In, so we can rest assured that they’ll continue to build the stakes up when it comes to the risks and dangers of possibly losing it all. What we can turn to for now is our characters, and already I get the feeling that it’ll be our three brothers who will make it or break it for this show. I do like that we get to take time to explore their lives separately—something a 24-episode series format allows us to do—both their passion and their (often dangerous) vices. All three brothers once shared the same surname of Jang years ago, and though we’ve yet to learn exactly why the younger two go by different names now, I’m sure we’ll learn in due course.
Out of the three brothers, it’s eldest Dong-soo who intrigues me the most with his explosive tendencies. He’s a hot-headed team leader who thinks and acts on impulse, much to his team’s exasperation. On a realistic level, it’s extremely dangerous to have a detective (especially one in the violent crimes unit) who can fly off the handle at any given moment like that, so I suppose on one hand I’m a bit relieved that the police force are aware of the problem, though on the other hand, slightly aggravated that they think it’s just anger management issues.

To that end, I can’t blame the show too much when mental health issues are still largely hush-hush in Korea, where emotions are rarely ever talked about. But instead of trying to point out the discrepancies of the societal portrayal on mental health, I’m more interested in how these violent outbursts affects our characters. And in that case, it isn’t only Dong-soo I’m worried about but middle bro troublemaker Young-dal whom we’ve seen get into more than one scuffle. It’ll be interesting whether seemingly cold maknae Yang-ha shares in his brothers’ aggressiveness, since he’s mostly a question mark at present, so I look forward to what he has to bring to the table.
Given the final few minutes of the premiere, I think it’s safe to say that enough time has passed that the brothers fail to recognize one another. At least Dong-soo seems to think that he has no family in his hometown of Sabuk anymore, which makes me wonder about the time between his past tragedy (which made him voluntarily mute for a short period) to the present. Lots of time, stories, and lives to cover and Triangle’s got twenty-three more hours to do it.

No comments:

Post a Comment