‘The Worst of Evil,’ Disney+’s South Korean action-filled crime show, presents a thrilling story about an ambitious cop infiltrating the Gangnam District’s criminal underbelly in a drug-bust operation. After rising drug-dealing gangster Jung Ki-cheol spreads his influence over Korea and its neighboring countries, Park Joon-mo, a Detective itching for a promotion, agrees to put his life in danger by going undercover and joining Ki-cheol’s gang. However, things get complicated when Joon-mo’s wife, a high-up Police Officer, Yoo Eui-jung, volunteers to join the op, leading to a revelation about her shared past with Ki-cheol. Let’s delve into the show’s pilot episode and see what it has in store! SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Worst of Evil Review
This episode opens with a bold and brutal fighting sequence in dim, neon-lit hallways that instantly establishes the show’s neo-noir aesthetic and promises a vicious, bloodied journey ahead. In the fifty-minute or so runtime, the episode prioritizes setting up Ki-cheol and Joon-mo’s characters before their lives become entangled with each other.
Since Ki-cheol’s crime syndicate in Gangnam plays such a significant role in the narrative, we spend some time learning about how Ki-cheol fought his way through the ranks and came to be in charge of the neighborhood. Actor Wi Ha-joon delivers a compelling performance as the DJ-turned-mob-boss, with a particular stoicism about his character. As such, although Ki-cheol surrounds himself with chaos and backstabbing criminals, he remains a steady force— the calm before the storm.
In doing so, Ki-cheol’s character manages to carry a charm that renders him appealing to the audience despite the gorey violence we come to associate with him over the course of the episode. In turn, the characters around Ki-cheol play their own parts in informing his character through their presence as supporting characters. The gangster’s band of lackeys, “The Gangnam Alliance,” builds him up as an honorable man who commands respect.
Inversely, Ki-cheol’s adversaries assert him as a crafty, resourceful guy who always comes out on top through their defeats at his hands. All-in-all, Ki-cheol’s narrative, yet disconnected from Joon-mo’s, presents a bloodthirsty and treacherous side of a gangster-controlled Gangnam. Still, Ki-cheol’s character never comes across as particularly antagonistic, either due to bigger wolves or Ki-cheol’s own momentary moral acts.
Meanwhile, Joon-mo’s storyline focuses on exploring his motivation and reasoning that will influence his future decision to undertake such a dangerous mission. In contrast to Ki-cheol’s world of grit and violence, Joon-mo’s story presents an almost domestic narrative despite his occupation as a cop. Unlike his wife, who receives a promotion and becomes the assistant inspector early into the episode, Joon-mo has an unglamorous career ahead of him as a countryside cop.
However, this juxtaposition of a restless Joon-mo clearly awaiting a grander future in the backdrop of a muddy farm offers the perfect set-up for his character. Through his narrative, we get the impression that Joon-mo, capable of bigger things, is likely yearning for them. As such, when an opportunity for a wild case comes up and promises to secure a better future for his career, Joon-mo’s choice seems easy.
Near the episode’s end, we finally see Ki-cheol and Joon-mo’s worlds collide, following an expected action-filled climax. With the bigger plot effectively put in motion, the episode ends, lighting the spark that will undoubtedly propel the rest of the show forward. Ultimately, the pilot does a commendable job of establishing the story and setting the audience’s expectations for what’s next to come.
The Worst of Evil Episode 1 Recap
In 1994 Seoul, Ki-cheol, a DJ and a Gangnam resident, crosses paths with a mob boss, Sergeant Jang, who makes big promises to Ki-cheol about club ownership to convince the man and his friends to join Jang’s gang. However, a year later, in 95, Ki-cheol starts to realize Jang is nothing but empty promises. Ki-cheol has big aspirations and the skills to execute them. Yet, Jang’s controlling hold over him prevents Ki-cheol from growing. Not to mention the negative impact the constant disrespect and ridicule Ki-cheol faces at those above him in Jang’s hierarchical gang have on Ki-cheol’s men.
As a result, Ki-cheol schemes the perfect plan to rid Gangnam of Jang’s rule. After aligning himself with another group of gangsters and gaining manpower, Ki-cheol a coup against Jang, one with an empty hotel and steel rods. Although Ki-cheol and his gang win against Jang, the latter man refuses to go easy and kills Ki-cheol’s best friend, Tae-ho. As a result, Ki-cheol kills Jang in a fit of rage and has to lie to his boss, Song Donghyuk.
Song Donghyuk, the biggest boss in Korea, sees through Ki-cheol’s lie, offended that the latter man failed to ask for his permission to overthrow his man. Nevertheless, the boss allows Ki-cheol to assert control over Gangnam’s wards, Yeoksam-dong and Nonhyeon-dong, after he offers to send him 50 million won every month as compensation.
Soon, Gangnam is under Ki-cheol’s thumb. As such, he’s able to implement his plan of mass drug distribution, which builds him a hefty reputation. As a result, when a new drug, imported from Korea with high meth purity, starts to run rampant in the streets of Japan, Chief Prosecutor Cho Chang-sik plans an operation to learn more about the drug and its source.
Since the operation would have to be top secret and proposes a perpetual high risk, Chang-sik needs someone tough and tenacious enough for the job. Thus, Joon-mo, stuck in Eumseong as a countryside cop, gets offered the role of infiltrating Ki-cheol’s gang. Although Joon-mo tries to act in his self-preservation and turn the offer down, his thirst for promotion gets the better of him.
Chang-sik plans to send Joon-mo into the scene, posing as Tae-ho’s cousin, Kwon Seung-ho. Due to this intimate connection with Ki-cheol’s closest companion, Chang-sik hopes to find a way into the gangster’s inner circle. Ultimately, Joon-mo opts for a reckless approach, deciding to confront Ki-cheol and his gang head-on with demands for a conversation with the syndicate leader. The same results in a restaurant-wide fight between Joon-mo and Ki-cheol’s men until the latter arrives at the scene himself. The episode ends with Ki-cheol realizing Joon-mo has a connection with his late best friend, a revelation that shocks and alarms him in equal measures.
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