LET’S WATCH (SEASON 1, EPISODE 1): CAFE MINAMDANG
Our very own Ky (link to her Cozy Corner here!) inspired me to take y’all on my own journey as I finally start to clean up my watch lists and get some dramas tackled. I take notes on my drama watches anyway, especially since we started our YouTube journey, so I figure why not turn some of them into posts instead of videos?
Our first season will focus on the Netflix Original drama, Cafe Minamdang, starring Seo In Guk (MY FAVE IS BACK AND I AM SO EXCITED) and Oh Yeon Seo (who you may recognize from another one of my favorite dramas, A Korean Odyssey). We also get Mina from gugudan and Kwak Shi Yang (who I loved in Lovers of the Red Sky) as supporting roles!
I know I’m a tiny bit behind on watching this one but, look; you’ll come to find I have a hard time starting a drama mid-way through because I’m a binger. I binge.
Now that all episodes are out, I’m diving in face first. With all of this being said, these post series will obviously contain spoilers as I watch through the episodes, but as they are my real-time thoughts and reactions for each episode as I watch, they may not be so spoiler-y. Regardless, the disclaimer will always mark the beginning of my episode thoughts so, here we go!
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD – READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
So, I know nothing about this drama other than what I listed above. I don’t know the synopsis, I don’t know the genre, I don’t know any plot points. I'm basically totally blind here, so just something to keep in mind as we move ahead.
I wanna talk about the opening scene and my thoughts as I watched, since it likely will be the most coherent I'll be. I’m already in love with the energy. The music, the cinematic drone shots, the focus on Seo In Guk; immaculate. Also, for those not familiar with his work, Seo In Guk is actually a master at his craft and he plays a gremlin character so beautifully and it seems that’s exactly what we’re getting here, so I’m stoked.
OH. A SHERLOCK BRAIN IN THAT SUIT. And he’s the CEO of this hotel chain or? His callouts are reminiscent of Sherlock in what clues he looks for, but also the things he’s highlighting (unfortunately) don’t really apply in reality. The woman applying for the manager job cannot be identified as a clepto because of the shape of her ear; there’s no correlation! But, y’know what, suspend disbelief a bit and just let it roll on and it makes for an interesting trait to his character, especially with how dramatic the rock background music is when his predictions are correct. These quirks just make it seem more and more that this drama is meant to be campy and highly stylized, of which I am here for.
gif sources mostlyfate
Seo In Guk’s snark, smug-ass attitude, arrogance, and sass with this character is already making my entire night and I’m 4:07 in. The director and producer did a great job with assigning this outrageous interview scene to snag the audience’s attention because I am snagged all the way in and committed to this idiot.
THE INTERVIEW CANDIDATES ARE HONESTLY SO FUNNY? The matching moles between the father and son, the clepto who is “in treatment”, and the wolf-eyed man who comes in speaking fluent Korean and shocks the entire room. The way Seo In Guk’s character is walking over every ounce of furniture in the CEO’s office (god, at this point I really hope he’s the undercover CEO because wow, the disrespect?) and the way he’s smacking his gum is truly the height of obnoxious and I love that he’s making me annoyed.
(Not much) Time has passed and, okay, so he’s not the CEO with how the interview panel is reacting to him. Which means he was literally walking over that entire office like he was in his own personal “Dancing On The Ceiling”. Which is, honestly, not shocking with his personality traits at this point. It’s interesting how he picked up a strange energy from Wolf Eyes, though, and then pulls out a muryeong and fan from his jacket when he confronts him - is he a shaman?! And the sound effect on the fan opening? Actually deserves awards.
NOT ME LOSING IT WHEN HE STARTS THE TIKTOK “SHEEEEEEEEEEESH”. God, I hate (read: love) it here.
The background music is truly an enhancement to the experience in this drama and leads the viewer to a different point-of-view, just to shock them or make them tilt their head. Same thing with the positioning of the shots and the techniques used to film them, like sunspots, light leaks (putting our modern shaman in an overexposed light to block out his image instead of shadow, hey reverse noir), and shadow play. A great example is what happened with Wolf Eyes and Creeper Interviewer Man (Ko Ju-won). The tone switches from dramatic-action flare to silly to serious as Seo In Guk’s shaman starts smacking Ju-won with his fan and accusing him of some awful crimes which then makes the viewer question, “he was right with every single one of his observations before, so he has to be right here, too… right?”
Also, the actual introduction to Seo In Guk’s character? Literal perfection. Already putting Nam Han-jun in my pocket forever and ever.
Enjoy my less coherent thought bullets below as I watch:
Blending camp, ridiculous, and modern in such a stylized way is so hard, but this is sO GOOD? AND IT’S A REAL CAFE? Now I feel like it’s a must to drink some good coffee when watching this.
The typical drama tropes being played up is sO good. Endearing barista heartthrob who makes a mean cup of joe? Sweet, soft, sparkly hearts backing music? Yes, thank you, I’ll take 12.
HOW IMMACULATE AND STUNNING ARE THESE PROPS? The sets, the fits, his fans?!
I absolutely adore Mina, this hacker, tech-genius, and the way Han-jun interacts with her is actually so funny, why is Seo In Guk hilarious and also fantastic at his craft? Send help.
IS THAT COFFEE SHOP BOY CHASING DOWN A CAR? WHAT IS HAPPENING? IS THIS SUPERNATURAL ALL OF A SUDDEN? SAM AND DEAN WINCHESTER, K-DRAMA EDITION?
Okay, no, seriously, is this part of the stylization or is there actual supernatural/magical elements at play here? Like, it could go both ways because whimsy supernatural, but also incredibly stylized humans? NOT HIM SLAPPING THE PERVERT IN THE HEAD OVER AND OVER AND HAN-JUN JUST BEING LIKE “OKAY BESTIE DO I NEED TO DO ANYTHING THIS TIME OR”.
Seo In Guk’s vocal fry and drawl. That is all.
Okay, wait. He is absolutely fucking with everyone, this shaman schtick is a total mock-up. The TikTok “sheeeeesh” actually pains me on every level. So he’s a crazy smart con artist with a hacker genius who helps give him tips on people that make reservations to come see him for his “shamanistic services”. I do love me a good anti-hero so he stays cOZY IN THE POCKET.
Okay, so he sent ol’boy to see his wife having an affair with the guy they also happened to need to arrest. Yikes. x like 58748.
YES, HOROSCOPES. ENTER BAD BITCH MATRIX OUTFIT.
uGH Oh Yeon Seo, a queen.
STOP WITH THE FEET CLOSE-UPS. XOXO A BITCH WHO HAS A FOOT PHOBIA
Oh, baby, if you snapped at me like that, I’d end you.
THE DRONE SHOTS. GODDAMMIT, I LOVE THE CINEMATOGRAPHY OF THIS DRAMA SO MUCH.
OKAY, LOVE THAT THE QUEEN SHOWED UP TO SAVE THE DAY BUT REALLY. Y’ALL. IS THIS JUST STYLIZED OR IS SHE LITERALLY SUPERHUMAN LIKE THE DETECTIVE IN HER TEAM SAID? AT THIS POINT, I DON’T EVEN CARE, I JUST WANT TO KNOW FOR UNDERSTANDING SAKE.
Love how she’s kicking ass as the new recruit on her first day, I’m so proud for some reason.
NOT THEM TAKING HER ARREST, WHAT THE FUCK.
KMIFODNJUIKAFS HAN-JUN IN MINA’S HACKER DEN WITH FUCKING FOOD PREP GLOVES ON I CAN’T STOP LAUGHING.
nAUR MORE FEET! YES, THE HIT ON HER FOOT IS PERFECT.
FJKUSFS MINA AND HAN-JUN FIGHTING IS SO FUCKING FUNNY PLEASE.
oH SHIT KO DID DO THAT SHIT TO THE SECRETARY?
The fake crying, the vibrato singing telling her to pay with cash; I hate him, I’m passing away.
I UGLY GREMLIN GIGGLED AT THE CONSTABLE’S FACE WHEN HE CONFIRMED HE’S THE NEW RECRUIT.
YESSSS, QUEEN IS THE NEW TEAM LEADER, NOT NEW RECRUIT. HAN JAE-HUI IS EVERYTHING, ESPECIALLY AFTER PLAYING UP HER REPUTATION, I’M SCREAMING. THE WITCH LAUGH, THE BREATH SOUND, THE SUDDEN WIND INSIDE. OBSESSED.
Unreliable narrators are honestly so fun to see perspective scenes from.
We don’t like bad agents in this house. CLOCKED, JANG, I HAVE MY EYE ON YOU.
Crochet rabbit keychain, clocked.
FUISPOAS HE TURNED ON THE LIGHTS FOR HER SO SHE COULD WALK COMFORTABLY DOWN THE STREET BECAUSE IT WAS SO DARK, IT’S TOO EARLY TO BE EMO.
WIJMNDSAO WAIT. WAAAAAIT WAIT WAIT. “OFFICER JAILED FOR FABRICATING EVIDENCE”?! NOW I HAVE SOOOoOOooO MANY QUESTIONS. 1) OFFICER? SO HE WAS A DETECTIVE OR PROFILER OR SOMETHING SIMILAR A LA SHERLOCK? 2) HOW IS HE OUT? WHAT THE FUCK? 3) HOW IS HE OUT AND SHOWING HIS FACE WHEN HE COMMITTED A LITERAL FRAUD CRIME? I KNOW IT’S CENSORED IN THE PAPER CLIPPING, BUT C’MON, PEOPLE TALK AND THIS IS SOMETHING I FEEL LIKE PEOPLE WOULD DISCUSS? HOW ARE PEOPLE BELIEVING HE ISN’T A CON ARTIST WHEN HE HAS A HISTORY? 4) WHY DID HE FABRICATE EVIDENCE? WHAT CASE WAS IT? 5) THE CINEMATOGRAPHY IS STATING HE’S A GOOD GUY AND IT LOOKS LIKE HE’S STILL IN THE CRIME-SOLVING BUSINESS SO WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN ONCE JAE-HUI FINDS HIM SINCE SHE IS HUNTING HIS ASS DOWN?
The dramatic facial expressions and noises and actions Han-jun makes and does are actually hysterical. I wonder how it felt for the actors to play such emotionally loose and expressive characters.
HOLY SHITSTICKS, BATMAN. POOR DELIVERY GUY, THAT IS SO SAD.
Seo In Guk’s fox eyes, smirk, and that mole under his left eye make him seem so dangerous. He’s honestly perfect for roles like this, and I love that this one has more humor in it (even though I found Doom to be hilarious).
Worried that they’ll use his super Sherlock brain to skip plot points and cheat a bit with the writing. PLEASE STAY GREAT.
A beastie? OKAY HAN-JUN CONFIRMING NO SUPERNATURAL? Also they’re all siblings? I LOVE THAT DYNAMIC EVEN MORE NOW?
Zombie energy but not, so definitely more unreliable narrator vibes. ALSO THE PASS OUT MOMENT? MFEDAJUIS BARK LAUGHED. BUT, HEY! DELIVERY BOY ISN’T DEAD.
OKAY, please tell me they rushed homeboy to the hospital because?
OH SHIT SHE RECOGNIZES HIM. WAIT, DO THEY HAVE A PAST? FJFSKFJCHSHF AND HE DOESN’T REMEMBER?
“That’s a strange pose” I’m an unalive human see ya
THE BUTT PAT, god, this ensemble is just peak perfection.
Jae-hui = Looney?
How is it bestie could chase down a moving car but can’t catch Jae-hui? I like the stand-off we have, though, between Jae-hui and Han-jun. NICE CLIFFHANGER.
GREAT, the epilogues are gonna confuse me even more if they’re at the end of each episode. But maybe starting to answer some of the questions I had! Also, anytime Seo In Guk cries like that, a star dies. It’s me, I’m the star.
WELL, here we are, friends. The end of episode one. Let’s finalize some thinks I thought.
I mentioned it before in my bullet points, but unreliable narrators can be really fun (though I tend to enjoy them more in dramas than in books). It feels like this entire drama is from the POV of an unreliable narrator, actually, when I think about it more. Which, in that gaze, might explain the whole “supernatural” elements that have come into play that I have severely questioned this entire episode. It also helps to add more believability to the stylization. It can actually be accepted as someone’s reality if we believe that these little embellishments and happenings are real implements there. With the personality he’s showing, I’ll go out on a limb and say that these elements match up well with Han-jun, but how interesting would it be if we discovered our unreliable narrator was actually someone else totally unexpected?
I am beyond excited to get my teeth in on Episode 2, especially after that preview. Pretend I was a capable human, didn’t get sick, and deal with major emotional milestones today (over 1,000 subscribers on our YouTube channel really took me out, y’all!) and posted this on time on Monday. Which means Episode 2 will appear on Friday!
Until then, y’all!