Good thing you mentioned watching the stream right at the start, @jongski. Spared me the spoilers. XD I don't watch raw. I wait for the subtitles in order to not see anything I don't fully understand beforehand. I am covering the series for HanCinema, so I need to get all the information from my viewings that I can.
But I'll be back when subs are out and I've watched it. Hope some of the other folks offer raw recaps.
Nice to see you here, @JoannaOC! I think your analysis makes sense, but I agree with @larus in that it does not quite cover all the places and aspects in which women are absent in this show. They do make up for it with some nice main characters who are ladies, it's just an odd choice or miscalculation. Also, Jong Goo's words destroyed my feels completely. He is a wonderful character and he just brings such hope, but also sadness to the trio (with Mi Joo and Heung Sam). He will probably have to hurt his friend or die for him, just to save him from what he has become. The same for Se Hoon. Poor kid is trying so hard to make his brother happy and do what he has probably been told all his life he has an obligation to do. It's so sad to know that even now, Heung Sam could give up, stop this life and be with his brother. But instead, he will probably get his brother killed or destroyed for life. And Jong Goo has the job of stopping it. Tae Ho will be the tool, but Tae Ho has no direct emotional link to all of these people aside from the noble "Must keep folks safe" cause and all. So I agree that Jong Goo's conflicts resonate with a viewer more.
Tae Ho is just the guy they needed to really stir things up and break that oh so fragile balance of abuse they had going on. Because he is not emotionally connected as deeply, he can make some tough calls and do what must be done to help destroy this current system. And this is really what makes me root for him. Not for himself. Not in a "Yes! Get your money back and be happy!" way. He made mistakes and paid for them, so it's not like him making it would be some form of justice. I root for him because he is the one who will now push for a change for those who were suffering until he came along. And because of that, I think the series is smart in not focusing too much on Tae Ho's own past and dreams and such. They would just feel detached from the life he is living right now. It's all about this new life and how he can make it here, by building new bonds and removing those who threaten them. So that his own life won't end up like the one the people here have been living.
Hopefully not someone's girlfriend's head. XD I watched the episodes this morning (slept at 8 am because of them). I can see why people stay with Heung Sam now. He is an emotional leech. He was a good person and he sacrificed for them and gained their respect and loyalty. And now that the person he was is gone, he uses their feelings of guilt and obligation to keep them imprisoned. He even kind of does it with his brother, though not on purpose with him. He keeps mentioning his "sacrifices", how he got him to study abroad and how hard he is working to give him a great life. And he is saying this to a kid who essentially grew up alone, studying to get his brother's approval. He makes others indebted to him by being nice when he needs to and using his past sacrifices as emotional blackmail. Which is what makes him truly despicable and what makes the contrast with his past even more painful and sad.
Meanwhile, Tae Ho thinks he can be different while following the same trajectory. Tae Ho does not understand the fact that you do not get to become a "nice" villain. Systems of power exist to corrupt. You have to step on corpses to get to the top of an existing hierarchy. Tae Ho thinks he can do all that without losing himself, but someone like Heung Sam is living proof that even great men will fall when they go through that process of getting to the top. I hope the series will go there. As in, show that there's no way for Tae Ho to become a merciful and nice No.1. It would be too idealized and sugar-coated a world view if we gave the hero his position of power as a prize while escaping everything the process of getting there would cause.
Also glad we escaped the Na Ra birth secret fear. I really liked her story. She is like everyone else there, but kindness saved her and she was smart enough to appreciate that without reaching for the unreachable. She was never part of a life that made her fearful of losing power and hungry for it, so she does not share Tae Ho's vision. But that is good, because outsiders can often put things in perspective for those too caught up in something to see it destroying them from within. I like it that their friendship and her advice are not just extras to a romance or only there as a lecture to the hero, but they are the actual core of their relationship, with romance and tropes being only the frosting. Straw Cutter's story was amazing and Yoon Je Moon rocks. We only saw this man for 2 episodes and yet they managed to give him the personality and heart and story that most dramas can't manage for their main characters in 16+ episodes. I am glad he chose to go. His existence also formed as a "what could have been" for Jong Goo, back when he could have left that world after coming out of jail. It also put us in the final stretch, where the heroes understand that Heung Sam needs to be stopped. That what they thought they would protect will never come back when the man at the top no longer cares about it.
Mantis was told he has grown by Straw Cutter. This means he has been with Heung Sam since then and probably since he was a teenager. It explains why he sees Heung Sam as a God. Imagine having a hyung make a sacrifice for you when you are an unfortunate boy. Just like Heung Sam idolized Jong Goo by just witnessing his efforts, Mantis must have felt Heung Sam was the best man alive. The difference is, Heung Sam was there and willing to take advantage of that loyalty in a way Jong Goo did not for Heung Sam.
And Mi Joo. Poor Mi Joo. I hate noble idiocy in dramas, but I like that she and Jong Goo have an actual reason for their sacrifices, which makes them not idiotic at all. They can't just escape or just tell the "evil father in law" to eff himself and elope. So they see no other way. I am glad Jong Goo does now, but that will also mark his death, I fear. So much happened in two episodes. So many emotions. What a great series. I've been waiting for one from Lee Beom Soo since Salaryman. Thank you, cable. XD
Part of me thought they just know a lot about the homeless and their potentially criminal backgrounds due to their location and charitable activities. It never occurred to me they might have some history involving crime. Interesting. I think most people suspect/fear a birth secret, because dramas just use them so much. If this were any other regular show, she would be his daughter, no doubt about that. Personally, I don't want that. I think most of us wouldn't. Too soapy and convenient and it would be a shame in a series otherwise staying mostly away from the usual tropes. Let us hope and see.
Yes, the work is pure man-goodness and that explains the lack of focus on such issues, but not the complete lack of women's very existence. Did they spend so much effort into casting all the guys that they did not notice there is no significant female presence among the homeless? I just wonder how no one thought "Wait, something's missing here". That is why I thought maybe there are shelters for homeless women that don't take in the men or something. It would explain why we don't see even one woman or child in scenes of the tunnels or when they are waiting for food rations. But I've seen them in plenty of other shows, so it has me so confused. It's not a big deal, it's just so noticeable.
I think that is why the lack of women and handling those topics as well is even more curious. I mean, we have Mi Joo. The series is not shying away from how women are treated in the underworld. And if we can witness the operation of the black organ market, why not the sex slave one? Most other cable dramas touch upon that, so it feels odd. I assume it's just because the work is machismo-fueled and women's issues are such a delicate topic due to the gender inequality that it would require great focus to keep respectful to and thorough with. But then some mothers with children, for example. Some older women among the homeless. Or even some presence by Mi Joo's other ladies in the club. That would have been nice. They could easily have more women in for realism and still not focus on the sex trade aspect. I mean, they're not focusing on the organ trade part much either. It's just there, as part of the world.
The recordmance is epic. And @larus, the record is definitely from his childhood. We could briefly see it in a flashback, next to the family pictures. No doubt a prized possession of his father. Maybe even related to some other important event. I wonder if that was playing when his dad got killed. That is how the flashback when Heung Sam was looking at his family photos made it seem. As if the record was playing in the present, but also back then. The kids were playing outside, the record was on and then his father was left to die by his visitor. The song might keep reminding him of that moment, to fuel his determination. If there is anything human left in him, he probably can't stand himself and what he has become, and needs to be "on" 24/7 and focused on his hate for the murderer to cope.
@larus, I agree about the romance not being an issue. Na Ra might be a pure type, but she is not annoyingly cute or pouty or overly idealistic and "poor me, give me a hero to save me" like them. She is actually the one helping him. Which is an interesting reversal and coupled with good writing, it keeps her from being the stereotype her description could have made her. I really like her, actually. I like her interactions with Tae Ho, but they could just be friends and it would be the same for me. The potential of romantic involvement does not bother me, it's just not what I consider a priority for this story and Tae Ho's life right now.
It was on 3. He was talking with Jong Goo. Jong Goo revealed his story about Eun Ji and then Tae Ho also spoke to him about his own past. I think he was being abused for a few years and then he ran away when he got past his exams. His mother is probably alive somewhere too.
I checked it and it's actually Jong Goo who made the Sergeant Bae association.
I think Tae Ho functions a bit like an observer hero. He has entered this world which was already there and the people in which have their connections and their own little society. He is an outsider and the series portrays that well. However, I also feel he is not as strongly written as the others. Perhaps intentionally, if they are going for the outsider hero idea, perhaps because he is more of a stereotype with a predictable trajectory and so they don't have much to do with him that would make for interesting drama. At least not yet, since he is still climbing his way into a more involved position and his moral struggles are just starting.
He did speak about his family though. Sergeant Bae reminded him of his stepfather, who was abusive. I think we did not get much backstory for him because his past is not connected to the Seoul underground like that of the people already in it. Everyone had their downfall which brought them there, but they have been there a long time and the world they live in is made up of their stories. Tae Ho's story in this place has just started.
I am also confused about the love lines though. I think the writer is just not focusing a lot on his love issues. I mean, Na Ra did not even exist in the webtoon, so she is probably a "forced" presence to bait viewers with romance. Must have that one "innocent" virginal girl who will be so sparkly pure that the lead will go soft and oppa-ish over her. I am glad we are not getting much focus on that though, because he has bigger things to worry about than romance. Jong Goo's and Mi Joo's romance matters, because it's not just the superficial "met a cute girl" kind, but one with a past, duration and intense human as well as romantic emotions. It's more dramatically appealing, so they feature it more. It is also more connected to other important plot points, such as Eun Ji, Heung Sam's past and obsession etc.
Overall, I think it's good when creators focus on compelling elements and characters. It is only a problem when the things and characters who get a lot of screen time and overall focus are not written well and do not really matter in the big picture. An example and previous show by Lee Beom Soo being 'Triangle'. The male lead was the one we saw more and the one the series clearly wanted to focus on, but he was carrying none of the important plot points. So then they had to rearrange the plot to make him an actual protagonist and they threw the other two out the window, because they had nothing to do with them. It was badly planned and executed, because it was his story, but he was not carrying the main dramatic elements. With 'Last', the way the story unfolds is about Tae Ho going through this world, which means the world and its inhabitants are just as important as he is. So the focus of the writing matches the concept and makes the elements it focuses on the most appealing. I dread to think what this would be like if not pre-produced. We might have ended up with another mess like the one I mentioned.
Oh, sorry if we've spoiled stuff, @valsava. I assume the use of spoiler tags is not necessary after subs are out, so I've been rambling along. Sowwy. @ymiss, it was on the second episode. It was not yet known to us that he has "plans", so it felt like a random scene. I just remembered that Heung Sam had his father's death in his backstory, so my revenge detectors went off when I saw it. Some mysterious caller told him and he looked pleased. I guess that was Heung Soon calling to report.
New stills of imposing charisma and pure man-beauty. The ajeossi goodness in this series is unreal. Source: Osen
As for who killed Heung Sam's dad, I think it's clear that it is the Chairman Yoon. Jeong Min's father. Remember, when his wife died, Heung Sam commented on it. He looked really pleased and said he wished to see the old man's face. I think that is why Heung Soon was assigned to his company by Heung Sam. He probably got rich by doing scams and killed the boys' dad when he tried to do the right thing and stop him. It explains why Heung Soon is in the company, but also why he is approaching Jeong Min. She is the perfect source for information. Close enough, but also shunned by her family.
Since Chairman is so huge, Heung Sam would need to gain considerable business power and connections to be able to even come close to destroying him. He just seems so blinded by it that he will throw anyone under the bus to get there.