How could I resist any drama that includes “Chicago” in the title and stars Yoo Ah-in (who first won us over in Sunkyungkwan Scandal), Go Kyung-po (who was so darn appealing in Answer Me 1998 and Jealousy Incarnate), and Im Soo-jung (who first broke my heart in I’m Sorry, I Love You and who gets all the best leading men in her movies)? No way, no how!
As these are my impressions, I’ll avoid anything spoilery (going beyond any very basic set-up information).
I’m 4 episodes in and I am very intrigued – more so it seems than some people in my tlist, and I’m surprised that more don’t relish the tone and novelty of the drama so far. I see a lot of “I don’t understand what’s going on” and “I’m not connecting with the story yet,” but this has not been the case with me.
Tonally, this drama has the kind of dark vibe of Heard it Through the Grapevine and the same type of visual elegance of that drama. They’ve created a strong visual world for the main characters, particularly Yoo Ah-in’s, to in habit and the book lovers amongst us will pretty much go gaga over his house (though wonder privately how and who would dust those shelves of very tall floor-to-ceiling books). They’re dribbling out the pieces of the mystery – and this is a mystery/supernatural-oriented drama – slowly, but cleverly (IMO) letting me figure out what I’m seeing and indulge in speculation in what’s happening and what will happen next. As a heavy-duty analyzer, this suits me to a T.
The basic set-up of the plot is this: Yoo Ah-in is a highly successful author of novels in what is referred to as sort-of Stephen King-like, but something (no spoilers, remember) happens to upset his mental equilibrium, resulting in a major case of writer’s block just before he’s ready to start on the biggest project he’s ever tackled. Dokkaebi fans will be tickled to see the actor who played Secretary Kim here as his publisher – wearing clothes you’d never imagine him in ever before in a 180˚ turn on his prior persona. I’m not too proud to admit that I spend a portion of every episode a little too focused on his perfect lips – he’s got a pre-army enlistment buzz cut most of the time which oddly suits him and sometimes makes him look a little crazy at others – but his mouth and chin and beautiful skin tone are some of his best features. His character also has an array of eyeglasses and they’re not for show as the writer needs them.
Im Soo-jung is an actress I’ve enjoyed seeing in everything she’s done but I’m not sure (yet) how well she works out opposite him; she’s been given the makeup-less look for her contemporary character and the result is that she looks a little drab and older visually, though her other character looks a lot younger and more vibrant.
And yes, there are two versions of our leads; contemporary and pre-war Japanese occupation era versions, and somehow the lives of the three leads are intertwined in both the past and present. That connection is being kept fairly sketchy so far, and this is where the less invested are complaining, it seems, but I don’t mind. The only thing I mind is that the Chicago connection didn’t involve lots of scenes shot in Chicago and that Go Kyung-po takes his time in appearing in the present settings. But he’s “here” now and I’m going to settle back and enjoy letting this one unfold.