SBS’ Payback (2023) made a first great impression with its thrilling tale of people who refuse to remain silent in the face of unjust authorities with money and power as the dominant theme. It premiered on January 6th with a remarkable nationwide rating of 8.7%, which is approximately 1.582 million South Korean viewers, according to Nielsen Korea.
The drama, which is a joint collaboration of director Lee Won-tae and scriptwriter Kim Won-seok known for his work in the mega-hit series, Descendants Of The Sun (2016), is great for the following reasons:
Plot and theme. So far, with its first two episodes released, you will be drawn to its solid storytelling that switches back and forth to give the audience a dynamic presentation of its characters, openly laying down the root cause of the tension at the present time and the revenge that is about to take place. The theme that revolves around corruption, injustices, and revenge is not new but they manage to demonstrate different experiences such as loan sharks and stock manipulation made more thrilling by its unique characters and set-up.
Visual elements. The opening shot takes you to a stunning vast land in Mongolia with its main character riding a horse, showing how his money has made him come thus far in life. That scene alone, the cinematography, and other camera shots, whether past or present, create an emotional impact that often parallel a character’s position or state of mind. The musical score gives you a compelling mood to follow the story, opening video included .
Characters and actors. So far, it highlights three characters that will play a major part as a team in taking down the criminal ring—a former gang member turned money trader, a young prosecutor, and a female military officer.
Phenomenal actor Lee Sun-kyun delivers an incredible performance as Eun Yong, a man born of poverty who gets imprisoned for robbery and believes that money rules and winner takes all in the game called life. After leaving the prison cell, he joins a group of gang to make money for living and gets hired by a loan shark due to his notable skills of numeracy and remembering numbers. He eventually departs the corrupt boss to manage his own investment business with the help of a successful businesswoman who treats him like a son, becoming a successful money trader. He moves to Mongolia to protect his family as part of the deal with a corrupt chairman but returns to Korea as tension rises to fight for revenge, saying, “The only way to take back what’s stolen is to fight and win with your own strength.”
Eun Yong’s relationship with his nephew, Jang Tae Chun, is a tug at the heartstrings—a young prosecutor who is a book lover since childhood, sees Eun Yong as his father image, and dreams big to make it to the top in the legal field made likeable by the promising performance of rookie actor Kang Yoo-seok. He is full of passion to change the face of justice despite the risk of investigating a loan shark and exposing its crimes that his corrupt superiors are against with. Nevertheless, he stands confident with his goal, “I wanted to succeed more than anything. A prosecutor punishing forces of evil in the most awesome way.”
Moon Chae-won plays Park Joon Gyeong, a strong and intelligent female character who graduated from the training institute with high grades, becoming an elite military officer. Her mother who is a businesswoman and the one who helped Eun Yong, is a victim of injustice. In the process of revenge, she discreetly gives an anonymous tip to the young prosecutor to investigate a powerful money cartel that has conspired with the law and sends a powerful message to Eun Yong, “Come home and let’s fight this together.”
Overall. So far, the drama is a good watch with its compelling narrative, impressive visuals, engaging characters, and thrilling turn of events. It is available for international viewers on Amazon Prime Video.
Copyright Myra Bansale for KORB Blog