“Return” is a thrilling, “Great Gatsby” style K-drama that mixes high society with the classic whodunit story — and they go so well together, don’t they? Throw in elements of a law firm that has its own TV program and a cutely quirky detective (plus some budding enemy-turned-friends romance), and you have a K-drama that’s impossible to miss.
The relationships in this show are, arguably, even more important than the characters themselves. Our high society friends weave a very tangled web with quite some skill, and it’s what makes the storyline so dynamic and volatile.
Na Ra (Jung Eun Chae), whose beautiful elegance and sweet personality is sure to make her the audience favorite, is a devoted wife to In Ho (Park Ki Woong), who is also in charge of the powerful Tae Ha Corporation. Na Ra is the most out of the loop when it comes to the dirty doings of those in the upper crust, having given up a promising career in law to be a stay-at-home mother to her two-year-old daughter. Her husband is quite firm that she maintain this position, which might have something to do with the off-and-on affair he’s trying to hide with Min Jung (Han Eun Jung).
The relationship with In Ho and his friends is just as strange. While each one of them might keep the other’s secrets, they’re not above laughing at their friends’ mistakes or sufferings — or orchestrating a situation to create such an occurrence. It’s a bitter circle of relationships, perhaps because of the deceptions that partly tie them together.
We also have a mysterious connection between Min Jung and Joon Hee (Yoon Jong Hoon), part of In Ho’s clique: Min Jung seems to be connected to the drug supply currently being withheld from him, creating vicious symptoms that compel him to do drastic things like stab his arm with a fork.
There seems to be another connection between In Ho, his friends, Na Ra, and a seemingly upright lawyer named Ja Hye (Go Hyun Jung). All seem to be business acquaintances, though Ja Hye holds Na Ra in high esteem and offers her a job at her law firm. Ja Hye’s separate relationship with quirky (and significantly less rich) detective Dok Go (Lee Jin Wook) is mostly that of enemies, though story synopses promise us that will soon change.
Our first episode builds up the complex and shady world that our characters live in, while also revealing their personalities. Ja Hye, whose pensive countenance makes her a bit of a mystery, stands in as a lawyer on a TV show about legal cases. Detective Dok Go (Lee Jin Wook), who is far more outgoing and boisterous, breaks up an undercover operation by fighting his way through the shady gang, action movie style.
He’s a bit of a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of the characters, like Kim Hak Beom (Bong Tae Gyu) and Oh Tae Seok (Shin Sung Rok). Part of a circle of friends which involves In Ho, Hak Beom and Tae Seok show a chilling disregard for other human beings: at a party, Tae Seok watches his friend break a glass over a woman’s head when she protests they aren’t objects during a poker game. Tae Seok’s reaction? He pays her off with a wad of dollar bills.
However, the main episode mostly focuses on the mysterious and bubbly Min Jung, who moves into a townhouse and makes fast friends with her neighbor Na Ra.
The next episode unravels the scene previously set up. Min Jung, it is revealed, is having a secret affair with Na Ra’s husband and is trying to force a deeper relationship with him by moving close to his home. Everyone, it seems, knows about the relationship, but sweet Na Ra is forced to endure an awkward dinner party (with some serious malicious undertones) as her husband In Ho menacingly fends off Min Jung’s suggestive jokes, In Ho’s friends cackling at the situation all the while. It’s a hard scene to watch, and it definitely seems to set the mood for the rest of this K-drama, which will likely remain pretty dark and twisted.
On top of that, any positive feelings toward Min Jung quickly dissolve as the audience sees how deftly she manipulates In Ho while dangling Na Ra as bait: In Ho is deathly afraid of his wife Na Ra finding out about his affair, since he hopes to keep Na Ra as his loving companion while leaving Min Jung on the sidelines. Min Jung uses this, but she doesn’t seem to quite clearly understand the rough dynamics of their illicit relationship until In Ho rudely lays it out for her and compares her to a toilet. This, needless to say, doesn’t go over well, and she attacks him, nails scrabbling at his face. She doesn’t stand a chance when In Ho attacks back, choking her and forcing her out of the car until she’s laying on the pavement crying. But he’s not done, and it’s hard not to gasp out loud when In Ho swings back around and brutally hits her full on with his car.
A day or two later, her body’s found stuffed in a suitcase in the middle of the road, her shoulder gruesomely carved with “XCIX.” Interestingly, In Ho seems surprised at her death, and, of course, the drama refrains from revealing the facts behind the mysterious sequence of events. However, the rich tycoon doesn’t walk free for long, as the episode culminates with Detective Dok Goo knocking on his door to arrest him, stunning his bewildered wife.
This is no fuzzy rom-com, if the first episodes are any indication. Instead, “Return” presents a show that will leave you chilled at the strange but alluring world that the elite’s scandals create. They’re also scandals that will inevitably leave pieces for people like Detective Dok Goo and lawyer Ja Hye to pick up, and I look forward to seeing more of that in the future. I imagine the future of the plot will only get darker, but I hope Na Ra (In Ho’s wife) at least gets a reprieve. Her sweet demeanor makes it impossible to dislike her, and it’s my sincere hope that she’ll be able to get a few punches in against the antagonists with her impressive background in law. For now, we’ll just have to settle in for the wild and twisted ride that “Return” is sure to take us through.
Start watching “Return” below!
Ariana K. Welsh is a college student who spends most of her time obsessing over K-dramas with her sister, dancing to loud music, and writing into the wee hours of the night. Her current fave things in life are: snow, Waldeinsamkeit by R.W. Emerson, and Butterbeer.