First Impressions:

We’ve seen renegade lawyers, doctors, and actors take on conglomerates in dramas, now “Numbers” centers the corruption within a less-explored profession: accountants. Part revenge story and part bildungsroman, it’s vaguely reminiscent of the excellent “Good Manager” but without the absurdist humor. Despite a standard set-up, the show quickly differentiates itself from traditional stories of corporate vengeance with flawed characters and a slice-of-life vibe that keeps things from going too dark once the corporate backstabbing gets underway. Here’s everything we loved about the first two episodes!

Warning: spoilers for episodes 1-2 below.

1. Jang Ho Woo’s quiet intelligence

The set-up for the main character, Jang Ho Woo (Kim Myung Soo), is pretty standard. He’s supposedly an orphan, having been found at a construction site with no memory of anything but his name. The owner of the construction company, Jang In Ho (Nam Myung Ryul), finds and raises Ho Woo when no one comes looking for him. As an adult, Ho Woo considers joining the police, but life has other plans. Accountants from the Tail Accounting Firm visit In Ho’s construction company, Haebit Construction. Ho Woo overhears them planning to cook the books so that the company goes under and tries to warn In Ho, but it’s too late. Haebit Construction goes under, and In Ho takes his life. Ho Woo witnesses it all and is furious. He tries to stop Taeil’s gang from destroying the building In Ho was constructing but is halted by Han Seung Jo (Choi Jin Hyuk), who tells him that his anger is powerless. Accountants determine when a corporation is over, and this one is done.

Ho Woo can only watch as In Ho’s work is destroyed and his name tarnished. He tries to sue, but lawyers refuse the case once they hear that Taeil is the other party. His anger has no power because he doesn’t. So, Ho Woo resolves to join the enemy and amass the power to get justice.

It’s a pretty basic set-up, complete with the death of a parental figure. Yet, what takes this further is that Ho Woo isn’t brash or foolish about his quest for answers and power. He has a rocky start at Taeil, with everyone there being unwilling to work with him owing to the fact that he never went to college, so they don’t know how well he’ll function at his first real-world job. But Ho Woo doesn’t fight or challenge them. After a rocky start, he quickly makes himself indispensable to the accountants at Taeil. He doesn’t place himself on a pedestal for being an accountant like they do and cheerfully does every menial job he can, down to mopping the floors. His coworkers call him a pushover, but Ho Woo’s actions mean that he has an inside look at everything going on in the firm. He’s undervalued and underestimated, and that allows him observe each person and see how they think—especially Seung Jo, the vice president’s son.

2. Han Seung Jo giving Ho Woo a chance

Everyone at Taeil is bewildered when Ho Woo shows up. An accountant with no academic background somehow gaining employment at one of the most respected firms in Korea is beyond bizarre. And as it turns out, Seung Jo was behind it. It isn’t clear yet as to whether Seung Jo recognizes Ho Woo as the kid from the day Haebit Construction was ruined, but it’s clear that he regrets carrying it out. Ruining the corporation wasn’t his idea but of his father Han Je Gyun (Choi Min Soo), with whom Seung Jo has a strained relationship.

Seung Jo gave Ho Woo a chance and accepted him into Taeil in the hopes of gaining a wildcard: someone who no one really knows and cannot bribe or belittle or pressure. Ho Woo is at the very bottom of the corporate ladder, and that means he has nothing to lose. Seung Jo is impressed and intrigued with Ho Woo’s lack of an ego and how he refuses to let the other accountants’ poor treatment get to him. He also notes that Ho Woo is far smarter than he lets on and seems to be almost ruthlessly honest around him. So, when he asks Ho Woo to join his team—an unprecedented honor—he’s bewildered when Ho Woo refuses. But he has good reason.

3. Han Je Gyun’s discreet villainy

Ho Woo is still new to corporate life, but he’s catching on fast that most of the villainy comes from the very top. The files on Haebit Construction are missing, and he suspects that someone at the top has them or destroyed them. The show hasn’t given us an answer on where the files are, but it has given us our villain. Choi Min Soo takes on a surprisingly understated role as Han Je Gyun, vice president at Taeil and manipulator extraordinaire. We haven’t seen the depths of his evil yet, but we know that Seung Jo’s hatred of his father stems from Je Gyun’s decision to destroy Haebit Construction, which devastated his now-ex-girlfriend Jang Ji Soo (Kim Yoo Ri). She was In Ho’s daughter and never recovered from her father’s suicide.

Choi Min Soo normally takes up every inch of the screen, but he’s rather discreet in this role. His villainy has been limited to manipulation, spying, and cooking the books thus far. Yet, judging by Seung Jo’s outburst that his father is a monster, there are uglier depths to him that we haven’t seen yet. Je Gyun seems to live for money and power, so that tracks.

4. Kang Hyun’s decision

The first couple episodes of the show set up Ho Woo’s role at Taeil, taking him from pushover to intriguing newbie. A senior accountant and friend of Seung Jo’s, Kang Hyun (Kim Young Jae) is currently stuck on an evaluation of an entertainment corporation. He’s friends with the CEO, but something feels a little off about this year’s evaluation, and he doesn’t know why. Je Gyun and his righthand subordinate Shim Yeon Woo (Sungyeol) sure do though. The corporation is all but bankrupt due to a major shareholder’s foolish decisions. Said shareholder is a chaebol, and his father offers to buy the corporation so that they can hide his son’s idiocy. Je Gyun and Yeon Woo are happy to agree, but there’s a single snag: it means that no one can discover the corporation’s true state prior to the merger. So the evaluation has to be an unqualified opinion: aka saying that there are no risks with the corporation.

Yeon Woo assigns Ho Woo to Kang Hyun’s team to ensure that no one discovers that the corporation is all but insolvent, but Ho Woo zeroes in on it right away and brings it to Kang Hyun’s attention. He wants to do the right thing but is threatened by Yeon Woo and Je Gyun that if he dares to mess with this merger and ruin Taeil’s deal with the chaebol, he’ll never work as an accountant again.

Kang Hyun gives up and decides to send in an unqualified opinion. He even apologizes to Ho Woo for not doing the right thing. Ho Woo doesn’t seem surprised and sighs that he became an accountant because his anger had no power. But Kang Hyun’s does. He doesn’t ask that Kang Hyun do anything and seems to have been thinking to himself, but the conversation leaves a lasting impression on Kang Hyun. He changes his report to add a disclaimer and quits his job. Ho Woo is shocked, but Kang Hyun assures him that it’s for the best and commends him for steering him on the right track. Je Gyun is furious and takes it out on Yeon Woo, who tries and fails to take it out on Ho Woo. Seung Jo observes it all, realizing that Ho Woo is far smarter than he realized.

And that’s the intro to “Numbers.” It’s a rather zippy, breezy show without much in the way of darkness so far. Jin Yeon Ah (Yeonwoo), a senior associate at Taeil, is rather underutilized, and it’s unclear as to whether she’s just there as Ho Woo’s potential love interest (which is giving shades of “Again My Life” here) or whether she’ll get a character arc of her own. Besides that, we’re on solid ground here with flawed but likable characters, great pacing, and a corporate villain you’re going to love to hate. “Numbers” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but what it does with it is well worth watching.

And it’s pretty meta to see Sungyeol playing L’s boss!

Check out the premiere below!

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What did you think of the premiere week’s episodes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. When not watching dramas, she fangirls over Ji Sung, and spins thrillers set in increasingly fantastic worlds. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!

Currently Watching:  “See You In My 19th Life,” “Delightfully Deceitful,” “Lies Hidden In My Garden,” “Numbers,” and “King The Land.”
Looking Forward to: “Gyeongseong Creature,” “Ask The Stars,” “The Girl Downstairs,” “The Worst Evil,” “Queen of Tears,” “Vigilante,” “Demon,” “Daily Dose of Sunshine,” and Ji Sung’s next drama.

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