First Impressions: “Goodbye Mr. Black”

We’re off and running with another highly anticipated spring drama, “Goodbye Mr. Black”!

goodbye mr black - chase (gif by minjiya)

Before I launch into my thoughts for the first two episodes, I should mention that I came into this drama with a fairly clean slate. I caught up with the teasers and pre-release information before watching, but I’m completely unfamiliar with the original manhwa (my apologies to fans of the comic!). I’ve been excited to see Moon Chae Won back on the small screen, however, and I certainly don’t mind seeing more of Lee Jin Wook. The storyline intrigued me, too: An intense revenge plot? Betrayal by a best friend? Hiding out in the beautiful island scenery of Thailand? Sign me up! So, how did the first two episodes hold up? (WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

Production Value

To be honest, the first episode didn’t blow me away. It was just too over-the-top and cheesy for my taste; I had been expecting something more slick, more dark and twisty and on-the-edge-of-my-seat thrilling (maybe that’s where all this is headed). Sure, the first episode had its share of action, but it just didn’t feel like the drama had hit its full swing yet. Knowing that the plot was centered upon Lee Jin Wook’s character, Cha Ji Won (alias Black), being betrayed by his best friend, I was prepared for a fast and dramatic setup to help the audience understand the rise and fall of their relationship. But, some of the dialogue, complete with melodramatic orchestral music playing in the background, felt stiff and forced.

goodbye mr black kkw ljw

The good news is, it got better! The second episode was not without its soap-opera-y moments, but it delivered much more of the action I had been expecting. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but the second episode got me much more invested in the characters and what was happening between them. Everything felt like it got cranked up a notch — the nuance of the characters, the excitement of the plot — and by the time I reached the end of episode 2, I was all in.

Cast and Characters

If a drama is going to be a little bit cheesy sometimes, I might as well enjoy Lee Jin Wook delivering the cheese.

lee jin wook hair (gif by minjiya)

In all seriousness, I’m impressed by the way that Lee Jin Wook has already brought Cha Ji Won to life with such versatility. In one moment, he’s a happy-go-lucky son of a chaebol, a charming guy who has it all: a rich and well-respected family, a beautiful fiancée (Ma Ri, played by Yoo In Young), and the favor of all of his Navy comrades. In the next moment, he’s an unstoppable powerhouse, a quick-witted machine who can fight off any number of bad guys as he’s being chased through the streets of Thailand. And through it all he has a sensitive soul, loyal to his loved ones and always prepared to do the right thing. And then along comes Kaya, played by Moon Chae Won.

Kaya and Ji Won are total opposites in a lot of ways. It would be easy for Ji Won in all of his chaebol/Navy Seal fanciness to look down his nose at Kaya, a street orphan who was literally found in a pile of trash after a tsunami. But he doesn’t hesitate to trust her wholeheartedly (as seen when circumstances become dire in episode 2), and he’s quite sweet to her, pouring his bottled water on her hand when she gets a cut. It’s clear that Kaya isn’t used to being treated well, but unlike Ji Won and his tight-knit family, it seems that Kaya has had plenty of reasons in her life to be distrustful of others.

goodbye mr black water (gif by minjiya)

Speaking of Kaya, I’m a big fan of Moon Chae Won and her character in this drama. I love Kaya’s scrappy, rough-around-the-edges personality. Sure, she might not make a living in the most wholesome of ways, but in her heart she knows what’s right and what’s wrong. I like that she’s got the spunk and the smarts to help Ji Won out — she’s a valuable ally, not a fair lady begging to be swept off her feet. Basically, Kaya is a delightful character for Moon Chae Won’s big comeback.

And then we have Ji Won’s backstabbing best friend Min Sun Jae, played by Kim Kang Woo. Sun Jae doesn’t strike me as an inherently bad person, but he’s gotten himself into a downward spiral of bad decisions. I’ll admit that I found his character more eyeroll-worthy than anything at first. How could anyone miss those sweaty, nervous breakdowns? I was annoyed that he was the most obviously guilty traitor ever, and I thought I would get sick of him soon. (I’m not saying the acting was poor, by the way — Kim Kang Woo is absolutely great. The character just seemed over-the-top to me.)

kim kang woo - nervous (gif by minjiya)

But by episode 2, Sun Jae had turned cold in ways that can chill you to the bone, able to lie right to the faces of people who trust him.

goodbye mr. black family portrait

So although my first impression wasn’t great, episode 2 cemented Sun Jae’s character as a much more nuanced villain, the type that is painful but compelling to watch. I’m definitely curious to see where this story takes him — will the dark side take over him, or will his goodness, which we saw glimpses of in episode 1, shine through? For the literature geeks like me: how about that moment when Sun Jae went all Lady Macbeth on us?

goodbye mr black out damn spot

“Out, damn spot!” But take your time, actually, because shirtless Kim Kang Woo.

And speaking of villains, can I just say that the evil mastermind behind all of these problems, Baek Eun Do (played by Jun Gook Hwan), is MAD SKETCHY? The sunglasses! That hair! Those weird printed shirts!

jun gook hwan

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley. *shudder*

goodbye mr black villain (gif by minjiya)

Heebie-jeebies for daysssss.


We’re only two episodes in, but I already feel like I’ve been through a whirlwind. In the interest of getting right into the thick of things, I didn’t mind the quick rush through the initial setup of the plot. The action escalated quickly in episode 2, briskly clipping through suspenseful encounters and chase scenes galore. The speed of this drama is addicting, even if I feel like I’m left with a lot of questions: What happened to the guy who got shot (Kaya witnessed the shooting and wanted her fellow con artist Sung Min to help) in episode 1? What’s up with Sun Jae’s crazy dad? HOW DID JI WON MAGICALLY GET HIS MUDDY PANTS CLEAN?

goodbye mr. black mud gone And I can’t help but wonder: how can this relentless pace possibly continue for 18 more episodes?? I guess we’re in for a heck of a ride with this drama!

running (gif by minjiya)

You can watch the first episode here:

Soompiers, what do you think of “Goodbye Mr. Black” so far?

minjiya can usually be found writing in a cafe, blasting K-pop dance tunes to motivate herself through long runs outside, or plotting her escape from the midwest. Say hello/send her a gif on Twitter @yaminjiya.

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