First Impression Review: SBS’ Warrior Baek Dong Soo is a True Hero’s Epic

No spoilers.
For the very spoiler Hindsight Review, click here.

Rarely is my allegiance to a show, from any country, won right from the get go. But there are those special times when I’m already cheering, caring and on the edge of my seat before the first hour is even over.

But SBS’ Warrior Baek Dong Soo (무사 백동수) did just that.

The series follows the titular character starting with the days before his birth as his father Baek Sae Gong, one of the Crown Prince’s closest friends, is framed for conspiring against the King and sentenced to death. With his wife and unborn child also sentenced to death, Sae Gong asks friend Kim Gwang Taek (Jeon Gwang Ryeol, Baker King Kim Tak Goo), known as the “Sword Saint” for his unrivaled sword skills, to protect his family.

Gwang Taek helps Sae Gong’s wife escape and finally gives birth after carrying the baby for ten months. She tells Gwang Taek to name the baby Dong Soo and dies from the difficult birth. They are found and captured by the royal guard in hopes to finish the sentence by killing baby as well, but Gwang Taek makes a huge sacrifice to keep him alive.

Pursued by a mysterious group of assassins, Gwang Taek leaves Dong Soo by a secluded creek as he heads to fight them off. A man finds Dong Soo, recognizes the name of Sae Gong on a cloth and brings the baby to Huk Sa Mo, also a friend of both Sae Gong and Gwang Taek, who raises him. Thinking Dong Soo is dead, Gwang Taek wanders villages, distraught and settles at a Shaolin Temple.

Horribly deformed from being tied up in his mother’s womb, Dong Soo, now 12 years old, grows up having to wear bamboo braces on his arms and legs. And so begins his journey as he learns how to become a hero and one would think, eventually avenge the death of his parents.

As a “fusion saeguk,” Warrior Baek Dong Soo mixes slick, contemporary action with historical drama and period atmosphere.

The recent trend of stylized action sequences and contemporary touches to period dramas and films in Korea has been successful, and Baek Dong Soo is no different.

The story is exciting and intriguing, interestingly mixing together action, mystery and light-hearted fun. Like any hero’s epic, there’s plenty of underdog spirit and inspirational attitudes and it helps to get the viewer invested quickly.

The series features a very familiar cast. Though leads Ji Chang Wook (Smile, Donghae) in title role and Yoo Seung Ho (Master of Study/Flames of Desire) as friend, comrade and possible future rival Yeo Woon haven’t shown up yet, they’ve already proven themselves to be talented actors.

But it is their younger counterparts, Yeo Jin Goo and Park Gun Tae who capture my attention and allegiance to the show. As the younger Dong Soo and younger Yeo Woon, respectively, they bring strong acting, charm and likeability to immediately make you care about these two characters whose journey and destinies we will be highly invested in.

Just like Kim Yoo Jung and Seo Shin Ae, the young actresses who both deservingly shared the year-end acting award for last year’s Grudge: The Revolt of Gumiho, Yeo Jin Goo and Park Gun Tae similarly command the screen. And while they will only star in a couple of episodes before the Ji Chang Wook and Yoo Seung Ho take over, they’ve helped set up a wonderful foundation to what should be a thrilling and fun series.

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