TYPE OF REVIEW : FIRST IMPRESSION REVIEW
Very minor spoilers up to episode 2.
For the spoilery, but only up to episode 10 Check-in Review, click here. Or for the completely spoilery, THIS IS HOW IT ALL ENDS Hindsight Review, click here.
Awkward title is awkward. But it’s easy to get over it after watching the first two episodes of tvN’s Nine – Nine Time Travels. It takes both first and second episodes to really get a sense of what the characters and what we might be getting ourselves into.
Nine stars Lee Jin Wook as handsome news anchor Park Sun Woo. We first meet him as he arrives in Nepal for two reasons. One, to propose a six month marriage to Joo Min Young (Jo Yoon Hee, You Who Rolled in Unexpectedly).
But the second, more important reason, to identify a body is his older brother, Jung Woo (Jun Noh Min, Bridal Mask/Five Fingers) who died while hiking up the Himalayas.
And the reason behind both of these reasons is that Sun Woo has a malignant brain tumor that gives him at most, six months to live a normal life before it begins affecting him. Treatment or surgery only prolongs the inevitable.
So, he proposes a 3-6 month marriage to his junior at the station, Min Young and hoped to bring his hyung, Jung Woo, home to care for their mother who is confined at the hospital with a mental illness.
But maybe the biggest thing he wants to accomplish before dying is to get revenge on Choi Jin Chul (Jung Dong Hwan) whom he blames for his father’s death, his mother and brother’s schizophrenia and their overall unhappiness the last 20 years. He’s gathered evidence that can bring Choi down even though he’s regarded as the top doctor in the country and a medical hero.
But things get a little more complicated for Sun Woo when he quickly realizes a stick of incense his brother was holding when he died has given him the ability to travel through time. Episode 2 concludes with him coming to that realization just as he’s speaking on the phone with… himself, at 18 (Park Hyung Shik).
That cliffhanger is just why it takes the full first two episodes to really get a feel for what the drama is about and it is definitely a familiar premise. There have been many time traveling dramas in the last year or two. For me, the drama I have for comparison is TV Chosun’s Operation Proposal starring Yoo Seung Ho and Park Eun Bin.
Yoo Seung Ho’s Baek Ho gets several opportunities to travel back in time to try and confess his true feelings to his best friend. It’s a premise that could easily get repetitive, but can be worth the experience with solid writing and a great cast.
For now, Nine‘s got at least the cast part right.
Lee Jin Wook is one of my favorite Korean actors, so I am very happy to see him in a lead role. He has the talent and the charisma to carry a drama and he’s more than capable here as well. In the two episodes of Nine, he’s made Sun Woo out to be strong yet playful, but also mysterious and loving.
Jo Yoon Hee doesn’t stray too far from her popular character on You Who Rolled in Unexpectedly with Min Young. But that mix of charming cuteness and emotional sensitivity work to add that extra layer to Sun Woo’s character. But we’re only just beginning, and there’s certainly more to Min Young’s character than what has been shown so far.
And it is great to see Park Hyung Shik (ZE:A) get another opportunity to flex his acting muscle after a very strong performance in the KBS Drama Special Sirius in January. As the high school version of Sun Woo, we’ve only seen a couple of seconds of him. But it’s easy to expect great things from him in this drama.
With the writing, it may have been a slow burn, but this is the kind of story that needs a while to get going. We may have a reason Sun Woo might want to travel back in time, but we don’t have the how and we don’t have the why he might want to travel back in time, again… and again.
So the cast is great and the set-up has been solid. While Nine has been a slow burn in its first two episodes, it is definitely and quickly heading in the right direction. It’s presented enough intrigue, mystery and emotional connection to warrant a commitment every week. And as long as they continue down that path, these promising Nine Time Travels could result in a rewarding experience.