“Holy sh*t!” were the first words out of my mouth as the credits started rolling at the end of episode one. Not since Iris has there been a Kdrama as intense and with as much incredible action as Vagabond. We barely get our heart rate back to normal before we’re hit with another shocking surprise. Trust me – this is a fast-paced, 16 hour thrill ride you don’t want to miss.
When Cha Dal-Gun looses his 11 year old nephew, Hoon, in a mysterious plane crash that kills everyone onboard he is devastated. Dynamic Systems, the company that owns the plane in question, attempts to console the loved ones of the victims by holding a vigil remembrance service in Morocco near the site where the plane went down. Just before the crash, Hoon sends a video of himself and his friends aboard the plane, and when Dal-Gun lands in Morocco he is shocked to see someone that looks exactly like a man that was in that very video. Bewildered, Dal-Gun runs after the man and when he finally catches up to him and confronts him about being on the plane, a dangerous fight ensues and the man gets away. Dal-Gun’s suspicions lead him to believe the crash was not due to a malfunction, as the media had reported, but instead suspects it was a terrorist attack. With the help of a few NIS agents, Cha Dal-Gun decides to investigate the crash of flight B357 and the corruption he discovers goes higher up than he could have even imagined.
Cha Dal-Gun once hoped to prove himself an excellent stuntman and go on to be a famous Hollywood martial arts director but things don’t always turn out as planned. His repeated injuries are one of the reasons he recently quit his job and now he’s having a tough time making ends meet. He began raising his deceased brother’s son, Hoon, after the boy’s mother left him at an orphanage. When Hoon refuses to go to the Taekwondo exhibition in Morocco because he is aware of his uncle’s financial struggles, Dal-Gun insists all the more he should not miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity, which serves to compound his grief when Hoon dies on the trip.
NIS agent Go Hae-Ri is assigned to work at the Korean embassy in Morocco. While there, she is charged with the care of the bereaved families who have come for the plane crash remembrance service. She is anxious to get back to headquarters and is discouraged when her superior tells her to stay put. Hae-Ri is puzzled when Dal-Gun insists he saw a passenger from flight B357 but begins to trust him more as she helps with his investigation and becomes tied up in some confusing and deadly things.
There are a few other extremely important characters in the story.
Gi-Tae-Woong is the head of the NIS information team. He is brilliant, skilled, and Hae-Ri’s idea of the perfect man, in fact, she even kissed him one night at a team dinner while she was drunk.
Edward Park is the president of Dynamic Systems Corporation, owners of the plane that crashed. He helps Dal-Gun and Hae-Ri when the NIS refuses to do so.
Jessica Lee is the president in charge of the Asian division of John & Mark. She will do whatever it takes to get the government to agree to buy their fighter jets.
Lilly is the femme fatale assassin Jessica hires to kill Dal-Gun. She fancies herself invincible and values money above all else.
Kim Woo-Gi is the co-pilot of flight B357. He is addicted to drugs and, therefore, will do anything for money.
Cha Hoon is Dal-Gun’s 11 year old nephew. He followed in his uncle’s athletic footsteps and is part of a junior Taekwondo team.
Jerome is the man Cha Dal-Gun thinks was aboard the same flight as his nephew and somehow survived the crash.
Jeon Gook-Pyo is the President of South Korea. The public and private side of the man are vastly different. He has tried to convince himself that what he does for his own gain is in the best interest of the Korean citizens.
There are also several corrupt NIS agents, however, I’m not about to tell you their names.
While watching Iris years ago, I remember thinking Lee Byung-Hun was the most incredible action/drama actor I had ever seen. No one could hold a candle to his performance in that show. Well, after watching Lee Seung-Gi play Cha Dal-Gun I realize he is just as good as Byung-Hun. For information about this amazing actor, you can stroll over to my You’re All Surrounded review.
Although Bae Suzy has never been one of my favorite actresses, she is the female star in two shows that are on my top 20 Kdramas list – Uncontrollably Fond and now Vagabond. You can read a bit about her in my Uncontrollably Fond review, however, just to update what was true at the time I wrote that review, she is no longer dating Lee Min-Ho.
This is the second time Lee Seung-Gi and Bae Suzy have starred opposite each other. In the summer of 2013 they were the leading male and female stars in Gu Family Book, a Kdrama I have yet to see. Any of you who have seen both Gu Family Book and Vagabond, please comment and let me and Heart & Seoul readers know in which drama you thought their chemistry was better.
The crash of flight B357 is the catalyst for the story but the thing that keeps it moving along is a competition between John & Mark and Dynamic Systems Corporation, the two companies vying for a defense contract with the South Korean government. Each side is desperate to have their fighter jet be chosen by the government as the defense plane of their country. It means big money and neither side is about to loose to the other.
If you like action, mystery, espionage, and crime shows Vagabond is a drama you should not miss. There’s bad guys/gals galore and they’re the type that easily justify their evil doings. The head terrifying person calmly explains, “Do you know why we can never get rid of crimes? To make money, we need crimes to change the law. The world of crimes, it’s an industry created by those who rule the law. The same goes for war and terrorism.” Yikes! So many of the wicked people in this show are in government positions, with higher-ups in the NIS being some of them. That’s scary! I couldn’t help but wonder how much of the government in my country (U.S.A.) is like that.
The action in this drama is varied and jaw-droppingly good. Bombs, chemical weapons, all kinds of guns, hand to hand combat, car chases, jumping from rooftops, fires, climbing up buildings… you name it and Vagabond has it. In the show, Cha Dal-Gun’s heroes are Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. In fact, he told Hoon he’d change his name to Bruce Chan when he became a martial arts director. Well, there’s a part in the drama (it’s either at the end of the first episode or the beginning of the second) where Dal-Gun is hanging off the back of a speeding truck and then climbs up and holds on to the roof for dear life – mimicking Jackie Chan’s stunt in Police Story where he is drug behind the back of a bus and then hangs off the top of it, by an umbrella, as it speeds through traffic. Dal-Gun’s willingness to take risks is pretty cool. I think Jackie Chan would be proud.
Does the ending make or break the show? Well, that’s pretty much up to you to decide. The writer allows each viewer to choose how they think it concludes. Debate the ending with yourself – “He’s… and she’s…” Everything’s all set up for a sequel and it can’t come soon enough!
The definition of vagabond is someone who wanders from place to place without a home or job. However, that really has nothing to do with the show. In this story, vagabond is a code word used by a select few NIS agents. There’s no way I’m telling who uses it – the good guys or the bad guys – because I want you to be surprised.
As you all know by now, I am not a fan of hand-held camera work. The shaking is irritating and can, if done too much, make me feel nauseous. Vagabond’s director chose to use that particular technique to film the action shots and, to my surprise, I was not only okay with it but believe it serves to make the viewer feel as if he/she is right there in the middle of all the craziness. If you’re like me and much prefer smooth camera work, don’t worry. I don’t think the bumpiness of the action scenes will bother you.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember a lot of the music in the show. I was just so engrossed in what was going on that I didn’t even think about the music all that much. Good All Days (I thought that was a mistake and it was supposed to be Good Old Days but it actually is All) is a country western sounding song sung in English (there are quite a few songs sung in English) by Lee Chan-Sol who is accompanied mostly by an acoustic guitar. Elaine sings the pitifully sad Fallen Star. The music sounds like how someone grieving the loss of a loved one would feel. Open Fire performed by The VANE, although slow, sounds dirty and gritty. IRO sweetly sings the quiet ballad Falling In Love.
Vagabond was shot in Portugal, Morocco, and at home in South Korea. The different scenery helps us actually see that the influence of the “bad guys” is literally global. There is a lot of warm, dim, golden lighting in this show. It’s not really good or bad, it’s just something I noticed.
There is not one negative thing I can say about Vagabond – nothing I would change. It took me five days to get through it all and I kept talking about it incessantly to people that entire time. I even cut short being at my work’s Christmas lunch so I could go home early and finish the last three episodes! Yep folks, it’s that compelling.
Note: In order to place Vagabond on my favorites list I removed Queen In-Hyun’s Man.
Perfect progression of the story
A ton of fantastic action scenes
Superb acting all around
Lee Seung-Gi proves to be a top action/drama star
Great camera work
Scenery -Morocco, Portugal, South Korea