An Honest Review Of 'Vagabond'

Bring out the Ginebra and pandesal. It's time for some Netflix and thrills.
PHOTO: VAGABOND/SBS

The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers

When a plane flying from Korea to Morocco crashes, everyone is led to believe that it was caused by a technical malfunction. But Cha Dal Geon (Lee Seung Gi) soon discovers that there's a more sinister plot behind the tragedy that took his young nephew's life.

As soon as he lands in Morocco, he is on the heels of a man he suspects to be the terrorist who took down the plane. Determined to get to the truth, he teams up with National Intelligence Service (NIS) rookie agent Go Hae Ri (Bae Suzy), who is skeptical about Dal Geon's theory at first.

Soon, however, both are swept up in a conspiracy that goes all the way to the Blue House. It turns out the plane crash involves two military contractors competing to win a deal to provide the government with next-gen fighter jets.

It's hard to know whom to trust, as one by one friend turns out to be a foe. The corruption involves the plane's copilot and his wife, top officials at the NIS, and powerful people at the Blue House.

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Dal Geon and Hae Ri must face hired assassins, as well as corrupt Moroccan police and NIS agents—sacrificing life and limb—to bring the truth to light.

How far and high does the corruption go? And there's an intriguing bit in the trailer that shows Go Hae Ri may be more than who she says she is.

With only a few episodes left before the finale, there's a lot that the show needs to resolve, and it appears, more that it has yet to reveal. 

The Short, Honest Plot

Think the Bourne movies but K-drama.

The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them

Lee Seung Gi

The singer-actor-host was last seen in A Korean Odyssey playing opposite Oh Yeon So. He was also recently in Manila for his Vagabond Voyage fan meet on October 12.

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Bae Suzy

You last saw Bae Suzy as the female lead opposite Lee Jong Suk in While You Were Sleeping, opposite Kim Woo Bin in Uncontrollably Fond, or may have caught her cameo in My Love from the Star.

 

Shin Sung Rok

You may recognize him from The Last Empress, My Love from the Star, or Perfume.

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Moon Jeong Hee

She was last seen in Sweet, Savage Family and Mama, and is best known for her roles in Daughter in Law and The Iron Empress.

 

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Hwang Bo Ra

You may remember her from Fight for My Way and What's Wrong with Secretary Kim? Her latest projects include Touch Your Heart and My Strange Hero

Did You Know?

1. This isn't the first time Lee Seung Gi and Bae Suzy worked together. The pair also co-starred in the 2013 K-drama Gumiho Family Book.

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2. Filmed partly in Morocco, the cast and crew stayed in the North African country for over a month, which was challenging and rewarding for the actors.

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3. Speaking of filming in Morocco, the director of Vagabond reveals that they shot some scenes in the same locations used for Bourne Ultimatum and 24.

4. The two leads took shooting lessons at a gun range to prepare for their roles.

5. Bae Suzy and Lee Seung Gi performed a lot of their own stunts in the show. Yes, LSG really did jump from a building. And he did it six times!

6. Shin Sung Rok is famous for playing villains, which adds an extra layer to his role in Vagabond. Because he's always played a baddie, you don't quite know whose side he's on until much later in the series.

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What My Friends Think:

"Out of the gates, Vagabond impresses with slick stunts, special effects, and an edge-of-your-seat premise. To be honest, I started the first episode with a knot in my stomach because...yeah. No spoilers. The gut feeling didn't stop me from watching (and crying!) though.

"Apart from the thrills and wanting to get to the bottom of the story, I was impressed by the commitment of the actors. I feel like they brought their A-game, and Bae Suzy is really bae, isn't she? Polished and professional, Vagabond might be the gateway K-drama for the people who still only watch Hollywood blockbusters." Mariel De Jesus

"Vagabond is scene after scene of super hottie Lee Seung Gi killing it in his action shots (and abs!). While it's been visually entertaining, realistically, a stunt man jumping off buildings in Morocco, surviving car accidents, and dodging bullets from trained assassins in every episode is just crazy, but I'm still watching this show! While leading lady Bae Suzy didn't win me from the start, her smart/ditzy character grew on me eventually. Of course, Shin Sung Rok who almost always plays bad guys exceeds expectations and possibly might not be total baddie after all. It's always a treat seeing constant baddies become good guys for once!

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"If you look past all of the logic, Vagabond is crazy entertaining for people who want to tune in during the weekend for some K-drama. And, who would say no to some LSG abs, am I right?" Katsu Modomo

"It has everything an action series should have: a charismatic lead, a pace that will keep you at the edge of your seat, and diabolical villains! Everything is shot beautifully, too.

"Not so much kilig between the two main leads (compared to the chemistry of the stars in other K-dramas I usually watch), but kikiligin ka naman sa pagka-intense ni Lee Seung Gi." Leslie Bulatao 

What I Think:

Here's a show you can't help but binge-watch, whether you plan to or not. The series is a genuine nail-biter, thanks to a plot that has more twists and turns than Kennon Road, cliffhanger episode endings, and a rogues gallery that can fill the entire Louvre.

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All that makes for a thrilling ride…but also a confusing one. Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with what's happening, who's who, and who's good and bad, especially when you're going through everything at a breakneck pace. There's A LOT going on. IMHO, the show could have benefited from a little streamlining, a tighter plot, and fewer villains.

Shooting in colorful Morocco adds an additional layer of drama and texture to the show, giving it a more international feel as well. The location is exotic and miles away from gleaming, modern Seoul.

The action sequences are impressive. I suppose that's to be expected in a show about espionage. Lee Seung Gi, who plays stuntman Cha Dal Geon, throws himself into the action as aggressively as he throws himself off buildings. But the stunts, gripping as they are, often border on the impossible.

Dal Geon is practically the Korean stuntman version of the Terminator. Nothing can stop him, not jumping off buildings or in front of cars, and not snipers or agents with automatic assault weapons. He repeatedly walks away from several serious car accidents with just a few cuts and bruises. Oddly enough, the only time his life was in "danger" was when he had to do a blood transfusion to save the life of their top witness. 

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Unlike most K-dramas, the romance and comedy take a backseat to the spy stuff. Nevertheless, they still manage to squeeze in a love triangle. This is a K-drama after all. Not to worry, the romance doesn't feel forced or awkward. It's easy to buy the chemistry between the two leads, probably because it's not as in-your-face as in rom-com K-dramas.

Bae Suzy successfully pulls off the role of a rookie NIS agent who's eager to prove herself despite the fact that she's in over her head, and provides moments of much-needed levity on the show. Or at least a break from the nonstop action and intrigue. (Speaking of levity, special mention goes out to Park Ah In and Choi Dae Chul for their scene-stealing comedic turns.)

I'm curious about what's going to happen next. An early trailer reveals that there's more to Go Hae Ri than meets the eye, and I'm excited to see what that's all about. 

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The show is reminiscent of Bourne and is unique in that it focuses on geopolitics a la 24, but is definitely still its own thing. You'll find yourself glued to the screen, rooting for our heroes, and, like me, wanting to find out what happens next.

Who I'd Recommend It To:

Fans of the Bourne series and similar espionage thrillers will love this show. Those who are looking for something other than the usual K-drama will also enjoy it.

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