A visually stunning opener gets this ambitious new K-drama off to a strong, character-driven start.
This recap of My Country: The New Age (Netflix) Season 1, Episode 1 contains spoilers.
Set during the transitional period between the end of the Goryeo and the beginning of the Joseon dynasties, Netflix’s new twice-weekly K-drama My Country: The New Age is a powerhouse period piece, boasting lavish production design, excellent performances and a story of friendship, rivalry, and pride that has all the scope and sweep of great historical epics. Kim Jin-won directs a script by Chae Seung-dae that unfurls patiently in the feature-length opening episode, though there’s no shortage of action to keep impatient viewers engaged.
The story is an age-old one of friends turned enemies: Seo Hwi (Yang Se-jong), the son of a famed swordsman forced into honorable suicide as penance for a crime, lives with his epileptic sister Yeon in the shadow of his father’s disgrace; Nam Sun-ho (Woo Do-hwan) is the ******* son of a high-ranking military official. They are childhood friends, though a handsome opening action sequence gives a brief glimpse of where they end up. Most of My Country: The New Age Episode 1 takes place ten years prior, though, as both men endeavor to pass the military state exam, a test which Seo Hwi is ineligible for thanks to his lowly status as a “ghost”.
A large chunk of this opener is devoted to establishing these characters — along with another major figure, Han Hee-Jae (Kim Seol-hyun), a young woman with a connection to both men — and the transitional turmoil of the setting, which is rendered in exquisite scale and with impressive detail. It’s made clear early that Seo Hwi and Nam Sun-ho are ideologically separated but bound by their friendship and loyalty, though we see the early fracturing of that relationship during a royal hunt in which Seo Hwi, present to chase and scare up game birds, inadvertently upstages Nam Sun-ho. Though they nonetheless end the episode shoulder to shoulder, the beginnings of the rivalry that will presumably come to define the show are clear to see.
Though politically and culturally dense, My Country: The New Age features several crowd-pleasing moments; fights, chases, a drunken bonding session, and a cathartic anti-establishment climax in which Seo Hwi, now with influential endorsement, gets to stick it to the man. Scheduled to air on Fridays and Saturdays for the next eight weeks, this is without a doubt a show that’ll attract a sizeable viewership. If you haven’t checked it out already, now’s the time.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.