Backstreet Rookie season 1, episodes 1 & 2 recap

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 24, 2020 (Last updated: February 7, 2024)
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Backstreet Rookie season 1, episodes 1 & 2 recap -


An intermittently funny and reliably charming pair of episodes nonetheless suggest a concerning lack of an overarching narrative, which threatens this new SBS k-drama.

This recap of Backstreet Rookie episode 1 and Backstreet Rookie episode 2 contains spoilers. 

Across its first two episodes, the new SBS Korean drama Backstreet Rookie establishes itself as an intermittently funny comedy with charismatic, good-looking leads, but without much in the way of an actual narrative – not one I can identify, anyway, though I suppose the pieces are there for something more substantial and overarching to develop in amongst the hour-long bouts of slapstick.

It’s also largely concerned with just two characters: Dae-Hyun, who works crazy hours in a family-run 24-hour convenience store and is something of a celebrity among the local schoolgirls thanks to his good looks; and Saet-Byul, the extremely pretty and enigmatic young woman he hires as a part-timer when it all gets too much. A vaguely surrealist three-years-earlier prologue introduces these two in slightly different situations, with Dae-Hyun as the down-on-his-luck dope whose girlfriend has just broken up with him, and Saet-Byul as a charming schoolgirl who’s also a martial arts expert who gets into fantastical scrapes with gangs of other teen girls.

Once Backstreet Rookie episode 1 gets into its present-day storyline, though, it improves somewhat, introducing Dae-Hyun’s hapless character, his disinterested fitness-enthusiast girlfriend Yeon-Joo (Sun Hwa Han), and his family’s financial woes, as well as Saet-Byul’s own need for a job. Much of the episode is given over to Dae-Hyun being suspicious of his new hire and eventually accusing her of robbing the store, which turns out to be incorrect but justifiable given Saet-Byul’s consistently weird behaviour.

Backstreet Rookie episode 2 continues these themes, with Dae-Hyun trying to reconcile his mistrust of Saet-Byul with his growing attraction to her. Like Dae-Hyun’s quest to prove if Saet-Byul is a notorious convenience store thief in the first episode, here a subplot in which Dae-Hyun catches flak for selling cigarettes to a minor segues into a suspicious bit of business involving the store’s CCTV footage which only complicates the core dynamic further.

With a good sense of humour and some potential, it’s too early to write the show off, but concerned questions must be asked of its overall direction. Sometimes not being able to tell where a show is going is a symptom of skilful writing and deliberate obfuscation, but sometimes not being able to tell where a show is going means it isn’t actually going anywhere. Luckily, an abundance of charm means it’ll be easy to stick with Backstreet Rookie until it reveals which of the two it’s going to be.

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