Backstreet Rookie episode 3 recap – is this really worth getting worked up about?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 26, 2020 (Last updated: February 7, 2024)
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Backstreet Rookie episode 3 recap – is this really worth getting worked up about?


Backstreet Rookie episode 3 turns up the drama and teases a possible love triangle, among other things, but is it really worth all the fuss?

This recap of Backstreet Rookie episode 3 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

Well, Backstreet Rookie has caused quite a stir, hasn’t it? The major takeaway from the first couple of episodes has been that the whole thing is in bad taste; many have petitioned for its banning on the basis of its “adult content”, which is funny since it’s almost embarrassingly tame by Western standards. Then again, the schoolgirl fetishization of the first episode was a pretty odd thing and deserves to be called out – but the thought I find myself returning to again and again is that the show isn’t worth all the fuss.

That isn’t to say it’s bad, of course; I still think it has charming leads, some decent humor, and at the very least the potential to be something a lot better. But thus far, and Backstreet Rookie episode 3 does nothing to change my position, there just isn’t much to it, and what is there the show itself doesn’t seem confident enough in to stick with. It’s a slapstick comedy sometimes, and a sincere romance at others; a grounded family drama here and an outlandish martial arts actioner there. An opener in which Saet-Byul and Dae-Hyun recreate the infamous dance sequence from Pulp Fiction in dream form should seem out of place, but it doesn’t since the show is so prone to these weird, fanciful diversions.

Saet-Byul is a confounding character. She’s stunning-looking but is frequently characterized as being naïve and almost childlike, unless she needs to dote on her sister, Eun-Byul, or beat up some thieves or thugs, in which case she’s a deadly woman of the world. Dae-Hyun is more consistent but less engaging. His hapless shtick can get tedious, his family drama feels forced, and the burgeoning love triangle between him, Saet-Byul and Yeon-Joo feels misguided given how the latter has been presented as someone who doesn’t particularly care about him one way or the other – unless, that is, they’re spending all night exercising, and not even in a fun way.

A recurring theme – perhaps the recurring theme, really – is Dae-Hyun being consistently unable to figure out his feelings for Saet-Byul, which makes sense considering that the show itself can’t decide what to do with her. But his constant misinterpreting of her signals and underlying mistrust of her behavior feels especially tedious in Backstreet Rookie episode 3, and you have to wonder how long it’ll be kept up. Then again, adjacent subplots involving Saet-Byul’s friend Geum-Bi and Dae-Hyun’s creepy webtoon artist mate Dal-Sik stand out by being much less interesting than the core plot, so I suppose it’s all just as well.

We do, admittedly, learn a bit more about Saet-Byul here; her fascination with astrology, her late father, her sister’s misguided company, and a reminder of her fighting talents. There’s more to work with here than Dae-Hyun’s heavy-drinking father, and it’s clear the show is more interested in her than him. That’s no bad thing, but it needs to be for a purpose that thus far remains elusive.

Backstreet Rookie episode 3 suggests two primary concerns – the played-out love-triangle, and the more compelling but less fleshed-out adventures of Eun-Byul. By the end, the two things have overlapped somewhat, which at least brings matter together. There also seems to be less comedy as the hour progresses; more drama is obviously welcome, but I’ve seen no evidence yet that the show is actually any good at it.

We’ll see. More tomorrow.

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