This recap of Graceful Friends season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
Another k-drama airing on Fridays and Saturdays along with Backstreet Rookie, the JTBC late-night crime thriller Graceful Friends is an intriguing proposition, boasting a more adult tone – it comes with a content warning – and a darker edge as some nebulous crime in the future comes to meet effective character drama in the middle. The 70-minute opening episode is a tone-setter, introducing us to the well-wrought characters and giving a taste of things to come, and it bows out having created just enough intrigue for an eager audience to tune back in.
Graceful Friends episode 1 opens with a murder; a man, Goong-cheol, presumably kills another man in a bathroom while the other central characters who we’ll meet throughout the episode insist, during what seems like a police interview, that while he had a temper he wouldn’t be capable of murder. Probably, anyway.
This works as an opener. It’s suitably ominous and introduces the core cast, including Goong-cheol, an employee of a substantial chain of chicken shops, and his psychiatrist wife Jung-hae; their friends, self-diagnosed depressive Myeong-sook and her husband Man-sik, and others. A good chunk of Graceful Friends episode 1 comprises the men and women going out separately to bond over drinks, and a solid stretch of characterization that gives a glimpse into each character’s lives while also making time for some well-written comedy and context.
Of course, there’s a lot of marital strife here, as well as potential love rival golfing coaches, unconventional insomnia cures, drinking, fighting – the usual night-out shenanigans. But the violence of the opening hovers over proceedings, and everything we learn about these couples and their strained relationships, the gloomier everything seems. By the time Man-sik is clutching his chest on a bus, having what one presumes is a heart attack, it’s obvious that the male-bonding silliness we see here isn’t going to take up much time for long.
We also get a flashback to Goong-cheol and Jung-hae meeting for the first time in college; their relationship is, naturally, positioned as the most integral to the show’s drama. These sequences give a sense of how long these two have been together, and the longstanding nature of all the dynamics that we see throughout the episode. The efforts of Graceful Friends season 1, episode 1 to create a lived-in world full of three-dimensional characters is appreciated, and will surely pay dividends as the central mystery develops over the coming weeks.
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