Narco-Saints season 1, episode 1 recap – the premiere explained

September 9, 2022
Jonathon Wilson 0
K-Drama, Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Recaps
3.5

Summary

A workmanlike premiere succumbs to some clunky devices to get the ball rolling, but it builds to an exciting conclusion.

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3.5

Summary

A workmanlike premiere succumbs to some clunky devices to get the ball rolling, but it builds to an exciting conclusion.

This recap of Netflix’s Narco-Saints season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.


Have you heard of Suriname? These are the first words of Netflix’s Narco-Saints, delivered in somewhat artless explanatory narration by the protagonist, Kang Ingu. The documentary-style opening of the premiere is a functional thing. We’re to understand that the tiny South American nation is a nexus of drug smuggling and corruption, and we’re to wonder, though admittedly not for long, how a seemingly ordinary entrepreneur might end up there. Some of this is true. Most of it probably isn’t.

Narco-Saints season 1, episode 1 recap

Ingu watched his father work himself to death. That’s the major takeaway, really. A lot of people do that because their options for doing anything else are limited. Most of us — those from a working-class background, anyway — have watched a parent leave and return home with the sun being down on both occasions. Ingu, a seemingly natural go-getter type, finds himself falling into the same trap. He marries a woman. They have two children together. And yet his life is spent not with them but providing for them.

This is a relatively clunky way to lay out the story essentials. You can’t ignore that. But then again it fulfills an important function since in Ingu’s backstory we see the various things that are doubtlessly going to prove useful later — his judo expertise, his skills as a mechanic, his ability to negotiate through tense situations, his ingenuity. And perhaps most importantly we know immediately what drives him. He wants to provide for his family without suffering the same fate as his old man.

This is why a business proposition from Ingu’s best friend, Eungsoo, is so tantalizing. A lifelong fisherman, Eungsoo has recently spent time in Suriname, where they eat a lot of seafood but not, apparently, skate, a popular fish in Korea. Ingu and Eungsoo can buy the fish for pennies and ship it back to Korea, where it’ll fetch a handsome price. It’s foolproof, despite Eungsoo’s lack of skill with numbers and Ingu’s commitment to pleasing his wife by taking a picture of himself in the Korean church on Sundays.

Surprisingly, it’s the church thing that gets Ingu into major trouble. After making an alliance with the Suriname Allied Forces for protection, Ingu immediately falls foul of Chen Zhen, the head of a local Chinese gang who wants Ingu to pay more than the business is currently making every month to avoid being executed. It’s not an especially fair negotiation. But when Ingu and Eungsoo attend church covered in cuts and bruises, the Pastor, Jeon, takes special interest in them. He explains that helping them is his divine purpose. And he seems uniquely positioned to help them. In an impromptu meeting with Chen Zhen and his crew, they seem weirdly deferential to him.

Anyone even cursorily familiar with the true story this show is based on — or indeed anyone who watched the trailers or was exposed to any of the other marketing — knows that Pastor Jeon isn’t quite who he says he is, but more on this in the next episode. For now, after seeming to have gotten the Chinese off his back, Ingu receives a surprising call that one of his shipments has been held in Aruba. Cocaine was found mixed in with the skatefish.

At the end of the episode, police raid Ingu’s business, and after a brief chase, arrest him. What is going on here?

You can stream Narco-Saints season 1, episode 1 exclusively on Netflix.

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