Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Rugal draws attention with its rare attempt to become the first Korean-style SF action hero drama. But that’s all. It approached a subject of “human weapons” that is not often covered in Korean dramas, but it failed to use it effectively. The development flows pretty fast, but its connections are sloppy. The boundaries between good and evil are clear, but the characters are superficial, and the story is overly exaggerated as they repeat getting into clumsy situations. Rugal, which aired its 6th episode, is so disappointing that I no longer expect the next story.
Rugal is about a fierce battle between Rugal, a special organization composed of human weapons, and the vicious terrorist group “Argos.” Rugal uses biotechnology to resurrect those who were victimized by Argos’s brutal ruse as human weapons with superhuman abilities and puts them on a battlefield to punish Argos, a corporate organization that commits various crimes.
At the center of the confrontation are detective Gang Gi Bum, who was dramatically revived from death, and Argos’s heavyweight Hwang Deuk Goo. Gang Gi Bum is more vengeful than anyone else about Argos and is also very capable after receiving artificial intelligence eye transplants. His opponent Hwang Deuk Goo is also a formidable character. He gets rid of anyone who stands in his way, and is currently proceeding with a plot to put the entire world at risk. However, their confrontation feels somewhat pretentious. Gang Gi Bum’s revenge and Hwang Deuk Goo’s ambition do not fully melt into the play, and their encounters are loosely presented.
The biggest problem lies in a weak script and directing. Aside from a dull narrative, neither Rugal and Argos show enough charisma as the childish and awkward situation repeats. Although the revenge of those who lost everything are used to prove that justice prevails, but only embarrassment is present, instead of exhilarating pleasure and tension. Viewers end up questioning if each side, Rugal and Argos, are really trying to win.
Gang Gi Bum and other members of Rugal often make childish jokes that break the tension in the midst of serious moments, and move thoughtlessly in urgent situations. The depth of their words and actions is so shallow that viewers wonder if they have any sense of responsibility for their organization, which provided them the second chance. The same goes for Argos. The frequent use of frivolous language diminishes the fierce charisma of the secret terrorist organization and only makes them look like gangsters commonly depicted in movies.
A speedy development without any probability also hinders the immersion. The story of Gang Gi Bum, who lost his spouse, framed as a murderer and reborn as Rugal, overcoming psychological and physical scars, building friendships with his colleagues, and tracking down Hwang Deuk Goo unfolds in a flash, never giving viewers a chance to digest all that happened. He accepts all the changes that occurred in his body and his surroundings rather quickly and seems to move blindly by his drive for revenge. Even though it is an action-focused drama, Rugal cannot avoid being compared with JTBC’s The World of the Married, which drew much attention with its elaborate psychological depictions.
Hwang Deuk Goo is said to be Argos’s heavyweight, but since there is no internal power game, no tension (within the Argos) is present. The “middle bosses” are easily eliminated, and Choi Ye Won, who became the next successor of Argos, is covered in veil just like Hwang Deuk Goo’s motive. So it’s even harder to understand Gang Gi Bum and Hwang Deuk Goo’s goals. Only when the opponent’s purpose is clear and robust can the pleasure of revenge be followed. On top of that, Rugal’s clumsy operation with no clear strategy also plays a role in reducing the tension.
Rugal, like Itaewon Class that ended last month, is based on a popular webtoon and tried to open a new chapter of Korean-style hero, but looking at their current situation, it’s most likely that it will only remain as a disappointing drama. This is mainly because even the actions in the play has become less attractive due to flattened characters and childish developments that are holding back the drama from pioneering the SF action hero genre. I’m worried if it will be able to make up the early disappointment in the remaining stories.
Verdict: Childish and clumsy action hero drama (3/10)