K-Drama Review: ‘Mystic Pop-Up Bar’ It Lacks the Dynamic Fun

Credit: JTBC

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

In Mystic Pop-Up Bar, one can resolve his innermost pains. Based on Bae Hye Soo’s webtoon of the same name, Mystic Pop-Up Bar captures the story of Wol Joo, a tough auntie from the underworld, Chief Gwi, and human part-timer Han Kang Bae listening to and solving the problems of many customers with a light touch of comedy.

As the setting of the webtoon was borrowed, the drama’s unique settings are eye-catching. Wol Joo is now in her 500th years of carrying out the order of King Yeomra. She has to release the pains and sorrows of 100,000 people to pay for her crimes committed in her previous life. Han Kang Bae signed a contract with Wol Joo to work at Wol Joo’s pop-up bar in order to fix his unusual ability of making people confess their secrets just by touching them. Chief Gwi, the master of all sorts of chores, is a former chief of detective in the underworld police. The three listen to the painful stories of the guests and dive into the dream world to release their deep resentment.

Credit: JTBC

The different stories of the guests in every episode present a small fun. From unfair and unjust abuse of power to momentary mistakes and unfortunate stories caused by misunderstandings, various emotions are aroused. Those stories are both satisfying and pleasant, and yet pitiful and sometimes even comforting. Although each episode is a bit different, it revolves around “encouraging good and punishing evil” and warm human love, the drama’s main themes, increasing the level of immersion. The good messages flow out consistently, but the drama is true to its focus of comedy, evoking the familiarity for viewers.

Visual effects are high-quality, enough to be called the drama version of Along with Gods, presenting unexpected fun. Though they do not take up many parts of the play, they flawlessly portray the setting of the three worlds – the real world, the underworld, and the dream world. The scene where the three pass through the dizzying maze stairs and cross the cliff to find the unconsciousness (episode 2), and the scene where Cheif Gwi shows the magic of transformation (episode 3), characteristically unfolds the drama’s unique fantasy and comedy.

Credit: JTBC

The unique setting, the simple development, and the fine attractions are flawless, but strangely, there is a lack of dynamic fun. It was refreshing up to the point where the drama’s worldview and the relationship among the three characters were established, but at some point, the story seems to have been stagnant. As the proportion of the mystery of Wol Joo’s previous life has increased, the fun that was pointed out as the strength has been halved.

In the beginning, the focus was on the chemistry of the three, who all have strong personalities, and the process of solving the stories, but by the 5th episode, the drama started to pay more and more attention to the story of Wol Joo and stress the tragic romance with the crown prince. Yet, the problem is that the process seems obsessive. From the middle part, the initial intention is shaking. The process of resolving people’s wounds seem more like an excuse for recalling the bitter memories of the previous life. Sometimes, it even feels like we are forced to face the tragedy of Wol Joo.

In addition, Han Kang Bae, who was at the center of solving stories, is now only an onlooker. Unlike the beginning, the role of Han Kang Bae and his unusual ability has been reduced, leaving regrets. His good hearts clearly contrasts with Wol Joo’s cynical view of people, but his merits rarely come to life. Only the scenes where he thinks of Wol Joo and Chief Gwi as his family are repeated, and even the romance between Kang Yeo Rin, who also has an unusual ability (they do not know about each other’s ability) feels out of place.

Now, there’s only 4 episodes left. Will Mystic Pop-Up Bar be able to mend the growing regrets? I hope that the mysteries of Wol Joo’s previous life harmoniously interlock with the drama’s main focus of delivering consolations.

Verdict: A good story that fell a bit short. (5/10)

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