The team is led by a man only known as the Professor (Yoo Ji-tae). Most of the robbers are strangers to each other and each robber takes the name of a city to keep it that way. There is Belin (Park Hae-soo), Moscow (Lee Won-jong), Denver (Kim Ji-hun), Nairobi (Jang Yoon-ju), Rio (Lee Hyun-woo), Helsinki (Kim Ji-hoon), and Oslo (Lee Kyu-ho), each with specific skills and expertise. At the core of the story is Tokyo (Jun Jong-seo), a young lady who left North Korea with the hope and promise of what a unified country might bring. Unfortunately, she falls on hard times and is “rescued” by The Professor as a recruit for this caper. Having Tokyo as a narrator and central character is a smart way to invite the audience into the scheme as well as create some intrigue as to who she really is and her motives.
The storytellers do a great job of providing us with a detailed plan for stealing the money. They know who will be at the mint, how to hack the security, how to set up external communications, and the layout of the mint. In addition to being vital to the success of the project, details are a matter of life and death. So, it would seem as though the writers would have paid the same level of attention to the temperament and personalities of the crew. It is inconceivable that The Professor put skills over compatibility or saneness. Did he really think these people would be able to work together or is this volatility part of the plan? Somehow that uncertainty is what creates tension and kept me waiting for the next challenge.
The stickiness of this series is found in its relationships. On-site, there is a struggle between Berlin and Tokyo as to who should lead. Alliances ebb and flow as the crew learns more about each other as challenge after challenge presents itself. And that promise of not killing anyone is in jeopardy at every stage, depending on who’s in charge. There is also drama among the hostages. One is the daughter of a U.S. diplomat making her a major bargaining chip in the negotiations. Another important hostage is the director of the mint who is having an affair with one of his subordinates. He is conniving and willing to sacrifice anyone if it means he can escape. Off-site, The Professor has devised a way to connect with and influence the hostage negotiator. Their relationship is daring and threatens to unravel the plan at its core. One might come for the caper but will stay for the characters. They are all interesting individually but dynamic collectively.
“Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area” is ambitious for its plan, exciting for the twists and turns, inviting for its characters, and is just plain addictive. With only half of the first season screened for press, I can’t wait to see what happens to the crew and if they are able to pull it off.
Six episodes screened for review.