Finally, finally, finally!
Level 7 Civil Servant down! After a few days and nights of catching up with this drama, I can throw my arms in the air and profess “DONEEEEEE”! This is one of the hardest review to write. It has so many things going at once and I tried to be as concise as I can be, and I realised being concise is a challenge in itself.
Level 7 Civil Servant is a drama about a cohort of trainee undergoing training for 1 year to be an agent. Everyone but Han Gil Ro dropped out from the training a few months into the training; he was dismissed because his father was suspected to have criminal dealings in his business, hence due to conflict of interest, they could not allow Han Gil Ro to be trained as an agent. At the direction of the evil Chief Director, he was “dismissed” by his Team Leader Kim Won Seok, at least in the eyes of everyone, he was dismissed. However, behind closed doors, Team Leader Kim told him that he was given a mission to watch his father around the clock and that his father was in danger. The real fact behind this mission was not make known to Gil Ro. After the “dismissal”, he started working at his father’s company, never knew what is it exactly that he needs to look out for.
A year later, Kim Seo Won was assigned a mission to be an undercover agent at Han Gil Ro’s father’s company to obtain the documents that the NSI believed contained incriminating evidence of this dealings. Han Gil Ro had no idea that Kim Seo Won was an agent, she told him that she dropped shortly after he left. Gil Ro did not divulge the fact that he was assigned a mission.
Gil Ro’s father is not an ordinary criminal, he was involved or was implicated with dangerous criminals that the NSI has been laying trap to catch. All they knew about this criminal is the man that goes by the alias JJ. He was said to be responsible for the death of Team Leader Kim’s best friend and Team Leader Kim is adamant to put JJ behind bars.
Matters were made complicated when Gil Ro and Seo Won’s feelings came in the way of their duty. Gil Ro was really head over heels with Seo Won until Gil Ro walked in on her ransacking his father’s safe to obtain these documents. Gil Ro being Gil Ro, he began to suspect that Seo Won was an industry spy with ill intention of harming his father. Fast forward, he finally came to know that she was actually an NSI agent.
Putting these initial betrayal and distrust aside, these two eventually came to believe that they could work together to catch these criminals. Gil Ro, at first was rather obstinate and defensive about his father because he couldn’t accept the fact that his father was a criminal. Seo Won who was more level-headed managed to convince him that their target is not his father and that they have common enemies. That truth sort of sunk deep into Gil Ro’s skull. That’s when we see things began to move.
We have a man-child chaebol in the like of Han Gil Ro or Han Pil Hoon. He was an impressionable young boy when he first watched his first Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, he was so inspired by Bond that he decided to be a bond himself when he grew up. His father was a successful business man and like all chaebol abeoji, he would like Gil Ro to take over the business, but Gil Ro does not have any interest in business. Besides having an emotionless and strict father, he has quite a superstitious mother, whom without fails would chide him into matching making sessions and insists that he must married girls born in the year of Tiger. And, that’s how he met Kim Seo Won or Kim Kyung Ja, the lady with a post-modern fashion sense.
And, like in all dramas, its leading lady must be a few classes below the chaebol, not very well educated, poor and carries the burden of her family and generations before her on her tiny little shoulders. Kim Seo Won at the insistence of her friend whom Gil Ro’s mother has engaged as match maker to find Gil Ro’s future wife, agreed to meet Gil Ro for a fees. The catch is that she has to tell a few lies, harmless lies or so they thought. She has to say she was born in the year of Tiger. All she needs to do is to see him once or twice for 2 hours. At the end of the 2 hours, she will be paid. Since Kim Seo Won does not mind making extra pocket money she went. She doesn’t mind at all that Gil Ro doesn’t pay attention to her or try to engage her in conversation. She was very focused with her task, she stayed for 2 hours and used that 2 hours to do her revision and preparing for her exams. It’s a win-win to her.
Gil Ro thought she is just like the other girls he has met, they usually threw a fit or two, cussed at him and walked off. That was his strategy but I guess this is not really a foolproof strategy after all. Obviously it doesn’t work on our leading lady, and Gil Ro was peeved and intrigued by her nonchalance. The first meeting led to the second. In the second one, she was instrumental in causing Gil Ro to lose a car in a drag race. After that meeting, not only he was a car lesser, earned himself a slap across his face but also an enemy. At least in the eyes of Gil Ro, Seo Won became his enemy. He has been turning a few rocks here and there trying to track her down but to no avail. But, like fate would have it, they met again, at the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Agent Interview. Both succeeded and were initiated into the training. From day 1, Kim Seo Won had it bad. He was tailed by Gil Ro wherever she went. At this point, Gil Ro hasn’t realised that he has some likings for her, in actual fact, I am guessing he doesn’t even know why he was tormenting her. He thought she is responsible for the lost of his car, hence she must pay for it.
This is where second lead man comes in; Gong Do Ha played by ChanSung is more systematic than Gil Ro. He is decisive and has already decided in his heart that he carries a torch for Kim Seo Won. He made the effort to sit by her at meal times and he was always ready to lend her his shoulders to cry on. Whenever she runs into some mess with Gil Ro, Dong Ha is quick to bail her out. This is also when the love triangle starts. Gong Do Ha may look seemingly perfect but inside he is one broken man, he was a man with many secrets that he couldn’t tell. He gave off the vibes of forlornness and loneliness, he tried very hard to impress, he is highly competitive and he is ruthless in achieving his goals. He admitted that he has no qualms resorting to unethical means if it means he could protect his country. And, that’s exactly what he went on to do. He was incepted by the Chief Director and became a spy for him where he has to report every single development and movements in JJ’s case.
This drama has an inconsistent pace with many redundant scenes. If you asked me, the scenes of banter between the Village Leader and his wife are rather redundant. Though I know we need to know the context of their relationship so that we can understand Seo Won’s family dynamics but it’s still doesn’t take away the redundancies. Perhaps, these two are meant to provide comic relieves for us viewers. No doubt this couple is rather pompous and hilarious.
This drama could stay through to its theme by focusing most of its plot and development on the real thing that an agent is supposed to do, in this case, solve the mystery of JJ. I am also wondering if Joo Won was the right choice for the lead role. Granted that his role here is a little childish and bratty, in this regard, I think he portrays this well. But, his character appears a little bipolar in nature, straddling between his childish demeanour and matured one. At some point in the drama, it feels like Kim Seo Won plays the role of his mother more than his lover. Whereas in Good Doctor where he played a genius with Savant Syndrome, he is able to portray the emotions better, the development of his character is very clear and it’s like we are watching just to cheer him on. Here, in some scenes, I find it painful to watch. I am not saying that Joo Won is not a good actor, I am sure he is, he has proven himself, all I am saying is that this character is not suited for him.
I thought Good Doctor’s director, Ki Min Soo and Kim Jin Woo did a good job in weaving in the redundant scenes without losing its way too much – clever manoeuvre between the family dramas, backgrounds and the focal point of the drama. Good Doctor was very focused in getting its main theme across with a good balance of romance, comic and drama other than the Emergency Room type of drama. I don’t feel that with Level 7 Civil Servant; at some point, I thought the director is rather ambitious with this drama. It appears as if he tries hard to fit many many happenings into this drama. With the choppy pace, watching this drama can be quite a dread.