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The Weekend Binge: "Moving"

Marketed as Jo In-sung’s small screen comeback drama since 2014’s It’s Okay, That’s Love, Disney+’s original series Moving enjoyed a lot of hype. Its first seven episodes dropped on August 9, and within seven days it had become Disney+ and Hulu’s most watched k-drama ever. But was it able to keep the momentum going?

The Plot

Something lies beneath the surface of a nondescript high school where we meet seniors—cheerful and polite Kim Bong-seok (Lee Jeon-ha, Nevertheless), transfer student Jang Hui-soo (Ko Yoon-jung, Alchemy of Souls: Light and Shadow), and class president Lee Gang-hoon (Kim Do-hoon, Today's Webtoon). We discover early on that each has a set of superpowers that they keep hidden from everyone else as they try to live ordinary lives.

As the story unfolds, we find out that they are in fact, the second generation caught in the complex web of government schemes and secrecy. The first generation consisted of agents who used to work for the Korea National Intelligence Service (NIS). Field agents Kim Doo-sik (Jo In-sung, Escape from Mogadishu) with the power to fly and Jang Ju-won (Ryu Seung-ryong, Miracle No. 7) with the power to heal, cross paths with intelligence agent Lee Mi-hyun (Han Hyo-joo, Happiness).

Soon, their quiet lives are about to be disrupted by a mysterious assassin whose kill list includes all former agents with superpowers and an even bigger evil that wants to take out their children as well.

The Review

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "Moving" (photo of Jo In-sung)
My face when I realized Jo In-sung wasn't in the first episodes

Moving pulled a bait-and-switch on its viewers who signed up for the drama to watch Jo In-sung and found that we were watching teenagers in the first third of the show instead. But as the narrative progressed, I grudgingly fell in love with the youngsters who deftly portrayed the endearing naivety and innocence of youth more than its annoying angst. (Obviously, this gwenchanoona has little patience left for the trite youth k-dramas that are standard fare.)

This is in large part to the writer’s brilliance. Kang Full, the original webtoon artist on which the show is based, was asked to pen the series and has stated in an interview that the show had intended to be written for 12 to 16 episodes. He proposed, instead, to write 20 episodes himself so that he could include backstories and narratives that were left out in the original webtoon. Thankfully, the producers agreed.

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "Moving" (photo of Lee Jeon-ha, Lee Gang-hoon, and Ko Yoon-jung)
The young actors hold their own agains the veterans

The result is a story with slow-moving pace that gives characters time to be fleshed out and understood by the audience. Even supporting characters are given their own time under the spotlight and the show is all the better for it.

Those familiar with the Hollywood treatment of superheroes in shows like NBC’s Heroes (2006-2010) or the MCU’s plethora of films find that origin stories focus on how an ordinary person transforms into a hero and how this messianic complex becomes a pervasive part of their life and becomes their identity.

In contrast, Kang Full’s characters aren’t really superheroes at all. What they are, are persons who have superpowers living among others who don’t. Under the careful script and the understated elegance of the actors’ performances, it is not heroism that takes center stage, but humanity. As the characters interact with each other and the world around them, they are shown to be no more and no less than the rest of us as they deal with stress, loss, joy, love, and injustice caused by an imbalance of power.

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "Moving" (photo of Jo In-sung and Han Hyo-joo)
Sparks fly between these two

Lest you think this is a slice-of-life drama, let me assure you that the high-budget production boasts of action scenes that can be expected of a show where people can fly and have superhuman strength. The fight scenes are violent and explosive. K-drama viewers ought to be warned that there is plenty of blood and body count to go around, but these shouldn’t bother k-movie fans at all.

Veteran actors Jo In-sung and Han Hyo-joo have wonderful chemistry together and are able to balance their gravitas with their unmistakable charm. As the self-healing “monster” who is difficult to kill, Ryu Seung-ryong is the show’s lynchpin whose moving and at times comical performance draws the rest of the cast and the audience to him. The young actors hold their own against the heavyweights and the ensemble cast makes it hard to pick favorites.

The narrative is set up such that a fight of Herculean proportions is in the offing. But even as I waited with bated breath for the build up, a part of me was reluctant for the series to end and have to let go of all these lovable characters and the fantasy world that they belong to. Most k-dramas have strange or strangely translated titles that often have little to do with its shows. But Moving definitely lives up to its name.

20 episodes, available on Disney + and Hulu

Stream if you want a tightly written script with excellent performances.

Skip if you can’t handle violence with your dramas.

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