|[Please be advised, this review may contain spoilers.]|
Let me preface this review by saying that shows which begin with lengthy backstories, told in flashback, get off on the wrong foot with me. I simply do not enjoy having to sit through a long backstory, and truly feel that if a backstory is longer than five minutes, then it means it is too convoluted. This was, indeed, the case with Start-Up, which used up a good 60 minutes of the first episode to set up the story of Dal-mi and her secret admirer. Suffice it to say, I was not pleased by this, and felt my mood worsen the longer it took to move on to the present.
But something happened: Nam Joo-hyuk appeared on my screen as a techie geek and, suddenly, it brought a smile to my face. But wait, he has two techie buddies, who are as or even more geeky, and just like that, Start-Up was back in my good graces. I won't deny it, the Samsan Tech trio were my favorite part of the show. I'm generally a fool for a good underdog story and the story of Do-san, Chul-san, and Yong-san had me right from the start. I was instantly invested, in such a way that I rooted for them, I'm not embarrassed to say, like a pageant mom on steroids. I was downright giddy, at times, particularly while the San boys were hunched over their computers, typing away.
Truthfully, I could watch an entire series dedicated to the San boys, but alas, Start-Up had other plans, for the show was, sadly, fixated on the convoluted love story. Don't misunderstand me, I didn't detest it, but I suppose I do bear a grudge against the show for missing the opportunity to finally let the second-lead win the girl. I, often, hear K-drama fans gripe about second-lead syndrome, and oftentimes, I don't agree. I feel that, for the most part, K-dramas get it right in the end. Start-Up, however, dropped the ball, I'm sorry to say. Dal-mi and Ji-pyung, I feel, needed to be the endgame. The writing dictated it: the moment a young Ji-pyung was recruited to write letters to Dal-mi, it cemented their bond. Through fate, the two were connected. Yet, it was a mere name that kept them apart. Dal-mi fell in love with a name and never quite seemed to look past it. "Do-san", to her, was her true love no matter what, but in my mind, it was Ji-pyung. I'm willing to bet Dal-mi's grandmother thought so, as well.
In any event, Start-Up opted for the conventional way: Dal-mi and Do-san fell in love, for real, and found success through their business ventures. I suppose there's nothing wrong with it, but again, it was a missed opportunity. I'd have been perfectly happy to see Do-san and his buddies move to Silicon Valley permanently if it meant that Ji-pyung ended up with the girl. In this way, Start-Up was a disappointment, but I thought the show fared quite well, otherwise. The business side of things were gratifying, and surprisingly rather accurate. I'm no expert, but based on the little I do know, the show correctly portrayed start-ups and how the process works. The writer certainly did the prep work.
On the whole, Start-Up is a difficult show to assess. For the most part, I felt it entertained me and kept me watching. Aside from the San boys, which I outlined above, there were many positives: the evolution of Dal-mi's sister In-jae, the bond between Ji-pyung and Dal-mi's grandmother, the Sandbox antics, etc., and I would be remiss if I didn't mention Do-san's father, who is portrayed by the magnificent Kim Won-hae - an actor I've held in high esteem since his wondrous performance in Strong Girl, Bong-soon.
Do I, ultimately, recommend Start-Up, however? I do. I feel the show is worth the watch, warts and all.
Cast: Bae Suzy, Nam Joo-hyuk, Kim Seon-ho, Kang Han-na
[Click here to watch on Netflix.]