REVIEW: Start-Up

[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.

Start-Up (2020)
Cast: Bae Suzy, Nam Joo-hyuk, Kim Seon-ho, Kang Han-na
Episodes: 16
[Click here to watch on Netflix.]



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