Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Wonderful World, on Hulu

No matter how powerful they might be, your political connections cannot protect you from an enraged Mamma bear. An ambitious politician’s money-man learns that the hard after killing Eun Soo-hyun’s son. He beat the wrap, but he was no match for her car. However, there will be further consequences for everyone in Wonderful World, which premieres today on Hulu.

Congressman Kim Joon’s fundraiser hit Kang Gun-woo with his car, drove around with him hidden in the backseat, and then tried to secretly dump his body while he was still living. It was too late by the time Eun found him, but if he had been taken directly to the hospital, he probably could have been saved. Kim puts in the fix during the trial, but when he still refuses to apologize afterwards, Eun dispenses some poetic justice.

Apparently, Alvin Bragg is also the DA in Seoul, because a murderer like Kwon gets released, whereas the victims are prosecuted to the fullest extent. Of course, the bereft Eun hardly cares, at least initially. However, Jang Hyung-ja, an older inmate, takes Eun under her wing and revives her spirit. She too is a murderess, but her circumstances were much less extenuating. While committing a crime of passion, Jang also accidentally killed Kwon Seon-yool’s parents, for which she has always been deeply sorry. Knowing she will soon die from cancer, the older inmate convinces the soon-to-be released Eun to find Kwon and convey her contrition.

It turns out Kwon is a rather shadowy figure in his own right. In addition to his black bag jobs, Kwon has some game-changing secrets of his own. Yet, Eun starts to develop a strange rapport with him, based on their shared experiences as the victims of violent crime—unless someone is getting played.

Wonderful World
has some of the elements of Gillian Flynn/Liane Moriarty thrillers, but they are often subservient to the angst and melodrama that are stereotypically associated with K-drama. Perhaps, it is worth noting the series’ enormous domestic popularity. However, straight thriller fans will find each episode is conspicuously padded-out with overwrought dramatic moments for Eun to shine. Each installment could easily lose fifteen minutes, oftentimes more.

This is indeed a showcase for Kim Nam-ju, who makes the most of Eun’s agony and outrage. Given the circumstances, it is impossible to not sympathize with her, even when she is dealing with her somewhat hypocritical jealousy over Kang Su-ho, her husband, who refused to move on from her, even though she refused to see him throughout her imprisonment. More to the point, Kim taps into some deep and dark emotions, while still staying relatively grounded.

Cha Eun-woo is appropriately hard-brooding and unpredictable as the tightly wound Kwon. Kim Kang-woo finds a way to be suspicious and flawed in very human ways as Kang, while Cha Soo-yeon is an achingly vulnerable bundle of nerves as Yoon Hye-geum, the neighbor who maybe knows more than she lets on. Plus, Park Hyuk-kwon, Lee Ji-yeon, and Oh Man-seok are all spectacularly sleazy as Kim Joon and his fixers.

Wonderful World
would probably play better for American fans of Korean thrillers if it had been re-edited into tighter episodes, but that would have cost extra money. The overall story is quite compelling, but it comes with a good deal of hyperventilating and melancholy reverie. Recommended more for K-drama fans rather than revenge-thriller audiences, Wonderful World starts streaming today (4/24) on Hulu.