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Before I say more, I should emphasize that "Action flicks" of these sort really aren't my cup of tea. So, if I come off as unfairly negative, please note that it's just my personal bias creeping though.
And, having missed both "IRIS" and "Plan Bi" (or whatever it was called) I have nothing to compare this one to.
But, here goes.
To begin with, I can't say that I like the hyper-nationalistic, pro-Korean bent of this show much. After seeing Americans portrayed in such a positive manner in "Je Jung Won" (where the American doctors were so nice it was almost a little unnerving) and "Giant" (where the American soldiers were straight-laced and honorable, while everyone in the entire ROK army was hopelessly corrupt) I guess we were past due for some anti-American stuff.
Now sure, American dramas display a lot of this same idiotic nonsense now and then, so I can't rag on the Koreans too much for this, but I think these guys are really going over the top.
In any case, we have those Evil Americans (and, lets us not forget, Evil Russians) plotting to steal nuclear secrets that only the brilliant minds of Korea could produce. And the only Evil American who can even begin to match wits with those brilliant Koreans is the leader of ATHENA (who just happens to be an ethnic Korean, born in Los Angeles).
Fortunately, the American and Russian spy agencies are so inept that they're really no threat to Korea's Greatness. So, for this show, it's simply NTS vs. ATHENA.
Now, I do like thoughtful shows where good guys, bad guys, and in-between guys go up against each other in logical, believable ways (the movie "The Hunt for Red October" remains one of my all-time favorites, simply for the realistic manner in which both sides were frantically searching for a renegade Soviet submarine).
But, honestly, this show seems more like a movie adaptation of a comic book series than a realistic spy drama. The NTS guys and gals really do seem like comic book superheroes, and the agents of ATHENA super villains. Kind of like watching "The Fantastic Four vs. Dr. Doom's Legion of Evil." Seeing stuff like Jung Woo firing away at bad guys with a pistol in each hand, at targets 180 degrees apart, is just silly (unless Jung Woo has grown eyes on the back of his head).
The basic premise of this show is fine, but unrealistic stuff like this kinda spoils it for me.
I do like the North Korean defector (who actually seems like a pretty normal guy) and Dr. Kwon is rather impressive as the dignified NTS chairman. But otherwise, this show just isn't doing it for me.
Again, of course, all this is just my opinion. Worth two cents, maybe Nothing more.
I will agree that the scenery is great, especially on the upcoming trip to Italy. It could be worth watching, just for that.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. But, mikey, you didn't need to post this in the spoiler thread. You're not giving anything away.
For me, thru the first 4 episodes, what's made the drama is Cha Seung Won [Son Hyuk] and Soo Ae [Hye In]. Shame on me for rooting for the bad guys but they've made them far more interesting than the good guys.
If you want to know what happens at the end, let me fill you in.
Jae Hee dies at the end of ep 19 going into 20. She's trying to stop Son Hyuk and gets shot multiple times.
In a last ditch effort to make up for multiple failures, Son Hyuk breaks into NTS headquarters. He intends to kills everyone in sight and bomb the place.
SH has Jung Woo at gun point when Hye In shows up and shoots him. HI attempts to shoot herself in the head but SH reaches for her gun at the last second to redirect the shot. She is wounded but survives. SH dies. After she recovers, HI heads to New Zealand. Jung Woo quits NTS and follows her there.