I never thought a Lee Bum-soo and Girls’ Generation‘s Yoona combination would be something I’d look forward to seeing every week. Replacing Mirae’s Choice as KBS’ Monday-Tuesday drama, Prime Minister and I is a fun romantic comedy centering around family and politics, with just a touch of humor at the right moments. Also starring are Yoon Si-yoon, Chae Jung-ahn, and Ryu Jin. If this drama continues on a good streak and the newly airing Miss Korea finds one as well, it may be that SM C&C has finally found some type of groove.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
To begin, the acting for the main two leads is on point. Lee Bum-soo effectively portrays a lacking single father but morally-driven politician and newly-appointed Prime Minister Kwon Yul. I last saw him act in the comedic History of a Salaryman, and his presence was essentially the reason I started the Prime Minister and I. Yoona as Nam Da-jung is excellent as a determined reporter for a gossip magazine, working hard to take care of her ill father. As someone who hasn’t seen Yoona act before but is well aware of the stereotypes that accompany idol acting as well as the fact that Love Rain didn’t exactly get high ratings, I was impressed at how well she did. She was believable whether she was drunk, playful, or crying, executing the scene where her father regresses and believes her to be her mother really quite well.
The two characters contrast one another well, which bolsters the laughs in the situations they get themselves into. Kwon Yul regularly keeps the drama on the straight and narrow while Da-jung is responsible for the comic daydreams, impulsive moves, and essentially getting into all sorts of trouble but with a good heart behind it. The chemistry between the two leads beats my expectations, and the age gap isn’t even that visible. It’s even briefly alluded to when Da-jung faces off against the wives of other politicians and in scenes with the Kwon household’s nanny/housekeeper, but it in no way detracts from how well the leads play off of one another.
Part of the joy so far is that neither lead is the type to back down from any situation. They give only as good as they get, which makes the interactions between Kwon Yul and Da-jung something to anticipate. They both are stalwart in their beliefs but end up willing to handle the current situation in a way that benefits both of them, leading to an odd type of mutual respect that rarely actually comes to the surface. Because both of their desires are apparent from the start, it makes it easier for both to trust each other — or at least, not intentionally doing something to harm one another.
The comedic relief lies primarily in Nam Da-jung. It’s sometimes in her daydreams, but at other times, it’s evident in the way she handles herself. Her reactions to situations are relatable but reveal her naivete. In fact, it’s probably her naivete that makes her a charming character. She’s a protector and willing to give everyone a chance — and that’s the type of person she has to be in order to maintain her optimism, especially with her father’s condition. And of course, that kind of character is just the type of mother that Kwon Yul’s kids need. Her moments with the youngest kid, Kwon Man-se (Lee Do-hyun), are some of the most adorable. As one that grew up with just her father, Da-jung understands the situation that the kids are in and is probably one of the best to help fill that gap that their father hasn’t worked harder to fill.
The two second leads are set up with Yoon Si-yoon as Kang In-ho, Kwon Yul’s aide, and Chae Jung-ahn as Kwon Yul’s secretary Seo Hye-joo, a woman that has worked with Kwon Yul since the start of his political career. Both have their own curious airs. Kang In-ho has these moments that make him suspect, from the easy charm of when he first was hired to his ideas to his sometimes strange looks when he’s by himself that I hope have a place in the drama.
Seo Hye-joo is a threatening presence in her tranquility with most situations. She’s rational and contained but upset at Da-jung’s presence in the role she wishes to have, or at least as Kwon Yul’s partner. Kwon Yul’s relationship with her is detached but trusting, and should his relationship with Da-jung progress, it may not take much more until Hye-joo needs some type of outlet for her feelings that could play either way despite her current unwavering loyalty to her boss.
As for the antagonist, Ryu Jin is ready to go as Park Joon-ki: Kwon Yul’s brother-in-law, the Minister of Strategy and Finance, a married man who still holds a candle for Secretary Seo and blames Kwon Yul for the death of his sister, Kwon Yul’s late wife. This back-story in the process of development. On the surface, it seems that his anger is primarily focused at Kwon Yul’s relationship with his sister, the available details of which seem to contradict whatever he thinks: so far through other details, it seems that Primer Minister’s last marriage was a happy one.
And it’s with this main antagonist that most of the political troubles are brewing. The first four episodes, while being lighthearted, are successful in nailing down the idea that the new Prime Minister is crucial to bringing the government a better image. As Kwon Yul has a high quality moral compass, his inspection of the finance department is inevitable, which puts him at odds with his brother-in-law and any deals he seems to be making under the table. Episode 4 only scratched at the surface of the problems with improper water monitoring and water pollution, and as the marriage topic becomes less new, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of the brother-in-law’s backstory and the ensuing politics unfold.
I have nothing but positive notes for how the drama is going. Nevertheless, the series is a quarter of the way in so there’s still plenty of room for that to change. For the first four episodes, the direction was rather clear: Kwon Yul and Nam Da-jung were going to get married. It was the pitch for the series, so it had to be so. These episodes overall were light, giving just enough information to suggest more was coming while spending the present time focusing on the marriage as the objective.
Episode 4 ended with news of a spy in the main house and the ever-effective kiss to shut Kwon Yul up. Are any readers watching Prime Minister and I? What are your thoughts on it thus far? Any favorite scenes? I’d like to give kudos for when Da-jung threw up on Kwon Yul’s face because I didn’t expect it to actually land on his face.