Ending with the sixth highest ratings in tvN history, Vincenzo delivered a satisfying ending to a 20-episode action-packed story. The drama stars Song Joong-ki as a member of the Italian mafia who returns to South Korea on a mission for buried treasure. Much like the game of Mafia, the story keeps you guessing with plot twists at every turn. Who will be loyal, who will betray others, and who will die? Vincenzo is not a redemption arc, nor a legal drama. It is the story of villains who have accidentally stepped on the toes of an even bigger villain. Vincenzo has a unique storyline with equally original characters that will have you rooting for the bad guy.
Note: The rest of this review contains spoilers for Vincenzo.
Before his untimely death, Hong Yoo-chan (Yoo Jae-myung) set the stage for what the drama would be about. At this point, his character realized that he would never defeat the Babel Group, a powerful pharmaceutical conglomerate, through legal means. He confides in Vincenzo his concerns in an iconic line:
It takes a devil to drive out another devil.
Vincenzo is not a vigilante, nor does he care about justice. He is a villain through and through. His sole purpose in returning to South Korea was to unlock hidden gold in an unsuspecting shopping plaza. Some may argue that he only kills bad people, but we hear early on that he ordered the deaths of all the innocent workers who installed the secret safe. With such a vile character, one may wonder: how can anyone root for him?
But the writers do a great job in humanizing his character to make him likable. His reunion with his biological mom and his relationship with Hong Cha-young (Jeon Yeo-been) all help in rounding out his character, showing that he is capable of compassion. He also has comedic moments like his obsession with expensive suits, his distaste for South Korean-made Italian food, and his friendship with a pigeon. With his other characteristics, there are moments when you almost forget that he kills people with such ease. Also, it helps that he is technically on the good side, even if he is only motivated by revenge. In the end, Vincenzo stays true to his character by continuing with his role in the mafia.
Jang Han-seok is one of Vincenzo’s main antagonists, and is played by idol Ok Taecyeon. As a lovable-looking actor, it may seem difficult to see him portray a murderer. However, it is his charms that help create his dual personality. Initially, he plays a naive lawyer who is in love with Hong Cha-young. In a great twist, we find out that he ordered the death of his own father, and uses his younger brother, Jang Han-seo (Kwak Dong-yeon) as a puppet in his control of the company, Babel Group.
Much like some of the other characters, there is no background information explaining Han-seo’s corruption. Based on his actions, his objective seems to be gaining more money by whatever means possible. His interest in Hong Cha-young seemed like it was going to be relevant to the story initially, but we quickly see he did not care enough to keep her out of danger, or stop at hurting her himself. Overall, while his character was on the flat side, his maniacal character is able to keep up with Vincenzo’s cat and mouse game.
Choi Myung-hee (Kim Yeo-jin) steals the spotlight with her unique portrayal of a female villain. In an interview, she noted that her character was genderless breaking stereotypes of an oversexualized female villain. Her character was funny at times, with her love of Zumba to the point that it almost humanized her. However, Myung-hee proves to be one of the darker antagonists as she nonchalantly orders the murders of anyone that gets in her way. Her objective is stated clearly as well: she loves to win. Her persistence in working with Han-seok, despite his unstable personality, is solely to beat Vincenzo. Han Seung-hyuk (Jo Han-chul) is her partner in crime, but his character did not leave the lasting impression that Myung-hee did.
The only villain with a redemption arc was Jang Han-seo and, unfortunately, it did not benefit him in the end. While he ordered the deaths of Vincenzo himself, he realizes he needs to switch sides if he does not want to keep being controlled by his older brother. His relationship with Vincenzo was, at times, cringe-worthy. He tries to force Vincenzo into a brotherly role which did not suit Vincenzo at all. In the end, his death showed that Vincenzo is not a show about justice.
Comedy may not be something you would expect into this kind of K-drama, but the big cast helps bring balance to the dark atmosphere. The tenants of the plaza, a confused FBI agent, and former gang members all join together in helping Vincenzo against the Babel Group. In their eyes, they are saving the plaza while helping a reformed and former mafia member. They were willing to dress up as zombies, kidnap people, and even engage in physical fights to help Vincenzo. Little did many of them know what Vincenzo was really up to, but their naivety brings warmth to the K-drama.
If you are looking for something different that is always going to keep you on the edge of your seat, Vincenzo is the perfect mix of genres. There are plot twists in every episode and characters will show different sides of themselves in great reveals. Vincenzo himself is the perfect villain to help enact revenge on the evil team of the Babel Group. It would be great for more shows to take a leaf from Vincenzo‘s book and make more daring protagonists and antagonists that break the mold and tropes of normal K-dramas.