The boss (Chun’s Gaekju/head merchant) and his deputy in happier times…
Money they say is the root of all evil, and such is what embodies this intricate sageuk drama from the start.
A taste of greed, a sting of betrayal, lashings of agony and bouts of laughter…The Merchant – Gaekju 2015 displays it all, and just in its first few episodes.
I never expected to be this shocked, or moved.
A thriving trading company is brought to its knees, where everyone either gets killed, sold into forced labor, escapes, or is lost.
Merchants of yester-years (the Joseon period, to be exact) went through hell and high-water, literally, just to make that sale.
We see a young carefree boy who turns bitter after his father is made to drink poison for a crime. In turn, the young boy takes his first step into revenge, that dangerous weapon which hurts both the target and the avenger.
We see a brother and sister, separated not only by place but also time, as ten years pass since they last met.
But most of all, we see a world of bloodthirsty business masterminds, men too evil to be believed. It’s incredible how low they can sink for that next profit.
In their bid to outdo one another, they care little about whose life is lost, or whose blood spilled. It’s all about the money. Nothing else counts.
The young Bong Sam before he was abandoned by the only people he had left from his past life.
Chun Bong Sam is our young hero, who lost all his family and all he held dear. Now all he wants is to find his lost sister.
To do that, he must become a merchant. For one who had wanted nothing to do with his father’s line of work, Bong Sam grows into a very determined business trainee indeed.
Bong Sam all grown up…living it up at the Academy for aspiring merchants. Glad he grew to be a happy-go-lucky lad.
At first glance, grown up Bong Sam seems carefree and even comical. Life is all one big ball of fun times to him, right?
But when in episode 4, he runs into a duo of cowhide merchants from his past, we see Bong Sam has a surprising side to him. The one who never forgot where and from what he came from.
So far, I’m impressed with how well portrayed the drama is.
Those who are bad are very bad (such as the cut-throat head merchant, and the other devious minions) – and some turn from bad to good (such as the cowhide black market traders). While some turn from good to really bad (such as Gil So-Gae, son of Chun’s Gaekju’s slain deputy).
Scarred for life…once personable So Gae becomes twisted by his thirst for vengeance
I’m touched by the humanity of many of the characters. Nobody’s perfect, and in this line of work, you can’t be caught slipping or you’d be liable to lose a neck.
You’ll love watching this scenario unfold in episode 4, with the best counter-rip-off I’ve seen in a long while!
How does Bong Sam find a foothold in this shaky environment where nothing is guaranteed?
You’re never sure who’s about to topple you from the top spot. And that great prize in your hand, can easily tumble into the laps of someone just that bit smarter, or less scrupulous, than you.
The Merchant: Gaekju 2015 is a feast that isn’t so easy to swallow, if you’re the faint of heart.
You’ll shake your fist at the injustices, you’ll cry, you’ll possibly scream. Yes, you’ll feel every emotion the characters are displaying, because they are that good.
Now that it’s 10 years since the moment we first meet the main game players, I’m more than on edge to discover how the story will choose to evolve.
My recommendation, is that if you aren’t on board with this drama, now’s the best time to start. Only a quarter into its run (now at 8 episodes out of the billed 36) there’s more than enough to sharpen your appetite.
Jang Hyuk is in top form here (in more ways than one, I might add) and he brings even more life to a thoroughly vibrant and compelling drama.
I can’t wait to see more of him as the story gains momentum, and hopefully your interest has been just as whetted! So what are you waiting for?