Vincenzo Cassano once said, “Nothing’s more entertaining than an enemy who doesn’t know why they’re losing.”
And when the enemy is a manipulative giant conglomerate, a dishonorable law firm, and a bunch of corrupt power-trippers in governance, watching them crash and (sometimes, literally) burn is doubly satisfying.
Perhaps this was why tVN dark comedy Vincenzo became so popular, it never left the Netflix PH Top 10 since it started airing mid-February. The show’s overarching theme of fighting evil with evil resonated with its audiences, hooking us from the very beginning.
Add to that a dash of humor, a precious found family dynamic, and a deliciously written slow burn of a love story, and you’ve got yourself a pretty addictive drama reaching a wide audience demographic.
A different demolition job
Korean-born Italian mafia consigliere Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joongki) returns to Seoul with only one thing in mind: GOLD. Fifteen tons of it, to be exact, are hidden under a shabby old building called Geumga Plaza. It’s not his gold, but since he’s one of the only two living people who know about it, the Finders Keepers rule now applies.
The plan is simple: demolish the building, get the gold, and fly to Malta to live his best life.
Unfortunately for him, Babel E&C is also eyeing the property for their redevelopment project and has been sending goons to spook the Geumga tenants away.
Determined to keep the plaza in his possession, Vincenzo teams up with human rights lawyer Hong Yuchan (Yoo Jaemyung), who incidentally has been fighting a legal battle against Babel Pharmaceuticals. They manage to thwart Babel’s first attempt to demolish the building, but Vincenzo learns quickly that they’re up against a more sinister enemy.
What started as a quick stopover for hidden treasure ultimately becomes a quest to destroy the oppressive devils of society, and who better to deliver the punishment than another devil? Vincenzo eventually decides to take Babel down, and it’s a cathartic rollercoaster ride from then until the end.
Excellent ensemble cast
Nothing is more frustrating for K-Drama fans than watching a promising show and realizing early on that it is being hard-carried by its lead actor/s. Fortunately, Vincenzo didn’t suffer that plight.
Song Joongki’s (Space Sweepers) performance as a cunning mafia consigliere left nothing to be desired, and even earned him a last minute Best Actor nomination for the 2021 Baeksang Awards. His masterful control over his facial expressions have always been his strongest suit, and he brought his A-game for Vincenzo, giving us a deeply flawed anti-hero we could still root for.
Playing alongside him as fearless, no-nonsense lawyer Hong Chayoung was Jeon Yeobin (Night in Paradise), who started out shaky in the first few episodes, but quickly found her footing as the story progressed. She gave Chayoung equal parts sass and vulnerability which allowed us to trust her and cheer for her despite her previous alliance with the enemy.
Meanwhile, 2PM’s Ok Taecyeon (Bring It On, Ghost) and Kim Yeojin (Itaewon Class) got viewers riled up for weeks with their excellent portrayal of two-faced Babel CEO Jang Hanseok and power hungry lawyer Choi Myunghee. If South Korean award-giving bodies gave Best Villain awards, they would surely be strong contenders.
Kwak Dongyeon (It’s Okay Not To Be Okay) stole the hearts of many viewers for his dynamic performance as Jang Hanseo, Babel Group’s puppet CEO turned Vincenzo ally. Hanseo could have easily been a hateful, untrustworthy character, but Kwak managed to create a lovable version of him everyone wanted to protect.
Not to be forgotten are the actors comprising the Geumga Plaza squad, whose colorful depictions of mysterious neighbors made for a more entertaining, emotional journey. You would think at first that they are an unnecessary addition to the cast, but give it time, and you’ll find out how essential they will be to Team Vincenzo’s success.
Small, satisfying victories
It’s been two weeks since Vincenzo aired its final episode, and fans all over the world still can’t stop talking about it. In fact, the Saturday after the finale, fans were able to trend the hashtag #VincenzoEp21 on Twitter, filling it with funny memes, fan made videos, requests for a second season, and lots of virtual crying.
I often muse about what got me so enamored by this fictional world created by Fiery Priest writer Park Jaebum and The Crowned Clown director Kim Heewon, and always, I look back to the small, satisfying victories we got throughout the show.
The show often does make you question where your moral compass lies, but at the end of the day, it is unapologetic in giving us a main character who is fully aware of who he is...
Don’t get me wrong. I was completely satisfied with the ultimate punishment imposed upon the main villains, but it took us 20 episodes to get there, and it would have been close to unbearable if we weren’t given reasons to feel victorious every week.
I still remember the rush of emotions I felt seeing the Babel Pharmaceuticals factory blow up as Vincenzo and his team drove away, watching the facility burn to ashes. I remember snapping my fingers and yelling “Buti nga sa ‘yo!” at my screen when a judge who colluded with corrupt defense lawyers was humiliated in court after being stung by a hornet. I also remember clapping so hard when Jang Hanseok got doused with pig blood in the middle of giving a TED Talk-ish speech.
The revenge tactics might have appeared petty and childish sometimes, but they delivered a message. And nothing thrilled me more than seeing crooked people get what they deserved just when they thought they could get away with their crimes.
Vincenzo is not, by any means, a perfect show. Discerning viewers might find plot holes and dislike the way certain conflicts are resolved, but that opens rooms for discourse about how we view and accept narratives. The show often does make you question where your moral compass lies, but at the end of the day, it is unapologetic in giving us a main character who is fully aware of who he is: a villain.
First time viewers should take note of content warnings for violence, various depictions of death, emotional manipulation, and casual homophobia. Overall, however, I believe the show delivered a smorgasbord of our favorite K-Drama things in spades: a good-looking cast, a balanced fusion of genres, stunning visual aesthetics, and a banging soundtrack.
While I appreciate all of these, my takeaway is this: Vincenzo gave us a taste of justice that only another evil person can serve. And in a society where evil truly does prevail, I found comfort in a fictional world where there is hope in eradicating them one by one. There is justice here, and I will take it.
(Images from Netflix)