The Fiery Priest is a 2019 South Korean television series starring Kim Nam-gil, Kim Sung-kyun, Lee Hanee, Go Jun and Keum Sae-rok. It was the first drama to air on SBS’s Fridays and Saturdays timeslot, airing from February 15 to April 20, 2019.

The Fiery Priest is the highest rated miniseries drama that aired in 2019 on public broadcast according to Nielsen Korea. The drama was a huge success and was one of the most popular dramas aired in 2019. Kim Nam-gil won numerous accolades for his portrayal of a priest with anger management issues. The action comedy drama also featured parodies from other movies and dramas, notably from Mr. Sunshine, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time, The Matrix, Reply 1988 and Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds.

Synopsis

Following the mysterious death of an elderly priest, an NIS agent turned priest (Kim Nam-gil) attempts to bring the culprits involved before law. The hilarious journey in taking down the gangsters and corrupt officials in the city is what follows. The journey is not so smooth when the corrupt prosecutor of the city (Lee Hanee) refuses to cooperate.

Review : by txc_vertigo (link)

The Good:

(1) The acting is pretty good. Kim Nam Gil and Kim Sung Kyun are pretty good in their roles as priest Kim Hae Il and detective Go Dae Young, and get to show some acting range. Ahn Chang Wan and Go Kyu Pil make up a really hilarious duo as Song Sac, the Thai guy with a huge heart and Yo Han, the convenience store part timer with a degree in astrophysics. Shoutout also to Geum Sae Rok doing a pretty decent job as newly hired detective Seo Seung Ah considering she is a rookie actress.

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(2) There is character development to some degree. For example, detective Go Dae Young learns that it’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees and eventually goes back to fighting injustice like he once did.

(3) The back half of this show is way better than the first half. It feels like the entire production got a lot more comfortable and the quality definitely improved over time. The writing gets tighter, the actors get more accustomed to their roles and the humour started hitting the mark a lot more often by abandoning the attempts to achieve laughs by screaming and instead upping the wackiness factor.

(4) I respect the decision not to go down the path of any potential romance plots. Not every drama needs a romance main plot or sub plot and considering that 72% of dramas listed in 2018 has a romance tag attached to it, it’s rather refreshing to see a pretty light hearted show not opt for any romance stories.

The Bad:

(1) The drama is lacking in both direction and writing, which can be attributed to the people spearheading the production. This drama is from the director of the tragic Fashion King, Lee Myung Woo and the hit or miss writer Park Jae Bum, who wrote the poorly written Blood along with some good dramas like Chief Kim. There are actually some similarities between this and Chief Kim but The Fiery Priest lacks some of the charisma that Chief Kim had, possibly due to the lack of Namgoong Min. Overall, the combination of these two as lead creators results in the drama lacking focus, being predictable, and relying way too heavily on cheap gags instead of any more elaborate humor.

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(2) The tone of the drama is everywhere. It goes from being very serious one moment to being a silly comedy the next. Now some people may enjoy that style, for me it just creates cognitive dissonance. These types of jarring tonal shifts, where a show switches between a wacky comedy with cartoony visual and sound effects and serious crime drama, are really hard to execute in my opinion, and I don’t really think they succeeded with it in this show. The drama tries to deal with serious topics such as PTSD, xenophobia, corruption, (alleged) suicide and molestation within the Catholic church. However, all of this gets buried under the wacky humour. The serious bits also take away from the humour as the viewer is not inclined to laugh right after having seen a tragic scene such asseeing a dozen kids being blown to pieces by a hand grenade.

(3) Although there is a lot of fighting in this show that is pretty well choreographed, especially the scenes of former junior martial arts athlete Go Joon, it barely ever carries any consequences which makes the fighting feel rather pointless. An important character can beaten nearly to death and the next day run around like they are fine unless the plot requires them to die/end up in a coma. It severely lowers the stakes of the serious action scenes, while at the same brutal scenes of violence impedes the notion that the series is supposed to be funny. Then again, maybe we are not supposed to take the violent scenes seriously considering the makeup work to recreate injuries looks almost cartoony. Real bruises don’t turn blue right after an injury, it takes around 24 hours for it to go from red to blue.

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(4) The plot takes a long time to really get going. The main arc of the drama which is the team fully gathered up and standing against the bad guys starts taking place around 13 hours into the drama. The writer put a lot of obstacles in the way of plot progression and almost all of them can be explained with “corruption”. They use corruption as a constant be-all and end-all solution to ensure that the protagonist makes no progress. There is no need for this drama to be 40 episodes each spanning 30 minutes. Some tighter writing could have easily cut this 20 hour drama into a 16 or even 12 hour drama.

Score: 6,0 / 10 – This is not going to be a popular score with the majority and to be honest, this is one of those dramas that I understand the appeal of for other people, but I don’t see it’s greatness myself. The first half hovered somewhere around a 5 for me while the back half was closer to an 8. Overall, I feel like a 6,0 is a fair score for me personally. However, I do acknowledge that this drama is probably going to be very influential on a lot of upcoming kdramas due to its immense popularity in Korea.

5/5 - (2 votes)

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