Director of drama 'Big Bet' gambles on success of season 2
Even though the Disney+ drama "Big Bet" wanted to continue the Korean film tradition of dark noir thrillers, audiences seem to have outgrown the genre.
However, director Kang Yoon-sung isn't fazed. "I think the second act of our series could be the deal breaker," he said during a roundtable interview at a cafe in Jung District, central Seoul on Jan. 30. The first series finished airing on Jan. 25.
Whether the second season of "Big Bet," set for release on Feb. 15 on Disney+, can make up for the lackluster performance of the first season and the critical failure of the series so far, is the point of contention.
“Big Bet” started out just as its name — big — with the news that veteran actor Choi Min-sik, the star of hit films such as “Oldboy” (2003) among many others, who has not made a television drama appearance since 1997’s “Love and Farewell” (translated), was returning to the small screen for the first time in over two decades.
Centered on Choi’s character Cha Mu-sik, who starts at rock bottom and works his way to the top as a casino mogul in the Philippines, “Big Bet” vowed to attract Korean viewers to Disney+, which has been lagging behind other streaming services such as Netflix, Wavve, Tving and Coupang Play in the domestic market.
When the noir series first kicked off in December last year, the first four episodes garnered an 8.4 rating on IMDb, the highest score among streaming service dramas airing at the time, gaining the upper hand over series such as Netflix’s “The Glory” and others.
But since then, that rating has slipped to 7.3, with more and more viewers expressing that the plotline and time references in the series are too confusing and over-the-top.
Expert reviewers and critics alike have deemed the series a failure, despite Choi’s best efforts. Reviews on sites such as Cinema Escapist, Decider and the South China Morning Post have pointed out that “Big Bet” is “meandering,” “gambles on a complex story and narrative” and that it “shoots in all directions and deals in unnecessary secondary background stories.”
But the director of the series, Kang Yoon-sung, insists that the somewhat hectic and rambling plotline and character buildup of “Big Bet” was intentional and that it’s all part of a plan.
“I knew we would have these reactions when I was first writing the story,” said Kang during the roundtable interview. “But I strongly felt that ‘Big Bet’ needed a solid backstory for each character. That is why we spent so much time building up Cha’s life story and background information before he actually goes to the Philippines.”
Viewers will be pleasantly surprised with the second season of “Big Bet,” according to Kang.
“This story is supposed to be a two-part act and the real action and shock will be delivered in the second season,” said Kang. “I didn’t want ‘Big Bet’ to just be about addiction to gambling and our human desire for monetary success. I wanted to draw this character Cha Mu-sik, as a person, with both good and bad sides to him. And the whole picture of who this character is will be completed in the second season.”
While it is doubtful whether the series can make such a big turnaround after dragging on the story of Cha and the casino he operates for eight episodes, Kang is certain that audiences can “experience a new world that they have never known the existence of before,” through “Big Bet.”
“I think the essence of cinema, dramas and fiction stories told through a screen is that people can experience places and lives that they had never heard of,” said Kang. “I think many would never have met a person like Cha, and they would never have experienced a setting like the one we draw up in ‘Big Bet.’ My goal was to expose viewers to this world and to tell them that there are actually people who live this way.”
Viewers, although dubious about whether the series can redeem itself as Kang has promised, are waiting for the climax and ending of “Big Bet.”
“Don’t think the series could redeem itself, but let’s see what happens,” reads a comment in Korean on the second season teaser on YouTube.
The second season of “Big Bet” premieres on Feb. 15.
BY LIM JEONG-WON [email@example.com]