The premiere episode of School 2017 is a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess – literally and figuratively. Starring IOI’s Kim Sejeong, the first episode of youth drama ‘School 2017’ aired today and although it was a little messy, it was still very fun to watch nonetheless.
‘School 2017’ revolves around our characters and their lives as students trying to survive not only in school but just life in general. The drama will explore the challenges and issues they face as young adults, but also the solutions and ways they use to overcome these obstacles in life.
I’m looking forward to what this drama has to offer because as mentioned in my first podcast, I’m a big fan of youth dramas. I haven’t seen the other ‘School’ dramas in this series so I’m not sure what to expect with this drama. However, from the looks of the cast and teasers that were released, it seems like we’re in for a fun ride! Also, from just the first episode alone, I already have my eyes locked on some of our characters (Tae-woon, Dae-hwi, and Kyung-woo, I’m looking at you).
[Also, this is my first drama recap in a very very long while so I apologize if my recapping seems a bit out of place. I’ll try my best to make up for the long hiatus and to make the recaps coherent and easy and fun to read. I’ll also try to actually stay around this time and finish recapping this entire series… but that’s only if the drama delivers and doesn’t keep me pulling my hair for too long. So with that being said, let’s get started!).
Episode one begins in May with a classroom of students taking what appears to be their third mock exam of the month in preparation for the college entrance exam. While some students are taking the exam seriously and trying their best, some others don’t. They bubble in the same letter choice for each question and some others stare out the window. The clock hits exactly 9:00AM signaling the end of the exam session, but instead of turning in their exams, students are met instead with water. The sprinkler in the classroom erupts and water permeates throughout the classroom. Here we see our female lead Ra Eunho (Kim Sejeong) standing soaked in water while her voice over explains what’s going on in the scene: what they could only wish for to happen in their imagination actually became reality.
The episode takes us back to 5 days earlier prior to the day of the mock exam. Students are seen sprinting out of their classrooms and to the cafeteria so they could get a good spot in line for lunch. However, the teacher in charge of lunch makes it clear how the lunch system works: students are to enter only according to their rank. Those with higher ranks get to eat first and those with lower ranks have to wait towards the end of the line in hopes that the food for lunch won’t run out. So Eunho and her friend Sarang has to return to the end of the line despite having gotten in line first.
While in line, students notice how student Hyun Tae-woon (Kim Jung-hyun) gets special treatment just because he’s the son of the Director of the school. He cuts all the other students waiting in line and enters the cafeteria even without the teacher stopping him. He is even gifted an egg despite getting the same food that all the other students got for lunch (wow he is really getting that special treatment huh?).
Eunho reveals to Sarang during lunch that she’s planning to skip class to go do something else. With some assistance from her best friend and #1 ranked student/President Song Dae-hwi (Jang Dong-yoon) who promises to cover for her if she gets caught skipping school, Eunho is off on her adventure.
Meanwhile, Dae-hwi goes to the teacher’s office room to meet with Teacher Shim who tries to give Dae-hwi advice on how to better prepare mentally for the exams. However, Dae-hwi isn’t nervous and is confident he’ll do well to maintain his #1 rank. Meanwhile, Teacher Shim’s colleague (OMG IT’S THE WEIRD CREEPY BOSS FROM AGE OF YOUTH!!) who’s sitting across from Teacher Shim can only stare at him weirdly and judge him in between all of this.
Eunho’s all prepared to go off on her exciting adventure, but meets trouble along the way. She comes across Tae-woon who is also skipping school like she is. They both leave the school in their own respective ways, but meet again not too long after. Tae-woon happens to rush past Eunho on his motorcycle while being chased by two other motorcyclists and scares her, causing her to fall off her bike and injure herself. Eunho – realizing what he just did – turns around to check up on Eunho while also keeping an eye on the 2 motorcyclists and manages to get Eunho to ride with him just in time to escape the motorcyclists.
Tae-woon drops Eunho off at her destination and picks up two phone calls while doing so. While Tae-woon struggles to have a conversation with her about one of the phone calls, she ignores him and hurries onto the college campus she arrived at for her meeting.
In the next scene, Eunho is seen sitting on a bench beside a man who’s viewing her drawing sketchbook. While he praises her drawing skills, she can only blush and squeal as she stares at her crush staring at her sketchbook. The man Jong-geun (CN Blue’s Min Hyuk) encourages Eunho to do good in school so that she can get accepted into the same college as him so she can hopefully become his college girlfriend. Their flirty conversation comes to an abrupt stop when Tae-woon interrupts the both of them. He punches Jong-geun in the face, yells at him for flirting with a high school student, and threatens to punch him in the face again only to be stopped by Eunho.
Turns out that Eunho and Jong-geun don’t have that kind of that relationship at all (it’s just a one-sided crush) and Eunho is furious at Tae-woon. But he just brushes it off as if it was nothing and reminds Eunho that her bike is missing before he leaves on his motorcycle.
Exam results for the 2nd mock exam are out and as expected President Dae-hwi is ranked first and Eunho is ranked towards the bottom once again. This comes to no surprise for many and Eunho goes on with her day.
Teacher Shim announces to the class that there will be a third mock exam for the month. Although exhausted and fed up with the exams, there’s nothing the students can do about it. Once Teacher Shim leaves the classroom, chaos ensues. One of the students (played by Z. Hera) complains that her notes has been stolen by someone in the classroom and even goes as far as to searching in the classroom lockers for them when no one speaks up about the issue. Her action irritates some students while others can care less. The issue continues to escalate as Z. Hera almost gets into a fight with another student.
Back in the teacher’s office room, the staff and faculty have a meeting to brainstorm the current situation with the students and how they’re becoming a lot more resistant. But the only answers are to give the students more tests (as if that’s not the reason for the resistance in the first place) so they can attain better exam scores and make the school look better. Teacher Shim advocates for the students, but none of the other staff are having it. All they care about are the graphs that indicates the quality of their school and the exam scores of their students. By the end of the meeting, Teacher Shim is responsible for putting up graphs as the Director of the school is scheduled for a visit that day. When the Director arrives at the school and is taking a tour around the campus, he comes across the graphs put up by Teacher Shim. Although impressed at first by the results shown by the graphs, he glances at the chart of the ranks of the students and finds his son ranked #288. The smile on his face disappears and he walks away in anger and disappointment.
While in class, Eunho shares with Sarang that she wants to get into Hanguk University so that she can date Jong-geun. Sarang has a hard time believing in Eunho and emphasizes that she won’t ever get into Hanguk University and that Jong-geun doesn’t want to date Eunho specifically but that rather he just wants to have a college girlfriend in general (hahah omg poor Eunho). Eunho then gets scolded by her teacher for talking in class and is asked the one question by her teacher that Eunho argues defines you and your position in school: what tier are you in? When Eunho answers that she’s ranked in the sixth tier, her teacher gives her a small talk on the importance of ranks and how the further down you are in terms of rank, the less important and valued you are. So basically the teacher explains to Eunho (as if she wasn’t aware and insecure of this already) that she’s worthless and is of no value to the school or to anyone.
After class Sarang gives Eunho a small pep talk to cheer her up after the harsh talk she got from the teacher in class earlier. While talking in the hallway, Dae-hwi approaches the both of them and shares with Eunho the news about a drawing competition that Hanguk University – the university that Eunho wants to get accepted into – is putting on which could potentially help increase Eunho’s chances of getting accepted into the university. Eunho can only imagine what her life would be like if she was to get accepted into Hanguk University and literally imagines her and Jong-geun as a couple at the university. But the imagination is just an imagination and Eunho wakes up to find herself with Tae-woon in reality. He grabs her sketchbook away from her and teases her for her drawings. As Eunho plans to enter the competition, she brainstorms different genres her webtoon novel could possibly be, but finds it hard to come up with something that has never been done before. She also realizes that her drawing skills are limited, her time is limited, and there are only so many romance webtoons out there already.
Exams are never-ending and therefore, studying is never-ending. Parents send their kids off to academies and test preparation classes, including Tae-woon who signs up for classes at a test preparation academy after getting yelled at by his father for having a bad rank at school. Meanwhile, Dae-hwi is the opposite in that he is excelling and actually receives monetary rewards in exchange for helping his classmate prepare for the exams. While walking back home, Dae-hwi comes across Eunho at her part-time job. He learns that her goal is to make money so she can buy a tablet to continue drawing and expresses envy in how she has dreams and goals she wants to achieve in life. When he returns home, he is ambushed with endless compliments from his mom and her friends for being better and smarter than other students – something his mother definitely takes pride in. Dae-hwi doesn’t seem too satisfied with the conversation even though it was all praise and no criticism and returns to his daily routine of studying in his room.
It’s a different story for Eunho who is begging her mother to let her take webtoon drawing classes so she has a better chance of getting accepted into Hanguk University. But it’s nearly impossible as Eunho’s family isn’t necessarily in the best financial status to pay for those classes and well… Eunho’s grades aren’t the best. So Eunho has no choice but to go back and study for the 3rd mock exam that’s scheduled for the next day (LOL I can so relate…procrastination at its finest folks), but has a hard time doing so because of distractions.
The day that everyone has dreaded has finally arrived. It’s the day of the 3rd mock exam and the teachers assemble to their classrooms. As shown in the beginning of the drama, the exam session comes to an abrupt stop when water comes gushing out of the sprinkler at the top of the classroom. Students jump out of their seats in happiness and rush out to the hallways. It turns out that the whole school is filled with water, from other classes in the school to the cafeteria and even to the teacher’s office room. The entire school is punished for the incident though and the staff has agreed to have the students take the mock exam again the following week. But while the students groan or grow scared at the angry staff, Eunho can only focus on her webtoon novel and coincidentally comes up with a character for her webtoon novel thanks to the yelling principal – the evil villain! Puahaha. Nice one there Eunho! Although excited at first, Eunho becomes quiet when she realizes that maybe she said that a little bit too loudly in front of everyone… and finds everyone is staring at her (don’t worry Eunho, it was totally worth it!).
We learn that this sprinkler incident is not the first incident that has taken place at the school within the past few months. There’s been incidents of staff pictures being drawn on, sticky corn syrup pranks on the ground where teachers walk on, the head of the statue of the Director being cut off, and then the most recent with the sprinkler incident. An officer called Han Soo-ji (Han Sun-hwa) has been hired by the school to investigate the incidents that have taken place at the school so they can find the culprit and end all of this once and for all. Rumors as to who the culprit behind these incidents are start to spread throughout the school. Although no definite conclusions are reached, there is a scene of 4 students in a room texting one another and what seems to be them communicating with one another on some kind of plan.
Dae-hwi is seen walking outside when he happens to come across Tae-woon who is also outside as well. The environment becomes tense upon seeing each other and Tae-woon is the first to speak. He voices his dislike with the night upon having seen Dae-hwi to which Dae-hwi asks Tae-woon, “Do you like living like this?” Both boys threaten and taunt each other, but Dae-hwi walks away before a fight between them breaks out. The night ends with them calling each other ‘crazy.’ (Uh-oh… this doesn’t seem good. Why can’t we all just be friends? T____T).
It’s another day of school. Eunho is busy drawing in her sketchbook instead of paying attention in class and gets punished for it. She gets her sketchbook taken away from the teacher and despite apologizing, fails to get it back. The teacher also punishes Tae-woon for being on his phone while in class by taking it away from him, but unlike Eunho, gives it back to him once Tae-woon mentions his dad. That then prompts the teacher to give yet another talk to Eunho who’s begging the teacher to give her back her sketchbook – this time about the importance of connections. The teacher explains that having connections gives you the power to do whatever it is that you want and that it’ll be difficult to survive in the world if you don’t have the connections. Wow, so cruel and brutal but it’s so real it hurts. Because Eunho doesn’t have the connections unlike Tae-woon and is just a normal (low-ranking) student in the school, she fails to persuade the teacher to give her back the sketchbook and doesn’t retrieve her sketchbook in the end.
The anxiety and fear from waiting is too much for Eunho. She has to do something about it. She ends up sneaking into the school after closed hours in an effort to get her sketchbook back. But upon stepping inside the teacher’s office room, she sees something she wasn’t supposed to. In front of her eyes is a person dressed in a black hoodie, staring at a bucket with papers inside that are lit on fire. Eunho’s eyes meet with the person and she gasps, easily recognizing the face of the person standing across from her and the person possibly behind all the school incidents.
I kind of don’t know where to start. There are so many things that have already happened within the first episode – some more intriguing and interesting than others – and I’m hoping the drama will use its time wisely to hash these plots out (also, I’m already swooning at our characters – specifically our male characters!! Ahhhhh!).
I like our female lead character Ra Eunho (Kim Sejeong) from the glimpses we were given of her in the first episode. Clearly she’s not the smartest as she’s ranked #280 in the entire school and no one (not even her own family) believes in her or supports her dreams of becoming a webtoon artist. It’s as if they think that if she can barely do well in a setting like school, it’ll be impossible for her to build a future for herself in something else outside of school and it’s this normalized and standard kind of thinking that makes me root for her. She’s clearly the underdog in this story and it’ll be fun and interesting to watch her journey as someone that everyone looked down upon to becoming the hero who overcomes many challenges to successfully achieve her dreams. Eunho sees drawing as really one of the only things she’s good at that she can actually succeed in and use to better her future because all other options like studying isn’t. I’m glad that she can use her drawing as a possible gateway to get into higher education even though it might be for the wrong reasons as of now (her crush makes me iffy…). I’ll love to see her prove everyone wrong that maybe sometimes, unlike what many people say and believe, grades aren’t everything.
The drama did a good job in introducing storylines, plots, relationships, and characters that it will potentially explore throughout the drama, but I think it packed a little bit too much within the first episode that the episode became disjointed and messy. The drama was all over the place within the first episode: issues about the ranks within the school, Eunho’s pursuit to becoming a webtoon artist and getting into college, mock exams, the person behind the pranks, rivalry between our two male leads, and much more. Granted it’s the first episode so the drama probably wanted to expose as much as it could to viewers so that it could 1) gain viewers’ attention 2) so it won’t have to do that later on, but I think doing this hurt the drama a little bit more than it helped it. I’m hoping the drama will slow down a little bit and give us a lot more time with each storyline. If the drama can explore each one while smoothly interweaving between them and connecting them all back to one another somehow then the drama will easily be a successful one for me.
Although there were many things going on within the first episode, I’m definitely interested in what the drama has shown us so far already. I’m especially fascinated with the idea that your rank is everything because things like getting food for lunch to even something as important but small as access to the library is determined by your rank so literally, if you are not in a high tier, you’re pretty much invisible. The idea that your rank and the tier you are in pretty much defines who you are and how others think about you is a notion that intrigues me every single time because despite this concept being consistently used in all school dramas, the way that each drama utilizes this concept in their own way to bring reality and life into that drama fascinates me every single time. We could already see how the notion of rank affects the characters in episode one as seen with Eunho and Tae-woon. It explains why Eunho is treated the way she is compared to her classmates, it explains why she was unable to retrieve her drawing sketchbook back from the teacher hence why she had to sneak back into the school to get it, and even why she can’t take drawing classes unlike what other students are doing to prepare for their exams. These ranks are so crucial and important and they really determine everything. I would love to see the drama play around with this concept a whole lot more throughout the drama either to Eunho’s benefit or to the other character’s disadvantage to prove that sometimes rank and grades aren’t everything and that there are other options out there for success other than education (like drawing for Eunho which will hopefully lead her to a bright and successful future).
The drama teased us with some intense rivalry between our two male leads and I’m kind of interested to see what happened between the both of them that caused their relationship to become so tense. I’m predicting that they were probably once close friends, but because of some incident, became distant and maybe even enemies of some sort. I can see Eunho being the character that will bridge them together and mend their broken friendship and maybe bring them both onto good terms with each other again (or they’ll figure out how to do that themselves).
There are a few familiar faces I recognize in the first episode already (and maybe there’s more to come). Along with Kim Sejeong, I recognize Jang Dong-yoon who plays the President and #1 ranked student in the school Song Dae-hwi. His only other role was also in the school drama ‘Solomon’s Perjury’ and that’s where I first saw him though I didn’t stay for the entire drama (I actually dropped it after watching episode one). His character in here is quite an interesting one. On the outside, he seems like your typical intelligent, popular, and perfect student who embodies both brain and looks, but on the inside, he’s unhappy and dissatisfied with his life, has no dreams or goals in life, and is a living robot who is pressured to maintain his #1 rank. I’m thinking the person that was in the teacher’s office room burning the papers was Dae-hwi because it makes sense and I could see why he would rebel. Just because he’s ranked first in the entire school doesn’t actually mean he’s content with his life or the school system and administration itself and therefore will do anything to destroy it. And plus, it’ll make his character even more interesting considering it’ll be such a huge contrast to the popular image that everyone associates with him.
Kim Jung-hyun plays the other male lead Hyun Tae-woon, the son of the Director of the school who’s ranked down low in school. Unlike what would be expected of him, he doesn’t care about his grades, rank, or school and instead does whatever it is that he wants to do. I find this interesting because he doesn’t care about his grades or school, but abuses his position as the son of the Director of the school to his advantage whenever necessary. He’s aware of how much power he has as the Director’s son and maybe he’ll use this status in the future not only for himself but for others and to do things like advocate for others or bring about change with how the school is being run. Just like the teacher mentioned, the one thing that really sets people apart are the connections they have in whatever place or industry they are in and this is more obvious than ever with Eunho and Tae-woon both being in the same rank but him being probably the most powerful student in the school because of his given position. Maybe that also partially explains why he’s not exactly excelling in school: he can do and get whatever it is that he wants without having to work hard for it. It’ll be cool to see Tae-woon and Eunho grow closer to each other despite the very different positions and statuses that they carry with them everywhere and how this will affect the both of them – individually and together. Oh, and talk about the motorcycle scene. He might be in some kind of trouble.
Other actors I recognized included Han Sun-hwa who plays an officer in the drama investigating the many incidents that has occurred at the school over time. She’s been in some dramas and movies before, but she is probably more well-known for being a former member of SECRET and all the drama and controversy surrounding that. It’s nice to see her active again even if it isn’t necessarily singing like how she originally started out. Actor Seo Ji-hoon from hit drama ‘Signal’ and youth drama ‘Solomon’s Perjury’ is also in here! I remember seeing him in ‘Signal’ and being fascinated by his character. I didn’t like his character at all because his character was horrible and evil in ‘Signal’, but he stood out to me so I’ve been following him ever since. I’m glad to see him here and I like him as an actor. He didn’t do much in episode one except play his guitar but the few seconds that he was in the drama were absolutely gold so I’m looking forward to seeing more of him and what purpose his character serves in here if any (I wonder if his character is evil or good or maybe even neutral??). Ji-soo’s girlfriend (?) Seol In-A in ‘Strong Woman Do Bong-soon’ is also in this drama and she’s not the best actress so I don’t have too much to say about her, but I’m thinking the drama will paint her character to also be similar to Dae-hwi’s character as the smart, perfect, and popular student at the school who is also going through issues of her own in her life. Z. Hera who played Baekhyun’s lover from ‘Moon Lovers’ is also in this drama so it’s weird to see her as a student when before she played a badass warrior/lady. She looks a bit too mature for me that I have a hard time believing she’s a student, but she can pull off the student look just fine so this shouldn’t be an issue in the future for me. And then last but not least, Choi Sung-min is also playing a student in this drama. I’ve been a fan of his for the longest time back when he was in former idol group Co-Ed School to then SPEED and then now as an actor. It’s unfortunate that he’s no longer an idol because I loved him and his music and watching him perform and dance. I had actually been curious as to what he’s been up to since SPEED’s disbandment and was glad to discover that he’s been acting (I guess it’s better than nothing). He looks a little bit different now than how I remembered him when he used to be an idol, but I guess that’s what a few years do to you as you age and get older. I’m just happy to see him back on screen and am eager to seeing more of his character in the drama.
I’m assuming that aside from all the school politics, there will be a love triangle (square maybe?) involved between Eunho and our two male leads. It seems like the three already know each other, but don’t really interact with one another outside of school. I’m still a bit confused as to what their relationships with one another are (are they just classmates who know each other? are they friends? are they more than classmates and talk to each other but less than friends who hang out with each other? what are they…?), I’m excited to see how the love triangle will develop in the next few episodes. Maybe Eunho and Tae-woon might even bond through the fact that they both don’t have the best ranks in the school. When that moment comes and ships are sailing, I will squeal and scream and shout and watching this drama will be even more enjoyable than it already is.