[What Mary Thinks] Stealer: The Treasure Keeper: Episodes 1-2

Hmm, this drama was an interesting one. It wasn’t as impressive or exciting as I hoped it would be, but there were certain moments throughout the first two episodes that showed potential and promise. Joo Won returns to the small screen after 3 years as Hwang Dae-myung/Skunk – a thief who specializes in stealing cultural assets, property, and treasures. He’s a civil servant by day and then a thief by night who steals national assets and treasures taken by powerful members of society. Lee Joo-woo plays the female lead, Choi Min-woo, who works with her boss, Jang Tae-in (played by Jo Han-chul who you might recognize from ‘Vincenzo‘) and co-worker Shin Chang-hoon (played by Kim Jae-won who I recognize from one of my favorite one-episode dramas in 2022) in the Cultural Heritage Team responsible for retrieving and protecting the cultural assets. Choi Hwa-jung rounds out the cast as Lee Chun-ja – the talented hacker who works behind the scenes with Skunk and assists him during his missions.

In all honesty, I wanted to like this drama more than I actually did. I had high hopes going into it primarily because of the cast. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Joo Won on either the small or big screen (‘Carter’ wasn’t really my thing and the last drama I believe I watched him in was ‘Good Doctor’ back in 2013! Plus, I’ll never forget him in ‘Gaksital’ and how iconic he was in that drama) so I was excited to have him back. I’m a fan of Jo Han-chul who I’ve known about since 2014 with ‘High School King of Saavy’ and then I also like Lee Joo-woo thanks to dramas like ‘Welcome to Waikiki’ and ‘Let’s Eat 3.’ Even though the first 2 episodes didn’t impress me as much as I wanted it to, I think I’ll watch it for as long as I can manage primarily due to the cast.

It wasn’t that the first 2 episodes were bad per se, but I just simply felt as if there was too much going on a little too soon. It was a little difficult and challenging for me to keep track of all the characters, sub-plots, world building, and artifacts that the drama introduced. You followed Min-woo as she was reassigned to the Cultural Heritage Team so you watched her interact with her two co-workers and gain a better understanding of the world of cultural assets. Then you also had Skunk and Chun-ja who were also doing their own thing in searching for a book that our Cultural Heritage Team was also looking for and we caught a glimpse of the details that went on behind Skunk’s secret missions. We witnessed him do his thing as he broke into the book owner’s house to find this national treasure hidden deep and down below while also facing multiple threats and fearful experiences. Then you also had the primary artifact that the drama focused on which was the brass coins (or as they referred to in the drama the ‘Joseontongbo’ or Joseon coins). There was quite a bit of history and demand with the coins including a man named Jo Huin-dal who was supposed to have died who actually wasn’t dead who then killed a man named Chairman Yang who had owned 3 of these coins. Then Huin-dal went on to kill the rest of Chairman Yang’s men and it also seemed as if he had a higher-up who he was reporting to. To add onto all of this, there’s a whole world involved with cultural assets where there’s multiple levels and classifications and types. So all in all, there was plenty of things going on in the first two episodes that made it too busy for my liking.

There’s still a whole lot of drama left to gain a better understanding and feel of what the drama is about but I think I would have enjoyed the first 2 episodes a lot better if they just slowed down a bit. Focus on one thing at a time. Focus on one artifact at a time. Will this drama be a case-by-case type of drama where there’s a new artifact that the characters focus on every week? Or will it be a mix of new artifacts every week in addition to the Joseon coins that will serve as the primary overall artifact overlooking the drama? Based off of what we saw in the first 2 episodes, it also seemed as if our Cultural Heritage Team was sort of working with Skunk to retrieve the important national assets. They were after Skunk who’s technically a thief, but he’s a thief with good intentions who steals the assets and then returns them to our police detective team. We also learned that his introduction into the world of cultural assets was due to his dad who influenced him and showed him the importance of this industry. Skunk is such an interesting and exciting character so far and I’ll look forward to watching him continue to execute his secret missions in search of these assets.

I liked watching Skunk and Chun-ja do their thing but I was a bigger fan of Min-woo and the Cultural Heritage Team. Skunk can be perceived as the more exciting and intense aspect of the show while our Cultural Heritage Team is a bit more comical and “formal”/routine (as police detectives, they visit the crime scenes, they catch the bad guys, they go out for team dinners together). It was interesting to watch Min-woo learn more from her team on what the cultural assets world looked like because we viewers were also learning with her so information that Tae-in and Chang-hoon shared with her was also new for us. I thought that was a nice little way to catch both Min-woo the character and viewers up on what our Cultural Heritage Team was about and the work that they do. I also found myself enjoying Min-woo’s character a lot, especially in the first episode. She seemed to be a caring and kind person who could empathize for others as evident when she took care of the two little kids who lived alone since their parents and grandma unfortunately passed away. But something tells me it won’t be the last time that she’ll be interacting with the kids as they own one of the coins that the villain Huin-dal is after.

There were some technical aspects that I wasn’t the biggest fan or that I’ll have to wait on a little bit longer to see how I feel about it. The biggest one were the scenes of when Joo Won’s actual face behind his mask was shown and interjected during his secret missions (such as when he broke into the house to find the book or at the end of episode 2 when he arrived at the crime scene where Chairman Yang and his men were killed). These scenes especially reminded me of Ironman in ‘The Avengers’ movie series where Robert Downey Jr.’s face was in front of a black background with a bunch of the controls and data that he saw through his mask. It’s not even so much the visual comparison between the two and how similar they are that irked me per se but rather how the scenes were cut into the drama. They felt distracting at times and was less impactful than intended. I was invested and fascinated in watching Skunk work his way into trespassing into this guy’s house to find the book treasure only for scenes of Joo Won’s face behind his mask to be interjected into the scene every few seconds. And I never felt as if these scenes were helpful or impactful like how the drama probably intended or wanted them to be.

I get that they did that to show us the emotions or panic that Skunk experienced while he was on his mission (because there are bound for unexpected things to always happen along the way) but I found that the scenes weren’t all that effective. If anything, they were sometimes a bit awkward because it was all face expressions and rarely any line delivery or talking so you’re watching Skunk execute his secret mission but then every few seconds there’s a scene of Joo Won’s face in front of a black background cut into the scene. It just didn’t work for me and it was hard for me to accept or like. I’m assuming this will be a directorial choice that the drama will continue to go with given that Skunk will probably go on many more missions in search of artifacts and treasures. We’ll see if this choice grows on me in the later episodes or if it’s something that I’m just gonna have to unfortunately get accustomed to as time goes on.

The first 2 episodes to ‘Stealer: The Treasure Keeper’ was a bit underwhelming but I also hold onto some hope and optimism that it’ll get better with each passing episode. Maybe it might turn out like ‘Our Beloved Summer‘ where I didn’t feel the first few episodes and then eventually came to really enjoying it once the drama settled in. There’s potential for this drama to turn great with one of the contributions being the awesome cast members who I really hope the drama maximizes the most out of. ‘Stealer: The Treasure Keeper’ failed to steal my heart or excitement with its premiere, but there’s potential for it to be a keeper later on as it progresses.

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