Private Lives Episodes 1 & 2 Review: A Rundown on This Year’s Favorite Con “Artists”

If I am being truly honest, I was not looking forward to the premiere of Private Lives, seeing the numbers of espionage-themed Korean dramas this year. However, the series synopsis caught my attention. The show follows a group of swindlers who get caught up in the biggest scandal of their lives, and in order to go up against a large corporation, they must apply all their skills in deceit and manipulation. It stars Seohyun (The Time) as the revenge seeker Cha Joo-eun, Go Kyung-pyo (Cross) as the mysterious con artist Lee Jeong-hwan, Kim Hyo-jin (Strangers 6) and Kim Young-min (The World of the Married) as the professional and cunning swindler duo Jeong Bok-gi and Kim Jae-wook, who target other swindlers.

Go Kyung-pyo as Lee Jeong-hwan

Despite having no plans of watching this, I’m glad the cast and the synopsis made me rethink my mind. Watching Go Kyung-pyo take the lead is always a delight. He has been an actor I’ve kept my eye on since Reply 1988. This is also his comeback drama after being discharged from his mandatory military service. When I started watching the show, I was waiting for him to make a dramatic entry immediately but ended up disappointed because he did not appear until the middle of episode two.

I was worried that Go would be overshadowed by the other three actors, who are all impressive in the premiere. But even with the half episode screen time he was given for the first week premiere, he managed to make a strong first impression. It is evident from his past projects that Go has strong and stable acting skills. And they were on full display, especially when he had me fooled in the second episode, and I almost felt sorry for him falling for Seohyun’s character who is a swindler, only to find out he is an even more cunning swindler himself.

Kim Young-min as Kim Jae-wook

Then there’s Kim Young-min, who has already starred in two back-to-back hits (Crash Landing on You and The World of the Married), and he’s having an amazing year so far. I first saw him in IU’s (Lee Ji-eun) award-winning series My Ahjussi (2018) but did not pay him too much attention, even when he played the brilliant North Korean wiretapper Jung Man-bok in Crash Landing on You. Then he took a 180-degree turn by playing a cheating husband in The World of the Married and that’s when he registered on my radar. I have to say, I’m definitely looking forward to his performance.

Meanwhile, I remember that the first time I saw Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun was in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016) when she played the love interest of Nam Joo-hyuk. She then made a cameo appearance in Nam’s rom-com series Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo later that same year. I have not seen any of her series again after that, but even then, I was really impressed with her performance as an idol-turned-actress in the first two episodes.

Seohyun as Cha Joo-eun

She was, of course, brilliant as an idol in her girl group, but we all know that not every successful idol can make the transition from the stage to the small screen. And while there is a growing list of idols who have successfully become actors (IU, Do Kyung-soo, Im Si-wan), I wasn’t sure about Seohyun’s potential. Thankfully, the Girls’ Generation’s favorite maknae (youngest) turned out to be a talented actress and nailed her character. She had most of the screen time in the two episodes as the episodes focused on her backstory and managed to hold my attention throughout.

As for actress Kim Hyo-jin, this will be my first time watching her in a series. She took a hiatus from TV projects, and this is her first acting role since 2012. Her last film was in 2013, when she played a reporter in Genome Hazard, and then she made a quick cameo in Will You Be There in 2016, but that’s about it. For someone who apparently took a break from acting for a long time, I was expecting Kim to be a little rusty, but she appears to be a natural in front of the camera.

Kim Hyo-jin as Jeong Bok-gi

If you did not know Kim Hyo-jin took a break for almost a decade, you would not be able to tell from her performance. Everything about the way she acts is perfect—from the way she emotes, her expressions, ad-libs, and even her eye movements. Her character is infuriatingly cunning, and Kim Hyo-jin’s acting gave it a thoroughly devilish vibe. Even though the character made my blood boil, the actress has unexpectedly become my immediate favorite in this show. She is definitely making it to my list of most hated and loved K-drama antagonists. A perfect scene-stealer!

I can already see this being one of my favorite K-dramas this year. Cast aside, the drama has a fast-paced plot, a well-structured storyline, gripping narratives of each of the character’s backstories, and a good blend of chemistry and individual presence from the actors, without attempting to overlap each other’s screen presence. Seohyun and Kyung-pyo’s onscreen chemistry as a couple is not yet developed but is already showing a lot of potential. It’s the perfect match of good looks and flirtations to keep us hooked until something deeper develops. Kim Hyo-jin and Kim Young-min also make a great duo, and even though they’re not the kind of couple to give us butterflies in our stomachs, their chemistry is that of a badass and dangerous couple that makes you want to root for their partnership.

The lead cast of Private Lives as the devious and sly con artists

Overall, the show has a talented and very good-looking ensemble cast, and even though the concept is not original, it is still entertaining. Best of all, the antagonists definitely have a spark and have the potential to make things really spicy. I just hope they keep up this consistency, because with the second episode’s preview, I am definitely excited for next week, and I hope you all are as well! I am #TeamSeohyun next episode, how about you?

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Luna

It was Princess Lulu who first introduced her to Korean dramas but it was Yoon Ji-hoo from Boys Over Flowers who enticed her to stay in K-dramaland. She writes news and features for Kdramapal, which combines two of her most favorite things in the world—writing and K-dramas (look who's living the dream). The name Luna literally translates to "moon" and nothing special; she just likes writing at night.