Chief Detective 1958 Episode 1 Recap and Review

* This review contains minor spoilers for episode 1 of Chief Detective 1958.

Chief Detective 1958 is set in post-war Korea, a period ripe with social change and unrest. The series follows the journey of a young detective in Seoul as he navigates the dangerous underbelly of a city grappling with rapid modernization and political turmoil. With a blend of historical richness and mystery, the show delves into intriguing criminal cases that reflect the societal issues of the 1950s. Each episode is intricately woven with suspense, drama, and a touch of period-authentic charm.

READ | Chief Detective 1958 shows the origins of an iconic TV detective

Episode 1: The Detective from Hwangcheon

The episode begins in the present day. We see the elderly retired Chief Inspector Park Young-Han (a special cameo by veteran actor Choi Bool-Am). He decides to pay a visit to his former police station in Jongnam. There, he runs into his grandson (Lee Je-Hoon), now a detective, just before he heads to a police raid. The elder Park then walks through the station, looking at old black-and-white photos of himself and his former team mates during their prime several decades earlier.

We then flash back to 1958, to the rural city of Hwangcheon. A young detective Park (also Lee Je-Hoon) goes undercover to catch a group of cow thieves, which he does after a fast-paced chase scene. His unique cow thief-catching skills have earned him the nickname of ‘Hwangcheon’s Grim Reaper’. They have also earned him a promotion to the Jongnam police station in Seoul.

An enthusiastic Park reports to work, but is warned by his new boss Yu Dae-Cheon (Choi Deok-Moon) that life in the big city is a lot tougher than he thinks. Soon, a local trader comes in to report that he was assaulted by local gangsters. Park immediately walks into the gangsters’ den carrying a sack full of snakes, terrifying the gangster into turning himself in.

Reality bites hard

However, Park soon gets his first taste of how things really are in Jongnam. It turns out that the station chief, as well as most of Park’s new colleagues, are in cahoots with the gang’s leader Lee Jung-Jae (Kim Young-Seong). A reluctant Park is forced to release the gangster. He later learns that his actions have backfired on the ordinary traders at the local market, who are now bearing the brunt of the gangsters’ anger.

Park is dejected, and wonders what he can do to take down the criminals. His boss, who is one of the few ‘clean’ cops at the station, urges him not to give up. He lets Park know that he is sick of the ongoing corruption at the station, and that he has been waiting for someone like him to come and help.

Lee Je Hoon as Detective Park Young Han

Other possible allies

We are also introduced to Kim Sang-Sun (Lee Dong-Hwi), another detective at the station. Kim is a loose cannon of a cop, known for biting the ears of criminals he catches. Known as ‘Mad Dog’, he is feared by gangsters, and is the only member of his team who is not taking bribes from them.

Park notices this, and is impressed by Kim’s dedication to fighting crime. He also notices Jo Gyeong-Hwan (Choi Woo-Sung), a big, burly worker at the local market who manages to beat up a group of gangsters threatening him.

Corruption within the force

Park and his boss soon realize that the other corrupt cops appear to be preparing for a ‘big event’. Park forces one of his colleagues to reveal their plans. It turns out the cops have been hired to guard a shipment of goods being smuggled by the gangsters and corrupt US military officials.

Park decides to stop the smuggling, and asks Kim to help him. The two burst in on the smuggling deal, which is taking place in an abandoned warehouse. This leads to an armed standoff between them and the rest of the criminals. Tensions begin to run high, with Park threatening to arrest everyone there. Suddenly, without any warning, Kim strikes Park on the head, knocking him out.

What we thought of Chief Detective 1958 Episode 1

As a prequel to a much-beloved South Korean crime drama series, Chief Detective 1958 has some big shoes to fill. The special cameo by series’ original actor Choi Bool-Am was a nice touch, as well as the transition to Lee Je-Hoon, who plays the younger version of the character.

His Park Young-Han is younger than in the original series, as well as more hot-headed, and quicker to start fights. However, Lee Je-Hoon is able to make the iconic detective extremely likeable, and most importantly, relatable to modern audiences. His passion for justice still shines bright, giving viewers an idea of the police officer he will soon grow into.

I also enjoyed Lee Dong-Hwi’s performance as ‘Mad Dog’ Kim San-Sung. It’s like the showrunners are telling us that no matter how ‘wild’ young Park is, it’s Kim who’s the ‘crazy’ one.

Besides the solid acting, I especially enjoyed the glimpse into what life was like in Seoul during the volatile 1950s. The ‘wild west’ atmosphere, where gangsters trample over ordinary citizens, makes us feel for Park and want him to win.

Despite the cliffhanger ending, we know that Park and Kim end up the best of friends, and fight crime together. I definitely can’t wait for the next episode.

READ | Chief Detective 1958 Episode 2 Recap and Review

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