K-Drama Premiere: “When The Devil Calls Your Name” Spins An Engrossing Tale About Humanity
The price of fame and money is too high for some, but humans still risk paying for it just the same.
When The Devil Calls Your Name follows the story of a washed-up musician who seizes the opportunity to live the life he always wanted for a certain amount of time. As the ending of the the contract period drew near, he tried to find a way to get out of it. He made another deal. He has three months to get another desperate soul and if he succeeds, the contract will be voided. If he fails, the devil gets to take his soul right away.
Jung Kyung Ho and Park Sung Woong delivered and showcased their great chemistry in When The Devil Calls Your Name. Their characters trying to outwit each other was fascinating to watch. The drama also explored how people deal with the curve balls life throw their way.
Premiere Week Rating:
Pilot Week Recap
An old man visits Ha Rip (Jung Kyung Ho) and says he heard a beautiful tune. After such visit, Ha Rip is able to create a song which is later on performed by one of the artists from his agency. His agency’s CEO and friend, Ji Seo Young (Lee El), receives several music awards on his behalf. She tries to convince to attend one, but Ha Rip refuses and says that although he likes winning a trophy, he does not want to thank people for giving him an award because he believes he deserves it.
At the awarding ceremony for a children’s song festival, he receives a flower bouquet. He notices an envelope and when he looks at it, a message mysteriously appears. He travels to the location, and in a mailbox, he retrieves several mails including a notice of payment. The notice says that the contract will end in six days and he needs to surrender his soul.
10 years ago, before he assumes the name Ha Rip, he lived as Seo Dong Cheon. The other half of the duo Liver and Gallbladder. However, due to some unfortunate circumstances he was left poor and without a career. His past was full of anguish and sadness. He remembers chasing a man who stole his guitar case and falling in a hole. When he woke up, a man in white offered him a contract in exchange for his soul. The man said it is not about them wanting his soul but more about him having a reason to sell it.
Seo Dong Cheon agreed and expressed his desire to alter his current life. He wants to have money, success and youth, which were all included in his 10-year contract. The moment he signed the document, he came back to the living world. He woke up in a hospital, looking much younger, and from then, he has built up a reputation as a great song writer and composer.
He makes up his mind that he does not want to honor the agreement and sets out to find the man he spoke with 10 years ago. They talk on the building’s rooftop and Ha Rip demands him to nullify their contract. However, the man clarifies that he is not the devil he made the agreement with. It turns out, Chairman Song also made a deal himself. He is currently facing charges for crimes committed. He tells him that “he must see the end for it to end”, which confuses Ha Rip before letting himself fall from the building.
Ha Rip goes home and burns the contract, thinking it will be the end of it. He tries to drown his problem with drinks, so he goes out clubbing. Seo Young calls and yells at him because he has a scheduled live interview. Inside the station building, Ha Rip hears a voice saying he only has five days to live. As he looks around, he sees a man looking directly at him telling him to enjoy his remaining days. Ha Rip tries to argue with him, but Seo Young arrives with his hangover cure.
Barely sober and rattled by the encounter, Ha Rip is spacing out during the interview and hardly interacts with the interviewer. She asks him about the critics saying he lacks signature and that he has no muse. He responds that he is aware of the criticisms, and surprises everyone by announcing he is brewing something to prove those critics wrong.
Ha Rip says that he plans to release a new song every month and that he is looking for a singer that would represent him and his music. The interviewer clarifies and reiterates if she heard it correctly. She mentions that he just said it on live TV. Realizing his gaffe, Ha Rip has no choice but to reluctantly confirm. After the interview, Seo Young and Ha Rip talk over a few drinks. He tells her that he knows she will help him achieve the things he set out to do. As he is drunk and not fit to drive home, Seo Young calls for a chauffeur service.
On their way, a song from his old band begins playing and his driver starts singing along. Even in his drunken state, Ha Rip jams to his old song but he leans so much closer to his driver. She tries to calm him down, but he refuses to budge, so she ends up elbowing him. He sobers up a little in the hospital and they talk things out.
On their drive once again, Ha Rip asks him how she knows the song seeing that she seems young. Kim Yi Kyung (Lee Seol) outwardly says that she likes Liver and Gallbladder. She also mentions that she likes Seo Dong Cheon better than Lee Chung Ryeol. She believes that the best parts of the duo’s songs are composed and played by Seo Dong Cheon.
The next morning, his beloved cat is found dead. Ha Rip cries his heart out and as he mourns, he discovers that the contract he burned is still existing and in effect. He tries to burn it once again but ends up lighting his pants on fire. In his frustration, he shouts out that he wants the devil to come out and meet with him. Suddenly the doorbell rings and top actor Mo Tae Kang (Park Sung Woong) is at their doorstep. His housemate Kang Ha, who is an avid fan, welcomes Tae Kang.
The famous actor reveals to Ha Rip that he is the one who he is eagerly looking for. Ha Rip is shocked to finally learn the identity of the devil, though Ryu divulges that he has been in several bodies, and actor Mo Tae Kang is just his latest host. Ha Rip tries to trap him, but he fails. The devil Ryu reiterates that the contract is still valid and for 10 years, he has been Ha Rip’s loyal servant.
Seo Young and Ha Rip enter a café after hearing someone’s voice and finds Yi Kyung as the person singing. She introduces the next song and reveals that it is her own composition. As she starts to sing, people inside the café recognizes the song as Si Ho’s, the artist who sang Ha Rip’s composition. Even Seo Young is baffled that Yi Kyung claimed the song as her own.
Yi Kyung runs after Ha Rip and confronts him. She says that it is not the first time her song became Ha Rip’s and she just wants to know why. Seo Young has no explanation either but believes that there is a misunderstanding. Meanwhile at his house, Ha Rip starts searching about plagiarism and discovers that there are multiple claims saying he ripped off his songs. Flustered and angered with what he learns, he calls his lawyer to find more information about Yi Kyung.
That night, Yi Kyung promises to give up on her music, but her friend convinces her to clear things up with Ha Rip, so she goes to his house. She arrives to see a bloody and semi-conscious Ha Rip on the ground. A man hits Ha Rip in the head with a metal pipe. She calls for an ambulance and takes Ha Rip to the hospital where he is pronounced dead.
Ryu pays a dead Ha Rip a visit and whispers he can’t just die like that without honoring their agreement. He revives him, much to the doctors and nurses’ surprise, as well as the police and Yi Kyung who is crying her heart out. He walks out of the hospital as if nothing happened. Another problem arises as his former bandmate Lee Chung Ryeol becomes one of the executives of his agency.
Ha Rip soon finds out that his so-called inspiration comes from the devil stealing other people’s music. Feeling betrayed and cheated, he confronts Ryu who is conducting a fan meeting. As Mo Tae Kang takes a break, Ha Rip forces his way inside his waiting room and confronts the devil. He tells him that if he stole the music he gave him, he should not have done with the same person. The revelation surprises the devil as well but says that he kept his part of the bargain. He insists that the means of acquiring the music was in never specified in their contract.
He begs Mo Tae Kang to rethink their contract and argues that the devil cheated. Ha Rip suggests that he can make Ryu a singer like Mo Tae Kang if he can give him an extension. The devil considers his suggestion and agrees for a three month extension. He tells Ha Rip he needs to recruit a desperate soul within the given time period for the devil to void their contract. If he fails, he assures him he will suffer more than he could ever imagine. He takes Ha Rip back to that time he was Seo Dong Cheon and also reminds him that the people he helped during his time as Ha Rip will also go through something bad.
The following day, Ha Rip confronts Seo Young regarding her talk with Yi Kyung. He asks her if she has taken care of the others claiming plagiarism the same way before and she says that it was the best recourse. As they hold auditions for Ha Rip’s singer, Seo Young asks him to rest because it has already taken so long. He soon finds out that the main reason she wants him to leave is because Yi Kyung is one of the applicants. Seo Young says she will not get past the preliminary round as pre-determined by the company.
He calls her to reprimand her saying that based on their earlier conversation, they both agreed to never cross paths again. Yi Kyung assures him that she has no intentions of going through the auditions. That moment, she is in one of her part time jobs. It turns out some of the attendees, even the family of the child, know her history. The mother asks her to leave and Yi Kyung apologizes saying that she did not know it is her kid who is celebrating the birthday. She tries to give her the payment, but Yi Kyung refuses.
The child’s grandmother further insults her saying why the company allows a killer to host her grandchild’s birthday. She pushes her and Yi Kyung falls down. That moment Ha Rip arrives and scolds her for standing him up. He escorts her out of the venue and into his car as the people wonder why she is getting inside Ha Rip’s vehicle. In a distance, Mo Tae Kang looks on as the car drives away.
When The Devil Calls Your Name Pilot Week Afterthoughts
When The Devil Calls Your Name impresses on its first outing as it explores the very best and worst of human nature. It showed how people react differently in any given situation and what motivates us to do the things we do. Ha Rip or Seo Dong Cheon only wanted one thing in life – that is to create and share his music. Though it was not revealed yet what led to the duo’s disbandment and falling out, it was clear that Dong Cheon ended up badly hit and bruised. He lost his career and lived in poverty which drove him to easily accept the devil’s deal.
Living the life he was supposed to, it was still evident that Ha Rip feels something is missing. Even if he received accolades and recognition for making music, the one thing that is constant in his life, he can’t seem find the true meaning of his existence. He lost the drive and the passion the moment he started having those “visits”. He admitted it to himself that he couldn’t find his reason for creating his music.
Ha Rip’s character is quite intriguing because despite going through a lot of hardships and living the last 10 years void of emotions, he somehow managed to keep, albeit small, a part of his humanity. He cared and mourned for his pet cat, his one constant companion. He is taking care of his housemate, who from what little we know, can’t remember things. Ha Rip also listens to Seo Young, the only person who can talk him into doing things. When The Devil Calls Your Name presents this facet of Ha Rip in a manner that is believable.
Ha Rip felt guilty after knowing that all those hit songs he created actually came from someone else. The fact that people actually suffered, most especially Yi Kyung, particularly bothered him. Another interesting character is the devil Ryu, currently the actor Mo Tae Kang. He appears kind but he could be scary in a matter of seconds, just like any powerful devil would. He incited much fear in the people he made deals with, but he also showed curiosity towards human behaviors. Perhaps a lot of it came from transferring from one human body to another. It was fun to watch how Ha Rip’s persistence and resilience would affect Ryu/Mo Tae Kang as the drama progresses.
I love how When The Devil Calls Your Name incorporated humor in its serious theme. From the teasers, it appeared that the drama would be scary and somber with the sell-your-soul-to-the-devil narrative. However, the drama emphasized that humans are a lot more frightening. Because we tend to do things based on our emotions that would either benefit others or ourselves. This unpredictability could help or harm the ones we love and the people around us. We still don’t know how Ha Rip could honor his end of the bargain. But it was clear he now has a motivation to live his life. Maybe the devil would also have a change of heart seeing that he is very interested with everything Ha Rip does.
When The Devil Calls Your Name airs on tvN every Wednesday and Thursday at 9:30PM KST.
Images from: tvN Facebook Page