Anyone who has worked in hospitality knows that it is a drama-ridden minefield behind the scenes. From hierarchies to crappy bosses to illicit workplace romances, the smiles are hard to come by. But, once you are visible to customers, the smiles are on. The customer experience is the most important. Netflix’s latest Kdrama rom-com series, King The Land aims to highlight the hotel hospitality industry while serving up comedic shenanigans. In King The Land Episodes 1-2, we are introduced to the characters and watch as the stage for conflict is set.
Starting off in 2017, we are introduced to our main characters, hotel chaebol Gu Won (Lee Jun-ho) and hotel worker Cheon Sa-rang (Im Yoon-ah). Gu Won shows a distaste for his family’s hotel business and existing work structure. Showing up as an intern, he quickly notes the mistreatment of the interns and is not afraid to speak his mind. This gets him into conflict with his father, but also earns him the loyalty of fellow intern and future employee, Noh Sang-sik (Ahn Se-ha).
Cheon Sa-rang has had an entirely different upbringing. Even before her interview with the King Hotel, she’s admonished for not having the bare minimum Bachelor’s Degree. However, her calm and readiness to address what’s thrown at her with a smile landed her the internship. Despite her assumed lack of pedigree, she can speak multiple languages and isn’t afraid to meet challenges head-on.
A mistaken identity leads our two main characters to clash within the first episode. While initially seemingly forgotten as King The Land jumps forward to our present day, it cycles back around in the second episode. After getting his MBA, Gu Won is back and ready to learn to take over the business, much to his elder sister’s (Kim Sun-young) chagrin. However, the one thing that is going to impede his success is Sa-rang. Like oil and water, these two have many obstacles ahead of them but, as workplace romances go, what we see in King The Land Episodes 1-2 is a nice set-up.
In tackling the behind-the-scenes power struggles, King The Land does a great job so far. We see this mainly explored through internships. Interns are the lowest of the low but also get to hear all the dirt from the regular employees. While people like Gu Won can shrug off getting fired from an internship, we see a stark contrast through witnessing Sang-sik’s experience as well as Sa-rang’s experience.
Both come from less privileged backgrounds. Throw in a difficult job market and you have the recipe for desperation. However, something to be observed later on in the series is whether or not the driving factor of success is honesty and sincerity. Gu Won despises fakeness whereas his sister rewards it, reinforcing the status quo of what’s expected in the hospitality industry. The seeds of this generational battle between siblings are being planted and, while it’s presumptuous to say, there seems to be a connection to the bigger picture between sincerity and fakeness.
As a series that appears to lean heavier into comedy, King The Land has cast its players well. Lee Jun-ho’s deadpan delivery solidifies Gu Won as the straight man of the series. While he’s meant to be the mean boss, the character’s interest in sincerity and Jun-ho’s delivery make him arguably more likable than possibly intended from the start. That’s not a bad thing. It makes the potential for romance easier to buy, but it is definitely something noticed in these first two episodes.
Jun-ho’s delivery also pairs well with Ahn Se-ha’s more expressive traditional comedic style. While the character Noh Sang-sik falls easily into sidekick territory, it’s a part that Se-ha plays with aplomb.
Im Yoon-ah has the more nuanced role in King The Land. Oscillating between hospitality-induced pleasantness and her more authentic, emotional self, she has a juggling act that she successfully pulls off. There are moments of embarrassing physical comedy that will generate belly-aching chuckles and earns mad respect. Standing head-to-head with Lee Jun-ho, it’s hard not to be invested in this soon-to-be couple early on.
Unlike other recent series, the pacing of King The Land Episodes 1-2 is refreshingly smooth. Each episode roughly clocks in at 70 minutes and, despite the broad cast of characters we’re introduced to, the primary focus sticks on our two main characters. This gives us plenty of time to get to know the characters without distraction. Whether or not this pacing stays consistent for the remainder of the series is another story.
King The Land Episodes 1-2 start audiences off on a high comedic note. While the first episode introduces us to our main players, the pacing and editing keep things moving briskly without feeling overwhelming. By episode 2, we have a clear understanding of our conflict, what obstacles our main characters are likely going to face, and the spark of interest in Gu Won. While it’s too soon to say, if King The Land keeps the pacing and flow going as is, it’ll easily be one of the better rom-coms we’ve seen this year.
King The Land Episodes 1-2 are now available on Netflix, with new episodes airing on Saturdays and Sundays.
King The Land Episodes 1-2
King The Land Episodes 1-2 start audiences off on a high comedic note. While it’s too soon to say, if King The Land keeps the pacing and flow going as is, it’ll easily be one of the better rom-coms we’ve seen this year.