Strong Girl Nam-soon had a lot to live up to. A spin-off of Strong Girl Bong-soon, the series aimed to expand upon the lore and matriarchal-led family we all knew and loved back in 2017. Strong Girl Nam-soon started off strong but lost focus when it prioritized other characters over the titular Nam-soon. With too many storylines to juggle, Strong Girl Nam-soon buckles under its weight, leading to a less-than-stellar finish only meant to set up the next spin-off series to come.
Created by JTBC and starring Lee Yoo-Mi, Kim Jung-eun, Kim Hae-sook, Ong Seong-wu, and Byeon Woo-seok, Strong Girl Nam-soon first focused on reuniting our titular heroine with her affluent family. While on a photography trip with her father, Nam-soon gets lost in Mongolia. Fifteen years later, the young woman reaches 22 and has fully come into her own with her abilities. Determined to go to Korea to search for her family, the woman takes off and finds not only family but also true love and crimes to solve.
The arc surrounding her family was the series’ strongest. It didn’t linger too long on the storyline and allowed the audience a chance to get to know each one of the series’ strong women without one overpowering the other in screen time. Actors Lee Yoo-Mi, Kim Jung-eun, and Kim Hae-sook embody the ridiculousness of their characters’ powers and capture that innate cool factor the family line is known for. Unfortunately, after wrapping this arc, the series’ pivot to its drug crime storyline marks the beginning of many problems that plagued the series.
For one, for a series named after Nam-soon, the bulk of the series seems to focus more on Kim Jung-eun’s Hwang Geum-ju. The characters poke fun at Geum-ju’s need to be the center of attention and the hero at all times throughout the series, but from a narrative standpoint, it confuses and exasperates the longer the series moves on. That’s not to say Geum-ju isn’t an interesting character. But when it seems like most of the focus is on her rather than the titular character, something is awry.
There’s also the issue of multiple different storylines competing for screen time. This has the unintended impact of creating an inconsistent pace for the series and making each episode more bloated than it should have been. For a series focused on superpowered crime-fighting women, the pacing ends up not being as superpowered as our leading ladies. With too many things to focus on, like the evolution of the homeless couple, Ji Hyun-soo (Joo Woo-jae) and Teacher No (Kyungri), the growing romantic relationship between Kim Hae-sook’s Gil Joong-gan and Seo Jun-hee (Jung Bo-suk), the awkward side conversations between Hwang Geum-dong (Kim Ki-doo) and Secretary Jung Na-young (Oh Jung-yeon), something’s got to give. In this case, it’s the audience’s attention.
As for the criminal focus featured in Strong Girl Nam-soon, when you remove all the other distracting side plots, it provides a lot of tension and intrigue. Nam-soon and Ong Seong-wu’s Lieutenant Gang Hee-sik can develop naturally throughout this case. And there’s plenty of natural tension involved in Nam-soon’s undercover exploits when she interacts head-to-head with Byeon Woo-seok’s Ryu Shi-O. Overall, this storyline was strong, but it is hard to gauge with so much muss and fuss to sift through along the way.
Unfortunately, actor Byeon Woo-seok feels miscast as the suave, psychologically tormented villain, Ryu Shi-O. There were emotional moments where the audience was provided a look into Shi-O’s background and mental state that didn’t quite resonate with what Woo-seok provided onscreen. That said, Shi-O’s arc is nothing short of heartbreaking. In Episode 16, his final act is one of the most distressing moments of the series. But, with that storyline wrapped, the creative team proceeds to push the plot along to ready ourselves for the future of this family, which ruins the impact that could have been.
Strong Girl Nam-soon had a lot of potential but also had much to live up to. The cast mostly delivered, with actor Lee Yoo-Mi standing out as the blunt, Mongolian-raised strong girl. Really, I did want to see more of her character, but it seemed the team had other plans, prioritizing the character Geum-ju more than anything else. Had there been more balance to the series, it could have reached the level of Strong Girl Bong-soon with no issues. Unfortunately, with the bar set so high, the series doesn’t quite capture the magic of its predecessor.
Strong Girl Nam-soon Episodes 1-16 are now available on Netflix.
Strong Girl Nam-soon
Had there been more balance to the series, it could have reached the level of Strong Girl Bong-soon with no issues. Unfortunately, with the bar set so high, the series doesn’t quite capture the magic of its predecessor.