Chicago Typewriter is the nickname for the century-old Thompson submachine gun, an infamous firearm from the US’ Prohibition era. In this fantasy romance tvN drama, it’s a literal typewriter from Chicago that falls into the hands of famous novelist Han Se Ju.
Yoo Ah In plays Han Se Ju, a renowned writer with celebrity-looks whose life changes after he meets his self-professed no.1 fan Jeon Seol. The latter, who works at her own all-errands-service company, is tasked to deliver the mysterious typewriter right at her idol’s doorstep.
At the peak of his career, Han Se Ju encounters every novelist’s worst nightmare: a writer’s block. His manager suggests that they hire a ghostwriter so as not to break a million-dollar contract. Se Ju strongly refuses the idea but to his surprise, a chapter of his new novel gets published online. It is the work of his ghostwriter Yoo Jin Oh.
This novel entitled Chicago Typewriter is about the lives of Joseon Youth Alliance members who bravely fought for the country’s liberation from the clutches of its Japanese oppressors. The protagonists are the calm and intelligent leader Seo Hui Young, the cool and charismatic Shin Yul, and the dangerous female sniper Ryu Su Hyeon.
Soon, Yoo Jin Oh reveals his identity while Han Se Ju and Jeon Seol both realize that the events in the story hit close to home more than they could ever imagine. As more chapters of the novel gets released, the three of them slowly uncover the memories from their past lives.
Meanwhile, Baek Tae Min who is famous for writing Fate, is struggling to produce a follow-up to his well-received debut novel. Turns out he isn’t the original author of this book.
Korean dramas that are set in the Japanese colonial rule are typically hard to watch but even though the torture scenes are not as vividly shown as the ones in Bridal Mask (if you haven’t seen it, watch it!), Chicago Typewriter has a story that can make you feel for its characters and has actors who can deliver intense performances in the heavy drama department.
Fresh from his previous role in the epic Six Flying Dragons, Yoo Ah In continues to prove why he’s one of South Korea’s best dramatic actors these days. He perfectly nailed the role of the writer in a slump who’s confident on the outside but broken on the inside but he’s even more charismatic as the 1930’s lead activist. I thought he’d never have another sageuk hairstyle that could match his swoon-worthiness in Sungkyunkwan Scandal but I was completely wrong. Even in Hui Young’s death scene, I had a hard time choosing which emotion I should feel first. Should I cry over the tragedy or swoon over the hair?
One must have saved an entire nation in her past life to have a boyfriend like Han Se Ju. Well, Jeon Seol literally did! And Im Soo Jung did an awesome job playing her. This drama marks her comeback after her 13-year absence from the small screen. With the way she encouraged her favorite novelist and the way she adhered to the rules of the revolutionaries, as a fan and an assassin, her characters in both time lines are equally badass.
Go Kyung Pyo is a scene stealer through and through. He already raised the second lead syndrome to a different level in Jealousy Incarnate but he took it even further this time. Most of my favorite scenes from this series, both cute modern and tragic 1930’s moments, are from Yoo Jin Oh’s point-of-view.
Baek Tae Min is an iredeemable character who’s unworthy of sympathy. Luckily, I’ve seen Kwak Si-yang in Oh My Ghostess and he was adorable in it so this psycho role will not affect my first impression of the actor in any way.
Despite the unimpressive marketing that was done to promote Chicago Typewriter prior to its airing, I still had some pretty high expectations for the show upon knowing that it is from Jin Soo-wan, the writer of The Moon that Embraces the Sun and Kill Me Heal Me. As expected, the ludicrous fantasy and supernatural set-up is completely balanced out by realistic heart-wrenching tragedies from its historical portion.
More than just the way Jin Soo-wan played with the words “Chicago Typewriter” and “ghostwriter” in both their literal and figurative sense, I am impressed with how she managed to keep the pieces of two interweaving time lines intact with one central theme: “You Only Live Once.” (Ironically, for the characters of this show, they get to live twice!) In both modern and historical parts, in both their fight for love and fight for freedom; I like that the characters don’t cling to the past, they don’t hold grudges, and just live their day as if it’s their last.
The fangirl meets idol storyline is not as impactful as the historical arc. Good thing, the series’ most emotional moments are unraveled before the modern-day sequences run out of steam. Most of the time, the show gets a tad predictable but the heartbreaking revelations are beautifully played out and they came with an equally moving soundtrack.
Chicago Typewriter is an incredible story of love and friendship that defies time and I bid goodbye to the show with tears in my eyes.