[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Witch's Diner" Episode 1
By William Schwartz | Published on
The storytelling approach in "The Witch's Diner" is scattershot. Over the first episode several competing narratives don't quite coalesce into a single coherent one. The cold open features a man who wishes to win the lottery following some business setbacks. The twist for making this wish come true seems random. It's also not clear whether this man's story is supposed to be instructive about how the wishes work in general or of it's of direct relation the one of the other three conflicts.
Those drawn to "The Witch's Diner" by Song Ji-hyo's involvement may be disappointed to learn that her role as the titular witch Hee-ra is obfuscated. We know she's been out of the wish-fulfilling business for awhile and she wants to get back into it again. It's not clear why. I was also never particularly interested in learning the reasons for this, as Hee-ra is too engimatic to really work as a perspective character.
That role more falls to Jin (played by Nam Ji-hyun), who has boldly endured company life for several years and finally decides to make a change, albeit not a willing one. Jin isn't unsympathetic but as was the case with Hee-ra, I was disappointed with her lack of particularly compelling motivation. It's only right at the very end that Jin has a clear goal, and her desire for magically enforced revenge lacks bite.
Gil-yong (played by Chae Jong-hyeop) rounds out the cast a teenage athlete who gets drawn into a bullying incident regarding a classmate. Now this storyline has definite bite. The behavior of the bullies is rightly infuriating, and the tone is set quickly with the appearance of one of those yellow plastic bags that in South Korea is a univeral sign of food waste disposal. It's frustrating watching Gil-yong fail to properly navigate the situation, even as Jin pops up to angrily point out the obvious to a bunch of clueless cops.
"The Witch's Diner" is so focused on setting up all these situations there's no real good payoff. For that matter, based on the first episode alone I'm not even sure if this show is supposed to be episodic or if everything's just going to keep unraveling based on Jin's first wish. Given that the second episode was made available the same day as the first, maybe the production figured they could just pace it slowly. Even so, I'm already feeling impatient, less from anticipation and more out of boredom.
Review by William Schwartz
"The Witch's Diner" is directed by Lee Soo-hyun-II, So Jae-hyun, written by Lee Young-sook-III, Seo Im, and features Song Ji-hyo, Nam Ji-hyun, Chae Jong-hyeop, Ha Do-kwon, So Hee-jung, Son Kwang-eop. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2021/07/16~Now airing, Fri 16:00 on TVING.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.