Midpoint review of 'Mystic Pop-up Bar': Is the Korean drama worth watching or is it skippable?

Midpoint review of 'Mystic Pop-up Bar': Is the Korean drama worth watching or is it skippable?


Text: Ronn Tan

Image: Netflix

With six episodes to go, we are officially half way into the season. Here's my review of the series so far

*Minor spoilers ahead*

Following a multitude of successful popular Korean dramas in the past few months—including The King: Eternal Monarch and The World of the Married, there were high expectations for Mystic Pop-up Bar. Now that it's available on Netflix, it's also a lot easier to watch, especially for those who are not in South Korea. 

Mystic Pop-up Bar premiered on 20 May 2020 and stars Hwang Jung-eum, Yook Sung-jae, Choi Won-young, Lee Jun-hyeok, and Jung Da-eun. In addition to being BTOB member Yook Sung-jae's last project before he enlisted for the military, this is also Hwang Jung-eum's first drama since 2018's The Undateables. Oh, Sung-jae also sang Love Resembles Memories for the series.

So, here's the question: is Mystic Pop-up Bar worth your time or should you just skip it? Let's have a look!

The first episode began by making up the base of the story with lots of plot points—and this is completely normal in Korean dramas. In Episode One, viewers get the impression that the dark tone at the beginning of Mystic Pop-up Bar would set the precedence for the rest of the show. The episode began with Wol-ju (played by Hwang Jung-eum) and her tragic past—including the death of her mother and an otherworldly curse.

Although audiences are treated to a darker start than expected, what's next is exactly what you'll notice from the trailer. We're now in a different dimension and you'll see "Mystic Pop-Up Bar 99990" on a sign—highlighting the fact that Wol-ju needs to help another 10 people with their dreams and grudges to reach 100,000. It's fun, energetic, and quirky. The humour only gets better as the episode progresses. 

Yook Sung-jae's character is Han Kang-bae. He works at the supermarket and has the ability to make others pour their hearts out when he touches them. You get to see the crux of his character's personality which will come in handy in future scenes. There is something about Kang-bae's clumsiness that's endearing to me—and I know I'm not the only one.

From the get-go, viewers are treated to a vibrant and creative show—filled with action, laughter, and visuals (the cinematography and the cast). What's immediately clear from Episode One is that Mystic Pop-up Bar isn't just another light-hearted Korean drama; the show will also be touching on some really heavy subjects that are common in society, such as depression. Is this excitement reflected in the next few episodes?

Without a doubt, Mystic Pop-up Bar is cleverly written. In addition to being exciting and fun-filled (not to mention colourful), the Korean drama also has a way of making you feel for the characters. Expect a rollercoaster of emotions. It touches on grievance, regrets, happiness, death, and celebrations, among others. Every episode features a different mission; each with its own lesson and theme.

The backstories are heartwarming and packed with life philosophies. We learn that everyone has issues and worries. Just because someone appears carefree does not mean that they are completely fine. Mystic Pop-up Bar places a lot of emphasis on that.

Even when some scenes are rather slow, the plot of Mystic Pop-up Bar deserves a standing ovation. I think it's really brilliant how writer Ha Yoon-ah managed to bring so many dimensions together without looking gaudy. Of course, a drama won't be as good without amazing actors and the cast brought out their best. I've adored Hwang Jung-eum since Kill Me, Heal Me and She was Pretty. Like many others, I was really excited to watch her again. Although I have never seen Sung-jae act (not even in Goblin), I remember when BTOB first made their debut in 2012.

So, is Mystic Pop-up Bar worth watching or should you spend your time on something else? I think it's clear from the above that my answer is the former. This is a Korean drama that you should definitely watch. It's magical yet relatable, and quirky yet full of passion. It's not your usual rom-com. Just like The King: Eternal Monarch that's currently airing, I look forward to new episodes every week. Six more to go! What are your thoughts?

Mystic Pop-up Bar is available on Netflix with weekly episodes every Wednesday and Thursday at 10pm.

For a review on Extracurricular, click here.