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'Mystic Pop-up Bar' Episode 1 Review: Hwang Jung-eum's show takes on ghosts, the afterlife with a dose of comedy

'Mystic Pop-up Bar', the K-drama starring Hwang Jung-eum is a fantasy show about a 500-year-old ghost tasked by the underworld to help 100,000 humans

The show is about a 500-year-old ghost who is forced to serve unhappy humans as punishment for having committed suicide when she was alive. 'Mystic Pop-up Bar' centers around Weol-ju (Hwang Jung-eum) who is tasked with helping 100,000 humans make their life better. She does so by running a bar since her death 500 years ago and has successfully helped 99,990 people when the viewers meet her. Just when 10 people are left, Weol-ju begins to find it difficult to get humans to confess their difficulties to her. If she doesn't help them as planned she will be sent to the depths of hell by powers higher than her. In fact, with the recent human taking six months to confess, things have become difficult. She has just one month left to complete her task and if she doesn't, the fate that awaits her is going to be nasty.

The binyeo (hairpin) that Weol-ju's wears holds a special place in Weol-ju's heart. 500 years ago, when Weol-ju was alive, her mother was a shaman and Weol-ju was a dreamcatcher who was capable of reading people's dreams and helped many resolve problems in their life. One such person that Weol-ju helped was the Crown Prince at that time. He was haunted by the ghosts of people that the royal family had killed and Weol-ju had helped him recover by comforting the ghosts. In the process, it seems as if Weol-ju and the prince fell in love but the people around Weol-ju, including the Queen Dowager, believed that she bewitched the prince. 

Weol-ju's mother, who is a shaman somehow realized the fate that awaited her daughter if she continued to stay in their village and so she forced Weol-ju to leave. She also took Weol-ju's place when assassins come knocking and sacrifices herself. It is her mother's death that pushed Weol-ju to commit suicide by hanging from a sacred tree. The punishment that she received is also because of this. However, now that she is so close to completing her task, Weol-ju cannot let any obstacle push her towards the depths of hell. 

Hwang Jung-Eum as Weol-ju on 'Mystic Pop-up Bar'. (JTBC)

Now Weol-ju is faced with a salesgirl, Mi-ran (Park Ha-Na) from a shopping mart, who seems to be struggling from something unspeakable that pushes her to even attempt suicide. Someone who is a perfect candidate for Weol-ju to help. However, this young girl continually refuses to confide in Weol-ju until her colleague Kang-bae (Yook Sung-Jae) who also saved her from being run over accompanies her over for a drink. This young man has a special talent. Whoever touches him, ends up confessing their story honestly to him. They even seek his help in resolving issues as well. Kang-bae and his colleague end up visiting the pop-up bar that Weol-ju runs and here, the woman ends up touching Kang-bae by mistake and that's finally when she confesses everything. 

Weol-ju is also present when Mi-ran explains how the manager at the mart has been sexually harassing her the last few months. This angers Weol-ju who promises to help Mi-ran exact revenge if that is what Mi-ran wants. She secretly sends Kang-bae out to sober up and pours a mysterious drink which allows Weol-ju to travel into Mi-ran's dreams. It is by facing Mi-ran's monsters in her nightmares that Weol-ju plans to give Mi-ran strength but something unplanned takes place. 

Kang-bae, who was not supposed to be able to see the pop-up bar when he tried to return to it is not only able to see the bar but also accidentally drops into Mi-ran's dreams as well. Kang-bae, Weol-ju and the pop-up bar's manager Gwi (Choi Won-Young) who is also from the underworld manage to give Mi-ran enough strength to ensure that she will take action against the manager right next day. In the process, Kang-bae learns that his ability to get people to confide in him is a special power that is a result of his spiritual vision not being locked when he was born. 

Manager Gwi promises Weol-ju that Kang-bae will not remember anything that transpired in Mi-ran's dreams but Kang-bae's ability helps him retain his memories. He also ends up finding the binyeo while he revisits the place where Weol-ju and Gwi had attacked the manager in the dreams and that only after ensuring that he isn't losing his mind does Kang-bae begin to see an opportunity here. He decides to use this opportunity to change his temperament (which is timid) and in return Weol-ju decides to use him to get people to confess their worries faster. She hopes this will help her complete her task on time, but will it really?

'Mystic Pop-up Bar' originally airs in South Korea on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9.30 pm KST on JTBC and can be streamed on Netflix in the US.