Signal Begins on tvN
Signal is a brand new Korean drama (thriller, actually) that was released just five days ago, replacing the timeslot of Answer Me 1988 (I miss them already!)–and we’ve just finished the first two episodes. Signal stars the always great Kim Hye-Soo, and sharing the lead is also Lee Je-Hoon of The Secret Door (2014) and Cho Jin-Woong, from the Korean movie, A Hard Day.
I planned to watch this when I had read that Kim Hye-Soo had signed on to do a new drama series but I turned it on without knowing anything about the series other than the fact she was in it. As many kdramas do these days, it started with a glimpse into the past–15 years ago, and for awhile, you really don’t know what is happening. All you see is a little boy watching a little girl, walking away with a woman holding hands.
That, as it turns out, would be the first plot.
How the Signal Story Goes
The little boy in the beginning is actually a flashback to the child version of Lee Je-Hoon’s characters, Park Hae-Young in the year of 2000. This is important, because the little girl he watched that day who went missing after that afternoon, never to return home again, also took place in 2000. Her dead body was found soon thereafter, and because the suspect was never found–there was no arrest ever made in 2000, or for fifteen years afterwards. Spinning back to 2015, the current day in Signal, we’re informed that the statute of limitations on this murder would go into effect in three days.
But as police will often do when faced with details from a small child, they ignored Hae-Young’s attempts in 2000 to tell them that the suspect was female, not male. However, in one of his attempts and when he bumped into a police officer as he tried to run out of the police station, he dropped a handwritten note where he had simply written, “The suspect is not a man; it’s a woman.” The police officer who picks up that note is Lee Jae-Han, played by Cho Jin-Woong. Before he’s even read what’s written in the note, he’s about to head over to Sunil Psychiatric Hospital.
This where Signal immediately becomes fascinating.
You see, the cop Lee Jae-Han is in the year 2000. He arrived at the Sunil Psychiatric Facility and is about to speak into his walkie-talkie, because he followed up on a lead and has now found a dead body buried in a man hole.
But the grown up Park Hae-Young is at the police station in 2015, infuriated by what he thought was a senseless police station visit, and a police profiler himself. Furthermore his car is now blocked in by a big truck and he can’t get out of the lot.
Now, follow me here:
Lee Jae-Han pushes his walkie-talkie to report the dead body in 2000.
But in 2015, the same kind of walkie-talkie (old school, used in 2000) is found inside a truck that is blocking the current day’s Hae-Young’s car in at the police station. Hae-Young was furiously trying to find the owner so that he could move the car and leave the police station but was having no success but that is when he hears a voice coming from the trunk area.
In the trunk, inside a toxic waste bag, is the walkie talkie…..and through it, you can hear the voice of Lee Jae Han….
What Hae-Young doesn’t know at that moment is that Lee Jae-Han is in 2000.
All he knows is that this police officer named Lee Jae-Han has found a body at Sunil Psychiatric Hospital. When Hae-Young asks who he thinks he’s talking to — shockingly, Jae-Han in 2000 tells him he’s talking to Lieutenant Park Hae-Young, accurately. As Hae-Young asks another question, Detective Lee is knocked over the head by someone with a bat of some sort and the connection dies.
(Side note: keep in mind that if I ever decide to reach out to you via any speaking device from any other year than current day, what year I’m in will be the first thing I tell you.)
Not able to reconnect to the Detective he was speaking to, Hae-Young takes the walkie-talkie back to the station and gives it to a fellow police officer to look at, who remarks that it’s an old-school walkie talkie and that it doesn’t even have any batteries. It’s then that Hae-Young realizes he was just talking to someone on a walkie-talkie that could not possibly be working.
This does seem like the experience of someone who has lost their mind, and this leads Hae-Young to follow the one lead he has: this detective was at Sunil Psychiatric Hospital, so Hae-Young heads there to see if the dead body the detective allegedly found is actually there. He needs to prove to himself that he isn’t crazy.
I’m not going to go into further detail at this time so that I don’t spoil it for you. But suffice to say that from this point forward, things become extremely thrilling and weird–but in a good way.
Based on episode 1, I was thinking this was going to be a Korean version of “24” in the U.S., where the entire series depicts the 24 hours they have left to find the real suspect before the statute comes into play, but I was wrong. Episode 1’s crime and the actual crime that the remainder of the series would be based on are two different crimes. Episode 1 serves to bring together the various leads in this Korean drama and how they connect and the dynamics between each relationship. It also showcases each one’s talents.
The actual crime this drama beginning in episode 2 will revolve around is the real serial rapes & murders that took place in Korea back in the 80-90s–a serial murderer who has been the topic of a couple of other Korean dramas and movies (and if you haven’t watched Memories of Murder from 2003 — wow, you have to watch that one!). I’m interested to see how Signal handles this storyline, which remains as one of Korea’s largest unsolved crimes.
Beginning Impression of Signal
So far, this series is an A+ in terms of keeping the suspense level up and adrenaline level pumping. All three leads have intense roles for different reasons and they’re all veteran actors with a good number of movies and dramas under their belts. Each appear to be fully engaged with their character and it shines clearly across the television.
The Korean drama Signal is also brought to you by the same director of Misaeng — one of my favorite dramas that also featured some incredible acting by really talented actors.
I’m totally excited to see where Signal goes from here. It’s exciting, it’s a little scary and it’s scene after scene of storytelling gone wild! It’s available on Hulu and Dramafever, but today, I’m linking episode 1 via a site called DramaCool. Check it out below.