Monday, January 25, 2016

First Take: Signal

What an intense 2 hours of television! I was on the edge of my seat for the premiere week of Signal, tvN's latest crime thriller offering. It may be because I don't often watch thriller shows, but it may also be because this is a great show. So a thriller will be among my watch list this season. I think I should get myself ready for all the spine chilling moments that will come in my future.

Signal tackles a case based on the infamous Hwaseong serial murders, an unsolved series of murders that has been inspiration for the movie Memories of Murder and drama series Gapdong. Oddly enough, both Signal and Gapdong are both on tvN, so perhaps the station has a thing for serial killers. Signal adds on a fantastical element to its story in the form of an old walkie talkie that allows communication between the past and the future. Park Hae-young (Lee Je-hoon) stumbles upon this walkie talkie which connected him to Detective Lee Jae-han (Jo Jin-woong) 15 years ago. Incidentally Detective Lee was working on the case of 12-year-old Kim Yoon-jung's abduction, whose statute of limitation is only 3 days away in Hae-young's time. With Detective Lee's clue, Hae-young and Detective Cha Soo-hyun (Kim Hye-soo) was able to find the perpetrator. Alas, something goes wrong in the past and Hae-young is now connected with Detective Lee 11 years prior in 1989, the year of the Nambu serial murders.

The first episode focused solely on Kim Yoon-jung's murder with info flying at you in lightning speed. I was actually afraid they weren't pacing their story well, because what will happen after then? Well, it seems that I forgot the bulk of the story will focus on a serial murder case. I was also curious what they'll do about the ending since the actual case remains unsolved, which is what happened in Memories of Murder. But since this drama tackles the Nambu case, a fictional South Korean city (much like what they did in Gapdong), the ending might go a different way.

This makes the breaking of the time continuum makes more "sense" if the happenings can change according to the actions of the characters. The first effect of this communication is that the original 8th victim is saved but the death of subsequent deaths happened quicker. Their communication literally changed the face of history, with texts and pictures changing before their eyes. I do wonder why their knowledge of the case didn't readjust with the change, but the mechanics of breaking the laws of physics is confusing so I won't get into that. This will become more interesting in the future and I'm looking forward to how far they'll go with toying around with facts and history.

So far, I do like where the drama is going. I can see the first few episodes will be a space where Hae-young can toy around with the past (sort of), and of course there will be dire consequences that will stop him from trying to control the universe. I'm basically looking forward to how far Hae-young will go, because his character is full of paradoxes. I like that Lee Je-hoon is the one portraying him because I think he can go all crazy with Hae-young and add all sorts of interesting layers to him. I'm also looking forward to Kim Hye-soo's iteration of the hard-edged Soo-hyun, especially after she finds out Hae-young, a person she's not too fond of, has been communicating with Jae-han, a person she loves, all this time. And of course Jo Jin-woong, who is a ball of amazing. Sadly, his appearance in the first episode is very few, but I think they'll increase as the episodes go by, especially if either Hae-young or Jae-han figures out how the walkie talkie works. I love his newbie cop phase still stumbling through, and will look forward to how his first case will change him.

One thing I'm not overly fond of the show is it's post-production works. First of all, what is up with the night scenes? I can barely see any of them. I thought Oh My Ghostess was the end of it, but it seemed to have carried on in this drama. I hope it gets sorted asap since I foresee many night scenes in the future. Second, the past scenes are slightly distorted and I don't think I like it. I think this is done to create the look of older films, since many older movies tend to render out this way (horizontally squished). But the shift between normal aspect ratio of the present and the squished people of the past gives me a headache. It's a cool way of showing the past, one I've personally never seen before, but it's not something I enjoy all too much. (I also read someone say it's an homage to Memories of Murder. Come to think of it, the past scenes really do look like it came out of that movie. Minus Song Kang-ho.)

Regardless, Signal is one fantastically done drama. I'm hoping the pacing doesn't slow too much down the line and keep its edge-of-your-seat quality til the end. I'm really excited to what the characters will go through in the process and see how badass the three actors are going to be. I already knew every one of them are great, but seeing them in one drama together still blows my mind a little. If only they could actually be in one screen in the drama, but that may be wishful thinking. Or maybe not?


  1. At last, the drama is here! I knew that I made a huge mistake watching it this soon, because the wait for next episodes are real torture ㅜㅜ I am relieved that the drama meets my expectation and there's no disappointment; I am only craving for more episodes!

    The past meets present thing here reminds me of time-travelling in terms of the butterfly effect the past has on the present, but there is this thrill of watching Hae-young communicating with Jae-han, who is no longer alive in the present.

    One thing I am curious about: who actually contacted who first? Is it Hae-young..or Jae-han? Was it Hae-young who informed Jae-han about the corpse's whereabouts in the first place? I know that it will be explained in the upcoming episodes but I am dying in curiosity right now XD

    Sorry for the long comment...but I am just excited for Signal ^^

    1. I was pretty excited about the drama mostly because of the cast and crew, but am now totally stoked after I watched it! It's going to be torture watching this weekly, reminds me of God's Gift days.

      The whole time travel thing is blowing my mind a little so I'm looking forward to how it will play out. From what we know so far I don't think there's actually a starting point as to who started it first because to Hae-young, 2000 Jae-han made the initial contact but Jae-han thought Hae-young called him first in 1989. Crazy right?