[Review] Signal – 시그널


A mysterious walkie-talkie connects Park Hae Young (Lee Je Hoon), a profiler in the present day, and Lee Jae Han (Jo Jin Woong), a detective from the past.  Cha Soo Hyun (Kim Hye Soo) heads up a cold-case team which includes Hae Young but she was once a rookie cop that served at the same police precinct as Jae Han.

With the power of fore and hindsight, Hae Young and Jae Han work together to not only solve the crimes but also prevent them from happening altogether.  However, they learn that communicating with the past has both its good and bad consequences.

Jang Bum Joon – 회상 (Remembrance)

장범준 – 회상

What’s thrilling about this cast is that they’re all established actors and great at their craft.  Although Kim Hye Soo is a veteran actress, she and Jo Jin Woong are so good at what they do that there is no awkwardness in making us believe that she’s the rookie and he’s the veteran detective.  I especially love the dichotomy in the Cha Soo Hyun as we see her when she’s fresh, bright-eyed and ready to serve compared to how time has hardened her.  As for Jo Jin Woong, even though Lee Jae Han has become cynical over time, there is still that glimmer of hope that the effort that he puts in will change things for the better.  I think that’s at the heart of what motivates their characters.

I realize that Lee Je Hoon had received some criticism (and even a hilarious SNL Korea parody) regarding his acting early on in the drama.  I agree that his style of acting is unique, especially the way he talks, but I find his portrayal as Park Hae Young passionate rather than over-the-top.  In fact, Park Hae Young is a profiler in his late 20’s and it’s not typical that you’d find someone like him in a position like that so early on in his career.  He’s smart and astute to the people’s behaviors, especially criminals, but I think it was important for Lee Je Hoon to put forth a strong personality in order to be taken seriously by his team who are much older than him.

I think what’s most intriguing about the drama is how it plays with time and how it affects the characters choices.  With all the information that goes back and forth between Hae Young and Jae Han, you feel that they have the advantage.  As the drama teaches us, there are always unforeseen consequences when you change the course of history and that’s never truer when we get to the 1995 burglar case in which Jae Han detains an ex-burglar who claims that he’s innocent.  The drama did a good job in keeping us on the edge of our seats as we learned that no one is safe, including our main characters.

Beyond the theme of the playing with time, I also think that the moral responsibility plays a big part in the drama.  Even though Hae Young, Jae Han and Soo Hyun are all searching for the truth, the reason why they are all searching is for their own motives.

Whether it’s Hae Young who believes in the innocence of his older brother, Jae Han who wants to uncover the corruption within the police force or Soo Hyun who wants to find out what happened to Jae Han, in some ways, their search for the truth is somewhat self-serving.  In that light, they are not much different from the antagonists who are hiding the truth due to bribery and corruption.

Unfortunately, I think one of the most unfortunate things about the drama was the open-ending.  If the producers truly had a second season in mind, then okay, I can accept them leaving the door open so that we can solve a few more cold-cases involving these characters.  However, the open-ending felt a little forced and indecisive.  That’s something I’m not okay with.

Although the drama does remind me of the movie, Frequency, I love made the format work for an ongoing series.  The various cases were intriguing and suspenseful.  Even though you know who the culprit is, the outcome of the cases wasn’t obvious or conventional.  I would not mind seeing a second season but I think the drama is better served leaving it where it is.  A thrilling, suspenseful tale, that’s raw and emotional.



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