Mysterious time-traveling dramas seem to be all the rage these days on cable TV. Chicago Typewriter just started this past weekend and I literally started this drama because of the cast and the production value of the drama. I had no idea what the drama was about but already I’m intrigued.
SALTNPAPER – Satellite (위성)
The drama starts off with Han Se Joo (Yoo Ah In), a writer famous for his horror and mystery novels. He’s managed to put out a hit after hit that has people wondering where he gets his inspiration from. We see that he sometimes goes out in the field for real life inspiration and I was immediately drawn to Se Joo after seeing the drama’s homage to The Usual Suspect’s Keyser Soze. Ugh, I’m so easy to please.
With his latest release, he goes on a world book signing tour and one of the places he stops off at is a bookstore in Chicago.
An old typewriter on display at the bookstore catches Se Joo’s eyes and the bookstore owner tells him that it’s actually and old typewriter from Korea that he was able to find. Se Joo offer to buy it but the owner refuses. That night, strange things happen at the bookstore which ends up waking the bookstore owner up. He goes downstairs to see some of the antique appliances on display are freaking out, including the typewriter. In another homage to The Shining, the possessed typewriter repeatedly types out, “Please send me to Writer Han Se Joo.”
Se Joo returns to Korea and is greeted by his secretary, his publisher Gal Ji Suk (Jo Woo Jin) and throngs of reporters eagerly waiting for his return. And yet, Se Joo can’t wait to return home so he can start on his next novel. When he returns home, he opens up some of his mail, one of which doesn’t have a return address. He opens it up to discover a poster with his face punctured with bullet holes. Despite the ominous nature of the package, he doesn’t think much of it.
Unfortunately for him, the viewers are privy to the sight a mysterious man who is handcrafting a makeshift gun meant for Se Joo.
We meet Jeon Sul (Im Soo Jung), a lifelong fan of Se Joo and his writing. She works odd jobs such as delivering packages to make ends meet and she gets the job of a lifetime when she is asked to deliver a box to Han Se Joo’s place. The only exception is that she is told that she must deliver the package by hand to Se Joo himself. She arrives at Se Joo’s home but he tells her to just leave the package by the door. She tries to insist bringing it inside but he promptly hangs up on her via the intercom system. A strange dog shows up and she assumes that it is Se Joo’s dog. Then the front door opens on its own and she assumes that the owner must have let his dog in. She uses this opportunity to bring the package inside. Se Joo is cold and tries to turn her away.
Sul tries to explain that she came in because she saw his dog but Se Joo doesn’t have a dog. Just then, the dog manages to slip past him to go inside and he finds a flash drive shaped like a bone with Se Joo’s latest novel on it. Just as Sul tries to coax the dog to leave the flash drive and come to her, Se Joo freaks out and the dog swallows the drive. Although Sul takes the dog to a vet that she knows and helps Se Joo recover the drive, he is ungrateful for her help thinking that she’s only here to trouble him.
Se Joo goes out to a bookstore to do some research for his latest novel and there he encounters Baek Tae Min (Kwak Shi Yang), another writer. Tae Min tries to be friendly to Se Joo but doesn’t him the time of day. These two clearly have a past with each other which involves Tae Min’s father, Baek Do Ha (Chun Ho Jin), a big wig in the literary world. It appears that Do Ha respects Se Joo more highly than his own son which causes tension between him and Tae Min. It also doesn’t help that Se Joo was once thought to be Do Ha’s illegitimate son until a DNA test proved otherwise.
Se Joo returns home and discovers that he may not be alone. On his windowsill, he finds a fortune cookie fortune that he had tossed in the trash earlier that day. It’s a quote from Stephen King’s Misery, “The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.” That uninvited guest is the stalker that sent him the poster with the bullet holes and he has some more bullet meant for Se Joo.
In the nick of time, Sul comes in to save the day and picks up the gun to save Se Joo. As she is holding the stalker at gunpoint, her vision begins to waver and her hand begins to shake.
She gets flashes of the past. In fact, we learn from her friend that Sul was once an Olympic athlete specializing in shooting. She had given up the sport because she kept getting weird visions. Despite the visions that she sees now, she doesn’t end up overpowering the stalker until the arrival of the authorities.
After the cops take the stalker away, Se Joo wants an explanation for how Sul ended up at his place. She tries to explain that the dog who had swallowed the flash drive had led her back to his house when she noticed that the front gate and door was open. However, she just collapses to the floor. When she wakes up later, she realizes that Se Joo has brought her into his home. She wanders around and is mysteriously led to the typewriter. But just before she reaches out to touch it, Se Joo finds her.
Noticing that Se Joo has hurt his hand during the scuffle with the stalker, she offers to type for him so that he could keep his deadline. As she reads and types his manuscript, he can see that she is enjoying his latest novel and Se Joo is secretly pleased.
Suddenly, he begins to have visions of the past again and this time it is clear to him that he sees her in his visions. He’s not sure what this all means except that it is 1930’s Gyeongseong (formerly Seoul). Sul’s past self is plucky and encourages him to write something meaningful instead of the typical garbage he’s been writing for the newspapers.
Back in the present, Se Joo wonders if Sul had felt the same thing. She says that she has but the thing that Sul felt is an earthquake. Nobody else in Seoul experiences the earthquake except for the two of them.
The next day, Gal Ji Suk is in panic mode. He calls Se Joo to warn him not to go outside as reporters have surrounded his home and yet, Se Joo goes out anyways. He is being accused of plagiarism. It appears that the stalker had sent letters to Se Joo’s home and claiming that Se Joo’s latest novel resembles the content in those letters. Se Joo tells Ji Suk that he never even opened those letters but the rumors keep spreading. Ji Suk warns Se Joo that it must have been Sul who spread those rumors. After all, she was the only person who was around when the attack happened and must of heard of the conversation between Se Joo and the stalker as the stalker is keeping mum during his questioning at the police station.
Meanwhile, Sul goes back to the vet to see if they had seen the dog she previously brought in. The vet is surprised that Sul has lost the dog but they are soon interrupted by Writer Baek Tae Min asking for Sul. He’s not calling her but rather his cat who has the same name. After helping him out with his car, she asks if she could get a signature in return telling him that she’s a fan. He obliges and she continues to say that his novel from a few years ago is one of her favorite novels of all time. His expression changes as he assumes that she must not have felt the same way about the recent novels he’s written. The two share an awkward moment but he hands over his signature with a warm smile. Her phone rings and she answers the phone to find out that Se Joo wants to meet up with her which is overheard by Tae Min.
She is excited to see Se Joo again but he has another agenda. He accuses Sul of spreading false rumors about him. She is upset by the accusation and makes it clear to him that she regrets helping him. If she ever comes across him again and he needs help, she promises not to help him out.
He then goes to see the stalker. After talking with him, he discovers that he was wrong about Sul. It was the stalker’s sister who had spread the rumors to the media instead.
The whole sequence of events leave Se Joo disturbed. He has never really experienced writer’s block before until now. Ji Suk tries to convince Se Joo to use a ghostwriter. Not just any ghostwriter but the Ghostwriter, also known as Yoo Jin Oh (Go Kyung Pyo). Se Joo refuses but Ji Suk meets with the Ghostwriter anyway as he doesn’t believe Se Joo will be able to meet his deadline.
Se Joo tries to go find Sul. Perhaps he just needs to apologize for making assumptions about her and that’ll cure him of his writer’s block. However, he goes to Sul’s house to discover that she’s gone off to the woods to clear her head. He meets Sul’s best friend’s mom (Jun Soo Kyung) who seems to have an astute intuition. After Sul met with Se Joo, she felt a negative energy coming off of Sul and asked her if her visions had come back. She feels the same negative energy coming off of Se Joo.
Se Joo returns home and tries to resume writing. Unfortunately, he’s made a mess of his office and broken his computer. Seeing the typewriter, he brings it over to his desk to see if he could writer with the typewriter instead but to no avail. Upset, he leaves his house in an attempt to clear his head.
While Se Joo is away, a mysterious figure enters his office and sits down at his desk. It’s the Ghostwriter and he starts typing away on the typewriter to write Se Joo’s next novel.
We go back to 1930’s Gyeongseong to see Se Joo, the Ghostwriter and Sul in their former lives. They were all close friends but it seems like the two boys may have harbored feelings for Sul. How that friendship turned out, especially during this age of Japanese occupation, we will have to wait and see.
Back in the present, Se Joo is speedily driving through windy roads in the rain. Due to the slippery roads, his car ends up driving off the cliff and into a ditch. A mysterious figure walks towards the car in the pouring rain holding a shovel. It’s none other than Sul and suddenly Se Joo remembers their last encounter and Sul’s promise not to help him ever again.
I’m sure that their love (?) story doesn’t end here, right? Despite seeing quite a number of time-traveling/reincarnation dramas these days, I’m pleased by what I see from these two episodes. However, I do think that it’s important that this drama doesn’t get lazy by relying solely on the great cast and beautiful production sets. The balance of the past and present is crucial here as viewers vest their emotional energies in both timelines. And yet, it is also important that we see progress in the present form the past timeline so that the story doesn’t repeat itself. Not only do we have a lot to learn about the different characters from the 1930’s, we still have a lot of learn about Oh Jin Oh, the ghostwriter, in the present. Why does he write anonymously? How will he figure into Sul’s life? I also have a sneaking suspicion that Jin Oh may have written that book of Tae Min’s that Sul considers to be one of her favorites. That’s the only explanation I could come up with as to why Tae Min reaction was so cold to Sul when she show such high praise for the book. It’s clear that Sul is at the center of the story between Se Joo, Jin Oh and Tae Min and it makes we wonder if we’ll end up seeing a 1930’s version of Tae Min as well in their visions.