Dear director Kim Won Suk, I received the transmitted radio signal well. I am impressed. Deeply impressed of how you and your magic brain connected all the living, the death, the past and present so brutally confusing me and at the same time leaving me in awe.
Kim Won Suk is back after Misaeng in 2014. Yep, that very same director that had my Korean Drama perspective upside-down. He has been doing it since I watched Partner in 2009, also Sungkyungkwan Scandal in 2010, and Cinderella’s Sister in 2010. I think he had made all dramas that suits my palette well. Now, he is back with thriller, fantasy, less-romance, more bro-mance drama with Signal. He and his avengers squad of crew has made another masterpiece.
Let’s talk about Signal.
Signal is a story about police organization where we know that police is supposed to defend the law, but in fact, there’s an abnormal movement within the police itself that has covered more crime scenes that you can imagine. Involving corruption and false accusation on another innocent person. Lee Jae Han (Choi Jin Woong) is that one brutally honest police who is really passionate about being a policeman. He gradually catches every wrongdoing that is occuring within his homicide department. It was back in 1989 when he ‘first’ realizes about his radio transmission lights up and a stranger voice says to him about the location of a dead body. He never sees this person, he only knows that he is a lieutenant named Park Hae Young (Lee Jae Hoon).
Back in 2015, Park Hae Young (Lee Jae Hoon) is only a road patrol but suddenly he hears his name is called by a radio transmission in a disposal bag. The voice that he hears, speaks to him in a normal tone like he always converses with Park Hae Young. The voice is identified as Lee Jae Han in the year of 2000 when Lee Jae Han then is reported as missing.After that, once in a while the battery-less transmission radio will light up at 11.23 PM on random nights. They continue to solve cases by cases in different period of time. If past is changed, the future will be changed and vice versa.
The more he converses with Lee Jae Han in the past, the more absurd things are going on, the more truths are revealed. He then joined the cold-case squad (while still having the old battery-less radio) along with Detective Cha Soo Hyun (Kim Hye Su), detective Kim Gye Chul (Kim Won Hae), and a forensic police officer Jung Hun Gi (Lee Yoo Jun). He becomes a police profiler where he needs to identified a criminal from psychological point of view. All the cold cases that they are doing have a connection with all the cases that had been handled by Lee Jae Han. It has purpose isn’t it? All are leading to the bigger matters, the more personal ones, and more un-logical truth that are better never been revealed are on the surface.
In the end, we are just amazed of how it is well-made. We can’t question anymore despite all the curiosities that we still have. We can’t really have a logical explanation why the transmission is lighted up, and the other ‘why’s. Nevertheless, we are satisfied and accepted the drama with amazement because of the actors, the scripts, and the ambient that are created.
I just realize that director Kim Won Suk’s idea of ‘happy ending’ is not the ‘happy ending’ that we all know. We will not find an obvious happy ending scene like lovers stick together, the truth are finally revealed, there is going to be slightly disappointment in his ‘happy ending’ scene. For example, even though the main characters of Sungkyungkwan’s scandal get together, but there is a part that can’t be satisfied. In Misaeng as well, both manager Oh and Jang Geu Rae are together, but they are not going to be with other One International peeps. Our ideal ‘happy ending’ is everybody gets together, everything works out, but in reality, things are not that way are they? That is one of the charms that Kim Won Suk has in each of his drama. Reality bites! and I love it!
I really wish a ‘happy ending’ scene in Signal like Lee Jae Han, Cha Soo Hyun, and Park Hae Young are together just like the poster shows. Again, we are talking aout Kim Won Suk and tvN here, so we are left with a beautiful narration to conclude this hot-blooded-drama. I dare to say if tvN sticks with its originality, it can be a good influence in Korean-media world. Putting aside questions that we still have about Signal, let’s just talk about casts, soundtracks, and other stuff just like Let’s talk always does.
I always satisfy with the collections of the casts. Cameos, main stars, and all the sides. They all give 100%. Even a mere police officer who only appears for 10 seconds are so real. But, this time, my eyes are for all the main stars. Normally, my heart will weight more on the sides, but not for this drama. I personally so fond of Choi Jin Woong. Like Lee Sung Min, he was always a supporter, but in Signal, he proves that he is more capable than a mere supporter character.
I am in love with him just like Cha Soo Hyun is in love with him (*cough..cough.. spoiler). He is that jerk that is very charismatic. He is not handsome compared to Jung Woo Sung who spoils our eyes with the chocolate abs. Nope. He never reveals his sexy body, he merely acts like a passionate person. That makes him more lovable and relate-able. I can sense a resemblance of Lee Jae Han and Oh Sang Sik mainly because both are so passionate about what they are doing. However, both actors, Lee Sung Min and Choi Jin Woong have put both characters alive as it is supposed to be. Detective Lee Jae Han is more outspoken like a detective should be, cleverer, and has a pure heart to love. That makes him not giving up until the very very end 😉
Lee Jae Hoon also brilliantly portray Park Hae Young. It must be a bit depressing to portray Park Hae Young who is confused with all the transmission radio exchange. Throughout 16 episodes of Signal, I can sense that his character is growing maturer. He is not asking to greedily solving all the puzzles, he let some pieces remained unknown as it is better that way. Lee Jae Hoon portrays a wiser that oneself can be after all the hassles finding murderers.
Kim Hye Soo is also a genius. She’s always been one. One of actress that is known not only by her beauty but also her totality in pulling out a character. One other thing that I love about Kim Won Suk’s work is projecting a younger version and older version of one character. In this drama, we will find a 20 year old version of a character and 10-years-version after that. From make up to attitude are just perfect. Kim Hye Soo is one of them. She is now in her 40s but portraying a mid 20s something Cha Soo Hyun and 30s something Cha Soo Hyun. Just… aaaaaaa brilliantly not awkward at all. Of course, it is by the help of make up and style deapartment. Choi Jin Woong also in his 40s, but he lost weights and looks the most handsome police officer alive.
Aside from these trio, I also want to give a space for our villain; Kim Byung Joo (Jang Hyun Soo). He is always been my favorite ahjussi from his appearance in Superman Returns (one of the first families). He plays it so well making me hate him! I HATE HIM! Freaking hate him hahahaha. On the other end, I also love the murderer Jin Woo (Lee Sang Yeob) who appears in 3 episodes. How on earth you grow sympathy upon a murderer.
We have been presented by a lot of Korean in 1980s and 1990s for the past few dramas (all the reply franchise is one of them).I like to point out that Kim Won Suk also showcases the old feeling and presents very greatly. The color tone is dark to give you a suspense feeling unlike other tv station who normally just use a vibrant digital colors on their suspense/thriller. Watching tvN drama is like watching a movie in each episode. The same with Signal.
Signal in the end is like one whole suspense movie for 160 hours long. Magically not making us bored, but just allures us more and more into the deep labyrinth of killing and saving. Deaths and lives. Pasts and Futures. Also, I would like to give credits to the writer who just brilliantly put words by words to be delivered brilliantly by these great actors and actresses.
To conclude this post, let’s take a deep breath remembering 11.23Pm every night when the radio transmission is finally lighting up and transport us to the journey of ‘saving more lives.’
Produced by : tvN
Director: Kim Won Suk
Writer: Kim Eun Hee