The Queen of Asian Drama is Back with more Irreverent Reviews and Snarky Commentary.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Signal


시그널

Romanization: Sigeuneol
Genre: Crime Paranormal
Writer: Kim Eun hee
Network: tvN
Episodes: 16
Release: 2016, Jan - Mar



Cast



Plot


The series is based on Bong Joon ho's hit film Memories of Murder, which is based on the real-life Hwaseong serial murder case over the course of six years (1986 - 1991). 10 women were raped and murdered within a 2km radius ranging from a 71 year-old grandmother to a 13 year old schoolgirl. The perpetrator was never caught. A popular true crimes case endlessly retold in film and television. ~DramaWiki (w/edits)

Review


Oddly enough, Signal had very little to do with that case or the murder suspect.

Acting: Superb
Plot: Intriguing
Cinderella: Not On Your Life
Rehash: Not as Much as You Might Think, or it Didn't Matter


And hats off to screen writer Kim Eun hee for one of the best drama stories ever told.

Seriously thought about giving this one SIX stars for the added bonus of keeping me -- one of the toughest critics of Korean dramas -- entertained, thrilled, riveted, and blown away each episode.

Honestly, folks, this was a true masterpiece and deserves so much more than mere praise from someone like me, who doesn't rate or matter in the world of Korean entertainment.

I'll be interested to know if this receives any awards over there, so I'll be watching out for news about their version of the Oscars this year.

I found an article that said this broke viewer records after only two episodes in, and I'm not surprised by that AT ALL. The final view rating was over 12% nationwide, so this is a definite indicator of its popularity at the least -- it's staying power at most.


To begin with, this Paranormal-infused Crime Drama is centered around an outmoded Walkie-Talkie that a 2015 Profiler, Park Hae young (Lee Je hoon), finds on the back of a pick-up truck.


Lee Je hoon as Park Hae young

He's trying to reach someone by cell when he hears a male voice talking back to him, and as he makes his way towards that voice, he discovers the discarded Walkie-Talkie and the fascinating story starts to unfold.

The Detective on the other end of the Walkie-Talkie is in 2000 and on the hunt for a body in a kidnapping case.

Cho Jin woong as Lee Jae han

The profiler is naturally confused and begins to tell Det. Lee Jae han (Cho Jin woong) all about that case and that the kidnapper is a woman, which naturally startles Jae han.

Det. Lee is then knocked unconscious and we spend more time in 2015, learning more about the Profiler and his being reassigned with three other cops to a newly created Cold Case division.

The Walkie-Talkie becomes a key element throughout the series when, always at 11:23pm, the light goes on, static ensues, and the two men from two different decades but not always the same date or time on Det. Lee's end, are capable of communicating for a least a few minutes.

The serial rape/murder case mentioned above comes into play the next time that Det. Lee and Profiler Park come in contact with one another via the Walkie-Talkie.

Det. Lee is out at night in search of another reported body when Profiler Park proceeds to tell explicit detail about that case and where subsequent bodies will be found.

Long story short, and hopefully without posting spoilers, Signal attempts to exploit corruption and greed within not only the police force but also Government officials and big business.

There are a few other crimes committed and acted upon in these sixteen episodes, but I will reiterate the fact that Signal is not based solely on that unsolved mystery from the 1980s.

It centers more on another rape case in which a young girl from Inju is gang-raped by her fellow classmates, and it takes a long time for our Detective friend from the past and our current Cold Case team to figure out exactly what happened and who the real guilty party turned out to be.



The Profiler's hyung ended up taking the fall for that crime and spent a few months in a youth prison. His family fell apart and little Hae young is forced to go live with his father.

That boy never gives up on his hyung, though, and he ends up witnessing the kidnapping that started the ball rolling for this series.

As a grown man and a Profiler, Hae young is just as determined to clear his older brother's name as he was back in the day, and that is another reason why the Walkie-Talkie paranormal aspect makes sense.

Back when the Inju rape case first occurred, Det. Lee worked on it and began to discover just how corrupt the officials at that time actually turned out to be. His efforts ended up being thwarted time and again until he started to lose hope of ever solving a case or having justice properly served.

Det. Lee is disgruntled with not only his job but the corruption and greed that surround him, and what we learn towards the very end of this gem is that Profiler Park was meant to give Det. Lee the courage to fight for justice and not give in or up on his duty to protect and serve the people.

The Batman image also ties in with this theme.

Now, I'll admit to being mildly stunned to see Jang Hyun sung show up and turn out to be a bad guy.

Jang Hyun sung

I've seen this man's previous works and know he's capable of being both a good and a bad character, but my head was still filled with a lot of sweet, sentimental bonding stuff from his brief yet emotionally endearing time spent on The Return of Superman.




The Return of Superman

I kept telling myself, Joon woo appah wouldn't do that! This is wrong! All wrong!

But, my memories soon faded, replaced with Kim Bum joo, the awful Sergeant on the police force who just makes me want to kick him in the nuts, he's that bad a man. 





And, even if his part was BIT, Son Hyun joo as Jang Young chul worked more of his sinister magic and gave me the chills every time he appeared on screen.

Son Hyun joo

He stars as the corrupt congressman and powerhouse behind the scenes of every wrong, despicable occurrence throughout the sixteen episodes.

After a few of these cold cases trying to be reworked by Profiler Park through Det. Lee go south and seem to make things worse, Profiler Park has a change of heart and begins to rethink his notion about righting wrongs.

This was the only issue I had with the story, too.

Well, there was that and the strangeness that began to occur in the last two episodes, when the memories from previous times mesh with those of the changed times. I don't quite get how this is possible any more than I want to believe that by changing anything about the past, that it will somehow (and always will if you believe every script writer who has ever tackled the subject of time travel) change the entire course of events -- and in a bad way.

Especially since all of the bad people lived and none of the good or innocent were saved from their awful fates.






While researching this drama for my blog post, I came across a few unfavorable opinions offered about the ability of these characters to piece things together in such a timely and accurate manner.

To a certain extent I agree and will say it is laughable even.

But, with Signal, nothing worked to dissuade me or make me groan, give me reason to pause or suspect something wasn't right with whatever I'd just seen or heard.

It was simply too well written and too well played for anything petty to stand in its way.

The house break-ins case was probably the most intense and most heart-wrenching of all the cases brought to light in this drama.

The soundtrack was exceptional, and the midway background medley was my favorite, but it STILL drives me nuts because I just know it is a tune I'm familiar with, and yet I can't place it.

Laurel? Darshan Ambient? Northcape? Sigur Ros? Bonobo?

No?

Regardless, it's beautiful and blended perfectly with the mood of the moment.

Even the love story that wasn't turned out to be an added bonus that neither detracted from nor disrupted the flow of this gripping thriller, and I rooted for them all the way.

Which leads me to the unexpected surprise ending . . .

Hey, if they want to drag this one out for another 16 episodes (if they promise to air sometime in the near future), that's alright with me!


Same cast, please!



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