Signal Episode 1 : Killing it Like A Boss

b20It’s finally here!  Signal has finally premiered and you all can stop hearing me promote the heck out of it.  Instead, you can start reading my recaps because I am a fangirl in love.  And while I do adore all the actors participating in this drama (Lee Je Hoon makes me swoon) it is actually the writing that has my heartbeat increasing …. and not just because of the intense suspense that is going on.

For those of you just discovering our awesome blog, I am Kmuse, one of the main bloggers at “Dramas with a Side of Kimchi”…many of you know me from my previous blog “The Crazy Ahjummas.” I will be co-recapping this drama with Drama Geek.  So expect me on the odd episodes, and Drama Geek will be covering the even.  A little about me: I am a mother of three and an avid kdrama watcher, in that I love to watch literally everything.  There are very few currently airing dramas that I am not watching so if you have any questions about them (or really any drama since I have seen an insane amount) feel free to ask me in the comments.  Or better yet come like our facebook page and ask me there. FB PAGE LINK For those of you who have not read my past recaps, I am one of those bloggers that really likes to just discuss my opinions on certain scenes or concepts of the drama.  I don’t go step by step through the whole thing.  So if you are looking for a complete recap you might have to look elsewhere (and then come back and read ours of course).


Before I start discussing the events of the episode, I want to touch first on the style of directing that is used to convey to us the story.  I heard some people on various social media sites talking about how disappointed they were with the quality of the filming.  It was claimed that the drama was grainy with weird lighting and felt stretched.  While some of that is true, it isn’t because the show didn’t have money to buy proper equipment.  Every single aspect of the filming was created to bring you into two different worlds (points in time) and to help the viewers realize which timeline they are viewing.  As you can imagine, it is not easy letting us know what we are seeing, whether it is in the past or the present.  Especially when they jump between the two timelines constantly.  So if you pay attention, you will notice that the past timeline uses a more brown/tan filter and the look of the picture is stretched.  It also gives us the feel of a classic 70’s style TV show.  And while the events depicted are in 2000, we get the feeling that it is a much earlier time period.  This also helps in keeping the timelines separated in our minds.


In comparison, we see a crisper blue tinted filter used in the 2015 scenes.  The difference is subtle so as not to take you away from the drama, but very distinct if you are looking for it.  This is never going to be a drama where you get the fancy special effects and glossy images, the director is going old school to match the feel of the script. Kim Won Suk also directed Misaeng and if you compare the two styles you can see a deft hand on the use of directing to support the story, and not overwhelm it.


One last thing to focus on while you watch is the amazing use of instrumental music in creating the mood.  I suspect that the writer must have some control over how music is used within her dramas since this is the third drama she has penned that relied heavily on this aspect.  If you pay attention, whenever your heart starts beating faster because of the intensity of the plot, the music will be creating the mood.  I especially loved its use in the last scene of the episode where they were searching for the killer.  Brilliantly done.

52364031But enough gushing about the directing and music.  Let’s jump into the meat and potatoes, which of course is the murder plot and multiple timelines.  Hopefully, I can keep everything clear since there was a lot of jumping around.  On the off chance you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments and I will quickly pen a reply.

We start our story in the year 2000 where a sweet girl smiles at an awkward loner boy.  We see them go through the day glancing at each other and as school let’s out we discover it is raining and the girl doesn’t have an umbrella.  The boy hides his umbrella behind his back and the poor girl’s smile disappears.  The boy runs away and sees a mysterious woman hidden by an umbrella with red high heels leading the little girl away.  The next day we learn that the girl had been kidnapped and a ransom note had come to her family.  The police found a lead on a student from some fingerprints on the letter and at the cafe where the kidnapper had written the letter.


Realizing that they had the wrong suspect, the little boy tries to go tell the police what he had witnessed but is ignored.  The money is taken and later the little girl’s corpse is found.  We witness time pass as the boy and the deceased’s mother age outside the police station.  One begging for justice for her daughter and the other hoping that someone would listen to him.


Fast forward to present where we see the little boy all grown up and surprisingly, a cop.  A cop who is using his highly trained deductive skills to catch the latest actors in romantic scandals.   Park Hae Young is selling pictures he acquired of the Misaeng cast (Siwan, Kang So Ra, & Byun Yo-Han) who are involved in a torrid love triangle. Before Hae Young can share his info on the next secret couple he is going to bring down, he is interrupted by Cha Soo Hyun for acting in a way unbecoming of a cop.


Turns out our leading man had been digging through garbage to get some of his info which led to the violent crimes team being called on the case.  Through a ton of awesome deducting, Hae Young proves that it wasn’t for any huge reason that they were investigating him, but because the smarmy detective next to Soo Hyun had been asked to by the star’s agency.  Had to laugh as the two men debated on which situation was more embarrassing, until finally Hae Young blurts out that he never takes any money for his scoops.  He just does it as a hobby.  Hahaha, I love that discovering kentertainment scandals is his hobby.


Hae Young storms outside the police station and finds that his car has been blocked in by a van carrying waste from the precinct.  He storms around looking for a number to call when he hears noise coming from one of the bags of trash.  Inside are a walkie talkie and a person on the other side talking about searching an abandoned asylum and finding the body of Seo Hyung Joon who was the murder suspect.


Jump timelines to 15 years earlier where Detective Lee Jae Han is part of the task force investigating the kidnapping.  He bumps into a fleeing boy ( a younger version of Hae Young) who drops a folded up paper that gets shuffled up with his folders he had dropped.  Questioning the odd fact that only a thumbprint was acquired, Jae Han hypothesizes to his boss that there might be someone else involved.  Possibly the mystery girlfriend of the suspect?  Upon getting the ransom note, all the cops rush to the location of the drop.  Everyone but Jae Han who looks into the girlfriend clue.  It eventually leads him to Sunil Psychiatric Hospital where Jae Han finds the suspect’s corpse minus a thumb hanging in a drain vent.  He radios it back to the station, but instead of the 2000 station, the message is received by Hae Young in 2015.  Upon hearing that it had to do with the little girl’s disappearance, Hae Young demands to know what is going on.  Hae Young only hears about the dead body in the asylum before the past Jae Han is attacked from behind (I am assuming he was killed since he is no longer around and the suspect’s body was never found).


Let’s just take a second to give tribute to how suspenseful this moment was.  I totally was freaking out during the whole dead body, walkie talkie, movement behind the cop scene.


In the present day, Hae Young is flustered by the reference to the cold case (remember he had been the one to witness the kidnapping).  We also find out that the statute of limitations is just days away for the murder of the little girl.  Bothered, Hae Young takes the walkie-talkie to a friend to try and fix it and discovers that it doesn’t even have batteries so there is no way it should be working.  WOOT!!!!!!!  YAY FOR MAGICAL WALKIE TALKIES FROM THE PAST.  I don’t know how or why, but I love the concept in all its crazy glory.


Hae Young is not able to get the man’s words out of his head.  So in true kdrama hero fashion, he heads to Sunil Psychiatric Hospital to investigate.  In non-kdrama hero fashion, he complains and mumbles the whole way about how crazy this is.  And I loved that Hae Young got completely creeped out and screamed like a girl when he found the dead body.  It is refreshing to have a lead who has normal reactions and isn’t just blase about dead bodies and mysterious walkie talkies.


He calls Soo Hyun at violent crimes (since she is the only cop he knows in this part of town) and awkwardly tells her to check to see if it is the suspect in the old kidnapping case. It is so cute how Hae Young doesn’t want to explain how he found out since it is odd.  Talk about crazy stories.


When it is discovered that it is indeed the kidnapping suspect and that there are signs that he was murdered, Soo Hyun drags Hae Young into a room to “interrogate” him on how he knew. But before she can get any answers, her boss barges in and demands all the information on the murder case.  It turns out that the cop who was in charge in the past, Bum Joo, is now a police superintendent and wants the case closed and the murder designated as a suicide.


I was highly disgusted as the Police Superintendent uses this situation to promote himself in the media.  It is not enough to just put out an announcement.  Oh no, he has to go out to the grieving mother and let her know in person that they caught the killer…. or in this case found his body.


Hae Young watches and explains to Soo Hyun that he had witnessed the kidnapping but just like the last 15 years, no one is interested in the truth since then the police would have to admit they are wrong.  Soo Hyun seems to agree with him, but simply says that she won’t let it go and will continue to search for the real killer.  But both know that with less then two days left on the clock, it is unlikely they will succeed.


It is at this point that Hae Young goes all bad ass rebel and announces to the gathered press that the killer is still out there.  It is really a woman, a nurse that had worked at Sunil Psychiatric Hospital in her thirties and that he has proof of her crimes.  And that is how being a wild card rebel is done.


The best part was seeing the Police Superintendent get back in his office, expecting to see himself on TV, but instead finds out that the hunt is back on for the killer.

Hae Young profiles that the killer will have seen the newscast and would run.  They just have to wait for the calls to come in from nosy coworkers.  Sure enough, the next day three calls came in from concerned citizens.  And while two ended up being a bust, it looked like they had finally caught the killer with the third suspect.  The items in her work locker were all spot on for the narcissistic profile provided by Hae Young.  The only problem was that she did not turn out to be the killer.


In fact, the killer had outsmarted everyone and was the one to call in a false suspect.  She brilliantly changed the name tags on the locker so the police looked at hers but arrested the wrong person.  If she just sent the police on a goose chase till the statute of limitations time ran out, she would be home free.  With less than 30 minutes left Hae Young and Soo Hyun rush outside searching for the killer.  Hae Young is positive she will be somewhere nearby, gloating over her victory.


This scene might be my favorite of the whole episode because the music, action, and then the visuals of the killer combined with the chase were so spot on, it gave me chills.  Hae Young and Soo Hyun finally catch the culprit, but with only 20 minutes left, it is unknown if they will be able to get her confession.  The clock is ticking down.


My thoughts

ACK.  I love this show!  It was even better than I was expecting.  First, as I detailed earlier, the directing and the creation of the world is spot on.  You know it is well done when I don’t even question the arrival of a time traveling Walkie Talkie and the resulting events.  It seemed to be added seamlessly into the plot.


Also, the characters were complex and interesting.  At first, I was a bit curious as to why Hae Young had so much energy in everything he did.  But as the show progressed I started to see that this was also a way to manipulate the viewer into feeling suspense.  Even when looking down an empty hallway, Hae Young crackled with feelings. The over the top intensity of his character kept me looking forward towards what was to come.

In contrast, Soo Hyun fairly hummed with a strong sense of intense calm.  Which made when she lost her cool all the more powerful.  Finally, we have a strong female character in a crime drama.  I hate when we get token females in crime shows who are just around to look pretty and maybe have a mediocre romance line running in the background.  This is not that type of show.  I would say that Soo Hyun was just as memorable as Hae Young and integral in moving the modern time plot line.  I look forward to seeing the past her and present her change as the time change events begin.  It should be fascinating.


Ooops, it looks like I did a bit more of a step by step recap than I had planned.  The drama was just too good to leave anything out.  Be sure to check in tomorrow as Drama Geek chats about Episode 2.  I know that I for one, can’t wait to see if they “catch” the killer or if they have to somehow catch her in the past using that time travelesque walkie talkie.  If nothing else, it is a unique concept which hopefully will stand up for 21 more episodes.

Til next time,



0 thoughts on “Signal Episode 1 : Killing it Like A Boss

  1. First, thanks for providing analysis of this drama. I look forward to seeing many more, if i do continue watching.

    On to the drama: After watching episode 1, I did not see anything new to the writing. It seems to be a normal procedural cop drama with a hint of time twist. Episode 1 does not tell us what the drama wants to tackle. Are there systemic issues they want to give light to? There has to be more than just finding the killer of an old case. In that regard, I was disappointed with the episode.

    Production design and lighting is top notch. Directing is also up there. I don’t expect anything less from the PD. So those count for something. That lifted the show for me.

    I did just finished Episode 2. Now, I am intrigued. Now, I am seeing something new. I did get a sense of what they want to accomplish. Therefore, I’ll be watching next week’s episodes.

  2. What I’d like now is a magic wireless router that’ll let me watch the third (and subsequent) episodes without the annoying wait.

    And I do want to thank you all. I saw mention of this here towards the end of November and have since watched 3 days, Ghost, Sign & Harvest Villa & enjoyed them all.

  3. Pingback: SIGNAL.TVN. | IKurate

  4. Thank you for a great review! Did you also pick up on this: During their conversation on the walkie talkie after Jae Han told him that he is at Seonil Mental Hospital, Jae Han asked Hae Young “Mr. Park, why did you tell me NOT to come here?”. This suggests that Hae Young already spoke to him prior to this, warning Jae Han not to go there since he knows something bad will happen to him.

  5. Awww..Seeing the recap of the first episode makes me remember the time I first watched the drama during it’s airing and I was blown away!. I wish season 2 will be done in the future coz I just can’t get enough of Signal even after it ended three weeks ago..

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