Are you in the mood for a sci-fi thriller that feels like the better parts of Are You Human Too? and Where Stars Land? Did you love the moodiness and layered depth of Watcher? And, last but not least, do you like female characters who are independent and capable and male characters who accept them and treat them with respect? (Of course you do, because you are a discerning drama watcher!) Then come see if LUCA: The Beginning is the drama for you!
First, a story synopsis with a little help from our friends at MyDramaList.com:
“LUCA” is based on Charles Darwin’s proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors. (LUCA stands for “last universal common ancestor.”)
Ji Oh, who rarely reveals his emotions to others, has a special power and a secret but doesn’t know who he really is. He is chased by mysterious figures while he tries to find answers to numerous questions that surround him.
Gu Reum is a detective whose parents disappeared when she was a young child. When she decides on a course of action, she won’t change no matter what. Gu Reum chases after the truth behind her parents’ disappearance. She meets Ji Oh and her life changes.
This was one of those times when I was grateful for the informational piece at the beginning, the one that says “all children, infants, and animals were treated with care during the filming”, because episode 1 opens on a chase where a cornered woman drops the infant she was carrying over a wall. The infant isn’t harmed, but manifests powers that protect him as his mother says “Remember, you’re not a monster” while he falls. It was a disturbing opening, but VERY memorable.
The somewhat disturbing and memorable scenes don’t stop there, but I didn’t find myself turning away from the screen. Instead, I was intrigued by Ji Oh (Kim Rae Won) using his powers, and the man chasing him (Kim Sung Oh! He’s one of my favorites) being doctored after Ji Oh electrocutes him. Kim Sung Oh’s character isn’t working for the good guys — his boss seems to be the director of the laboratory where Ji Oh was created and escaped from. There’s also the mad scientist that’s trying to replicate Ji Oh and the cult leader that’s funding his research, but threatening to take that funding away and give it to a lab in Sweden. Because why have ONE secret lab doing experiments on humans and animals when you can have TWO??
On the flip side, we have Gu Reum (Lee Da Hee), a detective who comes complete with a murder board and a mysterious past. She’s very good at getting people to tell her things they shouldn’t, like a scientist at the National Forensic Service sharing information about an autopsy he just performed. Gu Reum runs into her soon-to-be team leader at the NFS and immediately gets on his wrong side with her brash statements. However, she has the pluck to back up her tongue, and after being introduced to his team, she quickly gets on everyone’s good side with her determination. I mean, she could be the Energizer Bunny — or Captain Marvel! — with how many times she gets knocked down and gets back up again.
By the end of the second episode, Gu Reum and Ji Oh’s stories are firmly entwined in such a way that I’m hoping for a slow burn romance. I’m also anticipating a lot of conspiracies, frustrating bad guys, unexpected plot twists, and great fight scenes. Kim Hong Seon is the writer — he’s also penned The Guest, Liar Game, and Warrior Baek Dong Soo. Director Chun Sung Il has Your Honor, The Package, and The Pirates to his credit, and his expertise becomes apparent in an extended elevator fight scene in the second episode. Trust me, you’re gonna want to watch that!
Quick side note: In the first episode, Ji Oh works as a truck driver who picks up medical waste, including animals who have been experimented on. It’s disturbing, but that job is firmly out of the picture by the end of the episode. It’s also used to show just how inhumane Human Tech, the secret research lab, is.
So will I continue to watch? You bet I will. LUCA is intense, but all the plot points are balancing well, the characters are compelling and their backstories are intriguing, and I find myself invested in knowing what’s going to happen to Ji Oh and Gu Reum as they solve their respective mysteries.
Let me know if you’ll be joining me! You can drop a comment below or keep an eye on my Twitter account (@KarieTheMaknae) for my reactions. I’ll do my best to keep it spoiler-free, but no promises!
Until the next visit to the mad scientist’s secret lab, I remain —
Karie the Maknae
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi