All of Us Are Dead: First Impressions and Unfiltered Thoughts

This is my first impression post on All of Us Are Dead, but also includes some random thoughts about why you might want to check out this drama even if you don’t like zombie shows. I am going to start with the biggest negative, but then I want to share a few interesting things that you might consider.

Synopsis (from Netflix)

A high school becomes ground zero for a zombie virus outbreak. Trapped students must fight their way out — or turn into one of the rabid infected.

Kdrama Jen: Yeah… So, they leave out a bit here. You know, the part where a dad becomes so horrified by the fact that his son is being bullied that he looks for rodents that fight back and then isolates the very thing that produces that response and injects it into his son, and then he accidentally creates a zombie epidemic because he brings one of those rodents to the school where he works and a curious teenager plays with the rat and it bites her… So, I guess that is ground zero. Honestly, there is so much more to this drama, so maybe just read on to see if it might be for you. I tried to avoid major spoilers.

If you are squeamish, then this might not be the show for you

It is a rare occasion to find a drama that Kmuse won’t watch with me because it is too graphic. She watches blood spurting forth from the necks of soldiers when we watch C-dramas together. Zombie movies and dramas about ghosts and ghouls are nothing. But, I guess there was something about the flesh tearing that was just too much. So I had to watch on my own. Let’s be clear. There are some really graphic scenes. In fact, they start even before the zombies multiply. There is also a very disturbing portrayal of extreme bullying with public humiliation and sexual violence. I almost couldn’t watch. So, if you really can’t stomach very graphic zombie scenes or, perhaps more horrifying, extreme bullying, then I recommend watching Happiness. It is another zombie drama and it is not nearly as graphic. However, if you can look beyond the flesh ripping, then I do think there are some valid reasons to watch.

Found Family and Hidden Talents

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this show is the way the teenagers band together and learn to rely on the talents of one another. I love that there are scenes where students who may not have been fully appreciated for their performance in school or in sports are suddenly able to shine. In a society where the position of class president is something that is not necessarily given to the best leader, it was gratifying to see how difficult circumstances shine a light on leadership skills. Knowing how to create a makeshift toilet, for example, is suddenly more important that getting the highest grade on a math test. Someone unable to achieve top scores under the controlled conditions of an athletic competition is able to show her true talent when zombies are attacking. Knowing how to connect with others is a skill that is rewarded when coming together is the only way to survive.

I also loved how this desperate situation reinforced the bonds of friendship and forged new connections. The cliques and groupings that occur in high school under regular circumstances get shaken up a bit, but sometimes those boundaries created by socioeconomic status or class rankings are hard to overcome. There is a really moving campfire scene with a song composed by one of the young actors. It is a moment in the drama where you can really feel their connections. I guess fighting off zombies together is a great bonding activity.

Excellent Young Actors and…Looney!

Kdrama Jen: The young actors in this show really display their talents. Many of them have been child actors for a while. Drama fans will likely recognize them as having played younger versions of other actors. In this drama, though, they have the opportunity to play roles where they are their own defined character. Personally, I found some of their characters a bit unlikeable, but there were some moments where you can see the kind of actors they will be in the future. From that lens, I enjoyed seeing the potential in their performances. A few that caught my eye include Ha Seung Ri (the archery girl in this drama), Jang Woo Jin (he was in Racket Boys), Lomon (one of the main leads in this drama), and Jo Yi Hyun (as the class president in this drama, but she is also the lead in School 2021). The other two main leads (actually, they received top billing) are Park Ji Hoo as On Jo and Yoon Chan Young as Lee Chung San.

In addition to the young actors, we get to see Lee Kyu Hyung (Looney in Prison Playbook) own his role as the cop, Song Jae Ik, who truly wants to help. Another adult actor who really shines is Jeon Bae Soo as Nam So Ju (father of On Jo). Lee Sang Hee played a teacher who actually seemed to care, but was caught in a system that made her efforts to help students be decent people an overwhelming task. I was really moved by these characters and their efforts to try to help. It felt like they were there to show that there are still adults in this world who are capable of making decisions beyond their own self-interest.

Romance and Petty Teenage Stuff

Despite some rather heavy thematic topics, this still has the high school romance angle and the bad decisions teenagers around the world make in everyday situations. Unfortunately, some of those decisions (like food hoarding in a life or death situation or ignoring someone’s cry for help) have amplified consequences. Despite this, though, there are still opportunities to showcase puppy love and the typical desire to belong that is part of most high school dramas. It’s this juxtaposition that I appreciated. They are forced into adult roles, but they are still just kids trying to figure out who they are.

Sewol Connection

When I was visiting Korea shortly after the Sewol Ferry tragedy, I had a number of conversations with Koreans about it. Over and over, I would hear people talk about how the ones with power and the adults in charge had abandoned their responsibilities and the children on board. It feels like this drama is drawing a clear connection between that tragedy and the zombie situation within the school. If you watch, look for the way they portray the feelings and sentiments of the teenagers. Look for the clear connection between what people in power are supposed to do and the decisions they make. I wondered if it was just my personal conversations that made this so hauntingly familiar, but in my chats with some of my fellow drama watchers, I learned that others saw this too. I recommend looking beyond the zombies to see the political commentary.

All your non-Kdrama watching friends are watching

Peer pressure should not be the only reason to watch, but this drama was #1 on Netflix. That means all those people who watched Squid Games likely decided to give another Kdrama a chance. You know they are going to rush over to you, their resident Kdrama addict, and ask for your opinions and thoughts. So, to save yourself from having to awkwardly admit that you haven’t watched, it might be worth a peek.

Would I recommend?

This is a tough one. I binged this drama and could not stop watching. I felt my stomach turn a bit with all of the violence and the bullying, but once I moved past that, I really felt myself drawn in by the characters and their stories. There are a lot of zombie scenes and running from zombies and me shouting, “Why won’t he just die?!” But there are also some poignant moments that made my heart ache a bit. There is teen angst, but also very timeless themes like accepting loss, class struggle, and unrequited love. I think I would recommend it. If you can see the story beyond the graphic violence, then I think this drama is worth watching.

Thank you! I want to thank a few of the lovely members of our Discord Channel who shared their thoughts with me as well. Shout out to WheresWallace, blissfulmochi, Ar, and RebekahRoberts for sharing their reactions as we watched!

Until the next bite,

Kdrama Jen

Dramas with a Side of Kimchi

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