Signal stars Lee Je Hoon in the role of Park Hae Young, a criminal profiler who has a bitter past connected to an infamous gang rape case in the fictional city of Inju. He meets a veteran detective named Cha Soo Hyun played by Kim Hye Soo. Turns out their fates are intertwined and is connected by a person from the past, Detective Lee Jae Han, played by Jo Jin Woong.
The unexplainable occurrences start when Hae Young receives a transmission via an old walkie talkie- a broken piece of evidence that’s supposed to be thrown away. To prove that he hasn’t gone in sane, Hae Young reluctantly goes to the mental hospital following the directions of the detective on the other line. Hae Young confirms that he hasn’t gone nuts, but he too, finds out that he just actually communicated with someone from the past. The transmissions from the past continue as Hae Young becomes a member of a special cold case squad. Coincidentally (or not), the unsolved cases are exactly what Detective Lee Jae Han been investigating during his time.
Who would’ve thought that solving a mere burglary case could lead to the revelation of a string of more serious crime and corruption. One case has suddenly become connected to the next and the next and the next…
It’s quite difficult to nitpick at this drama since it is set in a parallel world of a different time so focusing on one scene would mean you’d have to think about its origin as well as several possibilities had the main character made a different move. The important thing for me is that the narrative and the actors’ performances were as solid as when it began until the story has come in full circle. There might have been some loopholes here and there but we have to admit that dealing with temporal paradox is not that easy especially if it involves some serious crimes based on real Korean cases .
The main characters are flawed but determined, all of them admirable for fighting for their loved ones and carrying out justice at all costs. And these actors impressively played their characters like real relatable people. Jo Jin Woong may not have Lee Byung Hun or Jung Woo Sung’s looks, but he has his own police charms. That’s what makes him convincing as Lee Jae Han.He’s ordinary looking, no 6 pack abs, awkward with his first love, earnest at work and he’s no superman. He makes mistakes and gets beaten, but never once thought about losing hope even if moving forward means giving up his life.
Kim Hye Soo smoothly goes back and forth as the timid rookie and the badass squad captain. She represents a real woman who hasn’t changed on the inside, still has moments of vulnerability and loneliness from a lost love but has managed to be in control of her life and has toughened up over time. The drama is fast paced but still, there was some ample time to show her relationship with Lee Hae Jan and how he learned to care for her in return.
Lee Je Hoon tends to be theatrical at times but not to the point where he becomes unbearable. His character is smart but he’s not the usual know-it-all genius that most dramas give us in an instant. We witnessed how he how he struggled in life til he realized that being a delinquent wouldn’t change anything and so he worked hard to get to where he is.
Signal proves that a drama doesn’t always have to include a flower boy alpha male and a whole lot of tropes to be successful. It’s enough that it has some solid storytelling, character development and consistent action/visuals that would excite the viewers and make its long running time go unnoticed. Even the amount of romance here is minimal yet effective. No need for blaring senti background music.
An episode is a chock full of suspense from start to finish and the level of intrigue is constant until the finale. Though, I have to admit that an open-ending is quite unsatisfying for me. But for a story as complicated as Signal’s, I’d take it rather than them forcing an unrealistic happily-ever-after. Even better is the fact that they’re hinting at a possible second season.
*walkie talkie smiley 🙂 *