I haven’t had the time or energy to watch much lately, but I’d been planning to watch this one for Lee Joon-hyuk, and Saya’s positive reviews made me feel confident that it would be a satisfying ride. I had hoped for a drama in which I would not need to fear death or dismemberment for Oppa—alas, this is not that drama—but I really enjoyed this compact, well-paced, and thrilling drama regardless. I definitely balked at how easily everyone bought Lee Shin’s story initially; at least the detective and the thriller writer should have been asking questions immediately that they don’t get around to until halfway through the drama. Also, why does everyone believe her for so long?! In what universe does this lady come across as trustworthy?
But apart from that quibble, the bulk of the writing is tight, twisty, and layered in a way that director Kim Kyung-hee skillfuly brings to life with stylish scene transitions, music that’s a perfect blend of creepy and whimsical, and eerily atmospheric set design. (I didn’t know until I looked it up, but I’m always glad to realize that a well-directed drama has a female PD, because they’re so rare!) The way the drama slowly peels back each character’s mask to reveal more of their true nature is so impressively done, and each time we find out another secret about a character, it advances the plot in new ways. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a drama that consistently brings twist! after! twist! from beginning to supremely satisfying end. I legit TRUSTED NO ONE, not even our leads.
I’m sure the show owes some of that to the source material, but this adaptation brings the story to vivid and unsettling life, and part of that is its well-chosen ensemble cast. Lee Joon-hyuk, Nam Ji-hyun, and Yang Dong-geun are especially great in their roles as Hyung-jo, Ga-hyun, and Jung-tae. Hyung-jo is the perfect balance of loyal, goofy, courageous, and efficient, while Ga-hyun is matter-of-fact, tough, observant, and detail-oriented—which make them the perfect team to take on the kind of villains they eventually have to face (and damn, those villain reveals, they came in stages and I was there for all of them!). Jung-tae at first seems like the kind of throwaway gangster stereotype ubiquitous in crime thrillers, but he ends up having a complex and interesting dynamic with almost every other character, and I grew surprisingly attached to him by the end. And as always, Yang’s performance is subtle and exactly enough. The ever-shifting dynamic between the time travelers and the mysterious figures behind the reset stay fascinating, tense, and affecting throughout.
One of the themes of this show is how easy it is to be deceived even by someone you trust implicitly. This is borne out in nearly every relationship depicted in the drama, whether between friends, work partners, lovers, mentors and proteges, families… Hyung-jo and Ga-hyun only find out the truth about who they can trust by going through extreme and life-threatening situations. Hyung-jo starts the drama by resetting in order to save the life of a friend he loves, but in the end, he becomes the “one person who is willing to travel through time to save my life” that Ga-hyun never imagined she’d find. It’s a destination for the slow build of their relationship that’s so well-earned, and I love where we leave them at the end of the drama. (Hyung-jo’s face in that entire last scene is what I have literally been waiting for since Lee Joon-hyuk broke my heart at the end of City Hunter.)
Though I admit, now I want to see the rom-com where Ga-hyun falls for the consulting detective who is already secretly in love with her, as they run around solving murders together. Pleeeease, Dramaland? *pouts*