Having been a big fan of the American series Lost, this new series by MBC certainly caught my eye and it’s the one I’m most likely to be following after the current slate of dramas end. It does seem like we’re starting 2017 with a few darker series, like Voice and this one, plus the ongoing Solomon’s Perjury.
Summary of key events
Episode 1 moves us promptly into the storyline as we begin with Bong Hee (played by Baek Jin-Hee) appearing in China four months after a private plane, flight HL0079, by Legend Entertainment goes missing. She claims to have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and hence has forgotten everything that has happened in the past four months. However, since the plane crash has been so detrimental to Legend Entertainment and been such a significant event for the public, eyes are on her and everyone wants to find out the truth. The chairwoman of the committee of inquiry, Song Hee Kyung (played by Song Ok-sook), is especially interested and tells Bong Hee upfront that she needs to recover her memories, because the whole nation depends on her.
We then flashback to the very day of the flight, which was coincidentally also Bong Hee’s first day of work as Joon Oh’s (played by Jung Kyung-ho) stylist. She’s bubbly and excited about her first day of work and is fetched by Joon Oh’s manager, Ki Joon (Oh Jung-se), to find him on the beach. On the car journey there, we get filled in on Joon Oh’s fall from grace, where he used to be extremely popular but then immediately lost all his fans after something strange he said after being arrested for a traffic accident. After the accident, the three person band “Dreamer” that he was a part of was disbanded and he’s lost his reputation completely, partly also because of his temperamental nature.
Joon Oh gives Bong Hee an extremely difficult time on her first day, rejecting every single outfit she proposes. She makes several other faux pax, like proposing he wear a pair of sunglasses that’s being endorsed by his rival and Joon Oh decides to fire her. However, after persuasion by Ki Joon, Joon Oh retracts his decision and thus she ends up joining him on the flight – her first ever flight.
While on the flight, we’re introduced to all the other characters briefly, but the main ones we need to note for now are Tae Ho (played by Choi Tae-Joon), who was the bassist in Dreamers, and Lee Yeol (played by Park Chan-yeol), who was the drummer of Dreamers. There is a tense confrontation in the plane between the three of them, as Yeol plays his latest track for President Hwang (president of Legend Entertainment, played by Kim Sang Ho)) and it turns out to be a piece written by their friend, Jae Hyun who committed suicide due to the accident earlier mentioned. Tae Ho tells Joon that Yeol released that single to make Joon Oh feel guilty and we get a flashback to an encounter at a recording studio where Jae Hyun expressed his guilt after the accident, saying he can’t live with it anymore. Jooh Oh flares up at him and tells him to end his life, since he can’t handle it, which is exactly what Jae Hyun does. And almost all the key members who are on the flight are witnesses of his death as he jumps down from the building.
As the three of them are quarrelling, the plane hits some turbulent weather with hailstones assailing them continuously, which destroys the plane engine and ultimately causes the plane to crash, which brings the first episode to an end.
That was a real good start. I have to admit I’m a little biased because I loved the American TV series “Lost” and this drama has a very similar structure to it. Essentially we’re dealing with three ‘levels’ of story-telling in this drama – (1) the present day story which begins when Bong Hee is discovered four months after the plane crash, (2) the four months on the island, and (3) all the characters’ backstory leading up to the plane crash. We get no insight into (2) during the first episode, but we get some of (1) and plenty of (3). I’m pretty sure the balance will shift as we move along, but I really enjoyed what we saw in the present day story as well as the backstory.
While the present day story didn’t present anything new plot-wise (i.e. we already knew before watching the show that Bong Hee was the only survivor), it did a very good job of building the atmosphere of anxiety, uncertainty, and threat towards Bong Hee. We can already sense that she’s in a vulnerable position, since she holds the key to the truth of a catastrophe that had huge amount of media coverage. Having her suffer from PTSD almost seems like too convenient a plot-device, but even her PTSD may be cast in doubt as we’re not sure if she really forgot everything or is using that just as a cover-up. I found the chief investigator rather chilling and scary, as she almost threatens Bong Hee to recover from her PTSD. Of course, the mystery remains too as to whether she really is the only survivor, given that we learn that there have been rumours of sightings of other members of the flight. The whole atmosphere of uncertainty and suspense has loads of potential for meaningful and exciting storytelling already.
While I did wish we got some more insight into what happened on the island, what we saw about Joon Oh’s backstory was interesting enough and given sufficient weight for us to care about what happened with the Dreamers and the accident. What we saw gave us enough to connect with Joon Oh, Tae Oh and Lee Yeol and all the emotional baggage between them. The death of Jae Hyun was a surprisingly powerful moment for me and I could almost empathise and feel for Joon Oh as he looked upon his friend, with such shock and guilt in his eyes. Since Jae Hyun’s death, they have all tried to move on on their own ways, separately, but will now be brought together due to this crash where they will be forced to reconcile their differences in order to survive.
That Bong Hee is the survivor is also interesting because from what we see, she’s the one who seems the least street-smart, having never flown before and completely not understanding how the media world works. Nevertheless, she makes up for her lack of experience with her persistence and willingness to learn, which I guess are good traits to have in a survival situation. She would be the one who adjust the most easily to life on an island given that the rest of those on the plane are used to a life of luxury. Given her ‘outsider’ status to this rest of the 8 on the plane, it’d be most fascinating to see how she eventually emerges as the survivor.
I’m intrigued and can’t wait to see how the show unfolds. With so many different levels of storytelling and a tight group of 9 characters who already have pre-existing relationships (except for Bong Hee), there’s so much potential for quality character-driven storytelling here. I’m in for the ride