Thoughts on: Signal

I wouldn’t call Signal a ‘masterpiece’, there have been better dramas than it, or at least dramas I felt more connected to. It’s a well crafted crime show with a competent cast and director, and definitely one of the better kdramas I’ve watched over the past fiew years. It just didn’t have that eluseve factor which would have made me throughly enthralled, the way e.g. ‘Monks and Masters’ did. Yes, it tugged the ol’ heartstrings and made me save the last fiew episodes for a binge watch, to avoid the cliffhangers, but I didn’t feel the need to compulsively talk about it.

That said, when I think about it, for me Signal is filled with positives. The script is solid and it shows that the writer had the whole thing plotted out till the end. Even the Magic Walkie-talkie has been so expertly integrated within the plot that I didn’t even once wonder upon how and why the darned thing worked. It just did and I accepted that. What I really appreciate is the lack of filler and draggy episodes. Some of the more quiet scenes are perhaps a bit too drawn out but that is a minor quibble and didn’t affect my overall enjoyement. All the episodes have plenty of detailed info you just have to keep tabs on, which I generally love in crime shows. There are hints and foreshadowing, some red herrings too but also bits and pieces that keep you guessing. It’s also a big bonus that the actual police work doesn’t make you want to cringe at every turn. When an investigation is shoddy, it’s easy to see why. Bungled investigations are not unheard of in real life, neither is corruption.

The characters are nicely drawn, everyone an individual with his or her own special quirks. It isn’t every show that makes you sympathise with a bad cop… or a serial killer. Jung Hae Kyun and Lee Sang Yeob really aced those roles. But then, all the actors/actresses did a great job, even in the bit parts. My favourite is Jo Jin Woong, no surprises there. He’s such a versatile actor who can play all sorts of characters at ease. His Jae Han is a totaly lovable teddybear and I spent most of the drama wanting to squish him, LOL! It’s also great to have a competent female cop with a working brain, though even she didn’t start out that way. We were all clueless rookies once.^^ Kudos for Kim Hye Soo for being totally beleavable in both incarnations of Soo Hyun. Lee Je Hoon was a tad rusty in the beginning but I never thought he was overacting. That’s just the way Hae Young was written. Very exact and precise, even in his speech. Special mention goes to the young actors who played big bro Sun Woo and kid Hae Young.

I liked the ending. It’s consistent with the more realisitic view that wrongdoers may go unpunished, things don’t always work out, nor is it possible to right all wrongs. The ending, though open, is still hopeful and we leave the characters with a feeling that maybe, with a little help from the past, the future can still be changed for the better. There has been talk about a 2nd season but I’m not all that sure I want one. Sometimes it’s just best to leave things be.

I love the OST, it’s atmospheric and very fitting for the drama. The ending song 떠나야할 그사람 (The Person Who Has to Leave) sung by 잉키 is perhaps my fave.

But I realy like 길 (The Road) by Kim Yuna (of rock band Jaurim) too.

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17 thoughts on “Thoughts on: Signal

  1. I really loved Signal. And for me that is a big deal because I am not a fan of crime dramas for the most part. But it checked all of the right boxes for me and was definitely squee worthy. I’m glad you found a drama you were able to enjoy overall too. I will be posting my review tomorrow 🙂

  2. Ahh… I think because KHS is the only doing a spanking job thus far imho (I am at 6 now, ep has gravitas, but damnit i am hollering nononoDONT predictable and angst! is unnec at this point of story…argh) I only gave her my full attention that’s why and thought she gave off too much emotions, interest in the kidnapping case, which I assumed HY mustve taken note duly. I thought her OTT in that hustling interrogation with the kidnapper was so pitch perfect as to how her character would overreact. So, I assumed HY deduced SH is more invested than the rest of his new team on a case meaning the world to him personally and I saw her taking him under her wings and so forth and thought it would be most appropriate for him to weave sth as a side comment poking instead of bringing up any amount of unwanted attention as to the absurdity he is involved in esp on a new team and new boss cop is not exactly warm and cuddly…that is what I would do to cause the least fanfair and kept my secret OMG investigation to myself. I thought any poking into some ex colleague, left abruptly under perhaps peculiar circumstances would need thorough feeling around first before bluntly asking the Chief, I would be quite cautious of all the whatifs?! And so after asking boss and got Ahjussi went missing and that’s end of convo, wouldnt any inquisitive person, esp with JeHoon’s OMG reaction face go poke around asking MORE questions on any old timers he could get hands on and so conveniently…SH?!?!?! It is just that I saw this denser fog of mystery shrouding HY and while JeHoon’s fervent emotive OMGs to any new piece of puzzle are fine I crave more gradiation because as is I am quite desensitized by his exact reaction face, like some crying wolf. His actions are not matched by an acute increasing intensity, urgency and…thoroughness

    • Ok, Hae Yoon turning to Chief Ahn for intel about for Jae Han is a plotdevice to make the Baddies aware of HY’s interest, I grant that. It just doesn’t really matter to me as I still think it’s plausable within the ramifications of the story. What need is there to ask more questions at that point? He got the info he was looking for and he’s busy with more pressing matters at hand. The thing is, I don’t think there was even supposed to be much urgency in his inital interest in JH. In the beginning JH was a curious puzzle to be solved but it got personal while Hae Yoon interacted more with both past JH and Soo Hyun. Guess this is something which we’ll just have to agree to disagree on.^^

      I get that you don’t care much about how Je Hoon portrays YH. 🙂 Maybe you expected too much of him as I don’t have the same problems at all. Yup, he was overly emotive to begin with but that sort of evens out as the episodes go. YH also isn’t as central to me as he seems to be to you. Hae Young, Jae Hoon and Soo Hyun have equal weight in my eyes, JH somehow being the center the other two gravitate towards. Could be the reason no individual mishaps in acting or character construct bugged me. But hey, that’s just me.

      Yup, KSH did a great job though out.

  3. I know you would not spoil but still i am sucha phobe i just skimmed XD. Just started and 4 eps in i feel i will share the like not love. I am liking everything to continue but I am much more impatient though with the machinations of yes the walkie talkies. I do not want to rem details of Frequency the movie too much, keep fishing 4 clues there, am antsy because S writers seems not into spilling clues nor involving audience in the puzzle solving… am i required to just take it as supernatural time being with a bog reveal down road or that is it (which scared me w frustration already)?!

    I am also not absolutely floored by both LJH or ahjussi CJW. I thought they would have me squeeing off bat but i had time, in scenes less tight to nitpick they often are trying too hard in reaction shots. And i am annoying myself in alterna- casting a JoongKi and Choi SungMin here instead just because they could bring me joy just being in sth clearly by smart writers.

    • I don’t think I gave anything away, except maybe in the last paragraph some hints about the ending.^^

      I haven’t seen Frequency so I can’t compare. The walkietalkie didn’t bother me one bit, it’s just part of the package and I have no need to know how or why it works. But then, I’m not as nitpicky as you, ha. If finding out about the mechanics of the ‘magic’ is a gamechanger, then you are out of luck. They never explain it.

      Signal has a somewhat slow start, I think everyone was a bit rusty there. Nope, I can’t imagine SJK as Hae Young. He just doesn’t feel like Hae Young to me, sooorry. Did you mean Choi Min Soo perhaps? Nah, he’s too… idk, ‘eccentric’ for the role, nothing teddybear-like in him. Choi Moo Sung on the other hand would have been another good choice. Once CJW warms up a bit, he’s doing just fine. Give ’em time. 🙂

      • Argh i mean LeeSungMin XD. But Choi Moo Sung Doc would be good too. It is just… i find CJWahjussi a bit sleazy looking (no basis whatsoever but i am paranoid some fleeting moments he is a rapist/ killer too perhaps) I adore Joongki’s talents more than his looks and i would alternacast him in ANYTHING under the sun other than Sun, anything watchable let alone gd. You know.

        I will soldier on. Fam is watching along and much more hooked. I just have not had a TvN drama completely owning me flawless and expected this could be.

        • Re. Joon Ki – I know. I’d rather watch him in something that doesn’t have ‘sun’ in the tittle as well. But, guy’s gotta earn a living and Sun is a genuine hit, raking in the moolah. He’s probably drowning in CF offers by now.

          I never expect any darma to be flawless anymore, learned my lession. This way almost anything can be a nice surprise. 🙂

          • I am totally behind JK in a Sun careerwise. He actually managed to impress me even there which makes me crave him in worthy stuff even more. ie i would whine no more if there is another JK watchable drama juxtaposing atm.

            I wish i could expect less of S. I can deal w flaws within reason. I wish i could stop my zealous annoying many lil Qs watching i thot r logic fails cant ignore. I wish. Y didnt our green cop bring his Qs on ahjussi to his awesome Noona partner first and foremost?! I couldve missed things as hard 4 me to pay unabided attention in S idky. And i didnt realize he is just connecting ahjussi was missing ep…5?! A tad slow in mindchurning 4 a competent detective no matter how green. Of coz his construct needs not be competent but it is hard to keep me invested/hooked if he cant do job brilliantly enough… etcetc. I will stop my dumping of whiny lil rants. XD

          • You have my permission to rant away, I don’t mind. XD I’m just glad I’m not near as exacting as you, makes my dramawatching life a lot easier. I didn’t notice any major logic fails, but then I’m know for happily ignoring obvious plotholes big enough to fly a starcruiser through, LOL! We all have our nitpicky bits, logic fail just doesn’t happen to be one of mine.^^

            About Hae Young not asking Noona about Jae Han – he didn’t know they were connected until several epis later. Why would he? He’s a noob without any previous knowledge about anyone in his (new) team. Also, Jae Han’s records didn’t say outright that he was missing, just that he was discharged in 2001. So HY assumed he was still alive but no longer a cop. It’s only later someone (might have been Section Chief Ahn) pointed out it (the wording in JH’s records) acutally ment either JH was kicked out for doing something bad or he went missing.

          • Lol what you said is exactly what hubs tried to shut me with almost word for word butbutbutbutbut…

            It is 1+1 noona worked in precinct long enough to logically know stuff, mightve been colleagues, i wouldve cautiously confided in her right away as in e2, exercised my patience/LetItGo! And e5 he asked some other cop (of coz too predictable shady) other than her first still! i lump it in forced contrivances.

            It is not sitting well with me all of JeHoon’s OMGfaces it would not b a dot he joined off bat to know EvERYTHING ahjussi ie is missing … no longer a cop but connecting w him and still investigating and not promptly dug watcha doing why left abruptly to where that kind. Hubs projected perhaps he is afraid of being regarded weird confiding or asking about ahjussi when he was cop to his coworkers thus. Yeah, i could buy that plus greencop PHJ will never be a great det. Imma my killjoy.

          • This is fun! It’s been a while since I’ve hade any good conversations on the nuts and bolts of a drama. It’s also funny how the things that irritate you don’t even register with me. 😀 Ok, here’s my take on things.

            Hae Young may be smart but it’s all booksmarts. He is barely out of police academy and doesn’t have any experience in active police work. He’s not exactly a team worker either at that point, more like a lone wolf who’s used to doing things on his own and his own way. That combined with his trust issues makes it highly unlikely for him to confide in any of his new colleagues right off bat. The other three have also worked together for a while, Hae Young is an outsider and he didn’t start out on good terms with them. So he does what he probably aways did, research first on his own. That could take him only so far, so in the end he has no other option but to ask someone about Jae Han.

            I don’t see Soo Hyun as the logical first choice. HY doesn’t know or trust her yet but he probably knows she’s smart and would ask questions he’s not ready to answer right then. What he also knows is that she wasn’t part of the kidnapping case taskforce. (She wasn’t actually even working in that precinct when Jae Han went missing, she got her transfer papers on that same day). So he takes his query to Section Chief Ahn, whom he knows was there at that time. The problem is that we as the viewers are privy to information that the characters don’t have. We know that Ahn is suspicious but HY has no reason to think so, to him Ahn is just another cranky superior. Ahn was part of that taskforce, he was Jae Han’s colleague and he’s right here now, so… It wouldn’t be outside the limit of reason to ask Ahn about another cop who was part of the team, as it’s in connection with the reinvestigation of the kindapping case. Thus it wouldn’t sound odd or rise any extra questions on Chief Ahn’s part, which it wouldn’t have either if Ahn had been just any regular cop and not mixed up in JH’s disappearance.

            Don’t sell HY short yet, he may be green to start out with but he’s in for a very sharp and fast learning curve. 🙂

  4. Oh, i feel like having a lot to say about this drama but have yet to gather my thoughts on it =)

    I have no issues with the ending although it does leave me with a lot of questions, but since there’s fantasy element here, i’ve long figured there would be things i wouldn’t fully comprehend or make sense of. Not too big on the OST, but they definitely fit the drama’s tone. Those two are my top picks too!

    • Signal does seems to be a drama that has a tendency to make people wordy. 😉 It just didn’t hit that special spot with me. I liked just about everything in Signal but I didn’t LOVE it, hence the lack of proper “squee!”. I recall I was more hyped about Ghost, which imho is more flawed. Go figure. Looking forward to your take on Signal.

      • That’s why i’m still amazed that you manage to stay spoiler-free in your reviews, because i definitely cannot not talk about a drama’s ending, for example, haha.

        Many mentioned Ghost and Sign a lot while discussing Signal though i think premise wise it is much closer to Frequency, but i guess i’ll try Ghost. Didn’t know So Ji-sub was in it!

        • Guess it’s because I’ve learned to write around some things, ha. Sadly, I don’t seem to feel like doing proper “squee!” posts anymore. Those tended to be a bit more spoilery.

          Ah, ‘Ghost’… I loved it, despite of the quite obvious flaws and I really liked SJS in that role too. 🙂 The first ep is sort of flat but it’s full throttle ahead from ep 2 onwards. There’s a loooong post for Ghost here, in case you feel like taking a peek. You’ll find a link in the ‘index’ page. No major spoilers and oddly enough very few minor ones too, considering it’s full of “squee!”. LOL! I just read the post through and lol’ed at all the “praying for TPTB not to eff up the ending”. I think people are mentioning Ghost in connection with Signal because they are both by crime shows and by the same writer.

          • Yeah, somehow i have more energy to write rant posts than the squee ones LOL.

            I just did! It isn’t very long, and i can definitely feel your enthusiasm. Have no idea how this drama can fall under my radar since i love So Ji-sub and like Uhm Ki-joon. “it’s a good fit when you feel like smart, action-y SJS” — okay, i’m in! =)

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