Signal Korean Drama - Lee Je Hoon, Kim Hye Soo, Jo Jin Woong

Signal is a fantasy crime drama about a modern day group of detectives who are able to communicate with a detective in the past using an old two way radio to solve crimes.  As events begin to change because of their actions, they quickly learn just how dangerous messing with time can be.

Yea! I finally found a crime thriller that I actually found thrilling!  I’ve mentioned before that crime/police procedural type dramas are just usually not my thing.  I tend to quickly get bored with multiple cases that create a sort of episodic feel.  Now there are crime dramas I have enjoyed, but they usually need to have extremely appealing characters and a very interesting overarching plot that runs throughout the drama.

And Signal was just that kind of drama!  One thing it had going for it from the get go was that I love time-bendy shows.  The idea of changing something in the past and it creating a butterfly effect that ripples to the future with unknown consequences has always fascinated me.

Note: You can read this entire review even if you have not seen the drama as there are no major spoilers.

Signal Korean Drama - Lee Je Hoon Signal Korean Drama - Jo Jin Woong

In Signal, we see Park Hae Young (Lee Je Hoon) stumble upon an old radio and begin to connect with Lee Jae Han (Jo Jin Woong) at several points in the past beginning in 1989.  Cha Soo Hyun (Kim Hye Soo) is involved with both men separately in their respective timelines through working at the police station, but she is unaware of their communications.

Signal Korean Drama - Kim Hye Soo

Going into this drama, I had no experience with Lee Je Hoon or Kim Hye Soo and had only seen Jo Jin Woong in a supporting role in Tree With Deep Roots.  But all three of these talented individuals blew me away with in depth and meaningful performances.

The acting capabilities of these three was exactly what is needed for a story like this that calls for so many different character representations.  By seeing each character at different points in their lives throughout the drama, the ability to convey the changes we go through in our lifetime in a believable way is an absolute must.  And these three definitely deliver.

Signal Korean Drama - Lee Je Hoon

Lee Je Hoon was wonderful in the role of Park Hae Young.  His character was genuine and likable with such a strong dedication to finding the truth and helping those around him.  He had just the right mix of youthful innocence and maturity.

Signal Korean Drama - Kim Hye Soo

Kim Hye Soo did amazing at playing the two distinct sides of her character. In the past, she effortlessly conveys the sweet innocence of her rookie character. But in the present, she is completely believable as the tough, no-nonsense cop who will let nothing or no one get in her away.

Signal Korean Drama - Jo Jin Woong

And then we have the true hero of the drama, Jo Jin Woong.  This guy blew me away.  Despite a somewhat gruff exterior, he really is a lovable teddy bear type who will easily win your heart.  He will stop at nothing to solve a case and willingly puts himself in jeopardy if it means he can bring justice.  And the subtle nuances that Jo Jin Woong added to Lee Jae Han’s character is what made him so well-rounded.

Signal was also one of those dramas that effortlessly tugged at my heartstrings with it’s simple yet brilliant writing.  A combination of this along with editing and music easily stirred up all kinds of emotions in me.  And of course, the amazing actors seal the deal.

Signal Korean Drama - Jo Jin Woong and Kim Hye Soo

The relationships between our three characters were unique and layered.  Jae Han and Soo Hyun were an interesting pair.  Soo Hyun quickly develops an admiration for Jae Han which then develops into feelings.  Because of his personality and old wounds, his focus is always on other things.  But I loved their partnership and the sort of mentor relationship that came with it.  There isn’t much in the way of romance in Signal, but it definitely has its moments.  The moments between these two are so true and genuine.

Signal Korean Drama - Lee Je Hoon and Kim Hye Soo

In the present, Soo Hyun is in the leadership role above Hae Young.  Instead of a naïve rookie cop, she is now a hardened team leader.  But Hae Young is able to soften her heart through their friendship.  Their shared connection with Jae Han tightens that bond and certainly adds an intensity to the relationship.

Signal Korean Drama - Lee Je Hoon Signal Korean Drama - Jo Jin Woong

And our final relationship is that of Jae Han and Hae Young.  Though the two are separated by time, they share a connection unlike any other.  There are no walls between these two, and raw emotion frequently charges their interactions as they try to change events in the past and deal with the consequences of those changes.  I loved these two guys.

Many of the bad guys in the drama are also presented as multi-dimensional characters.  This is one of those dramas that really allows you to get inside of the minds of some of these criminals.  It really is a bit disconcerting how it is able to stir up sympathy for these individuals by showing that even people who seem to be monsters are more than what they appear on the surface.

Signal very elegantly intertwined events and characters in each timeline all the way from 1989 to 2015.  I loved how the drama handled the different crimes our detectives had to solve.  Each case was somehow connected to one of our three detectives in some personal way.  This really helped each case have significance rather than feeling like a random “case of the week” sort of thing.

Signal Korean Drama - Kim Hye Soo

This also allowed us to dig really deep into our characters.  And because our characters were personally involved, it gave more weight to the cases as a whole.  Because of this setup, even from the first episode, I was completely invested and actually found myself moved to tears in almost every episode of the drama.

Signal Korean Drama - Lee Je Hoon Signal Korean Drama - Jo Jin Woong

Signal is a drama that I probably wouldn’t have watched on my own.  Despite the time-bendy premise, the combination of being a crime drama and starring actors I’m not as familiar with made the drama not stand out.  But thankfully, the drama community raved about Signal week after week.  When I realized I had heard almost nothing negative about the drama, I figured I might as well give it a try.  And I’m so glad I did.

Signal - Lee Je Hoon, Kim Hye Soo, Jo Jin Woong 3

Signal did not disappoint and has certainly set the bar extremely high for crime dramas to come.  It’s engaging characters and brilliantly layered story with attention to the smallest details really stands out among others.  Signal is a drama that left quite an impact which I know will be felt for a long time to come.

My Rating: 10/10

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30 responses to “Signal Korean Drama Review”

  1. Mitta Avatar

    Hi Kay! Just curious what is that one thing that is stopping you from giving it a 10/10?

    1. Kay Avatar

      Haha, I actually considered putting a note at the very end about that (and maybe I will). Just looking at the drama on its own, the enjoyment factor that came from it, and the fact that I have nothing negative to say about it, I definitely would give it a 10/10. But I always have trouble rating when considering the scale that includes my favorite dramas. I usually reserve 10’s for my all time favorites, more so to separate them from the pack rather than a reflection on the quality of other dramas.

      Honestly, on my scale, anything I have ever rated 9 or higher would be given a 10 when just looking at the drama on its own. I know some people give a subjective and objective rating to address things like that. And I did actually rate one other drama that way in a review. I really thought about that while rating this one, and I think I will add in a note that as a whole it really does deserve a 10.

      Thanks for asking so I could think on it some more because I really do think people should be aware that Signal deserves a 10 because of how good it is 🙂

      Did you watch Signal?

      1. Mitta Avatar

        Makes total sense now that you explained it. I for one will always compare any drama to Misaeng and unless I get the same “high” from every aspect of the show it probably won’t warrant a 10 in my books too. Great point! Yes, I’m watching for almost the same reasons you did. Also the PD sold it for me too 😁

        1. Kay Avatar

          It’s always hard when you have that golden drama that will always be perfect in your mind. It’s hard not to compare others to it. I’ve got under 10 dramas that I have given a 10 when putting it on my favorites list. Although I will still be rating purely off of my own enjoyment of the drama, for review purposes I am going to start rating the drama itself and not factor in whether I liked it better than another drama or not. That will produce a few more 10’s for sure. But hey, why not reward those dramas that I feel are really awesome even if they don’t quite make my top 10 favorite’s list?

          I’m glad you’re enjoying Signal too! I was so surprised by how much I loved the drama. It’s given me some pretty bad drama withdrawals because I miss it so much!

  2. joybran2015 Avatar

    I totally agree with your review, even the part about not liking procedurals and it being a crime thriller that actually thrills. Signal was wonderful and amazing and deserves a 10, but it isn’t one of my all time favorites. My heart belongs to several other dramas that might not even be as good, objectively speaking. Still, Signal and its three lead actors deserve all the praise they have received.

    1. Kay Avatar

      Me too! That’s where I struggle sometimes in assigning a rating. It’s like there’s a spot in my heart reserved for my very favorites and those are considered perfection to me, even though they may have issues.

      Then dramas like Signal come along and deserve a 10, but I still don’t like it as much as my top favorites. So I usually give it a small bump down. But I’m going to stop doing that, and if I feel a drama deserves a 10 (still based purely on my enjoyment factor) then I will give it a 10. That doesn’t really affect most of my ratings, mostly just a few that I have given 9s where I will go ahead and bump them up to a 10. So I guess there may be a few more 10’s floating around. I’ll just know that my favorites are still at the top of the 10’s list, lol

  3. […] Signal did not disappoint in any way and has certainly set the bar extremely high for crime dramas to come.  It’s engaging characters and brilliantly layered story with attention to the smallest details really stands out among others.  Signal is a drama that left quite an impact which I know will be felt for a long time to come. (Signal Review) […]

  4. […] so glad to hear the news that both Lee Je Hoon (Signal) and Shin Min Ah (Oh My Venus) have been confirmed to be starring in the new tvN drama Tomorrow […]

  5. […] Signal did not disappoint in any way and has certainly set the bar extremely high for crime dramas to come.  It’s engaging characters and brilliantly layered story with attention to the smallest details really stands out among others.  Signal is a drama that left quite an impact which I know will be felt for a long time to come. My Rating: 10/10 (Signal Review) […]

  6. […] Signal completely blew me away and effortlessly tugged at my heartstrings with it’s brilliant writing and absolutely amazing acting. It’s engaging characters and intricately layered story with attention to the smallest details really stands out among others.  Signal is a drama that left quite an impact which I know will be felt for a long time to come. […]

  7. […] Signal did not disappoint in any way and has certainly set the bar extremely high for crime dramas to come.  It’s engaging characters and brilliantly layered story with attention to the smallest details really stands out among others.  Signal is a drama that left quite an impact which I know will be felt for a long time to come. (Signal Review) […]

  8. Divya Avatar

    Suggest me some fast paced thriller, crime drama…

    1. Kay Avatar

      I would recommend Duel, Heartless City, My Beautiful Bride, and Bad Guys 🙂

  9. Judy Avatar

    I came to kdramas late – my draughter introduced me to it with Lengend of the Blue Sea.

    I am glad I get to watch Signal after all the episodes were aired: the suspense of having to wait for the next one would have killed me.

    When it comes to the thriller/crime genre, I always prefer a book. That’s the only way one can get the full character developments as well as the nuances.

    However, this drama really blew me away with such good scripting, directing, casting and acting. When watching the drama, I got so caught up with the emotions, I still feel so much even having finished watching it two weeks ago!

    1. Kay Avatar

      Legend of the Blue Sea is certainly a fantastic introduction to the world of kdramas 🙂

      I too waited to watch Signal until it was completed. Waiting for episodes would have been torture! But yes, everything about this drama was truly amazing. I also experienced a lot of emotions with it. And I totally understand. It’s been around a year and half since I watched it, and I still frequently think about it and remember just how phenomenal it was. Truly a special drama 🙂

  10. Dame Holly Has A Hat (@Lee_Tennant) Avatar

    Just out of curiosity, what did you think of the ending? I heard criticisms of it but I just finished this drama and loved the ending.

    I thought the first 12 episodes were very good but then 13, 14 and 15 were slow, meandering and almost tiresome. The show lost all focus and treaded over the same narrative ground repeatedly. There was at max an episode’s worth of plot spread out over three. I spent most of 15 yelling “yes it’s a closed time loop, we get it, just get on with it”.

    But in the finale the show finally got to the point! And it was a great point. Like Forest of Secrets (Stranger), this drama understands and accepts that corruption is eternal and repeats constantly. Also eternal is the passing of the guard from honest, determined cops to new cops in the future. Jae Han and Hae Young were different generations of the same man bridged by a person one trained and the other was mentored by. The walkie-talkie represented the link between the past and the future, of the omnipresence of corruption and those who fight it.

    So overall I thought this was a great 14 episode drama that was unfortunately 16.

    1. Kay Avatar

      I also loved the ending 🙂 I really thought it brought everything together so nicely. I found the entire drama to pretty much be perfection with script, pacing, and acting and that included the ending. It’s one of those where I was a little surprised to see that so many other people were unhappy with it. I thought it fit perfectly 🙂

      1. Dame Holly Has A Hat (@Lee_Tennant) Avatar

        Me too. The final episode blew me away and I thought the ending was perfect.

        I know that everyone raves about Cho Jin-woong but I absolutely loved Lee Je-hoon in this. The only other thing I’ve seen him in is Tomorrow With You. (I don’t think I need to tell you how I felt about that, since I’ve made my feelings on Shin Min-a’s acting pretty clear). I think I fell in love with him a little in this. You can even see from your screenshots what he can do with his eyes. All his scenes with Kim Hye-soo had so much intensity and chemistry that I was shipping them a lot by the end. Of course I didn’t actually want them to get together since she was his boss but she’s not anymore and so they’re free to write the Season 2 Noona romance I’d watch happily!

        1. Kay Avatar

          I know what you mean about Lee Je Hoon! Signal was my first time seeing him, and I absolutely loved him! He added so much depth to his character and yes, so much that he can do with his eyes. I went on to watch him in Tomorrow With You where I also completely loved him. Like you, I also wouldn’t mind a season 2 noona romance for Signal 🙂

  11. In Asian Spaces Avatar

    One of my all-time favorite Kdramas (=

    1. Kay Avatar

      Yes! Signal is an amazing drama! 🙂

      1. In Asian Spaces Avatar

        It really is! I loved crime kdrama anyway, but mixed with the time travel stuff for a scifi fan like me it was perfect! lol

        1. Kay Avatar

          Exactly! The perfect execution of the time bendy element made this crime drama completely thrilling in every way. It’s rare for a drama to pull off a story like this so flawlessly, and it completely did 🙂

          1. In Asian Spaces Avatar

            Very true! I haven’t seen one I liked as much that successfully attempted it since lol

          2. Kay Avatar

            Same here. I have to try really hard not to compare dramas to Signal since it’s one of those times where it is almost impossible to live up to it.

          3. In Asian Spaces Avatar

            I can understand that.

  12. Kaye Avatar

    Hi! I just discovered your website and I must say I totally agree with this review. I’m not really good with words but I must say it was one of the best crime/thriller dramas I have watched. The plot and characters were sooo good and because of that I started to watch Lee Je Hoon’s other dramas but it wasn’t as good as this one (eheemm Tomorrow With You and Where Stars Land). I really hope that they make season 2 asap coz I need more dramas like this. Also Kim Hye Soo and that scene where she was almost choked to death made me cry. She was that good!!!

    1. Kay Avatar

      Hi! Glad you found your way here 🙂 And yes, we completely agree. Signal is one of the best crime dramas ever! Everything is done to perfection in it. The actors were all so amazing. I too wish we could get a season 2 for it. I think there is a lot to work so that they could continue the story. I guess we can dream 🙂

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