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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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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