Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Desperate signals from the past change the future. Signal depicts a story of a detective getting connected with a detective from the past through a walkie-talkie and setting out on a journey to solve cold cases together. When tvN aired the drama in 2016, it recorded an unusually high viewership of more than 10 percent for cable channels, and received much love until the very end for its cliff-hanging development and actors’ passionate performances. Four years after the drama was released, people are still keenly waiting for season 2, and this article covers the 4 major reasons.
How Misaeng: Incomplete Life Director Kim Won Suk and Sign Writer Kim Eun Hee Made Signal into ‘Synergy’
Signal is the work of Misaeng: Incomplete Life director Kim Won Suk and Sign writer Kim Eun Hee. Writer Kim, known for Ghost, 3 Days, and Sign, composed thrilling and suspenseful stories with themes that are rarely used in K-dramas, while director Kim received positive reviews for his warm-hearted portrayal of those who live calmly under challenging situations through works like Cinderella’s Sister and Misaeng: Incomplete Life. The two, who boasted their best skills in their respective fields, joined hands for Signal to create a project in which the fun of criminal investigation dramas and the emotions of human dramas coexist.
On a side note, Signal was initially programmed as SBS drama, but it was transferred to cable network tvN after broadcasting officials halted the project because they were unsure about its unconventional concept and story. The drama was able to fully depict its plot on a cable network, which was relatively freer than terrestrial televisions, and as a result, it was able to achieve greater success.
Lee Je Hoon, Kim Hye Soo, and Cho Jin Woong’s Chemistry that Goes Beyond Time and Space
Signal was noted for its jaw-dropping cast lineup even from the production stage. Lee Je Hoon, who was broadening his fields after being discharged from the military, Kim Hye Soo, who returned to the small screen three years after The Queen of Office, and Cho Jin Woong, who was starring in tentpole movies Roaring Currents, Assassination, and KUNDO: Age of the Rampant, starred as detectives in the past and the present. This fresh combination of the actors was soon titled “the all-time casting,” raising the expectations to the fullest.
In the drama, the three actors showed off their chemistry that goes beyond time and space. Lee Je Hoon played a criminal profiler Park Hae Yeong and added to the fun investigations with extraordinary analytical skills, while Cho Jin Woong, who took on the role of detective Lee Jae Han from the past, touched viewers’ hearts as he consoled and grieved together with the victims despite his “daredevil” detective instincts. Kim Hye Soo, who played detective Cha Soo Hyun, showed calm judgment and strong charisma as the cold case unit leader, breaking the stereotype of female police characters who mostly played a passive role.
The Fun of Time-Slip and the Tension of Crime Drama
Signal combines the fun of time-slip drama and the tension of crime drama. Detective Lee Jae Han from the past and criminal profiler Park Hae Yeong and detective Cha Soo Hyun from the present join forces to solve the cold cases. Detectives from the present times, who already know the outcome of the case, inform Lee Jae Han the clues and guide the investigation. Or sometimes, Lee Jae Han helps the two detectives out by finding the clues or cases that are lost in the present times.
If the past changes due to the clues given in the present, the present is also affected. This means that these cold cases came to a solid end, and at the same time, conveys that the past wounds and traumas of the three characters have been resolved, giving an unexpected afterglow.
Messages that the Production Team Wanted to Convey by Reconstructing the Actual Incidents
Another key point of the drama is that the cold cases dealt within the drama were actually based on actual violent crime cases. Both “Kim Yoon Jung abduction case” and “serial murder case in southern Gyeonggi Province,” which appeared at the beginning of the play, were based on actual cases. So if you get to know the background knowledge, you can feel the production team’s intention to show the tragic reality at the time through virtual dramatization.
In addition, the fact that victims in the drama and the main characters are connected as siblings, lovers, or friends doubles the sadness. Through such production, staff conveyed a message to never forget the tragedy and expressed consolations to the bereaved families who are still suffering.