K-Drama Review: ‘Alice’: A Time-Traveling Drama that Slowly Unlays the Tangled Strands

Edited by Kim Won Hee
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Credit: SBS

This year, there seem to be more SF works that deal with time-travel and parallel universes. From Tenet to The King: Eternal Monarch and Train, various stories such as action, romance, and mystery are found within the SF genre. Alice, which premiered in late August, features both time travel and parallel universes. Since I watched all the works mentioned above, I decided to give Alice a go as well.

Alice starts when future Yoon Tae Yi, a guide for “Alice,” the space where time travelers gather, finds out about her pregnancy and decides to stay in the past. She changes her name to Park Sun Young and lives a life devoted to her son Park Jin Gyum, but is killed by an unidentified time traveler. Desperately trying to catch the murderer, Park Jin Gyum becomes a police officer and is put in charge of a case that involves time travelers. As he chases the clues to the case, he encounters Yoon Tae Yi, a woman who has the same face as his deceased mother.

The first thing you notice about the drama is that the background of each character is quite unique. Kim Hee Sun plays a double role, two Yoon Tae Yi from the future and the present, both of whom are outstanding physicists, but their personalities are clearly distinctive, making it impossible to mix the two up. Park Jin Gyum, played by Joo Won, is inherently incapable of feeling emotional due to the effects of a radioactive wormhole that a time traveler must go through, and has an unusual ability to stop time. Played by Kwak Shi Yang, Yoo Min Hyuk, a former lover of Park Sun Young and the team leader of “Alice,” is also impressive in that he appears as Park Jin Gyum’s father, although he is in his 30s.

Credit: SBS

The time-travel presented in Alive has distinct characteristics. “Timecards” are needed for time-travel, and looking at the fact that one year in the future equals 29 years in the present indicates that time-travel changes the flow of time in both worlds. The drama also solves the contradictions of time travel by using the parallel universe theory that even if someone from the future commits murder after going back in time, it will have no effect on the future, but only create a new universe. Another intriguing fact is that those who time-travel through different routes other than passing through the official passage of “Alice” will suffer from a skin rash that eventually leads to death.

These features make the relationship between characters more colorful. The two Yoon Tae Yi from the future and the present, whom the drama is trying to say are two different people, are they the same person or not? The relationship between Park Jin Gyum and Yoon Tae Yi gives off a romance-like vibe, making it all the more bizarre. Also, the father-to-son relationship between Yoo Min Hyuk and Park Jin Gyum, who only have a few year gap in their ages due to changes in the flow of time, is tasteful.

Credit: SBS

However, the awkward acting of “Alice” guides became a factor that shatters the level of immersion to the point where the brilliant future technology and action are overshadowed. Moreover, after finishing the 8th episode, the story has reached its turning point, but the plot drags more than expected, leaving a bitter aftertaste. From the first episode, each character was fully introduced and Park Jin Gyum noticed the existence of time travel, so I half-expected for the story to move promptly, but I stand corrected. The prophecy and subplots of other time-travelers were spotted here and there, and it is only long after the interest has been diluted that the drama begins to unravel the truth one by one.

In the 4th episode, the whereabouts of the prophecy begin to be revealed with the appearance of Seok Oh Won (Choi Won Young), a fellow scientist of Yoon Tae Yi, and only in 6th episode will Yoon Min Hyuk, a former lover of Yoon Tae Yi/Park Sun Young, face Yoon Tae Yi in the present time. In the 8th episode, a shocking story is being revealed little by little as Go Hyun Seok (Kim Sang Ho), a father-like figure to Park Jin Gyum, started to covet the prophecy. But still, it seems like the true identity of the “Teacher,” who has a design on the prophecy, is still miles away. Though I think it took too many detours, I still hope that the drama solves all the questions and puts a solid end to the story while keeping the excitement of the time-travel intact.

Verdict: Slow development that halves the charm of time-travel (5/10)

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