K-Drama Review: ‘Zombie Detective’: Similar Yet Different Zombie Drama?

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Credit: KBS

A zombie finally became the hero of a zombie drama. Zombie Detective is a human comedy drama about a zombie in his second year of resurrection becoming a detective in pursuit of his lost memory, all the while doing his best to coexist with humans. Of course, there have been many zombie dramas or films, but just like how Rick, Daryl and Carol are the first to come to mind when thinking about The Walking Dead, zombies have mostly been depicted as those who threaten the living. Even then, they are covered as disgusting non-human beings that just highlight the survivors’ stories. Zombie Detective seeks freshness by putting a zombie at the forefront, breaking away from the traditional zombie films that emphasize speed, massive scale and cruelty.

Watching Kim Moo Young, a zombie in his second year of resurrection, R from Warm Bodies comes to mind. He doesn’t remember who he was before turning into a zombie, but still, he is well aware of what he became and never acts by instinct. Though he is a zombie with a frozen heart, he chooses to live within the boundaries of humans. Like how R felt the feeling of love when he met Jullie, Moo Young also reacts like a human at certain moments when he has contact with his past memories.

The story of a humane zombie Moo Young hiding his real identity has a pleasant and mysterious tension that seems to mix Santa Clarita Diet And iZombie. Zombie Detective has a wild, vivacious charm like Santa Clarita Diet, which follows Sheila adapting to the world after undergoing metamorphosis and becoming undead. On top of that, the story adds a tear-filled laughter, completing one pitiful zombie character that we’ve never seen before. The sight of Moo Young, who is so terrified of humans that he suffers from social phobia and has put in incredible effort to fit into the world of the living, barely managing to overcome the crisis as he is surrounded by those who don’t have a clue of who he really is will put a bittersweet smile on your face.

Credit: KBS

The scenes of Moo Young tracking down his veiled past as a detective is similar to iZombie‘s Liv, who becomes a coroner at a morgue with his newly acquired ability and helps solve the case by digging into the background. However, Zombie Detective has a darker and heavier thriller color than iZombie, which is more of a light and cheerful zombie investigation series, as shown in episodes 7 and 8. In these episodes, the fact that Moo Young’s death as a human was related to a murder case was revealed, making it impossible to relax until the last minute. In addition, just as Liv turned into a zombie because of a new drug that humans created, Moo Young’s resurrection also has a hidden truth.

Korean zombie films, commonly called K-zombies, like Train To Busan, Rampant and Kingdom, have prominent social critical messages. Zombie Detective does not necessarily avoid this topic, but the fact that it’s viewed from the zombie’s eyes is quite different. Moo Young is a zombie who struggles not to be swayed by zombie instincts but to protect his humanity. Having been reborn in an unwanted world, Moo Young realizes that humans are uglier and more unreasonable than himself, a zombie. Rather than raising a critical voice, the drama shows what it means to protect humanity by comparing a zombie who struggles to survive in the world of the living to humans who are filled with greed and desires.

Credit: KBS

Now, Zombie Detective has to solve the mystery of Kim Moo Young’s past. To be honest, the development shown in the first half was quite disappointing despite the fresh set-up. Even considering the fact that it is a comedy drama produced by KBS Entertainment Bureau, the plot that just lists various disturbances that occur when Moo Young step into humans’ world is distracting, and the fancy lineup of cameos, including Yoo Jae Suk, Song Ga In, Kim Min Kyung, and Yoo Min Sang, shows up out of the blue. Above all, the drama itself seemed to be in a very awkward situation as the process of building up the relationship between Moo Young and Gong Sun Ji, the only helper who knows his real identity, flowed quite loose. The plot only started to stick together when Sun Ji learned the identity of Moo Young. Only after getting on track, various questions were cleared one by one, bringing back the genre’s fun. As the story ripens with every episode, I hope the drama keeps the tension till the very end and successfully opens a new area of zombie dramas.

Verdict: A zombie drama where the fun of B comedy movie met with thriller (6/10)

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