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[Review] In Between Frankenstein’s Monster and the Dark Hero: ‘L.U.C.A.: The Beginning’ 

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Yoo Hyang

Credit: tvN

Dramas that have brought Sci-Fi elements as their main settings have been standing out recently. As special technologies are developed, the present and the future get connected, the lives of main characters fall into confusion, and questions are raised about such settings and plot development. tvN’s Mon-Tues series L.U.C.A.: The Beginning is one of those dramas. Like the previous work Awaken, human abilities are artificially developed through extreme human experiments and the endless selfishness and greed of people become the main causes of its problems. L.U.C.A. differentiates in the way that the ability is monstrous, emphasizing the tragic fate of the protagonist, as it is driven by emotions. 

Credit: tvN

Ji Oh denies his abilities. While he has tremendous powers to destruct, recover, and reflexes from the mixed DNA of electric eel, sturgeon, bat, and fruit fly, this ability is nothing short of a curse to him. The only childhood he remembers in fragments is the memory of going through agonizing experiments, and now he has to hide and silence himself not to get caught by those who are after him. Furthermore, the mentioned ability cannot be controlled by himself, so once he defends himself in an extreme situation with powers like an electric current, everything gets destroyed and the memory is lost. Ji Oh had to live his entire life hiding in terrible loneliness, pain, and despair without forming a relationship with anyone because of an ability he had never wished for. Whilst characters with superhuman powers typically accept their given situation and act for revenge or justice, this work ahold a darker and heavier atmosphere than other pieces of the same genre, in that Ji Oh considers himself a monster and endures solely for his survival. It also reminds one of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

L.U.C.A. is a story about the tragic-ridden protagonist who gets caught up in a chaotic fate as he meets a person who has also lived through a painful life like him. With his ability which he cursed out, Ji Oh saves detective Goo Reum who was hit by a car while chasing criminals. This relationship continues like fate, as the two realize that their relationship started off from their pasts. Ji Oh is the only clue linked to the disappearance of Goo Ruem’s parents as he spent a night at her house a long time ago, but he only vaguely remembers young Goo Reum. Understanding the pain of Goo Reum who must have endured it all alone after her parents disappeared, Ji Oh feels sorry for her, and Goo Reum also gradually recognizes the other’s loneliness and feels pity for him. The affectionate emotions between the two are what lead the story in a rather sorrowful way as they highlight the tragedy of the cursed ability.

Credit: tvN

The drama goes on as it forms a dichotomy between those who chase and others who are chased. As someone always ran after Ji Oh since the start, he repeatedly runs away, gets caught, and hides throughout. The process is truly lamentable. Due to the persistent pursuit of Human Tech’s loyal agent Lee Son, Ji Oh falls from the roof of a building, faints after being anesthetized, gets on the horrific lab table, and eventually loses his happy days with Goo Reum, which he found for the first time in life. As if he was born with a fate to not be able to hide, those who seek for Ji Oh never leave space for him to get away. The elaborate action scenes and visual effects add to the process of chasing, but what is more eye-catching is the dark life of the fugitive who seems to be caught in an inevitable trap. 

The Human Tech trio who leads the L.U.C.A. project contradicts Ji Oh’s desperate fate as they show inhumane and detached sides of themselves. The leader of the cult Hwang Jung Ah, a hidden influential figure of the National Intelligence Service Kim Cheol Soo, and bio-engineer Ryu Joong Kwon try to create a new life using Ji Oh’s transcendent power. The three only focus on bringing success to their research that no one has ever achieved, without caring about the numerous sacrifices made. Ji Oh and other experiments are merely means and tools to earn more wealth and integrity. These insensitive individuals who cannot understand the pain of others demonstrate the cruelty within their twisted desires.

Credit: tvN

Though L.U.C.A. follows a repeated structure of the plot in which people are either chasing or being chased, Kim Rae Won’s role is significant as he embodies the character and allows the show to be immersive. He conveys the very feelings of anger, despair, and loneliness with pitiful eyes and facial expressions as he completes a character who has lived a lonely and desolate life. The rather sudden romance which progresses in the eighth episode also becomes coherent through his image of a pure young man.

By all means, there are features which feel regretful. As mentioned earlier, it is noticeable that the story repeatedly drives Ji Oh into the pit. In addition, the over-blowing sounds unique to Korean dramas cause fatigue rather than allowing certain emotions or making it immersive. The characters of Goo Reum who happens to share Ji Oh’s fate, and chaser Lee Son, are relatively less developed and therefore one-dimensional. It is particularly regrettable that the relationship of Ji Oh is what is more prominent for Goo Reum, rather than his background as a detective. Furthermore, the development in which Ji Oh and Goo Reum fall in love and give birth within an episode is quite dumbfounding, despite the fact that their affinity has been previously portrayed.

Ji Oh will now be portrayed as he prepares for full-fledged revenge against Human Tech in the remaining episodes. We should also focus on whether the revenge on his creators will be connected to the figure running away with the child at the start of the first episode.

 

Verdict: Kim Rae-won’s good performance compensates for the disappointing directing of the show. (6/10)

 

Edited Hong Hyun Jung: K-content guide who publishes various articles for people to enjoy Korean movies and dramas deeper and richer. I’ll introduce you to the works that you can laugh, cry and sympathize with.

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