In the Kdrama Signal, a criminal profiler in 2015 and a police detective from 1989 are able to communicate with the aid of the same walkie talkie. Although the communications are short and infrequent, the two men are able to solve cases with information they exchange from the past and the present. Sounds interesting, huh? It’s not exactly traveling through time but it’s the next best thing – communicating through time.
Park Hae-Young is a criminal profiler and a lieutenant on the police force. One night, while he’s alone, he hears someone say his name. He looks around and finds a walkie talkie in a bag. The man speaking through it identifies himself as Officer Lee Jae-Han. He tells Lieutenant Park he has located a murder suspect, dead in a manhole at a closed-down psychiatric hospital. Skeptical, Hae-Young decides to follow the directions given by the voice over the walkie talkie and, sure enough, finds a body right where Officer Lee had said it would be. Although it’s not really a body. Technically, it’s just the skeletal remains of a suspect from a 15 year old murder case. Officer Lee had been talking from 15 years in the past! Because that old kidnapping/murder case had finally been solved, the statute of limitations law is changed and a new team is formed, the Cold Case division. Lieutenant Park keeps the walkie talkie and his communications with Officer Lee a secret, knowing people wouldn’t believe him, and the two men soon find they each have critical information that will help the other with their investigations. Team leader Cha Soo-Hyun soon becomes suspicious when she realizes each cold case they’ve solved is one her old senior, detective Lee Jae-Han, who has been missing for the past 15 years, had worked on. Can the past be changed with information from the present?
Although Park Hae-Young is a cop himself he doesn’t have a lot of faith in the justice system. He knows about dirty cops who fix the outcome of investigations and evil politicians with endless power and money to buy those cops’ loyalty. His older brother was a victim of that very thing and now that Hae-Young is on the police force he has access to records, and information from Detective Lee via the walkie talkie, that may help him finally prove his brothers innocence.
Detective Cha Soo-Hyun believes right can prevail in the face of insurmountable odds. He values his job and catching the “bad guys” first and foremost. Although he cares for Officer Lee Jae-Han he keeps a distance, remembering his first love. Detective Cha was set up to appear to be a cop on the take and he’s been missing, without a trace, for the past 15 years.
Officer Lee Jae-Han transferred to the violent crimes division and is the only female on the team. She falls for gruff and distant Detective Cha Soo-Hyun but keeps her feelings to herself. She secretly helps in his solo investigations and earns his admiration and respect as a police officer. She, of course, doesn’t believe the rumors about him being a bad cop and hasn’t given up looking for him, even though it’s been 15 years.
Lee Ji-Hoon plays Profiler Park Hae-Young. Ji-Hoon originally studied for a career in biotechnology but changed to acting. He began his entertainment career with lots of student and indie films and got his big breakthrough in 2011 with the indie film Bleak Night and the major motion picture The Front Line. Since then he has received 13 awards from 17 nominations. Ji-Hoon also sang on the soundtrack of the Kdrama Fashion King and the motion picture My Paparotti. He served his mandatory military obligation in the riot division of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency which makes me wonder if that might have helped him play his police officer character, Park Hae-Young, so well.
Detective Cha Soo-Hyun is played by Kim Hye-Soo. She’s a veteran actress who has been in movies and Kdramas since 1986. She is also an artist. One of her paintings sold for five million won and she donated the money to charity. She has a Theater and Film degree and a master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, however in 2013 she admitted to plagiarizing her master’s thesis and offered to forfeit her master’s degree. (Guess they let her keep it.)
Officer Lee Jae-Han is my favorite character in the show mainly because of Cho Jin-Woong’s superb character portrayal. The guy’s a fantastic actor! The first time I saw him was in the Kdrama Beyond the Clouds. The character he played in that show is the sort of guy Detective Lee Jae-Han would have been chasing in Signal. What I said about his performance in my review of Beyond the Clouds I’ll echo in this one, “Wow and wow again!” I sincerely hope he’s nominated for an award for his acting in Signal. He certainly deserves it.
This isn’t the first time Cho Jin-Woong and Lee Ji-Hoon have worked together and it’s not the second time, either. They were both in the big-budget, motion picture The Front Line which was an Academy Awards nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, and My Paparotti which received the Grand Prize at the 27th Fukuoka Asian Film Festival. Those two guys make a great acting team.
The synopsis I read for this drama made it sound like the show was about solving just one serial murder case. But there are a few different and interesting unsolved crimes the cold case team tackles.
I was impressed with how this drama was shot. There’s a subtle yet noticeable difference in the color between the scenes of the past and the present. The present is a bit more vivid with a touch more clarity. The clothing and surroundings from the past are pretty authentic, and the hair and makeup folks did a good job making the actors look a couple decades younger for the scenes of the past than they did in the present. The actors they got to play the adolescent and teenage Park Hae-Young look pretty close to what I imagine Lee Ji-Hoon must have looked like in reality during those times in his life. Good casting.
I’m sorry to say, as far as the soundtrack is concerned, I really didn’t like the songs that were sung. The instrumental stuff is pretty but the other songs just aren’t the kind of music I enjoy. In fact, the opening song was so irritating to me that, several times, I put it on mute while the credits were running. Nope, I just didn’t like it.
The scenery is absolutely fantastic for what the drama is about. Cops deal with the negative side of life – dirty back allies; cold police stations; crime scenes with murder victims; abandoned buildings; old, run-down neighborhoods… Every background perfectly suited the show’s plot.
This is an impressive, fantasy/crime/drama that will keep you guessing and, at times, on the edge of your seat. If you like crime/cop shows and/or time travel fantasies, Signal is absolutely, positively a great one to see. Don’t put it off. You’ll love it.
Interesting police cases
Perfect amount of suspense
Scenery that compliments the characters lives/jobs
I didn’t like the background music songs that are sung