For pretty close to a year now I’ve wanted to see the Kdrama entitled Black solely because it stars Song Seung-Heon, one of my favorite actors. However, because it was being shown internationally through Netflix, of which I was not a subscriber, Black was out of my reach. But recently, in wanting to support Heart & Seoul, a dear friend paid for me to become a Netflix member so the first thing I watched was, you guessed it – Black!
#444 is a legendary Grim Reaper, known for being “cold blooded and heartless”, the very best at what he does. Unfortunately, he is tired of being teamed up with a trouble maker and sends his partner to the human realm alone to bring back a soul. However, his partner goes A.W.O.L. and if he’s not found #444 will be punished. In order to track down the missing Grim Reaper, #444 possesses the body of a recently deceased detective, Han Moo-Gang. When he accidentally meets Kang Ha-Ram, a woman who can see the shadows of death, he decides to use her to help him track down his partner who has decided to give life another try in someone else’s body. As #444 gets caught up in Detective Han Moo-Gang’s life and police cases he finds it increasingly difficult to fulfill his duties as a Grim Reaper, and falling for Ha-Ram definitely was not part of his plan.
Han Moo-Gang went to an Ivy League university in the United States and was a successful accountant before he decided to track down the person responsible for his big brother’s death 20 years ago. He wasn’t really cut out to be a cop (he throws up whenever he sees a corpse, and can’t fight well) but gives it his all. He has been in a romantic relationship with Yoon Soo-Wan, a doctor who works in the same hospital as his heart surgeon mother.
Ever since she was little Kang Ha-Ram has been able to see the black shadow that accompany people who are about to die and if she touches the shadow she is able to see what causes their death. She still feels guilty that she was not able to prevent her own father’s murder. In order to live a fairly normal life Ha-Ram always wears sunglasses which prevents her from seeing the shadows of death. When she first meets #444/Han Moo-Gang she is under the impression he is Kim Joon, her first love who disappeared 20 years ago, and agrees to help him track down people who have a death shadow inside them.
Oh Man-Soo is a 30 year old chaebol who was just made CEO of the family insurance company. Although his older half-brother put him in that position solely to take the fall when the company fails, Man-Soo is determined to see it succeed. He meets Ha-Ram at a police station and because he believes she is able to foresee a person’s death he hires her to track down policy owners to see if they have a death shadow following them.
Doctor Yoon Soo-Wan loves Detective Han and lives in constant fear of him finding out about her past.
Detective An Gwang-Gyun is Moo-Gang’s partner, a veteran cop who used to work in the same precinct as Kang Ha-Ram’s father. He has rightfully earned the nickname Crazy Dog because he has severe anger management issues. (He once bit a prosecutor!) His sweetheart was murdered 20 years ago and her killer has yet to be found.
#007 and #416 are Grim Reapers who know about what #444 is going through. They try to help him find his missing partner and give him the information he needs in order to get out of Moo-Gang’s body and go back to his job as the best Grim Reaper of the under world.
Taking the title role of Black and playing the character Han Moo-Gang is gorgeous, 41 year old Song Seung-Heon. He began his career as a model for STORM brand jeans in 1995 and the following year became known for his role in the sitcom Three Guys, Three Girls. Then, three years later he made his big screen debut with the motion picture Calla. But it wasn’t until his starring role in the tremendously popular Kdrama Autumn in My Heart that his career really took off. The show was amazingly popular and influential in launching what is know as the “Korean Wave.” It was the first of the seasoned themed Endless Love series and he followed it up three years later with the third installment, Summer Scent. Sadly, he was involved in a scandal late in 2004 when he tried to avoid his mandatory military assignment by tainting urine samples to make it look like he had an illness that would make him unfit for service. When that was discovered he immediately served his two years and was honorably discharged with the rank of Corporal. After his return to civilian life he laid low, testing the waters before he tried to resume his entertainment career. The scandal did not seem to hinder his success, though, and he has gone on to star in numerous films and TV dramas all throughout Asia.
You can read about Go Ara in my review of You’re All Surrounded. Her performance as death shadow seeing Kang Ha-Ram is excellent.
Black was broadcast on the OCN Network which means don’t be surprised at all the graphic violence the show contains. When someone falls from a great height it’s not just blood we see but the splattered remains of brains all around the body. A woman is brutally stabbed to death and her intestines show outside her body. It’s gruesome folks. Also, the show’s mystery stems from a sickening, evil deed involving minors. So if you don’t stomach that kind of violence or can’t handle children being victims I strongly suggest you skip this drama.
On the up side, Black has some really good action scenes. The fights are excellently choreographed, executed, and shot. I love the scene that shows Black hanging from the outside of a bus as it speeds, full of screaming passengers, through the streets.
The premise of this drama is very unique and quite interesting – a Grim Reaper enters a dead body and begins to live the deceased person’s life while falling for a human that can see death shadows. Doesn’t that sound entertaining? Everything goes along just fine until the laws in the Grim Reaper world are not always carried out in the way they are described. If a writer is going to make a rule it needs to be followed or at least explain why there are inconsistencies when things begin to deviate from that rule. I’d like to discuss some of the things I considered inconsistencies but it would ruin the mystery for you and the drama is too good for me to deliberately sabotage.
So where does the drama gets it’s name? Well, #444 hates Han Moo-Gang’s childish wardrobe so he goes out and buys an all black suit. When #416 sees him he makes a comment having to do with the fact that #444 looks like Jo Black, the Grim Reaper character Brad Pitt plays in the movie Meet Jo Black. Very clever.
The show has its share of “oops.” Here are just a few… Grim Reaper #444 hides his crystal ball (which holds the image of the person he has been sent to collect) inside a slit in a stuffed bunny and then tucks the rabbit’s ear in the hole to keep the ball safe inside. But immediately after doing that he tosses it onto the couch and the ear isn’t tucked in the hole. Another one is when a kid pees his pants – Ha-Ram rinses his pants but when his parents come to pick him up he is still in his pee-soaked underwear. And when Moo-Gang gets stabbed in the side the wound is on the opposite side of where he was stabbed.
The soundtrack is very short, just three songs, each one slow and sung in English. Nam Taehyun sings Take Me Out; LeeSA performs Like a Film; and Another Me, sung by Min Chae, is my personal favorite and the one most often played at the end of the episodes. Although all of the songs are okay, in my opinion, not a single one stands out as being excellent.
The places we often see in the show are Black’s house, Ha-Rim’s tiny rooftop apartment, and the police station. The drama takes us to old abandoned warehouses, a dark forest, a bar, and many other places that so often are dimly lit. I guess that’s to add to the intensity of the mystery.
Black has tons of twists and turns, lots of characters, and spans two decades so you might want to keep a pencil and paper handy so you can jot down important information that could help you unravel the mystery. One important thing I discovered – if the Grim Reaper that’s sent to get me is as sexy as #444, I won’t be doing much complaining when it’s my turn to go!
* A special thanks to my friend who believes in me and so generously supports this website!
Handsome Song Seung-Heon
Darling Go A-Ra
Lots of graphic violence
Crimes against children