Imagine you could see, in perfect detail, a person’s memories – good and bad. From 2016 to 2018 the Korean web portal Daum published a thriller/mystery webcomic about a detective that catches criminals by using his amazing ability to read other’s memories. Now you can see that story come to life in the Kdrama of the same name –Memorist.
With the simplest physical touch Detective Dong Baek is able to see a person’s memories, giving him the ability to actually observe a detailed account of what happened at a crime scene – kind of like being an eye-witness after the fact. He uses his amazing psychic ability when he teams up with Senior Superintendent Han Sun-Mi in order to catch a serial killer that has resurfaced after being idol for the past 20 years. But Dong Baek’s psychic power might not be all that helpful when their search for the murderer begins to reveal there is someone out there with the power to erase memories.
Years ago a little boy about six or seven years old was found, alone, at a whistle stop. Because he was unable to speak at all he moved from one facility for the disabled to another, finally ending up in an orphanage. Named after the station where he was found, Dong Baek discovered he had the ability to read memories when he was a teenager. For two years a large team of investigators (including the National Intelligence Service, the American Board of Neurology, and civilian scientists) began trying to verifying Dong Baek’s claim and what they uncovered was astonishing – Dong Baek’s brainwaves are the exact same as the brainwaves of the person whose memory he is scanning. They have no idea how he does it but all agree his ability is authentic. One doctor suspected he enters the synapses and reads electromagnetic information. When he revealed his superpowers to the world he disregarded all the amazing job scouting calls he received and became a special inspector with the police force. After his appointment as a detective he completely resolved 26 long-standing unsolved cases which made him a national hero. People joke that 120,000 officers together are worth less than Dong Baek. One of his partners says Dong Baek comes across as “an arrogant know-it-all, the kind of guy who only cares about his looks” while the other claims that although he seems like “a total nut job and idiot” he is really a genius. People see him as the kind of character that just doesn’t fit into society’s mold.
When Han Sun-Mi was just a little girl she was awakened from her nap by strange sounds. Sadly, she watched in horror, from her hiding spot in the closet, as her father was brutally murdered. When the police failed to catch her father’s killer Sun-Mi decided to take things into her own hands. She got a masters degree in criminal psychology in the states when she was just 17 and then was accepted to graduate school at Seoul National University. Although Sun-Mi is officially a professor at the police academy she also broke the record (by two years) when at just 30 years old she became a senior superintendent. She is now the newly appointed vice director of the Special Investigations Unit. She doesn’t like Dong Baek’s kind of psychic investigations, preferring instead to trust logic and rationality. She is an amazing criminal profiler and is seldom wrong in figuring things out about a suspect. She has the admiration and respect of all her team members.
Although Yoo Seung-Ho is only 26 years old he can be considered a veteran actor already since he’s been in films and dramas for the past 18 years! You can read about the man who plays Detective Dong Baek by going to my I’m Not a Robot review.
The part of Senior Superintendent Han Sun-Mi is played by 27 year old Lee Se-Young who has been in tons of movies and TV dramas. I’ve seen her in My Love Patzzi, Adolescence Medley, Trot Lovers, Vampire Detective, Hwayugi, The Crowned Clown, and Doctor John. You can read about her in my Hit the Top review.
There’s a lot to keep straight in this story – scores of people and several different agencies are involved so you’ll need to concentrate. If you’re not paying close attention you may be left behind.
Memorist’s full 16 hours is dedicated to one case – the serial killer from 20 years ago that has resurfaced. However, it goes off in several different directions which encompasses varied crimes and different suspects of those crimes. I didn’t see how they would be able to keep me hooked for so long by just chasing after one guy but these police officers branch off, finding multiple bad guys while on the chase of someone they call the Executioner, whose sole goal is to bring wrath upon the heads of criminals, and another known as the Eraser, who has the psychic ability to erase people’s memories.
Although the premise of a detective on the police force being able to read minds is extremely intriguing it does pose a couple interesting questions. For starters, in the show we find out a human rights organization claims reading another person’s memories is an extreme violation of human rights, arguing it’s even worse than wire tapping. Okay, that makes sense. But what if every police station had an officer that could see people’s memories – the cops would be catching criminals left and right. Isn’t that a good thing? You might be thinking, “But Sara, the memory reader could claim he saw something in order to make someone he didn’t like into a criminal.” That’s certainly bad and a crime in and of itself but in this show that would never happen because in order to arrest someone the police have to secure physical evidence that the suspect actually did what they are accused of doing. Dong Baek’s psychic ability just cuts down the investigation time by steering the police in the right direction. I’m all for detective memory readers. Which side of the debate would you be on?
Although the idea of scanning memories might sound fun, to Dong Baek it is anything but enjoyable. Think of what it would be like to observe a person’s murder. You’d be seeing their fear, agony, and pain and although it seemed like you were right there, there would be nothing you could do to help them. Thankfully, the pain of all the victims that come into his mind is somehow relieved once the criminals are caught. But the memories of the criminals are completely the opposite of that because their gruesome deeds become more clear than ever. However, with the love and support of the citizens he has been able to endure all those difficult times.
How is Memorist’s mystery? Well, I was able to figure out part of who the culprit was but there’s no possible way I would have ever guessed the identity of the Eraser, and I don’t think you’ll be able to do it either.
As is the case with so many mystery or action dramas, the soundtrack is almost all instrumental. It’s difficult to have lyrics in a song that is playing while someone is sneaking through an underground labyrinth in search of a murderer. The End of the Story is a perfect auditory representation of a good psychic chasing after an evil one. There are a couple songs that are sung – ‘Til the End and Memorist.
Because so many people feel the dark is unsettling (me included; I have a night light in every electrical outlet in my house) a huge chunk of this drama is filmed in dim lighting. I, personally, am not a fan of the overuse of dark shots but it definitely makes us feel uncomfortable, especially when the characters are having to deal with a serial killer. There are some fantastic, spooky murderer hideouts in this show – damp, underground, dungeons complete with creepy tunnels. This drama has great settings.
For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries Memorist should go at the top of your Kdrama watch list. Its fresh plot and twisty mystery is excellent. Do me a favor – once you’ve seen it let me know if you were able to figure out who the Eraser was before it was revealed. I’m betting – no.
Intricate mystery – you’ll never guess who the Eraser is
Lots of little mysteries connect to the main one
Lots of scenes are shot in the dark