Twenty-eight years ago evil, masquerading as generosity and kindness, reigned in a secluded island village. It now seems the evil did not die when the village was destroyed. Awaken is a crime-mystery drama that is sure to capture your attention.
Although the deaths of several prominent people present themselves as suicide, the people in the Special Case Handling Unit at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency are certain the deaths are murder and related to each other. The police, who were sent cryptic forewarnings of the deaths, were unable to prevent them from happening – two occurring right in front of them. When FBI agent Jamie Leighton joins the team in order to help figure things out, she and Team Leader Do Jung-Woo begin to piece things together and wonder if the mysterious, recent deaths may be connected to a horrendously evil event that occurred at White Night Village on a remote island almost three decades ago. However, the more they dig into the past, the more they begin to suspect one another as the criminal they are hunting in the present.
While attending the police academy, Staff Captain Do Jung-Woo passed the bar exam and the administrative exam with the highest scores. The man is unquestionably brilliant and good at what he does. He sleeps in the holding cells alongside criminals and his appearance can be disheveled now and then. Jung-Woo has the amazing ability to stay calm and levelheaded in dangerous situations and he almost always has a pink sucker in his mouth.
Gong Hye-Won was a traffic cop but Staff Captain Do stepped in and recruited her for his special team. This tough-as-nails girl is fearless and can fight, hand to hand, better than many of her peers. She has liked Staff Sergeant Do from the moment she saw him but has yet to reveal her feelings. Hye-Won lives with her parents with whom she has a good relationship.
Jamie Leighton was born in Korea but was adopted by a family in the U.S. She has a Ph.D. in psychology and is the team leader of the behavioral analysis/criminal psychology lab in the FBI. Jamie is also a licensed lawyer. She suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, mysophobia, paranoia, and disassociative identity disorder. She is suspicious of Staff Captain Do while at the same time being drawn to him.
Lee Ji-Wook is a popular investigative reporter with his own TV show. He is also sent the forewarning murder notices and publicly chides the police for failing to catch the killer. He is tenacious when he smells a story and charges ahead even when he thinks the pathway before him is dangerous.
Officers Yoon Seok-Pil and Jang Ji-Wan are the other two members of the Special Case Handling Unit. Investigator Yoon is the cyber specialist and Investigator Jang, who idolizes Staff Captain Do, is the rookie on the team.
Here’s another fantastic Namgung Min performance. (F.Y.I. – I’ve seen his name spelled different ways, i.e. Namkoong, but I’ve chosen to spell it the way I first saw it written.) I love him, and as a result, I’ve only missed six of the 22 Kdramas he’s been in. The man’s a workaholic, jumping from one role to the next without even a small pause in between, and I never tire of seeing him perform. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a comedy, romance, or thriller, Namgung Min always portrays his characters flawlessly, and he’s perfect as Staff Captain Do Jung-Woo. You can read a bit about this amazing actor in my Chief Kim review.
The part of Officer Gong Hye-Won is played by Kim Seol-Hyun (aka Seolhyun). Her entertainment career began when, as a student, she won the 8th Smart Model Contest which resulted in her being scouted by FNC Entertainment. She debuted as a member of the pop group AOA and then went on to act in the drama My Daughter Seo-Young. She has since gone on to appear in more TV dramas (I saw her in Orange Marmalade for which she won a Popularity Award) and motion pictures. A few of her many achievements are 2016’s Model of the Year, promotional ambassador for “Visit Korea Year,” Rising Star Award, ambassador to Korea national elections, Most Photogenic Star of the Year, and New Wave Award. I was extremely impressed with her acting in this drama, especially her fighting/action scenes. If she keeps this up she just may find herself on my favorite actresses list in the future. Seolhyun is a big philanthropist who has donated money to many different charities/causes – earthquake relief, schools for underprivileged children, child-care facilities, children battling cancer, building shelters for homeless youth, and the fight against COVID-19.
Lee Chung-Ah’s (the actress who plays Jamie Leighton) first acting role was in the motion picture Resurrection of the Little Match Girl. Her first leading role was in the movie Temptation of Wolves (I saw it and thought it was okay) for which she won two Best New Actress awards. Shows I’ve seen that she’s been in are Flower Boy Ramen Shop (I wasn’t a fan of the show, although I did like Lee Ki-Woo’s character), Dating Agency: Cyrano, High School King of Savvy, Vampire Detective, Lucky Romance, Because This is My First Life, and the fairly recent VIP (which is absolutely amazing). Two personal bits of information – Lee Chung-Ah’s father is a theater actor, and she dated Flower Boy, Ramen Shop’s co-star Lee Ki-Woo for six years (from 2013 until they broke up in 2019).
Some dramas rely on the characters to push the show along. The plot isn’t what’s important- the people are. Others go heavy on the plot with what we know about the characters being fairly shallow – the story is first and foremost. Awaken falls in the latter category. We are only told the basic background of each major character but the plot is very intricate and compelling. Sadly, because the story is a mystery, I can’t tell you very much because revealing the surprising elements ahead of time will ruin the whole thing for you. So, this is the little bit I can tell you…
What happened at White Night Village 28 years ago is horrendously evil. Why it happens is almost solely because of fear and selfishness. The few main people behind the whole thing have their own personal reason for participating in the project and desiring to see it succeed. One person is completely insane, at least I couldn’t see how a person could think the way they did if they weren’t mentally ill. Another character began their involvement in the unspeakable evil out of obsessive love which gradually grew into selfishness. Sadly, one person had sincerely convinced themself that what they were doing was actually virtuous – a “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” sort of thinking. Yet even though the events in this drama’s story have dark origins, I found the process of how the good folks try to eliminate the evil, fascinating.
The fight scenes in this show are really good. The choreography is excellent and the execution of it is spot-on precise. Too bad there wasn’t more.
Do Jung-Woo’s sucker eating is a darling aspect of his character. Awaken’s writer, Shin Yoo-Dam, could have shown it (what the sucker is) in a dull and usual way but, instead, chose this highly original way of doing it – and I loved it. The faces Namgung Min makes as he sucks and chews on his pink lollipops are so expressive. Those suckers are just an extension of who Staff Captain Do is – kind of like the paint on the Joker’s face, George Burns’ cigar, or Superman’s cape. Kojak, the 1970s fictitious, American TV detective, was known for always having a sucker in his mouth. I wonder if that’s where Shin Yoo-Dam got the idea.
Awaken’s ending is great. The whole story wraps up perfectly and explains the meaning of the title. A sequel? Hummmmmm… maybe.
I’ll mention just two of the show’s songs – Gray Zone is an edgy, fast-paced, instrumental song perfectly composed and performed for an edgy, fast-paced drama. Set Me Free is one song sung two ways – there’s a Night version and a Day version. Very clever considering the riddle that is so often recited in the show – “I am alone on an empty street with no one there. The sun is shining whitely. The clock, which is never wrong, indicates it is midnight. I wonder now whether it is daytime or night.”
I loved all of this drama’s backgrounds/settings, and there are a lot of them. Although we don’t see White Night Village in detail, the place is still a focal point of the story. The name of the village is very clever, considering what they were trying to accomplish there. A white knight is someone who comes to the rescue and I think those evil, twisted people considered themselves white knights – so why not call the village that?… just spell it differently. Also, “Old Man’s” place is a perfect look for a hide-out.
Awaken has so much of what it takes to make a good drama – excellent writing, great acting, and wonderful directing. It’s a mystery that will keep you guessing, and just when you think you’ve figured it out… surprise! It’s good. You ought to give it a go.
Namgung Min makes his character genuine
Uncomfortable subject matter for some folks