Abyss: Episode 1
I didn’t really know what to expect from Abyss, tvN’s newest drama that describes itself as a rom-com, a fantasy, and a mystery all in one. It truly is a little bit of everything, and it’s kinda bonkers and has a lot going on, but in the best way. It’s cute but dark, sweet but scary, and it grabbed me from the very first minute and never let go.
EPISODE 1: “A reason to live, a reason to save a life”
A man, who will be our hero CHA MIN (Ahn Se-ha — for now), stumbles along a building rooftop high over Seoul, drinking wine directly from the bottle. He sits with his feet dangling over the edge, then pulls up a picture on his phone of himself and a young woman.
They’d been planning their wedding, then one day she’d suddenly texted him that she couldn’t bear to share a bed with his ugly face for the rest of her life. The memory makes Min sob, so he prepares to end his pain.
He tries to jump, but chickens out and turns back towards the railing. A high wind kicks up and he falls backwards, but somehow he catches himself on the edge of the building by his fingernails. His phone, still on the ledge, rings with a call.
Min manages to accept the call, which is from GO SE-YEON (Kim Sa-rang — for now), a prosecutor and longtime friend. Min screams for help and Se-yeon says they can talk later if this is a bad time, but Min yelps that there might not be a later.
He wails that this is all Se-yeon’s fault for not accepting his feelings and introducing him to his fiancee, and Se-yeon sighs that he always blames her when he gets dumped. Suddenly, a blue light careens through the sky, knocking Min off the side of the building, and the last thing Se-yeon hears is his screams.
Min lands in a field, miraculously still alive. As he closes his eyes for the last time, a female voice says in voiceover, “Life and death are providential. There is nothing a man can do in the face of death. I also believed that life and death are in the hands of providence… until we rose from the dead. Until Abyss came into my and Min’s possession.”
A ghostly figure floats above Min’s body, glowing the same unearthly blue as whatever knocked him off the building. It peers down at Min’s body, glowing brighter and brighter until it finally explodes in a burst of energy.
Twenty-four hours until Se-yeon’s death.
Se-yeon visits a rooftop apartment where a murder has taken place. There’s blood everywhere, and Se-yeon seems familiar with the place. Inside one of the victim’s extensive manhwa collection, Se-yeon finds an old photo of a pair of children,which she slides into her purse.
A fellow prosecutor, SEO JI-WOOK (Kwon Soo-hyun), arrives and asks Se-yeon to let him take this case since she and the victim, Seung-hoon, were close back in law school. But she says firmly that this is her case, and that she believes her friend was killed by the Eomsan-dong Killer.
Ji-wook thinks it might be a copycat, since the famous serial killer hasn’t killed in four years. But Se-yeon is sure it’s him, because it’s the exact same M.O. Her theory is that the Eomsan-dong Killer wants to be caught by her, because he was off the grid while Ji-wook was on the case.
As Ji-wook looks at the forensics photos of Seung-hoon’s body, he notices that the stab wounds were carefully stitched back up after death.
In a operating room nearby, surgeon OH YOUNG-CHUL (Lee Sung-jae) carefully stitches up his patient after surgery. He tells the patient’s wife and small son that the patient will be okay, and when the little boy bursts into tears, Young-chul gives him a lollipop.
In the hospital hallway, a man shoulder-checks Young-chul and offers him a half-hearted apology. There’s a weird energy between them, and Young-chul watches the man walk away, sensing something strange.
Ji-wook drives himself and Se-yeon back to work so that Se-yeon can rest, and she tells him that she’s not depressed so he doesn’t need to worry. Ji-wook sees her invitation to Min’s wedding and finds it strange that Min is getting married, when he’s been in love with Se-yeon for twenty years.
Se-yeon seems a bit grumpy that Min forgot all about her as soon as he met someone pretty who liked him. Ji-wook teases her for regretting not dating Min, but she laughs, “Hey, I’m Go Se-yeon! Didn’t you see his looks? He’s not even close to my type.” But Ji-wook says that she led Min on for twenty years, causing Se-yeon to snap at him angrily. Methinks someone doth protest too much.
Min wakes up on his sofa to the sound of his doorbell ringing frantically. He sees that it’s his mother and her assistant and drags himself to the door. On the way he passes a mirror… and comes to a startled halt. The face and body he sees in the mirror (Ahn Hyo-seop) are not at all familiar, and as he stares, he remembers last night.
He’d been floating above his own deceased body, and he’d seen two blue lights land nearby and turn into a woman and a bulldog. The female entity (cameo by Jung So-min) snapped at the dog to shift into human form (cameo by Seo In-guk — I love this so much!).
The female entity grumbles at the male entity for causing trouble on their last day. He grins cheekily and produces a glowing blue orb, and says that he’ll just use Abyss to bring Min back to life. The orb absorbs energy from the air and turns from blue to red, then the male entity holds it near Min’s chest. Min doesn’t wake up, but the female entity notices that his face looks different (“Do blood splatters make him more handsome?” HA).
She brushes some blood from Min’s face and his heart begins to beat again. He gasps loudly, scaring both entities looking down at him. The male entity explains that Min was in an accident, but he was reborn “with a face that will make the rest of your life easier.” They follow him as he walks home (LOL, his pants are so short on him now), and Min stops to check out his new looks in a shop window.
The male entity says that most people would be in shock or denial right now, but Min seems to be extremely happy with his suddenly gorgeous face (and buns). He turns to the entities for confirmation that he’s hella hot, and they agree that he’s hella nuts.
Min produces Abyss from his pocket and bounces it slowly between his hands as the male entity tells him that it belongs to him now, and to read the user’s manual as soon as he can. The female entity sees a falling star and says that the hundred millionth star finally fell, so they need to go (awww). She leaves Min with one piece of advice — not to get mad at them for bringing him back to life. Uh-oh.
Remembering all this, Min quickly changes out of his bloody clothing before answering the door. Of course his mother doesn’t recognize him, so he makes up a story that he knew Min when they were in college in Australia. Both women look suspicious, but Min tries to convince them with stories that only he would know.
Min’s mom tries to call him, and his phone rings from the table. Thinking fast, Min says that he just stepped out. His mom gets a call from the family company (Min is a chaebol son) that Min didn’t show up for work, and he makes his mother suspicious again by knowing too much about their company.
He tells his mom to head to work, promising to have Min call her soon. She gives him some serious side-eye, but she allows that Min’s got a lot to do before his wedding, and she goes. In her car, her driver says that the number Min’s fiancee gave is now out of service. Mom sneers that she only approved of their marriage because Min was in love. Ah, she already knows.
Se-yeon looks over photos of the Eomsan-dong Killer’s previous victims, all of whom were found with their wounds delicately stitched back together. She wonders why he murdered Seung-hoon, who had no enemies. Ji-wook warns Se-yeon that she’s already in trouble with the higher-ups for refusing to let go of cold cases, but she blows him off.
They get the pictures from last month’s prosecutors’ get-together, and Se-yeon preens that she looks awesome as usual. She complains about the sunbae standing next to her, a small, mousey woman named Mi-do (lol, it’s Park Bo-young), but Ji-wook says she doesn’t even work with them anymore.
Se-yeon gets a call that someone punctured her tire, and she whines that last month some jerk broke her side mirrors. Ji-wook advises her to wait before going downstairs, because the father of one of the Eomsan-dong Killer’s victims is picketing the building again. Ah, it’s the strange man from the hospital — Ji-wook says he used to be a cop and was on patrol nearby when his daughter was murdered.
Ji-wook asks Se-yeon if she has any leads on the case. She jokes that he must be worried that he couldn’t crack the case, but now she’s on it and making progress. He laughs and asks if she has a suspect in mind. Se-yeon looks at him oddly for a second, then smiles and says she can’t say, but that soon she’ll be able to hold her head up in front of the victims’ families.
She tries to leave the office, but the victim’s father, Park Ki-bum, grabs her wrist and stops her. He gives her a flyer begging the prosecutor’s office to resume the investigation, then lets her go on her way.
Seven hours until Se-yeon’s death.
When he can’t find his fiancee, Min calls Se-yeon, who tells him to leave her out of it. He points out that she set them up, and Se-yeon says she regrets it now that he constantly pesters her about his love life.
She hangs up on Min when she spots a weirdo looking into her car. She yanks the guy’s arm and throws him to the ground, taking off his hat to reveal Min’s new prettiness. She gapes, unaware that this is her friend in a shiny new body, and Min stares at her like she’s lost her mind.
They go inside to patch up a small cut on Min’s wrist, and he realizes that his white shirt has gone entirely see-through in the rain (thank you, physics). He gets self-conscious when he notices that the women in the office are admiring his looks, so he grabs a discarded banner to drape over his shoulders.
A man tries to take it from him, ripping Min’s shirt and completely exposing his chest. LOL, everyone in the lobby is struck by the beauteous sight, and the flustered man gives Min his banner back.
Se-yeon returns and grabs Min’s arm to address his cut wrist. Min is obviously affected by the contact, and he mutters that he doesn’t remember her being this nice, hee. She also brings him a new shirt since his got wet, but he says that what he needs is to talk to her.
He gets a text from a friend, who spotted his fiancee at the airport and assumed they were going on a pre-wedding trip. He grabs the shirt from Se-yeon and rushes to the airport, and at one point he thinks he sees his fiancee.
He runs to her and pulls her sunglasses off, but it’s not her (it’s Park Bo-young again, ha). The woman grumps at him, grabbing her sunglasses back and sailing off in a snit. As she leaves, she takes a call from a plastic surgery clinic and chirps happily that she’s just gotten back in the country.
Min’s fiancee, JANG HEE-JIN (Han So-hee) waits for her plane, looking rather smug. A man approaches her and asks if she’s Oh Soo-jin, and her smile falters. By the time Min thinks to have her paged, she’s gone, and her suitcase is still where she left it.
The surgeon Young-chul is on Se-yeon’s radar as a possible expert witness. In his office, she sees that he’s been practicing his sutures and notices that, like the sutures on all of the killer’s victims, the last stitch is knotted in the opposite direction. Se-yeon and Ji-wook visit Young-chul at the hospital, and they overhear him on the phone complaining that he loses too many patients because they arrive too late for them to help him. He refuses an interview, saying that he’d rather save one more patient in that time.
Ji-wook has questioned Young-chul before, but it’s his first time meeting Se-yeon. She asks him about Seung-hoon, who was brought here two days ago. Young-chul says that he was already dead when he arrived, so all he did was pronounce him deceased and let the medical examiner take the body.
Se-yeon says that what she wants to ask about is the suture found on Seung-hoon’s body. Young-chul is called away for an emergency before he can answer, and Se-yeon decides that he would make a bad expert witness. Ji-wook agrees, saying that he had trouble talking to him, too.
Min has checked every airline leaving the airport, but Jang Hee-jin isn’t listed as a passenger on any flights that day. Eventually he gives up and goes home.
Park Ki-bum, the father of the victim killed in 2010, sits in a filthy apartment and writes, “I will punish with my own hands…”
After a few drinks together, Ji-wook offers to drive Se-yeon home, since there was a criminal case in her neighborhood recently. She gets handsy with him, pulling on his jacket and tie playfully, then jumps into a taxi and says it’s fine because she’s not a woman to him.
He tries to at least pay for her taxi but she grabs the money and tosses it out the window, so he gives her his umbrella. As she drives off, he gets a call from someone listed in his phone as simply “J.”
Min calls Se-yeon from outside her house and asks when she’s coming home. He fusses at her for drinking since he said he had something important to talk with her about. She tells him to get her some anti-hangover remedies, but he snaps that he’s not the same man anymore and to get home immediately. He goes to the store to buy her the hangover drinks anyway, because he’s a sweetie.
Se-yeon’s taxi drops her off and she stumbles towards home. She complains to a man who’s piling his cardboard haul under her window, and when she tries to physically stop him, he pushes back and she falls. He helps her pick up the things that fell out of her purse, including the photo she took from Seung-hoon’s apartment, as someone watches them from across the street.
When Min returns to Se-yeon’s place, he finds the cardboard man lying in the road. He calls 119, but after he hangs up, he realizes that the cardboard man isn’t unconscious – he’s dead. Se-yeon grows grumpy when Min doesn’t show up as promised, so she texts him that she’s leaving the door unlocked and lies down to nap.
He calls for help again, then tries to resuscitate the cardboard man, with no luck. Abyss begins to glow in his pocket, and he wonders if it can save the cardboard man’s life like it saved his. He waves it around, unsure how it works, so he leaves it beside the man and goes to meet the emergency team.
Abyss starts to glow, and fiery words appear in the air that read: “An Abyss can revive anything that has died.” It leaps into the air and follows Min, and jumps back into his pocket unnoticed. When Min leads the team back to where he left the cardboard man, he’s gone.
Min wanders around a little looking for the cardboard man, and he’s nearly run over by a car. He falls, ruining his borrowed shirt and his phone, but he dusts himself off and heads back to Se-yeon’s place. He sees her light on and calls up to her, unaware that she left the door unlocked since he didn’t get her message.
Her light goes off, and Min wonders if she’s angry at him. He yells again that he’s leaving her hangover drinks on the steps, then goes home, unaware that someone is watching him from Se-yeon’s window.
In the morning, Ji-wook is called to Se-yeon’s apartment by PARK DONG-CHUL (Lee Shi-un), a detective who was working on the Eomsan-dong Killer case with Se-yeon. Dong-chul looks sad and weary as he leads Ji-wook to Se-yeon’s bedroom, where her body is sitting on the floor, throat slashed and blood everywhere.
Ji-wook asks if all the crime scene photos have been taken, then takes off his jacket and tucks it around Se-yeon’s neck, covering all the blood.
Min shows up at the prosecutor’s office to see Se-yeon, where he overhears someone talking about the fact that she was murdered last night. He runs to her place, which is still under investigation. He realizes to his horror that the killer was probably with Se-yeon last night while he stood right outside, and he breaks down sobbing that he should have gone inside.
While he’s out, Min’s housekeeper finds his bloody suit in the laundry. Dong-chul comes to talk to Min about Se-yeon, so he skips out the back promising the housekeeper that Min is fine. Well, now she’s got the totally wrong idea.
Min walks right past Dong-chul and hides out in a hotel, watching the news about Se-yeon’s death on TV and drinking heavily. Since Cha Min appears to have disappeared, he’s become the number one suspect in Se-yeon’s murder, and is being depicted on the news as her long-time stalker.
He goes down to the lobby, where Dong-chul and his partner are asking the concierge if anyone named Cha Min has checked in. Min leaves and goes out for lunch, but he makes the mistake of paying with his credit card, which alerts Dong-chul to his location. Luckily, a close look at Min’s new face satisfies Dong-chul that this isn’t the man he’s looking for.
Min goes to Se-yeon’s funeral, and in another room, her family views her body for the last time. Her father remembers the day she graduated school, when she had ignored the crowd of guys clamoring for her attention (including Min) and said that her dad was the only man for her. He’d given her a bracelet engraved with the words “Dear Se-yeon,” and he slips that bracelet onto her wrist now.
Min goes in alone to say goodbye to Se-yeon, and his grief overwhelms him. He asks how he’s supposed to find Hee-jin and clear his name without her, then his sobs turn into, “What am I supposed to do without you? Se-yeon-ah!”
Something shocks him, and he reaches into his pocket to find Abyss, which is glowing again. He begs it to work this time, but when nothing happens, he screams at the entities who gave it to him that they scammed him. The undertakers return to put Se-yeon in her casket, but they leave again when the lid doesn’t fit.
As soon as the room is empty, Se-yeon sits up.
Min is crying at the bus stop when a young woman wearing white (Park Bo-young) runs over to take refuge from the rain. She notices Min and asks to borrow his phone, but takes it back when she sees his tears. She finds him familiar and asks if they’ve met before, eventually placing him as the guy who stole her shirt at the prosecutor’s office.
Min says she’s got the wrong guy, but the young woman ducks under his umbrella, saying that she’s going in the same direction. He asks exactly where she’s going, and when she points, he heads off in the opposite direction, hee. She follows him again, still yammering about her stolen shirt, but all he sees is Se-yeon’s casket being carried out of the funeral home.
The young woman’s eyes go wide when she sees Se-yeon’s picture being carried with the casket. She loses it, throwing herself on the casket and screaming that she’s not dead. Se-yeon’s father tells her to stop making a scene, and she sobs, “Daddy, you’re scaring me!”
She’s shoved to the side, and she catches her reflection in the hearse’s window. Her hand shakes as she touches her unfamiliar face, then Min grabs her and pulls her away. She fights him, but he says that he knows what’s happening.
He looks her in the eye and tells her, “I’m the one who brought you back to life.” He shows her Abyss, which forms words again that read: “An Abyss revives the dead into the form of its soul.” He confirms that she’s Se-yeon, and she asks if he’s a ghost or a grim reaper, but he tells her, “It’s me. Cha Min.”
I like it, a lot! And I have so many questions — about the nature and origin of Abyss, about the murderer, about everything. I knew that Abyss was going to be a mystery, but I didn’t realize how far the show would take it, and I’m pleasantly surprised. I was expecting more of a rom-com vibe, and we got that, but in a much more complex form than I anticipated — there’s a serial killer with a possible vendetta, the two people who died not only knew each other but very definitely had feelings for each other (some acknowledged, some not), and one of them is accused of having murdered the other.
That last bit is especially interesting to me, because Min has several reasons to be highly invested in helping solve Se-yeon’s murder and clearing his name. It will also be fun to watch Se-yeon get a dose of how it feels to live without her incredibly good looks, and be treated the way she’s treated Min all these years. I have to do some serious mental gymnastics to see Park Bo-young as plain, but now that I’ve seen the show, what the show is trying to say makes more sense. Se-yeon’s original body was tall and willowy and her face quite obviously beautiful, so she’s used to being treated a certain way. Her new body is tiny, and her looks not so dramatic — she’s just not as special as she used to be. Because she was so pretty, she probably never had to develop much of an interesting personality, so it’s not that the form of her soul is unattractive, it’s just much less flashy than she looked in life.
I’m getting a very odd vibe from Ji-wook from the way he just kept asking Se-yeon if she had any clues or leads or anything. It’s very strange that there were no murders for years while he was on the Eomsan-dong Killer case, but they started up again right after Se-yeon took over, and the first victim was someone she knew. I don’t know that I necessarily think Ji-wook is the killer, but I think he’s definitely holding back about something, and it makes me very curious about him.
As the episode went on, I started to feel like maybe the Eomsan-dong Killer wants to be found. He sutures his victims in a very distinctive way, he only resurfaced when Se-yeon took on the case, and he even killed her friend — possibly in an attempt to send her a message? But there are so many people who tripped my suspicion-meter, that at this point I feel like it could be anyone. Ji-wook acted strangely, but the doctor has a similar suture style as the killer, and the father of the previous victim certainly acts strangely. Even Hee-jin felt suspect, having possibly been going by a fake name, and now she’s disappeared. Plus there’s the fact that we kept seeing Park Bo-young as another character, who seemed to have some secrets of her own. Something very strange is going on, and while normally mysteries aren’t my bag, even without the interesting body-switch-resurrection angle I think I would find this a very compelling show.
It doesn’t hurt my initial response to the show that Abyss is cast almost entirely with personal favorites. Park Bo-young can basically do no wrong, and she did more with the few minutes she was onscreen in this episode than many actors can do with a whole hour. I also have a particular fondness for Ahn Hyo-seop, who caught my eye in One More Happy Ending, and I’ve been watching him since then and looking forward to his first leading role. I think he’s still somewhat green, but he’s engaging and adorable, and he’ll learn a lot from a seasoned veteran like Park Bo-young. The show gives a lot of attention to the smallest details, such as Min’s clothes all being too small/short for him after getting his new body, but I found a few things in the over-arcing story to be confusing or not supported very well, yet. But because the show seems very careful about smaller details, I have faith that the confusing things will be explained as the story moves forward. All in all, this is a solid premiere with a very interesting premise, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
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