D-Day: Episode 1
The anticipation for doomsday begins. I don’t expect D-Day to be super revolutionary, but I am intrigued by our characters and how they will converge in face of disaster. We’re given a proper introduction to our characters before the real doomsday hits, and I am pleasantly surprised at how likable and developed most of them are. I can already sense how our medical squad comes together, with their respective personalities, strengths, and flaws. Be warned, you may find yourself equally enamored and frustrated with a particularly stubborn doctor who impulsively saves lives. But I guess it’s not the worst thing to do on impulse, especially with a deadly disaster looming.
We follow a man in a doctor’s gown racing on a motorcycle, screeching to a stop in front of the court building. He’s the defendant in the case and raises his hand to clarify his position for the bickering lawyers.
The plaintiff was in cardiac arrest when he arrived at the hospital. He performed CPR, the purpose of which is to get the heart beating again no matter what. He continues intensely, “When performing CPR, I keep going even if bones break and pierce the lungs or the heart. Why? Because if you die, that’s the end.”
The gavel knocks with the decision, and he jumps back onto his motorcycle to race back to the hospital. Looking up at the Mirae Hospital building with large poster of a doctor promoting robot surgery, Motorcycle Doctor LEE HYE-SUNG (Kim Young-kwang) breathes a sigh of relief and breaks into a smile.
In his office, Robot Surgery Doctor, HAN WOO-JIN (Ha Suk-jin) diagnoses a patient with early stomach cancer and suggests that he take a lung CT. The patient expresses skepticism, citing internet sources that told him that a lung CT was not necessary. Robot Doctor takes offense that his expertise is comparable to an internet source and gives the patient the option to gamble his life.
Hye-sung runs right back into the emergency room to continue with his duties, pushing aside his colleague who tries to reject a patient. He briefly updates his superior about his successful trial before rushing to an incoming emergency patient. He makes judgment calls to send patients for simple X-rays and not the whole package of MRIs and CTs.
Even with the next patient, Hye-sung skips the string of tests because he knows there’s a long wait, and the patient is at risk of cardiac arrest. He uses an ultrasound to diagnose the condition and orders a surgery room, but he’s stopped by the Director, who notifies him that all the surgery rooms are full.
Director Lee argues that the patient should be transferred, since they are a specialized hospital. The patient’s death risk is at 90%, but Hye-sung argues that the survival rate is 10%. Hye-sung defiantly blames the Director’s stalling for bumping it down to 9% and voices the Director’s real intention: As long as this time bomb patient doesn’t die here in Mirae Hospital, he doesn’t care what happens. That silences him, and Hye-sung wheels the patient into surgery.
In the operation, the patient continues to bleed and undergoes cardiac arrest. Hye-sung performs CPR even when the heart monitor runs flat, and just as his colleague takes off his gloves and calls out the time of death, the patient’s heartbeat comes back.
Meanwhile Woo-jin performs his high tech robot surgery without breaking a sweat. He’s praised and adored by his underling for his robot skills.
Using the resources available in the operation room, Hye-sung stops the bleeding with an unconventional method and brings the patient back to normal internal levels. He tells his colleague that the time of death isn’t announced when the monitor says the heart stopped — it’s announced when the doctor stops. Until then, the patient is alive.
Director Lee cleans his toy ships in his office and says that those who don’t want to stay on his ships should get off. He scoffs at Hye-sung’s miracle attempt at the 9% survival rate.
The hospital meeting sounds more like a finance meeting, and Director Lee emphasizes the budget and income from the various departments. He recognizes KANG JOO-RAN (Kim Hye-eun), the chief of the ER — we’ll call her Chief Kang — for bringing in the largest income.
He’s pleased with her results and announces that the ER and the robotics cancer center are the two departments in the running for grant funding. After the meeting, Director Lee asks to meet with her about Lee Hye-sung.
After a successful surgery, Hye-sung scolds Time of Death Fellow that he should learn how to tie as well as he announces the time of death. He credits the anesthesiologist for keeping the patient alive with her sharp skills. When he leaves, TOD Fellow criticizes Hye-sung for praising other departments but shuts up when he realizes a nurse in the room.
Hye-sung is met by Chief Kang outside, and she tells him to report to Director Lee. She scolds him for rashly entering surgery without proper CT scans, but Hye-sung has his own grievances too. He knows that Chief Kang sends patients in for extra scans when their vitals are perfectly fine. But more scans, more money.
Exasperated, she acknowledges her intentions. She wants more funding for the ER so that people don’t die on the streets, and she’s not afraid to get her hands a little dirty for it. Hye-sung points out the hypocrisy in her statement and heads off to the Director’s office.
The Director first congratulates Hye-sung for making the 9% into 100% survival. Then he follows up with the image damage that Hye-sung has caused them and orders him to transfer to the Han River Mirae Hospital, a facility notorious for exceptionally bad medical service.
Hye-sung realizes that this must be punishment for his defiance, but Director Lee insists that it was a rational decision. Before Hye-sung exits, Director Lee adds that his mother will also be transferring to Han River Mirae Hospital with him, and that stops him in his tracks. Hye-sung’s voice shakes as he desperately requests that his mother stay at his hospital, since her vegetative state cannot be properly assisted elsewhere.
Director Lee gives him a deal — that he’ll allow him and his mother to stay if Hye-sung apologizes and vows not to perform another one-man-show surgery. Oh, and on his knees. After a moment’s hesitation, Hye-sung bows and bids his farewell, wiping the smug smile off of Director Lee’s face.
Rumor spreads quickly that Hye-sung has been kicked out, and his nurse friend finds him to suggest other options. But Hye-sung knows of no other hospital who would take him and his mother as a package deal, so he rides off with his mother to their new home.
The nurse at Han River Mirae Hospital seems apathetic to her new patient until Hye-sung calls her his younger sister. He feigns shock, that there is no way that this nurse is older than him. She takes the bait and happily offers to take care of his mother as his sister.
After she leaves, Hye-sung tells his mother that he’s putting an act on so that she can get the care she needs. He apologizes for the facility, but he promises to make it up by visiting more often. Stroking her hair, he asks why she ages even when all she does is sleep. He laments that she’ll be shocked to find him an old ahjussi when she wakes up.
At a public hearing for earthquake and disaster preparation, a scientist speaks about the possibility of a major earthquake striking the Korean peninsula. He’s followed by Assemblyman GU JA-HYUK (Cha In-pyo), who highlights the lack of earthquake-resistant buildings, particularly schools and hospitals. He’s interrupted by a phone call in the sparse audience, and he’s clearly dispirited when the man on the phone audibly complains about the boring hearing.
Afterwards, he asks a journalist to write a good article for them and answers a phone call from Chief Kang. Based on their conversation, they seem very familiar with each other. She’s just lost her right hand man, so she asks Ja-hyuk to buy her drink later that night.
The fire department receives a call about a suicide attempt, and firefighter Captain CHOI IL-SUB (Kim Sang-ho) seems to be annoyingly familiar with this person, who has repetitively attempted suicide. His team seems irritated that it’s this person again. One member of his team, LEE WOO-SUNG, receives a message from Hye-sung about him and Mom being transferred, which makes him hesitate before reporting for duty.
A resident doctor runs out of the ambulance and frantically searches for a bathroom at the rest stop. Unfortunately the line for the women’s bathroom extends far too long for her emergency, so she rushes into the men’s bathroom.
She hilariously times the flushes with her excretion and looks through a magazine with Robot Doctor Woo-jin. She exits the stall on the phone, clearly expressing interest in Mirae Hospital, while getting well-deserved looks of bewilderment.
A homeless man strums his guitar and performs some sort of poetry. This must be the suicidal Mr. Kang, who greets Captain Choi as his best friend. Captain Choi expresses his frustrations that he shouldn’t be calling in when there could be other dire and serious cases. Mr. Kang insists that he asked them not to call in and realizes that he’s out of soju. “That’s unfortunate, since I was going to take one last drink and leave [to the next neighborhood.]” Without a moment’s hesitation, Captain Choi throws his wallet to his minions to go buy drinks.
Bathroom resident doctor delivers the patient to Mirae Hospital and takes a moment to admire the poster of Woo-jin on the building. She answers the phone from her superior as JUNG DDOL-MI (Jung So-min) and complains that she’s obviously going to be late since she drove all the way to Seoul from Busan. After hanging up, she asks the ambulance driver to wait another hour, since they’re late anyway. She’s got someone to meet.
Woo-jin receives a call from Ddol-mi and immediately rejects it since he’s performing surgery. A disappointed Ddol-mi returns to the ambulance, but she proposes that they spend some time in Seoul. It’s not every day they get to visit the great city.
While enjoying the city lights and the river, Ddol-mi watches an entertaining scene of Captain Choi and Mr. Kang, both drunkenly causing a scene. The group of cyclist disrespectfully dismisses the drunkards as hobos, which provokes Captain Choi to confront them.
The confrontation leads to a physical altercation that results in Captain Choi chasing the bikers down. He jumps for one of the cyclists, misses, and ends up with a bloody forehead. But bikers are hit by incoming traffic, and one man winces in excruciating pain.
A nearby runner approaches the scene and assesses the man’s state. She’s Hye-sung’s nurse friend, PARK JI-NA (Yoon Joo-hee). She calls out to Ddol-mi, requesting to use their ambulance.
Ddol-mi tries to diagnose the patient in the ambulance, and Ji-na figures that it must be a collapsed lung. Suddenly, the man gasps for air, and Ddol-mi hesitates when given the task of inserting a needle into the man’s chest. Ji-na demands Ddol-mi to act quickly, and when she fails to do so, the nurse grabs the needle and stabs the man. He begins to breathe normally again, and they breathe a sigh of relief.
Hye-sung drops by Mirae hospital, leaving his ID and robes with Chief Kang. She tries to keep him to talk, but he acts dismissive. A phone call from Ji-na bringing in an emergency patient grabs Hye-sung’s attention. He quickly turns around to catch Chief Kang’s eye, hoping for some action.
The cyclist patient enters the ER, and Ji-na credits Ddol-mi with saving the man’s collapsed lung. Hye-sung compliments her skills, but she gives him a blank stare and mutters under her breath about his informal speech.
Captain Choi enters next, and he’s bombarded by the angry cyclists. Hye-sung notices his brother, and though the make eye contact, Woo-sung deliberately ignores his brother’s attempts to communicate.
As the cyclist patient is rolled away for scans, he thanks Ji-na for saving his life. Woo-jin coincidentally witnesses this interaction, and Ji-na’s face drops at his sight. Ddol-mi tries to catch his attention while he wonders why a nurse would be saving a person’s life.
A drunk grandpa is wheeled into the ER, and Intern AHN DAE-GIL (Lee Sung-yeol of Infinite) reluctantly assesses the man’s state. He can’t recognize where he’s at and tries to get back up. Time of Death Fellow comes by and orders the intern to tie him up.
Hye-sung sits around at the desk until Chief Kang scolds him for not helping out. He jumps at the opportunity, clearly having waited for approval to get back into ER work.
Ji-na updates Ddol-mi on the patient and encourages her to return to Busan. If anything goes wrong, Ji-na offers to take responsibility. Ddol-mi simply watches her with bewildered admiration.
Woo-jin grabs Ji-na while she’s walking past him and aggressively pulls her aside. He almost pins her to the wall to make her stay and talk to him. He scolds her for overstepping her medical responsibilities and putting herself at danger by lurking around Hye-sung. She doesn’t want to associate with Woo-jin and criticizes his choice to become a robot surgeon. After a moment of silence, Ji-na concludes the issue, “It’s been three years. It’s strange to see Dr. Han, always rational and keen, suddenly swayed by old emotions.”
After checking up on Captain Choi, Hye-sung attends to the drunk grandpa. He’s broken into cold sweat and hasn’t received the proper care for his symptoms. The intern struggles to properly diagnose the patient, and the patient goes into a seizure. Hye-sung treats the diabetic grandpa with the proper fluids, which quickly puts the patient back at normal levels.
Unable to find Woo-jin, Ddol-mi wanders back into the ER, where she observes Hye-sung scolding the Intern Dae-gil for incorrectly diagnosing a diabetic shock. Hye-sung returns to the patient and warmly greets him. He reminds grandpa to carry sweets with him, just in case his blood sugar runs low.
Woo-jin enters the ER and calls out Hye-sung for working at the hospital unauthorized. He disapproves of Chief Kang’s irresponsible team and desperation to fund her department. Ddol-mi watches the scene from behind, and grandpa notes Hye-sung’s temporary status.
The earthquake reporter tries to convince his superior to consider his research on the foreboding possibility of a major disaster, but his proposal is denied. Instead, he’s assigned to follow a celebrity dating scandal. Media these days…
As Chief Kang prepares to leave, Ji-na approaches her with a letter of resignation. She explains that she was the one who saved the patient’s collapsed lung, and more importantly, Woo-jin found out about it. She also notes that an ER without Hye-sung doesn’t appeal to her. She wants to leave before the consequences of her actions affects Chief Kang’s hopes for a better department.
On her drive, Chief Kang calls Hye-sung to update him about the situation. On his way out, Hye-sung runs into Ddol-mi and accuses her for taking undeserved credit. She justifies her actions by explaining she’s never treated a collapsed lung, but Hye-sung clarifies that she’s not the only one who’s never treated pneumothorax. He insults her and asserts that she doesn’t deserve to be a doctor. His harsh words clearly offend her, and she crouches down crying.
Hye-sung catches up to Ji-na and tries to lighten the mood. He suggest that they go out for a congratulatory drink, since she did perform her first pneumothorax centesis.
Assemblyman Gu and the Minister meet up with Director Lee and Woo-jin to discuss the direction of their funding for Mirae Hospital. The Minister leaves early, and Assemblyman Gu takes a moment to sneak in his endorsement of Chief Kang’s ER project. Chief Kang waits outside in her car and witnesses the Minister riding away with another woman.
Hye-sung and Ji-na share a drink and meal over her accomplishment, and Ji-na expresses the satisfaction she felt from saving a life. She wonders why she didn’t become a doctor, and Hye-sung jokes that she can’t be better than him. Nearby, an upset Ddol-mi eats with her ambulance driver and vows to never return to Seoul.
Suddenly, something crashes into the restaurant, flinging Hye-sung and Ji-na onto the floor. Past the debris, Hye-sung spots a gas tube leaking and yells at Ji-na to exit the building. Just as they run out, another explosion occurs in the building. Ddol-mi watches this right outside the convenience store next door, and the three of them watch a crane speedily fall toward them.
Despite the lack of plot in the first episode, I still found myself pretty engaged with the story of our characters. It’s no surprise that our main disaster team all converged at the hospital, but I found the process of that serendipity surprisingly amusing. I’m not sure if the scant moments of comedy will stick around for disaster, but it was a fun twist on what I expected from our production. Kim Young-kwang tends to have a pretty consistent characters from his previous shows, but I think the intensity he displays as Hye-sung is somewhat new. He’s still got that playful spirit, but he shows a duality in his passion as a doctor and his personality. I love that his character is ruthless and has absolutely no tolerance for bullshit, especially if his family and his patients are on the line. One of my favorite moments has got to be him rejecting Director Lee’s offer because it took about two seconds for him to decide that he ain’t stooping that low to please a crook.
I’m a bit torn when it comes to our antagonists, who seem more clearly bad without much gray areas revealed to us yet. It would be a shame to just frame them as selfish characters simply looking out for the size of their wallets. I’m hoping that the earthquake will rearrange their priorities and give their characters a little more decency. As of now, I’m not too impressed with the depiction of Robot Doctor Woo-jin, especially in his interaction with Ji-na. He doesn’t seem to have too many friends, and he’s going to need some real soon.
The biggest question I have right now is how significantly the earthquake will shake things up. Will the magnitude of earthquake accurately be portrayed? Is this disaster completely life-changing for the residents of Seoul or the entire Korean peninsula? I want this drama to go big with the idea of a disaster and explore the many nuances of providing care for everyone in need. I think it will be interesting to see how Hye-sung reacts to the constant demand for his services and how his priorities on saving lives may change. Who deserves the most immediate care? Should certain people be placed as higher priorities than others? And who decides?
I’m really looking forward to the growth in Ddol-mi, who showed so much hope yet so little promise in this episode. I’m not sure if she really has a connection with Woo-jin or simply admires him for afar, but I found her rediscovery of Seoul to be an interesting start in her journey to becoming a more impactful doctor. No doubt, Hye-sung is bound to play a large role in her transformation, but I’m also anticipating her own knowledge and values to be instilled in others. She’s got the Busan bumpkin spunk going for her, and Jung So-min plays her endearingly well. She seems a little dense and diffident as a doctor, in contrast to her strong outspoken personality. I’m hoping she learns to meld the two together through the upcoming obstacles.
It seems weird to be anticipating a huge disaster, but the disaster serves as impetus for our characters to adapt and change to meet the needs of the people. I wouldn’t wish such a large disaster in our world, but in this world, D-Day is an inevitable part of the narrative. Let the countdown begin.
- Assembling the rescue squad for D-Day
- Explosions and destruction rock Seoul in JTBC’s D-Day
- The earthquake strikes in medical-disaster drama D-Day
- The rescue team is dispatched in disaster drama D-Day
- JTBC picks up Yoon Kye-sang thriller Last, D-Day to follow
- Disaster medical drama D-Day confirms lineup, awaits scheduling
- Ha Suk-jin considers doctor role in disaster drama D-Day
- Jung So-min up to rescue disaster victims in D-Day
- Kim Young-kwang courted for JTBC disaster drama D-Day
- Disaster to hit JTBC with D-Day