SF8: Blink: Episode 4 (Review)
The fourth short drama in the SF8 anthology again takes us into the near future, and into the realm of AI. Blink explores a world where AI is being used to enhance human performance to aid with law enforcement, and what we get is a drama that’s short on depth of storytelling, but heavy on concept and action.
EPISODE 4 REVIEW: “Blink”
The drama opens with our heroine having a nightmare. She’s JI-WOO (Lee Shi-young), a sergeant in the Seoul Police Department. Her nightmare is important — not only because it’s the token tragic car accident in which she lost her parents as a young girl, but because it was due to AI. Her parents had had an AI driving their car, and had programmed it to protect little Ji-woo at all costs. And it did its job all too well.
Ji-woo tries to shake off her nightmare (which seems like quite a frequent occurrence for her) with a hardcore workout. It’s rare in dramaland that we get a gratuitous workout scene featuring a female, but it works here as a pretty great introduction, and an important bit of characterization. Our heroine is strong, she’s a fighter — and she has some serious abs. Oh, she’s also part of an AI beta test that’s being run by the police department.
Ji-woo’s problems start just as soon as she gets called to deal with a crime that same morning. I love a good chase scene, and we’re not disappointed here, as we follow Ji-woo running like a madwoman to catch a suspect. We also learn pretty quickly how the AI (which is a part of the beta test) helps her along — it’s some kind of a smart contact lens device that overlays intelligence over what she sees, and also analyzes data that she comes across. How fast she has to run, how likely a bystander is to be telling her the truth, likelihood the suspect is carrying a weapon, and so on.
Losing the suspect, though, has some repercussions. Her punishment? She has to partner with a newbie for a short time. Ji-woo is completely relieved — until she realizes she was tricked into getting a test AI chip implanted into her brain. The AI implant project is the next step up from the beta test; the police want to use it going forward, and she’s the guinea pig. It’s here that we get the real meat of the drama.
The AI “accompanies” her as a weird blue orb, but soon decides it’s better to take a human form to make Ji-woo more comfortable (read: less hateful). It does this in the form of SEO-NANG (Ha Joon). Seo-nang is constantly trying to get her to “use” him to benefit her investigation — everything from conducting analyses that she can’t, to driving the car for her. Of course she fiercely says no to the car, since she’s got an AI-driven-car trauma.
A new case is soon given to Ji-woo, and the body of a dead woman in an industrial area is not so simple of a crime as they first believe. Seo-nang helps Ji-woo hypothesize about the victim’s injuries, stitches together important details when they visit her home, and is generally like having a walking computer friend around for help — and, as it turns out, companionship.
I am reluctant to compare this story to rom-com My Holo Love, but both stories use the concept of an AI taking human form, and then bonding with the human that controls/hosts it. The rom-com use of this idea is one thing, but here in Blink it’s more about getting to the bottom of a crime, and in turn, facing one’s demons.
Seo-nang’s total usefulness slowly wins Ji-woo over. He’s like having a physical and mental enhancement, and both of these things come in handy, especially when Ji-woo is exploring the crime scene area one night and runs into a bunch of high schoolers mixing drugs, eyedrops, and smart lenses for some creepy times. Being able to access and spit out all of their personal info and priors certainly helps her case — but it’s when Seo-nang “takes over” her body during their fight that we really see how the AI can help enhance her performance.
I’m a fan of both the action genre and Lee Shi-young, so I was curious to see how they would come together over an AI story. What we get is something definitely stronger than Rugal’s use of AI… but totally less imaginative than a drama like Memories of the Alhambra, and what it was able to do with the concept of smart lenses and altered reality.
Sitting somewhere in between, Blink is good, but also feels rather bare bones. The cast is tiny, to the point that it almost feels a bit barren, and the story doesn’t have that much meat to it. We quickly follow Ji-woo as she unravels the murder case, discovers a different AI experiment gone rogue, and with the help of Seo-nang’s hacking skills, confronts and defeats the enemy AI.
The strong point of the drama, besides a lot of cool fight scenes, is the banter between Seo-nang and Ji-woo. The drama even managed to sneak in a little bit of humor, too, when Ji-woo is talking to Seo-nang as if he’s next to her, but of course invisible to everyone else. I didn’t expect to giggle, but the sense of humor was certainly appreciated, since the rest of the story is straight-forward and pretty humorless.
Outside of Ji-woo and Seo-nang finding a way to work together and beat the bad guy, the real crux of the story was about Ji-woo facing her demons. During one of the pivotal fight scenes, she’s left with a decision: she can either continue driving her car to the best of her abilities (with an AI-inhabited baddie clinging to the roof like a zombie!) — or, let the AI take over. I really like how this moment was played! Ji-woo chooses to relinquish to the AI, and just covers her face and cries, having to confront her trauma head-on. But this is dramaland, where traumas come full circle, and facing demons always means defeating them, so Ji-woo comes out victorious on the other side.
After finishing the drama I was left with two small points of dissatisfaction. The first was that there was way more to unpack than the drama actually did. Most of this I have to ascribe to the fact that the drama’s runtime was only 50 minutes — but then again, previous dramas in the series like Manxin were just as short, but felt a little more fleshed out. That’s what I was left looking for here — a little more detail in the story.
My second gripe was that I found myself hoping for a bit more zing at the ending. Perhaps because the story felt so stripped down and simple, it seemed ripe for a twist. In other words, a story with so little setup and details is a great way to sneak up on the audience — we have so little context, that that fact can be used against us to slip in something we weren’t expecting.
However, there was no such twist. Instead, Blink ended emphasizing the bond and trust that had formed between Ji-woo and Seo-nang. I’m not complaining over the uplifting and partnership aspect of this ending — in fact, I really liked the thought of an AI helping her heal from her past mistrust/trauma around AI in general. But it could have been a little more juicy.
That being said, a good concept and good cast made the drama enjoyable, and though I’ve said it a hundred times, I’d love to see more female-led action stories in dramaland, so in retrospect, Blink was a great start.