Zombie Detective: Episodes 1-2 Open Thread
With its campy humor and noir-ish tone, Zombie Detective just might be the most out-of-the-box drama that has premiered this year. It tells the story of a man turned zombie, and jumps from horror to slapstick to mystery to rom-com in the space of a single episode — and it all strangely works.
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP
It’s a great mystery of dramaland why some dramas just don’t work, even when they have everything (cast, writer, PD) stacked in their favor. But it might even be a bigger mystery when a drama that sounds like a walking disaster, turns out to be totally viable, fun, and entertaining — and that’s exactly what we have here with Zombie Detective.
When Zombie Detective opens, we’re introduced to two very different storylines. The first is this very dark, noir, and totally campy introduction to our zombie hero (Choi Jin-hyuk). He wakes up in the middle of a landfill and slowly starts to realize that he’s not human any more. All of the narration in this sequence is done in hilariously dramatic inner monologue — because he’s a zombie and he naturally can’t speak but in wheezy grunts. He wonders things like, “Is this the apocalypse or a zombie virus?” or, when he’s trying to walk, “I’m in a rush but why am I so slow?” LOL! Our zombie even lights a moody cigarette in a style that’s so exactly from a noir detective film, that it’s hard not to crack up. There’s something about this gloominess mixed with the comedy that is just spot-on.
Our second introduction is to our heroine, the feisty journalist GONG SUN-JI (Park Joo-hyun). Sun-ji’s scenes are the mother of all tonal shifts from the gloomy noir comedy of our zombie hero. She’s basically like a more ballsy Lois Lane. She’s on a mission to catch a wanted criminal known as Santa, or any other baddie she runs into in the process, and she’s not afraid to throw punches — or helmets — to take them down.
With a pretty solid introduction to our heroine and her pursuit of justice, the story’s attention then falls to our hero. How is he going to survive in a world of vicious humans who kill zombies at the first chance they get? The entire reversal of this hunter/hunted dynamic is great here — and our hero soon decides he has to pretend to be human in order to survive in this cruel, cruel world. Cue a year-long transformation montage that puts Choi Jin-hyuk’s previous crazy transformation scene in An Empress’s Dignity to shame.
Our hero teaches himself to walk, to talk, to use chopsticks, and more, all the while earning these hilarious “Master Level” badges along the way. Our zombie might look and act human now, but it’s not until he re-enters civilization that the real plot begins. Armed with a tube of heavy duty BB cream, and accidentally taking over the identity of a private eye who was murdered in the woods where he was hiding, our zombie man is ready to cover the truth about his past. If he can function among humans, that is.
Between his uncontrollable appetite for living creatures, the way he plows through face makeup, and the frequent misunderstandings that put him in awkward scenarios, just staying conscious is enough of a job for our hero right now.
Our zombie has somehow taken over the identity of the private eye KIM MOO-YOUNG without too many hiccups — people assume he’s Moo-young when he goes in and out of Moo-young’s office, or when he walks around town with a trench coat and fedora on. Instead, the things that trip our zombie up are how he’s going to feed himself, pay his rent, and keep himself safe from the humans that are swiftly closing in.
Zombie Moo-young soon crosses paths with Sun-ji, and it’s a drama-worthy clash of stories and tones. She first assumes he’s a pedophile, but then later, learning he’s innocent, she seeks him out to settle over any damages. She’s used to assaulting and then getting sued, you see. Good thing she has CHA DO-HYUN (Kwon Hwa-woon), her policeman friend who’s not only looking out for her, but crushing on her hard. Why do I already sense a wacky love triangle coming — and why is this drama making me even imagine a zombie-human romance? Well, if there’s a drama that will be able to pull this off, it’s Zombie Detective.
After a strong premiere week, Zombie Detective has really impressed with its sure-handed take on a pretty wacko story. In fact, it’s so wacky that it’s almost hard to appreciate how much skill it takes for a story like this to work, and be so funny and entertaining — but they pull it off. So many giggles!
Also, Choi Jin-hyuk is just brilliant here. I was holding my breath a bit, thinking that this drama (and his performance) could feel like Rugal part two… but it just goes to show what some really good directing (and the right script) can bring out in a performance. From the get-go, Choi Jin-hyuk is 100% committed to playing this role to the max, and it shows. And he shines. Whether it’s the panic in his bloodshot eyes, his gaping jaws of bloody-thirsty desperation, or the moments of comedy that leave you slack-jawed (zombie dance-off with A.C.E. anyone?!) — this will definitely be a performance for the books.