Rating:
Average user rating 5.0
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Search: Episodes 1-2 (Review)

Soldiers, mystery, and monsters at the DMZ? Sign me up! The opening week of OCN’s Search was exactly what I was expecting: an introduction to our hero, setup around our search team, and just enough of a hint at something gone terribly wrong to keep our interest going.

Note: This is an opening week review only.

 
EPISODES 1-2 REVIEW

I love a good military story so much that I jumped headlong into this drama without thinking very much about it. Throw in Jang Dong-yoon as the lead, and it’s pretty much a guaranteed win for me, even if I don’t wind up loving the plot. Here’s the consensus so far: if Predator and Doom had a K-drama plot baby that was set at the DMZ and featured a super handsome Korean actor, it would be, well, Search.

Even though there’s enough of a story to keep things going, if military stories low on plot, heavy on night shoots, and full of low-budget CGI are not your thing, you might want to pass on Search (I love all three of these things for some reason, so I’m biased). And if you’re just here to find out about the promised scene of a shirtless, sweaty Jang Dong-yoon playing basketball with his teammates and showing off some pretty sick skills, that scene can be found at the 18-minute mark of Episode 1, and is well worth watching. You know, for science.

But, if you’re game for the drama at hand, we’ve got a nice supply of soldier camaraderie, military maneuvering, gunfire, search squadrons, and an enemy that’s shaping up to be much worse than any soldiers from the opposing force.

Before we meet our hero formally, though, we get a big chunk of backstory featuring Yeon Woo-jin in a great cameo. Really, I’ve seen him so many in middling rom-coms I never thought he’d be so great as a soldier (but he is!).

Back in 1997, he and his team got called in to do a sweep of “Sector 21.” Everything is quiet when suddenly a landmine explodes – the soldiers are anxious to retreat when they see a defector waving a white flag. She’s from the North Korean military, she’s carrying her infant with her, and she confirms that she wants to defect to South Korea. It’s such a tense scene! A sudden stand-off with hidden North Korean soldiers turns into a bloodbath, and almost everyone dies, except the baby and some soldiers who will become menaces later — exactly 23 years later.

It’s after those 23 years, in the scorching summer of 2020, that we meet our hero SERGEANT YONG DONG-JIN (Jang Dong-yoon). He’s playful, cocky, and easy to like — and also vaguely reminds me of the character Song Joong-ki played in Descended From the Sun (except Search is certified schmaltz-free).

Dong-jin is the dog handler on a search team, and he’s counting down the days till he completes his military service, since he’s only got three weeks left. The team he’s on is young and green, but Dong-jin seems to know what he’s doing, and he has a good rapport with his working dog.

We see them in action tracking down a rabid wolf that someone reported, and this scene works to show us Dong-jin’s courage under fire, and the total greenness of his fellow soldiers when they accidentally shoot him, instead of the wolf, with the tranquilizer. It’s a funny scene, but when you think about it, it’s not that funny — if Dong-jin is going to head into rough waters with these guys, he needs to know they’ve got his back while he’s got his dog. Because there are bigger problems than wolves lurking in those woods.

We witness two soldiers getting attacked in a very Predator-esque fashion, and pretty soon a search team is dispatched to find the second soldier, after the first is discovered mangled and bitten. Dong-jin barely recovers from getting tranquilized when he’s dragged into joining a different squad on their mission. His presence has been specifically requested (gulp!), and bribed with the promise of some extra holidays, he agrees to go.

Officers from the KCST (Korean Chemical Special Team) are leading this particular mission, and if it’s not clear right away why this is a KCST mission, it’s abundantly clear later — they have the labs, the scientists, and all the rest that they’ll need to figure out what’s really going on. If they can survive, that is.

One of the KCST officers in command is FIRST LIEUTENANT SOHN YE-RIM (Krystal), who seems every bit the tough, no-nonsense officer. While the teams are getting briefed on the mission, she and Dong-jin clock each other and it’s all too obvious that they have a history together.

We learn later that they dated, and Ye-rim dumped him for reasons undisclosed to Dong-jin (and us). While their romantic backstory seems pointless in one sense, in another, it immediately colors their interactions in a way that makes it 100% more interesting. Two strangers walking through a sinister field hunting rabid wolves doesn’t just ring the same as an ex-couple with some unresolved feelings walking through a sinister field doing the same.

Speaking of sinister fields, this night mission of theirs is important because they learn that there’s a lot more than rabies in Sector 21, and what we learn in Episode 2 fleshes out our story a bit more.

Thanks to the CCTV footage from Dong-jin’s dog, strange markings/wounds on the located soldier, and oddly behaving blood samples, our team soon realizes that there’s something bigger going on than they thought. More than rabid wolves, or a renegade North Korean soldier, the enemy they’re just beginning to notice is more sinister than they imagined. It’s also closely linked to what happened back in 1997. And the surviving soldiers from that mission (now an Assemblyman and a high-ranking military officer, respectively) have to keep the secret a secret.

When our opening week closes, Dong-jin has been strong-armed into joining a final operation before he’s discharged. It’s a secret operation with high stakes, and the (evil) Assemblyman is backing it. And to make it even more dramatic, the man put in charge is CAPTAIN SONG MIN-GYU (Yoon Park). He’s a known troublemaker, and was being held by the military police when he’s tapped for this assignment. Apparently, he’s the dude that can lead this operation and contain the chaos.

I actually liked the drama a lot more by the time Episode 2 closed, since we’re left with a strong sense of where the story is going next: Dong-jin forced to join the special operation team that’s not only rife with conflict, but about to encounter some serious evil.

Search isn’t exactly a drama that pops, but Jang Dong-yoon is clearly the highlight here, and he brings a fun warmth to his role. Even if it’s just a ten-second scene when we’re watching him hesitate to run after his dog into a minefield, or where we’re hearing him complain to his superior about getting tapped for yet another mission, it feels like we’re watching a real person whose emotions make sense.

While Jang Dong-yoon might be the biggest draw, it’s also interesting to see Krystal in a role that demands grim faces and gravity, instead of long hair and levity. So far, I like her here. She’s very uptight and pinned up, and it kinda works. Also, we don’t get much of Yoon Park during these episodes, but what we do get is interesting, and my curiosity around how his character will clash with Dong-jin is what makes me want to come back for week two of this drama. I’m certainly not coming back for the CGI, that’s for sure!

I don’t want to give Search too much credit for being particularly thrilling or interesting, since it’s not — but it’s fun for what it is. OCN’s signature tone really works to the benefit of the story here as well, particularly in the scenes with Ye-rim sitting in a deserted lab analyzing blood samples. The dim lighting, cold metallic feel, and environment totally devoid of warmth — all this adds to the tension of her discovery (and our episode cliffhanger).

What military secrets are lurking in those woods? What will our team encounter as they start their mission? Are they just getting led into the lion’s den, or will they actually be able to surface this scandal and save lives? I’m actually okay with any outcome, and any arrangement of familiar plot devices — just as long as Dong-jin gets home safe.

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I think you may have missed the epilogue at the end end of ep2. (SPOILER) The NK baby is Yerim!

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Very important detail.

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havent watch this but I probably will watch the most important minute 18 of ep 1 ngl

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I feel the same way you do about Search. I'm really liking it because it has 1) Jang Dong yoon 2) Jang Dong yoon 3) the other guy that's going to be the small antagonist. It's got danger - I like. It's got suspense and monsters - Okay. I guess some people didn't like the monster-ish idea because suddenly the ratings (Viki) went down.

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Oops, forgot to mention: I loved your review @missvictrix (as usual)! Are you sure you don't want to do more reviews rather than just first two eps only? Just for me, pretty please??

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@linda-palapala thank you~ I don't think I'll have the time to keep up with this one, but I'd love to see the conversation continue here!

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I was really hoping they would not go the zombie route, but apparently they have. Not exactly the most original theme to come up with.

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It's only sort of a zombie in that he came back to life, but it's more a combo zombie/werewolf/bigfoot/etc. A mish-mash of many supernatural beings taken straight out of 1950s horror movies. At least that's what I think this week.

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Aargh, hitting "send" too soon. "Not exactly the most original theme..." there's nothing original in storytelling. But maybe you can tell me what your idea of an original theme would be - ?

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There are degrees of originality. Zombies is not at the top of the list.

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Not lately anyway. Zombies are "in" right now.

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I watched this drama head first, without reading the synopsis (New drama for me is like new toy, shining and tempting in the distance, calling me to watch it, you know the game). I don't know there're dogs! Aww Jang Dong-yoon and the dogs, they are cutest....
And Krystal's resting bitch face is perfect for her role, ha, ha, ha

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@pohonphee - I'm with you on watching new dramas. But for me the most compelling reason is it's OCN.
So I was surprised at how dark and scary it was for me. I don't care for scary - but I couldn't stop watching last night.
And I agree with you about Krystal's resting bitch face - so true!

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I 'm surprised there's indication of little bit romance between Jang Dong-yoon and Krystal, knowing it is on OCN lol
Straight up procedural is not my favorite genre which is OCN's forte but sometimes it is better than romance drama that went awry. 😃

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2 episode in and I'm hooked. I really like Jang Dong Yoon in practically anything. And Krystal, I think the role suits her. I'm also a sucker of mystery thriller so this really works for me.

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Thanks @missvictrix! My initial take was that I basically like it, but it would be even better if they removed the rabies part of it all. I have a bad feeling we're going to have to endure a lot of actors acting rabid-ly which gets old quickly. They'd still have a good story if there was just "something dodgy" going on in the DMZ 23 years ago and it needs to be understood, sorted out and finished off - we don't need a crazy virus to make it more exciting.

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Yuppers - with the DMZ backstory it could have been a pretty good lead into something interesting without rabid zombie/dogs thing. From time to time a show comes along that I watch just for all the plot holes - I think this might be one of those.

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I didnt expect to see Yeon Woo-Jin here. And would've loved to see more of him but unfortunately its only a cameo. Hopefully, he will choose a movie with him as a soldier. I'd totally watch that.
Jang Dong Yoon is likeable here as our lead. Krystal also fits her role as the KCST officer who has history with JDY's character.
There are a lot of mystery, military stuff and intigue. I really line it so far!

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Them having a history makes it more interesting.

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I really thought Yeon Woo jin will be the one to adopt the child but then he died.

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I wouldve loved to see more of him in the show. 🥰 hopefully there are more scenes from the past.

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Hope the show gives us flashbacks from the incident so we can see more of him.

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Yes! I repeatedly checked any articles for him guesting or as a cameo but so it is Yeon Woo Jin!!!

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Me too! I didnt find any. But I knew it was him. 😄

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Haha! Im glad someone confirmed it!! Yey! 😆

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Watched this for the sake of Jang Dong Yoon (and Yoon Park, still hangover in Age of Youth!) and well, it is intriguing! Not quite thrilling? But something just pulls me in. I have a lot of questions about what happened in the DMZ years ago. Questions about the leads and all. And! Knowing its 10 episodes I think I will stay for the answers. Great recap @missvictrix!

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Thanks so much for the review, missvictrix, I had as much fun reading as watching the two episodes. I have the same feelings as you: don’t expect too much of the drama, I’m having so much fun so far and the CGI makes me laugh (it is THAT bad, isn’t it?).

But, there’s JDY and that first shirtless scene got my full attention (also, I agree with you about his character sort of resembles of SJK in DOTS), I loved his interactions with his team and his dog. In fact I was so sad when Leo died... hope Maek gets to retirement day.

Another reason to watch is Moon Jeon Hee. Ever since I saw her in When the weather is fine I’m a devoted fun.

May I ask that in addition to your Predator references can we have also a Dirty Dozen reference too? The way we are introduced our new team, as bunch of people with a last opportunity.

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You mean the slow mo of his tanned back as he rose to badly play basketball, I didn't notice, lol.

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Hehehehehe

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And all those shots from bellow, emphasizing all the contours, super subtle fan service, well done, drama! 😂

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At this point, I guess JDY's contracts specifically request him to do an epic shirtless scene on ep 1 in every drama (still remember him emerging from the sea in Nokdu)

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Moon Jeon Hee kicking some ass is the thing I didn't know I needed. She's great!

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She's awesome!!!!

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I watched this and was excited until the zombies. SIGH, I don't mind zombies but I do hate when people act stupid around zombies. She heard a noise, went to investigate, saw an empty table where a dead body should be and promptly shut the door. She then proceeded to run all around the room except toward the door so she could get help. She didn't call for back up, she called her ex boyfriend. Why didn't she run to the door and shut it behind her. She had time, I noticed. I'm out. I wanted to like this.

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We are twins for a reason...
I also thought how stupid of her to call her ex boyfriend...

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I guess I am not the only one that did a triple face palm on that scene, to the point where I had to use a foot. I already have issues with the whole zombie thing.

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Nope, I was done after that scene. It was just, NO.

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Yeah, that was lame writing - especially for a horror/ thriller. She's supposed to be KCST team member, virus-doctor, and she touches blood and bodies without gloves, and proceeds to turn her back towards an obviously undead and violent-corpse by calling her ex-bf!!!! Who does that?! But I'll continue to watch the show because I am missing a good horror-fest drama.

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Is it just me or Jang Dong Yoon looks very much like DO here?

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gonna watch it to find out

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I second that!

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YES. I saw that face and I was like, waitaminute, he's still IN the military...

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I have issues with this show, and not just the bad CGI.
Going by the comments few, if any, of them have ever spent any time in the military. From my own experience I can tell you that this show portrays a military that is so inept as to be ludicrous. You would think that with almost universal conscription that kdramas would get more of it right, but I guess not. And oh freaking YAY - more zombies - just what we needed.

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The main male lead, Jang Dong Yoon, did his time in the military right after high school and before college. The ineptitude of some of the soldiers is meant to show their inexperience and such and is likely just an exaggeration rather than anything else. I sure didn't take it seriously as a model of the Korean military. I didn't particularly think it was funny either, though it was likely meant to be.

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Even noobies would know that if a vicious snarling critter is coming at you, and you have a fully loaded automatic rifle, that you don't drop the rifle and fall over backwards.

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and it's very heartbroken to see Dong-jin's crying over Leo's death... and the moments the serial played the footage of Dong-Jin and Leo's first meeting, I started to cry.. T_T

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(Spoilers ahead, maybe🤷🏻‍♀️) It to me felt like the Assemblyman and other dude are trying to cover up more the fact that Assemblyman shot first and basically got everyone killed, than anything to do with what’s going on with the wolves and the cliffhanger 🤔 From what I could gather, it seemed the North Koreans were looking for the guy with the box that was going crazy and that’s why they asked the defector where he went, and why she could use her knowledge as leverage to leave the baby while she went back. Apart from that, and the fact the baby is Ye-Rim, it doesn’t seem the shootout is all that related. But then again, unless one of them talks, I don’t see how anyone would find out they did anything wrong during that mission so I guess maybe there is more to what happened in 1997 than we were originally privy to, if they’re going to such lengths to cover it up.

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I watched the 1st two episodes and found enough traction to bring me back for more. There are enough things to like but there are also things I am tolerating:
1. I have difficult times to figure out who is who when the camera moving from one soldier to another and everyone is in the same uniform. I am hoping that I can recognize the few main characters later on.
2. The scene in the morgue (exam room), where Ye Rim (Krystal) was attacked by the corpse. Don't they have rules that says no texting in the morgue? especially not with your back facing the attacking corpse? I think that scene wasn't carefully thought through and I hope they don't have any more of these in the future.

The first scene of Moon Jung Hee at the museum at one of the highlights for ep. 2. I love her character in Vagabond. She is a great actress. Here, she already made a great impression to the audience. It makes you wonder what her role will be in the remaining episodes.

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I was unprepared to see violent zombies so this premiere was quite creepy with the mainly dark night and murky scenes. The 1997 scenes were compelling, but I don't care for the assemblyman and the police commander in the present. I couldn't tell who was who with their matching uniforms back then. The camera moved a bit too quick.

Jang Dong Yoon was my main draw in trying this drama and yeah, I already like his character. I took a few days' break before watching EP 2 so dammit, I was hoping Leo would be okay. I cried when he found Leo dead. Me being a dog mama made me like this. Dx

I should have known EP 2 would be less scary except the end. I just kept waiting for the dead guy to come back to life and they had to leave it for the cliffhanger ugh. Facepalmed at ALL of Ye Rim's actions including touching blood without gloves AND not getting out a gun/weapon ready before entering the room. Can the drama not get more stupid than this. Can't tell with the 2 unknown soldiers on the search team yet, but I wish they all would take the mission seriously.

I thought I might be too chicken to watch this, but I wanna keep going lol. The shorter episode length is appealing. I'm curious about Dong Jin's story and hoping he'll survive. It's good that no time is wasted on Dong Jin and Ye Rim learning to get to know each other. They literally don't have time for that when the mission is at stake and romance is not the main factor. It will be an additional layer of angst/tension when they are trying to save or protect each other from the sinister enemy.

Glad to see Moon Jung Hee kicking butt and looking lively. Quite the contrast to her stoic and subdued role in I’ll Find You on a Beautiful Day. Interested in how her character connects to the rest of the story.

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I watched all 4 episodes at a stretch and I guess my lesson is to not get too attached to any characters 🙈
This is far creepier than anything I generally watch but the characters are interesting and JDY is doing an ace job. Also with only 6 more episodes it's easier to commit. I don't know if I could take 16 episodes of blood and gore.

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it's been a very long time since I'm open this kdrama recaps blog..
but because of this drama I really curious as to what dramabeans team think.. so I search for SEARCH (haha) even just a preview of 2 episode combines together.. still... I happy! haha..
plus, to me it is kinda scary to wacth this drama alone at night... hahah...

p/s: I really hope you will keep recaps this drama.. I want to know your point of view.. is it the same as me? or not..?
it just 10 episode.. its okay even if you combine 2 ep in one recaps... thanx alot anyway for the recaps..~

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