Dark Hole: Episodes 1-2 (Review)
Ready to jump into a Dark Hole? OCN’s latest thriller is just that, in all senses of the word. It’s creepy, it’s confusing, it’s full of characters and their demons, and you feel like you’ve been pushed into something you don’t understand. Thank goodness for Lee Jun-hyuk, his shotgun, and the energy he brings to the screen. He makes the darkness (and the plot chaos) worth it.
Note: This is an opening week review only.
EPISODES 1-2 REVIEW
If ever there was a premiere week that seemed to start five different dramas simultaneously, it was Dark Hole. They weave together eventually, but to start, it’s a lot to piece together.
Take some supernatural elements, some horror, several murders, a disjointed storyline with time jumps, a team of cops, a shaman, a bullied teen, a lone reporter — oh and a serial killer, too — and you have yourself the premiere week of Dark Hole. Let’s jump in, shall we?
We first meet our hero and heroine in the thick of it: there’s a creepily lit furnace room of sorts, a diabolical snake-like monster, and a fight for their lives. But the real story begins before all of this, so we take a step back in time and meet each of our characters before the apocalyptic chaos.
Our heroine is LEE HWA-SUN (Kim Ok-bin), a strong and resolute detective who’s also deep in grief. Her husband was murdered by what seems like a young woman that he was trying to mentor. And not only that, but the murderer also happens to be a psychopath killer who plays games with her victims, and even after the crime, toys with the family left behind (viz., Hwa-sun).
As with most OCN dramas, Dark Hole is darkish, moody, and stylized. It works particularly well for parts of the storytelling here, though — like when we see Hwa-sun come home from work to her husband cooking dinner, and then the scene darkens, he disappears, and she’s alone in her grief.
Hwa-sun’s story is the main backdrop, but we also meet our hero early on, though we learn less about him. He’s YOO TAE-HAN (Lee Jun-hyuk) and it’s hard not to love what we see. He’s fearless, funny, and also really heroic. In a strong scene of early exposition, he races against the clock to save a woman from an about-to-torch car. Admittedly, it’s hard for me not to love a performance by Lee Jun-hyuk, but I really like him here as this rather quintessential action hero that’s hard not to wish you had in your corner.
Tae-han is something of a freelance investigative journalist, and he seems to also have a nose for trouble, which is kind of how he winds up meeting Hwa-sun. His friend and business partner is one of the first victims of the strange event that’s lurking in a nearby forest, and he meets our heroine under creepy circumstances.
But first, a word on the overall setting, which is actually what starts to bring the plot together (finally) at the end of Episode 2. At the crux of it all is a mysterious sinkhole that appears in a big plot of land outside the neighborhood where the drama mostly takes place. Early on, it’s Tae-han’s friend that roams too close to the sinkhole and starts exhibiting psychotic + homicidal tendencies.
Then, not much later, when Hwa-sun is investigating, she too nears too close, and is “overtaken” by whatever the hell the drama is trying to evoke with the evil black CGI mist. It’s silly in one sense, but the essence is there: a darkness takes over these characters (signified by their eyeballs turning black) and then they’re haunted by hallucinations of their worst nightmares or fears. Soon, this basically turns them into raving zombie-esque lunatics.
During the premiere week we also meet a lot of side characters that either find themselves near the sinkhole, or infected by it. It’s practically more characters than one can keep track of, but by the end, the common denominator is this: we land in absolute chaos. Hwa-sun and Tae-han are back in the city, and it looks like nothing short of a zombie apocalypse, with all the “infected” characters wreaking havoc.
It’s the beginning of the end, but it’s also the beginning of the drama, actually, since it’s where the real meat of the plot begins. This is the reason it’s a bit hard to judge Dark Hole and the compellingness of its tale so soon — because we’ve only gotten the situational setup, not a sense of what the actual story will be.
Working to the drama’s advantage, though, is the fact that Hwa-sun and Tae-han seem primed and ready for the partnership we got hints of during the drama’s opening. I really like what we saw of them when together on screen, and if the drama will continue to ride off this, it will definitely be an element to enjoy. I not only like their characters together as foils, but also liked them as co-stars.
The other boon here is Tae-han and his sharp-witted ability to already start stitching together what’s happening to the citizens, and how it’s related to the sinkhole. After observing what happened to his friend, he’s confronted with the same in Hwa-sun, and it’s not only a fun but well-paced portion of the story where he’s putting the puzzle pieces together. There’s a long way to go, but clearly this is the guy we want leading the story, and I guess that’s a good place to land after a premiere.
In conclusion, Dark Hole is pretty chaotic, with gobs of setup and side characters that make you lose the focus of the story a bit. But, the drama also has some strong moments that make the genre work and the characters pop. Don’t go into Dark Hole expecting a groundbreaking horror-thriller or anything — but perhaps a more mediocre drama with some fun moments and a good hero might be on the menu instead?