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The Silent Sea: Episodes 1-8 (Series review)

Netflix’s latest original drama The Silent Sea premiered over the holiday weekend, and this time our genre is sci-fi. The scene is the moon, and the setting is a dystopic near-future. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but The Silent Sea does sci-fi just the way I like it: tense, slow, and cerebral, with bursts of violence, and a strong message about what it means to be human.

 
SERIES REVIEW

When you have Gong Yoo and Bae Doo-na as your top-billed cast, expectations are sky high. (Or is that moon high?) Either way, The Silent Sea is a bit of a perplexity. It’s eight episodes, but it feels incredibly spare, especially compared to the K-drama storytelling we’re used to. Though the characters are well-drawn and relatable, The Silent Sea isn’t really about them at all — in a way, they’re just stand-ins for the human race and the desperate situation they find themselves in.

In the near-future the drama projects, the Earth’s water has become incredibly scarce. Quickly (frighteningly so), society has changed on a global level. And, as one might expect, this disaster has stratified its social classes even more. Water is more valuable than gold, so it makes sense that it’s treated as a comparable commodity. Citizens are given water rations based on their status, while government and other bureaucrats have quickly found a way to benefit themselves. Water is the new bargaining chip.

It’s in this dire position that we meet our two leads, and the rest of the crew that will soon be on their way to the moon. Bae Doo-na plays DOCTOR SONG JI-AN, a well-respected scientist who’s still in grief over a tragic loss. She’s tapped for the mission to the moon, and joins CAPTAIN HAN (Gong Yoo) and the rest of his crew. They’re meant to head to Balhae, the abandoned lunar base, and retrieve some samples that were left there. It’s a dangerous mission, as the base was previously contaminated by a radiation leak, killing everyone there and shutting down the base permanently.

We get a brief introduction to the other players on board the spaceship, and get a sense of their chemistry. Head engineer RYU TAE-SUK (Lee Joon, hearts!) and DOCTOR HONG (Kim Sun-young, more hearts!) are among the others on Captain Han’s team.

The mission is met with disaster right away, and a crash landing on the moon (yes) is required. I believe their lives are in danger, but at this point I’m really just staring at how handsome Gong Yoo is floating around the spaceship (the neck tattoo is an unnecessary but fun character detail).

The crew soon find themselves on the surface of the moon with injuries and their oxygen running out. The drama does a brilliant job here of making us feel like we’re with them — the environment is gorgeous, austere, and terrifying. We’re stuck in their space suits with them, gasping for breath as the oxygen meter goes down and the lunar base (with its oxygen fill-ups) seems too far away to make it.

The moon is one of my favorite things, so it’s especially fun to see it rendered here as this frightening but kind of incredible landscape. The black space and emptiness is an interesting contrast for when the crew finally reaches Balhae and fills up their tanks. The base is huge, but maze-like, with command stations and labs and a million hallways and doors that look exactly the same. It feels just like it should: eerie, claustrophobic, and abandoned.

The crew have made it to the base, but it’s only Episode 2 at this point, and there’s a whole world of confusion and mystery (not to mention danger) ahead of them. And while there’s enough story there to make The Silent Sea a good watch, it spends a lot of time in contemplation — suspending long moments, and showing us some backstory to our leads, which colors their mission and what’s driving them through the danger.

The Silent Sea is very much about the scenario our crew finds on the moon, and what it means for humanity at large. It’s much less about our characters themselves — nevertheless, watching Gong Yoo and Bae Doo-na argue about the right course of action to take is wonderfully enjoyable.

Captain Han’s job is to keep everyone safe and on-mission; Ji-an, on the other hand, has no allegiance to him, and once it’s obvious things are not what they were led to believe, she counters him and his decisions at every turn.

The developing story is quite a lot of fun, despite the slow pacing, because we’re traveling with the characters on Balhae as they try to complete their mission, get waylaid by new mysteries, and make discoveries that will impact the future of the human race.

Without giving too much of the plot away (it really is fun to watch them piece the story together), at its crux is this question: what price are we willing to pay in order to save humanity?

What Ji-an and everyone else eventually discovers is that what they were told about Balhae was a lie — even worse, a cover-up. The scientists there were searching for a way to provide Earth with water, but they went a step too far, and in their desperation crossed a terrible line. It’s this question that our crew must also grapple with. How far is too far to go to save mankind? At which point have we gone too far?

Ji-an is the righteous rebel of the group, but with the mystery unravelled, the corruption exposed, and a few twists later, our characters all land in the same place. Their moral compasses all bring them to the same solution. They’ve been shoved into the fringe by their circumstances, and that’s where they remain.

The drama’s ending is open, yet satisfying enough to be a conclusion. It’s also moving. Between the stark lunar landscape, haunting OST, and the characters’ sacrifices that bring us to the ending scene, it’s quite a powerful note that the drama ends on. Without telling us what happens, we’re confidant that the our characters are the right ones for the job, even as the future hope of mankind hangs in the balance.

What I liked the most about The Silent Sea — the slow crescendo of the plot and action — some might dislike, but for me, the steady climb towards our desperate and emotive ending made the final scene of the drama all the more powerful.

Pulling together a lot of familiar sci-fi elements, The Silent Sea does a nice job of presenting not only a believable setting (the Earth’s crisis), but an even better scenario. In the end, the moon itself is perhaps the real main character of the drama, and we travel along with our characters to uncover all the secrets it hides.

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It is the first time that I find myself in total disagreement with the review. I found The Silent Sea very diasppointing... even embarassing at times. I'm a a big sci-fi fan so I've seen this story told many times. Unfortunately The Silent Sea doesn't bring anything new to it and isn't evene able to add some classic Corean flavour to it. It's just scifi done badly. It's not just the science that is pure fantasy and the script full of holes but also the characters lack any depth. Captain Han is totally useless apart from barking orders and running around. And Gong Yoon is wasted. He barely rises a brow every now and then. Doona can't do much either with such a lame script. The scenery is for sure great and the CGI isn't that bad either, but it's the only thing I can save in this drama. Such a disappointment.

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I agree with everything you said regarding this! I give props to the actors and everyone who worked on this piece, but the story and character development needed more work!

I couldn’t believe that any of these people sent to the moon were actually astronauts/scientists that knew anything about what they were doing up there. Just ridiculous nonsense!

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*** SPOILER ALERT ***
(don't scroll down if you don't want spoiler)

i, for one, am hoping for a second season...
: D

if they can raise Neo back from the dead, along with Trinity -- then the george clooney ending in another movie doesn't have to stick... just hoping with fingers crossed... or should i call this Fan Fiction?
; )

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Hehe, I’m in for a second season too and yes, I watched the new Matrix this past weekend.

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@ally-le,
Is this your THE SILENT SEA review?
I committed myself to making TSS my first Gong Yoo drama and I will keep my commitment but the early returns here on DB have been mixed to put it kindly.
(I have tried to avoid reading too much about the plot but I gather some sci-fi folks are not impressed with the sci.)

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It doesn’t showcase his acting at all. Watch Coffee Prince. That’s my review of the movies. He is pretty still though.

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Excuse my 2 cents but Watch Coffee Prince 1st.. i worry TSS might turn you off, not that he was bad. Just not the best work despite it’s top bill.

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I was kidding and will plunge on into TSS.
(I am generally an easy marker.)
I know COFFEE PRINCE is a huge fan favorite and I will have to work it in especially since it is still available on Viki US (but everyone will be so young!).
Thanks for the advice.

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I personally enjoyed the series. It kept me guessing and had some interesting twists. I felt like I was in the situation with them: gasping for air (which I can really relate to since I have asthma), trying to piece together what happened at the station, etc. Could the show have been better? Sure, but I think we could say that about many shows, Korean or not. But I think it told its story and conveyed its message in a stylish way that had me going back to watch the show again. I truly hope for a second season and I hope *slight spoiler alert*
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that a certain character's death was a fakeout.

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i should've put a period or something on the returns i entered but they didn't show as applied....

i didn't mean to put spoilers! i thought they would reject my second entry with returns, but i didn't know the 'hard returns' wouldn't actually show as spacers... dayum.

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I assumed a fairly low budget on this space thriller compared to what make space believable can cost, and I think that helped me not have terribly high expectations. I was still impressed with some space setting aspects they pulled off fairly well, but as a science loving person with more than a few friends in various science careers there was also a lot of other bits I cringed at too. (Ok, fine, so the shuttle wasn't connected to the 🚀 well, but did they really have to crash land right at the edge of a terrifying drop on top of that? REALLY? 😩) They also tried to cram a heck of a lot of character dev/backstory with a not very small cast both on 🌏 and the 🌑 which didn't really work as well as a show with more eps or at least a smaller crew for the ship might have.

Overall, I wasn't disappointed that I watched it, but I don't think I will rewatch it. I just wish that better quality that was seen in bits had been more consistent throughout to help me forget the overall writing weaknesses.

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What killed it for me were all the little "hops" the actors did as they walked around on the Moon surface. Granted, it's tough to simulate the Moon's gravitational pull on humans while "walking on the moon". But - we've all seen that fun jumpy castle locomotion that moon walkers enjoyed. Netflix can't spring for some wires and stuff?

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Oh the irony! Gong Yoo said this is the most wires he’s ever worn but yes, the cast jumped-walked themselves on the moon.

https://youtu.be/rba3sn3VKUc

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Silent Sea is decent watch. Bae Doona was stellar. In the end, I didn’t suffer any withdrawal syndromes though - and I should with what happened to Gong Yoo! - but it just didn’t make his character compelling enough to grieve over. Despite his good screen presence :-). Not GOAT (greatest of all time) but worth spending time on.

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Silent Sea was a mixed bag for me. To start with the bad - the show had more plot holes than Swiss cheese. I understand now why they say Korea is not good at the sci-fi genre. Sci-fi requires tight and cohesive storytelling, and Silent Sea failed at that. The science in Silent Sea did not work; even if you suspended 75% of your brain in disbelief, it still did not work. The character development was also non-existent. While this was a more plot-driven story, the characters' actions did not make sense given their backgrounds. Gong Yoo's character was supposed to be the equivalent of Seal Team 6/Delta Force, but he was so inept that I dare to say I could've done a better job manning the mission.

All faults aside, Silent Sea still ranks as my favorite Netflix original drama so far. The cinematography beautifully captured the desolation of the Moon and space. The music accompaniment added to the tension and suspension. The ideas were ambitious - doomsday warning of global warming and the ensuing social crisis that would result from it. All-in-all, it was an honest attempt by Korea at the sci-fi genre that fell short due to execution, but I appreciate the attempt.

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I was excited when I saw the first episode. The concepts discussed were relevant and thought provoking: environmental disaster, water scarcity, equal access to water, exploring the feasibility of living in outer space. The execution was disappointing. Unnecessarily draggy and slow development. And a plot that threw up more questions than answers. Bae Doona's Dr. Song was my favourite character, followed by the female medic.

I felt unsatisfied at the ending. I guess they wanted to try for a season two.

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Overall, not a bad drama but below expectation imo. I was excited seeing the cast and trailer but it is a bit lacking.

SPOILERS ARE ABUNDANT, PROCEED WITH CAUTIONS
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What I like:
1. The concept/premise.
We rarely get science/thriller so I'm happy about it. And the production quality is good. I have no complaint about that. The walking on the moon is kinda funny but I get what they trying to convey. I understand why this is such a big-budget drama since that is quite an elaborate set.

2. The cast. omg the whole assemble is just... *chef kiss* I like it. Idk whether Lee Musaeng and GY have worked together before but I like this duo. Unfortunately, both are dead in the final episode so even if TSS gets a second season, they probably won’t be around. Unless we’re getting a prequel.

3. The mystery part of this drama is good. I have fun trying to figure it out and come out with my theories. But is anyone shocked that the director is the one behind the whole thing. Now and 5 years ago? Nah.

What I didn’t like:
1. The plot and pace
I like the concept but I wish we get better plots. I wish it has better plots and depth. eg: I’m kinda bummed that we didn’t get the whole picture of what happened 5 years ago. honestly, I'm confused about this. Does everyone die after being 'infected' by lunar water like soo chan and kim sun or from (lunar water) flood? How did Luna survive? And why did they decide to kill everyone 5 years ago and decide to extract that water now?
also, I don’t mind the slow pace but I think faster pacing is better for this type of drama. I was hoping the pace picks up in ep5/6 but it did not but at least it is consistent throughout though.

2. Characterizations
I wish we get better characterizations. I was left wanting more background/depth for certain characters. Capt Han didn’t do anything for me. After some point, it is wise for him to work together with Dr. Song but nope. He knows and at some point, he should decide whether withholding info can keep his crew safe. And I need to know more about Ryu Teasuk and his motivation ngl. Why he chose to join hand with RX (presumably, since we really didn’t know if RX is behind him and Gisu). But since they cast such amazing casts, they delivered what’s required and that is great.

TSS (and Dr brain) deal with what is ethical and how far is too far imo. Is human (clone?) testing and DNA combination is necessary for the greater good?

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Recently we saw two attempts by the Koreans at sci-fi/thriller/horror in Dr. Brain and now The Silent Sea. I haven't watch TSS, but I did see Dr. Brain and read reviews. It seemed experienced Kdrama watchers didn't like it for its lack of emotional depth and the sense that the whole thing is too "sterile." Other audiences seemed to like it fine. I now am seeing the same kind of complaints received by The Silent Sea. I wonder if the relatively shorter number of episodes (6 and 8) and the genre itself just don't lend themselves to what viewers expect from a Kdrama and thus the disappointment, even with the stellar cast in each production. Do local audience like TSS?

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both dramas are plot-driven, so I guess they decide that the depth we are looking for from those characters is not needed to drive the plot which is true tbh.
TSS also received a mixed review from local and from what I've seen, most comments are related to its slow pace.

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I also felt the emotional connection was missing. I didn’t care abt Capt Han and his daughter - kid had like one line. And if Ryu felt so guilty abt his previous mission why did he go and betray the current ones?? He seemed to have no problem offing them now.

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I went in with pretty high expectations admittedly. The cast being so good, with Netflix track record for kdramas set a bar for me internally. I enjoyed The Silent Sea, but it fell a little short for me. The characters were…fine? They had some solid bits to them, but none of it was terribly fleshed out. But with the talent behind it, being ‘fine’ wasn’t enough for me. It reminds me a bit of Jirisan in this regard (though this was much better overall).

The overall story was pretty engaging though. And it had some great moments throughout with interesting threads that could still be pulled if they decide to do a season 2.

I’d much prefer a lot of other netflix kdramas getting a second season before this one though (Sweet Home, Extracurricular, and Hellbound, just to name a few). A solid watch, and probably a 6.5/10 for me overall. Above average, but doesn’t hit the heights I wanted it to (at least for me).

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Oh! I had to bring up something I completely forgot about while typing the above. I won’t go into spoilers, and others will likely point out scientific bits that were incorrect but…DUCT TAPE?! What?!

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the duct tape thing was HILARIOUS!!!

cuz of course, it's the solution to ANYTHING THAT NEEDS FIXING!!!
: D

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What??? DUCT TAPE did a cameo? I am a huge fan of the silvery adhesion miracle worker as it held Sisyphus together for a couple episodes. Gonna have to watch the whole show now.

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It was glorious. A brief moment of (almost) miracle.

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Do not underestimate the usefulness of duct tape, and it's fact that there is historical precedent for its use in space in an emergency. I can't link to outside sites, but do a web search for "duct tape Apollo 13".

(The series this article "13 Things That Saved Apollo 13, Part 10: Duct Tape" is a part of is a good read overall if you're not familiar with the event in question.)

[Now gaff tape (aka gaffer's tape), IMNSHO, is WAY BETTER than duct. Full disclosure: I used to be a rigger, so I'm definitely biased. 🪢]

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Those who think duct tape is of limited utility should watch the duct tape episodes of The MythBusters.

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Oh, and for anyone who knows how tightly mass was controlled on those missions, it’s still really interesting that there was duct tape onboard Apollo 13.

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Comment full of spoilers :

I liked the story until Luna. I think until that, I could believe in the story. The moon water was weird but it made the story a little bit scary with the lacking of knowledge. The fact people are fighting for it, could it save the humanity? The experiments on clones, etc. But one survivor with weird powers? Of course a cute young girl (why it's always young and cute girl?). I lost interest in the story.

For the characters, I think there was a lot of useless deaths, overall the last 2... But I didn't have issue with the lack of development, the story happened in a short timeline.

I was pretty happy to see so many familiar faces! I really liked the casting.

I liked the visual of the drama too. I pity the actors who had to wear their uniform during the all the moon scenes...

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was it just my family that kept hollering "WHY don't you have your helmets on, or at least, your HAZMAT SUITS?!?!?!?" ?

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No. It was me and my groups yelling this too.

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Me too!! Some parts were also really dark, i kept brightening my screen hoping i could see wtf’s happening 😅

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I already posted my thoughts on my fanwall.
I will just reiterate them here:
I appreciate the foray into something new but it was underwhelming imo. Decent premise but the execution fell flat. I didn’t really care about the characters, who were very bland and underdeveloped (the cast was really underutilised).
I felt the twists were all quite obvious. The visuals were so dull too, which certainly didn’t help hold my attention.
However, all that being said I enjoyed this review. @missvictrix your writing is wonderfully crafted as always.

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The reason to watch: duct tape made a glorious cameo in the last ep. it was brief, yes, but it made all the differences.

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@leetennant, sounds like we need a drink! 😜

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I've been thinking about it. Trying to avoid joking that it's a Clear Duct Tape, which is just a glass of water.

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Wait—but vodka is clear…and gin…and soju too!

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A duct tape is already gin and soju, a silver duct tape soju and sake.
But you know, since space tastes like raspberries and smells like rum then we had already decided this show's drink was a raspberry mojito. White rum, raspberries and if it looks like blood and water that's just a bonus.

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We can call it a Bloody Duct Tape

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SPOILERS

Is Gong Yoo dead because I'm not watching a second season without him? Not that the drama needs it since the story is more or less resolved: Luna is the antibody. As soon as Ji-an recovered from her lunar water infection, Hong Doc should've prescribed Luna to bite all of them, which would protect them from drowning and running out of oxygen.

Why did the secret storage flood if lunar water stops multiplying once the host dies after E1 was dead? I was praying "please don't die" when E2 followed Ryu Tae-suk. Freckles was just saved. What happened to the original co-pilot Eun Ji-Young, and why do astronauts even have guns?

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There's one brief scene at the opening of episode 8 where a plant seed sprouted after coming in contact with lunar water. I think lunar water will react to any living thing. Because there were plants in the secret storage, the lunar water kept multiplying endlessly and caused the flooding.

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It's fictional....so don't looking for logic

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If the audience could think of the bite-detail, why not them?? If there’s to be a S2, i think GY lived.

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I enjoyed it! The cast was awesome. Hoping that GY survived it

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I have not watched The Silent Sea yet, but from reviews here I am getting a strong Doctor Who (The Waters of Mars) vibe (or deja vu). Am I mistaken?

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As reported on other sites (koala's playground) Dr Who fans are crying foul. Hmm, an 8 episode drama based on a single show? That explains all the walking around. Still hanging in for the Duct Tape.

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It is very Waters of Mars, especially in the first half. To the point where I found the first half disappointingly derivative.

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INCLUDES SPOILERS - PLEASE DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED THE SHOW.
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Ok, I truly need someone to explain the bizarre ending of TSS to me. I was able to fully suspend my belief/common sense/analytical mind for seven episodes and even until the last 10 minutes of episode 8. But someone please tell what happened after the 2 docs and Luna stepped outside the base??/ Why is the "special child" able to run around without being the space suit? She might have something like gills, but how does that help her roam free in the lunar air? And if she can do that, then actually, this creates more of a problem, no? How can she then survive the earth's atmosphere? Bringing her to earth might make her explode then! And how the HECK did Gong Yoo end up on the surface? Did the water shoot him out through a vest or something??????? The emotions you felt at his sacrifice felt a little comical once you saw him sitting outside by a rock after all that "final goodbye"! this part made NO SENSE whatsoever....couldn't they not have let him be shown being swallowed by the water? What value was added by bringing him outside to the lunar surface again???????? Seriously.....this drama has fallen victim to the same syndrome that ruins so many other k-dramas...the "last episode glitch", I call it. The feelings and whatever few good aspects of the show had been there were all for naught because of the last 10 minutes of the last episode where they ruin everything (think Do do sol sol la la sol, Vagabond, etc.). Sigh......

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I liked Silent Sea... I liked the slow pace interspersed with action, and the otherworldly set. The dystopian/science fiction genre is uncommon for Korea; I feel they did a nice job with this unfamiliar territory. It's a start, one small step for Korea...

Like many other viewers have said, I do wish there was more character development. This is one of the things Kdramas do really well and I missed getting to know and care more for the characters. It felt like they were still strangers at the end, I was not able to become terribly invested in their stories.

Two of my favorite actors were here: Gong Yoo and Kim Sun Young. I thought Gong Yoo's role didn't allow him to show the range of emotions he portrays so well, but as always he became his character and gave another great performance. Plus, eye candy...! Speaking of which, Dr. Hong was a wonderful character, suited Kim Sun Young well!

Trying not to give spoilers here so here goes:
The sacrifice made by one of the main characters at the end, I felt was an unnecessary plot device. Though if there is to be a sequel perhaps this person actually survived: bitten off-camera, or, rescued and brought safely but injured outside of the research base by another character with their special abilities. I imagine the survivors bringing what they believe to be a body on board the rescue ship and then that character awakens...

Also, I wondered about the others, numbers 74+, where did they end up? You can't just instantly create each one at the correct age, they would need time to grow, so where are the others?  What a stunningly creepy, inhumane depiction of how evil people might become given desperate circumstances. Also the social class message. And a reminder of the need to better protect our natural resources, our planet home. So many global issues presented in one short drama. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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I would love to watch some of the older dramas and movies by actors like Gong Yoo, but I can't find them anywhere in the US. I have Netflix and Viki. Any sources I'm missing? Thx

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Hexagon doors and corridors. Corridors must be an endless maze, especially when running away from something.
Autopsy in haz-suits, but later visiting the body without any protection
After 5 years no decomposition of bodies.
No-one eats, sleeps, shave (afer so many many hours no beards)
Flashlights very week (hahaha technology)
Why warrior protections on shoulders?
Explaining for the viewers: "The main switch must be in the control room".
Stupid comments: "Doctor, have you seen this before?" (luna water death)

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Another revealing moment was when Gong Yoo was dead at the bottom of a gorge without any air, rope or elevator available. And a second later he wakes up safe and sound. And no one feels the need to explain how that happened.

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Who’s rating this show? I definitely don’t care to waste another hour of my life with this! Second season?? Really??? Lol

The actors have done a superb job and production etc.. however, the story within the first two to three episodes were, in my opinion bad.

I really couldn’t get into believing that these astronauts/Astro scientists, were actually who they were portraying them to be. These people are supposed to be some of earths best and obviously Earth has been through an apocalyptic type of event where there is no water. So explain to me why a crew of professionals would go to the moon, knowing that previous deployments were lost/killed before their own mission was launched. Travel to a space station, seeing dead bodies and not wear some sort of protection?? No hazmats necessary if you see people dead all around with no apparent cause. Don’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out!

Then you have a specialist (Dr. Song), who was singled out for this mission and she notices discrepancies upon arrival at the space station and you tell her not to do what comes natural to her??? Even if the captain felt this way, it’s so unnatural for the rest of the crew to be so detached of their own safety. She was told repeatedly before any of their own crew died not to research why others died. Then after two of your crew members died and you see for yourself you’re not alone, as the captain you tell the crew to continue on as planned and you’ll call for backup later???

Hahahaha This show is painfully annoying!

It’s so obvious that the story teller is delaying the evitable by creating a scenario of inevitability! It’s waaay too obvious!

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I love how they kept wondering if bringing moon water on earth was a good idea. "I need to understand this better!" XD Seriously? After all the horrorful deaths?! What could possibly go wrong??

But I knew something was wrong when they decided, in the first episode, to leave a ration of water with a dead body. Someone who had just died sayin "Don't waste precious water on me!"

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Love silent sea..characters .mystery..actors my kind of drama

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It was extremely underwhelming for me, especially when you have such stellar actors and actresses! It felt like all that good Netflix money went to the money-shot of the moon (gorgeous, though) and not enough on the writing lol wasted potential really and I hate how all Netflix shows have sequel baits - sometimes a good show can just be good in one go!

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