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All of Us Are Dead: Episode 1 (First Impressions)

Ruthless and relentlessly fast-paced, Netflix’s latest K-drama offering serves up a grisly apocalyptic outbreak with a side of teenage troubles. It won’t be long before the zombies overrun the school, but even amongst the humans, it’s clear that there are already monsters in their midst. That then raises the question — where does humanity end, and monstrosity begin?

EPISODE 1 FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The drama opens with a brutal bullying scene, which is the first peek we get at a zombie. The tormented victim turns out to be the son of the science teacher LEE BYUNG-CHAN (Kim Byung-chul), who winds up bludgeoning his zombified son with a Bible. It’s certainly a jarring opener, and I wonder if it was just for shock value or if the show will expand on this religious motif. I certainly hope it’s the latter; I think it would be interesting to explore the fine line between faith and despair, salvation and destruction, and belief and obsession.

Our outbreak’s patient zero is student KIM HYUN-JOO (Jo Yi-seo), whose curiosity gets her bitten by a rabid white mouse in Byung-chan’s science laboratory. Upon finding out, Byung-chan ties her up in the laboratory’s storage room and subdues her with a sedative shot, though of course she ends up turning feral and escaping.

But first, an introduction to our ensemble cast! LEE CHUNG-SAN (Yoon Chan-young) is immediately endearing in his embarrassment over the name of his mother’s fried chicken joint (which she insists she named him after, not the other way around), and he’s joined by his chatty buddy HAN KYUNG-SOO (Han Sung-min). They’re soon joined by NAM ON-JO (Park Ji-hoo) and her best friend YOON YI-SAK (Kim Joo-ah), and all four friends trade gossip and lighthearted jabs over a meal of too-salty fried chicken.

Chung-san and On-jo have such a fun dynamic, and they light up the screen with their banter. Since they live right next to each other, they’re best buddies, heading to school together and playing rock-paper-scissors to decide who has to be the other’s gopher for the day. (On-jo doesn’t hesitate to dump her bag on him, ha.) They’ve got each other’s backs, even if they try to cover it up with gruff bluster (from Chung-san) and well-aimed kicks (from On-jo).

On-jo is a likable and spunky heroine, and I love how relatable she is. She’s outspoken around her friends, but in front of Soo-hyuk (Park Solomon) she’s shyly preening, heh. She has an adorable puppy crush on Soo-hyuk, and I can see why — the guy oozes charm in spades! There’s a cute moment where she confesses to him by giving him her nametag, except it’s interrupted by Chung-san barging into the conversation to fuss over On-jo’s injured arm. His concern is written all over his face, aww.

I don’t usually like love triangles, but these characters are all so innocently sincere in their affections that I don’t think I’ll mind it all that much. Plus, Soo-hyuk seems to have a little crush on the silent and studious class president CHOI NAM-RA (Jo Yi-hyun)! His bashful smile and awkward failed confession were so cute.

As for the other students that were introduced in this episode, we only get a glimpse of them, but I’m already interested to find out more. LEE NA-YEON (Lee Yumi) displays an unexplained animosity towards Kyung-soo, and I’m curious to find out the reason why. Bespectacled student OH JOON-YOUNG (Ahn Seung-kyun) only has less than a minute of screentime, but there’s something about the look in his eyes that makes me wonder if there’s a secret he’s hiding.

The high school setting isn’t used merely as a location, since the show also takes the time to spotlight the turbulent troubles of students at that age. That ranges from the frenzied rush to get to school on time, to the graver issue of school bullying. The main bully, YOON GWI-NAM (Yoo In-soo), is nauseatingly repulsive in the extent of his torment. He’s downright vicious, and the bullying scenes were honestly difficult to watch. I felt sick to my stomach when he and his cronies forced MIN EUN-JI (Oh Hye-soo) to strip by tearing her clothes off her, and then strong-armed KIM CHUL-SOO (Ahn Ji-ho) into taking photos of her.

The utter humiliation and the threat of having those photos circulated drives Eun-ji to the school’s rooftop, and it’s so chilling that what stops her from jumping isn’t the tearful pleading of Chul-soo, but the shattering of glass from the floors below as students are shoved through the windows and ravaged by zombies.

That launches the zombie outbreak into full swing, and with hordes of students running around in mass panic, the adults can’t turn a blind eye. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the school principal selfishly prioritizes the school’s reputation over the students’ wellbeing. Our protagonists’ homeroom teacher (Lee Sang-hee) is the only one who cares, but her concerns are overridden by the hierarchy of authority.

Luckily, she’d called the police earlier when she sent Hyun-joo to the hospital, effectively foiling the principal’s plan of a cover-up. Officer SONG JAE-IL (Lee Kyu-hyung, yay!) clearly has a history with Byung-chan, and there’s a charged tension between them that I’m itching for the drama to explore. I wonder what happened between them in the past, and if it explains why Byung-chan became the person he is now. Perhaps that might have been what set him on his downward spiral, and his son’s zombification was merely the catalyst that spurred his descent into instability.

Honestly, this drama doesn’t give us anything new in terms of the school genre or the zombie genre, but it’s filmed captivatingly enough that I’m drawn into its world. It might just be my bias for practically half the cast that’s been introduced so far, HAHA, but I find the characters compelling and I’m invested in the story for their sakes.

Most of the characters seem to fall into high school archetypes, though, so I wonder if I’d like them as much if I hadn’t previously seen and loved the actors in other dramas. Plus, the mini 365: Repeat The Year and Nobody Knows reunions had me so stoked! Although, I don’t know if it’s a compliment that I’m primarily watching for the actors and not for the story itself…

I guess so far I’m pretty lukewarm about this show? The first episode was a decently fun watch, but it didn’t particularly stand out. Perhaps I was hoping for a show that would bring something new and fresh to the zombie genre, but this episode played out exactly the way I expected it would.

That’s not to say that it was boring, though, because the execution was done well, so if the show keeps this up I think it could be a gripping tale. I do hope it subverts some expectations further down the line, since that would give it some dimension and ramp up the tension. It’s already demonstrated humans’ capacity for monstrosity before the zombies were even introduced to the school, so now that we have actual monsters in the mix, I’m looking forward to a nuanced examination of humanity, as well as just how far people can descend into depravity when pushed to the brink.

Editor’s note: Coverage will continue with a second comprehensive review, so please refrain from discussing any plot points beyond Episode 1 in this post, or any tidbits from the original webtoon.

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Right off the bat my first impression was "I don't like this". The acting was awkward more often than not and there was no chemistry between any of the characters. However the worst was the writing for the female characters. Absolutely did not like how they handled the "dark edgy teen drama" themes and it felt regressive. This is the first time I've strongly disliked a Netflix kdrama.

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Perhaps you should have watched the series being discussed rather than an apparently entirely unrelated series.

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First episode was brutal, and not because of zombies. The school violence was so mater of fact and raw, it had my stomach turning. I like the young protagonists but the premise with crazy scientist is really thin, thankfullly they got Kim Byungchul to sell it. Generally I think the first episode was really uneven in terms of storytelling and meshing all the plot points together.

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Netizens are especially upset with the sexual assault scene. First, they state that it was not in the original source material so it just for exploitation/shock value. Second, some wonder if the filming of the scene is illegal in SK (the actress is in her 20s but depicted as a teen).

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Anyoung

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Wow, that was a fast review! Thank you for that, @solstices.
I agree that the first episode doesn't really sell it. I think it gets better as we go along, and characters get some dimension, as you wished. Also, I'm seeing some plot developments that I really wasn't expecting, so there's that! I think Happiness was so good that it spoiled me a bit for other zombie dramas, but I'm still enjoying this. The core teenage group and the smaller arrow-shooting squad are quite good, and I really like it that they sprinkled tiny humor reliefs here and there. Personally, I could do with less gore and less dispersion - drama follows around way too many characters for me to engage with all of them. But drama knows what it's doing and it's effective in a very kdrama-ey way

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I have watched so many k dramas about Zombie, so instead of get scared, I am laughing out loud. 😂 The question is how to kill the zombies this time? Like always...

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The first episode was probably the weakest. It gets better as it goes along IMO. I still liked it though and thought it did a fairly good job laying out the themes.

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The actress playing On Ju is horrible. She has zero facial expressions. The only memorable performance was Park Solomon. The archers were good too.

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The first episode was captivating enough for me to continue when I srsly barely could watch anythimg gory or bloody but I brave myself through it. But half of the reason is probably bcs of my affection towards these casts you DEFINITELY has seen somewhere in dramaland and these kids getting to lead a whole series is something I wouldn't miss it for the world

*ps. How long has it been since I watch Ha Seungri again and it's definitely not disappointing bcs she's sooo cool

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Pps. As much as I HATE complaining abou actresses.... I wonder if i'd root or have affection towards Onjo more if she were played by different actress..... Sweetie im so sorry but-

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She was by far the weakest performance and it's not because of the character. I felt nothing for her character of love line which made me feel bad for Yoon Chan Young who was much more enjoyable as a character as long as he wasn't interacting with On Ju.

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Exactly, i honestly don't know it might the writing of the character though given she's kinda damsel and distress in the beginning but I felt nothing from her, by herself with Chanyoung or even with Lomon... My eyes are glued on Hari, mijin, Namra, or even nayeon instead lol

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Honestly Namra wasn't exactly great either but Onju was so bad everyone was better in comparison. Nayeon was hateable and annoying but the actress managed to give her a lot more depth than the character had on paper. The actress who played Isak was much more compelling than Onju even though she barely had any screen time.

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For me, Namra was the worst. The actress can't move her face and the way she talks...

The FL wasn't so good but she looked like a normal kid.

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Namra and her ominous one liners were painfully dull and the character was bland but at least she had chemistry with Lomon. On Ju was unbearable to watch. She had no expression and no connection with any of the characters. Not even her dad. I felt nothing for her at any point. Hari should have been the female lead. I don't know why Kdrama loves their bland female leads so much.

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I feel like Namra was not really well written, bcs Jo Yihyun was fine in everything else (tho i haven't watched school 21). I feel like if they switched thr actresses on Namra and Onjo... Maybe it could've been better. The real screen stealer for me is honestly Hari and Mijin.

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I realized that spoiled the futur episodes. But Namra had the best storyline but the actress was boring.

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Namra and Suhyeok are the only reason I kept pressing on next episode. The confession scene was extremely cute and made me wish this was a romcom instead. Everything else was meh.

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@immawish @Ven I hate to criticize rookie actors but OMG was she horrible! I had to check to make sure she wasn't an idol actress but no she actually has a hit indie movie under her belt which I have never seen so can't judge if this is just a one time thing but she was the reason I dropped the drama after 2 episodes! I still want to watch the drama but not her will I miss a lot if I fast forward through all her screen time? Would be better to just read recaps?

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I don't think it's the kind of drama that could ever be represented by a recaps. I gotta say she doesn't get any better but literally everybody else was so fun to watch (mainly and ironically other than the 4 main leads for me) that i gpt myself through lol

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That seems to be the consensus but I kind of liked her.

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I don't think it's simply that she's a bad actress it's just that i don't think the character are written well and i don't think she's the kind of actress that's good enough to breathe life into mediocre character.

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To me both Onju and Chongsan were the least interesting characters and the two actors didn't seem to be comfortable around each other. Their story arc and sacrifices didn't interest me the least but I felt for Hari and Minji and I don't think their characters were better written than Onju and Chongsan. Frankly I don't think a single character was well written not even Namra who I loved. If the Lee Re had been Onju instead I have a feeling I would have loved the character and her chemistry. I know it isn't fair but blame the actress completely for making a flat character even more uninteresting.

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Yall have to be a quiet. Every single character is amazing it does not Matter about There expressions or how the character is good at. And all of these people worked hard for this Kdrama show to work so don't say anything rude to those people who worked so hard for this and stop judging there character cause everyone is amazing so be quiet and stop talking about There character.

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Can I just say Park Solomon visuals is just perfection? I never thought anyone would be swoon-worthy in a zombie school setting but there he is!

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