A Superior Day: Episode 1 (First Impressions)
Finding himself drawn into a web of gruesome serial murders against his will, our protagonist must contend with his trauma in order to keep his family safe. He’s determined to stay out of trouble, but it seems the people around him have other plans.
Editor’s note: Continued drama coverage is pending.
EPISODE 1 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Whoa, this drama is not for the faint of heart. I haven’t read the webtoon, so I came into this episode completely unprepared, and to call the murders gory and horrifying would still be an understatement.
Right off the bat, the drama throws us into the action with a cold open. An ambulance draws to a halt along a deserted road, and a man stumbles out, bloody and disoriented. He opens his briefcase to reveal a gun, which he then stashes into his pocket before making a run for it.
The fugitive, whom we’ll come to know as LEE HO-CHUL (Jin Gu), evades the police and arrives at a parking lot. He calls out to his daughter SOO-AH (Jo Yoo-ha), but she’s led away by an unknown man. In voiceover, we hear someone telling Ho-chul that he’s the only one who can put an end to all this. With trembling hands, he raises his gun, and fires.
We rewind to two years ago. Firefighter Ho-chul is hard at work when a strange noise from a neighboring apartment catches his attention, and he heads over to investigate. What he doesn’t realize, though, is that the occupant is peering at him through the peephole, bloody knife in hand. Shivers.
Suddenly shoving the door open, the occupant slashes Ho-chul across the face, then stabs him when he tries to cling onto his ankle. The stranger leaves, and through the ajar apartment door, Ho-chul sees a dead woman on a chair. Her dismembered head is propped up above her body, and there’s an eerie depiction of her corpse on the wall behind, painted in her blood.
Ho-chul’s wife, CHOI JUNG-HYE (Lim Hwa-young), is informed about the attack on her husband, and she rushes to the hospital. As a detective, she’s terrified that the murderer will hunt Ho-chul down for witnessing his face, so she entreats him to lie that he saw nothing. Her priority is keeping her family safe.
Unfortunately, thanks to an opportunistic reporter who doesn’t care to get Ho-chul’s story straight, a poorly-censored photograph of Ho-chul is plastered on subway billboards alongside an article that asserts he saw the culprit’s face.
Two years later, Ho-chul is still plagued by nightmares of the murderer killing Jung-hye and Soo-ah and clearly exhibiting signs of PTSD. He isn’t allowed back to work yet, but he pays his colleagues a visit anyway, then goes to pick Soo-ah up from school.
On their way home, they run into KWON SHI-WOO (Lee Won-geun), their next-door neighbor. He’s been giving Soo-ah art classes upon Jung-hye’s request, and Soo-ah hurries her father off before he can embarrass her.
After a bout of spring cleaning, Ho-chul runs into Shi-woo in the elevator lobby. Shi-woo helps to carry Ho-chul’s box of trash, and Ho-chul comments that Shi-woo has an artist’s hands. Smiling, Shi-woo replies that Soo-ah’s hands are art, especially her left hand. Uhh, that’s creepy…
Shi-woo’s creep factor doesn’t just end there. During their art lesson, Shi-woo asks Soo-ah if she knows what shade is the best for portraying a person’s lips. When she hesitates, Shi-woo bites his lip, then uses his finger to smear his blood on her watercolor portrait. Hello, Soo-ah, why are you not hightailing it out of there!
I wonder if Shi-woo is ingratiating himself to Soo-ah purely to use her as a bargaining chip against Ho-chul, or if he has more sinister intentions. It’s interesting that despite putting on a carefully-curated mask of geniality, he isn’t trying particularly hard to hide his more ominous side.
In any case, Shi-woo isn’t the only suspicious presence. There’s also the apartment complex’s security guard, KIM DONG-JOO (Kim Do-hyun), whom Soo-ah hangs out with often. They even have their own secret hideout located in the complex’s parking lot, and it turns out Soo-ah used to be bullied at school until Dong-joo scared her bullies off. I can’t tell if he’s genuinely nice or if he’s grooming her…
What’s worse is that Dong-joo supposedly beat someone to death in his previous neighborhood, though the case was ultimately classified as foul play rather than manslaughter. Still, that doesn’t abate Ho-chul’s suspicions, and he’s understandably wary of his daughter’s friendship with Dong-joo.
In a luxurious apartment, a woman is served a fancy plate, except it’s not food — it’s broken glass, which she grabs with her bare hand and swallows until she’s coughing up blood. Her eyes well up with tears, and her right arm hangs limply by her side, clad in a white silk glove.
The woman is later discovered dead in her apartment, sprawled over her coffee table with her right hand cut off. The bloody painting behind her proves it’s the work of the Rich Girl Killer, who’s struck again after a two-year hiatus.
The apartment belongs to the same complex that Ho-chul and his family live in, causing Ho-chul’s anxiety over Jung-hye and Soo-ah’s safety to heighten even further.
It’s pretty clear that the Rich Girl Killer is Shi-woo, which seems to suggest that he spent two whole years assimilating into Ho-chul’s vicinity and gaining trust with the people around him. A killer who has the patience and self-control to bide his time and corner his prey is so much more terrifying, and he’s very obviously enjoying the cat-and-mouse game.
He’s already beginning to toy with Ho-chul; when Ho-chul experiences a dizzy spell upon seeing the cordoned-off apartment, Shi-woo pointedly comments that it isn’t Ho-chul’s first time witnessing a murder scene. Ho-chul’s too disoriented to respond with much more than confusion, which allows Shi-woo to get away with clarifying that he simply assumed so since Ho-chul’s a firefighter.
It’s Soo-ah’s birthday, but she’s grumpy and indifferent, snubbing Ho-chul’s homemade breakfast since she already has plans. Ho-chul insists on walking her to the subway station, and neither notices Shi-woo tailing them from a distance.
Suddenly realizing he left Soo-ah’s present at home, Ho-chul tells Soo-ah to wait for him. By the time he returns, though, Soo-ah is gone. Worry and dread slowly creeping up on him, he searches for her and calls her phone, only for it to slowly dawn on him that her ringtone is coming from his own jacket pocket. A stranger had bumped into him earlier in order to slip Soo-ah’s phone into his jacket, leaving him with no way to contact her.
Just then, Soo-ah’s phone rings, and upon picking up, a distorted voice instructs Ho-chul to head to the parking lot if he wants his daughter back. After a futile chase in which Ho-chul tries and fails to run after the car with an unconscious Soo-ah inside, a second call comes in.
Assuming that the person on the other end of the line is the Rich Girl Killer, Ho-chul reassures him that he doesn’t remember his face, but the man just laughs. Telling him that he’ll have to remember his face or his daughter will die, the man informs Ho-chul that he has just 24 hours to hunt down the Rich Girl Killer.
And so, the hunter becomes the hunted, and vice versa! What an interesting reversal. I wonder why the kidnapper chose Ho-chul to track down the Rich Girl Killer in his stead — surely it’s a risky move to entrust an untrained citizen with murder, right?
Then again, I’m making an assumption based on the gun that Ho-chul fired in the opening sequence. It’s far more likely that the kidnapper is merely taking advantage of Ho-chul’s knowledge of the killer’s face, and that he’ll step in to do the deed once the killer has been located.
Also, I wonder what role Dong-joo has to play in all of this. He could just be a red herring, but with the amount of time they spent setting up his character this episode, I suspect he’ll be a part of the central chase, too. Perhaps his friendship and rapport with Soo-ah could come in handy later on?
Shi-woo is still such an enigma, and while part of me is intrigued and wants to find out more (I blame Lee Won-geun for being so compelling), part of me wants to run far, far away. His interpretation of murder as an art form is so unsettling, and he views his victims like mere objects that he can manipulate like a painting or a sculpture.
Even as I write this, my stomach is still queasy; there’s something so deeply disturbing about the imagery that I can’t quite shake off. It makes Ho-chul’s fear so much more palpable, since the viewer can empathize with how much the incident traumatized him.
I don’t doubt that Ho-chul will do whatever it takes to confront his fear in order to keep his family safe, but that’s worrying in its own right. The quivering in Ho-chul’s voice and the undercurrent of terror running through his veins were so immediately evident the moment he thought he was speaking to the Rich Girl Killer on the phone, and I worry that he may push himself past his physical and mental limits in his desperation to protect his loved ones.
Hopefully this newly-begun pursuit will mean that Shi-woo has to put a hold on his murders, and while the kidnapper clearly has no qualms about stooping to unscrupulous methods, hopefully his apparent power and outreach will be an advantage for Ho-chul in his fight against Shi-woo. All I ask is that Shi-woo is stopped before he claims another victim. Please? I don’t think my heart can take another gruesome murder scene.
- Premiere Watch: Crazy Love, Kill Heel, A Superior Day
- Jin Gu, Ha Do-kwon, and Lee Won-geun play a dangerous game of cat and mouse in Superior Day
- New promos for Legal High featuring Jin Gu as a weirdo lawyer and Seo Eun-soo as a fighter for justice
- Daniel Choi and Lee Won-geun up to join workplace drama Jugglers