Link: Eat, Love, Kill: Episodes 1-2 (First Impressions)
The premiere week of Link: Eat, Love, Kill is a mishmash of genres that gives us exactly what the title suggests. There’s food, there’s connection, there’s a hint of romance, and there’s murder. It’s a pretty packed two episodes that manages to be both fun and dark while having an emotional center. It’s a precarious balance, but at least for now, it works.
Editor’s note: Continued drama coverage is pending based on Beanie feedback.
EPISODES 1-2 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Huh. Well, that was not what I expected. The “kill” in the title probably should’ve clued me in, but I wasn’t anticipating all the crime and murder. The drama could have easily been a complete mess, but it came together reasonably well. The trick will be whether it holds up as the story progresses.
The tone is set from the opening monologue where our lead EUN GYE-HOON (Yeo Jin-gu) shares that someone’s fridge can tell you more than you’d think. We see fridges stocked in various ways, showcasing people’s habits, finances, and even personality. And then, an industrial fridge opens… and someone pushes a cadaver’s hand back inside. (Did that crack anyone else up? It was just so sudden.)
Gye-hoon is a chef and, since he’s a drama hero, a famous one. He runs a tight ship in his kitchen with no feelings allowed, which turns out to be a problem for him when he gets suddenly, inexplicably weepy. He has hazy impressions of a woman and then faints.
Thus begins Gye-hoon’s emotional journey from stoicism to inappropriate feelings explosions. But it turns out he’s experienced this before. He used to share his twin sister’s strong emotions, but she’s been presumed dead for 18 years.
Before delving more into that mysterious backstory, it’s time to meet our heroine NOH DA-HYUN (Moon Ga-young) who is naturally our perfectionistic hero’s opposite. She’s kind of a mess and going through a rough patch after losing her stable job.
Thanks to the random bursts of emotions, Gye-hoon is earning a reputation as erratic and unstable. He and Da-hyun finally cross paths when she serves at a cooking event he’s headlining. They meet on the rooftop, and their strangely synchronized feelings make Gye-hoon wonder if she’s the source of his newfound emotions.
She misunderstands his awkward hesitation and thinks he wants her number, which she gives right up. When he instead eagerly asks about her age and hometown, she naturally gets creeped out and runs away.
Soon after, someone starts leaving (creepy) gifts for Da-hyun and due to a series of misunderstandings, she thinks Gye-hoon is stalking her. The misunderstanding deepens when she returns to her hometown to move back in with her mom and runs into, you guessed it, Gye-hoon.
It also happens to be his hometown and where his sister Gye-young went missing as a child. He’s carried guilt his whole life because he left her alone that day to play with his friends. Feeling her fear and the severing of their connection made it that much more traumatic for him. His mother never recovered, and vacillates between being loving and vitriolic toward him, blaming him for his sister’s death.
Now that he’s all grown up, his old neighbors don’t recognize him. Gye-hoon doesn’t reveal who he is and just says he’s there to open a restaurant with his friend chef CHA JIN-HOO (Lee Suk-hyung). Gye-hoon is determined to open a bistronomy (had to look that one up), despite it not exactly catering to his small-town clientele.
When Da-hyun sees him, she assumes he followed her there and accuses him of being a pervert in front of the whole neighborhood. Not long after, Da-hyun realizes the stalker is actually her creepy coworker who is obsessed with her. When she confronts him, he talks like they’re genuinely dating and gets aggressive at her rejection. Thankfully, she manages to get away.
Da-hyun tries to apologize to Gye-hoon for labeling him a perv, but he refuses to accept her apology after all the trouble she’s caused him. She chases after him and falls, hurting herself. Gye-hoon may not be willing to forgive her yet, but he does help her up and walks her home, which the creepy stalker sees.
That night, the stalker approaches Da-hyun and forces his way into her mom’s restaurant/house (they live above it). He attacks her, causing her to fall and hit her head. When she wakes up, he’s dead in a pool of blood. Ack!
Although she doesn’t remember how it happened, Da-hyun goes straight to the police but loses her courage as she’s forced to wait for help. She returns home to find her mom HONG BOK-HEE and halmoni staring at the body.
Then, they get to work. Her mom and halmoni clean the scene and roll that man up in a blanket like a burrito, stuffing him into an industrial fridge. (Guess we know who that hand belonged to.) And oh no, the fridge belongs to Gye-hoon’s restaurant. Jin-hoo had put it outside, but Gye-hoon wants to keep it, so they haul it back into the restaurant.
Da-hyun and family panic and scheme up ways to steal the fridge (or the body). But stealthy that family is not, and not only do their plans fail, but they draw Gye-hoon’s suspicion. Da-hyun even ends up blurting out that she likes him at one point as a distraction when things go awry.
Gye-hoon can’t shake the idea that she might be his sister, which likely explains his concern over her wellbeing. He happens to be present when local cop HWANG MIN-JO (Lee Bom-sori) confronts Da-hyun about why she stopped by the station that night.
Noticing Da-hyun’s nervousness and bruises on her arms, Gye-hoon helps get her out of the situation. He then takes her to the hospital and encourages her to get away from whoever is hurting her, assuming she’s being abused. He even tells her to come to him for help if she needs it.
With no way of getting that fridge back, Da-hyun’s mom decides to take the fall and turn herself in. The only problem is that halmoni gets there first. She tells the cops she killed “that man,” but struggles to clarify. Bok-hee jumps in, saying that her mom kills her abusive husband in her dreams and confuses it with reality. (Given how adept they were at cleaning up a murder scene, maybe it wasn’t a dream…)
Da-hyun then makes the executive decision to cover everything up – no one is turning themselves in because she did nothing wrong. Da-hyun is an assault survivor. After seeing the police pull a body from the apartment of her attacker, she knows he would’ve killed her too.
On that note, one thing that took me (pleasantly) by surprise is how seriously this drama treats violence against women. I thought the stalking thing would just be a plot device, but the drama addresses Da-hyun’s post-attack trauma and how disturbingly common this type of assault is.
Determined to get into that refrigerator, Da-hyun is now the one prying into Gye-hoon’s personal life to try to figure out his door passcode. Having his own agenda, he agrees to tell her his birthdate if she plays rock-paper-scissors with him. As kids, he and his sister were known for their ability to always match each other no matter how many rounds they played.
Although he knows it’s unlikely Da-hyun is his sister, he does suspect she’s the source of his emotional interference. And the rock-paper-scissors test confirms his suspicion – they match every round.
Meanwhile, the cop on Gye-hoon’s sister’s case finds Gye-hoon familiar and finally puts it together. In a flashback, the whole town searches for Gye-young, but neither Gye-young nor the culprit were ever found. However, some of the neighbors seem shifty; a shaman even declared the culprit was one of them. And some man we don’t see told little Gye-young the same thing.
Back to the present, in the final scene, Da-hyun sneaks into the restaurant – Gye-hoon’s (and his sister’s) birthdate is the code – and opens the fridge. It’s empty. “Did you find what you were looking for?” Gye-hoon asks Da-hyun.
That’s a lot of crime for two episodes! The tone of the drama is pretty well summed up by the Charlie Chaplin line Da-hyun quoted: “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” Close up, we’ve got the tragedy of violence. Zooming out is the farce of a group of women trying to retrieve the body they accidentally sent to a neighbor. I’m into it so far, but it could easily go off the rails, so I’m staying cautiously optimistic.