Adamas: Episode 1 (First Impressions)
Ji Sung extravaganza Adamas is off to an ~intriguing~ start with a great tone, suspenseful vibes, and lots of room to play around for maximum thrills and twists. I liked this drama’s intro way more than I was expecting to.
Editor’s note: Continued drama coverage is pending based on Beanie feedback.
EPISODE 1 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The drama opens with one of our twin heroes eerily hinting at the drama’s setup via narration: Mother’s last words. An Anonymous letter. He claimed innocence. It all ties to Inmate #2006 somehow, and we find ourselves briefly in the penitentiary, where we hit a super gory opening that made my stomach turn (read: bloodbath).
But all’s not lost, because the intrigue level is 10/10 and everything we see is purposeful — that much is clear. The mass murder that takes place in the prison sets off a chain reaction in the country around reinstating the death penalty (abolished in 1997), and that will be the linchpin upon which our plot turns.
After a one month skip, we are (thankfully) on to greener pastures as we pan through a fancy apartment featuring a gigantic photograph of one of the twins (okay, now I feel like I’m watching a K-drama).
The montage that follows introduces us to both twins simultaneously, and we’ll meet them shortly as novelist HA WOO-SHIN (Ji Sung) and prosecutor SONG SOO-HYUN (also Ji Sung). As we watch the brothers wake up and get ready for their day, there’s an intentional contrast drawn between them: one seems meticulous and serious, sleeps ramrod straight fully pajamaed, and lives in a swank apartment. The other brother seems to live more sloppily, sleeping in his boxers, falling (literally) out of bed, and so on.
Drama logic would immediately suggest that the serious and successful twin is the prosecutor, and that the messy and more playful one is the novelist. However, the drama is very sneaky in that it very much seems the opposite is true. And from what we see of the brothers in the first episode, it does seem like they’re in the opposite personalities/careers one would expect.
This is confirmed for us when we meet them both (separately) at work. Woo-shin — who’s famous and successful — is reviewing an offer to ghostwrite a memoir for CHAIRMAN KWON (the ubiquitous Lee Kyung-young) of Haesong Group. The offer comes with a huge paycheck and super creepy rules. But Woo-shin surprises his agent by signing the contract; she assumes he’s doing it for the money, but we know better.
In contrast, we meet Soo-hyun as he’s called into a gathering of higher-ups at the prosecution office. As they do their wheeling and dealing, he’s standing there trying not to crack up — it’s hilarious. And when they call him out, he calls them out for their clearly biased support of CANDIDATE HWANG (Kim Jong-goo), a presidential hopeful that’s riding high on his promise to reinstate the death penalty. There are sooo many strings being pulled already and we’re only a few minutes into the drama.
Later that day, we are treated to the brothers interacting — and by that I mean bickering over burgers as they talk about losing their mother, Woo-shin mentions the month-long “trip” he’s going on, and then they fight over whether Woo-shin will recognize Soo-hyun as hyung or not. It still blows my mind to see an actor playing two roles side-by-side, and this drama really nails it. It’s dumbfoundingly real, and it literally feels like there are two different Ji Sungs chomping burgers on a park bench.
The rest of the episode turns mainly to Woo-shin, as we follow him on his ghostwriting project, which is a lot more creepy than it should be. Upon arrival at the Haesong mansion-compound-palace, he’s scanned and probed and biometrically logged so that the intense security system (and staff) can confirm his identity, location, and biometric data at all times. He’s also prohibited from taking any personal items with him, from contacting the outside world, etc. If the red flags aren’t flying free, then I don’t know what to say.
As suspected, though, Woo-shin knows full well what he’s getting into. As a super successful novelist (with fanboys flocking around him even amongst the security team), he doesn’t need to ghostwrite anything… but he wants to be there, because reasons.
As if the setup wasn’t sus enough, tons of weird things continue to happen. First, Woo-shin’s assistant writer LEE DONG-RIM (upcoming newbie Shin Hyun-seung) appears in his chambers — turns out they will be working together, and Woo-shin is none too pleased, since this wasn’t a part of the plan, and he doesn’t need a fresh-faced puppy to have to protect.
Woo-shin is also almost immediately aggressed against by the dragon lady housekeeper MS. KWON (Hwang Jung-min) who later complains to her ~beloved~ chairman that Woo-shin wasn’t intimidated by her like she hoped. I dunno what’s going on there.
The weirdness continues when Woo-shin wanders around in the night (knowing he’s been forbidden to enter certain areas of the house, all very fairy-tale-esque) to find a maid collapsing and convulsing on the floor. No one seems to care; everyone that works there either seems to live in sheer terror, or be sheer terror incarnate.
The fun of the setup, of course, is that we are utterly clueless and just following Woo-shin around as he explores — it feels almost like a video game as we follow him into rooms and he notices things, from the cameras that are everywhere, to the writing instruments they’ve provided for him (identical to his own), to the very illegal opium poppies that are being grown onsite.
The poppies lead Woo-shin to the greenhouse which leads him to our heroine (of sorts?) EUN HYE-SOO (Seo Ji-hye) who seems very much the unhinged and captured princess. However, she makes no attempts to hide the truth, and not only confirms that the she is growing the opium poppies (“nothing is illegal in this house”), but that — wanting to do her interview for the memoir right then and there — announces that Chairman Kwon is capable of any despicable thing you can imagine for the good of his company. She also hints that the helicopter crash that killed his second son might not have been an accident.
Woo-shin doesn’t seem to know how to take any of that, and it only gets stranger when Chairman Kwon makes his return to the palace (as it’s called) and is treated every bit like the king returning to his castle.
In his first meeting with Woo-shin, Chairman Kwon not only knows he’s already met his daughter-in-law in the greenhouse, but basically asks him to relay everything that she said, or will say, about him. I find it strange that with all the omniscient surveillance around, they didn’t also tap the greenhouse so they could listen in on the conversation.
But maybe Chairman Kwon is just testing Woo-shin based on what he will say (that she said he’s capable of great evil) and what he won’t say (that she questions the helicopter accident).
We soon get more info on the situation, though, when Woo-shin’s great wit finds its match in Haesong’s head of security CHOI TAE-SUNG (Heo Sung-tae). Apparently, Woo-shin knows a whole lot more than he has let on (and far more than we know), and he confronts Tae-sung on being a corrupt cop that was bought by Haesong. But was he really?
Woo-shin then says that that’s just the cover story, and that Tae-sung is actually an undercover cop that’s been keeping an eye on the chairman. Which one is true? It’s kind of hard to believe with his fancy suit, intimidating presence, and shotgun perched over his shoulder that he’s a good-bad guy, but I love that the drama is already poking holes in the alliances we might expect. Keep us on the edge of our seats, please!
While Woo-shin announces (not sure why) that he’s going to steal “adamas” — a Haesong relic that’s a golden arrow with a diamond arrowhead), his brother is also uncovering some mysterious things.
Reporter KIM SEO-HEE (Lee Soo-kyung) has been aggressively following Soo-hyun around, and when she finally gets his attention it’s by calling out all the media manipulation that’s going on around Candidate Hwang and his seeming support by the powers that be.
Soo-hyun might not know it yet, but every word Seo-hee says is correct, and as we meet more baddies, we see that not only is Candidate Hwang only a pawn of Haesong, but there’s a freakin’ ton of media and internet manipulation going on to turn the election in Hwang’s favor.
As our new baddie TEAM LEADER LEE (Oh Dae-hwan) says: the internet is the catalyst for all events. And his team — on behalf of Haesong, it seems — is controlling basically everything.
It’s a ton of setup for one episode, but it somehow didn’t feel like it, likely because we are following the brothers around for most of it, and learning as they learn. If there’s one thing the drama totally nailed it was the tone — every scene, every character, every bit of sinister dialogue built the world of this drama, and left me wanting more.
It’s just the right level of intrigue and suspense for me, too — enough to keep me on the edge of my seat, but not too much to make me want to turn it off. Our twins are also quite likable, and I’m looking forward to learning more about them, from their intricacies to their history. Their father’s murder is at the crux of the story, and I suspect the more they unravel the mystery, the more there will be to unravel. If the tone and intrigue keep up, and the twists keep unfurling, this could shape up to be a fairly addictive tale.