Night Has Come: Episodes 1-4 (First Impressions)
When a seemingly innocuous deduction game turns into a desperate race to stay alive, an isolated group of high school students must navigate through horrific deaths, mounting suspicion, and the game’s arbitrary rules in order to survive. The question is, can they find a way out — or is there even a way out at all?
Editor’s note: This is an opening review only.
Right off the bat, the drama immerses us headfirst into a downright eerie opening. Our protagonist LEE YOON-SEO (Lee Jae-in) finds herself in an empty compound, haunted by a dead body and a long-haired specter — and then she startles awake on the bus to their high school field trip. The youth center they arrive at gives Yoon-seo a strange sense of deja vu, but she doesn’t yet realize that it’s the same one from her dream.
Their teacher heads out to pick up another class, leaving the students alone to entertain themselves till nightfall. Not an easy task, considering there’s no internet connection out here. Then, an unknown app installs itself on the students’ phones — including Yoon-seo’s, even though she hadn’t bothered to scan the youth center’s QR code. Something else has gained access to all their phones.
The mysterious app turns out to be a mafia game amongst the students, and its rules are deceptively simple. It’s a social deduction game, in which the civilian majority and mafia minority must eliminate the other side to win. Within the civilian team, there are two special roles: each night, the doctor can give one player immunity, and the police officer can investigate one player’s role. Together, they’ll need to vote off all the mafia members — or else the mafia will win by killing them all, picking them off one by one every night.
Thinking it’s just a harmless game, the students vote out the class clown HEO YUL (Park Yoon-ho) — and if you’ve seen the pre-release teaser, you already know what’s coming next. Yul’s eyes go white, he bashes his head against the floor, and then he’s sprinting right through the hallway window. The rest of the students gape in shock and terror, and the game shifts into the night phase. A melodious chime plays over the youth center’s speakers, making everyone collapse to the floor, sound asleep.
When morning dawns, Yul’s broken body still lies several floors below. To make matters worse, there’s been one more death — the mafia had executed one of their own last night. It’s the bullied kid Choi Joo-won, thoroughly discomfiting fellow outcast JIN DA-BEOM (Ahn Ji-ho). For some reason, no one suspects the bully GO KYUNG-JOON (Cha Woo-min) and his posse, but then again I suppose they wouldn’t kill off the pushover they constantly extort money from.
The empathetic Yoon-seo suggests that they move their classmates’ bodies to the freezer, rather than leaving them to rot in the heat. Together with her best friend OH JUNG-WON (Choi Ye-bin), Yoon-seo musters up the courage to face the corpses again — and that’s where her love for detective novels and investigative instincts come in handy. A further examination of Joo-won’s body reveals that he’d been repeatedly hit head-on with a fire extinguisher, yet he hadn’t made any attempt to flee or defend himself.
It’s beginning to seem like there are paranormal forces at play, and Yoon-seo’s firsthand experience seems to reinforce this theory. Back when they’d first arrived at the youth center, the catty vice-president KIM SO-MI (Jung Sori) had shoved Yoon-seo into the swimming pool under the guise of a birthday surprise. Before Yoon-seo could swim out, someone had grabbed her ankle, dragging her down to the pool’s depths.
Luckily, class president KIM JOON-HEE (Kim Woo-seok) arrived on the scene just in time to dive in and rescue her, his desperation to save her momentarily outweighing his traumatic memories of someone drowning in a pool (because of course, every high school hero must have some kind of trauma). Yoon-seo is clearly nursing a crush on Joon-hee, given how her gaze is always fixed on him whenever he’s not looking, but his sincere concern for her hints that her feelings may be reciprocated. (Too bad, So-mi, he’s just not that into you.)
In any case, there’s no time for romance, not when their lives are on the line. Unwilling to remain sitting ducks, the students attempt to escape the youth center. When two students ignore the warning announcement and cross the boundary, the white-eyed madness drives them both to their bloody ends. It’s awfully chilling how the students are screaming in fear, yet they can’t tear their eyes away from the gory scene.
Since the boundary lines extend all the way to the mountain trail behind the youth center, a few students trek up, hoping to find a gap they can slip through. Alas, the expedition ends with yet another death and no escape route found, but they do glean one intriguing piece of information. At the boundary’s edge, they’d spotted people on a faraway shore — but they’d been frozen in place, the seagulls around them motionless mid-flight. It seems time has drawn to a standstill outside the boundary.
Back in the youth center, Joon-hee discovers another odd phenomenon. The phones in the office are ringing, but all the lines have been cut. Jung-won pulls files out from the shelf, and every single one is empty. It’s almost as if they’re in a simulation, where objects are fake and events are controlled by a higher power.
They don’t make any headway on their discovery, though, because the day’s voting deadline is drawing near. In an attempt to prevent as many deaths as he can, Joon-hee suggests that everyone abstain from voting. Unusually cooperative for once, Kyung-joon seconds the idea, collecting everyone’s phones in a large bucket. The voting time passes, and it almost seems like their plan will work — until the white-eyed madness strikes again, punishing players for breaking the rules.
Mass hysteria breaks out, amidst the frenzied rush to retrieve their phones. Only Kyung-joon remains indifferent, having slyly snuck his phone back into his pocket earlier. One by one, the students end their own lives, turning the auditorium into a gruesome bloodbath. By the time it ends, only a handful of students are left alive, and BAEK EUN-HA (Kim So-hee) has gotten the majority vote despite her pleas of innocence. By the next morning, she’s joined the list of casualties.
Wracked by guilt, Joon-hee almost steps over the boundary line in an act of penitence. Thankfully, he doesn’t manage to follow through, and a comforting dose of emotional support from Yoon-seo has him resolving to protect what remains of their class. But everyone is high-strung by this point, and when Kyung-joon targets the videographer PARK WOO-RAM (Seo Dong-hyun) as the next voting candidate, herd mentality takes over.
Indignant in the face of his rising vote count, Woo-ram attempts to turn the tables. Isn’t everyone sick and tired of Kyung-joon’s tyranny? Shouldn’t he be stopped in his tracks, before more innocent victims get sacrificed? Woo-ram’s impassioned outburst manages to convince Joon-hee, Yoon-seo, Jung-won, So-mi, and the meek AHN NA-HEE (Park Joo-won) into voting for Kyung-joon — but he still needs a few more classmates to turn the tables, and we don’t get to see the results just yet.
In the meantime, Yoon-seo continues her sleuthing. Earlier, she’d discovered an air vent in the freezer room, but the long-haired specter had choked her till she passed out. Still, she won’t let herself be paralyzed with fear. Returning to the vent, she courageously ventures in with Jung-won and Na-hee keeping watch outside. As she navigates through the tunnels, the floor suddenly falls out from under her — and then Yoon-seo finds herself in an underground hideout, filled with CCTV screens monitoring the entire youth center.
Well, it’s not quite the White Christmas I’d hoped for — no philosophical musings or existential dilemmas just yet, I’m afraid — but it’s still a decently entertaining watch. The plot is mostly predictable if you’ve ever seen any ensemble murder mystery, and the clues are a little too scattered to maintain the suspense. Still, the students’ personalities are diverse enough (even if most fall into familiar archetypes), and there are a few characters that are fairly likable.
My main issue is with the frustrating pacing — each plot point is spread out so far that it makes the students feel slow on the uptake. At the same time, the characters make new discoveries that aren’t followed up on, such as the frozen people or Joo-won’s strange cause of death. Understandably, they’re young teenagers deeply affected by their peers’ grisly ends, but given the high stakes I’d hoped someone would piece things together a little quicker.
Already, the mystery is beginning to take shape. Before the mafia game changed the students’ lives as they knew it, Jung-won had been preparing for a game coding competition. All the peculiarities we’ve seen so far seem to line up with the theory that the students are trapped in a game — the incomplete environmental assets, the phones that stay perpetually charged at the same percentage, the strict map borders that turn the players back from the game’s boundaries. It would explain the supernatural occurrences that drive the students to act against their will, but it also opens up more questions. Are our characters even real people?
The first set of episodes had quite a bit of potential, with suspicion getting the better of some students while others plant seeds of doubt. For now, the show hasn’t delved quite as deep into the psychological tactics as I want it to, but it’s piqued my curiosity enough that I’ll be keeping an eye out for the following episodes. At the very least, I’ve taken a liking to Yoon-seo and Joon-hee (and poor Da-beom, who deserves better), so here’s hoping they get out unscathed.