Black (블랙) is a 2017 supernatural South Korean drama that I came across one night while browsing Netflix’s catalogue of Asian Netflix Original serials. I was in the mood for something gloomy, dark, and suspenseful and the trailer for this looked rather intriguing. After watching the first two episodes, I feel that it’s definitely curious and has some fun, interesting elements that has me hooked.
Black revolves around two individuals. The first is a young woman has the ability to foretell a person’s a death. Individuals who are about to die have black shadows hanging over them, which when she touches, show her the exact manner of their demise. The second individual is a newbie and rather klutzy police officer who comes across the young lady after she’s arrested for causing a ruckus on a plane. He sees her abilities as a blessing rather than a curse (how she’s lived with it for her entire life) and wants to team up with her to help people. While working on their first collaboration, things go terribly wrong, placing the police officer in an extremely dangerous situation.
I’m happy that I decided to watch the first two episodes before making this First Impressions post because of how different they were in tone. It left me with an adequate amount of questions and wonder as well as some mild concern about how it’ll all coagulate to tell the full story.
In the first segment, everything is substantially dark. The very beginning of the episode kicks off with the police finding a body that has been buried in the ground for approximately twenty years. These events are what eventually leads the newbie cop, Moo-gang, to the troubled young woman, Ha-ram. Ha-ram is someone who evokes strong emotions as we get to know her via this first episode. She’s a complete loner and lives isolated from the rest of the world. Her father, who was also a cop, died when she was very young and since then she’s been sad, afraid, and living in this perpetual paranoia of witnessing death around her. To avoid seeing the shadows, she wears sunglasses all of the time, even at night. When she hesitantly teams up with Moo-gang, the case they work on is also a very intense one.
So, there is this incredible daunting atmosphere that the audience is surrounded in due to the tension and anxiety that the girl lives with. We are pulled into it like a magnetic force and it’s super compelling. The police dude is sort of an underdog. He’s a newbie that everyone makes fun of. You can tell he’s intelligent and thinks about the cases with great care, but when he’s getting sick to his stomach at the sight of blood and tripping over his feet and unable to fight, he’s looked down on. Together these two make a sort of unique duo for crime-solving. Then the first episode ends on a shocking cliff hanger and the dynamics of this dark and depressing atmosphere changes drastically.
The second episode is filled with far more comical elements, which makes sense to an extent, narratively speaking, after the “shocking” element is explained at the end of this segment. Even so, before that, it just felt so strange and kind of mind-boggling to watch this malevolent, supernatural thing turn into a comedic sort of drama. About halfway through it, I even considered dropping the series due to the abrupt nature of these tonal shifts. Yet, I’m so glad that I didn’t because I feel the ending revelation of episode two is going to stir things up in a fun yet mind-fuck sorta of way. Basically, I think the two vastly different moods that the show is incorporating shall balance one another out as many mysteries are revealed and pieced together, such as that 20-year-old case that the police officers just stumbled upon.
The acting is really good. The actress who plays Ha-ram especially (Go Ara) is doing such a phenomenal job portraying the plethora of heavy expressions and reactions that is expected from a fragile, self-loathing and lost character like Ha-ram. She reminds me a lot of the antagonist from Lawless Lawyer, Ahn Oh-joo who’s played by Choi Min-soo. The suspense is also very well done without being overdramatic or overbearing and in your face. It rises subtly with the narrative and continues as undertones through the silly and more goofier portions of the episodes.
Aside from that hard-curve of a change into the light-heartedness of the second segment, I don’t have any complaints for the show so far. My only real concern is that the situation that has taken front and centre with Moo-gang doesn’t overshadow the story about Ha-ram dealing with her abilities and coming to terms with her long-held grief. That is probably the most compelling part of the series for me, and I’m super curious to see how it shall all intertwine and come full circle over the next sixteen episodes, particularly with that cold case that hasn’t really been discussed too much yet.
If you’re interested in checking out Black, it’s available for streaming on Netflix only (that I’ve found) and there are 18 total episodes for it.