After months of anticipation, digging for news, sharing trailers, photos, and screen captures, it is time to watch the new drama! I’ll be the first to admit I’m not much of a blogger. I don’t know how others have that incredible stamina to watch episodes (more than once!) and summarize the plot. It takes real patience. (Which I sometimes lack.) I’m distracted continuously or ready to doze off. Fatigue, aches, pains, and older age are setting in. Sigh.
But enough about me. After all the build-up, I can’t suddenly let this blog go into radio silence on Tell Me What You Saw! This drama started off with a bang and kept that momentum through the entire first episode (And into the 2nd.) Rather than stick to a general full episode recap, I decided to focus on themes and characters and how I think they’ll conceivably grow and develop throughout the series. My goal is to do 3 full write-ups for the beginning, middle, and end of the drama. I wanted this blog post to focus on the first two episodes, but real-life invaded, and there was just so much to unpack in the 1st episode alone.
Let’s put on our Police Procedural/Crime Kdrama lenses and get started…
The Opening Credits
OCN specializes in crime dramas, so they have Opening Credit designs down pat. Tell Me What You Saw is dark and mysterious with menacing silhouettes, long shots of drippy, dirty tunnels, sewers, flashes of crime ephemera and equipment, quick glimpses of dead body parts, and police tape. Jang Hyuk’s character exists at the center of it all in his
Batcave secret lair. We know immediately the focus is on a serial killer through photos of victims with their eyes crossed out and threatening messages with individual letters cut from magazines. The credits promise us a gritty and stylish drama.
Cha Soo Yeong
It’s the year 2000, and our heroine Soo Yeong is still a schoolgirl. We get a strong foreboding from the use of a gloomy, green camera filter. A thunderstorm begins just as she’s about to leave school, and she doesn’t have an umbrella. There’s something special about Soo Yeong. We hear a click and see a flash when her friend calls her to share an umbrella. The scene slows down, and Soo Yeong’s eyes absorb all the intricate details like a camera.
Soo Yeong lives in the countryside and is the only child of deaf parents. Her mother is a street vendor, and she was outside selling fruits before the rain hit. She sees Soo Yeong across the street and runs to meet her with an umbrella, while shouting, waving, and signing. Soo Yeong is inexplicably defiant and bratty at this point. She ignores her, obviously embarrassed in front of her friend by her mother’s ragged appearance and loud, garbled voice.
Soo Yeong runs away, and her mom follows, only to be tragically struck down in a hit and run. Life as Soo Yeong knows it is altered. Her poor mother dies, her bloodied hand reaches out, with her last signed words urging Soo Yeong to take the umbrella, so she doesn’t continue to get soaked or sick.
Soo Yeong’s selfish actions cost her dearly. That may not have been the best way to endear her character to the audience but it gives Soo Yeong her determination to be a Detective. The look of instant regret and pain on her face reminds us she’s just a child. Most children go through phases or will say and do hurtful things to their parents without thinking of their feelings or the consequences.
The Village life is tough, and the police and doctors are stern and unsympathetic when telling Soo Yeong and her father that their wife and mother died in surgery. The Detective’s aggravated that he can’t understand the father. The Doctor’s frustrated that he lost a patient and that her husband and daughter are desperately clinging to him, offering more money to save her. Soo Yeong shocks the Detective when she gives him an accurate description of the scene, the license plate, and people in the car at the moment it drove past. Her photographic memory kicked into high gear.
In 2020, Soo Yeong is now a pretty, young police officer still living in the countryside with her father. Instead of hunting down hardened criminals as the scene implies, she’s stuck solving petty disturbances, like rescuing a kid (baby goat) from a ravine.
He’s so cute!!!
Regardless, Soo Yeong tackles challenges head-on and isn’t too afraid to get down and dirty or worry about little things like poop all over her shoes. Soo Yeong has aspirations to work for the Metropolitan Investigation Unit in the city. (I’ll refer to it in this post as MIU.) However, it’s made abundantly clear throughout the episode that people think Soo Yeong isn’t very bright. It took her 3 attempts to pass the test just for the local precinct. She later failed to get into the MIU because of low grades. The villagers seem to know about her exceptional memory and praise her stamina for the job. The MIU Detectives, on the other hand, berate her as slow, lacking, and incompetent.
Soo Yeong is the first on the scene after two terrified men discover a dark, plaid suitcase with a bloodied, limp hand hanging out of it. Because of the rain, Soo Yeong slips and wrecks the entire crime scene, and the body pops out of the case after it tumbles downhill. She’s again belittled by the same angry Detective from her mother’s hit-and-run case. The MIU is called in to investigate.
We later learn the body is that of a missing young woman from flyers seen around the village and on local news. Soo Yeong managed to take pictures of the undisturbed scene before she slid down. And by pictures, I also mean the ones in her mind. Unfortunately, her phone gets damaged. Soo Yeong’s inexperience and youth will be a stumbling block for her. Still, her photographic memory, which she later describes as a “click,” puts her well above the rest.
I like Soo Yeong. She’s had a tough life, and no doubt carries the guilt of her mother’s death, but she didn’t let it eat her alive. She clearly loves her father and wants to make sure he’s taken care of. He’s very supportive of his daughter and keeps her well-fed. She gets so busy at times she even forgets her mother’s birthday. Soo Yeong’s plucky, but not overbearing, and she’s willing to work hard and learn from her mistakes. There’s a lot of room for character growth.
I like the music in this drama. It sets the tone of the scenes well. During the comic relief, such as the goat chase, or when Soo Yeong is mistaken for a con-artist impersonating an MIU Detective, we hear a funky, groovy upbeat. Hopefully, it will be on the soundtrack.
Notice that it’s raining hard every time Soo Yeong’s about to have a life-changing experience? The first being when her mother died. I wonder if they’ll continue this symbolism as the show progresses.
The camera made sure viewers saw the hit-and-run driver. He’s suspiciously wearing a black hat – and in Kdrama that almost always means criminal or killer. There’s also a young boy in the car. Is it possible we’ll meet him as an adult? Could he be a cop, or does he turn out to be the serial killer? Perhaps his father’s blatant disregard for life triggered something in him to kill? (I assume the man’s his father or guardian.)
The boy’s holding a hideous sock puppet that we glimpsed in the opening credits. Is that a sign of an already fragile and demented mind?
My only real gripe so far is the censoring of the victim’s body and body parts. This is nothing unusual for Kdrama. They even blur out knives. I believe I was spoiled by the fascinating drama Partners for Justice, which focused on a genius Medical Examiner. They had no choice but to show bodies and autopsies in some of its glory then. I’m also very familiar with American crime dramas like Law and Order and CSI showing all the ugliness of death.
I’d be afraid of a big blur too!
It’s frustrating because while the Detectives examine a scene and body, we can’t make out what they’re seeing and discussing. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t particularly like gore, and certain kinds make me gag. Still, if I’m watching a crime show, I’m not averse to seeing an actual body and the damage inflicted on it. When Soo Yeong slipped down the embankment, and the suitcase opened, out sprung a big blur! Even the hand was blurred out when the man discovered the luggage. I thought, what’s he so frightened about? Between the darkness, the rain, and the added blur effect, I couldn’t see a thing.
Hwang Hwa Young
I’ve never seen a female Kdrama character move with such purpose as Hwang Hwa Young. Not even in the Sageuks. She walked onto the scene of the crime like a boss dressed all in black with a long, leather jacket, sleek hair (Not a style I’d wear, but it works for her) and a no-nonsense, no-makeup appearance. At any moment, I expected her to pull a sword from her coat and fight Highlander for “The Prize.”
Hwang Hwa Young is a Detective and Team Leader for a crime unit at the MIU. Hwa Young has a personal score to settle with a serial killer everyone believed had died in a tragic explosion 5 years earlier. She technically breaks the law by allowing illegal surveillance of police interrogations. She shares confidential case information with a civilian, or rather, someone who no longer has legal authority on criminal matters.
Hwa Young’s patience is as short as her hair, and she immediately comes off as a bully. Dare I say, she’s masculine? Yes, I do dare. But we all know with male or female characters like her, whatever tragedy affected them, their gruff exterior hides a tender soul. At first, Hwa Young’s also infuriated at Soo Yeong for mucking up the crime scene and damaging her phone. She calls Soo Yeong a pathetic punk. Ouch. But when Soo Young accurately describes and draws it from memory, Hwa Young’s intrigued and trusts her skills enough to bring her before the genius criminal profiler, Oh Hyun Jae.
Hwa Young is a unique character that might take time to warm up to. Hopefully, she’ll open up more, and we’ll get to see what drives her obsession with capturing the serial killer. I like her already because she’s on the right side of the law yet still bends the rules working with a vigilante.
Hwa Young has a “buddy” photo tucked away on her office bookshelf. (It’s a horizontal photo shown vertically so I flipped the image for a better view.) In it, we see Oh Hyun Jae, his fiancee, and Hwa Young. I took note of the expressions on their faces and clothing. Hyun Jae, ever the enigmatic figure, has a slightly bemused smile and is dressed all in black. His fiancee, in the middle, has a bigger smile and is like a symbol of purity dressed all in white. Hwa Young is seated on her right, dressed in beige/neutral clothing, and her smile is the largest of all. She was clearly a different woman then.
Based on the framing of the photo, the fiancee seems to have balanced the others out. She was their anchor. Without her in the picture, so to speak, Hwa Young and Hyun Jae dress all in black, and their smiles are replaced with hardened, dour expressions. The joy had gone out of their lives. Currently, for Hwa Young, there’s no more smiles and beige neutrality, there’s only darkness, and Oh Hyun Jae slunk even deeper into that same darkness.
The serial killer was dubbed, “That Bastard” by everyone in this drama. I found this funny because it’s a light swear word we often hear in Kdramas and movies. His calling card is a chalky diamond-shaped restaurant mint. Really. What else could they call him? Jack, the Minter? The Menthol Murderer? It sounds ridiculous. Basically, he’s The Mint Serial Killer. It’s an interesting calling card. Could the mint be something from their past?
Oh Hyun Jae
Finally, the character you’ve all been waiting to read about! Sexy as heck, Oh Hyun Jae. Thank you to the powers that be that convinced Jang Hyuk to grow out his gorgeous hair and finally get rid of that flat-chipped-bang, Ceaser haircut he had for 3 dramas. You all know what I’m talking about. But I’m pretty sure the growth had started earlier for his part as King Lee Bang Won in the Saguek, My Country: The New Age.
When Soo Yeong goes to the MIU, Hwa Young takes her on a long drive and leaves her alone in front of a spooky warehouse. She’s to meet “a person whom you shouldn’t tell anybody you met,” and to speak well if she wants a job with the MIU. Soo Yeong passes a building guard who doesn’t seem fazed to see her. She enters a freight elevator and gets out on the 3rd floor.
The area looks dank and haunted with flickering, cobwebbed light fixtures, and dingy walls. She approaches a door with sophisticated equipment that requires a thumbprint. It literally sticks out like a sore thumb in this warehouse.
Get it? Sore thumb?
Soo Yeong introduces herself, and the giant door slides open automatically like it’s the basement entrance of the Enterprise on Star Trek.
Batcave secret lair is dimly lit, spacious, and pristine with high-tech (possibly surveillance) units, gym equipment (I think), sleeping quarters, and decorative items situated around the room. A man talks from a hidden speaker and proceeds to check off her vital statistics. He digs deeper with Sherlock Holmesian levels of observation. From her footsteps, he concludes that she has scoliosis of the back, one leg is 1cm longer than the other, and because of that, she prefers sneakers to high-heels. He says that she’s wearing cheap, cotton clothing, her voice is unconfident, and she doesn’t know when to put a period in her sentence. The man tests Soo Yeong’s ability by asking her to describe the details of her walk-through in the warehouse and the guard in front. She doesn’t disappoint and sees through his trick question about the number of light fixtures down the hall.
Satisfied, the man appears from the shadows looking like a cross between a vampire and The X-Men’s Professor X. He’s wearing his sunglasses at night and sitting with his leg crossed on a state-of-the-art, electric wheelchair. This scene threw me for a loop! I did not expect him to be crippled. I should’ve guessed it from all the promo shots of him sitting down. If there was a wheelchair in any promo pics, it went over my head as I was too busy gazing at Jang Hyuk’s brooding, handsome face and fantastic hair.
Soo Yeong is asked to describe the scene of the crime the morning after, and she remembers a tall man holding an empty dog leash. She’s once again belittled when Hyun Jae tells her she remembers useless details, and her ability is like an obsessive-compulsive disorder stemming from a childhood tragedy. He remarks how she must’ve never dated, has low-self esteem, and a weak will. Soo Yeong gives it back to him, he has no right to be so rude. She calls him arrogant and supercilious and that he probably doesn’t have friends, lovers, or family because of his character. Hyun Jae
sexily eerily laughs and sends her on her way.
There’s a possibility Hyun Jae (I love that name) is pretending to be crippled. Not sure why he would, though. Maybe it’s more psychosomatic and when the time is right he’ll shock everyone and walk? Is there such a thing as a drama without Jang Hyuk’s signature martial arts and frenetic speed? I need to see him kick some butt with this new look! Is this why a point was made to say Soo Yeong had stamina at the beginning? Hyun Jae uses ever sense but sight and motion, while Hwa Young and Soo Yeong act as his eyes and legs. Either way, this is a turning out to be a very unique role for him.
The music that plays when Soo Yeong enters the warehouse is sensual and unnerving. It uses Techno drum beats with faint new age sounds and echos of a jungle and rattlesnake.
I love the huskier voice and sensuous, throaty laugh that Jang Hyuk gives Oh Hyun Jae. Hyun Jae’s often seen nursing glass of whiskey or scotch on the rocks. I wouldn’t call him an alcoholic because his senses are whip-sharp. (And he’s probably on a ton of painkillers) But he’s drinking the heavy stuff, not guzzling tiny shots of Soju. Alcohol, in general, creates a raspy tone and lower voice because it eventually irritates the vocal cords. So if that’s the reasoning behind the voice change, it works well for his character. We also see him in one shot holding a pill bottle. They may be painkillers for his legs.
Sunglasses at night is a popular, quirky song from the ’80s. I couldn’t help but sing it when Hyun Jae rolled into the scene. So, he’s blind. A double whammy for this emotionally and physically damaged character. His eyesight was clearly ruined either by shrapnel or a flash from the explosion. Hyun Jae relies on his acute hearing to describe Soo Yeong’s gait and clothing. He listens in on conversations instead of watching them from hidden cameras.
Did you notice Hyun Jae’s lily-white hands? It looks like he’s wearing prosthetic skin. He must’ve burned them badly in the explosion as well. (Episode 2: He clearly burned a lot of parts.)
He picks up distinct sounds and verbal cues. Okay, I change my mind. He’s more like the Blind Superhero Daredevil and Professor X in the
Batcave secret lair.
Let’s talk about the Chameleon hanging out in the middle of the
Batcave secret lair because the camera loves him! Chameleons can change colors and create a camouflage. Using their very long tongues, they’re adept at capturing their prey from a distance.
Oh Hyun Jae speaks wisely and intelligently. His tongue is gifted. He’s also hunting “That Bastard” at a distance since he’s clandestinely working with the police. Chameleons have globular eyes that rotate and move independently, allowing them to scan a large radius. Oh Hyun Jae has “eyes” everywhere through his tracking and surveillance equipment and other Detectives.
And lastly, Chameleons are territorial, solitary, and easily stressed, with the males being particularly aggressive. Oh Hyun Jae is the epitome of cool in the present and especially years earlier as a celebrated criminal profiler on TV. But I can imagine his inner stress levels.
Oh Hyun Jae secludes himself in his own space or “territory.” He bears bloodied, red scars on his face that looks too fresh to be five-years-old. I doubt he cut himself shaving. Or did he? Is it just there to add to his “cool factor,” or could he be a “cutter,” making those scars to feel pain and take his mind off the tragedy? Maybe he threw a scotch tumbler in a fit of anger, and the glass shards cut his face. Hopefully they’ll answer that.
All The Rest
So far, the other Detectives and Police Superintendent Choi Hyung Pil don’t stand out to me. They’re typical Kdrama bullying, angry, or goofy cop/law characters, and of course, we see a “Country vs. City” cop mentality amongst them. At least they’re not the standard Kdrama “Keystone Cops.” Not yet, anyway. I’m sure they’ll be fleshed out later.
Hwa Young and Superintendent Choi are at odds, and he wants her to end this vendetta because she’d caused some trouble for the Police in the past. More mysteries to uncover.
A handsome young detective named Ji Min is on Hwa Young’s team. He has a scar beneath his right eye that looks real. Is he a potential love interest for Soo Yeong? I doubt this drama will have romance, but we’ll see. Could he have been the child from the hit-and-run car? Ji Min’s a bit shady since he reports to the Superintendent behind his team’s back. But isn’t Hwa Young doing the same thing with Oh Hyun Jae? Nobody is innocent here. And everyone has secrets to keep.
Superintendent Choi gives Ji Min cryptic advice: “Keep in mind the organization always comes first. Loyalty is basic.”
What organization? The Police force? Or is there something more sinister and cultish going on here?
I like how random bits and pieces of this crime puzzle are revealed through character conversations instead of one big info-dump. The drama does a good job of both showing and telling.
In the news Interview, Oh Hyun Jae is methodical and thinks carefully before he speaks. It was chilling when he revealed one of the killer’s methods. The victim must tell the killer before they die who they have a grudge against. The killer then goes after the offender, gaining two victims. This raised some questions. Was it possible Hyun Jae’s wife was an offender targeted by the killer? Or was she the first victim? Or was she just at the wrong place and the wrong time when the cars crashed? And what is the killer’s motive? How does he pick his first victims? I have a guess who the killer is, but it’s far too early to tell. For now, I’ve got my eyes on Detective Ji Min or Prosecutor Choi Hyung Pil. There may be 2 killers if the little boy was groomed.
Here’s a recent Twitter question I came across. Do we prefer styled straight-haired or wavy-haired Oh Hyun Jae? I like the tousled, wavy hair. I was never a fan of super-flat hairstyles on men or women. I dislike it as much as the ahjumma perm. But I do think hairstyles play an essential part in shaping characters and their personalities.
Can I just give a shoutout to our girl Soo Young? She goes back to the crime scene for another “click” and remembers a parked cab across the way. The white cab is an important puzzle piece, especially in ep. 2. Soo Yeong then bravely proves Oh Hyun Jae wrong by returning to his
Batcave secret lair with the information she’d missed. I like how she’s eager to correct her mistakes or make things right.
I’m also really thrilled that someone actually USES THE INTERNET! I nearly had a heart attack when Soo Yeong ran out of the restaurant after learning about Hyun Jae and his fiancee’s death. She literally took the rest of the day off to research him online. It’s a known, and irritating trope in Kdrama. The lead characters live in one of the most tech advanced countries in the world. They are supposed to be so smart, yet they walk around woefully ignorant and confused because they can’t spend two minutes to do an internet search. I’m glad that’s changing in Kdrama.
This lunatic who walked into the police station claiming to be “That Bastard” is clearly just looking for attention. After rewatching his scenes, I thought he might’ve massacred his own dog to pretend that the blood on his shirt was from the dismembered girl in the suitcase. The clues were in Soo Yeong remembering the dog leash with no dog and when the Detectives raided his home and found many selfies of him and a dog, but no dog in the apartment.
I also noted Oh Hyun Jae’s morbid sense of humor when he laughs while listening in on the interrogation and the crazy man refusing to reveal where other victims were hidden. Hyun Jae clearly found it funny at how painfully obvious it was that this man’s not the serial killer they’re after. I shouldn’t have laughed with him, but I did. My sense of humor’s kind of morbid too. And lastly, like every good eccentric, Oh Hyun Jae plays classical music on a record player. The twist here is that the pretty musician on the record cover was his fiancee.
Because of Oh Hyun Jae’s physical limitations, Jang Hyuk is restrained in what he can do during his scenes. I hope he’s featured more. But his charisma flies off the charts merely watching his facial expressions while he’s eavesdropping on Police Blotters or sipping a drink. Needless to say, I’m very hooked and invested in this show.
So, what did I miss? I’m caught up now. Episode 2 was amazing! Especially Soo Yeong’s “guided tour” with Oh Hyun Jae through the sewers to rescue the living victim. What stood out to you? What did you like or dislike? Feel free to discuss in the comments.