Who Are You – not to be mistaken with the comedy Who Are You? (2008) – is a supernatural crime thriller about a detective who can see ghosts after she wakes up from a coma. The story is not terribly original, and it aired around the same time The Master’s Sun debuted. Though Who Are You had a strong first two episodes, the series quickly faltered and lost its charm. Nevertheless I watched this one because I could. The ghosts were not scary compared to The Master’s Sun, where I found myself jumping and covering my eyes after the first five minutes of episode 1. I still haven’t gone past episode 1.
So here’s a review of this not so scary ghost drama.
Six years ago, Detective Lee Hyung Joon (Kim Jae Wook) goes onboard a ship suspected of carrying illegal cargo. Hyung Joon accidentally makes his presence known and, outnumbered, tries to escape from the gangsters.
His girlfriend Yang Si Ohn (So Yi Hyun), a fellow detective, boards the ship in search of him. She sees him on the deck with his hands up and a gun aimed at his chest. Based on his expression it looks like Hyung Joon knows the shooter, and suddenly a gunshot rings through the air. He falls and Si Ohn screams. And next thing she knows, she’s knocked out too.
Fast forward six years to the present and Si Ohn wakes from her coma. The police immediately interrogate her about the events of that night but she has no memory of what happened. She doesn’t even remember Hyung Joon’s face. Wishing for a quieter life, she ends up in the Lost and Found department, where Cha Gun Woo (Ok Taecyeon) is her subordinate. He’s been sent to this department from the serious crimes division for being too trigger-happy on his last case. As a sharpshooting champion within the police force and always ready to boast of his skills, it’s no surprise that he got suspended for that. Si Ohn strolls in with a hooded shirt and jeans, making Gun Woo think she’s just an arrogant civilian looking for a lost item. Only when she shows her badge does he realize that his new boss is no ordinary woman.
And she isn’t. Si Ohn discovers that when she touches certain lost items belonging to unsettled spirits, she can see their ghosts. Initially it scares her out of her wits and she can’t shake them off. A shaman Jang Hee Bin (Kim Ye Won) – who shares the same name as the Jang Hee Bin (a.k.a Jang Ok Jung) – tells her that the only reason ghosts come to her is because she wants to see them. One would think that Hee Bin is a fraud (especially since she pretends to be a trainee pop star to get a date) but she is the real thing since she can see ghosts, too.
Si Ohn discovers the only way to get rid of the ghosts is to help them solve their cases. Acting out of character for a Lost and Found officer, she enlists Gun Woo’s help in solving these cold case murders. While he’s in disbelief at how much she knows about each piece of evidence and is even more skeptical about her ability to see ghosts, he continues to put his trust in her — falling in love in the process.
Soon Si Ohn sees Hyung Joon’s ghost. At first she helps him as any other ghostly client of hers, but she digs deeper into his case and her memories start flooding back. She discovers an illegal smuggling ring that’s being headed by corrupt policemen, including her trusted fellow detective Choi Moon Shik (Kim Chang Wan) and her chief mentor Moon Heung Joo (Park Young Ji). Moon Shik does his best to protect Si Ohn from the truth at the cost of his life. Si Ohn gets the evidence to take down the smuggling ring and bring down her beloved teacher. But by solving the case, Hyung Joon begins to disappear. Si Ohn also loses the ability to see the ghosts. Her “desire” to see ghosts as Hee Bin had said stemmed from her deep desire to see Hyung Joon again. With Hyung Joon leaving her in peace, she is now left alone.
Except… Gun Woo might now be able to see a ghost or two in his future.
Thoughts and questions
Compelling and thoughtful, but somewhat slow. That’s how I’d describe the drama. It had an interesting premise and the first few episodes captured my attention because it required Si Ohn to help the ghosts find peace. I heard that that is how The Master’s Sun is too. At least in this case the ghosts aren’t terribly frightening. The first couple of episodes had one of the strongest cases involving abuse and rape of a high school student. Because I thought the drama was going to continue on that gritty and serious note I put my faith in it. The following case about the prosecutor’s dead fiancee was also equally thrilling since it introduced a new character who could help them in the future (played by Kim Seung Soo).
Unfortunately by episode 5 the drama slowed down and became boring for me. The formula of the episodes became more predictable: Si Ohn would find an object and see a ghost, then try to solve the case. Gun Woo would not believe her but go along with the case to see how she solves it, complaining every step of the way. Si Ohn would solve it and Gun Woo would marvel over her investigative skills. Then he would complain about being in the Lost and Found department.
The ghosts’ individual cases were not compelling as from episodes 5-9 the focus was around Hyung Joon’s death. You’d think that his death and the investigation around it should have ramped up to something. But it didn’t. The audience learns things before the characters do and the length of time it took for the characters to find out was excruciatingly long. That added to the boring aspect of the drama. We knew that Moon Shik was evil for a while just because of the lingering shots on his furtive eyes and I knew something was up with Chief Moon as well. Therefore it wasn’t a surprise when Si Ohn and Gun Woo finally discovered the dark side to these men they trusted so much. The lack of suspense killed it for me.
I never got enough closure on the main smuggling case because I never really understood who were the victims, the reasons behind the smuggling, and how the corrupt detectives did it. But then again I probably was just not paying close enough attention. Again, evidence of my boredom. It would have been far more intriguing to know all the details of the smuggling case rather than just the detectives involved, because I cared less about that. For example, in the MBC drama Two Weeks not only do we know who the villains are but why they are doing it. We know the details to all their plans, their maneuvers, and their motives. We can see the villains’ plans taking shape and how they affect our main protagonists. However, in Who Are You I felt more muddled when trying to glean these details. We never saw the smuggling ring act in full effect or the backgrounds of the characters to find out their motives (I can only guess money and power for both Moon Shik and Chief Moon, but nothing deeper than that). We only saw hints that this smuggling ring had been going on for a long time, but nothing further than that. And most frustratingly we only saw its effects on one ghostly victim, Hyung Joon, and Si Ohn. That’s no fun. The excessive use of flashbacks and cut up dialogues between the villains didn’t give a complete understanding of what they were doing and why they were doing it. The drama wanted to focus on how good and trustworthy the villains seemed before they suddenly betrayed Si Ohn with their crimes. Rather than making them well rounded, enthralling villains, how are we to fully understand them and their motives? How are we to accept their half-formed plans that the writers give to us in bits and pieces? What made the writers think that only who the villains were was the important fact, and not the why or the how?
I felt that a lot of time was spent on building up Si Ohn and Gun Woo’s relationship when it wasn’t necessary. Working on the cases together should have been enough to build their mutual feelings for each other, and I didn’t think the writers needed to add date scenes. Moments of Gun Woo flirting with Si Ohn were painful and boring for me primarily because of Taecyeon’s acting. First of all I never saw them as having anything more than a brother-sister relationship. Taecyeon acted like the annoying little brother to So Yi Hyun until it was time to kiss her. It’s also strange because he seems self-aware of how good-looking he is and how he must look in certain angles. The little smirk on the corner of his lips or the smile in his eyes just makes it seem all the more obvious that he’s trying hard to act. When it comes to some serious scenes, especially the fighting ones, Taecyeon excels. However around So Yi Hyun he kind of devolves into a kitten trying to get attention from an aloof master. I could never really see them in love even thought they did have chemistry. The brotherly-sisterly kind. And this wasn’t that kind of drama.
As for So Yi Hyun, she is better here than in previous roles though I still think she was best in Cheongdamdong Alice. It’s interesting to see her here because she’s forced to be horrified all the time, whereas in other dramas she could just stand there and look pretty. There was something off-putting about her being so calm after she woke up with no memory but it adds to the mystique of the drama and her mysterious past. She also acts out her fear of ghosts in a more understated manner, which can seem disturbing at first but an overreaction to the presence of ghosts would have been too much for this drama.
Unfortunately for Kim Jae Wook I found him completely underused in this series. He spent most of his scenes looking doe-eyed and silent. I was so pissed. How could they just waste Kim Jae Wook like this?! He’s too good for this! He also didn’t have much chemistry with So Yi Hyun in their flashback scenes because he always seemed stiff around her. I also felt that Kim Seung Soo could have been a far more useful character throughout the series. But he only reappeared in the end to help Si Ohn and Gun Woo and miraculously solve their smuggling case. The last three episodes were more interesting because they had Kim Seung Soo’s prosecutorial help and Kim Jae Wook was seen in a comatose state rather than dead. I enjoyed the twist that people didn’t have to be completely dead for their spirits to seek Si Ohn. I did find that the comatose nurse’s storyline random because it came suddenly out of nowhere. We had gone so long without a real individual “ghost case” for Si Ohn and suddenly she meets one who shows her that spirits don’t have to be from completely dead bodies. The comatose nurse’s case was just a set-up for the revelation about Hyung Joon.
I was disappointed with the drama overall. I had higher hopes for the story and the actors. Stylistically the drama was great and I liked that the ghosts were scary (but not too scary) and didn’t require too much special effects.
Verdict: 5/10. Spare yourselves.