While OCN might be the current king of the crime in Korean drama, crime as a topic, premise and even genre for shows is nothing new for the industry. Series with crime as their genre or an integral part of them might not appear often, but attempts have been made with various results. "Sign" is a big attempt at pure crime and achieves some new things, but its problems and lack of a solid main plot ultimately fail it.
When a popular idol is murdered, coroners Yoon Ji-hoon (Park Shin-yang) and Lee Myeong-han (Jun Kwang-ryul) clash. Ji-hoon believes the truth is all that matters, but Myeong-han is hired to conceal the true culprit. With the help of rookie forensic scientist Ko Da-kyeong (Kim Ah-joong), Ji-hoon tries to reveal the truth. A year after their failed attempt, the two reunite as boss and employee, taking on a variety of new cases and hoping to solve the mystery of that murder they met through and expose the true culprit of it to the world.
"Sign" is a series that does many things right. For one, it offers an antagonist who is not clean-cut villain. Now, the things Myeong-han does are horrible, but the series makes it an ongoing question whether he does them for personal gain or because he genuinely cares for the success of his service. This gives viewers some interesting exploration of and confrontations about morality, truth and power that are mostly just used for melodrama in other series, but are rarely explored.
Despite featuring mild romance, the drama mostly avoids focusing on that too much and it uses its female characters for the work at hand instead, making this another pleasant change in form. There is drama here and there are strong emotions, but never something placed above the crime and power game parts. The work does spend a lot of time with its four leads and the antagonist, but their struggles and pain are related to the hard field they are in, allowing the series to both stay on topic and offer melodrama.
Things are sadly not praise-worthy throughout. One of the major ways in which the series fails its potential is its attempt to be both a procedural and juggle a main plot, but not at the same time. The main crime is introduced and mostly ignored throughout and this leads to contrivances, such as characters related to it being related to the other and overall unrelated crimes tackled. The work is thus forced to find silly ways of bringing viewers back to its main case.
This culminates in an incredibly half-baked ending and some unnecessary events in it, which just end the whole thing in disappointment. This major issue aside, the series also suffers from quite a boring crime solving part. Despite some exciting moments and its interesting premise, it progresses quite tediously and the uninspired directing does not help the writing much. So a work which could have been exciting and which does have enough good things to show for ends up a chore to watch.
"Sign" is not the first or last drama to leave the constraints of the medium and much like many other attempts, it is a case of good things struggling in messy and confused execution. Those are often what manages to cheapen works with potential to be sleek and thrilling. In the case of "Sign", it comes down to what one expects of a crime series and how willing they are to focus on the successes hidden in its issues. They are there, but might require some patience to be seen.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Directed by Jang Hang-jun, Kim Hyeong-sik, Kim Yeong-min-I, written by Jang Hang-jun, Kim Eun-hee-I and featuring Park Shin-yang, Kim Ah-joong, Jun Kwang-ryul, Uhm Ji-won, Jung Gyu-woon, Song Jae-ho,...
Available on DVD from YESASIA
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Sign""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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