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REVIEW: Awaken Episode 1

Awaken Episode 1 Mini Review
Premiered November 30th on tvN & Viki

Genre: Suspense-Thriller-Romance

Starring: Namgoong Min, Lee Chung-ah, and Kim Seol-hyun

Plot: Three very different detectives named Do Jung-woo (Namgoong Min), Jamie Layton (Lee Chung-ah), and Gong Hye-won (Kim Seol-hyun) team up to solve a series of mysteries all linked to a case that took place in a small village twenty-eight years ago.

I previously crowned Awaken as one of my most anticipated dramas for the second half of 2020, and I must say it doesn’t disappoint. Everything from the eerie opening to the hunt for the serial killer is well done. I also love all the action and the injection of humor. It makes the drama feel lighter amidst the death and murder.

From here on out, I’ll be doing mini reviews for each episode, complete with something I’ve dubbed “Three Yeses and a No”. The three “yeses” will be three things I like about the episode (or the drama overall) and the “no” will be something I don’t. The “no” could also be a teensy weensy criticism or something I feel could’ve been improved.

If the episode is so phenomenal I can’t think of a “no”, the review will just be all “yeses”.

As usual, I encourage you guys to list your own “yeses” and “noes” in the comments.

Yes to that creepy intro

The orange flames, people descending into madness as (what I assume) is a young Do Jung-woo makes his way through it all. Goosebumps. I got goosebumps everywhere. This is clearly the mysterious case that took place twenty-eight years ago, and it’s horrifying. It kind of reminds me of a M. Night Shyamalan movie called the Happening mixed with Bird Box. (I didn’t see either, because I’m a wimp).

I can’t wait to see why everyone’s going crazy. I just hope I don’t get blindsided with horror. I probably won’t be able to find the night light I used as a kid.

Yes to the predicted murders

Whoever’s tipping off reporter Lee Ji-wook about the murders (that look like suicides) is bold. Of course, Lee Ji-wook could be committing the murders so he has something to report, but that seems too obvious.

It’s hard for crime dramas to stand apart these days, but the victims killing themselves with an eerie smile on their faces is something new. I’m interested in seeing how the murderer makes it happen, and how it links to the case from twenty-eight years ago.

Awaken Episode 1 Mini Review

Yes to Do Jung-woo’s character

I love him already! Sorry, but the unconventional detective archetype is my favorite. Especially since these quirky, seemingly irresponsible detectives usually have tragic backstories, and the goofiness is to mask the pain.

So far we’ve seen Jung-woo:

  • Shoot at a criminal holding a hostage
  • Ask a random kid on the street for money (I laughed so hard!)
  • Steal his co-worker’s credit card and give it to a teen witness just so they would give him information (That kid probably had a nice little shopping spree)

I’ve noticed Jung-woo has impeccable aim as well. He takes that shot at the criminal, because he knows he can hit the sign above the criminal and the hostage, so that it falls on just the criminal. He also sinks one of the lollipops he loves so much into a trashcan from across the street. So yeah, Jung-woo has a gift and I’m sure it’ll be expounded upon soon.

No to the same old crime team dynamics

Whereas I’m a fan of the quirky detective archetype, I’d love to see a change with how the crime units or teams are presented to us. In every crime K-drama that focuses on a team, I feel like that team is always the same set of characters. The team leader is always either stoic or quirky, the one female detective is always sensible (sometimes we’re lucky and get two female detectives on the same team), and there’s always a young newbie there for eye candy. To round out the team, there’s usually a jaded veteran who’s been on the force for decades.

I end up falling in love with these teams anyway, but it would’ve been cool to see a different dynamic with Awaken.

With that said, I really enjoyed the first episode. It’s got a unique mystery, a likable lead, and the possibility of getting even better.

More Awaken Posts

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  1. December 1, 2020 / 1:58 pm

    YES to that creepy opening! It was so scary!

    • Adri
      December 1, 2020 / 3:38 pm

      I rushed to double check the genre while I was watching. I was like…is this horror? >.> Is that little boy human? What’s happening? LOL.

      • December 3, 2020 / 7:39 am

        I was thinking the same thing! Does he has super powers? What is going on 😂.

    • WPB
      December 3, 2020 / 4:16 pm

      I didn’t expect something creepy like that to open the series. It reminded me “Village of the Damned (1995)”. I don’t know if our main character is among one of those kids though.

      As on your comments about the “standard” team dynamics, on top of the stereotypes you mentioned, there is also the standard “incompetent” superior who has to be there to create road block or in this case, even worse, try to be a funny character. I hope it will work for me because I do like that actor.

      One thing for sure though, tvN has put in a lot of efforts to make this series presentable. The overhead scene showing the police chasing the trucks was impressive. They also brought in big group of standing actors in other scenes, such as the pool party scene, etc. The video quality is very good, too.

      With Tale of the Nine-Tailed coming to an end, I am watching Awaken and Kairos.

      • Adri
        December 3, 2020 / 9:13 pm

        The creepiness caught me off guard as well. I wasn’t expecting it, but like you said, you can tell tVN is putting a lot into the drama’s special effects and overall aesthetics. They must’ve had a good budget set aside.

        You’re right about the “incompetent superior”! I’m glad you pointed that out. I hope he’ll work for me too, because I like the actor as well.

        Kairos is on my list of things to watch. Is it good?

        • WPB
          December 4, 2020 / 2:13 pm

          If you like story twist, you would love Kairos. There are so many twists that your head will spin. As soon as you thought you got it all figure out, something happens and you wonder if you have guessed it all wrong.
          Besides the unpredictability of the story, the show is led by two great actors. Lee Se-Young have had many great shows on her resume but her work earlier this year didn’t play to her strength. On the other hand, she really shines in this one.

          • Adri
            December 6, 2020 / 5:18 pm

            I loooove twists, and dramas that make me question myself, so I’ll definitely check it out. I’ve also been a Shin Sung-rok fan for a long time. I’ve heard great things about Lee Se-young too!

      • December 5, 2020 / 12:07 pm

        Oh, it is kind of like Village of the Damned!!!!That takes me way back.

  2. WPB
    December 9, 2020 / 2:35 pm

    The most enjoyable scene happens to be the one when JW, HW and SP made a point of “distraction” to JH, and played this card game.
    I want to know if you got tricked when you watched it. I did, not just the table cloth but HW’s jacket as well. After that, the campus, campus, campus, campus, trick was just icing on the cake. 🙂

    • Adri
      December 9, 2020 / 4:10 pm

      I definitely got tricked. My mind was blown. In episode two, Jung-woo and Jamie taught me a new word: floccinaucinihilipilification.

      I love all the things this drama’s teaching me.

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