Passing Time on a Jet Plane: Assembly and Signal

May 22 was my last post just before I took a whirlwind 4 weeks off, traveled across multiple time zones, logged over 30,000 flying KM, ate six meals a day like the Hobbits, walked until my feet ached, immersed in local cultures, and snapped countless picturesque pics, mind you, with a few selfies thrown in. But since this is not a travel blog, I will dispense with the details. And now back at home, real life is catching up; new work responsibilities have peeled away the time and energy I normally would have left in a busy day to indulge in reading, writing and blogging.  

But, one thing I’ve continued to pamper myself with is drama-watching; it remains one of my few avenues for escapism from an already heady life.

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In the days since May 22, I’ve finished a trough of dramas: Assembly, Signal, Far Away Love, Cheese in the Trap, My Daughter Seo Young and caught up with Doctors and Beautiful Mind. Gotta to admit, the finger did its fair amount of ff in some of these shows where the sub-plots or secondary characters did not interest me.

During my travels, I had trudged along full episodes of Assembly and Signal to hasten those dreary waking hours spent either in-flight or jet-lagged at hotels. Good choices, I might add, as my heart rate palpitated with every unexpected move and plot twist both shows served up, making time fly.

So, here’s a brief look at these two uniquely different but compelling kdramas.

Assembly

This one never made my personal watchlist but thanks to my twin whose recommendations almost always spot on, convinced me heartily that it is a must watch.

A story of the underdog welder turned Assemblyman. Through the eyes of Jin Sang Pil, we get a sneak peek into the workings of the Korean government. An amazing cast of characters but my favourite is the steadfast aide and ally Choi In Kyung. I have not seen Song Yoon Ah in any other dramas but what a talented actress! Wow! Just her facial expressions alone is worth the show. Yes, she is that good. Her character is an ambitious woman with aspirations to be an Assemblywoman but is betrayed and cast aside by her Sunbae. Adding salt to an already battered wound, she is “coerced” into becoming an aide to the naive and inexperienced Sang Pil, hand-picked by her Sunbae for political reasons: blue collar, uneducated, loud, simple minded and clueless.

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This show is as much about her journey as it is about Sang Pil’s transformation as she becomes his staunchest believer and supporter, sacrificing her own goals while she strategizes and coaches him the ways of the National Assembly. Together they fought and triumphed in a sea of dirty politics and won over the People and the Assembly.

A little bit off the chart, it is not the typical kind of show but if you are into political dramas or something that tingles the intellectual mind, this is a must watch.  

Signal

I had started Signal when it premiered but paused when I went on my So Ji Sub binge. It is also one of those shows that doesn’t do well having to wait around for answers to each episode’s cliff hanger. So I put it on the back burner but since I liked it enough, I downloaded all episodes on this trip and finished it while on the road. And yes, there were a few late nights, or should I say, early mornings where I kept saying to myself. Just one more! Good thing I was on vacation.

Living up to its billing, Signal is indeed very special. I wanted to watch it simply because it was directed by PD Kim Won Seok of Misaeng fame. And, he did not disappoint. This is a stellar, stellar production. A story this complicated is not something any PD can handle and he does it justice. Though it doesn’t pull at all facets of my emotional chords like Misaeng did, the puzzle pieces are so compelling it makes me care and want more. What can I say about all the leads. They are simply perfect in their roles. From the awkward but brilliant detective Jae Han, the beautiful but down to earth cold case detective Soo Hyun and the erratic profiler Hae Young, they make the show come alive.

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This show relies on a lot of flashbacks and usually the use of this literary device can be annoying but in this case, it is the glue that holds the mystery together. The story is quite complicated and can be confusing. Many times, I had to rewind to catch the little details. If you miss some of the nuances, it can throw you off and leaves you scratching your head. The fast pace serves the show well, aligning it to its suspenseful, crime thriller theme but it is not so fast pace like those blockbuster action pack movies where all you get is action and nothing else. There are times in this show that leave you with those heart rending, tear me up moments like the omelette scene, when Jae Han lost the love of his life, and when Sun Woo’s murder could not be avoided. The story is balanced in this sense. As much as we all want all the good guys to be saved by the time continuum, it walks that fine line and thus we leave with some heartaches but also with a sense of hope. Is Jae Han alive or is he not? 

The actors were all spectacular, perfectly cast in their roles and the acting was award worthy, each and every one of them.

If you love crime solving dramas, this is it! Don’t even think twice. It is unrivaled in its class.

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2 thoughts on “Passing Time on a Jet Plane: Assembly and Signal

  1. Ah, you watched ‘Assembly’! I haven’t bumped into many who have, probably because the premise isn’t one that would interest most international drama fans. I thought it was an interesting peek into the workings of the Korean government. I’ve read that the writer had worked in the assembly himself, so he actually had inside info, which showed imho. He was also part of the writing team behind ‘President’, another farely good political kdrama. Have you sen it? I was keen enought to watch it raw even though I didn’t yet understand all that much at that time. 😀 It did get subbed later on though.

    Signal was really good, wasn’t it. So far it’s the best kdrama I’ve watched this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I loved the story and enjoyed Assembly very much. I love to learn about how “things” work whether it is political, medical, legal etc. It fascinates me why people behave the way they do and make the decisions they make. That’s why I’m more into slice of life type stories rather than fantasy etc. Other than romance 😀 So I find the dynamics in Korean politics very interesting. For example, the respect and bonding between In Kyung, Do Hyun and Woong Gyu despite their political differences and “back stabbing” is mind boggling. It’s a good one for sure. Spread the word!

      Signal is pure adrenaline but one that is well thought out and executed. A bit confusing for sure and I did have to re-watch quite a bit to “get” it. The ending’s a bit open ended so I assume it leaves room for a sequel?

      Like

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