I Remember You
By: Caroline Frost · August 14, 2015
A famous profiler and a criminology teacher in the United States, Lee Hyun (Seo In-Guk) comes back to Korea to help the criminal investigation team of the Seoul Police Department. Among his new colleagues, Cha Ji-An (Jang Na-Ra). But Lee Hyun is haunted by the tragic murder of his father and the disappearance of his younger brother Lee Min, and his return could very well trigger the revelation of what truly happened that fateful night.
I think my son is a monster.
The AsianWiki page of Hello Monster shows it never managed to climb up to the top 20 ratings-wise. It's pretty funny to notice that almost each and every one of the people who commented on that page was really upset about that, but I share their opinion. Although I did start watching this show expecting a generic procedural cop show I'd no doubt drop after four episodes, I ended up getting hooked right away, to the point that I actually endured through the unbearable weekly wait between episodes. I Remember You is intense, captivating, fascinating. It's a jewel where the plot for once counts more than the discreet romance, and it's based on three pillars: Seo In-Guk's admirable performance—he's grown up so much since The King's Face!—Park Bo-Gum (Tomorrow Cantabile), and Lee Joon-Young.
Yup, you got that right. No female lead here.
While his acting was unbalanced and somewhat overdone in his precedent drama, Seo In-Guk displays incredible talent here. I wrote in my critique of The King's Face that he had a nice future ahead of him...well he was kind enough to confirm my pronostic in a mere few months. His performance as Lee Hyun is gorgeous, a flawless interpretation which reaches its peak in episodes 12 and 16, dark and moving. I also noticed with no little awe that his way of speaking had completely changed compared to The King's Face. And I ask you this: how many actors bother adapting their elocution to their show's time period?
The second male lead is Park Bo-Gum, whose pretty smile in Tomorrow Cantabile has here been replaced by a chilling gaze and blood-curdling detachment. I hadn't really payed him much attention in Tomorrow Cantabile since he was faced with Joo Won (Bridal Mask, Yong Pal) and a secondary character, but he got his revenge in Hello Monster and thoroughly subjugated me. I never knew how to take his character. Sure, I knew he was more than he appeared, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Who was he really? A lawyer? A serial killer? A lost little boy? Was he innocent? Guilty? Who was Jung Sun-Ho?
The third and last pillar of the show was Lee Joon-Young, played by singer Do Kyung-Soo (EXO) as a young man, clad in mystery, veteran manipulator watching from the shadows. He's a psychopath, a serial killer, and definitely not a good person, but he seems to feel genuine affection for the brothers whose life and relationship he ruined, and protects them in his own way, going so far as to stay up all night to watch over one of them when he takes ill. Smart, wicked and violent, he's neither a hero nor an anti-hero, and yet, it's impossible not to love this fascinating, charismatic, and mysterious character.
EXO's Do Kyung-Soo's interpretation of this perverse character was appropriately terrifying, and I'm wondering now if he couldn't be another Seo In-Guk, as this was only his third role. What will it be when he's got more experience under his belt?
I'll probably come across as a madwoman, but I also loved the relationship between young Lee Hyun and Lee Joon-Young. The killer gets attached to the boy very quickly, seeing himself in him, and feels the need to "rescue" him and confide in him.
Another thing about the two of them is that one can't help but notice the frankly scary amount of personality traits Lee Hyun seems to share with Lee Joon-Young. The more time goes by, the more uncanny the resemblance grows to be. Between their past, their personality and their stumping intellect... They're almost the same person. And there's this question at the forefront of the viewer's mind: how come Lee Hyun didn't follow in Lee Joon-Young's steps? Why did Lee Joon-Young become a murderer and not Lee Hyun?
If I haven't mentioned Jang Na-Ra (Fated to Love You) even though she's the female lead, it's because the romance is very subtle here, almost invisible. The relationship between the lead couple, to me, felt more like a sibling-bond than anything else, probably because of the plot's power and Lee Hyun's aloof personality. Lee Hyun is very smart, and completely obsessed with his past. Devoted to his younger brother since childhood, he doesn't have—or so I believe—room for anyone else than Lee Min, be it in his heart or in his head.
So yeah, sure, Jang Na-Ra's a good actress and her performance is fine, but she doesn't really draw attention. I would go as far as to call her a secondary character rather than a lead, and that's maybe the reason why I Remember You doesn't get the recognition it deserves from the general public: because, instead of focusing on a typical romance, it concentrates on an intricate, captivating plot, suspense and mystery. Rather than the relationship between Lee Hyun and Cha Ji-An, it's the unbreaking bond between Lee Hyun, Lee Min and Lee Joon-Young which lifts the show and carries it through to the end. I loved that refreshing aspect, the expertly woven tension, and the way it kept getting more and more intense as the episodes went by.
The thing is, the official synopsis reads something like "Profiler Lee Hyun meets police officer Cha Ji-An. They develop a relationship." But that's so far away from the reality, the atmosphere, the plot of the drama, that it doesn't do it justice, and will probably turn potential viewers off it when they'd have enjoyed it had they given it a try. I really wish this show had got the marketing and publicity efforts it deserved, because its ratings suffered from it and there needs to be more dramas like this one on television.
Secondary characters wise, Team Leader Kang Eun-Hyeok was the one who I think had the most impact on the series. A comical, stuttering and insecure disaster at first, idealistic, charming and optimistic, he comes to be faced with harsh truths through events which question his sense of honor and justice, as well as long-ingrained beliefs. He's probably the character with the most growth in the show.
While the first six episodes feel somewhat like a procedural, Hello Monster quickly strays from that path to venture into the more dangerous waters of a complicated game involving three players, all of them good-looking, dead smart, and more or less psychopatic on top of that. Each of them plays with the others like a cat with its mouse, with a background music that will send shivers down your spine, and the scenes when they're actually all together are pure ambrosia. The plot really takes off in episodes 8-9, to the point I couldn't tear my eyes off the screen as Lee Hyun's past reemerged and he became a willing player, making the best use of his genius IQ. His opponents, however, are no less formidable, and every single minute they spend in a battle of wits is a true delight.
The plot twists can't be neglected either. While, two episodes from the end, I thought I knew what to expect, the script popped something out I'd never even thought about, which left me gaping stupidly at my laptop. It's not every day a show manages to surprise me this way, but I Remember You did, and I tip my hat to it, because it made me laugh out loud, I was so happy.
You probably know the verdict by now: a must-watch!
Title: I Remember You
Country: South Korea
Cast: Seo In-Guk, Jang Na-Ra, Park Bo-Gum, Do Kyung-Soo
Aired: 06/22/2015 to 08/11/2015
Number of Episodes: 16
Genres: Procedural, Thriller, Mystery, Romance.