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The Item
아이템
MBC (2019) 32 Episodes
Supernatural Mystery, Horror, Crime
Grade: A
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
(Warning: Spoilers)


A gripping supernatural tale, similar to a classic Hitchcock film mystery in execution, but based on a Korean webtoon, The Item (2019) K-drama never left me bored for one minute. I couldn't wait till the next episodes arrived, and I kept thinking about where the drama writer, Jung Yi Do (Save Me), would take this macabre tale week by week. Oh, I was majorly hooked! Because most K-dramas are on during the family hour on their television schedules we rarely see dramas that could be called horror tales, but this one bucked that trend, big time.


Since I never read the webtoon I had no idea how faithful the drama was to that story; all I knew was that I found this drama quite hypnotic. While I had dropped Save Me after the first episode, not taken at all by the story of a cult church hurting humble families, I seemed to have no qualms about watching The Item, even though the two main Satanic characters in both dramas were completely obsessed by the evil within themselves. Maybe the difference was that I am fonder of watching the actor who played the evil one in The Item, Kim Kang Woo (Story Of A Man, Missing Noir M). He always gives fascinating performances, whether playing a good guy or a bad guy, or a mix in-between.

 

Also, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the performance of the official leading man, Joo Ji Hoon (Mask). This was the first performance of his that I felt wasn't usurped by a more famous leading lady's flamboyant persona; here he was able to play his own person, his own man, without any sappy romantic entanglements to weigh him down. In fact I thought the greatest personal chemistry he had with a fellow cast member in The Item came with the second female lead, played by delightful Kim Yoo Ri (unforgettable as the second female lead in Master's Sun). It wasn't even overtly romantic, but you could see the sparks there, on a different level. I would be thrilled if they paired these two talented thespians up in a romantic comedy drama in future. There's no denying screen chemistry when you see it! Sometimes Westerners seem to notice these things better than the Koreans themselves!



Onstage or Off: Real Chemistry is Undeniable!

The Story:

Handsome detective Kang Gon (Joo Ji Hoon) moves to a new apartment complex looking for a new start, with his young, mute niece Kang Da In (Shin Rin Ah, Return), after she had been traumatized by the death of her only living parent, her father, his brother (delightful Lee Seung Joon from Descendants of the Sun and Hyde Jekyll and I, Cameo) in an apparent car accident (later to be revealed as a murder). Living in the same building is a pretty woman named Shin So Young (Jin Se Yeon, Bridal Mask, Doctor Stranger), a talented police profiler, whom Kang Gon had seen in a strange dream falling from the top of a skyscraper!

As it turns out, her father Shin Koo Cheol (veteran actor Lee Dae Yeon, Lawless Lawyer), works in the same department as he does, so right away there is a familiarity there (also helped by the fact that early on Kang Gon saves So Young's life when a pot falls mysteriously from an apartment window and he pushes her out of the way of its path). Another strange dream has been afflicting Kang Gon, in which he saves a large group of people involved in an out of control train that won't stop. In the dream a beaded bracelet he is wearing glows and gives him a supernatural power to stop the train from crashing into people waiting at a station. He wonders if this is just a dream, or a premonition of an event to happen in the future.



Soon enough, any peace and quiet in new surroundings that Kang Gon had hoped for, abruptly disappears. Satanic forces seem to be at work to destroy both him and his niece, and So Young as well, perhaps connected with a tragedy from over a decade earlier, where an amusement park tower had caught fire and many people had been killed. So Young had lost her mother in the tragedy, and Kang Gon's father had been falsely accused of being involved in starting it.



The real culprits come from the chaebol world of rich businessmen, who all wanted to protect their hides from the legal ramifications of the fire. The paid off judge finds them all not guilty of negligence which caused the fire (for instance, no sprinklers were installed to put out fires but this judge doesn't seem to find fault with that! money talks!).



The ridiculous verdict enrages the Roman Catholic priest who is a personal friend of police profiler So Young and her Dad, named Koo Dong Young (Park Won Sang, Shark, W), because many children from the Catholic school had been killed in the flames. Unknown to people for quite some time the deranged priest has been quietly taking out the rich businessmen, murdering them in various grisly ways. The police are completely stymied about the killings because there are no incriminating evidences left behind as each man is murdered. There is a creepy supernatural reason for that, which we are to find out as the drama progresses.

 

In control of all of them in various ways is the biggest Satanic force of all, the filthy rich chaebol Jo Se Hwang (Kim Kang Woo), who had actually set the fire in the tower with a cigarette lighter. He is filled with mystery: as a child he had been cruelly treated by an evil father, watched his mother commit suicide when he was ten years old, and he had never received therapy for any of it, creating a monster on the inside who takes his secret jollies out of hurting others and destroying their lives.

His main goal in life, besides getting rid of his enemies, is to find 12 items left behind by people who had died in the tower fire years earlier, since afterward these items had started to possess strange supernatural powers, like causing people to disappear, or to change from one identity to another, to lose total control of their faculties, or to save people at risk of death, etc. Their power is something this evil, tormented man craves.



One of these items is a bracelet that has made the rounds of several owners, who all become obsessed with it, and it one day falls into the innocent hands of little Da In. From that moment on Se Hwang is out to kill the child and her uncle, to get the bracelet from them. At one point Se Hwang seems to succeed in killing Da In, but her soul and spirit become trapped in an alternate universe. However, she is able to communicate to her uncle that she is still alive, by playing her melodica instrument, which she had used previously to communicate with him since she is mute. Each note stands for a different word, and he can decipher that she is okay. Strangely enough, in this alternate world Da In can finally speak. If she is ever rescued will her voice still be restored, or will she lose it again once on the other side?



Don't You Just Love A Strong Woman In K-Dramas? :)

In order to save his niece Da In from this horrible alternate universe, Kang Gon works with a diverse team: supportive criminal profiler So Young, her cop father Koo Cheol, a district attorney named Han Yoo Nah (Kim Yoo Ri) who has been watching the evil Se Hwang cautiously for years, a funny prisoner named Bang Hak Jae (Kim Min Kyo), and a quiet contemplative man named Ha Seung Mok (Hwang Dong Joo).

The main question of the drama then becomes the age old question: will good prevail over evil by the end? The conclusion has something to do with the title of the drama. Since we know it's called The Item, but there seem to be 12 items, why isn't the show called The Items, instead of The Item (single)? That's what we will discover by this clever ending. :)

If you love a compelling mystery tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat, you'll find few K-dramas which will engage you like this one. Enjoy!


 
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