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A Puzzle from Prison — “Missing Noir M”, First (Case) Impression

This is way long overdue. At the moment, the series is going into its 7th episode next week. Oh, well… This is just to put it out there, and add to the experiment on wordpress theming and what-not.

Missing Noir M

Most of the time, I don’t get the fascination of having the label “genius” in shows like these. CSI replaces it with forensic science and technology and makes me suffer with boring expositions. But shows like BBC’s “Sherlock” bring back the charm: pursuing an alternate angle, quickly getting the right conclusion or deduction before the science and technology give the validation, or getting wrong conclusion, jumping the gun, and suffering the consequences. Will Missing Noir M (실종느와르 M) justify the reputation it places on the “genius” detective? Or simply to invoke the almost omniscient eyes to explain everything to us, the dimwitted audience? I would like to see how this one justifies the inclusion of a “genius”.

A Puzzle from Prison (Episode 1 & 2)

A police checks on what seems to be a huge abandoned warehouse. Inside, there is an installation, four posts covered in curtains, in which a body of a man is lying on a bed-like stand, attached to a complicated IV drip system. The police gets closer to inspect further then the man’s eyes open. It turns out the lying man is still barely alive although he eventually dies in the ambulance. The victim is a professor in a university who has been reported missing.

Meanwhile in a prison, a death-sentenced inmate prepares a letter to be sent to a genius ex-FBI Korean agent who is coming back to Korea. The letter contains a picture of elaborate scene in which the body of the man is found. This immediately attracts the Director of Korean “FBI”, Park Jeong-Do (Kim Kyu-Cheol). The inmate, Lee Jeong-Soo (Kang Ha-Neul), is convicted for slaughtering his parents and suspected to have hidden his younger sister, dead or alive. He has been silent about it. The Director contacts Gil Soo-Hyeon (Kim Kang-Woo) and asks him to help out to solve the case and get Lee to tell them his sister’s whereabout.

  • The First Meeting

  • Lee Jeong-Soo

  • Gil Soo-Hyeon

  • “Hello, Partner!”

  • Oh Dae-Yeong

“I’ve prepared a game and the rule is simple, ” Lee says when Gil meets him in prison. He gives Gil a paper with riddle puzzle to be solved and a drawing. “If you find whom I killed, I will tell you where I hid the body.”

With hints of the victim possibly still alive, the search is started. Gil asks for reinforcement and is assigned with a veteran detective, Oh Dae-Yeong (Park Hee-Soon), a computer-savvy police woman Jin Seo-Joon (Jo Bo-Ah), and the help of forensic doctor Kang Joo-Yeong (Park So-Hyeon). They manage to identify the next victim, a CEO of a tyre company. As promised, Lee gives Gill the address of the next victim.

However, a misdirection prevents them from recovering the victim alive. When confronted about his misdirecting, Lee brushes it aside and tells Gil of another game with different rules and another deadline. He hands over a piece of paper containing numbers. “Find and bring this person to me within 24 hours.”

The number points to Kang Soo-Yeong, a woman who was last seen 15 years ago at a rural village in Seo-Cheon county. Furthermore, Doctor Kang finds paper wrapped in aluminium foil inside each victim’s body, one containing numbers, the other a phrase, “history repeats itself”. As Lee refuses to cooporate further before the woman is found and brought to him, the team try to figure out the next victim through the remaining riddle puzzle. The trail leads to a priest who also has been missing. The priest has committed suicide. In his troat, another piece of paper with numbers is found.

  • The ominous picture

  • A girl in captive

The team finally find connection between the missing woman and the victims. Kang Soo-Yeong’s younger-self is spotted with the victims’s younger selves in a picture hanging outside a shop across a museum at the village. Kang Soo-Yeong’s remnants were found seven years ago and classified as unidentified body without family or friends. With this information, Gil brings the woman’s remnants to Lee.

Now that Kang Soo-Yeong has been found, Lee poses the real game. “Find her murderer.”

Gil refuses to play, saying there is no one to die anymore since everyone in the picture is dead. Lee then gives him a drawing, a girl on a chair, attached to complicated IV drip similar to the first victim, “Is there really no one left to die?” Lee dangles his sister as reward while Gil is surprised over the possibility that Lee’s sister is alive.

  • What’s left of a body

  • An immaculate plan

  • The writing on the wall

The team begins looking into the history of Kang Soo-Yeong and the victims. A review on her autopsy shows a brutal torture and attempts to remove the possibility of identification. This suggests a work of a professional who knows body identification processes.

Further exploration on the picture leads to a series of pictures that was taken on one day in Winter 1989 which reveals another boy, now a famous actor. Since he is the last person to survive, he is suspected as the murderer or an accomplice to the murders. However, he is later found dead.

The investigation then uncovers a harrowing tale of an unfortunate woman and her family, a battle between someone who wants her life erased and forgotten and someone who wants her life remembered and her death avenged, how Lee Jeong-Soo is connected to all of these, and whether they will manage to find his sister alive.

First (Case) Impression

Since this is the first case, introduction to main characters is necessary. The genius Gil Soo Hyeon is presented as a thoughtful and quiet person, almost normal compared to his reputation, with hints of higher level of observation and a level headedness when under pressure. Oh Dae Yeong is the world weary street smart detective with a sharp mind, offering different points of view to the table, not someone to be constantly in awe with the “genius” one. The advantage of this partnership in this first case is not fully shown but the potential is there. I think it’s because Kim Kang Woo and Park Hee Soon are veteran actors, without character’s major personal crisis, both can give effective responses without much drama.

A well-written story and a good storytelling would still work without the ‘genius‘ labeling, and I’d say that is apparent with this first case. Another pull is a worthy opponent and complex case without being overly complicated or convoluted. I just regret that the show had to resort to twisted and gruesome crime to keep the interest.

In the first two-thirds, the show managed to tread the fine line of letting the audience feel smart by solving the case along while sill giving surprises, without being too complicated and losing common sense. The last part fell into almost forced plot progression — infos are coming just in the nix of time, or a new character is suddenly present giving a comment that turns out to be important — that I sighed in resignation.

But so far, based on the first case, “Missing Noir M” is off to a decent start. I think I am going to like watching it.


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