Chimera – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

The Chimera Lighter

Episode 1 of Chimera begins with an introduction to what this chimera creature actually is. With the tail of a snake, the head of a lion and the body of a goat, this Greek mythological creature is known for breathing fire. As the scene cuts, we open with a look at a stand-off in the future. A gunshot sounds as one of this trio are killed.

Cut back to August 2019 in Seoul at the Ordnance Disposal Training Ground. We open with our lead detective, Jae-Hwan (and the man who pulled the trigger in the previous scene) ready to do some training.

Agent Eugene Hathaway is there to update them all on what IEDs are. For those unaware, these are improvised explosive devices and often used in terrorist attacks. She warns that the same could happen in Korea, using a bus explosion in a controlled environment as evidence of how powerful this could be.

We then skip across to a gambler called Wan-Ki who certainly has more than a few enemies. When he returns to his car, he finds a strange lighter with a chimera pattern on it. When he ignites the flint, the entire car explodes as flames lick hungrily up the side of the vehicle.

In the wake of this, police show up and begin investigating. One of the crime scene investigators is called Joo-Seok and he notices the lighter. Picking it up, he stuffs it in his back pocket after looking in fear at it. Now, it seems like he knows what’s happening but keeps quiet for now.

Jae-Hwan is also there and realizes the scene is suspicious. With no smell of gasoline and nothing there to ignite the car (thanks to Joo-Seok stuffing the lighter in his pocket), the fire evaluation report reads that there’s no root cause. So was it really the lighter? Or was it remotely detonated?

Now, the autopsy discovers even more suspicious circumstances. Wan-Ki’s death doesn’t appear to be a suicide and the case hints toward it potentially being human combustion. There’s one other case that had something similar, which happened in America. So who better to ask than Eugene Hathaway.

Given Eugene fronted the human combustion case in the US, she notices the pictures and believes that the crime scene presents itself closer to an explosion. In order to gain a better understanding, Jae-Hwan agrees to lead her to the crime scene.

Upon seeing the remains of the car, she’s more convinced than ever that there’s something being hidden here. What’s not hidden is the killer’s motive; whoever did this wants it to be made public.

The autopsy also brings back the identity of the victim. Son Wan-Ki. While Jae-Hwan goes hunting for clues at his home and neighbouring area, he realizes he’s not alone. Both Young-Sik and Ho-Dong are after Wan-Ki, who happen to be loan collectors for Kookil Capital. Now, apparently Wan-Ki paid back three months worth of interest in one hit, thanks to gambling at a shady gambling den.

Wan-Ki was also a reporter too before his gambling days, and he just so happened to be in charge of reporting on the serial arson attack back in 1984. This was known as the Chimera Case and the car bombings look incredibly similar to the current case Jae-Hwan and the gang are dealing with.

There’s not much information but the similarity between the two cases is hard to deny. The killer’s signature is – yep you guessed it – a chimera lighter. The same lighter that Joo-Seok stole from the crime scene.

Joo-Seok speaks to the chief who encourages him to keep this to himself, shrugging off the concerns he poses. He even reminds Joo-Seok that he’s retiring soon so it’s in his best interest to keep this buried. As he walks away, the confident smirk disappears. Could the chief be hiding something too?

The brilliance of Eugene Hathaway is hard to ignore, especially as she deduces that the killer may well have watched this incident take place. In order to fill the whole car, she deduces that he must have snuck into the car and planted a gas canister for it to explode in the way that it did. But how did the killer transport it if that’s the case? Well, it may well be a truck.

Jae-Hwan looks around the scene and comes to the conclusion that the arsonist would have been watching from the nearby building, which just so happens to be on a list of those ready to be demolished. The windowpanes also seem to be tinted too, which further backs up Jae-Hwan’s deductions.

Checking the nearby unit, they find a shadowy figure leaving and a foot chase ensues. Scrambling and weaving through the alleyways, Jae-Hwan loses his target.

Meanwhile, Eugene speaks to one of the firefighters who was involved in the Chimera Case back in the day. He mentions the lighter and appears to know that this is linked to the root cause of the explosion. As she rings Jae-Hwan, he videocalls with her to show a picture of a chimera spray-painted on the wall of the apartment unit he’s convinced is the killer’s hideout. Only, this is actually a trap.

With gas canisters in the room turned on and the light fixtures flickering, it appears all of this is a big trap to make Jae-Hwan the next victim in this sinister game. Eugene pleads with him to leave but the door isn’t opening. With no color and no odor, the flammable agent is revealed to be oxygen. This explains why it was so difficult to trace.

With little other choice, Jae-Hwan jumps out the window just as the apartment explodes. He lands on Joo-Seok’s car down below and although he survives, it’s undoubtedly one heck of a fall.

Jae-Hwan is rushed into hospital but as he’s our main protagonist, he survives. In fact, he survives with a cut across his face and a broken arm. He has cracked ribs too though, to be fair.

As Jae-Hwan’s mum leaves the hospital, we cut across to that same strange man we saw at the start of the season, asking to be shot. Could this be our killer?

The Episode Review

Chimera gets off to a great start here and the parallels to Mouse will undoubtedly rumble on over the weeks. Seeing just what oxygen can do when lit like that is pretty shocking and from a killer’s perspective, ingenious.

It reminds me of another crime drama from the 90’s where the killer would use icicles to kill her victims, using hot water to get rid of the murder weapon after. It’s difficult to trace but it seems like Jae-Hwan and Eugene are more than capable of solving this Chimera Case.

The visuals and plotting are both pretty good, although personally the idea of our protagonist jumping out a four-storey high building and surviving with a few cracked ribs and a broken arm is perhaps a little farfetched. Also, why didn’t Jae-Hwan just switch off the lights?

However, this opening episode sets great foundations for a promising sign of things to come; Chimera starts off with a bang, roaring like a lion and stinging with a deadly dose of venom. This could well prove to be an unmissable crime drama to end the year with.

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Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!


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