Episode 1 of Dr. Brain begins in Seoul, 1990. A small child sits alone in a closet, clicking a torch on and off. This child happens to be Sewon, an asocial who’s obsessed with picking apart different toys and seeing how they work. Unfortunately, this also includes picking apart the fire extinguisher and playing with the foam, which upsets the other kids.
It also upsets Sewon’s teacher too, who brings his mum in, imploring her to get the boy some professional help.
Time passes and Sewon’s cognitive skills improve drastically off the back of help. However, his social skills leave a lot to be desired. The doctor there suggests she get him tested for autism, but that’s going to set them back 1 million won. The subtitles say it’s $1000 dollars equivalent, but it’s actually closer to about $850.
Anyway, outside on the street she looks at her son lovingly… as the white truck of death suddenly ploughs into the side of her, killing the woman instantly.
Sewon doesn’t even register an emotional response, something that’s linked back to his abnormal brain scans. However, this abnormality also gives him incredible memory skills, including a recollection of the license plate and specific details of the accident itself, including what his mum said to him before she passed away (a whispered utterance of “Sewon.”)
Following this incident, we fast forward again through time to the present day. Sewon remains fascinated by anything to do with brains and studying how humanity has evolved over time. We first see him at a conference, showing just how smart he is by easily answering the questions surrounding brainwaves and hacking brains. His field of research is closely aligned to that of breakthrough tech linked to telepathy.
After his lecture, he’s approached by Ji-Woo Hong, a reporter for Science Magazine. She enjoyed his lecture and asks him about his motivation for research. He’s pretty standoffish about the whole affair, eventually skipping out and heading back to the lab without really divulging anything about his past.
Sewon’s main research has progressed to physical experiments, and part of that includes moving memories from one test subject to the next. In this instance though, it’s between two different rats. Unfortunately, it fails. Sewon’s lack of empathy means he’s cold and distant with the other members of his team so he heads out alone while the others discuss how strange and different he is.
Now, it’s here we learn Sewon had a wife (Jae-Yi) and son (Da-Yoon) in the past. They also had a cat called Mika too, which Sewon’s wife is convinced helps the boy with his social skills. Unfortunately the unthinkable occurs and Da-Yoon dies in a fire. Sewon’s wife spirals, unwilling to accept that he’s dead. This also has the knock-on effect of seeing her health deteriorate drastically. She ends up comatose, as we find out later on in the episode.
Still, Sewon is undeterred and continues to focus on his research. Interestingly, after the death of one of the rats, the brain sync seems to only be successful if the subject in question is deceased. Sewon immediately wants to press ahead with clinical trials but it’s risky and his superiors refuse to entertain this idea until solid proof is gained. So naturally, Sewon takes matters into his own hands.
With Dr Namil Hong by his side, Sewon breaks into the morgue and uses a corpse. Using the brain sync equipment, Sewon experiences a pretty frightening image of a bloodied rock being smacked down; a vision linked to the deceased. Sewon survives, thankfully, as Hong brings him back from the brink.
Back home, Sewon is approached by a man called Kang-Mu Lee, who happens to be a private detective. He’s actually there on behalf of a guy called Jun-Ki Lim who wants to know what’s happened to Sewon’s wife. Sewon is in no mood to talk though and tells him to leave, pointing out that he’s on private property. When he leaves though, Sewon clutches his head as strange visions begin bleeding through, distorting what’s real and what’s not.
In the morning, Lieutenant Jiun Choi from the ST Investigative Unit shows up. She too want to discuss what happened to Jae-Yi. They also ask about Jun-Ki too, whom we soon learn actually died several days before. He’s at the morgue though, which gets Sewon thinking. He heads back there alone and enacts his brain sync again – this time to Jun-Ki.
The memories are difficult to decipher and Sewon can’t remember any of the memories either, recording all of this after on his Dictaphone. Interestingly, Sewon invites the others from work out for food… but only Dr Hong bites. He’s different now though, more sociable and even ordering drinks.
Sewon soon picks up on this and realizes, later than evening, that he needs to try and distinguish the difference between himself and others. He writes his likes and dislikes up on the whiteboard, determined not to let himself get confused by what he’s experiencing. The thing is, that’s easier said than done given he’s hallucinating frightening visions of the deceased. He’s also seemingly feeling emotion for the first time too.
According to Sewon, the memories of the dead are creating illusions for him, but he needs to strip all of that away and look for the truth. And just like that, a small child appears and tells Sewon that Da-Yoon – his son – is still alive. But is he really? Or is this all part of the illusions he’s been plagued with?
Sewon head down to the basement where he finds Jae-Yi, who happens to be hooked up to machines and presumably comatose. Now, given we learned earlier in the episode that this brain sync doesn’t work for the living (and Jae-Yi is certainly not dead), Sewon hooks the machine up and prepares to dive in.
The Episode Review
Well then, that was certainly interesting but also not without its problems. Dr. Brain feels like a mix of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mouse and Solaris. While there’s nothing wrong with that in itself, the ending to this first episode does pose some problems, not to mention serious jumps in logic .
Now, obviously with sci-fi you do need to suspend your disbelief a little and the idea of extracting memories from the deceased, despite no brain activity being recorded with them, is a bit of a stretch. However, the show actually breaks its own internal logic after we learn that the brain sync doesn’t work for anyone who’s still alive… so how is it going to work with Jae-Yi?
Despite that, Dr. Brain does an okay job introducing everything, including the trademark cliché of a white truck ploughing into Sewon’s mum as a child. It’s certainly a shocking moment and the various hallucinations and visions that follow are beautifully paced and add an eerie undertone to this drama.
It’s still early days and there’s plenty of time for this to change of course, but right now Dr. Brain looks like an intriguing but flawed sci-fi horror. Let’s just hope the writing tightens up a little for the remainder of the show!
|Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!|