The Missing Child
Episode 1 of Kairos begins with a suitably intriguing opener to this thrilling Korean drama. Rain lashes down as a group of construction workers begin leaving their posts. Only, suddenly the foundations begin cracking and the walls tremble. In the bathroom, Seo-Jin breathes heavily as everything falls around him.
Eventually he composes himself – given all of this was just an illusion presumably – and he begins walking around the construction site. Clearly, he’s not happy with the delayed work thanks to the rain. He organizes the troops and begins surveying the various buildings.
While he does, a board meeting gets underway as the financial statement reports are looked over. Seo-Jin arrives fashionably late but immediately makes a big splash, managing to stand out for all the right reasons. His colleagues however are not happy… including Director Park whom Seo-Jin questions over his ties with Turkey.
Seo-Jin returns home after a busy day and greets his daughter Da-Bin, who guides him into her room. There, we’re introduced to his wife Hyun-Chae who happens to be a violinist. Da-Bin takes a tumble in the morning but thankfully Hyun-Chae is there to help patch her up, complete with a cute pink sticker.
A charity event starts and Da-Bin arrives with her babysitter Hye-Kyeong. Hyun-Chae is performing there and Da-Bin has tagged along to see her Mother live. Only, the young girl wanders off to pick up some sweet treats but unfortunately smashes a glass on the way.
Seo Jin is not happy and clutches his daughter by the hand, leading her outside where he scolds her about smashing the glass.
Eventually Da-Bin gets to see Hyun-Chae play but midway through, wanders off on her own to use the toilet. When Hye-Kyeong notices she’s gone, the woman races off to try and find her. It’s no good – Da-Bin has disappeared. When Seo-Jin finds out, he’s consumed with panic and races off to try and find her.
It’s every parents’ worst nightmare and the pair race to the police station in a bid to learn more. Seo-Jin has enough and pulls the chief outside to question exactly what’s happening after sensing a lack of urgency from the staff.
He shouts at the detective, wondering just what they’re doing and why they’re not moving faster to find Da-Bin. Although more people will be dispatched to the case, it’s not good enough for Seo-Jin who curses the heavens.
Meanwhile, we’re introduced to Han Ae-Ri who works part time at a convenience store. After helping with a delivery, she’s bemused by the arrival of a small child clutching a teddy bear. Only this small child happens to be Da-Bin, who asks for ice-cream. When she fails to find any, she happily skips away from the shop.
Ae-Ri is distracted by a call regarding her Mother who’s finally found a heart donor. She thanks her friend Geon-Wook and hurries up to the University hospital. Only, things take a turn for the worst when a code blue sees her Mother rushed into surgery. Although the woman pulls through, it also means that her transplant will have to wait longer until she’s back to full health.
After leaving a voicemail for her Father, Ae-Ri realizes she’s misplaced her own phone and rushes outside with her Mother’s instead. Phoning it on repeat, she tries retracing her steps. For some reason Seo-Jin has her phone back at his place.
Placed on top of a stack of missing person posters, he gets out the shower and calls the number back, unfortunately getting through to a voicemail.
The next day, Seo-Jin receives a call from someone claiming his daughter is safe. Whoever it is promises to be in touch shortly. This causes the police to work harder to try and track down exactly who contacted Seo-Jin; a tangible clue to go on is enough for the police to clutch tightly to this thin sliver of hope.
The police apprehend known child traffickers and wire up Seo-Jin’s house ready for a possible future call.
The date is August 8th 2020 and Ae-Ri heads out with Jeon-Woo and Soo-Jung. There, she notices a call from “My Daughter” which appears to be Ae-Ri’s phone. Only, when she rings it back she gets through to Seo-Jin’s who claims she’s got the wrong number.
The next number however, most certainly is not. Whoever has taken Da-Bin rings and both parents plead for her to return home. After listening to this, whoever the person is agrees to bring Da-Bin back tomorrow.
The police turn their attention to Hye-Kyeong but don’t seem to get anywhere, her alibi is tight for now. Instead, their attention turns to Seo-Jin’s workplace and his fellow colleagues, Taek-Gyu and Do-Kyun. Both are questioned over whether they know anyone with a grudge against Seo-Jin.
Back home, the entire group are distracted by a knock at the door. A motorcyclist leaves a package and races off. The police follow in hot pursuit while Seo-Jin’s earlier message gets through to Ae-Ri.
Only, she obviously recognizes the child from her shop and texts, confirming as much. Printing out the missing person flyers, she begins putting these up around town too.
Back with Seo-Jin, he sits with the other detectives as they tentatively open the package. Inside is the girl’s severed finger. The plaster is the same as Da-Bin’s and both parents are beside themselves with grief. The DNA results come back from the finger confirming it’s a match too.
This causes Hyun-Chae to be admitted to hospital, where she eventually leaves and heads up to a bridge. She leaves a voicemail for Seo-Jin, telling him she can’t live without Da-Bin. As we cut to her coat floating in the wind, it appears that she’s jumped.
Overcome with grief, Seo-Jin starts sobbing when he heads to the bridge but finds a text on his phone from Ae-Ri. She’s confirmed to have seen Da-Bin. Ringing the number, Ae-Ri picks up and asks to meet. Only, as we suddenly see a prison bus behind him passes carrying Ae-Ri as a passenger; a murderous look plasters across her face.
The Episode Review
Cor what a plot twist at the end! I must admit, going into these Korean dramas completely blind is the best way of experiencing the story unfolding. Here, there’s a great dose of mystery and tension clinging to this, helped by seeing the police out in force and helping with the investigation.
The plotting is good too and although it borrows some concepts from Tunnel and Signal, there’s enough originality here to hint that this will go in a wholly new direction completely. Then again, we’ve been burned before with shows starting strongly and petering out toward the end (looking at you, The Game: Toward Zero)
On top of that, there’s some lovely camera work here with the one-shot take of Seo Jin and Hyun-Chae trying to find their daughter a particular highlight. That entire 2 minute segment featured some really impressive direction, with Hyun-Chae coming and going in the frame.
That’s to say nothing of the sound either which is excellent, using a lot of unsettling instrumentals to build up the tension.
I hope this one doesn’t get lost in the mid-week shuffle of Korean dramas as this could prove to be the big dark horse of 2020.