Episode 1 of L.U.C.A.: The Beginning starts with a mysterious figure cradling a baby. Hurrying through the eerily green hallways, numerous suited men chase after him. This man awoke with no memories, unsure of who he is and repeats the mantra “You are not a monster” as he drops a baby down into the depths of this building.
As he does, the child suddenly sprouts bolts of lightning; a cocoon of energy that transforms this child into a young man. Chaos is left in his wake, as a badly burned man called Yi-Won crawls toward him.
While our lightning child (who we find out is actually called Ji-O) escapes, the burned man is brought to a scientist called Ryu Joong-Kwon. They’re inside Human Tech, and as screams pierce the air he injects the man with a syringe.
Ji-O patches himself up alone, looking in his wallet at numerous different burned and charred memories. Flashes of the past start to come back though, as these scenes mirror the start of Bourne Identity. Who is Ji-O? Where has he come from? And why are these men after him?
We then jump 1 year later. Choi Jin-Hwan arrives with his fellow officers to check out a construction site. With the excavator stopped, he meets Goo-Reum who happens to be from the Juan Metropolitan branch. A random bystander arrives and immediately contaminates the crime scene, eventually sending Goo-Reum back to the Forensic Service, having taken what she needed.
She speaks to her Professor with the dental records, admitting that she’s trying to find whether the body is Kang Yong-Su but refuses to divulge exactly why she wants to know. Well, it’s not an exact match but the professor is pretty sure it’s the same man.
On the way out, she runs into Jin-Hwan in the elevator. It turns out Jin-Hwan has done his research and confronts Goo-Eun, apparently she’s not even part of the Major Crime Unit anymore. However, she refuses to engage with the men and tells them to cut out the belly fat before she goes.
It turns out she’s investigating the death of her parents, looking closely at whoever is aligned to try and find some crucial leads. At work the next day, Goo-Reum tries to keep a low profile, but she’s eventually called out as the newbie of the team. Jin-Hwan is sure they can reconcile their differences though, as Goo-Reum learns a valuable lesson, listening to her Captain as he encourages her to drink… and then berates her for drinking while she’s on duty.
Meanwhile, our lightning child Ji-O works as a delivery driver for Dagyeong Resources, keeping a low profile for the time being. He questions the natural order of things, eventually being called cold and heartless by his colleague Man-Sik. Ji-O is eventually told to clean up the truck. After work, Ji-O eats scraps while thinking over his past, wondering quite what he’s missing from his memory.
Deputy Chief Kim arrives at a strange cult-like building, where a woman dressed in white (Hwang Jung-A) talks about sacrifices. For now, the true nature of what’s happening is kept hidden from us but it’s clear that this is going to have a big part of the future.
Ji-O arrives with another shipment, dropping off frozen meat at Human Tech. Ji-O senses something up, smelling a foul stench. For now, he drives away but as he does he notices Goo-Reum arriving. As Goo-Reum enters to question the scientists, we cleverly jump back and forth as Man-Sik, the man Ji-O works with, mentions how Human Tech are always dropping off animal waste ranging from dolphins up to gorillas.
Inside Human Tech, Goo-Reum learns that they currently have no boss. The company is privately funded but as Goo-Reum leaves, she senses something is going on. We soon see what, as the scientist inside heads down to the basement where numerous animals are being kept in cages.
Joong-Kwon continues to experiment though, berating his chief researcher while heading back into his office. Numerous jars sit on the wall while chalk is scrawled messily across the chalkboard. The investors are growing restless though, determined to press on. Unfortunately he has a week to try and make his experiments a success. If he can’t do that, then it seems funding will be pulled.
Goo-Reum senses that she’s onto something and tries to do some research into Human Tech herself. The only problem is, nothing shows up online. Well, there’s not much time to dwell on that, as Goo-Reum heads out with her fellow officers on the hunt and busting an illegal operation.
During a foot-chase, Goo-Reum is stuck by a truck and narrowly misses Ji-O, who does his best to try and resuscitate her. Somehow, he channels the red energy in his hands and brings her back from being knocked unconscious. In doing so, this brings back fragments of the past as we see Goo-Reum knocked across the room from jolts of lightning. Was this Ji-O’s doing?
Well, a video of Ji-O with Goo-Reum begins circling as we see that the burn victim from before is a man named Yi-Son. He notices the video while Goo-Reum spots it too, deciding to find Ji-O. They’re not the only ones who see this viral video either. Joong-Kwon views this and comments how Ji-O is his failed experiment from before. Joong-Kwon is currently trying to create a copy of what they built with him, eventually leading Joong-Kwon to thee difficult decision of needing to bring Ji-O in for experiments.
All eyes now turn to Dagyeong Resources as both Joong-Kwon’s men and Goo-Reum head to Ji-O’s location. With the cameras cut, Ji-O senses something up as he checks his arm and notices the hairs are standing on end. He’s overpowered by these men though, holding him up and forced to watch as they look set to inject him with a syringe. Outside, Man-Sik is thrown into the fire.
Ji-O manages to get away though, taking off into the woods after channeling a burst of lightning. He’s chased though, as Yi-Son believes he may have head back home.
At the same time, the officers arrive at the waste centre and find the dead body of Man-Sik in the incinerator. They also confirm the security cameras were switched off, making it seem like Ji-O may be responsible.
Well, Yi-Son makes the right call as Ji-O is chased across the rooftops near his home and blindsided by his foe. Thankfully Ji-O manages to get away.
He runs straight into the path of Goo-Reum though, who spots him being chased and hurries up thee alleyways after him. Unfortunately she loses sight of the runaway, as Ji-O eventually finds himself face to face with Yi-Son.
He slashes at Ji-O, like a predator playing with its prey, as he eventually snaps and grabs Yi-Son again. Unfortunately he’s kicked over the edge of the building and falls down to thee ground. As he does, a huge shockwave of lightning crackles around sending cars flying up in the air. Goo-Reum can only stand and watch as the episode comes to a close.
The Episode Review
L.U.C.A.: The Beginning ends its first episode with a bang – literally – as it looks set to take the K-drama sci-fi world by storm. Admittedly, the style and design of this show gives the impression of it being an OCN blockbuster but tvN have done a wonderful job bringing this one to life.
There’s some fantastic sound design here too, with both the soundtrack and the audio design in general keeping tensions high in this sci-fi tale. There’s certainly enough mystery and visual flair here too keep things interesting across the 12 episodes.
It seems like Human Tech are trying to grow humans or at least a modified version of humanity. It may well be that Ji-O escaped from captivity, partly thanks to whomever busted him out, and is now being hunted by those at the lab.
The flashes of Goo-Reum’s past also seem to hint that her parents died at the hands of someone with electric powers. Was this Ji-O? It certainly seems that way but we’re only one episode in so we’ll have to wait and see.
So far though, L.U.C.A. feels like a blend of superhero action, The Bourne Identity and horror K-drama Search. Based on this first episode, L.U.C.A. looks to be one of the more intriguing dramas of the year, leaving lots of space to grow going forward.