Thriller K-drama “Kairos” combines time travel with mystery

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MBC

One fateful call links the fates of Kim Seo-jin and Han Ae-ri in K-drama “Kairos.”

Claire Zhang, Features Editor

Combining time travel with mystery and thriller, K-drama “Kairos” aired its last episode on Dec. 22, 2020. The series finale did not disappoint the momentum that the show has built.

The drama begins by introducing us to Kim Seo-jin (Shin Sung-rok), an ambitious construction company executive who has put his relationship with his family on the backburner in favor of expanding his power. After his violinist wife, Kang Hyun-chae (Nam Gyu-ri), performs at a charity concert, the couple quickly finds that their daughter, Kim Da-bin (Shim Hye-yeon), has disappeared from the gala. Seo-jin’s life couldn’t be worse until he receives a severed finger belonging to the missing Da-bin. After inspecting it, the police conclude that the owner of the finger is dead. Driven by her grief, Hyun-chae jumps into the Han River. Having lost both of his family members, Seo-jin enters a state of grief and desperation.

Juxtaposed with Seo-jin’s spiral into despair is the life of Han Ae-ri (Lee Se-young), a student who works to pay for her mother’s heart transplant. After her mother is hospitalized due to a medical emergency, Ae-ri realizes that her phone is missing. Somehow, calling her phone number connects her to Seo-jin’s phone instead. They start to communicate, and Seo-jin learns that Ae-ri has seen Da-bin before. The two try to meet up, but it turns out that Ae-ri is living one month in the past. By the time they find out, Ae-ri is also at an all-time low. Her mother disappears from the hospital and a friend scams Ae-ri of the rest of her money. To fix their various problems, the two decide to collaborate.

Perhaps the best part of “Kairos” is the partnership between Ae-ri and Seo-jin. Ae-ri has all the smarts that other K-Drama female leads are usually deprived of, and Seo-jin’s years as an executive have left him cunning and sharp. Together, the duo makes the perfect pair to solve the mysteries plaguing them. Who kidnapped Da-bin? Why did Ae-ri’s mom disappear? As Ae-ri and Seo-jin explore these questions and more, they soon find out that the events — and their pasts — are more connected than they think.

One thing that may make romance lovers disappointed is that there is no romantic interest between Ae-ri and Seo-jin. Rather than love, their partnership grows on a sense of kinship. However, I’m not mad at this. The relationship between the duo was never set up to be a romance. I think that including the romance between the two leads would have ruined the focus of the story instead.

Watching Shin Sung-rok swing through different emotions in his portrayal of Seo-jin’s grief was extremely captivating. From loss to grief to anger, Seojin’s realization that he didn’t cherish his family enough shatters him. Especially when Da-bin’s finger is delivered to his house, the sorrow and misery you see in his crying made it one of the most heartbreaking scenes to watch. None of the actors or actresses were disappointed in the drama. I’m especially convinced by how human the villains were. Although they were extremely twisted, their pasts supplemented their emotions and motivations, giving them a dimensionality that’s not always found in K-Drama villains.

Apart from the acting, “Kairos” also has amazing tension building. The show captures how Seo-jin’s cold exterior cracks during his initial search for Da-bin. The shaky handheld camera shots and foreboding music combine with the echo of the Hyun-chae and Seo-jin’s cries for Da-bin as they slowly sink into despair.

“Kairos” isn’t a traditional time travel drama. There’s no physical time travel, but only communication across time. We watch as multiple timelines develop throughout the show, all connected by the actions of Ae-ri and Seo-jin. Despite the different timeframes, the careful color-grading in each episode distinguishes between Seo-jin and Ae-ri’s timelines. Seo-jin’s present is marked by cool, blue tones while Ae-ri’s timeline is represented by warmer, yellow shades. With such visual cues and other clues such as the nuances in each character, it leaves the viewer with a clear understanding of the timeline.

The perfect thriller K-drama to binge on, “Kairos” blends time travel with mystery. The well-executed plot and excellent acting are sure to leave viewers excited for more.