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Judging by the catalogue of dramas in 2020, ‘tis the season of mind-boggling K sci-fi dramas. Not sure if all the relevant parties got together and conspired to make 2020 a year of time travel and parallel universes but there’s just enough to make us suspicious. Train, a product of the OCN production line, is the latest crime puzzler to have completed its run. Just when I thought that OCN couldn’t possibly have anymore up its serial killer sleeve, they somehow manage to pull another one out of the hat. It went largely under the radar during its original run, possibly a result of serial killer fatigue and no popular oppa taking top billing. But for some strange reason, the genre persists as a guilty pleasure of mine.


Sci-fi isn’t easy to do well on any given day and it’s a bit of a hit and miss in K drama land. In the case of Train, it seems to get more right than wrong. The script in fact does a better than decent job juggling crime side of things with the sci-fi elements: A dogged detective stumbles on a serial killer’s grave and tracks their origins to a parallel universe which he travels to on a magic disused train but only when the magic rain falls.


Yoon Shi-yoon ( I last saw him in Nokdu Flower) proves that he is an acting powerhouse in the making in his dual role as Seo Do-won from both universes. In Universe A, Do-won is a well-liked, kind if somewhat overly driven detective who carries a guilty secret. He is secretly in love with Han Seo-kyung (Kyung Soo-jin), his childhood friend that he rescued from her abusive step family. She too is a crime fighter in her own right — a caring prosecutor who is also in love with him. The reason why he can’t and won’t act on his feelings is because he believes that his father was responsible for her father’s murder. Both lost their dads on the same night. Do-won lost his father to a hit and run that occurred not long after her father’s murder. Oh Mi-sook  (Lee Hang-na) is the police captain that raised them both.


One night Do-won, in a high speed chase that ends up in a disused railway station, discovers human remains that are difficult to identify but a couple of fresh ones are later found in suitcases along the track. A pattern emerges. Immediately there’s a full-scale investigation into the murders (strangulation followed by bashed-in skulls). As the team digs deeper, Seo-kyung concludes that it’s likely that these bodies are related to her father’s death and it may be that Do-won’s dad might not have been culpable for her father’s death. She gets close to the truth and pays for it with her life.


Grieved and inconsolable, Do-won hunts for her killer all the way to Universe B where he discovers that his other self, also a high-ranking detective has recently become a fugitive for killing a known drug dealer. Unbeknownst to them, they both swap universes on the same night. Do-won B is a drug-taking shady cop who is anti-social in his work habits. He is darker, angrier and bitter because his father was convicted for the murder of Han Seo-kyung’s dad. He’s made his life’s mission to uncover the truth and clear his father’s name.


One of my favourite things about the show is Do-won A navigating Universe B with the knowledge that he has. It's, in my opinion, one of the better parts of the drama. It’s like watching Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life but bleaker. Almost everyone who is present in Universe A is in Universe B but living out what is clearly a grimmer existence. Do-won, as he gradually discovers, is the variable that makes the world of difference.


Overall the show does a satisfying job of wrapping things up which can’t always be said about these sorts of endeavours. It should be said that the performances are a mixed bag. I’m not quite as impressed with the women as I am with the men although Kyung Soo-jin does somewhat better as Seo-kyung B. The drama does quite well (as much as the budget allows) at differentiating between the parallel worlds through Fringe-inspired use of special effects and subtle styling changes. It is curious though that the characters from either universes seemed unconcerned about the marked differences between the two selves. Perhaps it’s a statement about how unobservant people (cops included) generally are especially when life gets busy.


The show makes some effort of not making the villain too much of a cliche but it does tread a well-worn path with the added twist of universe hopping. The universe hopping part is what adds an extra dimension to the whole business of crime solving. Frankly I don't think too hard about the mechanics of the parallel universes. It's not the point. The point is that choices do have consequences.


Plot/Story: 8.5

Acting/ Cast: 8

Production Values: 7.5

Rewatch Value: 7


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Currently Watching: Queen of Tears, In Blossom


"Love is not an affectionate feeling but a steady wish for the loved person's good as far as it can be obtained." -- CS Lewis.

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