Especially because remake The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (or Hundred Million Stars from the Sky) is a thriller, I think it’s a bonus to have not seen the original Japanese show. No frustration over character or plot changes or the faint boredom of already knowing how the story ends.
Refreshingly, Smile, episode one doesn’t not begin with a bang, something many of the thriller/action K-dramas try to do. The problem with this is that often spectacular first episodes are followed by mediocre one that progressively deteriorate both in substance and excitement. A few like The K2 mostly live up to their exciting first episodes, but for too many the writing just peters out. As this is a remake, it will help that the writers have an original to work off of.
We are introduced to various characters in episode one, all interacting and presumably going to become intertwined by the end of the series. The first main character we are introduced to is Kim Moo Young [character and names spellings from Asianwiki], played by Seo In Guk. The episode opens on a murder scene in which the TV plays in the background. On the TV a psychologist is being interviewed and mentions an usually 8-year-old boy and how he wonders what he is doing now, as he must be about 30. It cuts to Kim Moo Young working at his job at a beer distributer and the natural conclusion is that he is the same boy all grown up.
The next introductions are brother and sister Yoo Jin Kook and Yoo Jin Yang. Jin Kook is played by the often hilarious Park Sung Woong and is a detective or former one who now has more of an administrative job. He also appears to be a man always on the clock, a natural sniffer out of mysteries and when things just don’t sit right. At the murder scene investigation, he shows up even though he’s off duty and the team lead Lee Kyung Cheol (Choi Byung Mo) seems less than thrilled to have him around, while young detective Eom Cho Rang (Kwon Soo Hyun) has a brotherly camaraderie going on with him. Yoo Jin Kook runs across Kim Moo Young in the course of his day and puzzled that his face seems so familiar.
Yoo Jin Kook’s younger sister Yoo Jin Yang is played by the petite dynamo Jung So Min. I will have to keep watching to really figure out what Jin Yang’s job is, as it wasn’t very obvious from the episode, but it seems to be either advertising or something with design. She is invited to a very important party and supposed to talk up a VIP about contracting with her company, but this never happens as the party is for a good friend of hers and she spends most of the time joking with her brother, who arrives late.
Nothing is particularly striking about the first meeting between Yoo Jin Yang and Kim Moo Young, though they are the main characters. Kim comes across as a somewhat gruff blue collar worker, and it’s strange to think that this weathered life-hardened man is the same actor who played the softy Louie in Shopping King Louie. Seo In Guk hits all the right notes of this character, from his nonchalance, quick observance of everything around him, and the quiet malice pervading him in which his smiles never quite reach his eyes. Shades of David from Hello Monster are there, but Kim is a decidedly different person, likely to be truly dangerous, and a killer. How Seo manages to so transform himself for every role, I don’t know, but it is the reason some in the industry call him an acting genius.
As the party progresses we learn something about the damsel it is for, an artist named Baek Sung A, played by Seo Eun Su. Baek Sung A soon reaches the standard calling for damsels, to be in distress. The distress is largely caused by herself, as Kim Moo Young quickly finds that she is not as sweet and innocent as she looks, and takes advantage of that to do her a good turn and woo her away from her boyfriend in the process. Flipping back between their budding relationship and the investigation of a murdered 22 year old, we are presented with the sobering thought that Baek Sung A may be just the next girl to fall prey to serial killer Kim, who seems to be too smart for his own good. Shades of Cheese in the Trap are here, too: Is Kim just strange or does he actually have a psychological problem? Is he a killer and a sociopath or is it all just perception?
I’m looking forward to seeing what The Smile Has Left Your Eyes brings to the table in future episodes. The acting is great so far, but the only ones with clear chances to shine so far are Seo In Guk, and perhaps Seo Eun Su as the damsel. The other characters don’t really have much uniqueness about them so far, and the brother and sister duo give me a an old cinema vibe as if they would be a sunny counterpart in a Hitchcock movie or something.
Speaking of Hitchcock, a few of the shots so far are breathtaking and I think they really got the mood right, a simmering slow burn that will ratchet up as the series progresses. This doesn’t appear as if it will end as a happy story, but will give us profound moments in which we desperately wish it was. For the joking brother and sister, we may find they have a darker history behind all of the smiles, and there’s a hint of it in the animosity Yoo Jin Kook experiences from the detective team lead and the fact that his sister doesn’t seem to be terribly good at her job.
I for one love a good mystery, so I’m hoping we have a lot of good twists, turns, and revelations to come.