The KBS Drama Special has presented some of the most provocative, original and even irreverent stories on Korean television. Different from the more mainstream primetime and daily dramas, Drama Special has focused on anything from psychological thrillers like the miniseries White Christmas to Daughters of Bilitis Club, a controversial one-episode drama about a group of lesbian best friends living in the city.
Sirius, KBS’ opening salvo Drama Special for 2013, is another one of those atypical, yet incredibly engrossing series that there should be more of on Korean television.
Sirius is a dark, compelling and heartbreaking four-episode series that is best served by just jumping in. The four and a half hours play like a feature film; we are introduced to our main characters before their past and present are briskly, but clearly unraveled.
We first meet twin brothers Eunchang and Shinwu (played by ZE:A’s Park Hyungsik) as teens. Realizing his quiet younger brother is being bullied at school, Eunchang puts on Shinwu’s uniform and heads off to find out who’s doing it and maybe to teach him a lesson. But an accident on the rooftop lands Eunchang in jail and leaves Shinwu with a mother that cares less about him than his hyung.
While Eunchang serves his time, Shinwu studies hard, eventually becoming Chief over detectives much older than him. Eunchang is finally released from prison and Shinwu breaks the news to him that their mother had passed while he was in jail.
Shinwu resents how even up until her death, Eunchang was the only one on her mind. And that resentment (coupled with some unresolved emotions from a lonely childhood) has transferred to his older brother. Now, Shunwu has dedicated his career to putting away drug dealers; drug dealers who helped kill their eventually addicted mother. And Eunchang, trying to get his life back on track in the real world, gets pulled into a cat and mouse game between Shinwu and drug lord Go Suk Min by a tragic twist of fate.
But Sirius is not about catching the bad guy. Sirius is really about the pain and regret of a family. In a way, it’s a familial thriller. It’s not a mystery, so much as it is a story of consequence, that’s always been very interesting on Korean dramas, and a fractured relationship between twin brothers.
Both Suh Joon Young and Park Hyungsik gave amazing performances that really brought the tight and brisk writing to life.
This is the first I’ve seen ZE:A’s Hyungsik acting, but he shows he has great potential that should definitely be explored more. Having to tackle two roles, two different characters, is daunting for any young actor, idol or not. To handle one character, let alone two. Hyungsik was able to handle it and then some. It was a pleasant surprise to see him every episode, both from a storytelling perspective and as an opportunity for him to show what he can do.
For Suh Joon Young, this, or these, might be his best roles and best performances so far. I first watched him on the excellent Grudge: Revolt of Gumiho where he played a heroic mute and then see his talent, not to mention his excellent chemistry with Han Hye Rin, wasted on Just You.
I think that’s what makes his performance here that much more exciting for me. He proves he is deserving of more lead roles and roles that should really challenge him and show him off.
Sirius really is about the relationship between the two brothers and for the entire series, the whole story needing to be carried by both Park Hyungsik, but especially Suh Joon Young, is a major accomplishment. The confrontation scenes between Eunchang and Shinwu were excellently done and performed. You almost forget it’s one actor playing both roles. You feel that emotion between the brothers, the emotions they exchange no matter how painful.
Just simply, excellent performances by both.
It is also worth noting the performance of Ryu Seung Soo as the evil, disgusting drug lord Go Suk Min. It was so unnerving, yet fascinating especially since I last saw him as the somewhat bumbling older brother to Suh Joon Young on Just You. He more than did his job. You just wanted to point a gun at Suk Min and see him suffer, if only for just his evil grin.
Overall, Sirius is feature film-quality; a fast-paced, emotionally-driven crime and family thriller. It is interesting, engaging and fresh, something different, but a very welcome change of pace from the typical Korean drama.