It’s hard to find good character-driven thrillers. But OCN’s 2020 series Train (트레인) definitely fits the bill and then some. Yoon Shi Yoon and Kyung Soo Jin lead a strong ensemble in this suspenseful roller coaster (train?) ride of emotions, crime and science-fiction.
Detective Seo Do Won (Yoon Shi Yoon) and prosecutor Han Seo Kyung (Kyung Soo Jin) were brought together as teens when their fathers were killed in separate incidents on one fateful night 12 years ago. Taken in and raised by now director of investigations Oh Mi Sook (Lee Hang Na), that painful and tragic past still haunts them to this day.
That past comes roaring back when the discovery of a possible serial murder case contains clues that may relate to the death of their fathers. But as Do Won digs deeper into those possible connections, he stumbles upon a mysterious train that delivers him to a parallel universe where familiar faces aren’t how he has known them. While here, he not only uncovers more about his past, but he unearths shocking truths about both worlds, the people he’s always known and how fate and choice shape those worlds.
Train is a fascinating experience. Starting out as a typical crime mystery, the series quickly gets turned on its head with the reveal of the alternate universe. That twist in and of itself already adds a refreshing new flavor to what may have otherwise been an all-too-familiar set-up.
But Do Won’s discovery of this alternate world is just the beginning. He embarks on an emotional and edge of your seat journey as he uncovers one truth after another all while the ominous cloud of these parallel worlds hang over the proceedings.
Other series have certainly dealt with alternate/parallel universes/worlds before. But Train does so in a very accessible way that keeps you guessing and remains intriguing. The series isn’t easy to follow per se, but you also won’t be getting headaches trying to piece everything together. It leaves a lot to your imagination, but spells out just enough to adequately enjoy the roller coaster twists and emotions.
With its 12-episode run, the series is fast-paced. That requires tight writing, which it delivers. Seeds are planted early and often. And by the end, those seeds sprout into satisfying climaxes and conclusions.
The intricate story and the emotional climaxes work in large part because of the excellent and well-written development of our characters. Train is a character-driven story at its heart. The overarching plot relies on the characters in order to make it all come together and be sufficiently affecting at every turn.
Any good series will have a great cast and Train is no exception. Excellent performances from Lee Hang Na as Director Oh Mi Sook, Sin So Yul as Do Won’s childhood friend and forensics technician Lee Jung Min and Choi Seung Yoon as the mysterious psychiatrist Dr. Suk Min Joon are standouts in the ensemble cast.
I’ve only ever seen Kyung Soo Jin in Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, so she is absolutely a revelation to me here on Train. As both versions of Seo Kyung, she is both strong as a public servant and vulnerable when it comes to the past and the emotions that come with it. She shares a good chemistry with Yoon Shi Yoon. But Seo Kyung’s character is able to stand on her own while working in tandem with Do Won. Kyung Soo Jin manages that excellently in what is a very engaging performance.
Yoon Shi Yoon excels in what may be his darkest and most serious role to date. Many, if not most of the roles he’s taken on over the years allows him to show off his versatility. Able to shift between the comedic and dramatic at the drop of a hat, it would be fair to say that you can spot a signature Yoon Shi Yoon performance a mile away.
However, he is refreshingly different here on Train. I’m not sure if he smiled even once during the entire series. But that speaks to the seriousness of the material and what the characters require of him. That’s not to say his versatility wasn’t put to good use.
Like in two of his recent dramas Your Honor and Psychopath Diary, Yoon Shi Yoon gets the chance to play what is essentially a dual role. Two distinct characters that are superficially distinguishable by their different hairstyles. But Yoon Shi Yoon’s performance takes that to a deeper level, giving the two versions of Do Won each their own personality and identity.
There is no room on Train for romcom distractions. It is a dramatic thriller with emotional turns that only intensify as the series moves along. Yoon Shi Yoon shows a different side of his abilities here by playing it straight and reminding everyone just how strong of a dramatic actor he really is.
Those strong performances especially from Kyung Soo Jin and Yoon Shi Yoon truly bring everything together toward what is a bittersweet, but satisfying climax.
Overall, Train is indeed a thrilling ride. Offering up a fascinating idea, the series runs with it and takes a familiar story and genre to new and interesting places. Well-developed and impactful characters make the story immediately affecting. And once you reach the end of those tracks, you’ll be left satisfied and still want to hop on for more.