Well, enter Disney+’s original series Grid (그리드). It isn’t as outstanding as the aforementioned series. But it also isn’t as bad as the others as well. Instead, Grid is the rare time travel-infused drama series to find itself somewhere in between. Though its cast does as best as they can, even carrying many parts of the series itself, the story teeters on the edge and just avoids completely collapsing onto itself.
Though mentioning that there is a time travel aspect involved is a bit of a spoiler, trust me when I say that knowing this should help to ease some of the eventual confusion that may arise over the course of the 10-episode series.
And that in itself is likely one of the things that holds the series back. The ten episodes are brisk, fast-paced and definitely not short of twists and turns. But Grid is far from your typical Korean drama. And instead, feels more like a western drama you’d see from say an American network. Take for example series like Heroes or Manifest or the granddaddy of ’em all, Lost. Even series like Supernatural and Battlestar Galactica. Think of some of the most popular and most talked about sci-fi or supernatural series from the United States in recent memory. That’s what Grid seems to aspire to be.
That is, Grid‘s premise is very clearly developed as a multi-season series. It follows the formula of those aforementioned American series to a tee.
Grid begins in 2005 by introducing us to the titular electromagnetic grid that has been developed to shield the Earth from solar flares that would otherwise cripple the planet and ultimately lead to extinction of all living things. Fast forward to the present day where the Earth has been kept safe by the Grid, managed by the Administration Bureau, a secretive government-run organization housed in a brutalist office building in the middle of Seoul.
Kim Sae Ha (Seo Kang Joon) works in a department of the Bureau that spends all day scouring the internet for any clues that will help them catch the mysterious figure known as Ghost (Lee Si Young). This “Ghost” also happens to be the elusive creator of the Grid. After witnessing a murder, Sae Ha meets detective Jung Sae Byeok (Kim Ah Joong) who ends up coming face to face with the mysterious Ghost who just as mysteriously saves the suspected murderer (Kim Sung Kyun) from capture.
Keyword here is “mystery” as the series spends its first few episodes tracking down the murderer and supposed accomplice. However, things become much dicier when the two apparent fugitives end up being very much relevant to the Grid’s creation and existence. The mysteries balloon and branch off in different directions before stunningly intersecting back together later in the series.
That’s when Grid takes a wild swing towards a different direction on the way to the breathless final episode and even more surprising final moments.
Going back to my comparison to similar mystery-focused sci-fi series from America and the west; Grid not only ends with a cliffhanger, but its entire story hinges on it needing to continue past these ten episodes. On one hand, the series actually feels like a prolonged feature film. Something that could be done in about two hours. On the other hand, the series definitely needs much more time to actually dig deeper into the story it has built for itself.
Like those western sci-fi series, Grid is the type of series that begins leading you one direction before yanking you towards a different one. You aren’t sure what’s going on. But you willingly hop along for the ride. Question upon question gets thrown at you the viewer, all for the sake of mystery and keeping you guessing while showering you with all the opportunity to suspend your disbelief in the name of science fiction. If you don’t like, nor have much experience with such types of shows, then Grid is definitely not the series for you.
Heck, it might not even be a series for the experienced either.
Not much is clear most of the time on Grid. And it requires a heavy bit of investment. Whether it is in the characters (more on that in a bit) or the world the series attempts to build.
Of course, there’s different rules and theories when it comes to the idea of time travel. Considering, time travel is not yet possible. (At least, that most of the world knows of.) So liberties can be taken in fiction, but still be based upon the many theories that do exist. Grid touches upon the idea of the butterfly effect in its most frustrating and engaging way. How one small deviation from the original reality throws everything into chaos. Either creating new timelines or so-called parallel universes. Or even erasing the original reality altogether and basically all hell breaks loose from there.
Grid‘s world is on the brink of an apocalyptic event. And when the cards get shuffled around the deck, it’s only a matter of time for things to become more and more complicated than before.
As with any time travel-themed story, Grid takes us through those different timelines or realities or possibilities. And through those jumps through time, the series tries to piece together the whole purpose of its own existence. Whether it is revealing who the mysterious Ghost really is, what connections our main characters have to the past, present and potential future and the all-too-familiar shady corruption involved with a powerful tool such as time travel or the intricate electromagnetic shield shielding the Earth from turning into a barren wasteland.
Aside from the investment necessary, one will also need to take things slow. Bingeing the series is not the way to go at all. But if you’re willing to take things slow, remain focused and have a genuine interest in the proceedings, you may find a fascinating sci-fi adventure.
For anyone who isn’t so inclined, Grid can be taken as simply as being a character-focused series. How do these characters face the end of the world and the possible responsibility that they may find themselves in for helping to stop it. That is essentially what most of our main characters are tasked with. They are all pieces to the delicate puzzle. And each of them is given opportunities to fit into their perfect place. Or go rogue in order to protect what they hold dear in their personal lives, at least for the life that they know presently. Those feelings and emotions that emerge in the heat of the tumultuous time taking priority over anything else. Even the fate of the world.
The cast definitely has a lot of responsibility in keeping things moving along and preventing everything from either becoming too nonsensical or completely collapsing on itself. If the writing and story may lag somewhere or not make sense, the cast easily picks up the slack.
The heart of the series is definitely Seo Kang Joon as Sae Ha. He serves as our representative in the midst of the impending apocalyptic chaos. We learn about the intricacies and uncover the truths right along with him. And we grow frustrated and confused with him as well. Seo Kang Joon has proven himself in a wide variety of roles. But he has really excelled with characters that need to endear themselves quickly to the audience. He certainly does that here. And quite effortlessly. Especially in the series’ most pivotal episode where he takes center stage.
Lee Si Young as the mysterious figure they call “Ghost” also delivers an engaging performance. For most of the series, she says not a single word. But she still commands attention in every scene. Especially when the enigmatic figure appears to be the key to everything that is happening around our main characters.
A strong supporting cast with Kim Ah Joong as Detective Jung Sae Byeok leading the way also solidify the ensemble cast needed to help fully develop this world and provide the catalysts to connect to the maze-like story.
Grid will definitely not be for everybody. But with some investment, you could find yourself fully engrossed in this baffling, yet exciting world. The cast helps to carry a lot of the burden that is brought about by the intricate story. But when all put together, Grid ends up being a fun and fascinating ride.