The latest Disney+ original Korean drama Connect (커넥트) has a lot going for it. Jung Hae In is an endearing lead while Go Kyung Pyo delivers a chilling performance in what is supposed to be a unique sci-fi thriller. Though overall, the series is a quick six episode, 4+ hour watch, it lacks the kinetic energy of a feature film and the slower, more introspective depth of a longer series.
Based on a webtoon of the same name, Connect follows Ha Dong Soo (Jung Hae In). The “Connect” of the title refers to a new breed of biotechonology-enhanced humans whose self-healing bodies make them immortal. Dong Soo is one of them.
Dong Soo is kidnapped by an organ trafficking syndicate and unfortunately leaves one of his already-removed eyes behind when he rushes to escape. Later, Dong Soo discovers that he can still see out of his missing eye which has now been transplanted to serial killer Oh Jin Seob (Go Kyung Pyo). Dong Soo goes on a quest to reclaim his eye while also rushing to stop the next horrific murder. And in the process, learns more about his unique situation.
Connect‘s basic premise is sound. There is a lot of foundation in just the basic premise to be able to jump off from. Surprisingly, Connect has trouble doing so.
The self-healing process of Dong Soo’s body is fascinatingly (and gruesomely) depicted through broken limbs snapping back into place or severed body parts being reattached with the help of strange tentacle-like nano fibers. After one such instance as a child, Dong Soo is called a “monster” by other kids. And that has since driven him into lonely seclusion where he finds sole comfort in his music.
Connect however finds itself in an equally strange middle ground between being too fast-paced and too slow. That is, the series has the pacing of a two-hour feature film. But because the series is six episodes of about 40 minutes each (bringing it to a total of just around four hours and 15 minutes), it has to resort to stretching that two-hour plot to fill the rest of the time.
That makes the series be much more plot-driven than it should be with not enough time given to explore the depth of the characters, somehow.
With Connect, it’s either tighten up the story and turn it into a two-hour film. Or slow things down and give every plot point time to breathe. And with a story like this, a slowburn and more introspective approach seems more fitting. Especially when the premise is ripe for discussions of topics like mortality and discrimination. That’s alongside the usual corruption, crime and conspiracy of most Korean dramas as well. And Connect certainly plants some seeds to a larger narrative that probably should’ve been touched upon more in these six episodes rather than holding off for any potential future seasons.
Connect is being described as a “psychological thriller,” but it speeds through a lot of its story. (With a big serving of frequent exposition as well.) And character development and depth suffers a bit because of it. Which is a shame considering the strong cast it has assembled.
The relatively smaller cast of characters would be perfect for a series that tackles each of their different, perhaps contrasting worldviews. By the end of the six episodes, it’s quite clear each of them have their own agendas. (And beware, the final episode definitely leaves a cliffhanger for a potential season two.)
Jung Hae In as Ha Dong Soo is very endearing. And that should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen his previous work. From the first moments we see him on screen, it is easy to connect (no pun intended) to his character. You want to see him doing well and happy. Especially when the series opens with his abduction and his organs being harvested. But beyond that empathy for Dong Soo, we don’t get enough of his personality or backstory to help fill in his character. We still want to root for him in his quest to catch the killer and regain his lost eye. But there is a feeling of disappointment that we aren’t able to learn more about him as a person beyond that. Seeing more of the struggles he’s experienced growing up with this ability.
With Go Kyung Pyo, he is absolutely terrifying as Oh Jin Seob who is as psychopathic as a K-drama serial killer can get. But again, beyond a basic set-up for his twisted mind, we don’t really get much about him as a person and what drives his evil. This is while other series are able to grow the roots to their antagonists’ motivations through the emerging cat and mouse game that is usually played.
Dong Soo’s chase of Jin Seob is a relatively short one. But in the fleeting moments Jung Hae In and Go Kyung Pyo share together, it offers a glimpse at what could’ve been. Again, the premise is ripe with potential. Especially with the idea that these two people are somehow connected through this one eye. So much can be done with that idea, yet the series saves any such instance for one short sequence towards the end that feels shoehorned in rather than being a centerpiece for the story. And once again, an expository monologue stands in for what should be a steady development and build up to the series’ climax.
Other main characters include Kim Hye Jun as the mysterious Irang who comes to Dong Soo’s rescue and helps provide answers to him about Connect. As well as Kim Roe Ha as Detective Choi who is leading the investigation to the serial murders and also has some knowledge. The intersections between the characters are the most interesting parts of the series. But they are so few and far between that it adds to the awkward pacing of the story and a more contrived feel for those moments.
Overall, there is a lot to like and enjoy about Connect. An interesting premise, a strong cast and solid action pick up a lot of the slack. But it is that slack (missed opportunities, plot-driven exposition, clumsy pacing, lack of depth) that keeps Connect from realizing its full potential.