Abyss: Eps 1 & 2 First Impressions

Let’s get down to business.

1. The “Abyss”

I try to establish the meaning of words from the start so there’s no confusion when I use them later. In this drama, the title deserves a closer look. Barely a minute in the show, the lead character Cha Min was literally and figuratively staring at an abyss. He was standing at the edge of a rooftop of a very tall building and lamenting the shameful end of his engagement.

But one thing viewers have to remember is that in kdramas, the word “abyss” is often tied to Nietzsche’s famous quote from “Beyond Good and Evil”. It goes something like this:

Whoever fights monsters should beware not to become a monster himself. For when he gazes long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into him.

There are several ways to interpret this but the simplest one will suffice for this drama. It means “you become what you hate.” That’s the interpretation most applicable in this show.

Take the case of the Park KiBum, the former cop who now works as a taxi driver. His daughter was murdered and his frustration with the justice system grew until he finally decided to mete out justice to his punishment to his daughter’s killer. He suspected that Dr. Oh YoungChul was the serial killer and Park KiBum murdered him in vengeance. Thus, to avenge his daughter’s murder, he killed his daughter’s killer.

To some extent the prosecutor SeYoung is another example of a person evolving into what consumes her. She’s been a prosecutor for so long, dealing with criminals (i.e., gaze into the abyss) that she easily assimilated the lifestyle of a fugitive. She knew the “tricks of the trade.” As Cha Min pointed out, she has no qualms going against the law when she’s a prosecutor.

And she admitted it, “The closer you are to law,the more of them you break.”

Then there’s the abyss ball itself.

On the surface, it acts like a magic ball with a power to revive the dead into the form of its soul. But in a deeper level, when the individual’s soul is filled with revulsion for something or somebody, the abyss ball resurrects the individual into the image of this hateful monster found in his soul.

To me, that would explain why SeYoung morphed into Lee MiDo, the one person who dared to berate her and accuse her of using her “pretty face to get a higher conviction rate.” SeYoung detested MiDo fervently that even when they were no longer colleagues, she childishly folded MiDo out of the photograph from their company outing.

In the case of Cha Min, however, I’m still uncertain how the abyss ball worked for him.

Arguably, the person he hated in the world should be SeYoung. SeYoung pointed it out herself.

She rejected him for 20 years and she introduced him to his golddigger ex-fiancee. His sufferings were all due to her so Cha Min should have been transformed into a Seyoung.

But I recognize that Cha Min could also have hated a handsome man because that was the reason his ex-fiancee dumped him: he wasn’t handsome.

According to his ex-fiancee, although she was a gold-digger, she had “standards.”  That is, he was so ugly that no amount of money would induce her marry him. So she settled for the next best thing and absconded with his down payment for their house.

His being ugly was the thing that he hated the most so he became a handsome in his reincarnated self.

But…

But it’s also possible that the abyss ball created an exception for Cha Min. You see, before the aliens arrived, a floating spirit had been floating above the dead body of Cha Min. It looked surprised to see the dead Cha Min and it peered down at Cha Min to get a better look.

Then, it looked puzzled as it stared at its hands, as if wondering what it was doing there.

It noticed that it was wearing the same outfit as Cha Min. This action suggested that it and Cha Min weren’t one and the same person.

In sum, it was taken aback at the sight of Cha Min’s body.

When the aliens arrived, they didn’t notice the handsome floating spirit. The spirit could have been invisible to them.

The male alien thought he could revive the person they accidentally killed by using the Abyss. This seemed to be their first attempt at using the Abyss to bring back a dead person.

Female: What are you doing with Abyss?
Male: I’ll just bring him back to life.

Observe: when the male alien wielded the power of the abyss ball, he inadvertently sucked in the handsome floating spirit into the abyss ball itself, too.

The white ball turned red as he plopped it into Cha Min’s chest.

He didn’t notice that as soon as he did that, Cha Min’s ugly face was transformed.

Female: That’s brilliant.
Male: I’m sure it worked. Why isn’t he waking up?

That’s why I said this was their first attempt at resurrection. The female alien didn’t know that the Abyss ball could be used for that purpose. Meanwhile, the male alien didn’t know that the Abyss ball took time before it worked.

Female: (taking the ball from him) His face isn’t the same as it was before he died though. Do blood splatters make him look more handsome?

It seemed to me that they both were unaware that Abyss ball revived the dead to the “form of its soul” because they weren’t expecting a discrepancy between body and soul. lol. Haven’t they heard of karma?

As she wiped off the blood on Cha Min’s face, his heart suddenly started pumping again. That’s how Cha Min was reborn as a handsome man.

To me, the ghostly apparition hovering above the dead body of Cha Min is significant. Whether the writer & director planned it or not, Cha Min is the only corpse with a floating spirit shown to have been sucked into the Abyss ball.

For now, I’m not ruling out there’s another dead body somewhere with ugly features of Cha Min but the memories of handsome spirit. lol.

And I’m guessing that the person is a psychopath. You know why? Because the words, “nutjob” “lunatic” and “psychopath” were mentioned too many times to describe Cha Min that there seemed to be a foreshadowing. lol.

Just like “Do you have a death wish?” seems to be a foreshadowing, too.

When they were eating that blood something dish at the restaurant, Ep 2

When they were about to go to sleep at her family’s chicken restaurant, Ep 2

And later after they had their fun and games, Ep 2

 2. The surgeon, Oh YoungChul

This is one busy monster.

He’s the prime suspect of the serial killing in 2000. He stopped killing when Prosecutor Seo took over the case. He began killing again when Seyoung took over the case, and his first victim after his hiatus was Seyoung’s male childhood friend.

Unless Oh YoungChul has a doppelganger somewhere, we’re led to believe that the cop/taxi driver/Park KiBum killed him that rainy night when he was on his way to kill Seyoung. Cha Min accidentally revived him with the Abyss ball and the Abyss ball transformed him into an oldER version of himself.

Sidenote: Seyoung misidentified this man as the old man who was unloading the cardboard boxes at her home. No. This is YoungChul after he was revived and turned into an old man.  The old man with the recyclable cardboard wore red gloves.

But what I don’t get is how YoungChul still had his wits about him to proceed with his mission of murdering Seyoung AFTER he had just been killed and resurrected. As the male alien said, “Most humans in this situation would be surprised or in denial.”

Old YoungChul was unfazed by his rebirth and change in appearance. He even lurked in the shadows while Seyoung had a confrontation with the cardboard old man.

He then went up to her apartment, killed her in cold blood as Cha Min was outside her apartment in the rain with the hangover medication.

After that, he also terrorized and chased Cha Min’s ex-fiancee in an abandoned warehouse. Note the unkempt hair, and the similar shoes and jacket here.

He also most likely was the one who nailed Seyoung’s coffin although he knew it was an empty coffin. (Weird, right?) It couldn’t have been the other prosecutor because he didn’t know that the coffin was empty; he had to dig it up at night.

And he killed the female office worker out of revenge for telling him off for bumping her. What a rage monster he is.

So, why did he reincarnate as an older specimen of himself?

I could think of two theories. One, he could have hated the idea of himself aging and being disrespected so that was the form of his soul that was revived in. Look, he murdered the office worker who dissed outside the building.

He didn’t mind it when he was bumped in the hospital by Park KiBum but that was because PKB apologized.

So if he was going to be reincarnated into something that he hated, then it would be this dirty, decrepit, old man whom people treat with contempt.

Or two, he hated the idea of becoming like his father. That’s why he was reborn looking like an old man…most likely a carbon copy of his father.

I wouldn’t be surprised if his father were still alive and it was his father who did the serial killings OR he had a son somewhere who was helping him get away with the murder.

Like this guy who lured Cha Min’s ex-fiancee at the airport. The guy here looked young. There’s always a father-son angst going on in these dramas.

Really, this character is the most annoying I’ve ever seen in a long while. He’s like three villains in one. It doesn’t help that I find this actor, Lee Sung Jae, as appealing as a horse’s rump. But he chooses roles who end up stealing the spotlight from the main lead characters because he’s a convincing actor. Ugly but credible.

Image result for Lee Sung jae

3. The Flowers

The primary reason I stayed for two episodes was I was waiting for something that would resonate with me. The Flowers 💐 scene did.

Min: Go to sleep. You said you were tired.
SY: My mom always made sure to have fresh flowers in that vase no matter what. She said if the flowers wither, she would also feel down like those flowers.

Remember what I said about the Nietzsche’s abyss? The mom disliked looking at the withered flowers because she then would feel morose and depressed. So she made sure to change the flowers. Well…. as SY gazed at the wilted flowers, she remembered her mother and became melancholic. A tear fell.

SY: Let’s go to sleep. I need my energy to catch that jerk. (refusing to give in)
Min: Why don’t you just cry?
SY: Why should I? That’s a waste of my tears. (but she’s tearing up again) I won’t cry yet. No, I can’t.
Min: Sure, good for you. (he starts to massage her head to comfort her) Se-yeon, you’re brave, invincible, and the most powerful in this universe. The beauty and the brains. The most beautiful…(suddenly remembering that she changed in appearance) Oh right! Now you’re not.
SY: Do you have a death wish?
Min: Let me try again.

He begins a litany.

Min: You were the prettiest in your previous life. You were the hottest in your previous life. In your previous life…

SY: Stop it before I punch you.
Min: Your fist was faster than your words.

This implies that he had been on the receiving end of both her verbal and physical attacks, and he couldn’t block either her sharp tongue or her flying fist. 😂

Min: (continuing) You were a sly fox in your previous life.
SY: I told you to stop. Stop it!
Min: In your previous life…
SY: Stop it. Stop. (throwing toilet paper at him)
Min: You always assume it doesn’t hurt.
SY: Hey.
Min: You’re unbelievable. (I think he meant “brazen” or shameless, as in “I can’t believe you did that!”) You think I’m a pushover.
SY: Hey. Do you really want to die?
Min: Let’s go to sleep.
SY: Stop it.
Min: Okay.
SY: You said you’ll stop.

This conversation is interesting for two reasons: a) because he effectively communicated his hurt all these years from being taken for granted, and b) because he aired his grievances, jokingly, without bitterness or resentment. “You’re a sly fox.” “You always assume it doesn’t hurt.” “You think I’m a pushover.” This revealed his character. He’s a likable, decent guy.

This Flower scene is also significant because of the spotlight on the flowers.

I think there were dried roses and wilted carnations in the bouquet of flowers.

 

The Abyss ball transformed the dried flowers into a blooming bouquet because dead flowers “hated” fresh flowers the most. 😂

The following day Cha Min borrowed money from SeYoung and bought a new bouquet to replace the dead flowers. The mother was surprised to see it.

He smiled as he walked past her.

Why do I find this meaningful?

Nietzsche’s “gazing into the abyss” is a metaphor for Cha Min’s descent into darkness. In the beginning, he was pulled by dark thoughts to end his life but gazing down the “abyss” made him change his mind. He clung to dear life and wouldn’t let go of his grip on that ledge. His friend Seyoung would have been his lifesaver if the aliens didn’t crash on him. Instead the aliens restored his life and he’s now saddled with this Abyss ball, possessing the power to control life and death.

To me, the longer he keeps this Abyss ball, the more he’ll become obsessed with its power. (🤨 It’s noteworthy that the aliens did NOT want to keep the ball themselves; they left it with him.) His new life will become embroiled in safeguarding this “monster” that is the Abyss ball. It will consume him to the point that he’s willing to kill somebody for it.

But the bouquet of flowers is the foreshadowing.

To me, the way he can avoid becoming transformed by the ball into a murderer like Oh Youngchul or a vigilante like Park KiBum is to stay with someone who’ll remind him of his innate goodness…just like he did with SY as he caressed her hair. Cha Min stayed by SeYoung’s side and endure her “abuses” for twenty long years.

He outlasted all her handsome boyfriends. He was thoughtful to her family when he didn’t need to be. She, of all people, could attest to his good nature and pull him back from falling into his abyss. Last time, she failed. I want to see if next time, she’ll succeed.

3 Comments On “Abyss: Eps 1 & 2 First Impressions”

  1. Growing Beautifully (GB)

    Thanks for this @packmule3. You’ve certainly turned the 2 episodes that had many viewers scratching their heads into something filled with foreshadowings, metaphor and signs of things to come.

    I’d forgotten about the handsome spirit, or that he’d been sucked into the Abyss. I wonder when, if ever, he will reappear.

    I was thinking it was remiss of the aliens to just hand over something so powerful, so cavalierly to a human being, merely telling him to read the instructions. Their excuse, of course, is that they aren’t human and had to rush off since the 100th millionth star had fallen. (Nice meta reference to their previous show).

    Of course Cha Min does not read the instructions, and that’s going to cause a whole lot of trouble.

    Something that bothers me is the preoccupation with looks, and how those considered not good looking get short shrift. It’s not easy to like Se Young when we consider how she’s been treating Cha Min for 20 years, knowing that he’s been sincerely caring for her. Their constant bickering was starting to wear me down as well.

    If show can get me invested in the future of our protagonists, I’ll hang on to watch. I’ve watched 4 episodes so far and have yet to feel that I like the leads. We’ll see.

  2. woohoo!!! He’s back! Thanks for the news!

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