K-Drama Reaction: Life | Episode 1

One man’s death kick-started an already brewing war.

Should We Tell The Police?

The much-awaited series begin in the death of Sangkook University Hospital director Lee Bo-Hoon (Cheon Ho-Jin). He allegedly died after falling off the rooftop of hospital deputy director Kim Tae-sang’s (Moon Sung-geun) house. The death left the whole hospital staff in shock particularly Dr. Ye Jin-woo (Lee Dong-wook), who seems to have a very close relationship with the late director. I can imagine how painful it was for him to fill-out Director Lee’s death certificate. He was obviously regretting the timing of their confrontation that day. Apparently, Jin-woo’s brother Ye Sun-Woo (Lee Kyu-hyung) discovered a suspicious account under Director Lee’s name.

Despite his disappointment, Jin-woo still couldn’t believe Director Lee’s sudden death. Pediatrician Lee No-eul (Won Jin-ah) shared a similar suspicion as she knew someone who witnessed Director Lee and Deputy Director Kim arguing that same day. It prompted Jin-woo to go to the police and ask for more details. He could have reported the argument but surprisingly, he didn’t. He even lied about their confrontation that day. This made my cynical side alive. As much as I want to think that he has a better plan than to trust the police (let’s admit they can be easily swayed by rich influential people), I still believe there is something that is holding him back from revealing what he really knew about Director Lee’s death.

What Really Happened?

The whole pilot episode introduced each character through their reaction to the death of Director Lee. Deputy Director Kim maintained his innocence but the rest of the hospital staff is looking with disdain. Neurosurgeon Oh Se-hwa (Moon So-ri) warned the deputy director that he is the talk of the hospital but the way she looked at her superior is betraying her nonchalant appearance. Thoracic surgeon Joo Kyung-Moon (Yoo Jae-Myung) is quiet about the cause of death but he is more vocal about another issue – the impending transfer of staff to rural hospitals. He called out Deputy Director Kim during the meeting, revealing the provincial staff didn’t know about the transfer as well. Emergency Care Center Chief Doctor Lee Dong-soo (Kim Won-hae) protested about the transfer in an earlier meeting. He even commented that if Director Lee was alive, the transfer wouldn’t happen.

The remarks of ER Dr. Lee was an obvious hint on the divide between the Director and the Deputy Director. It could be one of many things they have disagreed on. But what frustrates me the most is the lack of clear battle lines in this hospital. Aside from ER Dr. Lee and Dr. Joo, I couldn’t tell where the other characters are standing. Yep, including our main hero Jin-woo.

What Did You Lie?

It’s clear Deputy Director Kim will benefit on Director Lee’s death. Although we are not sure whether Deputy Director Kim is really implicated with Director Lee’s death, we could still say he is ruled by self-interest. Deputy Director Kim was putting the blame of the sudden transfer to the newly appointed President Goo Seung-Hyo’s (Cho Seung-woo) ambitious plan but his motives are palpable. President Goo wants to run the hospital as a profitable business and Deputy Director Kim is doing nothing to stop him.

Maknae’s Episode Verdict

Life is not giving me life at all. It is killing with curiosity. Kidding aside, the series’ pilot felt like a long prologue with vague introductions here and there. The series’ allusion to ethical issues of for-profit health care didn’t go unnoticed as well but I won’t make this a news commentary. I would rather focus on this fictional universe.

Life wasn’t like any other dramas where we instantly know whose on the good and bad side of things. This won’t be beneficial to heal my cynical heart. It might be the ambiance or the tone of the narration that is making me suspect each character. We haven’t seen enough of them to really judge their stance but I really felt like everyone is hiding something. Anyway, I’ll trust the much-commended writer of Stranger to drive the plot smoothly along this seemingly dark and complex road she created.

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