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sugarplum892

[Mainland Chinese Drama 2019] Unknown Number 时空来电

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Cr avirtualvoyage

Details:

Chinese title: 时空来电
English title: Unknown Number 

Genre: Crime, Fiction

Episodes: 32

Director: 

Broadcast Period: 10/23/2019

 

Cast:

Du Chun as Cao Zheng
Li Xiao Ran as He Jun
Wang Tian Chen as Gu Ming Zhe
Michael Mao as Yu Qing Feng

Synopsis:

The story follows He Jun, a hard-working detective who meets a young and passionate criminal profiler named Gu Ming Zhe. Gu Ming Zhe's life begins to change when he unexpectedly finds a mysterious old phone that connects him to a certain Cao Zheng, a clumsy yet resolute detective who unbeknownst to Gu Ming he, has been missing for 20 years and is calling from the year 1998. The team then takes on the task of resolving impossible cold cases.

(Cr drama Wikipedia) 

**Please use spoiler tags for those who have not seen the episodes yet**

[spoiler ]enter your spoiler here without the spaces inside the brackets[ /spoiler]

Preview:

 

OSTs:

 

Additional Links:

Signal 시그널 Official Soompi Thread

 

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On 10/24/2019 at 11:06 PM, angelangie said:

this is the Mainland remake of Kdrama - Signal right?

Yup youre right!

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Thank you for creating this thread @sugarplum892! Had almost given up hope that it would air, with all the clampdown on drama content in China this year, and was blindsighted when it did air because they changed the Chinese title too, which is why I didn't realise it finally aired on 23 Oct - from what was originally 信号 Signal, it is now 时空来电 (literal title "Incoming Call from Time and Space"). 32 episodes of 30mins each... which might add up to roughly the duration of the original, so perhaps we will see all the cases adapted after all, unlike the J-remake, which dropped 2 cases (Shin Da Hye and Hongwon Dong murders)

 

Watched the first case, and halfway through the 2nd (up to Ep7), and having mixed feelings about it so far. Very glad to see that this is not a cut-and-paste adaptation, but one that takes the essence of the original and puts their spin on it. This is evident in the use of a 1998 disposed Motorola MicroTAC GC-87C flip phone that no longer works (the cellphone shows "Unknown Number" when it rings, hence the English title), vs the original police-issued walkie-talkie, the difference in backstories, the case details etc. As such, I do not quite know what to expect in each case, which is great.

 

What irks me is (unless I missed it) the lack of credits to the original scriptwriter Kim Eun Hee, and blatant use of the original soundtrack throughout the drama. Were rights officially obtained for this adaptation? The J-remake specifically credited Kim Eun Hee, and features their own song and instrumental soundtrack, hence my question. Kim Yuna's "The Road" from Signal OST is featured with a Mandarin cover version by 弦子 Stringer, also entitled 路 "Road", though the rest of the soundtracks that I've heard to date are original compositions.

Will put down my thoughts on the individual cases later, but just a (not-so-brief) note to say just how glad I am that this thread is created and I have an outlet for my ramblings (or rants!) :P 

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At last, what had been bothering me incessantly throughout my viewing of the drama has finally been cleared up. An article that vehemently defended the production against netizen accusations of plagiarising Signal without obtaining the proper rights led me to dig into the credits once more to see what I might have missed. According to the article, the producer 权香兰 Quan Xianglan, general manager of Tencent Penguin Pictures' Korean Copyright Center, is the key link between Unknown Number and Signal. Since joining Tencent in 2016, she has been working on copyright development and resource expansion of Korean TV dramas. In this case, she obtained the rights for Signal and adapted it into the Unknown Number of today.

 

What had really irked me previously were the fact that soundtracks (instrumental and songs) were credited to Studio Curiosity and Movie Closer, unfamiliar names to me. This is particularly so when even the C-covers of Kim Yuna's "The Road" (路), and Lee Seung Yol's "As Flower Blooms" (待到花开 "Waiting until Flower Blooms" covered by 杜淳 Du Chun) were credited (lyrics and songs) to Studio Curiosity, when the originals were released under CJ E&M. Knowing now that Unknown Number has obtained rights to the production, I dug further and realised that Movie Closer is the record label under music directors Kim Jungseok and Jung Serin, which houses various talented instrumental music composers whose works have graced so many well-loved dramas, including Signal. Studio Curiosity is the record label that produced the soundtracks, Signal being one of them, that has made our viewing experience that much more unforgettable. 

 

I cannot begin to express how glad I am that all this is cleared up. Just this knowledge alone lends an added credibility to this adaptation that it previously lacked when I wrongly thought the OST was ripped, which in turn removes the niggling discomfort that had prevented me from enjoying the drama as much as I could have.

 

Du Chun's cover "Waiting until Flower Blooms":

 

 

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The remaining soundtracks:

 

必须走 ”I Must Go"   [Opening Theme]
Singer: Du Chun

Music: Studio Curiosity;  Lyrics: 王海笑 Wang Haixiao

 

 

投影中的你 ”You in the Projection"    [Ending Theme]

Singer: 杨宝心 Yang Baoxin

Music: Studio Curiosity;  Lyrics: 王海笑 Wang Haixiao

 

 

挥之不去 "Lingering"

Singer: 张恋歌 Zhang Liange

Music: Studio Curiosity;  Lyrics: 王海笑 Wang Haixiao

 

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I don't think it possible to watch a Signal adaptation without the kneejerk reaction of comparing it to the original, and the same can be said for Unknown Number. The widespread use of the familiar soundtrack, instrumental and songs serves as a constant reminder and the basic structure remains intact. Its element of surprise comes in the form of the case details and backstories, which is a welcome spin of what is already a well known, well-loved premise among Signal fans. Some of the cases are similar with variations, while others take a vastly different route from the original cases, with at least one that is based on a real unsolved case in Chongqing. The cultural and historical references is distinct to China, which lends a stamp of authenticity that I appreciate. There is also novelty in seeing sequences or dialogue from the original being integrated differently in this version, either in different cases or context. How well everything works in the overall scheme, be it through the lens of an adaptation, or a drama in its own right is an interesting question.

 

Here's a comparison of the characters between the original and C-remake, for those who have watched the original:

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Case #1 幼女失踪被害案 Missing Girl Case

Eps 1-4

Gu Mingzhe, then a policeman in 8 Sep 2018, receives his first call from the past with Cao Zheng in 12 Jan 2003, through a disposed Motorola flip phone that no longer works, leading to the discovery of his classmate Ma Xiaojing's remains in an air raid shelter at the abandoned Huadu Park after she had gone missing for 15 years. Blood strains on a spike ring that he gave her as a child and traces of sodium nitrite in her hair and teeth would finally lead the investigative team to the killer, who continues to play a game of cat and mouse with them with misdirection and taunts, until the fateful evidence that would finally nail him turns up in the location that he thought had been buried forever. 

 

Thoughts:

I like the fact that the killer, motive and methods are vastly different from the original. The uncovering of the evidence is a clever plot twist, with a second location that is out of sight, something that did not occur to them if not for the tell-tale broken hooks at what they thought was the scene of the crime. The deliberate introduction of the red herring that could not dispute what is being accused works rather well too. The narcissistic and cunning tendencies of the killer mirrors Yoon Soo Ah though I must admit staring in disbelief that someone on the run would be able to disguise himself as a member of the press to confirm that he is off the hook. Also am not quite as convinced about the pretext of collecting blood and fingerprints for registration records to procure DNA samples of the suspects, though the way they identified the same suspects through the Y-chromosome DNA found on the spike ring is fascinating.

 

What does disappoint me is that there was never any race against time to beat the statute of limitations, so the only urgency is to obtain the evidence that would convict the killer within a 24-hour timeframe given by Deputy Director Sun, who is furious that they failed to procure evidence before interrupting the press conference about the case, resulting in embarrassment for the bureau. In that sense, the palpable tension that drove the original, is lost. The overly drawn-out chase scenes of the suspect also quickly outlived its welcome for me. Am not as wowed by the fact that Gu Mingzhe is simply introduced as a highly observant know-it-all who stumbles upon a suspect that would lead to the cracking of the cold case. Not to mention the blatant PPL that would be seen throughout the drama, particularly the mind-boggling fact that a mere policeman is equipped with a fancy car with the latest technology.

 

In terms of performances, none leave me emotionally invested yet by the end of the case, and Wang Tianchen's incredibly stilted Gu Mingzhe does not help. As excellent as Li Xiaoran is as an actress, I find her He Jun to be too weak thus far, without the badass toughness that I have come to associate with CSH in the original, thus unconvincing. Perhaps of the three, what little we see of Du Chun's Cao Zheng is probably the most reminiscent of the doggedly tenacious LJH in the original, though there is insufficient time to really warm to him yet. 

 

There are pros and cons to this adaptation, and I am likely not the best person to give an unbiased opinion. Nonetheless, the first case, and indeed subsequent ones, do provide sufficient element of surprise to keep me watching. 

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Case #2 浅滩连环杀人案 Sandbank Serial Murders

Eps 4-10

Gu Mingzhe, Dets. Wu Qingshan and Zhao Jianxiong are reassigned to the Cold Case team under He Jun. The first case they work on is the 20-year-old Sandbank Serial Murders, where 9 female victims were killed over 7 months - hit over the head, tied with knots impossible for them to undo, put into woven bags and thrown into the river to die of asphyxia. The phone calls resume, the past timeline having shifted back 5 years with Cao Zheng in 1998, also working on the same case. We see how Cao Zheng first came about the fateful phone - a secondhand Motorola phone which his father had repaired and gave to him. Through their joint efforts, the original timeline changes, and with the exception of Cao Zheng's sweetheart who still could not be saved, one attempted victim now survives, while 2 more are never attacked. Nonetheless, in both timelines, the final victim remains the same except with a 5-year delay. This and gingko seeds would become the clues that finally reveal the backstory, motives and painstaking plan that went into the killings, amid red herrings, sacrifice, setbacks, twist upon twist leading up to the final reveal.

 

Thoughts:

This case is an interesting amalgamation of the South Gyeonggi serial murders and Hongwon-dong serial murders of the original, and I applaud the ingenuity of merging the two murderers into one, to provide a backstory and impetus for the killings. Various themes are at work here. Vicious child abuse which twists the child's psyche beyond redemption, remains a terrifying trauma even after the child becomes an adult, and the instinctive fear that has haunted him as a child, still grips him when faced with the source of his abuse. A father whose guilt for unwittingly allowing his son to be abused, deliberately commits a similar crime with the intent of being caught, and by admitting to his son's crimes, pays for it by execution by a firing squad. A son who has lost all sense of humanity, and remains matter-of-fact all the way to the end at his father's sacrifice, reveling only in the fact that he is safe because of it. A man, callous about all the victims who had to die so that he could rehearse the murder he intends to commit a thousand times in his mind, and the sheer tenacity that drives him to overcome his crippled state so as to fulfill that obsession. The poignancy of seeing the spared original victims who regardless of their situations in present day, have hope in their lives, by virtue of the simple fact that they are still alive, intertwined with the dawning comprehension why the final victim Jia Huiping is not spared. It is a case that horrifies us at the brutality of the crimes, and while we have sympathy for the killer over the abuse he had suffered, both as a child and even as a man, the chilling realisation that there is not an iota of remorse in him, fills us with revulsion and horror.

 

The overall flow and logic of the case is a persuasive one. Gingko seeds from a tree planted by Cao Zheng's parents, a symbol of unwavering love and a lifetime of waiting, becomes a gift of love from him to his sweetheart Wen Jingya, not knowing that the trees that would grow from them would be instrumental in locating the evidence that nails her killer 20 years later. A makeshift windmill from the wheel of a wheelchair, a disturbing trophy for the killer to relive his achievements would also tie him to his last victim, and hearken back to his earlier ones. Nonetheless, I do find certain aspects to be overly contrived. Huge, blooming gingko trees to have grown from the seeds in the shattered glass bottle feels rather far-fetched. In addition, the last murder in the new timeline seems highly implausible to have a crippled man commit a murder, prep the body in the same M.O and dump it into the Yangtze river in a brief 10min cable car ride. Also, some dialogue from the original feels awkwardly, almost haphazardly inserted into scenes, such as having Gu Mingzhe rushing out to confront the killer about his lack of remorse, just minutes before he is led out of the police station. It would have made more sense if it had been done as part of the interrogation process, but this feels more like an afterthought, which is annoying.

 

Du Chun nails it as the lovelorn, awkward suitor, and later the grief-stricken bereaved lover, the sweet, poignant interactions between him and Chen Yanqian's Wen Jingya makes me wish there were more, and ache for them for all that could have been. I wish I could say the same for the other two leads. The contrast between the rookie He Jun and team leader of today is not as pronounced - the goofiness of her younger version sometimes feels out of place, while the present seasoned detective lacks the edge that should define someone with 20 years' experience in the field. The weakest remains the portrayal of Gu Mingzhe, including the delivery of his dialogue with Cao Zheng, which feels flat. This is really a shame because ideally the urgency, frustration and bond between the two men should be conveyed to the viewers based on the strength of their voices alone, as if we, the viewers, too are the ones at the other end of the phone call.

 

Reproduced iconic scenes from the original:

 

Cao Zheng mourning Wen Jingya as he listens to her walkman in a cable car ride, reliving the times when they would take the same ride in the mornings. This is the equivalent of the heartbreaking cinema scene in Signal:

NWfML5d1s9E3NbjeQgI3_7KEvv9One8NAGUg7nvUIS-H-uY-jvF4YTHXdcHWd84w176NxbLbPAV234IAVCeZM_7EfhtxRRnx_vylR-kJ-1HIrOpyBZm_axr3Da9UhKgrzO28jXDr58VtsXuj9ZLP6kq03565i7KkTf5CvGjzPWh_p8pIdBNnl9Ro5WDVvpEO9Hc7QFHaMc5xLrXIO7_wwW6vqY4NNAgwyKTPhbOPr5zLo314tfORmynEbpDbmK6JMjUeV1RBhHO8NGbIxUg-t8axSjDY3DZm5T5ixpRXW1S_nff3yJH0OsoJBpkQyiRJDdm99-4CxzRzlCeyDI7oIFiUk4rf3ucL_Xkt5ItmYk2sYb-ggj_m1TXnoAM1A7f2Yxn8Rf_PR-1k0dfXdU-tj3sBxH5dRVFWNqJJWPGqxYN7jZg6IoEKL1htBum7B_GPxPj6bU4GV2jLxjUoSlHOw0ULWSveze3N2JfbEN7RYDvKk6z1hY-OLEOjSuS1iezp30zzt_vq1KdTRJ-XlBaom_oFdoWCIQmozE8c4w1h9Hx7VzYQAIlYRcgOQjpsGyM6CMmna4eczVQQRtz-0n49pltJCFcCRkiWjuLhyDuAEAv_XQRku0PtWpdMRvwkZ9_4qLBZ_tvPqQwy5hFHyGEFr387WnXPC_ND-h17q0-DBQ67s1RiGkWYBSoCCuHgpw=w1201-h600-no?authuser=3

 

The stairwell scene, when Cao Zheng imparts the importance of them finding a way to cope with the horror and grief in their work, so that they can pick themselves up and do their jobs once more to return justice to the victims:

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The hilarious photoshoot, which would become the only source of comfort for He Jun as she waits for him for years:

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Cases 3 and 4 are so closely intertwined that it is not easy to discuss them separately. To begin with, the victim in the 4th case, meets her fate during the course of the 3rd case, but remains an unsolved mystery until the 4th case was investigated. In addition, the victims in both cases are related, and certain events of the 3rd case took place because of the 4th case. 

 

Case #3 别墅连环盗窃案 Villa Serial Burglaries

Eps 11-14

A previously unsolved serial burglary case involving homes of 4 friends is suddenly cracked in the past timeline with the discovery of an ex-burglar Song Bo's partial print at the gate of one of the houses, a photo-identification by one of the burglary victims Zhen Shi'an and a stolen mala prayer bead bracelet found at the suspect's vehicle. The same day Song Bo is arrested for the burglaries, the timeline shifts, and a cold case of a boy in red is now changed to that of a girl in red, the victim being his daughter. Upon his release in present day, Song Bo kidnaps Zhen Shi'an's daughter, ties her up in the same way his daughter was found dead 20 years ago, and initiates a cat and mouse game to lure Zhen Shi'an to the location where he plans to exact revenge, which ends in tragedy, both for him and innocent bystanders. A stolen diamond necklace set that turns up in the past becomes the key to exonerating the innocent and undoing the tragedy in the present. However, irrespective of their efforts, certain events could not be changed, and some tragic fates could not be escaped.

 

Thoughts:

While similar to the Gaesu-dong Serial Burglary case of the original, it cleverly incorporates elements of a real unsolved case in Chongqing (where the drama is filmed) into the narrative which would tie in with the 4th case, and explain Song Bo's actions in present day. Just as in the original, there is no true closure or satisfaction on the part of the team that worked on the case, by virtue of the fact that no matter how hard they try, tragedy cannot be averted, and the innocent will remain victims regardless. The horror of Song Bo's loss is no less than Oh Kyung Tae with the devastating discovery of his daughter's body in his home only to be forcibly dragged away moments later for a crime he is falsely accused of. Likewise Cao Zheng's terrible guilt, believing that he inadvertently facilitated the murder of the young girl by causing her to wait in vain at the school due to his pursuit of her father. We instinctively realise there is more to Zhen Shi'an and his wife than meets the eye, yet there is nothing yet that would explain their shifty behaviour. The manner with which Zhen Shi'an's daughter is dressed and tied up during her kidnapping, combined with the trap that is laid for her father, indicates Song Bo's intention to shed light as to why Zhen Shi'an had to die. And as the case draws to a close with the capture of the real burglar, is Song Bo's unchanging dogged determination in both realities to target Zhen Shi'an out of revenge for his false accusation, or is the truth behind it all far more sinister than we realise, with his cryptic last words? This is where this adaptation shines - in showing a plausible explanation for all that transpires, while subtly giving hints that all is not quite what it seems.

 

If I have one complaint, it would be that this case feels rushed through, events leading one to another with very little breathing space. Yet, in hindsight, I can understand why that is, since it is ultimately a part of a larger picture, which, when taken as a whole, finally explains why things happened the way they did. As it is, overall, it delivers performance and narrative-wise, and I like how light-hearted, warm moments are interspaced through He Jun and Cao Zheng's interactions - his gruff exterior belying his guidance to a rookie officer he has grudgingly taken under his wing.

 

Recreation of scenes from the original:

 

Cao Zheng's devastated grief as he listens to the cassette Song Fang Fang recorded for him, mirroring LJH's anguish in Signal:

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The fateful moment when He Jun is warned too late of the danger:

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Case #4 红衣小女孩死亡案 Case of the Murdered Girl in Red Dress

Eps 14-17

Traumatised by the unpredictable consequences of their calls,  Gu Mingzhe deliberately terminates contact with Cao Zheng and throws the phone away. Still, unable to walk away from it all, both men begin initiating their own investigations in their respective timelines. Cao Zheng's investigation is cut short when he is transferred to Jiutang village, and the trail goes cold in the past. Nonetheless, He Jun's memories from their secret joint investigation of an unusual necklace and the strange bond between the 4 families sets the Cold Case team on the right track to finally reveal the terrible truth - the appalling significance of the case's change from the Boy in Red Dress, to the Girl in Red Dress - bound to occult practices perpetrated by the unconscionable selfishness of the rich to protect their loved ones at the expense of those they deem insignificant. Then it is a race against time as the team attempts to obtain definitive proof of the perpetrator's guilt before he leaves the country and is out of reach of the law.


Thoughts:

The case is adapted from Chongqing's unsolved The Boy in the Red Dress case, and expands on one of the theories on that case which has to do with the occult practice for prolonging a person's life. It is with sickening realisation that it dawns on us just how faithful the details are to the actual 10-year-old case and I commend the scriptwriter for a compelling script that ties both cases together believably, while highlighting the unspeakable evil of a crime committed against defenseless victims. I really appreciate how the unanswered questions and loose ends from Case #3 are tied up by the end of this case. The real reasons for the burglaries are convincingly accounted for, likewise the possibility of the Cold Case team coming across video evidence of the insidious ritual, even though the original recording has been destroyed in accordance with the agreement made between the guilty parties. The discovery of DNA evidence from talismans created from the ritual is also a clever plot device, as is the choice of victims based on the same birthdates, and the reason the Song family is targeted rather than another victim who would have raised far less notice. Last but certainly not least, is the explanation why the original victim changed from a boy to a girl - that there were at least two victims, the first of which is a boy (a homage to the victim of the actual case), whose DNA and video footage would finally be instrumental in revealing the terrible truth of the crimes that were committed.

 

That said, I am less convinced about how other elements are tied together in the narrative. The ease with which the definitive equipment used in the ritual is discovered feels overly convenient. Similarly, though we finally understand why Zhen Shi'an's daughter was dressed up in the same manner during the kidnapping, it is never explained how, in that particular timeline, did Song Bo find out the real reason his daughter died, when in the revised timeline, he overheard the guilty parties talking about it as they congratulated themselves on their narrow escape and success. It also feels too easy that He Jun would remember a necklace seen partially in passing after 20 years, and tie it back to the case they are reopening. We finally have a similar countdown to Signal in terms of deadline, though this is more to do with obtaining clear evidence before the perpetrator leaves the country and is out of reach of the law. Nonetheless, the urgency is still not quite the same, even if I really like how Gu Mingzhe took matters into his own hands (or fists!) and bought them much needed time. 

 

Regardless of some questionable plotholes and overacting from the actor who plays the main antagonist, this still remains a haunting case, one that is well adapted and merged with its predecessor, respectful of the source material upon which it is based. Well done.

 

As always, scenes also from the original:

 

"Though I don't know why the transmissions started nor why it is between the two of us, I feel that it is time these transmissions came to an end."

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The disastrous driving lesson:

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Case #5 九塘乡杀妻案 Case of the Murdered Wife in Jiutang Village

Eps 18-23

During He Jun's visit to Cao Zheng at Jiutang village, an unrecognisable female corpse is discovered in the water after a wrongly timed reservoir water release in Oct 2000. Through the ring on her hand, the victim is identified by her parents as Zhang Guiling, who was married to an illiterate, violently abusive husband Ma Shitou. Despite protests of his innocence of his wife's murder whom he claims ran away a week prior, a butcher's knife and her blood-stained scarf found in their home leads to Ma Shitou's arrest and subsequent incarceration although Cao Zheng remains dissatisfied with the circumstantial evidence. In present day, He Jun chances upon a book signing event of poet Xia Yubing, whom she recognises as Zhang Guiling. Realising that Ma Shitou is innocent of his wife's murder after all, she tracks down Zhang Guiling, and through her admission, Ma Shitou, now a mild-mannered elderly man, is finally free. Meanwhile, with the phone back in Gu Mingzhe's possession after being retrieved from the already suspicious Captain Liu, the calls resume once more. Gu Mingzhe asks Cao Zheng to find Zhang Guiling in his timeline so as to undo Ma Shitou's 18-year wrongful imprisonment. Upon locating the very much alive woman in a garment factory at another town, the previously closed case now becomes unsolved, with the female corpse still unidentified. When new information is unearthed in the present, the perception of guilt becomes blurred as a shocking tale of a murder swap and a carefully planned insidious trap comes to light.

 

Thoughts:

Drawing inspiration from the Shin Da Hye murder case of the original, this case throws out twist after twist that keeps me guessing where the plot would lead us while alternating between extreme ends of the spectrum of reactions towards the characters as the story evolves. It is a very confronting and often distressing case to sit through. Its no holds barred depiction of domestic abuse has me flinching and hurting for the battered Zhang Guiling while utterly furious at Ma Shitou, a coward and bully who would raise his fists against any person, and even more his own wife. Thus it is very much to my surprise that I find myself pitying the very same Ma Shitou for the 18 years of wrongful incarceration, during which time he has mellowed and turned over a new leaf, even painstakingly learning to read and write, when once his illiteracy was the very trigger for his violence towards his wife's love for prose. Ironically, the narration has me questioning whether Gu Mingzhe and Cao Zheng's intervention is a change for the better. Although justice is finally served to all guilty parties, Ma Shitou's very character redemption that initially elicited Gu Mingzhe (and the viewer)'s need to right his wrongly imprisonment, is wiped out in the new timeline, which in turn makes me sometimes wonder if the price is worth it.

 

There are many aspects that stand out in this case, good and bad, which is bolstered by strong guest performances. In addition to the spotlight on the brutality of domestic abuse, it also delves into the psyche of the abused woman - stubbornly clinging to that one sliver of light in a tiny corner of her bleak, harsh world through her poetry and writings - in spite of the escalated battery she receives because of it. We see her evolution when confronted by the reemergence of the one she loves - shame for him to have seen her treated thus, defending and justifying her abuser's behaviour, to gradually allowing herself to hope and dream again. Theirs is a meeting of soulmates and his penned words becomes her lifeline once more, just as hers are to him. We see why she dares not leave her husband, and why she finally finds the courage to do so. Yet we see too that while their love is true, it is also a self-centered love, where others considered as obstacles or hindrances are deliberately cast aside. Although he masterminded the whole plan himself, she is fully aware of it and who he callously disposed of, yet is neither appalled nor horrified by the enormity of his actions, instead accepting it as proof of his love. It is at this juncture that I take issue with the narrative, which appears to excuse the guilty party because of all they have gone through to finally be together; and the sense of being manipulated into sympathising and rooting for them leaves me with a very bitter aftertaste. While the unidentified victim was no saint in her lifetime by any stretch of imagination, she certainly did not deserve her fate, treated as collateral damage standing in the way of "true love", and is conveniently forgotten in the scheme of the narrative as well. As such, the conclusion ultimately leaves me cold. Though finally behind bars, there is hope of parole and a loving family waiting for him, even though he is the one who instigated the murder of one woman while framing another, despite never getting his own hands dirty. Compare that to Ma Shitou's sentencing for murder in the original timeline, I find that an appalling miscarriage of justice.

 

Certain scenes throughout the case boggles the mind as well. It makes no sense why He Jun would visit Ma Shitou to tell him she believes his wife to still be alive in the original timeline, when she has not even approached the poet Xia Yubing nor verified her real identity yet. Also, it never explains the reason Zhang Guiling remains unmarried in that same timeline, although both she and her lover are free to be together. To be honest, the only difference between the original and changed timeline is Ma Shitou's reprieve from wrongful imprisonment for her death. In both timelines, Zhang Guiling remains out of reach from her abusive husband after that, so there is no viable reason at all why she is not with her lover in both timelines too. Minor quibbles perhaps, but it irks me just the same.

 

There is a disappointingly watered down recreation of the iconic scene from the original where LJH finds the traumatised CSH who had escaped the Hongwon-dong serial murderer, but with far less impact, except to highlight He Jun's glaring folly in accepting a ride from strangers. What the scene does explain though, is how Cao Zheng comes to suffer the injury to his left arm that would become He Jun's means of identification each time the remains of a male comes in.

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One more case left!

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Case #6 杨燕被害案 Case of victim Yang Yan

Eps 24-32

Coming across Cao Zheng's notes of all the cases they had worked together, Gu Mingzhe realises that the last on the list is that of his father Zhou Guokun's, who was wrongly convicted in 2002 of physically assaulting their neighbour Yang Yan, a young woman with a penchant for designer goods. His father later committed suicide, and unable to bear the bullying and discrimination due to being the son of a criminal, Gu Mingzhe had his surname changed from Zhou to Gu. Given the heads-up about the case he had not even heard of before this, Cao Zheng finds himself involved in the investigation, which sees Zhou Guokun go swiftly from being the person who reports the crime, to being accused and finally convicted of it due to tampered scene of the crime and false witness testimonies, including the victim herself who insists he is the perpetrator. In the present timeline, Gu Mingzhe digs into Cao Zheng's trumped up corruption charges and unearths a suspicious connection between Deputy Director Sun, Captain Liu and Li Feng of Hui Zhong Finance Company, the major shareholder of which is Feng Hua Group, where Yang Yan worked in the past. Captain Liu is killed just as he tries to tell Gu Mingzhe the truth about his father's case, and the latter winds up being accused of the crime, with evidence conveniently turning up to support the claim. A devastating find awaits them at an abandoned house owned by Li Feng's mother, bringing He Jun's 15 year wait to an end. Further revelations come to light, Gu Mingzhe finally realising who Cao Zheng had been in the darkest hour of his youth. Relentless investigations continue in both timelines, revealing the reason Yang Yan is targeted and the truth behind Zhou Guokun's death, and the failure to stop fate from repeating a 2nd time devastates them both. New evidence is found, and with the countdown to the day of Cao Zheng's death, Gu Mingzhe and He Jun rush to reveal the truth and stop fate from recurring again.

 

Thoughts:

The horrific nature of the original case is very much watered down with this revised version. A far less confronting adaptation of the Injoo school girl rape case of the original, it evolves into a greedy woman who is targeted after stealing incriminating information and blackmailing the perpetrator. It is fear for her own life that leads her to accuse Zhou Guokun of the crime rather than name the guilty parties in exchange for her life. During incarceration, his heart trouble earns him bail on medical grounds to seek treatment, and it is at this juncture that the neighbour who falsely testified of seeing him assault Yang Yan that day, driven by guilt, leaves him video evidence of the actual crime to prove his innocence, effectively signing his death warrant. 

 

To be honest, I followed this case with great anticipation, and came away disappointed in some ways, while applauding the ingenuity in other aspects. The love young Gu Mingzhe has for PC games becomes a key plot device to uncovering crucial evidence for the case. One of my favourite scenes is how the hope, knowing that there is a copy of the incriminating information that would nail all the guilty parties, is quickly dashed when the site where it was kept years ago, has been converted into a rail transit line, thus out of reach, and the only hope of retrieving the evidence lies in the past. I truly applaud how this reinforces the inter-dependence that is so crucial as they investigate the same case from different angles, more so because in most of the previous cases, Cao Zheng is the one who relies on Gu Mingzhe to recover information that would further the case. It is also heartening to note that only a copy of the retrieved evidence is sent to the authorities instead than the original, something I often rail at in other dramas. I love too how Gu Mingzhe, retracing the steps that would lead him to the site of the evidence, recalls a moment when his mother hands him a meat bun all to himself, pretending she has eaten, before retreating to the kitchen, quieting weeping as she tries to hold herself together for the sake of her young son. I too teared up along with Gu Mingzhe, knowing how much it must have cost her to just keep going on the daily routine, giving her son a sense of normalcy when their whole world has been torn down. He Jun's monologue at the wake is a heartbreaking one, a 15 year old wait alternating between hope and despair, hope that with the warmth of spring, he would finally return the next time the doors open. Li Xiaoran absolutely owns this scene, and my heart breaks with her with every single word. 

 

That being said, I am less impressed by how the narrative continues to persist in having overly convenient razor sharp recollection of specific days and situations that happened 15 years ago, which irks me no end. Is it even conceivable that He Jun would remember clearly events on a particular date that would have had no significance at the time? Even Gu Mingzhe's recollection of how the backup copy ended up in his hands felt contrived, despite the fact that I love how that part of the plot played out. The emotional impact of Cao Zheng quietly following and secretly caring for young Gu Mingzhe through his steady provision of egg fried rice at a skewer restaurant is also diminished, since he did not know who the young boy really was at the time, thus there is no added poignancy other than compassion for a bereaved boy. I find it incongruous too how Cao Zheng is credited for solving all the cases in the new timeline. Apart from the Ma Xiaojing and Yang Yan cases, the rest which all occurred before the Ma Xiaojing case, would have been inconceivable for him to prove and solve, especially the Girl in the Red Dress and Jiutang Village cases. 

 

That being said, this has been by and large, an enjoyable adaptation, despite its rough edges and sometimes less than impressive performances. I appreciate too how the cases are given a local flavour and there is an element of surprise in every case that keeps me invested even when iconic scenes do not necessarily evoke the same emotional reactions. And Gu Mingzhe's narration the closing scene sums up this version's overreaching theme, one that emphasises on the responsibility of law enforcement rather than just one person's determination - "To ensure justice is served, the police can never give up."

 

For the last time, scenes from the original:

 

The fateful discovery:

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Not alone:

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The hug:

Spoiler

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The man who started the transmissions across time:

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