Bang! OCN just aired last Saturday its fifth drama this year and just like nearly all of its predecessors, the new series gives us another dark and thrilling experience that would keep us wide awake during the late night of Saturdays and Sundays. Have you watched the drama? Or are you still on the fence about watching the first episode? I suggest you read the details below for you to make up your mind. Worry not because there are no spoilers in this Save Me Review.
The Story: Save me from the cult
The title of the drama is SAVE ME, which refers to the cry for help by the heroine whose life is in peril after her family moves into the countryside from Seoul. On their new place resides a mysterious old man leading a cult that will eventually endanger her and her family. Fortunately, there is this four-member group of high schoolers who are kind-hearted and courageous enough to save her but their involvement just makes things even more complicated and the people around them start to face danger as well.
Save Me, also known as Rescue Me, is a psychological thriller based on a webtoon titled Out of the World by Jo Geum-san. This is not a crime or horror drama, take note. Instead, this show deals with a religious cult and provides its viewers with a different kind of terror. So, if you are not into dramas that make your heart beat faster when you watch highly suspenseful scenes, this one may not be for you. However, you can try hitting the play button to find out what it has to offer. After all, Save Me is one of a kind as cults are a new topic in Korean dramas.
In its first week, the drama’s narrative puts emphasis on the family’s arrival in their new home and the changes they have to face afterward. This family come from Seoul and arrive at their new destination without a home. Then enters the so-called Spiritual Father, the cult’s leader, who offers them a decent house to stay in and acts nicely towards them. They’re facing a dire financial situation, so they have no choice but to accept the offer. The daughter, however, senses something ominous and strange about the cult people.
The development of the story has the right pacing—not slow nor too fast. We know through the premise that the Spiritual Father and his cult are the bad guys but so far no scenes have explicitly shown such details. In fact, the opposite is laid out in the first two episodes, that they are good people serving their God and saving the lives of many. We’ve been given though a hint of their twisted belief and personalities by none other than the Spiritual Father himself, who says, “Demons don’t look like scary monsters.” The cult follower to whom the message is directed has no idea that the Spiritual Father is one such demon—angel-looking on the outside but monstrous deep down.
I am no reader of the said webtoon so I truly have no idea what to expect for the whole series. But the drama promises us an eerie and unique viewing experience ahead, drawing on its never-heard before and likely provocative screenplay about a cult versus a young lady and four high school boys. The intro does not leave a kind of strong feeling that makes you want badly for more yet it suffices to attract avid fans of dark-themed dramas. In contrast, for those who rarely set aside time for thrillers, the first two episodes are lacking in impact and I bet most of those who watched the premiere have decided to drop the series already. Storywise this drama might not be your cup of tea but when you’re desperately in need of Taecyeon’s or Seo Ye-ji’s presence on the small screen, perhaps you’ll go on watching Save Me anyway.
The Characters: Cult versus High Schoolers
Meet the characters and their respective cast and see if you can find someone that could compel you to watch the series. It’s my first time to see the two main leads on a drama, so I can’t tell how impressive (or quite the opposite) they are in portraying their characters. I find Seo Ye-ji‘s performance admirable as far as her character is concerned while Ok Taecyeon is nailing his role’s high school image as well.
The Im Family
The girl that asks to be saved is a quiet and gorgeous high school student named Im Sang-mi (cast: Seo Ye-ji of Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth and Moorim School). She has a binovular twin brother named Im Sang-jin (cast: Jang Yoo-sang of Memory and Angry Mom) who is as silent as she is. Both are loving children to their parents, Im Joo-ho (cast: Jung Hae-kyun of Ruler: Master of the Mask and Moonlight Drawn by Clouds) and Kim Bo-yeon (cast: Yun Yoo-sun of Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo and Shopping King Louis). Among the family members, only Seo Ye-ji has sensed that something is really strange about the people in the cult’s chapel.
Sang-mi is a central character in the story, possessing a weak physical appearance but can act strongly some times especially when Sang-jin is being bullied at school. Her stunning beauty can melt the hearts of men, probably including the Spiritual Father who grabs her thigh the first time they’ve met, and in the middle of praying at that. But she’s a lady who doesn’t speak much so her family did not know about it. Her personality makes her vulnerable to the evil desires of the cult. Similarly, Sang-jin is a quiet kid who can’t fight back against his bullies and he’s so traumatized by one event on the school rooftop that he commits something terrible.
Little is known yet about their mother but their father is shown to have been conned by his friend, causing the suffering that his entire family has to bear. They move into the countryside to start a new life after their business failed in Seoul but because of the backstabbing, they end up in the cult compound where their lives are going to become more miserable. The couple is suspicious of the cult people at first but they quickly change their disposition, giving their trust to people whom they should avoid at all cost. This makes the entire family very vulnerable to the danger looming before them. And it makes sense because they have to be the helpless victim for them to beg for help and say, “Save me.”
Leading the group of four young men who will rescue Im Sang-mi is Han Sang-hwan (cast: Ok Taecyeon of Let’s Fight Ghost and Assembly). He always hangs out with his three best friends named Seok Dong-cheol (cast: Woo Do-hwan of Sweet Stranger and Me and Shut Up Flower Boy Band), Woo Jung-hoon (cast: Lee David of Let’s Fight Ghost and Mirror of the Witch), and Choi Man-Hee (cast: Ha Hwe-jung). They seem to be the happy-go-lucky type of boys when they’re glued together but each of them has their own sad stories to tell.
Han Sang-hwan is a man who has a strong sense of justice, an attitude he could have inherited from his father seeking again for re-election in the governor’s seat. His father is always busy while his mother is bedridden in the hospital, so most of the time no one is there to check on him. Despite this, he’s grown to be a loving and good son. Dong-cheol, meanwhile, bears the pain of having a broken family. His mother had left them and his drunkard father seems not to care about him. He lives with his grandmother whom he considers his favorite person in the world.
Sang-hwan and Dong-cheol appear to be the closest to each other among the four boys. They are also the ones with the strong tendency to feel compelled to help others in need, so their characters are well-suited to become the heroes in this show. With the addition of Jung-hoon and Man-hee, they’re gonna make a team of naive high schoolers who will risk their lives to save another naive young woman.
The drama won’t be complete without the bad guys, and for Save Me we have the leading members of the cult that will pose a threat to the lives of the characters we want to be safe all the time. Leading the dangerous religious organization is the two-faced old man named Baek Jung-ki (cast: Cho Seong-ha of The K2 and Local Hero), often called as the “Spiritual Father.” The minions working actively under him are apostles Kang Eun-sil (cast: Pak Ji-young of The Liar and His Lover and Moon Lovers) and Jo Wan-tae (cast: Jo Jae-yun of Defendant and Fantastic).
There’s nothing much to be said about these characters other than the fact that all of them are two-faced and eerie, so much so that you would want to smack them in the face every time you see them. The Spiritual Father is a charismatic leader though, capable of effectively luring innocent people into his creepy chapel that’s like a secret prison to me. He is one complex character whose real intentions and motivations are quite the mystery. And that makes this drama all the more intriguing and mind-blowing.
Save Me review: The Verdict
With its complex characterization and interesting storyline, Save Me is sure to creep you out every episode. It’s kind of sadistic and provocative given how it explores the existence of cults, religion, and even the familiar but serious topics such as school bullying. Nevertheless, it’s not 100 % seriousness and creepiness as we’re also given some funny and light moments coming especially from the bond between Sang-hwan and his friends. I recommend you to watch this if you’re a sucker for thriller dramas because the suspense it offers will truly satisfy your demands for shows like Voice, Tunnel, or Duel. If you’re not into this genre, perhaps you could try watching the first episode out of your love for Taecyeon, Seo Ye-ji, Woo Do-hwan or the other cast.
Based on its first week, this show has the potential to become another good drama from OCN this year. It’s not right to say that it won’t appeal to the audience given the success of Voice, which contains a lot of gory and violent scenes. One one hand, it’s too early to conclude that it will become successful even if the second episode managed to increase the nationwide viewership ratings by 0.68 percentage point—from 1.06 to 1.74 %.
What are others saying? As of this writing, Save Me isn’t making much noise online but many comments I’ve read suggest a positive reception to the drama. Read some of those comments below.
- Yeolie (r/KDRAMA): I can’t even begin putting my thoughts into words. This is the first time in a LONG time that I’ve felt so… thrilled by a drama.
- thekiwikingdom (r/KDRAMA): LOVED the two eps, holy shit. Mind blowing.
- pjhyun (Asianwiki): I used to love rom com drama but surprisingly this drama got my attention, the story plot is really interesting, can’t wait for the next episode
- aaaa111 (Asianwiki): Cho Seung Ha’s acting is really commendable! especially in this drama. This show never fails to send chills down my spine.
- shaiinahxo (Dramafever): It’s a very interesting drama so far, It keeps you on your toes and has you asking many questions. Lovin it
- JBsGirl (Dramafever): I feel like I just watched a movie. The quality of the filming is wonderful. Reminds me of visual of Goblin. Also, David Lee is such an underrated actor!
I notice the somewhat cinematic feel of this drama as well (you will know what JBsGirl meant once you watch it). This effect can be attributed to PD Kim Sung-su whose previous works as a director are films—mystery-thriller Genome Hazard in 2013 and action-noir Running Wild in 2006. It’s his first time directing a series and it looks like his usual style got its place on the small screen.
I wish Save Me would impress me more in the coming episodes, and so do everyone out there who enjoyed its first week. “Our wishes will be fulfilled,” hopefully.
As of this writing, SAVE ME can be legally streamed on Dramafever for North American viewers and VIU for Southeast Asian fans. For more information about the drama, please visit its information page.