Slick, Stylish, And Suspenseful: “Adamas” Is Mystery At Its Absolute Finest
Ji Sung is back and better than ever! After an incredible turn in last year’s “The Devil Judge,” he’s back to challenging himself with dual roles this time as twins seeking to avenge their father’s death. But it wouldn’t be Ji Sung if there wasn’t a good old twist somewhere in there, and “Adamas” certainly delivers on that in the opening minutes. Slick, eerie, and just the right side of unsettling, the show examines the world of the wealthy through a dystopian lens to ask the age-old question: just how far will the uber-rich go to protect their interests?
And if that doesn’t hook you, here are five compelling reasons to dive in!
1. The cinematography
Straight off the bat, it bears mentioning that the cinematography in this show is nothing short of stunning. From wide-angle shots to tight close-ups following our characters, this drama is evidently helmed by a deft hand. The director, Park Seung Woo, is the same one behind cult-favorite “Kairos,” and he’s only gotten better since. From the prison cell montage to the juxtaposition of the twins getting ready and using that to show their personalities, this show is all about showing, not telling (in a manner, very reminiscent of “Stranger”). As Ha Woo Shin (Ji Sung) enters the house of South Korea’s wealthiest man, the camera’s subtle panning gives us a sense of wrongness, of secrecy. No dialogue is necessary, which adds to the sense of tension as Woo Shin attempts to navigate this new minefield.
2. Ha Woo Shin
“Adamas” is a show that very much lives and dies on the strength of its characters because they drive the plot hard. Woo Shin hits the ground running almost immediately and is the focus of the first two episodes. A best-selling author, he is mysteriously recruited by the wealthy CEO of Haeseong Group, Chairman Kwon (Lee Kyung Young, who is playing every single villain these days), to ghostwrite his autobiography. Woo Shin’s motivations aren’t made entirely clear to us, but we know he has the inkling that Haeseong was involved in his father’s death 22 years ago. So, it’s easy to root for him as he accepts Haeseong’s uber-exclusive invitation to stay at Chairman Kwon’s home while he writes the book.
Security Guard Kim knows what’s up
Only, the house feels more like a prison. Butler Kwon (Hwang Jung Min), who oversees all household matters, is a veritable dragon who takes an instant dislike to Woo Shin and to really anyone who doesn’t bow down to her immediately. She also takes pleasure in poisoning maids for no reason. The head of housekeeping slyly warns Woo Shin that the third floor of the house is off-limits to him. On his first night, Woo Shin finds a poisoned maid and calls for help, only to find a sea of cold faces that only take the maid to the hospital because Woo Shin has clearly seen her. The security cameras record people’s heat signatures to identify when an outsider gets too close. Woo Shin has no access to his own clothes, cellphone, or the outside world, save an old rotary phone in the main hall that everyone can monitor him using.
It’s a setup reminiscent of Bluebeard’s Room and every gothic story with the protagonist in a house that doesn’t seem quite right. And Ji Sung is playing it with aplomb. But the house isn’t the only one with secrets and Woo Shin didn’t go into this entirely blind. He came here for a very specific purpose and that purpose elevates this show to sheer brilliance.
3. The Adamas
One of the key mysteries behind the death of Woo Shin’s father is that the murder weapon was never found. But judging by Woo Shin’s dogged pursuit of the Adamas, he may have an inkling of what it is. The show reveals its cards early with respect to what the Adamas is: it’s a multimillion dollar diamond arrow, crafted by Haesong Group to serve as its emblem (and to disassociate the corporation from its Imperial Japanese roots). All people know is that the arrow is hidden somewhere in Chairman Kwon’s home in a spot only he knows.
And that is what Woo Shin is after: to steal the Adamas from the tightly-guarded home of a meticulous, potentially psychopathic CEO of a group that pretty much runs Korea. What a fantastic premise! It basically elevates Woo Shin’s half of the story to the heist of a potential murder weapon from a creepy mansion of a billionaire. And he isn’t the only one running the show.
4. Song Soo Hyun
Woo Shin’s diametrically opposed twin-half is a mouthy prosecutor who couldn’t care less about what his higher-ups have to say. Song Soo Hyun (Ji Sung) does his job well and has no time for political shenanigans. So when a dogged reporter from a mainstream media channel pursues him to argue that he should care about the upcoming election, he doesn’t want to hear it. The reporter, Kim Seo Hee (Lee Soo Kyung), warns him that the current assemblyman in the lead, Hwang Byung Chul (Kim Jong Goo), plans to reinstate the death penalty upon coming to power. And the first person to be executed will be Lee Chang Woo (Jo Sung Ha), the killer of Soo Hyun and Woo Shin’s father. Soo Hyun sees that as good riddance but pauses when Seo Hee tells him it would actually be a tragedy because Lee Chang Woo is innocent.
Soo Hyun refuses to hear it at first, but Seo Hee’s remarks start to make an eerie kind of sense, and when he start digging, Soo Hyun quickly finds that she’s right. The key witness in his father’s case was bribed. His father’s murderer is actually still on the loose. The issue? The people who covered it up are Haeseong Group, and Soo Hyun doesn’t know it. For a guy who likes to do his job without playing the long game, he’s going to have to start learning and fast. Because in this world, Haeseong sees all. And they have their eyes fixed on our intrepid twins. Even worse, Soo Hyun can’t communicate with Woo Shin, who’s cut off from the world at Chairman Kwon’s home. They’re on their own. But they aren’t. Not really, because “Adamas” is much more than Ji Sung’s one-man show.
5. Eun Hye Soo and Kim Seo Hee
Yes and yes to the amazing women we have here. Eun Hye Soo (Seo Ji Hye, reuniting with Ji Sung after over 10 years!) is Haeseong’s slightly strange daughter-in-law. Married to a man who seems content to leave her confined at Chairman Kwon’s home while he gallivants across Seoul, Hye Soo spends her time growing illegal opium and secretly aiding Woo Shin for some unknown reason of her own. She’s the one who tells him that the Adamas is the murder weapon that killed his father. She also falsifies his medical records, allowing him to enter the mansion without having to mention whatever implant he’s hiding in his hands. Hye Soo has an agenda and is as mysterious and calculating as Woo Shin (perfect foils for each other, really). But why go through all the trouble?
Seo Hee, on the other hand, is a perfect match for Soo Hyun’s temperament. Both take no nonsense, have no time for pleasantries or political games, and would really rather if people got to the point asap. They also don’t take no for an answer. When Seo Hee’s boss shoots down her expose on Assemblyman Hwang Byung Chul for political reasons, she doesn’t hesitate to take matters in her own hands and seek out Soo Hyun to work with him to tear the man down. But the question of motivation rises again, because why would an up-and-coming reporter go to such potentially career-destroying lengths for a man she doesn’t even know?
The women here have their own motivations and stand on their own as strong characters. Even the fierce Butler Kwon makes a splash. It isn’t clear if this drama is going to get romantic at any point, but Ji Sung is always so wonderful to watch when romancing (“Doctor John” and “The Devil Judge” are both great examples) that we’ll hopefully get some!
He’s literally just met her and he already looks fond.
“Adamas” packs quite a punch in just its premiere episodes with a lengthy list of characters and interlocking motivations. And with such a capable cast and crew at the helm, it’s safe to assume we’re in for the ride of our life. And with two Ji Sung’s to boot! Life is grand.
Check out Ji Sung in “The Devil Judge” below!
What did you think of the premiere episodes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Shalini_A is a long time Asian-drama addict. When not watching dramas, she works as a lawyer, fangirls over Ji Sung, and attempts to write the greatest fantasy romance of all time. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and feel free to ask her anything!
Currently Watching: “Adamas,” “Alchemy of Souls,” “Café Minamdang,” “Big Mouth,” and “Extraordinary Attorney Woo.”
Looking Forward to: “Island,” “Little Women,” “Chaebol’s Youngest Son,” “If You Wish Upon Me,” “Queen of the Scene,” and “Black Knight”