First Impressions: “Circle” Proves To Be Epic Sci-Fi Drama That’s Not Afraid To Be Dark
If, as a K-drama fan, you haven’t decided to suddenly live under a rock and forgo all news of Korean entertainment, then you’ve probably heard of the new K-dramas coming out, all with tough characters and adrenaline-racing plots. One such K-drama is “Circle.” I’d already seen the posters and read the synopsis, which looked amazing. However, as a “My Love From the Star” fan, I assumed I’d get a cute K-drama vibe with a cool alien that had difficulty understanding the human race. Instead, I got an entirely unique K-drama with a mysterious sci-fi plot that terrified me….at least, in a good way.
Warning: minor spoilers ahead!
Since “Circle” has a fair amount of mystery to it, the storyline gets pulled in from both directions: future and present. The present timeline starts with a flashback featuring our main characters, twins Kim Woo Jin (played by Yeo Jin Goo) and Kim Beom Gyun (played by An Woo Yeon), as kids.
The scene begins with Woo Jin and Beom Gyun walking in a foggy forest at night; Beom Gyun is walking his brother home after finding him in the woods searching for aliens. Beom Gyun takes on the role of the protective older brother, and when Woo Jin asks Beom Gyun, “how did you find me?” Beom Gyun sweetly and matter-of-factly replies, “I told you. I’ll find you no matter where you are.” He also scolds his brother for going up to the mountain to search for aliens. This heartwarming scene is broken by the threatening appearance of a UFO, which chases them to the main road, where their father finds them. The family grabs each other close as the UFO catches up to them, and in a strange turn of events, a young girl appears from it. The flashback ends, but this is a major turning point for our characters as it will change their lives forever.
The scene we face 10 years later is far more depressing. Woo Jin is a college student living on his own; Beom Gyun is on parole, having bounced from mental hospital to prison immediately after his release. Both boys are trying to cope with the loss of their father, who disappeared from their lives shortly after the UFO incident.
Now that they’re older, the tables have turned: Woo Jin is very matter-of-fact and pessimistic about the world, trying to shoulder all the responsibilities of his broken family. This includes his brother Beom Gyun, who is obsessed with the aliens that stole his father and has definitely cracked in the past years. The role reversal is tragic to watch, and it’s hard not to feel for Woo Jin, who desperately wants his brother to live normally with him.
Meanwhile at the university, a murder has occurred. While the police struggle to find the perpetrator, Beom Gyun thinks he’s cracked the case and the identity of the murderer. He picks Han Jung Yeon (played by Gong Seung Yeon), Woo Jin’s new classmate, who looks exactly like the alien that first appeared to them as children.
Woo Jin is just as shocked as Beom Gyun, but dismisses her as a college student who only looks like the alien they saw, especially as he and Jung Yeon grow closer as class partners. This sparks another argument between the brothers, as Woo Jin again begs Beom Gyun to let go of his search for aliens. The argument leads to them separating. But, a few days later, Woo Jin gets a call from his brother, who says that he’s found the alien’s hideout and mysteriously mentions the name “Bluebird.” Following the call, Beom Gyun goes missing and never comes home to his brother.
Fast forwarding into the future gives us an even bleaker scene, a dystopian world where South Korea is divided into two worlds: Smart Earth and Normal Earth. Normal Earth is a pollution-filled world, where high levels of dust in the air have driven its richer citizens to seek refuge in Smart Earth, a disturbing utopia with atmosphere regulating technology and a unique Care Chip system that regulates its citizens with a brain chip.
The chip is supposed to render Smart Earth crime free — at least until a 911 call is made to the police system of Normal Earth. Kim Min Ji, a kidnapping victim, has gone after her kidnappers on a killing spree, and it’s all linked to her forgotten memories and the Care Chip.
The detective on the case is Woo Jin (played by Kim Kang Woo), who has taken on the name Joon Hyuk to secretly search for his missing brother. His main goal is to sneak into Smart Earth, which he feels may have a connection to the loss of Beom Gyun. In the midst of this tangled plot is the chairman, who has a picture of the twins when they were younger; Person B, who created the chips; and a hacker named Bluebird.
“Circle” certainly surprised me. It’s stressful, fast-paced, and dark; however, it’s also brilliant. This is a very fresh K-drama with a very interesting and intricate plot. Even its depiction of the future is creative and new. Being a sibling myself, watching the divide between Woo Jin and Beom Gyun was painful, which only fuels my hope that Woo Jin will find his missing brother in the future.
I also find myself pretty invested in the older Woo Jin — Joon Hyuk — as a snarky hero ready to stand up to the growing and dangerous establishment of Smart Earth. And if the missing Beom Gyun is either the chairman and/or Person B, as alluded to in the drama, then the plot is going to be even thicker. Regardless, “Circle” is definitely an exciting new drama you’ll want to start watching — there’s never a dull moment, and it holds strong promise for being a very epic K-drama.
Ariana K. Welsh is a college student who spends most of her time obsessing over K-dramas with her sister, dancing to loud music, and writing into the wee hours of the night. Her current fave things in life are: snow, Waldeinsamkeit by R.W. Emerson, and Butterbeer.