Netflix recently released the new South Korean science fiction thriller “The Silent Sea,” and since then, the show has consistently made the Top 10 list in the TV Show category. Its first season consists of eight episodes, and each one lasts less than an hour. The show does many things right: a solid plotline, great production value and a cast of capable actors. Unfortunately, however, the overall show feels bogged down by lofty writing and scenes that are slowed down seemingly to their detriment.
The story takes place in a dystopian future where the world is experiencing a massive water shortage and water is rationed based on the recipient’s social standing. The central character of the show is Doctor Song Ji-an. She is an elite astrobiologist asked by The Republic of Korea’s Space and Aeronautics Division (SAA) to help retrieve samples from a lunar research station. She is initially reluctant to go until she finds out where the mission is located — the Balhae Station, where she apparently lost a loved one. She agrees to go, mainly on a personal quest to find out exactly what happened.
Later, Dr. Song and the other mission crew members are given their mission briefing. They aren’t told much except that the deaths of all the researchers and scientists who worked in Balhae Station were due to a radiation leak five years prior. The SAA wants the crew to go to the station to retrieve some valuable samples left behind; however, they claim to not know what the samples contain. Dr. Song becomes skeptical because the lack of vital information potentially puts the whole crew at risk. Nevertheless, she goes along with the mission. They eventually take off, and although the flight goes smoothly at first, their shuttle malfunctions and they crash on the lunar surface.
The show has great production value, and it’s easy to see the quality throughout each episode. The sets are engrossing; from the spacecraft to the moon to the inside of Balhae Station, there is a lot of detail in all of the set designs. Using a combination of built set pieces and blue screens, the production crew created life-like sets that immersed the actors in their roles. The level of immersion they created helps boost the show’s believability, which in turn immerses the audience in its setting.
The ambiance is also done fairly well through some of their lighting effects and the camera lenses used to film the various shots. The scenes on Earth, for instance, are shot with a yellow filter to convey the feeling of dreariness experienced by society and establish the dystopian atmosphere. When the scenes are well-lit, it’s easy to appreciate the look and feel of the setting. However, many of the shots are poorly lit. This mostly happens during scenes in Balhae Station when the lighting is darkened to try and ramp up the tension, but instead, it makes it hard to see anything.
Without getting into spoilers, “The Silent Sea” has a good working plot, but it isn’t fleshed out enough. The show introduces multiple plotlines at the same time, which makes the story feel all over the place. It tries to be many things: a sci-fi epic, a thriller, a mystery and a horror piece. Despite all of its aspirations, though, the show also feels extremely slow at times. It intentionally uses slow-motion for many shots even though it doesn’t add much to the impact of the story and only bogs down the scene instead.
The reason why the plot doesn’t feel fleshed out enough might be partly due to the eight-episode format of the show. With the amount of content it currently has, Season 1 could have easily been condensed into five episodes instead. Some of the plot twists feel abrupt and come out of nowhere, which can be frustrating. More background story could have been used to justify these twists, but the “mystery” aspect of the show is probably what held the writers back from explaining more.
Viewers also don’t get to know many of the characters on the show even though they play significant roles in the story. The show only gives background stories for two of the characters, which is disappointing because seeing the motivations of the supporting characters would make the story much more heartfelt and impactful.
Bae Doona: Doctor Song Ji-an
Bae previously worked in various films and TV shows like “Cloud Atlas” and “Sense8.” She plays the role of Doctor Song Ji-an, who is skeptical of the mission and often disagrees with the higher-ups about how the situations are handled.
Gong Yoo: Captain Han Yoon-jae
Gong worked in several popular South Korean TV shows and movies like “Train to Busan” and the recent hit “Squid Game.” In “The Silent Sea,” he plays the role of the captain who is leading the mission. He is strict when it comes to following orders from the command center but always prioritizes the safety of his crew.
Lee Joon: Lieutenant Ryoo Tae-seok
Lee was formerly part of the South Korean boy band MBLAQ. Since then, he’s had notable roles in various popular South Korean dramas. He plays the role of the lead engineer who volunteered for the mission in order to escape from his stifling job at the Ministry of National Defense.
All of the actors work well together, and it really shows on screen. They all play their roles extremely well and are one of the strongest aspects of the show. Whenever there is an emotionally charged scene, they offer compelling performances. Some viewers may complain that all of the characters play into stereotypes, but this is more of an issue with the writing than the skill sets of the actors.
Overall, “The Silent Sea” does many things right. Its biggest strengths come from the production value as well as the casting of its characters. The show, however, does suffer from unnecessarily stretched-out scenes and oftentimes lofty writing, which keeps many viewers from being completely captivated by the story. It’s a decent show for any sci-fi fan but definitely a slow-burn, as the story develops slowly.