In his third sci-fi project since last year, Gong Yoo helms The Silent Sea, a Netflix original series about a mission to an abandoned lunar research station to recover a sample that will save mankind from eventual drought. Unfortunately, the mission faces complications as soon as it begins. In order to survive, the crew must discover the mystery behind the closure of the Balhae Station and the power that the sample holds.
I was really excited to see The Silent Sea because it had a pretty solid cast. Gong Yoo as Captain Han Yoon Jae, a military legend who agrees to lead the mission to save his ailing daughter’s life; Bae Doona as brilliant astrobiologist Dr. Song Jian, and Crash Landing on You‘s Kim Sun Young, who plays Dr. Hong Ga Young, the crew’s medical specialist.
In order to give a fair review, I refrained from reading earlier reviews slamming the series as a sub-par sci-fi offering. Technically, it was not. The Silent Sea was not horrible per se but it failed to measure up to expectations because it felt like it was unsure of how to tell its story.
The worst sin committed by The Silent Sea‘s team was its failure to establish relatable characters. You even knew who was going to die and survive from the first look. There was a total of eight episodes but each character was the same person they were prior to their mission. If some had a change of heart, it seemed forced. Also, the series borrowed a lot of plot points from other films and series — the sick daughter, the bereaved sister, an experiment gone wrong and politics on the ground. The problem was it was all thrown together like a smorgasbord of elements without actually establishing its impact.
First off, Jian was the worst type of heroine. She had her own agenda in joining the mission and she was never set on cooperating with anyone on the crew towards a common goal. She was stubborn, standoffish and expected other people to simply do as she says. She constantly undermined Captain Han’s decisions. She went on her own and endangered the rest of the team. Like I said, she was the absolute worst. If she was on my team, I would have left her outside the station without a spacesuit, brilliant scientist or not. The attempt to humanize her by establishing her connection to Luna came a little too late because by the time it happened, audiences could care less. I love every character played by Bae Doona so it took a special kind of skill to make her unlikeable.
I felt bad for Captain Han. He was leading the mission blind, as most information was kept from him. Still, he made swift decisions and cared about his crew. He was not afraid to risk his life instead of simply ordering another crew member to do something dangerous. He was a pretty standup guy and he deserved more credit than what he was given.
The MVPs for me though, were Chief Gong (Lee Moo Saeng) and Dr. Hong. Chief Gong suffered one of the greatest losses in the beginning of the mission but he remained levelheaded, reliable, and loyal to his captain and loyal to the mission until the end. Dr. Hong was efficient, intelligent and really did her best to save the lives of her fellow crew members. Despite being snubbed and belittled by Jian, she still worked together without harboring grudges. She knew how to balance science and humanity and that was something sorely lacking in Jian’s character.
Lee Joon, who played engineer Lt. Ryu Taesuk, made a good decision in making a comeback with this project. They gave him a good role and he had really matured as an actor.
Storywise, The Silent Sea fell short of establishing the politics that was happening on Earth. It seemed that the set up for Director Choi and Section Chief Kim never really played out and was swiftly brushed aside as the lunar mission reached its climax. The impact that government secrecy to the mission seemed like it was halfheartedly thrown in to add more complications to the plot.
To its credit, The Silent Sea‘s earlier episodes in particular, were quite suspenseful. They will definitely keep viewers at the edge of their seats with the questions and possibilities. Once the answers were revealed however, the series seemed to lose a grip on the audience’s attention. The series’ final episodes became boring since they were rotating among the same problems over and over again.
Sure, there were also some attempts at drama but they didn’t seem to make as much impact because it was really unclear who the real villain of the piece was. And because nothing really surprising actually happens, it seemed a bit derivative copycat of previous sci fi works. The Silent Sea really had a lot of potential. Too bad it wasn’t able to deliver fully on it.