The premiere episode of clone-themed suspense drama “Duel” wastes no time in getting the action going. Our lead drops large amounts of cash on a table as ransom for his kidnapped daughter, a mysterious woman arrives to offer more and the chase is on. “Duel” then takes a step back and shows us how we got to this point. Shady scientific practices, two men with the same appearance and bad decisions follow.
Stem cells and cloning have been an ongoing hot issue and South Korea has its own history with the topic. A researcher now working on dog cloning for rich owners claimed a later disproven human success a while back. The premise is is a futuristic nightmare and combining it with powerful and dangerous villains allows it to fit into Korean drama and its love for the evil elite. The life of our hero’s daughter is just an element to generate suspense for now.
That being said, the characterization itself is solid. Jang Deuk-cheon (Jeong Jae-yeong) and his daughter Jang Soo-yeon (Lee Na-yoon) are very typical of their roles. A rough detective who is a protective parent, a young girl wise beyond her years. Their interactions are great and getting to know Soo-yeon a bit before we go back to her kidnapping means that it is easier to care for her as a person, rather than as a mere plot device that needs to be retrieved in order for the lead to be happy.
Choi Jo-hye is the highlight of the series for me so far. She looks cold, calculating and Kim Jung-eun portrays her in an extremely unnerving manner. I feel uneasy looking at her, because the contrast of her calmness to the emotionally charged situations she is in make her almost robotic. This is a welcome feature for a character hiding their true intentions; everything from her acting to her strong make up act as a mask. The honesty of her one emotional moment is therefore hard to gauge.
The history between her and Deuk-cheon is very intriguing as well. Their first joint bribery led to his wife’s death and the new one will risk or possibly take his daughter’s life, which presents a good cautionary tale. Injustices come back to bite you, even if they may not always succeed. I do believe Soo-yeon was chosen for the program for a reason and the reason is probably to buy out Ahn Jeong-dong’s freedom from Deuk-cheon.
As for our clones, there is not a lot to say for now. I imagine being created as a product and possibly left with crippling health problems, as the injections imply, would not sit well with anyone. If I have to guess a motivation for our kidnapper, it is either bitterness or a quest for a cure. I do hope that the clone part of the story will be decently engaging, even if not a main focus, but all in all this is a good premiere.
“Duel” is directed by Lee Jong-jae, written by Kim Yoon-joo and features Jeong Jae-yeong, Kim Jung-eun, Yang Se-jong and Seo Eun-su.
Written by: Orion from ‘Orion’s Ramblings‘
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