I’d heard such mixed reactions to this one, that I became curious enough about what my own reaction would be, to check it out for myself.
Now that I’ve emerged on the other side, I can safely say that I do think your mileage may vary, with this one.
Some folks will like it a lot, while others will find it rather ‘meh.’
Personally, I find myself somewhere in the middle – but tending towards the side of ‘meh,’ unfortunately.
Still, I hope that this quick review will help you figure out whether you’re likely to love this one, or whether you’d be better off spending those drama hours elsewhere.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In the midst of a severe water shortage on Earth, a team is sent on a mission to the moon, to retrieve a mysterious sample from an abandoned space station.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a couple of things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. Suspension of disbelief is required
I would say that you’d need to be prepared to suspend disbelief, not only in, 1, the construct of the story, which happens in a low gravity environment, and is very hard to simulate believably, but also in, 2, the actual plot points, sometimes.
If it’s very important to you that logic holds up, then.. this show might be a struggle for you, I reckon.
2. Show’s quite a slow burn
I have to admit that I found our story rather slow and almost boring, for several episodes.
Personally, I only really found my interest picking up significantly, at the episode 4 mark.
Which is not terrible, since this is before Show’s halfway point, but it’s not great either, since I was basically almost halfway through the show, before I actually started to feel more interested in the story that Show was working to tell.
3. The cowboy movie lens
I honestly think that the best way to enjoy this show, is not to think too much. In that sense, I feel like the viewing lens that would be most helpful, is possibly the cowboy movie one, that I used for the movie “The Swordsman.”
As in, you know it’s all about the action, and therefore, nothing really needs to make a lot of sense, and also, no real character development is necessary or to be expected.
Just buckle in for the ride, and close your eyes to logic stretches – or laugh at them, if that works better for you. 😁
STUFF I LIKED
It paints a thought-provoking picture of a possible future world
I do appreciate how Show paints a picture of a future world, that feels both confronting and thought-provoking.
A world where water and food is scarce, and people have to tap special cards in order to get water, and where a gold card that gives you unlimited access to water, is so special, that it can be given as compensation to a family member, when a crew member dies on the job?
It’s different enough from our world to make it all appear very fascinating. But it’s not so different, that I can’t imagine that in our future, at some point. That in itself is quite sobering.
It makes me think of how humankind needs to do better on taking care of the earth, if we want to avoid making such a future our reality.
In a way, it reminds me of TW drama Rainless Love in a Godless Land, which also shone the spotlight on environmental issues, without getting preachy about it.
The Silent Sea is very different from Rainless in just about every other way, but the way it shines the spotlight on environmental issues, where the world that they paint, could very well be in our future, not so many years from now, is pretty similar in spirit, I feel like.
That said, we don’t actually spend all that much time in this world that Show paints, because that’s all contextual, and most of our screen time is spent in space.
Our star-studded cast
It was a treat to have so many capable talents sharing the screen at the same time, and I’ll say that our cast did well with what they were given.
I have personal soft spots for Gong Yoo, Bae Doo Na, Lee Joon and Kim Sun Young, and it was pretty great to see them all in a single show.
At the same time, I do feel like, in most cases, this top-notch pool of acting talent was under-utilized. There just wasn’t a lot of opportunity for our cast to show their excellent range, unfortunately.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
It’s not easy to connect with our characters
One of the most important things, for me, when it comes to enjoying dramas, is a sense of connection with the characters in the story.
If I feel disconnected from the characters, it tends to mean that I’m also feeling disconnected from the story world and the drama as a whole, and vice versa.
In the case of this show, it was only really in Show’s second half, that I started to feel a sense of connection and interest in some of our main characters.
Before that, I didn’t feel actively invested in our characters’ experiences, and my engagement with our story was more theoretical than visceral. Generally speaking, I’d felt quite detached from our characters, in the first half.
However, this all started to improve, relatively speaking, once Show gave us more context for our characters.
For example, learning about Captain Han’s sick daughter, and about Dr. Song’s complicated history with her sister, helped me to feel more empathy and understanding for both these characters.
Unfortunately, Show only gives us character context in a selective manner, so we don’t really learn about a bunch of our other characters, really, all the way to the end.
Show’s challenges in depicting a low-gravity environment
Show is clearly very expensively produced, and the money shows in all the polish.
However, Show still has its fair share of challenges, since it needs to portray a low-gravity environment, while actually working with gravity.
I’m told by more savvy space show watchers (Hi, Sean!), that this is normal and par for the course, but I have to confess that I did go through a bit of an irreverent, giggly stretch, in the very beginning of my watch.
I apologize in advance; I didn’t set out to be irreverent.
Also, I mostly struggled with this in the beginning, before I managed to beat my brain’s sudden overactive analytical tendencies into submission. 😅
It’s just that, in the beginning, while watching, I couldn’t help but notice all these production issues, with trying to make our space-related stuff believable, and in noticing the fails, I couldn’t help but laugh. Eep. 🙊
The entire mission getting thrown together in what feels like a rush, everyone getting on that space craft without seeming to have needed any preparation, I can rationalize away by telling myself that all this training and preparation happened off-screen.
The actual journey to the moon seeming way too fast to be real, I can also rationalize away, by telling myself that they probably only showed us the important bits, and therefore, off-screen, there was a longer journey that happened.
But when it comes to the space-related logic stretches, I just.. couldn’t rationalize them away, and it really proved quite distracting for me, oops.
For example, I know that it’s really hard to make it look like our crew is in a low gravity environment. I get that.
But the fact that our crew so clearly has gravity on their side, is so distracting to me.
Like, sure, Gong Yoo’s character Yu Jae is floating around the cabin, but his hair looks too good, y’know? His hair should be floating too – as should everyone else’s hair that’s not bound out of the way by those cloth skull cap things.
Kim Sun Young’s character’s hair should be floating too, as she sits in her seat, all buckled up.
Speaking of which, you can just tell, that these people sitting in their seats, all buckled in, have gravity pulling them into their seats. It’s not the straps that have them strapped in, preventing them from floating away.
And it gets more pronounced when they’re supposedly space-walking around the moon. They try to mimic the moon-jump type of walk, but because they’re having to create that bounce with gravity instead of without, they steps are so heavy, as they bounce.
It doesn’t look real at all, and I find myself giggling at how silly it looks, when Show’s trying to be serious, and telling me that things are very dire and dangerous. 😅
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Show’s slow burn approach to telling its story
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, it was only at around the episode 4 and 5 mark, that I started to feel more drawn in, by this story.
That’s pretty late, considering that this is only an 8-episode drama.
Before that point, it oddly mostly feels like not a lot happens. Sometimes, it feels like our crew is just exploring and walking around, and intermittently getting on one another’s nerves.
Not very exciting stuff, really.
In the earlier episodes, I have to confess that I did drag my feet somewhat, when it came to watching the next episode.
I do feel that this approach works against Show, because less patient viewers would be quite likely to drop out, before the more interesting stuff happens.
Logic stretches in our narrative
I thought I should put it out there, that there are logic stretches in this story world.
These ones that I’ve got listed here are more.. structural in nature, and therefore might sound rather nitpicky, particularly since I mentioned in the beginning of this review, that you should be prepared to suspend disbelief.
I’ve got a couple more character-related points in the section on the finale, to help round this out.
E1. I couldn’t help but think that the aircraft that they’re on, couldn’t have been properly inspected and tested, before they embarked on the mission. I mean, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, and nothing seems to be working as it should.
It practically feels like they took a junk piece of aircraft equipment out into space with them, and – oops – now they’re stuck.
That feels like a bit of a stretch, for such an important mission?
E1. With how the moon’s gravity is 1/6th as powerful as the gravity on earth, it doesn’t make sense that the aircraft would have such a fast and hard landing on the moon, even with its controls failing?
E4. Stuff isn’t behaving the way I’d expect them to, in one-sixth of the gravity that we have on Earth, like the way they’re able to drop the rope to Captain Han. I feel like the way he falls is also inconsistent with a low gravity atmosphere.
Everyone and everything looks quite dreary
This one’s a pretty shallow point, but I just wanted to mention that basically, everything and everyone looks dreary, in this show.
Like, everyone looks bad in that space suit. It even makes Gong Yoo look bad, which is saying something. 😅
At the same time, there’s no levity in the storytelling either, which most heavy shows would tend to at least have a little bit of. Everything’s just really dreary and measured, and almost.. clinical?
On top of that, the surroundings that our characters spend most of their time in, is the space station, so everything’s very industrial looking, with very little visual relief.
Let’s just say that given everything else that I’ve mentioned, this didn’t really help matters.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
As I watched this finale, it occurred to me that the dynamics of this finale, is quite similar to Train To Busan, which I watched recently.
I mean, at first, it sounds quite ludicrous, that this space-themed show would have anything in common with a zombie-themed movie, but it actually works.
See, in both shows, it’s set up as our characters dealing with some kind of potential infection. In Train To Busan, you risk getting infected by zombies. In this show, you risk getting infected by exposure to lunar water.
And so, as we get to the tail end of the story, here, as it is in Train To Busan, our core crew starts dying off at a faster rate, due to increased risk of infection, as the lunar water does its thing, to overtake the entire space station.
Because of the fact that I watched Train To Busan so recently, I couldn’t help but be struck by the similarities in construct, at least where the story endings are concerned.
In this final episode, we finally get more insight into what had happened 5 years ago, that had eliminated the entire Balhae crew.
As it turns out, it had been a military operation to purposefully snuff out the entire crew, in order to cover up the very illegal activities they’d in which they’d been involved.
I don’t know how I feel about that. It.. feels like there are pieces of information missing here, a little bit?
As in, the Balhae crew had been up in the space station, doing their thing, for (I think it was) 2 years, without any issues. What had triggered the sudden cover-up, is what I’m curious to know.
But, we’re not told those details, and we’ll just have to imagine that somehow the details of the operation had been somehow leaked, and that had led to the order for a cover-up.
The other thing that doesn’t quite make sense to me, is Lt. Ryu’s reason for working as a mercenary.
From what we find out this episode, it seems that Lt. Ryu had had regrets about the part he’d played in the cover-up, and had come on this mission, believing that people don’t deserve lunar water.
If that’s really the case, then why would he have needed to come on board as a mercenary..? He could’ve just joined the mission, with a personal agenda to scuttle the whole thing, because of his belief that people don’t deserve lunar water, right?
Why would he need to join as a mercenary? And, if he’d really done his mercenary job, then wouldn’t the lunar water have ended up in humankind’s hands anyway?
This didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
In the end, Show gives us an ending that’s almost like “build your own adventure,” in that there are certain details that are kept ambiguous, such that you could interpret it in a couple of different ways, and your chosen interpretation could still work.
For example, Show doesn’t tell us whether Luna (Kim Shi Ah) gets on the rescue spacecraft with Dr. Song and Dr. Hong.
All we know is that she managed to get out of her spacesuit really fast, all by herself, without any help, which, honestly, to me, is a greater logic stretch than the fact that Luna can exist in the moon’s atmosphere without artificial help, heh.
I tend to think that Luna stays on the moon and doesn’t go with Dr. Song, since Dr. Song’s made it very clear that she doesn’t want Luna to go to Earth and end up dying in a lab.
And, it doesn’t sound like that rescue spacecraft is about to make a quick pitstop anywhere, for Dr. Song to take Luna to a neutral territory like The International Institute of Space Biology that she’d mentioned.
But.. if Luna stays on the moon, I have to wonder how she’ll survive..? What will she do for food?
The other thing that I find ambiguous, is whether Captain Han actually dies.
In terms of what happens to Captain Han, I do find it a huge stretch, that the water would spit him out to a location so far away from the space station.
Also, while I get that he’d suffer a lot of internal injury from being shot out at such a speed, for such a distance, I do wonder if he’d would’ve died so quickly, from his injuries.
Was there really no way for him to have been taken on that rescue spacecraft? Could there have been a way to save him, I wonder?
I do think, though, that Show’s intended meaning, is that Captain Han dies on the moon, what with that single tear rolling from his eye, and then the lights in his space helmet going out so dramatically.
Also, I can’t help feeling sorry for Captain Han’s daughter, who’s now an orphan.
He’d promised her that he would come back, and that after this mission, he wouldn’t leave again. And now, he’s probably not even going to make it back at all. That’s sad.
In the end, I have to confess that I don’t feel very satisfied by the finale that Show serves up.
It’s not a happy ending, sure, but it’s also not an ending that haunts me with questions and possibilities. In fact, it’s not an ending that haunts me at all, really.
I know there are question marks around what would happen, once Dr. Song and Dr. Hong get back to Earth, with the samples in hand.
But to be honest, I’m not suuper interested in finding out the answers to those questions. 😜
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A slow burn that works out to be decently interesting, but doesn’t quite live up to the hype or the star power.
FINAL GRADE: B-
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out the show on Netflix.
GETTING AROUND GEO-RESTRICTIONS
If you’re geo-restricted, a VPN service would help you get around that. Not only does it provide online safety, it also gives you access to lots of great geo-restricted content.
I personally use NordVPN. You can find my review of NordVPN here.
You can use my affiliate link (here!) to enjoy up to 60% * off, with prices starting as low as US$3.29 per month.
* This used to say 73%, but because NordVPN’s changed the way it calculates the discount, it now says 60%. BUT, it’s the same great price, starting from US$3.29 a month!
An article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here.
I finally realised I haven’t said anything here! As noted over on Patreon, I watched it twice because I got in trouble for zooming ahead and not watching it with “She Who Must Be Obeyed.”
For my mind, The Silent Sea is a good sci-fi thriller with plenty of nods in all the right places to the genre. There are those elements that I look for in such shows and they were all ticked off to good effect: moral ambiguity in a future world, insightful technology, travel and life in space, impossible anomalies, suspense and mystery and finally, the unfolding or development of transparent relationships/friendships.
The focus on water is a very real proposition, which this show explores. The “fight” for water and the inequality around access to water is a key global issue. With water security there is sustained life, food security and good health.
So, overall, The Silent Sea is a better than decent sci-fi outing. The cast were good, the production values also good, I liked the concept and story very much. It leaves behind in its wake some other Kdrama sci-fi dabblings including: Alice, Sisyphus and Rugal. Probably, because, it wasn’t focussed on time travel and dare I say, romantic interludes. For my mind, there are exciting Kdrama sci-fi times ahead.
I completely agree on your soft spots for those actors (especially Kim Sun Young who is astoundingly good in any role). Such a shame that the script doesn’t live up to the cast.
I watched Silent Sea soon after it came out, since I’m a fan of leads. What remains with me are the opening scenes of a planet starving for water. I was stunned by them and still feel I could be looking at the future of much of the earth. Actually, I think the deficits of plot& CGI etc cited by comments represent the creators & actors desire to get those opening images out there with less interest in developing the fantastical space odyssey plot. For me it was worthwhile.
It’s been some time since I saw this but basically agree with your review, kfangrl, with one caveat: I wasn’t super upset by all the science nonsense (did I really want to see floating hair – no! The helmets were already unflattering enough). What irked me was the show being too short. Maybe their budget didn’t allow more episodes? Or maybe that’s just my naive perception of production politics. What was missing was a less short-hand development of human relationships and backstories I could relate to, as you said. That would definitely have taken more time and helped a lot.
Otherwise Gong Yoo cuts a fine, manly and believable figure, Bae Doona is always cool, and Lee Joon can do no wrong ever since I watched him in Bulgasal – even with a helmet on.
I watched this as soon as it came out, so was a bit rusty when I read your review. largely agree with it though. I loved the cast but wasn’t that interesting a show. good review.
Yeah, right?? They clearly spent a LOT of money on this, so it feels extra wasteful, that they had this budget, and this great cast, and still, the show itself was better in concept than execution.. 😅 Thanks for enjoying the review tho, Jaco! ❤️
I didn’t make it past ep 3.
What show was trying to do, was not bad at all but the execusion wasn’t what I expected.
It looked like the show producer had no clue about science whatsoever…..
Yeah, I agree the idea was interesting, but the execution could have been better.
PS: I’ve added a spoiler tag to your comment, to protect innocent eyes who may not have seen the show, and who might still be interested in watching it. It’s part of our new commenting policy. 😉
I haven’t actually watched the show (and I don’t plan to, because I haven’t heard many good things about it, and dystopian is not my thing) but the BTS content for it is super fun. The cast seems to have great chemistry off-screen.
I did watch a BTS clip of them by The Swoon, and it was definitely a more engaging watch than the show itself, lol. It’s partly why I decided to give the show a try, actually. 😅