It’s not an understatement to say that “Abyss” was one of the most anticipated kdramas of 2019. The casting news of Park Bo Young first came out in the summer of 2018. When I reported the news on that subject back then, we had no idea what it was about. Regardless, people (including me) couldn’t wait to see her on screen again.
Later, more talented people were added, Lee Si Eon and rising rookie actor Ahn Hyo Seop and many others.
I was excited about Ahn Hyo Seop because I thought he deserved a leading role, and I was anticipating seeing how his chemistry with Park Bo Young will turn out.
However, here we are, “Abyss” is struggling to maintain a following after its premiere back on May 6. The drama first episode drew 3.8% which is not too bad for a cable drama but the ratings have been on the decline ever since.
What went wrong? And what made “Abyss” so difficult to watch?
Today, I will be talking about my personal opinion and discuss the reasons why I believe the drama never picked up as many had hoped and why I found it to be one of the most disappointing kdramas of 2019.
Note: Of course, this is a personal opinion article and I discuss my personal thoughts. If you don’t like people who are critical of kdramas, then please don’t bother to read.
*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD* Based on episode 1-6
Reason 1: Excessive Marketing
I work in marketing, specifically social media marketing, and I know a thing or two about how to carry out successful marketing campaigns to promote products.
First impressions matter. If the first couple of episodes are disappointing, then people won’t tune in anymore.
What does this have to do with marketing? And how did it play a role in the falling ratings of this drama?
I have been closely following tvN marketing for this particular drama. I first started to pay attention because the teasers were interesting but then it began to get on my nerves. It was excessive.
For almost two months ahead of the drama release tvN started teasing with videos and photos. Each time, they’d release a video then release another one that has 5 added seconds of the same previously released clip either before or after original clip. I was like ‘is this for real?’
This went on for a while and it was rather annoying to me because it seemed that they were trying too hard recycling the same material as much as possible to build up hype.
This got me thinking of two possibilities; the drama is either extremely disappointing or very good but experimental so they want to get the word out.
I don’t expect people to pick up on the excessive marketing part, but I am guessing many saw the teasers; there are many versions of them.
Excessive marketing is not bad when you’re sure of your product. The issue is that it creates high expectations and if those expectations are not met, the product fails to sell to the targeted audience which is exactly what happened with “Abyss.”
The first episodes were a total disaster and had editing issues. It was overwhelming, confusing and difficult to follow even though the core idea was rather simple.
I will talk in more details about my fury with episode 1 and 2. People tuned in with high expectations and were met with a messy premiere which led to the decrease in ratings ever since.
This is why you should be careful with planning the marketing strategy for whatever it is you’re working on. You don’t want to overwhelm the consumer and then shock them with terrible products/dramas when they’re launched.
Reason 2: The Premiere Was A Mess
The first episodes of any drama are important and if you do a poor job, it’s pretty difficult to get people to tune in to see your drama after that.
But this might not be the case with the international kdrama community who is rather more patient than the average Korean general consumer. We also watch on websites and have the freedom to choose when we watch. Many of us only care about looks which is why you rarely see people heavily critiquing kdramas.
The first episode was seriously rushed. A man dies 1 minute into the episode. A woman dies in the last minutes of the first episode and I honestly couldn’t care less about either.
It felt as if the writer wanted to fast forward towards the main hot leads ASAP without taking time to set the premise and introduce the characters properly. It ended up looking like a total mess and a bunch of scenes that make no sense.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind mystery and I don’t want to be spoon-fed every single detail I need to know about the plot, but episode 1 and 2 were difficult to watch, it almost made me want to give up.
Many kdramas start out boring because they take time to set things up, but not this one.
It felt like I was in the middle of mayhem and didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t care less when the hot lady died and was replaced with Park Bo Young. I had no attachment to the characters and had no idea what was happening around me.
Episode 2 was a little better because it felt as if the director and writer felt more comfortable now that the main characters were in. However, it was already too late to salvage the drama.
Reason 3: The Script
One of the most disappointing scripts of 2019 has to be “Abyss.” It is written by a writer called Moon Soo Yun who has no other credits to her name besides writing two seasons of “Rude Miss Young Ah”- a long-running tvN series that has many seasons.
It felt as if she wanted to prove to people she was good and experimental but had no idea how to construct characters or events properly.
I am baffled by the fact that people read the script and actually thought ‘hmm, this is a good idea; let’s make it into a drama.’
I still can’t believe this script was okayed by a production studio and a broadcasting station at the same time.
But it’s not all bad, I think the core idea is actually very interesting but the execution is rather poor. This infuriates me because I felt that these were wasted opportunities.
The writer has many interesting ideas inside her head. She wants to shock people and she does a good job at it but needs more time to construct a script that is at least plausible.
I felt like she forgot she was talking about murders, not average rom-coms, murders…. These types of scripts need to revised over and over again for accuracy.
I was shocked when I found out director Yoo Je Won is actually working on “Abyss.” I am a huge fan, he directed one of the best 2018 kdramas “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” which was beautifully written, but then he chooses this as his comeback project. Disappointment is an underestimate.
I get that it’s an ambitious project and I appreciate the idea but the writer can’t for the life of her execute it properly.
Logic flies out of the window the minute the drama starts (and I am not talking about the abyss part) and instead of characters making logical decisions as logical human beings, you see them make decisions based on how the writer wants the script to go. It’s like these characters need to do these things so we can move on to the next scene, that’s how it felt.
Rather than being driven by sense, it’s driven by the writer’s purpose, and its obvious, too obvious.
The prosecutor does things that wouldn’t fly over anyone’s head in real life but he gets away with it because the writer says so. The police do stuff in a very unprofessional weird manner in a drama that is supposed to be about a serial killer.
“Abyss” is just incomprehensible and I am not nitpicking. You can’t just expect me to throw logic out of the window especially when we’re talking about a serial killer.
If I wanted to point out the plot holes of this drama, I could go on for days. There are so many inconsistencies, missing details, illogical actions or reactions. Basically almost everybody in this drama is dumb.
Reason 4: poorly written characters
Part 1: Cha Min
I had to focus on Cha Min specifically because he’s the main character. Keep in mind this article talks about episode 1 to 6.
In the first episode, Ahn Hyo Seop character wakes up in a different body and rather than feeling bad his old body is gone he’s happy as a kid about the new hot body he got. But how will he survive?
I know that Korean beauty standards are strict but man, you’re a leader of your family company, why don’t you think about what’s gonna happen now that you real body is gone?
He goes around doing a bunch of stupid things and lying profusely yet somehow people fall for it. He keeps looking for a fiancé that ran away who won’t even recognize him if he finds her.
Cha Min then sees someone on the ground and the first thought that goes into his head is to revive a person he doesn’t even know.
Here is the character description according to AsianWiki:
“Cha Min is the successor of a cosmetics company. He is smart, humble and has a good heart. He is also unattractive.”
It obviously didn’t say ‘dumb,’ but man it’s been a while since I’ve seen such a gullible ignorant character and I don’t think the writer is doing that intentionally.
Ahn Hyo Seop is a good actor, I firmly believe that. I firmly believe he is doing the best he can with the material in his hands, but man Cha Min is one of the stupidest characters I have ever seen in kdramas and I have been watching for 8 years.
I understand the fantasy element of the drama but why is it that when Koreans write fantasy stories they think logic flies out of the window for everything else that surrounds their drama?
Isn’t the idea about how normal human beings would deal with an abyss that brings people back to life?
If the writer was trying to portray the psychological effects the revival had on the characters then fine, but it doesn’t seem that she’s going in that direction.
I want to point out one scene that got on my nerves.
At one point, Cha Min says that he has to see his fiancé, speak to her and explain his situation and this is how he’ll be able to get back to his real self. The only issue is no one has EVER said that. Cha Min just invents stuff on the top of his head that no one told him about. He proceeds to execute them because… the writer says so.
This particular plot point annoyed me because I was almost offended that the writer thought we were this stupid.
I had to go back in episodes just to double check. No one told Cha Min that if he does certain things, he can go back to his old self (so far). Why is the writer creating scenarios and making up rules on the top of her head like that?
Part 2: The killer
This is also a part of the writing issue but I wanted to highlight it because I am furious with the way it was written.
To put it bluntly, the killer character is cartoonish. It’s like straight out of a cartoon I used to watch when I was 12.
Everything from the laugh to the actions and the dialogue, it screams cartoonish and childish. I am sure the actor is doing his best with the material he has. But here is my issue with the killer:
We’re talking about a man who died on the spot and then was revived. He held a prestigious position as a respected doctor and now that’s gone. Yet, he charges through like a machine and continues to cause havoc and kill.
Considering his past actions, the prosecutors couldn’t get to him because he was careful and didn’t leave evidence. He finds out that his appearance changed and does nothing about that but rather goes on a killing spree as if no one can catch him.
No regard to fingerprints, CCTV, police or anything. He just keeps killing like a robot that’s out for blood, literally acting like a programmed machine. His laugh is very cringy and makes him look more cartoonish than he already is.
He explains why he’s about to do things or why he’s done things like a villain in a comic book who’s about to kill somebody.
At first, the drama threw me off guard because I was like ‘why is everyone so stupid? Can’t they see it’s the dr. but with grey hair and a fake mustache?’
I seriously thought that the Dr. was playing games on them. Later, I realized he was revived.
I was impressed by the idea but man the execution got me so mad I couldn’t even enjoy the plot twist.
We’re being thrown into this environment without any explanation and the plot jumps from one place to another trying to provide entertainment but ends up looking rather confusing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many parts that make great plot twists and the drama doesn’t go the usual route, which I appreciate. I was going to appreciate this but it’s very difficult to watch this drama without scratching your head.
No matter how tolerant you are of poor scripts, there is bound to be one scene or another that makes you go ‘hummm, that makes no sense…’
And this is why my friends, I consider “Abyss” one of the most disappointing kdramas of 2019 and one of the most difficult to watch as well.
I hope you know that this is a critique of the drama script and editing not meant to disrespect anyone. I have nothing against anyone or anything. I am just a fan who’s disappointed that a drama she’s been waiting for turned out so bad.
What do you guys think of “Abyss”?