ReviewK-drama review – Link: Eat, Love, Kill, Disney+ romcom-thriller mash-up, succeeds thanks to Moon Ga-young/Yeo Jin-goo chemistry
- Fusing the mismatched story elements in Link: Eat, Love, Kill, part romcom, part thriller, does not work on paper – but it does on the screen
- The chemistry between the two leads sells the story and the show finds its way to a thrilling climax – despite the occasionally long-winded journey to get there
This article contains spoilers.
Korean films and dramas are well known for juggling different elements, all the better if they appear to be mismatched. Some of South Korea’s best stories have been the ones that have taken big gambles and, in doing so, have brought us to unexpected places.
Link: Eat, Love, Kill is precisely this kind of show. It is one that does not work on paper but wins us over by dint of its charm – and maybe a little bit of magic – when we see it on the screen.
This is a cutesy romance with a pair of popular young leads; it is the story of a handsome chef who worms his way into a girl’s heart by cooking for her; and it is a fantasy in which two people are magically connected and can feel each other’s emotions, even at a distance.
It is also a story about a deranged stalker, attempted manslaughter, one man’s traumatic loss of his sister and, ultimately, of a serial killer targeting children. Talk about a smorgasbord of ill-fitting emotions.
The show has all the necessary ingredients to woo viewers who adore Korean romcoms but, given that audiences can be sensitive about depictions of horror and on-screen violence, all the darker elements present a major risk.
Overall, the mixture comes off quite well, with the dark narrative undercurrents and occasional antagonism providing a satisfying contrast to the colourful neighbourhood romantic comedy scenes, replete with delectable dishes prepared by Eun Gye-hoon (Yeo Jin-goo).
What seals the deal is the show’s fantasy gimmick. Though never satisfactorily explained – Gye-hoon shared a magical emotional connection with his twin sister, which was then transferred to No Da-hyun (Moon Ga-young) when they were both kidnapped as children – the link binds them completely.
In frothy daytime scenes, it provides a novel way for awkward moments to occur. In the inky night-times segments, it is a guiding light that allows two souls to come to each other’s aid.
When it comes to the saving, it is not quite a two-way street, as Gye-hoon is generally the one rushing to Da-hyun’s side when she is in distress. Compared to most aloof-guy-meets-gutsy-girl Korean romcoms, however, Link: Eat, Love, Kill is a lot better at gender representation.
Kidnapped children and abusive partners are pretty common fodder for Korean thrillers, but here the thriller elements are all clearly designed to reinforce themes of women’s solidarity.
This begins early on when Da-hyun’s creepy colleague Lee Jin-geun (Shin Jae-hwi) becomes her stalker and tormentor. Even when Da-hyun and her family think he is out of the picture, he stubbornly returns again and again.
Later on, we fear for Da-hyun when Lee Eun-jung (Lee Bom) enters the picture, looking for revenge. The show makes us think she is Jin-geun’s sister, but we and Da-hyun discover that Eun-jung’s sister was one of his victims. Da-hyun and Eun-jung then become very close friends.
Da-hyun’s mother, Hong Bok-hee (Kim Ji-young), and grandmother Na Chun-ok (Ye Soo-jung) were terrific comic relief throughout the series, but it was only because of several past events they experienced together that they go around their neighbourhood casting threatening glares and wielding their shovels and baseball bats.
Years earlier, Bok-hee and Chun-ok accidentally killed a predator to protect Da-hyun. Even earlier than that, as we discover at the end of the series, Chun-ok protected Bok-hee from her violent husband. The husband was Chun-ok’s own son, but she chose her daughter-in-law Bok-hee over him and has been at her side ever since.
Even our stalwart lead Gye-hoon, after spending most of the show as Da-hyun’s saviour, does not get to be a hero in the end. The culmination of his emotional journey is when he accepts that he could not save his sister Gye-young (Ahn Se-bin), the victim of a killer. Thankfully, the show does not magically find a way for her to reappear in the present.
When the killer is caught, 18 years after the original crime, Gye-young’s final resting place is found. In a clearing in a forest in the killer’s hometown, the land is dug up for days on end until the moment Gye-hoon is called in.
In slow motion, he walks into the crime scene in the forest – a macabre but soothingly familiar scene for thriller fans – and is reunited with the remains of his sister. Tears gushing down his face, he apologises, saying: “I’m sorry for being so late.”
While it was only intermittently effective as a thriller, what held it all together was our link to the show – the undeniable chemistry between Yeo and Moon, who have proven to be one of the most natural on-screen couplings of the summer.
Link: Eat, Love, Kill is streaming on Disney+.