It's was so good to have Shin Sung Rok as Kim Seo Jin back on screen. I remember falling hard for him as Gi Tae Ung in Vagabond. It was also lovely to see Lee Se Young as Han Ae-Ri again as I had enjoyed everything she had put out and looked forward to seeing what she would bring to this time-crossing drama, and she did not disappoint one bit. And, of course, the delicate and classy Nam Gyu Ri as Kang Hyun Chae I first fell in love with her in Cruel City with my boy Jung Kyung Ho. Last but not least, I was excited for the return of Ahn Bo Hyun as Seo Do Gyun, whom I had last seen cleverly portray the love-starved Jang Geun Won in Itaewon Class. In its opening, Karios gave the dramas Signal and God's Gift: 14 Days vibes meshed together. And that's testamentary to how great I expected Kairos to be, and it doesn't fail.
Kairos is a time-crossing fantasy thriller that tells the story of Seo Jin, a well-to-do architect who seems to have the perfect upscale life. He has a prestigious job in a big architectural firm specializing in designing skyscraper buildings, a gorgeous wife, Kang Hyun Chae, who plays the violin beautifully, and a darling, sweet little daughter Kim Da Bin (Shim Hye Yun). He has to have a talented and lovely wife to boast about at work and live a luxurious lifestyle and escape her poverty-ridden past. Dig a little deeper, however, and one begins to notice a few problems right at the outset: as a workaholic, Seo Jin is hardly ever home; hence his wife and child feel neglected. When he does come home, the family doesn't spend much time together, nor are they affectionate towards each other. Slowly a picture emerges of a union built out of necessity rather than love.
The crux of the events with Karios begins when Da Bin Seo Jin and Hyun Chae's daughter is kidnapped at a company event, and Hyun Chae, totally distraught over the loss of her child, commits suicide. In a blink of an eye, Seo Jin's family is destroyed. Han Ae Ri enters the story because she had seen Da Bin walk into the convenience store where she worked when she was alleged to be missing. When Ae Ri comes across a Da Bin missing poster, she calls the number provided to let them she had seen the girl, only to find that no one knows what she was talking about. At the same time, Ae Ri's Mom, who has bad asthma, goes missing, and she and her two closest friends, Im Gun Wook (Kang Seung Yoon) and Park Soo Jung (Lee Joo Myung) try to find her.
Seo Jin and Ae Ri realize that there was something supernatural going on in their lives, especially when they finally realize their lives inter-cross a month apart and may be able to help each other reverse the horrific events that destroyed his family and help find her missing mom through minute-long cell phone conversations. They decide to team up and over many plot twists and turns and develop a bond and trust despite the distance in time. They eventually uncover many truths about Seo Jin's wife and Seo Do Gyun and other characters in the drama that I, as the viewer, never saw coming until it starts to unfold. Not only that, they learn of their family connection where Ae-Ri's father saves Seo Jin as a teenager when a building they were both collapsed on them. Ae-Ri's father dies, but Seo Jin is saved, which later has great implications for the story.
My favorite moments of the drama were the times' Ae Ri, and Seo Jin of both past and present entrust their lives to each other. The level of belief they developed from those one-minute phone calls but more so how the writer and director depicted those moments will stay with me for a long time to come. Their interactions reminded me of Cindy Lauper's song time after time "if you're lost, you can look, and you'll find me time after time. If you fall, I will catch you; I will be waiting. Time after time". Kairos has proven time and time again why it deserves to be one of the best of 2020. I love a drama with a message, and my takeaway from this amazingly done drama is that no evil deed will go unpunished; any evil act done by man to man will be righted if not by man, then by time not now, then certainly later. As said before, you will lose what you value, so treasure it while you can.
A drama's rating is in no way a reflection of its mastery. And Kairos perfected if not excelled at its storytelling and a time-crossing one at that. Saying Shin Sung Rok was just good as both his past and present self in his role as Kim Seo Jin is to minimize how exceptional his performance was in this drama. His ability to convey the anguish, pain, grief, and joy in all timelines places him with the best actors, if not in the forefront. Nothing about this drama was done halfheartedly or compromised to compensate one timeline over the other. On the contrary, the scriptwriting and storytelling remained intelligent and straightforward to the end. Adding to its greatness was the precise and impeccable directing and editing– all the kdrama star gods must have aligned perfectly to make this one of the best, right there with Stranger, Signal, and Money Flower.
Kairos is masterful in the build-up of its storyline, the characters, and the suspense within it. As events unfold, the correlation and unison between the past and the present in Ae-Ri and Seo Jin, respectively, is beyond stellar. It makes one believe and feel Seo Jin's hopelessness and Ae-Ri's apprehension—the darkness engulfing him and the lightness in hers—truly brilliant scriptwriting, directing, editing, and of course, acting—just top-notch. And Shin Sung Rok is beyond astounding in how he beautifully portrays his role as the frantic Seo Jin, expressing desperateness, anger, regret, and hope all at the same time. Add to that; Lee Se Young is phenomenal in her role as Ae-Ri. Without exception, all the actors are great at their respective roles. I especially appreciate how clear and precise the transition is between present and past, easily one of the best of 2020. I love the simple ending. This is one drama I highly recommend; you will not be disappointed.