Link: Eat, Love, Kill, as the title suggests, serves up a three-course meal of epicurean remedies, grisly murder and burgeoning romance. All three tenets of what elucidates this new series from tvN and Disney+ are pretty run-of-the-mill themes found invidually in other K-dramas; but mixing them together may just be the key to unlocking a unique story that actually strikes a chord. The keyword here is “may”. Unfortunately, the first four episodes of Link are, so far, failing to connect.
Heralded as an unique fusion of fantasy, romance and mystery – we’re not exactly sure this is the case – the series begins with the introduction of Eun Gye-hoon (Hotel Del Luna’s Yeo Jin-goo), a celebrity sous-chef whose reputation takes a heavy blow after he’s suddenly plagued by turbulent waves of uncontrollable emotion. His colleagues (along with what seems to be the general public) start writing his peculiar behaviour off as the unravelling of his mind, but Gye-hoon knows better – these sensations aren’t entirely foreign to him, he has felt this way before with his twin sister with whom he shared a telepathic connection with. There’s only one problem: she’s been presumed dead for the past 18 years.
His mind, along with his eminence as a once-revered chef, begins its downward spiral. Does this mean his sister is still out there somewhere? Even if so, why would his abilities awaken now, 18 years after her supposed passing? As Gye-hoon begins reckoning with the implications of these increasingly common sensations, his life begins bleeding into that of Noh Da-hyun (True Beauty’s Moon Ga-young), an office worker on the precipice of all sorts of crises. From facing impending eviction from her humble apartment in the city to her everlasting misfortune with men, Da-hyun is forced to move back to her rural hometown of Jihwa-dong after a dicey encounter with an unstable stalker-slash-colleague, Lee Jin-geun (Shin Jae-hwi).
She withdraws to the safety and familiarity of her childhood home with her mother and grandmother, both of whom own the humble family restaurant. She soon crosses paths with Gye-hoon after he decides to open a bistro in the same Jihwa-dong, which is coincidentally also where he grew up, conveniently situated across the street from Da-hyun. The chef had decided to move back home as well, as part of his plan to uncover the truth behind his re-awoken telepathy. And then there’s Jin-geun, who had also followed her all the way to the countryside in an attempt to get back at her for rejecting his advances.
Things quickly go awry from there – Da-hyun somehow ends up killing her assailant in self-defence, and her family seek to protect her from the legal consequences by shoving the corpse into a refrigerator thrown onto the street by Gye-hoon’s business partner. When all seems to be resolved, more complications arrive; Gye-hoon takes the fridge, now containing a dead body, back into his restaurant, and days later, Da-hyun finds that the corpse is nowhere to be found despite multiple, arduous bids to retrieve it since.
Meanwhile, the disgraced chef realises that the person on the other end of his telepathic connection is indeed Da-hyun, as he struggles to come to terms with the circumstances of the death of his then-10-year-old sister while seeking out the reason behind his link with Da-hyun, believing her to be his long-lost sibling.
Yes, Link’s plot is truly as drab as it sounds. The most glaring issue with the series is its overconfidence in trying to fuse three storylines from different genres into one overarching narrative, all of which are currently unfolding at sluggish speed. Four episodes in, the show has done little to progress beyond its primary conflicts of unintentional murder and Gye-hoon’s search for his sister, both of which seem to be happening with no relation to the other. Perhaps the most indicative of the show’s pacing issues is the introduction of Yeo and Moon as potential lovers: the duo’s chemistry so far has been more reminiscent of bickering siblings, and yet the set-up their romance has been boiled down to a fleeting 10-minute montage slapped together haphazardly.
As Link’s supposed driving force, Yeo Jin-goo’s Eun Gye-hoon is dismally shallow. Yeo has always been particularly discerning in selecting his projects – his two equally nuanced roles in The Crowned Clown, and his burning intensity as a detective in Beyond Evil, to name a few – so it’s odd to see his character turn out to be as one-dimensional as he currently is (though the poorly written screenplay doesn’t help either). Yeo’s talent is instead scaled down to blank expressions, unnecessary and overdone explanations of the culinary arts and near-constant angst over the loss of his sister
Moon Ga-young’s Noh Da-hyun doesn’t fare much better, either. Positioned as a damsel-in-distress of sorts, Da-hyun never really gets the chance to take responsibility for her own actions or face the consequences firsthand. Can’t sleep due to trauma-induced nightmares? Gye-hoon will whip up a gourmet meal to help you feel better. Accidentally murdered a man, and need help avoiding the cops? Mum and Grandma will take care of it. It feels par for the sterile K-drama course to have a female lead lack this much agency, and a waste of a proven actress such as Moon.
If there were any plus points to the series so far, it would be its tackling of sexual harrassment against South Korean women, currently plaguing the East Asian nation more than ever. Scenes of Da-hyun recounting her horrid, frankly traumatising experiences with the countless scums who have taken advantage of her are a touching reflection and lend visibility to anybody with similar stories – especially considering the political climate in South Korean regarding the worrying commonality of violent sex offences against women. It lends the series some fragments of substance, albeit not enough to completely reel the series out of the trenches.
As it currently stands, Link: Eat, Love, Kill is – to put it mildly – unremarkable. With 12 more episodes left to go, it’s becoming an increasing challenge to want to see the series through to the end, especially when there isn’t much (be it its characters or plot) to invest in in the first place. You could hold out hope for the off-chance that things may turn up as the series chugs on, but perhaps other, better-executed K-dramas would be worthier alternatives to this.
New episodes of Link: Eat, Love, Kill air on South Korean cable network tvN every Monday and Tuesday, and will also be available to stream on Disney+ in select regions.