The Korean TV industry does supernatural-themed dramas better than most, using the country’s history to find fresh takes on the genre. Tomorrow, the new Netflix arrival starring SF9’s Rowoon, looks set to be its new ace, offering up a unique twist on the idea of the afterlife and how our souls slip from one world to another.
- READ MORE: ‘Twenty Five Twenty One’ review: a nostalgic ’90s trip that urges you to keep hold of your dreams
Based on the webtoon of the same name, Tomorrow follows a team of Grim Reapers whose job is not to usher spirits into the next realm, but to prevent still living humans from killing themselves. The “risk management” team is headed up Goo-ryeon (played by Kim Hee-sun), a cold, intimidating woman with pink hair who formerly resided in hell. Although she might seem icy, she clearly cares deeply about her task at hand, willing to go to great lengths to help her charges. At her side as she does so is Lim Rung-gu (Yoon Ji-on), who’s similarly invested in the job, but only within his set hours and baulks at the idea of rule-breaking.
Choi Joon-woong (Rowoon), meanwhile, is a man trapped in a cycle of job-seeking frustration, always the bridesmaid of the recruiting world but never the bride. When we first meet him, he’s had his hopes dashed again and tries to drink away his emotions outside a convenience store. On his walk home, he crosses a bridge and encounters a man trying to jump over the railings and tries to stop him. His good intentions backfire, though, when Goo-ryeon and Rung-gu arrive and, despite their warnings, he refuses to let them handle things.
His mortal body stuck in a coma, Joon-woong’s spirit gets taken to Jumadeung, the reapers’ company, where he meets the Director (Kim Hae-sook) and is offered a deal – work as a reaper and be able to return to his normal life in a matter of months, rather than years. It might not be the employment he was hoping for, but it’s a position that seems likely to teach him much more about humanity and the world around him than the last position he interviewed for at a fertiliser company.
As a newbie to the world of reaping, Joon-woong is a bundle of naivety and compassion, and Rowoon plays his wide-eyed immersion into the job brilliantly, making it feel as if you’re on the journey with him. While the subject matter of the series is weighty, both the script and its cast inject lighter moments of humour into proceedings without making it feel like the storylines are being undermined.
Tomorrow tackles suicide gently and with empathy, although the first instances of the phrase “committing suicide” feel jarring. However, as the show progresses you realise it’s only uttered by Park Joong-gil (Lee Soo-hyuk), the head of the more traditional reaper team who rules over recently departed spirits with no mercy. The fourth episode gives the sparing use of the phrase more context as we’re shown a flashback to Joong-gil and Goo-ryeon embroiled in a heated argument about whether those who die by suicide should be treated as criminals or people who couldn’t stand the pain they were in any longer.
The drama is clearly on Goo-ryeon’s side, exploring people’s different stories and struggles sensitively, softly tracing a line through their past traumas to the breaking points they find themselves at. It also doesn’t claim that those who are suicidal can be healed simply and quickly – as the risk management team monitor their “negative energy” levels on an app called Red Light, they acknowledge that each person can easily become overwhelmed again in the future.
Four episodes in, Tomorrow shows plenty of promise to be an almost impeccable series. So far, it pulls off the balancing act of dark and light well, opening up important conversations about mental health and the way we treat those who feel like they can’t go on while adding fresh creativity to the K-drama world’s slew of supernatural shows.
‘Tomorrow’ is available to stream on Netflix.