The Silent Sea: A very biased review by a certified Gong Yoo fan

It is definitely not romantic, but it offers mankind hope even in the worst of times

No romantic hero, this time (Official Netflix photo, from IG officialgongyooph)

No romantic hero, this time (Official Netflix photo, from IG officialgongyooph)

Credit: Netflix/YouTube

Since late 2020, when Netflix announced that it would be airing The Silent Sea in December 2021, I had eagerly awaited its premiere, together with millions of Gong Yoo fans all over the world.

In the thick of the anticipation and high expectations, it was finally released last Christmas Eve. Serendipitously, our family’s  noche buena ended early and my dinner plans the following evening were cancelled, so I was able to watch all eight episodes in two nights.

Just like any K-drama enthusiast, I did a bit of research and read as much as I could about the hype surrounding this sci-fi thriller series, including an uninspiring synopsis offered by Wikipedia. This was Gong Yoo’s first drama series after Goblin (2016). Therefore, I was hoping to be “blown away” and fall in love with him all over again in The Silent Sea.

In true K-Drama fashion, let me take you on a flashback. I lovingly adored him in Goblin due to his impeccable styling, but unfortunately, I didn’t like the way he looked in the film Seobok (April 2021) with Park Bo Gum. He seemed untidy there, seemed in desperate need of a shower and needed to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, as he seemed to be dehydrated. He played the role of an ex-intelligence agent suffering from terminal cancer, and not hydrophobia! He was supposed to look ruggedly handsome, but there was no need to make him look unwashed. Rugged is different from dirty. In the time of Seobok, the earth still had enough water to keep Gong Yoo squeaky clean unlike in The Silent Sea where water was so scarce and meagerly rationed (according to social status and political power) that it merited an expedition to the moon. Ironically, he looked cleaner and fresher (and surprisingly, younger) in The Silent Sea.

For a second, I thought about the probable existence of a “Korean fountain of youth” whose drops and bubbles keep these stars and idols ageless. Now, that’s a water source (and the discovery thereof) worthy of an expedition! Or is that aesthetic science fiction a.k.a. dermatology and plastic surgery? Let’s save that for another article.

The Silent Sea official poster from Netflix

Now, back to The Silent Sea. I actually loved it! It was as high-tech as it was thrilling and emotional. The set design was excellent and the acting good. The entire production was impressive both from a technical and an artistic perspective. In short, though it’s not my favorite genre, it was the well-made sci-fi thriller I hoped it would be.

Someone called it ‘slow-paced.’ Well, hello! There’s zero gravity on the moon. Cut the astronauts some slack!

I was saddened to hear mixed reviews from family and friends. Others were too quick to dismiss it as bad or boring. I even know someone who called it “slow-paced.” Well, hello! There’s zero gravity on the moon. Cut the astronauts some slack!

Silent Sea cast: from left, Kim Sun Young, Gong Yoo, Bae Doona, Lee Joon (Official Netflix photo, official IG officialgongyooph)

I guess they thought it was a bad series only because they expected the usual “knight in shining armor” instead of an astronaut in a spacesuit. The former character, admittedly,  is more lovable. It is almost impossible to envision Gong Yoo as an unromantic hero without a love interest, and it is even harder to break away from our indelible image of him as the dashing Goblin.

Let us not forget that in several interviews, Gong Yoo himself said that he is extremely proud of The Silent Sea. He considers it a great success. He is also very vocal about wanting to explore genres other than romantic comedies and pave the way for the development of bigger movie or TV projects. Aside from the international success of Train to Busan, he dared to venture into films that dealt with controversial issues such as mental health and sexual abuse of children (Silenced), which prompted Korean legislature to formulate a law on the latter. His body of work is impressive (and so is his body). Thankfully, the internet is replete with good reviews for The Silent Sea.

K-drama audience is pre-conditioned to expect kilig romcom ‘feels’. Hope springs eternal, not romance

Perhaps the K-drama audience is already pre-conditioned to expect kilig romcom “feels” when watching a series. You often hear them use the word “chemistry” when referring to how actors interact with each other, and they use this as gauge to judge the success of any particular series. The Silent Sea is definitely not romantic in any way, but it offers mankind hope even in the worst of times. As the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal,” not romance. This series may deal with issues plaguing  a dystopian and almost post-apocalyptic world that is uncomfortable to look at, but the “chemistry” here actually deals with the real science of chemistry and the physical laws of the universe. It touches on topics that are relevant today, such as antibodies, immunity, water conservation, global warming, ethics, and human greed.

I cannot talk about The Silent Sea without commending the acting of Kim Sun Young. She is a talented and versatile actress who can play any role and “slay it.” We loved her as the inquisitive lipstick-loving North Korean comrade in Crash Landing On You, and we loved her even  more as the neighborhood “Maritess” and struggling widow and mother of two who had a second chance at love in Reply 1988. Among all the characters in this space mission, she was the most human. As the team’s expert physician, she was tough and competent, but she was also compassionate and was not afraid to show fear and weakness. She was perfect for the role. I liked her character more than that played by the leading lady, Bae Doona. However, Ms. Bae did not disappoint though she seemed emotionless at times. Then again, she played a jaded scientist and ethologist who can relate better to animals than to humans, so I guess she was just in character.

I also commend the cuteness of idol and actor Lee Joon (My Father is Strange). Though he beats “whistle-blowing Rolf” in The Sound of Music as the biggest traitor or all time, he is so nice to look at. He seems probably fun to hang out with or go clubbing with in a post-pandemic world. I feel the same way about Lee Mu Saeng. Aside from being seemingly fun, he also looks dependable. If I needed a bodyguard, I’d hire him in a heartbeat.

However, as traditionally handsome as these two may be, they cannot compare to the charm and captivating appeal of Gong Yoo. If Lee Joon is eye candy, then GY is the personification of a comforting and delicious cup of hot chocolate by the fireplace on a winter evening—and I live in the Philippines! So in a tropical setting, he would be a tall drink of cold water on a hot summer day, or an internally flawless D-color 10-carat diamond solitaire that you know you will love forever.

OK. Back to The Silent Sea.

Spoiler alert: Towards the end of the last episode, as “lunar water” bursts out of the flooded Balhae Lunar Research Station, Captain Han (Gong Yoo) is thrown out and is discovered by the creepy Luna 073 lying by a rock. Though teary-eyed and broken, you can see him silently convey a message: Mission accomplished.

You’re my hero, Gong Yoo! I love you to the moon and back.

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