It is a beautifully-constructed, well-executed and perfectly written drama that depicts a story filled with flawed but really all-too-human characters. But what really strikes you is the depth of emotion on display throughout. As an audience, the pain we feel for the characters is palpable, intense and for the most part uncomfortable as we struggle to relate to their experiences.
The drama is primarily centred around psychopathic serial killer Yoon Hee-jae (Heo Joon-ho), his son Yoon Na-moo (Jang Ki-yong) and his friend Hae Jae-yi (Jin Ki-joo), and a series of events that unfold one fateful night, leading to the brutal murder of Jae-yi’s parents.
Yoon Hee-jae is an extremely complex character that is entirely sinister, dark and foreboding with a menacing presence that is immediately felt. Everything from his lifeless stare to the slight sneer of his lip is terrifying in equal measure. And, although he is behind bars, he still wields his authority over those around him, carefully manipulating situations to his advantage.
His son, Na-moo, is his complete antithesis. Desperate to rid himself of his father’s legacy, he goes as far as to enlist as a police officer to atone for his father’s sins. However, the shadow cast by his father is long and pervasive, which often leads him to question his own motives on several occasions. When under pressure, the audience becomes privy to Na-moo’s dark side, something he has been actively struggling to keep under wraps his whole life.
The first time we meet his girlfriend, Jae-yi, we are immediately struck by her warm and outgoing personality as she reaches out to Na-moo and introduces him to a world previously unknown to him – one filled with light and laughter. However, this all changes abruptly when the two bear witness to the brutal slaying of her parents and they are forcibly separated.
Twelve years later, fate contrives to bring them together once again with new identities, as police officer Chae Do-jin and aspiring actress Gil Nak-won. At this point, Do-jin assumes the role of protector once more as they are forced to face their past together, when it comes back to haunt them in the form of a copycat killer.
Nestled within all of this is a ruthless and altogether unlikeable journalist Park Hee-young (Kim Seo-hyung), who provides an interesting perspective as she manipulates public opinion with her don’t-let-the-truth-get-in-the-way-of-an-interesting-story philosophy. Through her rather jaded storytelling, the audience is left pondering a question – why is it that we feel sympathy for the victims’ families and yet do not towards the perpetrators’ families?
Perhaps it is our ongoing fascination with the macabre or trying to understand the inner workings of a serial killer that keeps us going back for more. What really sets this drama apart, however, is all in the positioning – and that is squarely behind the perpetrator’s family. Most of the time we experience the violence, the stalking and the psychosis, but it is rare for us to have an inside glimpse into the effect on those that are left behind.
Come and Hug Me effortlessly moves between sequences that make us feel for these characters, all struggling to deal with their raw and painful scars. We feel the battle that rages within Chae Do-jin. He is constantly plagued by memories of his father and his struggle for his own identity, apart from his father, to his violent brother who will go to any lengths to gain his father’s attention and their step-mother who fearlessly protects them.
On the other hand, we have the victim’s perspective too – the incredible guilt and pain felt by Jin Ki-joo and her brother Gil Moo-won who happens to be the victim of not just one but two traumatic events.
And then there’s the forbidden, sad and poignant love story between survivors that holds and keeps the audience’s interest right to the very end. We genuinely feel for the couple that have experienced so much against incredible odds and their quest to be have a “normal” relationship.
Heo Jong-hoon is incredible in his role as the serial killer and father, leaving an indelible impression. Jang Ki-young is equally brilliant, perfectly balancing a character that is fearless and slightly menacing with a raw vulnerability that strikes your heart, and is complemented by Jin Ki-joo’s exceptional portrayal of a character that is desperately torn with a quiet resolve and a hidden strength that is an absolute delight to watch.
As the younger versions of the lead characters, Nam Da-reum and Ryoo Han-bi were brilliant, their perfect depiction of the developing relationship and the horrific encounter with Yoon Hee-jae deserving of special mention.
Also noteworthy, the brothers of the main protagonists – Yoon Hyun Moo (Kim Kyung-nam) and Gil Moo-won (Yoon Jong-hoon). The complexities of these characters, dissimilar in a lot of ways, but sharing many similarities too, provides a very interesting sub-plot.
Come and Hug Me is a truly exceptional drama – if you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you try it out – you won’t be disappointed.