A mysterious opener has monsters, tentacles, zombies, and plenty of intrigue — Dark Hole is off to a good start.
This recap of Dark Hole season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
After a rather striking opening credits sequence, the first episode of Dark Hole opens with an equally striking sequence in which Jung Do-Yoon (Lee Ye-Bit) roams some kind of warehouse being pursued by a sinister-looking tentacle until she’s saved by the revolver-toting Lee Hwa-Sun (Kim Ok-Vin). Elsewhere, Yoo Tae-Han (Lee Joon-Hyuk), armed with a shotgun, fights off a corridor full of sprinting zombies. They eventually meet in the middle, and together face down the owner of the tentacle, kept tantalizingly off-screen. “How can this be?” mutters Hwa-Sun. Good question! Five minutes in and we have monsters, zombies, mystery, intrigue, headaches, and God-only-knows what else.
Dark Hole episode 1 rewinds a few days to find Hwa-Sun staring at the memorial plaque of her husband, who a brief flashback reveals she was unable to save from what looks like a particularly unsavory — and seemingly quite dainty — killer. Just in time to make this relevant, Hwa-Sun gets a call from So Jung-Hwa (Ahn Eun-Jin) to tell her that Lee Soo Hyun, her husband’s killer, has reappeared. She arrives at the latest crime scene in record time and has to negotiate with her Team Leader just to be able to see the body — everyone’s worried that her personal connection to the case might prove a problem, but she sells her desire to catch this serial killer (this is the eighth victim) as her responsibility as an officer. The MO seems to be poisoning, but the real calling card is that the victims are left with stark white pillowcases over their heads, a big, eerie smiley face drawn on them in lipstick.
There are some early observations to be made here. News reports about solar spots keep coming up, with characters lamenting that the end of the world might be coming, so if that isn’t foreshadowing I don’t know what is. Then there’s Park Soon-Il (Lim Won-Hee), who seems to be paying off a local wrong-‘un and would prefer to keep it quiet. Tae-Han is reintroduced as a kind of ambulance chaser, though he saves a woman from the scene of an accident. And a man with a scarred face and neck discovers a shimmering green object in the woods, like glass or amber, and this proves to be important. A tentacle very much like the one seen in the opening sequence causes him to drop the object, and when it splits open it releases a black smoke that almost looks like a cloud of buzzing nanites or parasites or some such. Either way, it scoots up his nose, turning his eyes black, and torturing him with hazy recollections of being bullied as a child because of his appearance.
We see in Dark Hole season 1, episode 1 that Hwa-Sun lives in a spare apartment adorned only with a picture from her wedding day. She imagines her husband still pottering around in the kitchen — it’s clear that she’s very much unable to process her grief, which isn’t helped by Soo Hyun repeatedly messaging her explaining that she killed Hwa-Sun’s husband because they both “tried to change her”. A brief flashback shows the two of them visiting a classroom of young girls, discussing their rehabilitation. It seems Soo Hyun is one of these girls. She tells Hwa-Sun if she wants to meet her, she’ll be waiting in the spot where her husband proposed. Hwa-Sun loads her gun and heads out, telling Jung-Hwa she’s on her way.
On her way to the meeting place Hwa-Sun almost runs over the black-eyed man from the woods who mutters that he’d like to gouge her eyes out, but he flees deeper into the trees. A torrential downpour makes for a clear shift in tone in this back half of the episode, as Hwa-Sun calls the number Soo Hyun contacted her on and is led only to the abandoned phone, hanging from a tree. The killer is nowhere to be seen. Jung-Hwa is able track down the owner of the phone, which turns out to be Kim Bo Eun, a nurse at Mugi Hospital.
Meanwhile, things start taking a turn for the worse. The scarred man gouges out his wife’s eyeballs — in his vision earlier, we saw her berating him — and Zo Hyun-Ho (Zo Zee-An), who attends the scene with Park Soon-Il, vomits at the sight of the damage. (Hilarious line from Soon-Il about why he’d gouge his wife’s eyes out. This is a guy who’s getting thoroughly sick of his life.) Out in the woods again, Tae-Han’s dopey associate Young-Shik gets afflicted with the same black-eyed rage as the scarred man, but Tae-Han knocks him out before he can do any damage.
Elsewhere, Hwa-Sun goes to see Bo Eun at the hospital. This, as we saw earlier, is the mother of Do-Yoon, the little girl from the prologue. Bo Eun explains that a young woman asked to borrow her phone, and when she turned around she had stolen it and disappeared. Hwa-Sun shows her a picture of Soo Hyun, and it could be her, but Bo Eun wasn’t paying much attention since Do-Yoon was sick at the time. At that moment Young Shik is rushed into hospital with Tae-Han. While the nurses are attending to him, Young Shik imagines one of them as his abusive late father and bites her arm, using the ensuing chaos to escape into the street. Both Hwa-Sun and Tae-Han give chase, but he’s hit by a passing van, which stops him in his tracks. When Tae-Han approaches, though, Young Shik sees him as his father and flees again. Tae-Han pursues him into the woods, Hwa-Sun not far behind, and Sunnyeo (see below) out there too. As Hwa-Sun continues to roam through the woods, she eventually stumbles on the titular dark hole, and the black smoke emerges from it, gathering around her feet. Tae-hun approaches from behind, but Hwa-Sun imagines herself in a featureless room with a smoky floor, where a disembodied voice convinces her to shoot Soo Hyun and get her revenge. She points her gun at “Soo Hyun”, but really Tae-Han, as her eyes turn black, bringing Dark Hole season 1, episode 1 to a cliffhanger conclusion.
- Kim Sunnyeo (Song Sang-Eun) is a woman who claims to have “received” some kind of deity many years ago in exchange for protection, and now finds herself abandoned by it in spite of devoted service. I don’t know enough about the relevant mythology to make much sense of this, but Sunnyeo spends her scant few scenes talking to a bust of the deity before being led away into the woods.