Determinedly weird, Glitch is quite unlike most other television shows, but that doesn’t stop it from occasionally descending into plodding and sometimes uninteresting territory.
This review of the Netflix K-drama Glitch (2022) season 1 is spoiler-free.
Netflix’s latest binge-drop k-drama releases have been a mixed bag. We’ve had everything from straight-up remakes like Money Heist: Joint Economic Area to redos of popular genre titans like Narcos (in Narco-Saints) and Breaking Bad (in A Model Family). Despite usually being at the forefront of innovative, high-quality television, these recent high-profile offerings out of the region have failed to match the imagination and zeitgeisty potential of something like, say, Squid Game. So, if you can say anything for the latest effort, Glitch, it’s this: At least it’s weird.
“Weird” is a relative term and manifests in various ways, but most people know what I mean when I say it. The plot here is powered by paranoia and conspiracy theories and it has the conspiracist’s sense of chaos, fondling for ideas that are sometimes a little out of its reach. But the show’s confident enough to be strange and ambitious, and in this entertainment climate, that must count for something.
Anyway, it’s about aliens and religious cults and that sort of thing. Ji-hyo (Jeon Yeo-bin, late of Vincenzo) reliably sees one extra-terrestrial but writes it off as wavering mental health; she’s too reliable and straightlaced to indulge the idea of little green men manifesting in supermarkets and such. But when Ji-hyo’s dependable boyfriend Si-hyuk disappears, she’s dragged back into a conspiratorial plot that intermingles – in both themes and flashbacks – with her childhood relationship with Bo-ra (Nana), who grew into a UFO obsessive.
Aliens are nothing new, obviously, and in everything from The X-Files to Close Encounters of the Third Kind we’ve filtered our understanding of the unknown into an easily-recognizable big-headed avatar of mystery. But aliens, like zombies, are usually an excuse to interrogate human beings; what makes us and drives us, and what the limits of our understanding and morality are. Glitch does take this approach to some extent, but also determinedly veers away from standard genre expectations, so it’s difficult to predict even while it sometimes slips into being plodding and unengaging.
The problem, I think, is that Glitch is framed within big-picture questions but isn’t especially good at livening up the time between its revelations. Its slow, character-building early-going – the whole thing runs ten episodes and doesn’t come into its own until the halfway point and beyond – runs the risk of letting audience’s attention waver, placing focus on the wrong characters or dynamics, and letting us languish unproductively for too long in a headspace that feels trite within the genre. (We’re doing the whole “real or imaginary?” thing for much too long.)
Director Roh Deok directs Glitch in an often beautiful and enticing way, so it’s easy to fall into the spell of its construction, but it’s mostly fulfilling in the sense of clattering ideas and elements together until they fit, rather than on an emotional or human level. But, overlong and glacially paced though it may be, it’s enough unlike anything else to be worth a cursory – if cautious – recommendation.
You can stream the Netflix K-drama Glitch (2022) season 1 exclusively on Netflix.