Fans of the Oscar-winning film Parasite will recognize the star of Dr. Brain, a new sci-fi thriller from Apple TV+. Lee Sun-kyun, who played Park Dong-Ik in Bong Joon-ho’s film, plays a brilliant brain surgeon who seeks to find out the truth about the tragic accident that befell his wife and son.
This is the first Apple TV+ series filmed completely in Korean, and its release coincides with the official launch of the streaming service in South Korea. Written and directed by Kim Jee-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters, I Saw the Devil), the new six-episode live-action series is based on the popular Korean webtoon of the same name by Hongjacga. Most Americans are probably unfamiliar with the source material, but South Korean programming has proved to be quite popular in the US, as evidenced by Netflix series like zombie period drama Kingdom and this year’s Squid Game. The latter is currently Netflix’s most-watched series to date, reaching over 142 million households during its first month.
So it’s no wonder that Apple TV wants to emulate that success with Dr. Brain. Per the official premise: “The series follows a brilliant brain scientist Sewon (Lee Sun-kyun) who suffers a horrific personal tragedy when his family falls victim to a mysterious accident. Desperate to uncover what happened, he goes to extraordinary lengths to solve the tragic mystery by conducting ‘brain syncs’ with the dead to access their memories for clues.” The series also stars Lee You-young, Park Hee-soon, Seo Ji-hye, and Lee Jae-won.
The trailer opens with the image of a young boy with sensors attached to his head, presumably to detect brain signals. “That child has a very unique brain—a new type of genius,” a voiceover says, and the image then cuts to the adult Sewon wearing the same setup. We see him hard at work on his research, which is focused on accessing the thoughts and memories of other people. Then we flash back to a brief, happy memory of Sewon with his wife and son, and we get a glimpse of the tragedy that befell them.
It’s not long before Sewon is conducting experiments with corpses in his laboratory, attempting to hack their memories. We only see fragments: a house fire (that may have been deliberately set); a barking dog; a distraught young woman, hands clasped as if in prayer; and a recurring admonition to “find our son.” All those memory fragments are impossibly tangled in Sewon’s head, and he must figure out how to make sense of them.
“The memories feel like hallucinations,” Sewon says. “My mind is in chaos.” It looks like Sewon is also a suspect in a murder, since we see two homicide detectives pay him a visit, assuring him that they will be watching. All in all, it looks like a spookily surreal series.
Dr. Brain debuts on Apple TV+ on November 3, 2021, in the US and globally on November 4, 2021.
Listing image by Apple TV+