Thursday, July 23, 2020

[First Impression] Train

Now, many plot devices here can be wonky as for now, even though we are in the 1/3rd of the series so far (12 episodes in total), but one thing this series has superior to every other now - the cinematography. The shots, especially at the abandoned train tracks and the station, the transitions and the colors are both eerily beautiful and unsettling.

Before I start this short intro into the new OCN series, something else. From some of the scenes I was nearly sure we will have  time-travel series, which is notoriously hard to convey in a believable format. I mean - the ticket stating its invalidation after a certain date in 2015. And we had a train coming onto some unused tracks, that's why my mind first went into the time travel. The broken clock moving was also an indicator. Instead we have a parallel world - in a narrower sense: a mirror world.
And the train reminded me of the movie Sliding Doors (1998) also involving a train a means of going between worlds. But 90s were a weird decade for sci-fi.

And we encounter similar problems albeit a slightly better approached than in King: Eternal Monarch. And by "approached" I mean - not addressed just yet. Which makes up for a suspense factor. The train that appears on the overgrown by verdant wild flowers and grass tracks is not the train from before 2015. As it turns out - it's a train from a parallel universe.
With this, we come to the world-building and the reasons behind the mechanism of the connection between our world and the other.

A kid actor from Kill It grew up, I guess...

Those of you who know me, probably are aware I'm a sci-fi girl. It always gets my attention first. And with sci-fi, the problem is, some creators just throw some weird ideas into the mix, don't explain but excuse it as: "it's sci-fi, it doesn't have to make sense". And this is where are dead wrong. Sci-fi, to make it interesting, HAS to make sense, which means it has to be explained by the rules. The rules can be set within the world it's building - no problem, but the rules need to be here.
I remember we had this talk during our literary analysis and interpretation classes in my studies and the teacher asked: "can there be world where children grow on trees"? And people were just: "no, it's impossible". It's impossible HERE, that's true, and they were unable to think outside the solid set of rules they saw govern THIS reality. But if an author creates a world where children actually are to be plucked from the trees but explain why and how, given the species the children are from - why not? It is WITHIN the created rules. It doesn't apply our, Earth rules and our laws of nature on something, simply because it's not Earth as we know it.

To the nuisance of many people, I always give The Expanse as the example of nearly perfect sci-fi (both as a book series or as a tv show) and also - in this case I will be making references to the Fringe series. Fringe is even a better example here because its whole arc was built around the parallel universe, being also a mirror universe. In the case of Fringe, the hints to the other universe were peppered here and there through the entire first season and it culminated in the penultimate one when we learned that one scientist so wanted to play God that didn't hesitate to destroy two universes.

And here where it gets tricky with mirror worlds - how about Pauli exclusion principle that states that two fermions (or more) cannot occupy same quantum state within a quantum system simultaneously? If this train comes from the other world into ours, that would mean it imposes itself AND the tracks it's moving on. And the tracks exist in our world. So the problem of two identical things existing in both worlds sharing the same space and state suddenly becomes viable. It doesn't apply to people, unless they would be sharing the same space. So they can talk, actually - the our world and the other world version with no problem. That's not time travel laws...

However, if those two people occupied the same space at the same time when the merging would occur - according to any law - they should cease to exist in its present configuration. A nice poof!
This leads us to the reason behind the merging. There is some kind of a bridge forming between two worlds and I refuse to consider a train as such. The train is a mere vehicle, nothing more, there has to be some other mechanism. If they will go for a train I will be disappointed cause it makes no sense.
This could be the temporally forming EinsteinRosen bridge, otherwise known as a wormhole.
Or it could be something that has to do with watches - a perfectly synced up watches - there are scenes in the drama we see both the old, broken watch in the decrepit train station and the one in the other universe - where the station is fully functional and bursting with people.

There is a broken watch that Dowon has. Let's see if it has its counterpart.

And we have two watches at the train stations. One broken, that moves just when the connection occurs and one functioning as usual.

As for the parallel universe itself - it's actually on of at least five possible solutions to multiverse. And funny thing is, last year I actually took a course on multiverse that one of our most known Physicist (Astrophysicist to be precise) was giving, so I can now flaunt my knowledge (which I was sure was rather a hobby of mine), but to describe what a parallel universe is, I quote others:

Parallel universes. And last but not least as the idea of parallel universes. Going back to the idea that space-time is flat, the number of possible particle configurations in multiple universes would be limited to 10^10^122 distinct possibilities, to be exact. So, with an infinite number of cosmic patches, the particle arrangements within them must repeat — infinitely many times over. This means there are infinitely many "parallel universes": cosmic patches exactly the same as ours (containing someone exactly like you), as well as patches that differ by just one particle's position, patches that differ by two particles' positions, and so on down to patches that are totally different from ours.

Famously, physicist's Stephen Hawking's last paper before his death also dealt with the multiverse. The paper was published in May 2018, just a few months after Hawking's demise. About the theory, he told Cambridge University in an interview published in The Washington Post, "We are not down to a single, unique universe, but our findings imply a significant reduction of the multiverse to a much smaller range of possible universes." (1)

As for the story and characters - I can't empathize with anyone, really. Seo Dowon in our world is a hotheaded detective that has some overlooked issues to work on. So he says harsh words to Seokyeong, she gets killed, he gets into the other world and sees her doppelganger and suddenly decides to stay even thought, technically, they have never met and they are strangers to each other? And he doesn't care that the other Dowon, a volatile and morally crumbling person might be in his own world posing as him and destroying his whole life? Fine. The one from the other world is barely functioning, shooting up from time to time and acting on high. So I guess he'll continue to look for a fix and drag Dowon's reputation to the gutter.

The colors here are like aquarelle from a nightmare.

It's not that I'm not intrigued by the premise - I am. I just think in this case, 12 episodes might be a little too little to properly establish two worlds and their rules, differences and similarities (they could have also be a bit creative - ladies here could have different hair color or length). This is something that Fringe has done well, even though the changes weren't very drastic - both in behavior and physical appearance of the characters.

I especially liked this shot. The blurred lights in the background are not the usual circles as it is done but sharp squares. Each light signifies a human being sitting there, talking, eating, working, relaxing. And only the single person stands out, exasperated and alone.

But there is one thing that I really like and think the drama plays it really well - and I mentioned it at the beginning. It's cinematography. People compare it to King: Eternal Monarch, but this one had infinitely bigger budget and it went for fantasy aesthetics. Train does not go for fantasy so far. It uses something else - colors and vast spaces. And it creates both sense of dread, danger, threat or familiarity. The vast spaces used in abundance in the first episodes usually placed one person against the empty backdrop, diminishing the silhouette as if diminishing their significance. It was like a manifesto: see, there is more of you than just you. You are not significant. You are not unique.

And it also evokes solitude. Because no matter how many people we meet and socialize with, there are moments we are all alone, either by choice or not. It can be both emotional solitude or professional one, it does not matter. It can be also a mental solitude - like Yi Seong-uk, a mentally damaged man, who knows about two worlds but his crumbled brain makes sense of the things he sees in a way that doesn't make sense for anyone else. I have to admit Cha Yeob does a great job in portraying him, which is a difficult role.

Two main shade palettes here are: yellow and teal.