The unprecedented success of Netflix’s Squid Game has made the show more than a mere hit – more like a relentless walloping. These days the primary duties of a Netflix executive are probably simply counting money, with occasional breaks to defend Dave Chappelle. Wouldn’t it be handy if another streaming service had a prestige, delightfully twisted South Korean show in a similar vein waiting in the wings? Fortunately, here’s something Apple TV+ prepared earlier.
Sewon (Lee Sun-kyun) is a brilliant and obsessive researcher, working on an enjoyably implausible project to sync brain waves, which is intended to transfer thoughts and memories from one subject to another. His motivations are linked to his own tragic backstory, and, after some unexpected success in synching rats, Sewon decides he needs to immediately move onto a human test subject – namely himself. As anyone watching will figure out long before the protagonist does, there are a few deeply sinister consequences awaiting the intrepid Dr Brain.
The obviousness of many aspects of the character’s narrative are a little bothersome. His insular, morose nature is explained away by heavy suggestions that he’s on the autism spectrum, because apparently the horrifying loss of his family wasn’t sufficient. Dr Brain has a bad habit of foreshadowing its future developments in too much detail, with any twists taking on a slight whiff of predictability. The (fore)shadow could be darker, keeping audiences guessing until the story arrives where it needs to go.
The actual mechanism for brain syncing is profoundly absurd, coming close to being a distraction. All Sewon needs to do is attach two shiny shower cap-like hoods fitted with electrodes, plug them into a box with a lot of lights and buttons, and hey presto, brains are synced. It’s harder to sync an Android phone with a MacBook.
Despite an unfortunate title that makes the show sound like a sitcom about a wisecracking neurologist, Dr Brain makes assurances to its viewers that it will deliver on its intriguing promises. And it mostly does, for audiences willing to make it through the fairly patchy first episode.
Dr Brain is released on Apple TV+ on 4th November 2021.
Watch the trailer for Dr Brain here: