Few things are as complex as the human mind. Maybe the universe or the extended version of “The Settlers of Catan”, but that’s where it ends.
The simultaneously ingenious and emotionally cold – a very common combination – protagonist of the South Korean series Dr. Brain works as a brain researcher and has made it his life to get to the bottom of this complexity. The rather blunt series title says it all. But Dr. Sewon Koh (played by Lee Sun-kyun, known from Parasite) not just to satisfy his thirst for knowledge: with the help of so-called brain wave coupling, through which he can synchronize the memories of the dead with his own brain, he tries to find out exactly what happened to his son, who lost his life in a mysterious accident – or has disappeared? You don’t really know. It is not always clear here who has already died and who has not.
In any case, Dr. Koh his brain not only with different people or his comatose wife, but also with a – watch out – dead cat from time to time. And, yeah, that’s as crazy as it sounds. Especially when the cat’s memories are shown from a first-person perspective, like in a video game. What you do to find your deceased son.
What memories are his own? Which are those of the dead? Who is dead again?
The memories of the deceased, which our protagonist calls up in his head – incidentally with the help of a device that looks like a failed DJ controller – lead to the fact that the line between reality and illusion becomes increasingly blurred. (Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal for you to look at Dr. Brain always on Inception think.) What memories are his own? Which are those of the dead? Who is dead again? As a result of the brainwave coupling, Dr. Koh also unconsciously adheres to certain habits of the deceased. All of this while also being suspected of murder himself. Why again? The questions are increasing.
However, the individual episodes are not kept alive by these questions, which are often only posed and explained too imprecisely, but by the range of different genres that can be found in Dr. Brain mix. A surprising search for answers (crime thriller) with the help of futuristic tools (science fiction) leads to dark tension (horror) and the depiction of a father-son relationship (drama). Additionally has Dr. Brain also something philosophical and in between also illuminates the question: How far can research and science go?
That sounds like an idea with a lot of potential at first. If it weren’t for these colorless and clichéd secondary characters (the idiot laboratory assistant, the private detective wearing sunglasses) who make the whole thing a bit superficial. In the end, this series is just like its protagonist: clever, but also dry. Complexity alone is usually not enough.
Dr. Brain, six episodes, on Apple TV +.