I honestly mean to expand on my previous “letter” to I Remember You earlier but that went out like most things do with my mind. Perhaps it’s fitting that I’m reviewing this at the end because this is a show where the final doesn’t merely tell you how our story ends, but why it began.
For those who’ve yet to see this drama, I seriously recommend it. Yes, there are a few flaws (choppy music editing, scenes meshed haphazardly, poor music choice) but look past those and you get the sort of show Korea has (I think I can safely say this) never done before and that I want more of (please? now!). (Because let’s face it, Gapdong degenerated into an incredibly predictable character study)
Here’s the general plot (which I’m proud to say I wrote and posted on Wikipedia. Woohoo?)
Genius profiler Lee Hyun returns home to Korea from abroad after something from a case he’s been sent triggers a memory he thought he’d lost forever – one of several erased after his father’s death. Unbeknownst to him, one of his team members, detective Cha Ji-an, has been investigating (stalking) him for some time and is aware that his father was murdered and his brother disappeared under mysterious circumstances involving a criminal named Lee Joonyoung – whom they both want found and incarcerated. Each seeks to unravel the other unaware that they’ve been drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse by a master player and that both truth and evil are closer and far more twisted than they think.
What fascinated me from the start was the idea that our hero could be a psychopath. Because our hero’s supposed to be good guy. You know it going into most dramas. The male lead might be an asshat, a complete buffoon, or have multiple personality disorder (oh KMHM, how I love thee) but he’s certainly not a psychopath. So the first episode had me by the throat as I watched Seo Inguk brilliantly demonstrate the complexity of Lee Hyun’s thinking . I love well done/well used amnesia (see Arang and the Magistrate, I Hear Your Voice) and this was honestly perfect. Even better was the fact that Hyun turned out to be a rather prissy, intelligent, sociopath. Just seeing him cooking and cleaning in that apron honestly made my day.
[Work that apron, Hyun-ah]
The is he/isn’t he a psycopath was what kept me itching for the next two episodes but Jian was what made me stay.
Why are all Kdramas Jian’s so awesome? First Healer, now her. First off, I absolutely adore Jang Nara so having her in this role was a huge plus but Jian was just swoonworthy. I love that she was tough as nails when she needed to be (she sure brought down that killer in ep 7 and good heavens that moment in ep 10 when she purposefully provoke that other killer), that her home was a pigsty (and Hyun’s OCD refused to let him leave it like that), that she’s clumsy at times, that her mind works just as sharply as Hyun’s though in a manner disparate to his, that she gives as good as she gets and that she’s all big eyes and warm hugs for Min (not going to lie, I cried).
Hyun honestly made the perfect foil for her. He’s snarky, dismissive, aloof, cares little to nothing for societal niceties and is the sort of man who upon finding a dead body in an apartment thinks nothing of calling 911 (accomplishing his civic duty in that sense) and then waltzing away in his car (even I was a little boggled at that). And seeing these two together gives me the fuzzies.
Sigh, I am so lonely.
There’s nothing I love more than a good love-hate relationship (especially where neither is purposefully cruel to the other. Take note romance novels) and theirs waltzed with my sweet spot. “Great show,” I thought, “definitely going to tune in next week.” And that was that for two weeks until something happened that elevated this show to the point of greatness.
[Warning: the following paragraph will read like a middle schooler’s diary]
Park Bogum, you adorable creature- I mean Min. Just get over here so I can hug you, damn it. Stop looking at me with those sad eyes. Why must you wear your hair down? You look like a squishy puppy in need of some love. Why oh why must you make those creepy eyes at Cha Jian? She’s not trying to hurt you! Honest! How about this? I don’t care about who you were or what you did just so long as you won’t do it anymore. I’ll keep you safe for the rest of my life, so GET YOUR SQUISHY FACE OVER HERE, OKAY?
No, I am not okay.
Frankly, I don’t think this show would have gone past the point of: “Hey, good show” if it weren’t for his character. Park Bogum played the hell out of that role and I am so excited to see where he’s going as an actor after this (Please don’t let Reply 1988 stink! For our puppy’s sake!). It was at about this point that I realized that this show wasn’t as simple as I’d pigeonholed it. It evolved into the sort of character study I’d always dreamt of seeing in a drama. Thoughtful, evocative, and one where you scarily find yourself sympathizing, and relating with the criminal. I write more on this in Part 2 because it’s frankly too long for one post! For now let’s delve into our Scooby Gang!
Kang Eunhyuk needs a hug. And I would like to be one to do so. Not the happily married Lee Chunhee, but Kang Eunhyuk. Seriously though, things just go downhill for this poor fellow. As socially awkward and terrible at humility as he is, the man is a well-meaning, sincere, teddy bear. But not only is his dad a psycho but the brilliant cop he has a crush on in the squad is the daughter of the innocent man his father framed. We need a spin-off here. Poor baby. Despite it all, he’s warm, encouraging, and supportive in Jian’s every endeavour, asking nothing in return and saying nothing about his unrequited love until the end when he feels like he’s deserving of even saying the words.
It’s common in K-dramas for children to feel guilty of their parents’ crimes but unlike a certain reporter (*coughcough* Gi Hamyung) Jian and Eunhyuk never took it into the realm of angsty, weepy insanity but resolved it like mature adults, coworkers and friends. It’s bittersweet to leave him at a point where he’s just begun spreading his wings and leaving his father’s influence behind but such is the fate of any good secondary character in Kdramas, we rarely see enough. This reminds me of Ahn Guk in KMHM where we’re given bits and pieces of a great character but don’t get to see more. This is unfortunately the case with many well done lead-centric dramas due to the writer having spent so much more time on the antagonists or on seven personalities to have much time for people like Cha Dohyun’s male secretary or the bumbling, foot-in-the-mouth chief of the investigation squad. And I say bumbling in terms of social interaction because you can’t accuse the man of being a poor detective
Oh Myungwoo. You redefined pettiness. I have honestly never seen someone so fixated on getting the upperhand is such a petty manner. His relationship with Dave reads like the back of a romance novel so I’m going to pay my respect to our snarky, foolish King in a manner that I believe would please him greatly. So here goes.
Rushing to the scene of a crime, Son Myungwoo discover a strange male standing there who promptly points out every important detail within the room despite having been there no more than ten minutes. A misunderstanding leads to the mystery man being confused as the murderer before his identity is revealed as David Lee, a famed criminal psychologist and a first-class asshole whose faintly bored gaze Myungwoo mistakes as condescension. Put out by this underestimation of his intelligence Myungwoo takes revenge the only way he knows how, by butchering David’s name at every turn. Only David’s onto him and bored of his petty revenge. A petulant Myungwoo merely continues, all the while in awe at David’s intelligence. Over cases, they slowly grow closer and closer with David beginning to see him as more than a moron, until he up and vanishes for about a year before returning and kissing the hell out of Jian. The end
Myeongwoo was more than comic relief though. He clearly cares a great deal for the team and sees himself as everyone’s brother and it was always a delight to see him onscreen after a particularly heartbreaking scene between Min and Hyun. Stay gold, Myeongwoo.
I can’t say much about Seungjoo and Eunbok seeing as we didn’t see as much of them but I really appreciate the writer’s time and effort in crafting even flyaway details like Eunbok not mentioning that he was at the crime scene and having them play out in the end. Despite having limited screentime, they weren’t brainless (I find that to be the case among a great deal of supporting characters in Kdramas) and Seungjoo easily put two and two together upon finding that picture in the bathroom. They may not have been vital to the story but they were a pleasure to have around. Especially Eunbok, correcting and rolling his eyes at Myungwoo’s continued refusal to use David’s name. I’ll probably be seeing these actors a great deal in the future and it’s good to see them making themselves memorable now.
The team as a whole worked very, very well together. Something else I love about this show was that coherence within each case’s narrative and resolution wasn’t thrown out for the sake of the character conflicts and subplots. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty damn good given that this isn’t OCN. Everyone had their own role, did it responsibly and well and Jian’s role was just kickass in general. There wasn’t even the slightest hint of sexism. They all cared for and respected one another, despite their idiosyncrasies. I honestly have nothing to say except SIGN ME UP NOW! I’ll work for free
That’s it on the Scooby Gang! Onwards to Part 2, wherein Min and Lee Joonyoung are dissected!