[Spoilers Ep 1 – 10]
I started watching this show on a lark not really expecting to get involved or invested in anything new considering I was clearing my plate for Secret Love Affair. Of course, as things never go according to plan, here I am hooked on two live-watches with a growing backlog of marathons.
To be honest, this ride got off to a rocky start. The first couple of episodes felt a little disorienting. I knew the core of the drama was always going to be Soo Hyun fighting to save the life of her child, Saet Byul. I just didn’t know why another dude, and a shifty one at that, was muscling in on her story and I was getting impatient. It took about 4 episodes to get there but now I know that Dong Chan, our troubled ex-detective, is as important to this fight as is Soo Hyun.
The drama really took off once it settled around the partnership of Dong Chan and Soo Hyun on their quest to prevent Saet Byul’s murder. Once they team up, the plot surges forward relentlessly. There is very little breathing room as we hurtle from reveal to reveal, one hair-raising encounter with one murderer to the next. If you’re looking for some genuinely nail-biting cliffhangers look no further than the early-middle episodes of this drama.
It’s been one long adrenaline rush. The closest equivalent I can think of is last year’s Two Weeks which had a similar premise but wasn’t nearly as gritty and mysterious and as intricately plotted as this one.
But there are also moments when this drama feels like a rapidly growing snowball of barely-contained chaos rolling down a steep cliff. Everything flies by so fast that I sometimes find myself pausing midway during an episode wondering, waitaminute, how did we get here again?
Logic fails, epic conveniences, missing transitions and bad edits, are rampant too. But so far, I’m happy to ignore all that because the stakes feel really high and there’s palpable sense of danger. Everyone is a suspect and a threat to Saet Byul’s life.
But what brings me coming back for more isn’t so much the action but the tag team of Soo Hyun and Dong Chan. Soo Hyun brings an investigative mind (when she isn’t flying off the handle) and her drive, while Dong Chan brings instincts, observational skills and the brawn. Dong Chan as a character, is a bucketload of tragic, checkered past and ragged round the edges. (And Jo Seung Woo is so versatile and makes Dong Chan so appealing that I’m ready to pledge my eternal devotion to this actor.)
They both have a lot in common. Aside from having fraught family ties, I also like that their emotional states are both so unstable. Because for one thing, they’re both on edge all the time and have made some god awful decisions. God knows I love Dong Chan, and he gets extra points for adoring Soo Hyun, but let’s be honest: he shot his nephew, permanently disabling him and sent his mentally-challenged brother to death row for a murder he did not see him commit. Not to mention the anger-management issues. Seriously, Dong Chan, get some therapy!
As for Soo Hyun, I love that here is someone who is not only trying to become a better mother, but who is willing to kill to do it. That’s some pretty heavy stuff.
But here’s where I find a little time more spent in Soo Hyun’s head is seriously warranted. She almost strangled someone to death, someone who as it turns out wasn’t involved in Saet Byul’s abduction, and that doesn’t seem to weigh even the teensiest bit on her mind. In her down time, she talks about first loves and cries about her crumbling marriage, but almost taking a life has no noticeable impact on her?
We know so much more about Dong Chan than we do about her. Why is she estranged from her mother, enough to lie that she’s an orphan? If the drama can spare a few minutes for Dong Chan to sweetly serenade Saet Byul, I think it can spare a few to tell us more about the other hero of the story!
Which brings me to my biggest worry, which is that character motivation or development ultimately is going to be sacrificed in the name of a plot twist or another cliffhanger that may not serve a larger purpose. We saw this at the end of episode 9 where Soo Hyun gets damselled for basically no reason.
I fear we simply won’t have time to dwell on important character beats because we’re too busy chasing down red herrings or getting into fist fights enroute to uncovering yet another connection between someone and the larger conspiracy.
Which is why all complaints I’ve read about Soo Hyun being too reckless, or Saet Byul being too obstinate or unrealistically desensitised to strangers, feel rather pointless. It’s obvious why they’re written that way–because something bad needs to happen! And Dong Chan needs to fill his quota of ass kicking! Not that I’m complaining too much when the ass kicking looks as exquisite as this rain-soaked roof-top beatdown:
Also, I do hope that what seems to be an overarching theme of mothers striving to redeem themselves for their children and vice versa gets explored a little more. There seem to be a lot of pained mothers and daughters and estranged sons here. Let’s hope this drama does right by them.
For now, this is a thrilling roller coaster ride that I don’t want to get off.