I am still 1/2 an episode away from the ending of the show, yet I'm lamenting, savouring the demise of this very, very good show.
No, the show is not perfect, but darn close. Here, I will neither lead off nor delve into what I see are the minor short comings but instead try to elaborate on the secret of this show's success.
The story revolves around how a prosecutor unearths the details and convoluted dealings that is behind an initial murder of a shady character.
One of the key element of the story is that this prosecutor has a unique physical (and thus related emotional) flaw. This flaw allows him to be almost devoid of emotions, but brilliant (almost to a fault) at deductive reasoning, theories correlation, and stone-cold, unrelenting, unapologetic, and unflinching resolve. This character flaw also provide the storyline with one of the most explosive yet unusual, non- action based climax (1 of 2 near the ending). For this, the audience is the scapegoat in soaking up all the tension in between. This character trait, I believe is absolutely necessary, to serve both the seriousness of the subject matter, and the 'burden' of the plot.
This leads to another great component of the show and that is the overall tone. The constant pressure, mystery, event after event (constructed in great detail) that unfolds seemingly backs the 'good' guys into a tight corner. All this done in a serious, nonchalant, no extra fat, point to point, manner. While there is only just a small, right amount,of understated comic relief. This goes against most other formulaic Korean detective show of over the top funny characters.
A third key of success is the balance of characters. The balance of the female lead oppose to the male lead. Officer Han is just as tough, physically and mentally, has a sense of justice that pairs along with a sense of doubt. This does not mean she is weaker in any sense, but instead more human. A fine touch is how she likes to sketch and scribbles with a pencil. Also must be noted is subtle variation of characters in both the prosecution and police staff. The writing provides its characters with varying level of moral, ethical, and conscientious standards. Some people change, some don't.
Other elements that are not so common in K dramas. No clearly stated development of romantic relationships for the main leads. No prolong, repetition of pop-song heavy based, unnecessary flashbacks. No over sentimental gratuitous tug of the heart strings. No over stylized cinematography. No must see next episode ending to every episode. And there is no over the top, fantastic human feats, or earth shattering twist of the plot.
Lastly, but to a lesser extend is the reduced dependence on dialogue. But instead through use the camera angles and movement, specific thoughts and facial expressions of the characters to move the storyline along. This is especially so in the first few episodes. That means some information are not from given through the exchange of dialogue, not a directly feeding of the plot line to the viewer, but instead implied or visually taken care of.
And as the mystery slowly reveal itself, the audience is not taken for a ride but instead is going along for the ride, side by side with the task force. What a pleasure for us the audience to have this quality writing and what eyes for director and producer to trust the strength of this writing, too.
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