THE SHORT VERDICT:
Less slick and less stylish than the first season, this second season is grittier, darker and way bloodier.
While I missed the finesse of Season 1, Season 2 did give us more meat in terms of character development and team & relationship dynamics.
The episode-to-episode crimes generally also showed more complexity compared to those in Season 1.
Most importantly, Season 2 gave us more time with our favorite vampire prosecutor – and who can argue with that?
THE LONG VERDICT:
There are things that I really enjoyed about Season 2, but I will admit up-front that I actually preferred Season 1 to Season 2.
In a nutshell, I really liked how Season 2 explored our characters and their relationships, but the difference in style, cinematography and tone didn’t sit so well with me. I also have some (minor-ish) quibbles with the writing.
I’m going to try to break it down in a manner that’s fair and does justice to both seasons.
STYLE & CINEMATOGRAPHY
The thing that immediately struck me about the style and cinematography in Season 2 is that there’s a lot less emphasis on style, and a lot more emphasis on grit and gore.
It’s edgier and all, yes, but it’s also no longer classy or elegant.
I was rather disappointed that there was no more pretty blood in Season 2. That’s one of the things I loved to marvel at in Season 1: how they managed to make blood look stylish and elegant.
In Season 2, the blood is a lot less stylish, and a lot more matter-of-fact and in-yo-face. The blood was also much greater in sheer quantity, which isn’t my preference.
I managed to get a few screencaps where the blood looked a touch more aesthetically pleasing, but these were few and far between, and were undeniably less beautiful than the blood in Season 1.
Another noticeable difference was the incandescent blue of the vampires’ eyes. This season, the blue eyes seem to have an extra lit-from-within sort of quality about them, which is edgier, but which also makes the vampires feel more other-worldly and less human, in my opinion.
It’s a matter of personal taste. I prefer Tae Yeon (Yun Jung Hoon) in particular to have a more human quality about him, even when he’s vamping out, and I thought it a pity that this aesthetic choice was made.
On a related note, this season, Tae Yeon has a tendency to snarl for the camera when he vamps out.
I found this rather try-hard and quite unbecoming of our otherwise cool, classy vampire prosecutor. To be honest, every time he snarled for the camera, I cringed.
Thankfully, he remains cool in other ways.
Time-lapse sequences were still employed in Season 2, but with less frequency and regularity than Season 1.
Think occasional add-on rather than regular feature.
Also, the editing of the time-lapse sequences wasn’t quite as interesting. Instead of being artistically spliced with shots from other angles, these time-lapse sequences were, again, more matter-of-fact, in keeping with the overall shift in tone of the show.
The freeze-frame technique was a strong presence this season, though applied in a different fashion.
Similar to Season 1, this season’s freeze frames were combined with reverse motion frames to illustrate the investigative conversations of our Special Cases Team, and also used in fight sequences to up the cool factor.
One very interesting addition to the freeze-frame family this season, was the interaction of freeze-frames with live motion frames.
There were many scenes where Tae Yeon and at times Dr. Jo (Yee Kyung Young) would interact with elements within a freeze-frame, like enter a blood vision and handle blood &/or other evidence.
The Color Palette
The color palette is also further desaturated compared to Season 1 – with few exceptions – which adds to the gritty, less stylized, more matter-of-fact tone of Season 2.
Overall, Season 2 has a much darker tone compared to Season 1.
As a result of the style changes, Season 2 feels grittier, choppier and louder while Season 1 feels cleaner, sleeker and quieter in comparison.
Style-wise, Season 2 basically chose to forsake poetic sensibility for edge, blood and gore, which in my opinion, is a pity. The elegance of Season 1 was one of the big things that I liked about it.
Similar to fashion, a bit of restraint can add a whole lot of elegance, and that’s something that I wish Season 2 could have exercised – a bit of restraint.
Thankfully, what Season 2 lacks in terms of style, it more than makes up for in terms of character and relationship development.
Since Season 1 had already introduced us to our characters and built the team, Season 2 had lots of room to add meat to those bones, and really flesh out our characters and their relationships for us.
This was the thing that I enjoyed most about the season.
Yun Jung Hoon as Min Tae Yeon
One season later, Yun Jung Hoon is still pitch perfect as our resident badass vampire prosecutor. He still looks fabulous with the guyliner, and even though his face has filled out this season, he still cuts a mighty fine figure.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he suddenly got fat in the face, or that that’s necessarily a bad thing in general. It’s just that I prefer Tae Yeon’s face leaner. Somehow it makes him look sharper. Y’know, as befits a lean, mean, ass-kicking vampire machine. 😉
One of the things I really appreciated about this season is how the writers allow us deeper into Tae Yeon’s psyche.
His cool, super smart exterior is still firmly in place, and we get to see lots of badass action from him. Yet at the same time, the layers get peeled back more than ever before, to reveal not only his humorous side, but also his heart, his loneliness and his fears.
And Yun Jung Hoon kills it. Every. Single. Time.
Here’s a peek at introspective Tae Yeon:
And here’s fierce, badass prosecutor Tae Yeon:
Adorable Tae Yeon, with unguarded smiles and chuckles:
Droll Tae Yeon, who is hilarious with his dead-pan face:
Affectionate Tae Yeon – possibly one of my favorite versions of him:
And most heartbreaking of all, fearful Tae Yeon:
Yun Jung Hoon was fantastic in fleshing out Tae Yeon’s character in a way that was always believable and relatable. I loved seeing him reprise his character this season, and I loved that we got to see more of Tae Yeon’s character, both as a person and as a vampire.
Yun Jung Hoon is simply so good as Tae Yeon, that I forgive him for the cheesy snarls at the camera.
I think he will always be Tae Yeon to me.
Lee Young Ah as Yoo Jung In
I’ve known for a long time that clothes and makeup can completely change the look of a woman (or a man, for that matter), but I was still blown away by how different Lee Young Ah looks as Jung In this season.
Gone are the bowl cut and bangs, and the no-nonsense, boxy office suits. This season, Jung In is rocking a complete makeover, with longer, sleeker hair, stronger, bolder makeup and a sexier, more streamlined wardrobe.
Besides loving her new look, I loved how badass Jung In got to be this season. No longer is she the new prosecutor on the block trying to make her mark.
She’s come into her own this season, and that confidence shows, and in spades too. I also really liked how we also got to delve deeper into her thoughts, feelings and desires.
Here’s Jung In being all badass, confronting a group of baddies all by herself, and with humor & panache too:
I loved perky, energetic Jung In and her new-found love for individually wrapped sausages:
This season, we also get to see Jung In’s crush on Tae Yeon play out more overtly than in Season 1.
Besides the occasional bout of jealousy, we also get to see Jung In’s fantasies involving Tae Yeon:
I started the season already liking Jung In, but as I got deeper into the season, I found myself enjoying her character more and more.
Despite the massive changes implemented to her character – the makeover, increased confidence levels & new-found general perkiness – Lee Young Ah managed to make Jung In still feel like the same person, which is an impressive feat indeed.
Lee Won Jong as Hwang Soon Bum
This season, we get less comic relief from a smarter Soon Bum. We do get some funny scenes involving Soon Bum, but they are decidedly fewer in number than Season 1.
In Season 1, we had comic relief that sometimes focused on Soon Bum’s big head. This season, the focus shifts to Soon Bum’s big heart, and Lee Won Jong made that transition smooth, effortless and believable for us.
Soon Bum’s wisdom becomes him. We see it all season long, sometimes showing up when we least expect it.
His methods of dealing with suspects and informants remains largely the same, but in his questioning, he manages to come across as streetwise & sharp, yet kind & benevolent. Which I love.
Case in point: Wise Soon Bum
In Episode 3, Soon Bum shows exceptional wisdom while talking a reluctant detective into releasing the case’s old files.
He says, in quiet, measured, philosophical tones, “When a bank teller makes a mistake, the number changes. When we make a mistake, someone’s life changes. I’m here for some self-reflection for our mistakes. So please let me have them, I beg you.”
I was pretty blown away by his wise yet sincere-sounding words. Kudos to Lee Won Jong and the writers, for managing to not make it feel weird, even though he was usually the comical one in Season 1.
Case in point: Big-hearted Soon Bum
In Episode 4, I found Soon Bum absolutely adorable and sweet.
He beats up baddies for the investigation, then instructs the baddie to send fried chicken with lots of radish to the father & son that he’d talked to earlier, who were down & out and couldn’t afford fried chicken.
Way to turn a throwaway scene on its head, to become one of my favorite Soon Bum moments in the entire season.
Of course, we don’t get comical Soon Bum completely taken away from us, and he is involved in a nice number of sight gags, and is at times also the butt of jokes.
[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]
In episode 8, when Soon Bum gets hit in the head by a stray ball while trying to eat a lettuce wrap, the offender defends herself, saying, “It’s not because of my kicking, it’s because his head is so big!”
HA. Way to give us a throwback to Soon Bum’s big head funnies in Season 1!
[END MINOR SPOILER]
I loved Soon Bum in Season 1, but I have to say, I love him even more in Season 2.
Sweet, gruff, affectionate – and smart! Let’s not forget smart! – Soon Bum is flat-out adorable. You just want to give the big ol’ lug a great big hug.
Kim Joo Young as Choi Dong Man
Similar to Season 1, Dong Man strikes me as Soon Bum-lite in some ways.
He provides a good amount of humor in the show, taking over the vacuum that wising up Soon Bum left, but also shows heart where it matters.
Dong Man often sparks off Soon Bum in both these areas, which I love.
Case in point: The Funny
In Episode 1, the team goes after a serial killer together. Dong Man quivers, asking if he can be excused because he’s not insured. Soon Bum grabs him by the ear, saying, “If you get hurt, you can submit a petition.” *snicker*
When they reach the location, Soon Bum hands Dong Man a stick and says, “Stay out here. If someone comes running out the door, hit him on the head.” Dong Man nervously agrees.
When Soon Bum comes running out after the suspect jumped out the window, Dong Man whacks Soon Bum in the head. BWAHAHA!
I kinda saw it coming, but it was hilarious all the same.
Case in point: The Heart
In Episode 9, Tae Yeon leaves to look for Ji Ae (Kim Ji Young) on his own, and Jung In wants the team to follow.
Nervous, Dong Man says, “Many cooks in the kitchen will spoil..” but Jung In cuts him off, saying flatly, “Many cooks in the kitchen will make food faster.” Ha. And then everyone else but Dong Man follows her out.
Dong Man fidgets, frightened, then gets up, calling out with determination, “Ji Ae-ya, Oppa’s coming!”
Aw. I love that Dong Man’s inner oppa was big and strong enough to overcome his fear!
Lee Kyung Young as Jo Jung Hyun
Dr. Jo was a surprise addition to the team, taking over the space vacated by Season 1’s sexy lady coroner.
Dr. Jo starts the season as a pretty mysterious presence, but over time, gains the trust and affection of our main foursome and eventually becomes a bona fide full-fledged member of the team.
Lee Kyung Young did a fantastic job with a character that had an extremely wide spectrum of emotions over the course of the season. He was perfectly believable as the highly intelligent, meticulous and wise coroner with the fatherly nature.
Hands-down, one of the most moving relationships this season, was Dr. Jo’s relationship with Ji Ae.
From feeling sorry for her, and motivated largely by his guilt over the fact that he’s partly responsible for her not having any family left, Dr. Jo bonds with Ji Ae in multiple adorable scenes, and comes to truly care for her as a father figure.
I loved watching their interactions. So much.
Here’re a couple more scenes for you to awww over:
Bromance, Bromance, & More Bromance
Last season, the bromance was all about Tae Yeon and Soon Bum, but this season, just about everyone jumps on the bromance wagon, and adorably, Soon Bum is the one common factor through it all.
Soon Bum & Dr. Jo
In Episode 4, Dr. Jo feels guilty for causing the team to get flack, and Soon Bum tells him not to worry, the team getting flack isn’t his fault, they’re one team.
Dr. Jo says thoughtfully, “One team?” and Soon Bum reassures him, grinning, “Of course, we’re one team, aren’t we?” Aww.
And then, to double the aww, Soon Bum asks Dr. Jo to drop the honorifics with him, asking that they become hyung-dongsaeng.
He says earnestly, “Just think of me as your fat brother.” HA!
Dr. Jo then has trouble dropping the honorifics, and Soon Bum keeps wheedling him until he complies.
After some time, Dr. Jo and Soon Bum find it hard to settle into banmal and they decide not to force it. After Soon Bum leaves the room, though, Dr. Jo practices on his own: “Soon Bum-ah.”
Soon Bum & Dong Man
Hilariously, Dong Man gets jealous of Soon Bum’s hyung-dongsaeng relationship with Dr. Jo and continually badgers Soon Bum to be hyung-dong saeng with him too.
Only, when Soon Bum finally agrees, it turns out he’s actually older than Dong Man’s mother, and he refuses. HA!
This reluctant bromance becomes a running gag through the season, where Dong Man will address Soon Bum as “Hyung!” only to get hissed at by Soon Bum. Hee.
Soon Bum & Tae Yeon
Certainly, the most enduring bromance of the lot, is the relationship between Soon Bum and Tae Yeon.
Their bromance is even more evident this season, with many light-hearted exchanges as well as heartfelt conversations.
One of the most moving exchanges between them happens in Episode 9, when Tae Yeon questions pensively whether it was a good thing for Soon Bum to have met him 2 years ago.
Soon Bum is saddened and surprised in response, but starts to leave the room as Tae Yeon requests.
Then, with back still turned to Tae Yeon, Soon Bum says quietly, “Don’t go around getting yourself hurt. You’re the only luck that’s happened to me in my life.”
Aww. How sweet is that. Seriously. ♥
The brotherly love; it runs deep.
The team that we see this season has bonded even more since the end of Season 1, and we see evidence of their camaraderie, trust and unity throughout Season 2.
I love that the team is even more strongly bonded than when we left them, and that not just the team as a whole, but individual relationships as well, boast a more in-sync rhythm than before, with cheeky banter being a regular feature of their interactions.
In Episode 1, when they realize that the victim’s father is a gang leader, Jung In says, “His father is a gang leader?”
Soon Bum perks up, “Why? Do you know his face?”
Jung In snipes back, “Just because I’m the daughter of a gang leader, am I supposed to know the son of a gang leader?!” HA!
Later in the episode, though, the two high five each other when they figure out something together. Fun!
Right away in Episode 1 as well, the tone of conversation between Jung In and Dong Man is a lot more casual & friendly compared to last season.
When Jung In observes that the victim’s car is abandoned in the middle of nowhere, so there are no CCTV cameras to capture any clues, Dong Man brags that he’s already got it covered & waves toll receipts in her face. She grins, pleased.
A scene which I feel really shows us the extent to which the team has bonded happens in Episode 10.
Hateful Lady Boss threatens Soon Bum and Jung In that they will lose their jobs if they don’t obey orders and drop the case.
Afterwards, while deciding what to do, Soon Bum says to Jung In: “We can’t do nothing just because we’re threatened.”
Jung In smirks her answer without hesitation, “I’ve got lots of offers, I could work elsewhere.”
Aw. I love that they’d put their livelihood on the line for Tae Yeon and for their team.
The romance in Season 2 isn’t full-blown either, but we’ve certainly moved forward from the subtle hints of attraction in Season 1.
This season, we acknowledge the attraction that Tae Yeon and Jung In have for each other, and in multiple instances and forms too.
Even the people around them start to notice and acknowledge their attraction to each other.
Most tellingly, the banter between Tae Yeon and Jung In is often flirty and affectionate.
In Episode 5, as Tae Yeon and Jung In walk in the carpark, on their way to take down some baddies, Tae Yeon asks if Jung In is addicted to sausages, noting that she eats one everyday. Their familiarity with each other is impossible to miss.
And then this lightning-fast exchange takes place:
Tae Yeon: You’d be more comfortable if you waited in the car.
Jung In: Comfortable is boring.
Tae Yeon: Boring is safe.
Jung In: Safe is no fun.
Tae Yeon: You work for fun?
Jung In: Do you know what’s good about loving your job? (grins) Life is fun.
Later, when gangsters start to take up clubs for the fight, Tae Yeon says, “It’s not too late for you to go now.”
Jung In smirks, “What are you talking about? I even brought my tools” and she unveils the row of handcuffs strapped to her waist.
Tae Yeon smirks back, “You’ve learned a lot from me” while Jung In fires back, “I still have a lot more to learn. Will you teach me?”
Tae Yeon grins, “You want more?” Jung In nods.
Tae Yeon replies,”Watch, my young apprentice” and off he goes, kicking serious ass, while Jung In’s eyes grow bright and she bites her lip with glee.
Now, that is some flirty bantering, if you ask me. I rewound that scene and watched it multiple times, it was so chock-full of delicious little nuggets.
Of course, no discussion about the attraction between Tae Yeon and Jung In would be complete without mentioning Jung In’s flights of imagination in Episode 4.
In her fantasies, we get to see hugs, almost-kisses, and all kinds of romantic dramatics which we don’t get to see in their real world.
Even as a lark, these fantasies did help to fulfill the romance quotient of the show.
To be fair, it’s not only Jung In who exhibits signs of attraction.
In Episode 6, Jung In gets a makeover in order to go undercover as a model, and Dong Man expresses curiosity to the rest of the team at the result of Jung In’s makeover.
Soon Bum says, “Will drawing lines on a pumpkin make it a watermelon? It’ll just be a pumpkin with lines.” Then he asks Tae Yeon what he thinks.
Tae Yeon replies wryly, “I think Hyung is mistaken about something. Yoo Jung In was not a pumpkin to begin with. She was a watermelon with her lines drawn faintly.”
These two have certainly come a long way since Season 1.
Jung In is clearly feeling more comfortable with Tae Yeon now, compared to Season 1 where she always seemed a little intimidated by him. Now, they’ve got a familiar, cozy vibe going and they even have a rhythm in taking down baddies.
Their chemistry is definitely more overt this season. Very nice.
I felt that the episode-to-episode crimes this season were more complex and more smartly written compared to Season 1.
In some of the earlier episodes of Season 1, I’d felt that the cases were either simplistic or solved too conveniently. I didn’t feel that way in Season 2 about the episodic cases.
In fact, I liked certain twists and related deductions by our team and I felt that by and large, the episodic crimes were well-written.
I do have some beefs with the execution, but more on that later.
THE OVERARCHING STORY
Similar to Season 1, information and clues relating to the overarching mystery are released to us over the course of the season.
Like Season 1, we have a Big Bad, and the stakes are made personal for Tae Yeon, who needs to protect those whom he loves. Last season, Tae Yeon was striving to find his sister’s killer. I love that this season, it’s his team that he’s working to protect.
They’ve become family to him now.
I found the writing this season pretty sharp and fairly cohesive, but there were times when I felt it was uneven and could have been handled better.
I’m just going to spend a bit of time breaking it down.
I appreciated the continuity that the writers kept up through Season 2.
Characters that we meet in earlier episodes show up again in later episodes, providing a firmer secondary cast than Season 1.
Both Ji Ae and Luna (Yoshitaka Yuriko) return in later episodes, giving the show a more cohesive, less episodic feel, which I appreciated.
I also appreciated that the writers tie us back to threads from Season 1. For example, when we first meet Tae Yeon in Episode 1, he’s still asking for information on Yeon Ji and Chief Jang (Jang Hyun Sung).
Jung In is also shown digging into the murder of the mafia guy who was clubbed to death by her father.
It’s nice that Season 2 does that and those threads aren’t left dangling just because Season 1 is over. However, not all of these threads get tied up by the end of Season 2, which makes me wonder if this will be the job of Season 3.
Season 2 had some meta worked into it, which gave rise to some funnies.
I thought this was an interesting touch by the writers. I could have done without the meta myself, but it was rather amusing, I have to admit.
In Episode 4, the fake movie which gives rise to Jung In’s flights of fantasy is titled “Vampire Prosecutor” HA!
Not only that, the lines in the movie mirror Tae Yeon’s reality really well. We get a practically word-for-word enactment of Tae Yeon’s thoughts.
At first, I thought the director of the fake movie knew something about Tae Yeon, but naw, it was just a case of overly applied meta.
Another case of meta was in Episode 6.
Dong Man tries to get Jung In to get into the whole undercover model assignment by saying, “You might even become Han Ga In!”
For those who aren’t in the know, Han Ga In is Yun Jung Hoon’s real life wife.
Oh, the meta.
One of my biggest beefs with the writing in Season 2, is that I always felt like I was being manipulated by the writers.
I often felt that the writers were gunning for shock value, and were looking to horrify me.
When I feel like someone’s trying to do that to me, though, my response is usually disdain rather than delight.
I didn’t appreciate the overly bloody, disturbing or sick elements that the writers kept serving up, and I have to admit that by the end of the season, the part of my brain that responds to blood, horror and death had partially switched itself off.
Episode 1 was really, really hard to get through.
Not only was it full of sick, sick scenes of torture – REPEATED torture, I might add – it was a whopping 1 hour 45 minutes long. The torture scenes that we get slapped with practically right away, are disturbing, twisted and extremely violent.
Honestly, if I didn’t already have an affection for the team, I would not have continued on to Episode 2, purely based on my experience of Episode 1.
The thing is, while some episodes let up somewhat on the blood and gore, I continually felt like the writers were always looking to slip in something to shock &/or horrify me. Which I really, really didn’t appreciate.
In Episode 2, when the writers wrote in the rushed execution of Ji Ae’s uncle, they &/or the PD seemed to revel in the shock value of the execution itself, and we had a prolonged sequence of him hyperventilating in fear as the hood dropped over his head and the noose tightened around his neck.
I really disliked this element in the writing and execution, and unfortunately, it continued to rear its ugly head all season long.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILER ALERT]
I didn’t really like the fact that Season 2 technically ended on a cliffhanger.
One of the things that I liked about Season 1 was its ability to stand alone. I guess this relates to my earlier point about feeling manipulated by the writers.
If you write good stuff, I will be back for Season 3. You don’t have to pull a cliffhanger on me, to manipulate me into watching your third installment. Tsk.
Minus the tacked-on cliffhanger, I actually rather liked the finale, aside from the exaggerated body-count.
Tae Yeon’s actions, in defeating the Big Bad, echo the words that he says to the Big Bad in an earlier episode, “Even if I die, I will get you.”
And that’s exactly what Tae Yeon did. In his pursuit of justice, he put his very own life on the line. Without fear or trembling, but with fire in his eyes.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Season 2 is reminiscent of something that Dr. Jo says towards the end of the series, about only caring about the outcome, no longer about the process.
In my mind, that’s kinda like Season 2. It’s less elegant than Season 1, but it gets the job done. Ha.
FINAL GRADE: B+