Watching Liar Game, for me, has been a demonstration of just how subjective drama appreciation really is.
You know that saying, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, or, as the case may be, one viewer’s crack is another viewer’s meh? Totally applies here.
During the course of its run, I came across quite a few raves about this show, which is why it made it to my watch list to begin with. I read comments that used generous terms like “brilliant,” “fantastic,” and “excellent” to describe Liar Game, and went in with cautious high hopes.
But, try as I might, I just couldn’t get into this show.
For the record, Liar Game is not a bad show. In fact, I was reasonably engaged and on board, until about the halfway mark.
Here’s a quick list of plus points:
1. Show possesses a strong theme, which is sustained pretty much throughout the show: Is it so wrong for people to trust one another?
2. Set-up is efficiently done, and by the end of the first episode, we’re pretty much good to go.
3. Appropriate casting. Kim So Eun is suitably trusting and naive as Nam Da Jung; Lee Sang Yoon is smart, jaded and quite fearless as Ha Woo Jin; Shin Sung Rok is mysterious, shrewd and more than a little shady as Kang Do Young.
4. Show is quite clever at how it resolves some of the game conundrums, and demonstrates some good examples of how to think out of the box.
5. Show does its best to make the games and how they work accessible to the average viewer.
…And then here’s the stuff that just didn’t work so well for me.
1. As I got deeper into the show, I started to get bored of the games. I just couldn’t seem to care about the games’ outcomes, and who won and lost. The stakes that the show painted simply didn’t resonate with me, I guess?
2. Part of the reason I got bored of the games, is coz there were a good number of instances where, despite Show’s best efforts to explain everything to me, I just didn’t get it. I guess math and logic just aren’t my strong suits. I’m guessing more mathy types would be having a field day, though.
3. Sometimes the screen time spent on the game and the suspense around it felt a little mechanical, coz character development took a backseat at those times. The show does try to balance things out with character beats outside of the game arena, but I guess it just wasn’t enough for me.
4. Long game stretches peppered with smaller character beats also meant that I spent a lot of screentime with my head more engaged than my heart. Which left my heart on the verge of checking out by the mid-point of the show. Not great. Eventually I started to feel like sitting through the games were the dues I had to pay, in order to find out more about the backstory, in which I was relatively more interested.
5. I felt the rhythm of the show was a little uneven, especially during the stretch where odd-numbered episodes served as set-up episodes, and even-numbered episodes served as resolution and payoff. That up-again, down-again feeling felt a little jerky to me.
6. In the later stretch, the show worked really hard to make itself feel creepy/scary/intense to the point of horror-movie-scary, but I felt like it was all the work of editing and careful background music choices, applied to create the desired effect. And, I just wasn’t feeling it. No matter how Show tried to demonstrate to me that I was supposed to feel excited/scared/nervous, I just couldn’t get into it.
So why did I sit through the whole thing, right?
Well, I guess I was curious enough about all the questions and non-answers that Show was serving up, that I just wanted to know the final answer. Which is probably why I liked the last episode more than most of the other episodes. Coz it finally served up some answers.
Honestly, I think it helps to think of this as a manga-inspired world. I think with that lens on, things would feel more organic and make more sense.
That said, though, I still don’t think this show is for me. I do recognize that this is a case of my taste bucking the trend, so you might well like this more than I did.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Worth checking out if you like tricksy mathy games and dark manga.
FINAL GRADE: C+