Despite Hidden Identity pretty much flying under the drama radar, I was curious to check it out for a couple of reasons.
One, this was tvN’s first foray into the crime thriller genre, after establishing itself as a steady producer of quirky rom-coms. I wondered how they would do, especially compared to OCN, where crime thrillers are a mainstay.
Two, Show promised gritty, badass Kim Bum. Given my soft spot for Kim Bum and my weakness for badass leading men, I couldn’t say no to that.
STUFF THAT WAS PROMISING
For the first two episodes, at least, I felt that despite some weaknesses in spots, Hidden Identity was actually fairly promising.
1. Cinematography and Tone
Everything looks fabulously crisp, which I liked. Overall, everything felt well-paced and engaging as well. I liked the heist movie sort of flavor that Show adopted for Team 5’s undercover operations, and I thought that was a clever choice.
It made me more ready to suspend disbelief about how smoothly the team’s undercover operations tended to go, and it also set Show apart from other shiny crime shows by giving it a lighter tone.
As early as episode 2, I detected lashings of melo in the show, and that did send off a couple of alarm bells in my head. But I still had hopes that Show would know to keep a healthy balance for the rest of its run, between the crime and the melo.
One of the key melo moments in episode 2, is the whole teary “broadcast” scene, when Team Leader Jang (Park Sung Woong) lets everyone hear the recorded request from an injured-to-near-death Tae In (Kim Tae Hoon), to be allowed to remain undercover.
The whole way it’s executed is unnecessarily dramatic, and I felt that this scene definitely leaned a bit too cheesy, and that it felt out of place in the midst of all the crime stuff.
2. Kim Bum
For the record, I do think that Kim Bum looks good scruffed up. The goatee’s a new look on him, and I rather like it.
At the same time, I did also think that he looked a touch too young for the role; I felt like more world-weary grit in his gaze would’ve made Gun Woo more compelling as a character.
By the end of episode 2, though, I thought Kim Bum was doing really nicely with the tortured, sad-gazed cipher persona of Gun Woo, all able to think fast on his feet, fight like a machine and possessing sharp shooting skills to boot.
I felt that there was lots of room for Gun Woo to demonstrate his substance as a character, going forward, and I believed that Bummie would be able to rise to the occasion.
3. Kim Min Joon
I’d last seen Kim Min Joon in (the very underwhelming) Romance Town (2011), where his wrong shade of foundation basically made him look sick all the time.
What a fabulous surprise to find him looking all sharp and dapper in Hidden Identity, as one of our bigger baddies. I dig the sharp suits and the goatee on him, together with that innocent-villain-smirk that sometimes crossed his face, and I very much enjoyed watching him do his nefarious thing on my screen.
I never knew it before, but Kim Min Joon makes a very sexy villain indeed. Rawr.
4. Good Cliffhangers
I thought the cliffhangers of both episodes 1 and 2 were nicely done. Both cliffhangers had Gun Woo backed into a tight corner, with no clear way out, and that made me curious to see how Show would get Gun Woo out of those predicaments.
I wasn’t hooked on Show, but the cliffhangers definitely helped me want to come back and keep going.
WHY THIS DIDN’T WORK FOR ME
I didn’t love episodes 1 and 2, but I’d still had moderate hopes that Show would turn out to be a respectably solid watch.
Episode 3 changed my mind.
Essentially, all the emotions and backstories ramp up in this episode, causing the entire tone of the show to lean far heavier on the melo than I felt was necessary. The more Show emphasized the melo, the less interested I was.
Basically, it felt like all the policing stuff was just one big flimsy excuse for a much more melodramatic, designed-to-make-you-feel type of story.
Which wouldn’t be such a problem for me, I think, if the melo arcs hadn’t felt somewhat manipulative, and if the policing had been done with a little more finesse.
Here’s a quick summary of what I felt was lacking on the policing front.
First of all, I’m disappointed that Gun Woo’s cover got blown so quickly. I’d hoped to see a lot more of him going deep undercover. I mean, isn’t the whole idea of Hidden Identity to, y’know, keep your identity hidden?
Second, with such a small team posing as random civilians so often and without bothering with proper disguises, while dealing with the same baddies, didn’t anyone think that they’d eventually be recognized? Really, it’s no surprise at all, that Teacher Jung recognized Min Joo (Yoon So Yi).
Third, when Min Joo’s cover is blown, she actually tells Teacher Jung that they’ve been on his tail for a long time. Seriously, how is giving the bad guy information helpful, particularly since she’s at a disadvantage in this situation?
And then there’s the way Min Joo talks the little girl’s mom into cooperating with the police. It’s just too easy. Simply asking Mom to think of her daughter, and promising them police protection, and Mom’s ready to sell out her husband?
Who puts their lives on the line and cooperates just like that?
Also, in the final scene, there’s all that talking in the elevator, between Team Leader Jang and Teacher Jung. It goes on for far too long, which makes it unrealistic. Team Leader Jang telling Teacher Jung about Tae In being alive and all, also seems terribly unwise.
First of all, it’s a bad idea to tell Jung anything, before actually overpowering him and taking him into custody.
Second of all, given that we know that there are dirty cops in this drama world who might actually get Teacher Jung out of custody once he’s in custody, I wouldn’t risk telling him anything at all, really.
The combination in episode 3, of too much melo and way-too-lame policing, effectively killed off any desire I had, to keep on watching this show.
In the end, though, let me give credit where it’s due. Thank you, Hidden Identity, for:
1. Broody Kim Bum
2. Broody Kim Bum in the shower
3. Sharp-suited, handsome Kim Min Joon
4. Showing your true colors early, so that I didn’t end up spending 13 more hours on you.
Better luck next time with the crime thriller thing, tvN..
Oh, and when you get there, you might want to stop having everyone put their fingers in their ears all the time, to listen &/or speak to their ear-pieces. It’s just not stylish policing. 😉
watched the whole 16 episodes and like you, had high hopes for the first 2 or 3 episodes, then it went from a serial to another episodic police show. Seriously? do you need to solve some crime every episode? And for an undercover off the radar, no record of the members police unit, an awful lot of people knew who they were. The only reason i watched the show was for Yoon So Yi but even she isn’t enough to keep me coming back for more. My gut tells me it won’t make it to season 2.
Yeah, I don’t see this show making a second season either. Usually only shows with serious ratings success get considered for second seasons.
I haven’t seen Yoon So Yi in anything else but Warrior Baek Dong Soo. I found her likable in that, and that show did linger with me afterwards, but I must admit that it was more flawed than I would’ve liked. If you haven’t seen it, you can check out my review here, to see if it sounds like something you would be willing to watch, for the love of Yoon So Yi 🙂
I saw this posting when it came out, started watching, then got sidetracked. I didn’t finish reading until I (wait for it) finished the drama. Sigh, what can I say? You were so on the money. It looked good. Had a reasonably interesting crew. A few good actors. Action (which I like). And, oh yeah, Kim Bom. I’m a huge fan of his (That Winter the Wind Blows, Padam Padam) b/c he tends to bring this effervescent charm that just makes you smile. Even so, I’m all for stretching yourself so I was all set for the new, no frills KB.
Long story short, there is nothing interesting about that much unmodulated angst. No nuance. No growth. I won’t even get into the actual skill level of this crack team (who effed up pretty much every assignment they had) – you did such a great job! So, why did I stick with it? Even after I started screaming at the screen?
IDK. Tired? Bored? Masochistic? On to the next one 😉
Aw, sorry to hear that you endured this to the very end!! I can understand why you’d want to invest the time though, if you’re a Kim Bum fan. That could be why you kept going, even when the show was frustrating you. You didn’t want to hurt Bummie’s feelings 😉
Awww! A very manly Kim Bum. LOVE! Thanks for the heads up would ff to Kim Bum’s goodness only. 🙂
Haha! That’s a pretty good strategy! Although, even then, I don’t think I would’ve made it very far into this show..! XD
Those Kim Bum shots are soooo appetizing, makes me wanna watch. LOL!
Dramaland certainly knows how to entice its audience, Kim Bum gets an appreciative broody shower scene pretty early in the show – as you can see 😉 I suppose the upside is, if you go in just for the Kim Bum eye candy, even just a few episodes should feel quite satisfying? XD
I managed to finish it, but I think that’s because I’m one of those people who watch any police/crime show. It doesn’t have to be good, I’ll just watch it even if I don’t like it. Lol. I do think you have valid points about what’s not working for “Hidden Identity” (btw I think the title refers more to the fact that the team doesn’t appear in any official record than them going undercover and it also makes sense with the Ghost’s full backstory and the theme of restoring one’s identity) but I totally agree with how they did little efforts in their disguise when they went undercover.
imho, the later episodes just dragged on and on and while the directing was good, the writing cared too much about the melo aspect and how to make the audience feel bad for the characters and not enough about the main plot which resolution felt very anticlimatic going at a such a slow pace when time was literally ticking and people’s lives were at stake. The more we got closer to the end, the more confused I became because every “twist” just felt so so convenient. I know suspend of disbelief is a requirement, but police dramas more than any other genre should really tried to make things logical… Like the “i need to touch my ear where my earpiec can be seen in this scene and not in the next one”, I can put up with it and not laugh every time it happens, but why do you have a gun and waste time fighting bare hands? Better yet why do you have a gun and don’t shoot to stop someone with important info from comitting suicide? I won’t say which character, but I was like “oh, really? So you just let him/her die when you were just standing there and all you had to do was to shoot him/her in the arm or the leg, especially when there were 3 other people in the room who didn’t lift a finger to help and arrest this person?” Why are you fighting and feel the need to tell everything about your plan?… How come there is a bomb about to explode in 30 seconds but you still have time to discuss? How come your hands were tied in a scene and then they’re untied in the next one so you can fight your way out? How does that happen?
And, I was very disappointed with the way Min Joo was portrayed. I don’t know if it was the actress’ choice to portray her so… emotional or if it was the directing. What I mean by emotional is that, while she was badass when she fought guys like a pro, her facial expressions in moments of not-so-dangerous crisis were too much and unecessary to make the viewer understand that she was in a bad situation… Especially because she has a touching a backstory we find out about later on. And I was even more confused because the other characters, my bad, I mean, because the male characters were cool ALL the time, even when they freaked out a little bit.
And the fight scenes were long, too long when they could just end with someone using the gun they had. The funny team moments were cute, but I didn’t feel much of a team connection… I don’t know, most of the time, I felt it could have been good if there had been a better balance between the deep discussions and fight scenes or when (sexy) team leader Jang gave out his orders. I think the main problem is that the story focused first on Cha Gun Woo, we spend a lot of time to get to know him… And looking at the ending, the beginning with the death of his partner felt even more unecessary considering how Gun Woo was still mourning the death of Tae Hee and that was the reason he accepted to join the team and catch the Ghost. If Show didn’t have Gun Woo’s story disconnected for so long from the team, there would have been time to find out more about the background of EACH member of the team. Lol that’s something I’m very adamant about for police dramas. If it’s about a team and the writer chooses to use the past of one of them as a background for the plot, I feel cheated because it means we don’t get to know about the other characters’ past. Either I know about the past of everyone, either I know about the past of no one. I’m not saying I want to know everything, but some details here and there on how they got where they were. But I know that’s a personal preference of mine. (Maybe I just wanted to know if sexy team leader Jang had a woman in his life and how Duk Hu got these computer skills)
I won’t even talk about the last sequence… Let’s just say if I didn’t know if I should laugh or shake my head. Anticlimatic at its best. Anyway, I won’t lose faith in tvN. They get a pat on the back for trying. I’m sure they’ll manage to give us some good crime dramas a la OCN… Cable shows keep taking over…
off topic: in the last screen picture, is that Lee Min Ji from Seonam Girls High School Investigators?
I feel like I’m always complaining… lol if you wrote about Healer or Heard It Through The Grapevine, I will write an essay on how much I loved these 2 shows. Or maybe you wrote their reviews and I didn’t see them. I’ll go check.
Hahaha! Wow, after reading your thoughts on Hidden Identity, I feel like I really made the right decision to drop the show! XD You certainly have a great deal of patience, to have finished a show that frustrated you this much. And it really sounds like logic took a serious beating in this show. I did notice the inconsistency with the ear-pieces too, even just a few episodes in! I wish they’d been consistent with that; all that random touching of the ear looked downright ridiculous! XD
As for your questions, I haven’t seen Seonam Girls High School Investigators, so I can’t say if it’s the same actress. On the upside, I am FINALLY working on my Healer review, and hope to have that ready in the next week or two. 🙂 Heard It Through The Grapevine is still on my list!
Oh my looooove, i’m all youuuuuuuuuuuurs lalala my eternal loooove. 😀 fighting!!!
OMG I am LOVING that song – just hearing it brings on the feels. Heck, just reading that line that you typed brings on the feelz! <3 <3 <3
My heart's aflame.. And it's burning in your name.. *SPAZZ*
and so good those feelz are, aren’t they?
They are delicious and completely cracktastic, even though this is my second watch. I decided it’s been too long since my first watch for me to write properly about Healer. That, and I suddenly found myself in a drama slump and I guessed (correctly!) that a Healer rewatch was just the ticket back to the cracky corners of dramaland! ^^
I have not watched it thus far, but it seems as though it is not my cup of tea.
Well to be fair, there are viewers who genuinely enjoyed this show.. I’m just not one of ’em 🙂 If it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I’d say best to spend your drama hours elsewhere ^^
I thought this would be good because it is from Bad Guys writers (right? Not sure anymore) How disappointing 🙁
Well if it makes you feel any better, I checked, and the two shows aren’t by the same writer. Bad Guys is written by Han Jung Hoon, while Hidden Identity is written by Kang Hyun Sung. That said, even though Bad Guys was a much better show, I also thought it had too much of a melodramatic streak. Still, Bad Guys is worth a watch, and it’s WAY more solid than this, I can assure you! 😉
Ah yes! Ok I checked now and what Bad Guys and Hidden Identity had in common was the PD and not the writer 🙂 phew!
Ahh! That explains a lot! Coz I was really quite taken with the look and feel of Hidden Identity, at least in the first 2 episodes. Everything looked really crisp, and extra sharp. And that’s TOTALLY true of Bad Guys too. Everything in Bad Guys was super sharp and crisp, and it felt like everything was in hyper-HD coz I could see every pore and wrinkle on those bad boys. Hee, I love how we’re piecing this together, it feels like a kdrama jigsaw – FUN! 😀
Your review is funny and witty as always!! I applaud you being able to put it down with Kim Bum there. The only reason I’ve continued with several dramas was because of actors I loved even if the drama itself was downright awful (cough-kimwoobininheirs-coughcough).
Aw thanks Felicia! I’m pleased to entertain 😉 And yes, I AM very well-acquainted with fangirl-love-powered drama watching. I watched ALL of Heirs even though I thought it was an all-around terrible show. ALL for Woob. Whom I love. <3 (In case you haven't come across it, here’s my love post for Woob for your entertainment). I can only conclude that I don’t love Kim Bum enough, Lol! XD
Oh, I lasted till ep 6 before I kicked it to the curb. I think I actually called it “one of the least exciting action shows I’ve watched in recent years” in one of my posts, ha. The plot was mostly lame and the cops incompetent and stupid. For a top seceret special team they were awfully visible, just about everyone knew who they are. Sigh.
Korean police procedurals mostly just suck, especially in the writing department. That’s why IRY was such a breath of fresh air.
Hahaha! I’d have to agree that Hidden Identity managed to be quite unexciting, for a show that was marketed as a crime thriller. The plot, the cops, and so many other things about the show were lame – I’m stunned you managed to stick it out for 6 episodes! I found myself rolling my eyes WAY too much in E3, and feeling practically allergic to the show by the time that episode ended. I couldn’t drop it fast enough! XD I later mustered up enough curiosity to try E4, at least a little. Y’know, just to be sure I wasn’t being hasty about dropping it. And.. yeah. I didn’t get very far with that! XD I’ve yet to go back to IRY, but it’s on my list! ^^
You should see Mrs. Cop‘s episode cases. They’re more ridiculous, especially the protest scene (EP 5). Why they bully a woman’s protest when they have the same common enemy?
Plus, I don’t like Mrs Cop’s villains though it is true these cases of corruption happening in the real world.
Well I dropped after EP 2 when the serial killer is just one-dimensional to me. But due to 2 detective rookies show up, I catch them back on EP 4.
But I consider ‘I Remember You’ the best crime thriller of all time because they’re the opposite of Hidden Identity and Mrs Cop. Too bad IRY was underappreciated with very low ratings, but I recommend you to watch in broad daylight. You will see when you’re on EP 6 of IRY.
Hahaha, thanks for the heads-up about Mrs. Cop, Richie! It sounds like a show that would make me want to tear.. somebody’s hair out! Quite possibly writer-nim’s, Lol! XD
IRY’s on my list – thanks for recommending it! I tried E1 recently, but just wasn’t in the mood for it. I’ll come back to it some other time. Thanks for the tip about broad daylight – I’m sure it’ll come in useful! 😉
Well IRY started to get interesting around ep6 when MC Lee Hyun questions Cha Ji-an’s thoughts on him being able to think like a killer.
“What do you see in me? Do I like look like I’m able to be your partner?”
Something like that can give you chills and curiosity on whether who to trust.
Ah yes, I was told that IRY takes a couple of episodes to get really interesting. I’ll keep in mind that E6 is a milestone episode – which I should watch in broad daylight! 😉 Thanks Richie!
I get so disappointed with lame police dramas! Writernim obviously didn’t do much research. But that happens far too often in Kdrama. It’s doubly upsetting when the entire plot and theme hinges on detective/spy work, criminal law, etc. Thank you for saving me 16 hours of head scratching irritation!
Lol. If you hate lame policing, then you should stay far, far away from this one, my dear! It boggles the mind that some of this stuff actually made it to our screens. Everyone’s ear-pieces are super obvious, AND they have the very odd habit of putting their fingers to their ears whenever they need to speak. Which is so friggin’ obvious, honestly. And that screenshot I’ve got at the end? Those people weren’t even speaking to their earpieces, they were just listening. How this is supposed to help them as an undercover tool is beyond me. XD
I think a key problem with this show, is that it’s packaged to look like a slick police show. But it’s more of a melodrama at heart, I think. I mean, the melo tendencies were really strong, so much so that it felt really weird to be watching the melo, all while show looked like a slick procedural. Somehow, that mix just didn’t work, imo.
I see. They needed some kind of backdrop. Shows like that are annoying. Where you get characters doing random things or they have some so-called job or career that means nothing. That laziness annoys me. I guess because jobs and careers are very important aspect of someone’s daily life. We spend more than half our waking hours at them interacting with co-workers, bosses, clients. The need to get it right. I’m probably just rambling now! LOL
Character wise- They got the wrong person to head this “undercover” team if they can’t even blend in with the crowd. And what good spy reveals their identity? You had me cracking up with…
“I mean, isn’t the whole idea of Hidden Identity to, y’know, keep your identity hidden?”
Nice screen caps!
I recognize the Ahjussi in the forefront, he was just recently a bumbling cop in The Girl Who Sees Smells. Looks like it carried over. haha.
Oh yes, Lee Won Jong was in Girl Who Sees Smells! I’d forgotten about that! I think I love him best in Vampire Prosecutor.. He was such a great, caring sidekick, and a nice source of comic moments. Like when he couldn’t get his head out of a motorcycle helmet, coz his head was too big. HAHA! XD
And it does seem like the writers were gunning for a melo story with a policing backdrop. I can’t say for sure, since I only lasted 3 episodes, but other people who stuck it through say that not a lot changed in the show even after E3. And while I think it’s not necessary for the writers to get a profession down to the last detail, I think getting it plausibly right isn’t too big of an ask. Especially in this show, where despite it being the backdrop, a lot of policing does go on, and affects the rest of the story in a big way. Some halfway decent police work is a given, in order to make the story work, imo!
You’re experience is so similar to mine! Like you, I was moderately interested in the first couple episodes. And I thought a good chunk of the show would be Gun Woo undercover. I was so disappointed that his cover was blown so quickly. I think that would have been so interesting to really develop his undercover storyline.
I actually didn’t really mind the melo tendencies, but I quickly became bored with the shoddy police work. I’m still watching and am on episode 8 (only because the husband likes it lol) and it hasn’t really improved in my opinion. Very disappointing! I guess Kim Bum is still fun to watch though 🙂
Oh my, high five, Kay! I was so surprised when Gun Woo’s cover got blown so soon into the show. AND all that shoddy police work really made me cringe, honestly. Like, Team 5’s supposed to be elite and special and all that, so it’s really bemusing to see them do silly things and try to pass that off as good policing. *headdesk*
I applaud you for hanging in there – you certainly love your hubs very much! (And maybe Kim Bum too? 😉 ) I guess I just don’t love Kim Bum enough, heh.