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. 😉