Review: Beyond Evil [Monster]

THE SHORT VERDICT:

A tightly written, multi-layered crime thriller that manages to engage both the heart and mind, Beyond Evil lives up to its Best Drama reputation and then some.

Show is amazingly consistent and efficient in its writing; it not only manages to keep episodes compact yet compelling, it also manages to keep up the suspense for its full 16 episodes, which is No Small Deal. Our cast is very competent all-around, but the stand-outs are undoubtedly Shin Ha Kyun and Yeo Jin Goo, who both put in outstandingly nuanced performances, and who bring equal amounts of skill and presence to the screen. The OST is interesting and well-applied, and adds a good amount of value to lift the watch experience.

Well worth the watch, even if you’re not typically a crime thriller fan.

THE LONG VERDICT:

You guys probably already know that Beyond Evil is very much not the genre of drama that I gravitate towards. Which is why I’d intended to give this one a miss, even though everyone who was watching it as it aired, had only good things to say about.

When Show won Best Drama at this year’s Baeksang’s, however, I couldn’t not sit up and pay attention, because one simply does not ignore a show that’s been selected as the cream of the crop, at the Annual Baeksang Awards.

As a person who feels neutral towards crime thrillers as a general rule, and as a drama fan who loves a well made drama, I’m gonna hafta say that this one was well worth stepping out of my drama wheelhouse for, after all. It lives up to the hype, y’all.

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review. Overall, I have to say the OST is excellent. The tracks are eclectic, yet excellently managed and applied, such that it always felt like the music was lifting my watch experience, even though I mostly wasn’t cognizant of the songs themselves.

In terms of the track that sticks in my head, it has to be Track 1, The Night. There’s such a smoky drawl to it, that at once feels at odds with this crime story and yet, pitch perfect for it. If you’d prefer to listen to The Night on repeat, just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

Here are a few things that I think might be helpful to know ahead of time, to best manage your watch experience.

1. There is no romance in this. Most kdramas try to squeeze in a bit of romance, even in a crime thriller like this one, but Show does not. I think that’s helpful to know, if you are big on romance.

2. There is bromance in this (please note that bromance refers to a close platonic relationship, rather than a romantic one, between male characters), between our two male leads. However, I also think it’s helpful to know that the bromance is treated with restraint, and so it lands more subtly than most other bromantic kdramas.

3. Show isn’t as relentlessly dark as one might imagine, given its title. The crimes are dark and beyond evil, yes, but there is still warmth to be found in our drama world, so it’s pretty well balanced.

4. Quite often, you’ll come away from an episode with more questions than when you started, and depending on your temperament, this can feel bemusing or even a little frustrating. Take heart, because Show knows what it’s doing, and all will be revealed in due time.

STUFF I LIKED

General writing and handling

The writing is one of the big stars of the show, for sure. Here’s a quick rundown of the things that I appreciated about the writing.

1. The writing is confident and layered, and doesn’t even depend on fake-outs or red herrings  to keep audiences on the edge of their seats, like many other thrillers do. I thought this was very impressive.

2. Show’s got a steady stream of reveals all planned out, and methodically drops them on us, knowing that each one will blow our minds – and break our hearts – just a little bit more.

3. Show manages to respect and celebrate the human side of things, even as it continues to be its crime thriller self, in all its clue-dropping and analytical glory.

For example, in episode 1, we get reasonably solid introductions to our pair of lead characters, which help me feel like I’ve already got some sense of who they are, and there’s also come context building, in terms of the formation of their (very) reluctant partnership, and the police station dynamics that exist around that.

This gives me a sense of confidence that Show isn’t just going to go ham on serving up dark and murdery things, but will continue to tease out characters and relationships – and maybe even some sort of reluctant bromantic feels between our leads, who are frustrated and perplexed at having to work with each other.

4. The writing is very.. wholistic. You can just tell that this was always a whole story, and writer-nim always knew where she was going, in telling this story.

[VAGUE HIGH LEVEL SPOILER] By the later episodes, it feels like writer-nim is an artist who’s finished her sketch, and is now painstakingly filling in the nuances – the shadows and highlights – in her painting, and we are witnessing that process, as the final picture begins to come alive in bits and pieces. It’s.. fascinating, really, because now Show is revisiting scenes that we’ve been privy to, and adding in details and context that just makes everything land differently, to varying degrees. [END SPOILER]

5. It’s well thought-out, from multiple angles.

[EPISODE 3 SPOILER]

Both Dong Sik and Joo Won are legitimately suspicious, and it’s interesting when they each lay everything out on the table, about the other.

Joo Won, about Dong Sik: “Two crimes with the same MO happened 20 years apart. The MO has never been publicly disclosed, so there’s almost no chance that the second one was imitated.” … “The culprit of an incident from 20 years ago showed up again and committed another crime, using the same MO. And you know what’s interesting? The suspect from 20 years ago recently moved to this village again and is now living there. And that person even happens to be the testifier of the two incidents that happened recently. He’s the first person to have found the victims.”

Conversely, Dong Sik points out that:

(a) Joo Won also doesn’t have an alibi,

(b) as a police officer, Joo Won would have access to the case information about the killer’s MO, which hadn’t been released to the public,

(c) the fact that Joo Won is so well-informed about the missing case files, which are 20 years old, is suspicious,

(e) Joo Won is also the testifier of the two incidents that had happened recently, and the first person to have discovered both victims.

(f) Joo Won being outside Dong Sik’s house so soon after dawn, which is near the location of the crime scene where the fingertips were found, is suspicious.

It’s very persuasive, either way, and I’m rather thrilled at how both assertions sound like reasonable suspicions, while maintaining the narrative integrity of the facts that we know so far. That’s some thoughtful planning on writer-nim’s part, and I’m suitably impressed.

[END SPOILER]

Shin Ha Kyun as Dong Sik

Shin Ha Kyun’s performance as Dong Sik is a veritable tour de force of consummate acting. His Best Actor win for this show, at this year’s Baeksang Awards, is well deserved indeed.

Right from the very beginning, in episode 1, Show gives us a sense that Dong Sik is an interesting bundle of contradictions. On the one hand, he appears jaded and hardened because of all that he’s gone through in his life, and then on the other hand, there’s a kindness and compassion that shines through, [MINOR SPOILER] like when he cradles Grandpa Bang, who’s freaking out, and soothes him and tells him everything’s ok. [END SPOILER]

Layers, nuance and facets are the name of the game in Dong Sik’s characterization, and Shin Ha Kyun brings it, giving us glimpses of the exact detail of Dong Sik’s personality or mental landscape that we need to see, when we need to see it. His control is impressive, and I often marveled at how he’s able to infuse a single expression with very different shades of meaning, in different scenes. Really well done.

Dong Sik himself is a complicated and tragic character, and my heart couldn’t help but go out to him, the more I learned about him.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. I do think that Dong Sik shows a good amount of patience for the group of fighting, gambling ahjummas, before he actually raises his voice and reports them for illegal gambling. And then there’s that indication later in the episode, that Dong Sik might have reported them for their own good, and I love the idea that Dong Sik’s being protective under the guise of being impatient.

E1. I love the idea that Dong Sik’s well-versed in the law, and can rattle off relevant articles of the law whenever he needs to, and I also love that he appears to be super observant, and in possession of an almost photographic memory. I mean, we’re not told that he has a photographic memory, but the way he’s able to rattle off the license plate of Joo Won’s car, when he’d basically only seen it go past him around a street corner, is pretty darn impressive.

E2. The flashbacks to when Dong Sik had been investigated as a suspect for the murder of Bang Ju Seon and the disappearance of his sister, are heartbreaking to watch. From Dong Sik’s desperation, I feel like he’s been wrongly accused. What an awful thing to happen to their family, and how tragic, that this resulted in his father’s death, and his mother losing her mind. I can only imagine the impact this must have had, on Dong Sik.

E2. Chief Nam’s (Cheon Ho Jin) take, that Dong Sik does everything that he does, not because he’s passionate about being a police officer, but because it makes him happy, is an interesting one. I guess I don’t see Dong Sik as being happy in the least.. but I can buy the idea that he does the things that he does, being kind to the residents of the town, because it brings him comfort.

E4. The vibe I’m getting from Show is that Dong Sik’s innocent, but his actions, particularly while under arrest, are anything but ordinary. It’s almost like he’s toying with his predators, and the way he plays it, I almost feel like Dong Sik thinks he has nothing to lose. And perhaps that’s exactly what he’s thinking. Perhaps he feels like he’s lost so much in life already – his sister, his parents, and any true sense of normalcy in his own life – that there’s nothing left for them to take from him?

I have to admit that I got a bit of a kick out of the way he teases his interrogators, because even though he goes off on these bizarre tangents about ramyun and how it’s illegal to light a fire in the mountains, the fact of the matter is, he’s right. And he has a point, every time he makes a statement. Like how his interrogators know that it’s his habit to hike up Mt. Simju on his days off, and how it would be weirder, if he abandoned his regular routine in the wake of Min Jeong’s  (Kang Min Ah) disappearance.

E4. There’s a twisted kind of fun, in seeing Dong Sik, who’s seen as something of an oddity because of his past involvement in Yu Yeon’s and Bang Ju Seon’s cases (Moon Joo Yeon and Kim Hi Eo Ra), continue to be weird, and yet have more logic in his arguments than everyone else, even though everyone else is supposed to be normal. Probably also because Dong Sik’s been clearly unfairly arrested, without sufficient evidence and certainly without a warrant, I also feel a lot of vicarious satisfaction from how exasperated his interrogators are, in trying (and failing) to corner him.

E4. I love how Dong Sik takes full advantage of the situation, by pausing for a photo-op in the hallway, right where the press can see him, and allowing the blanket to drop from his shoulders. Ha. It’s so deliberate and so artful, like he’s an artist who’s suddenly found himself on a stage, with a ready audience. That smirk that he leaks, as he’d led away from the furore and the flashing lights, reinforces that idea all the more, that he’s toying with his captors, like a cat pretending to be caught by a mouse, perhaps.

E7. I feel more sorry for Dong Sik than ever. That rumor about him causing the death of his ex-partner Sang Yeob (Jang Sung Beom) turns out to be completely untrue. In fact, Dong Sik had been the one trying to get Sang Yeob off that case, once he realized that Sang Yeob had personal connections to the case and couldn’t be reasoned with.

There was nothing that Dong Sik could have done better, except perhaps not get out of the car even for the few minutes that he did, to call Chief Nam to make a verbal report, and get water from the convenience store, because that was when Sang Yeob had taken off without him, and  had ended up getting shot by the suspect.

That must have been such a nightmare for Dong Sik. He’d witnesses his partner’s death, and then had been hauled up as a suspect for the same. That’s double the trauma, honestly. Add that to all the trauma that Dong Sik’s already experienced in his life by this point – the disappearance of his sister, the death of his father, and the loss of his mother’s sanity – and I can only imagine how messed up he must feel, on the inside.

E10. Dong Sik’s description of his mental and emotional journey for all the years that he was searching for Yu Yeon is so heartbreaking, seriously. The multiple scenarios that he’d imagined in his head, sometimes of her being found alive, mostly of her being dead, and yet, through it all, he hadn’t been able to give up hope. The torment that he’d suffered all those 21 years, really came alive for me, in this moment. How much mental anguish has Dong Sik endured all this time, from the loss of his sister? And to think that he was even a key suspect; that just makes it so much worse. 💔

[END SPOILER]

Yeo Jin Goo as Joo Won

To be honest, I didn’t much enjoy Yeo Jin Goo in the last thing I saw him in, which happened to be Hotel Del Luna, so it was really good to see him in a new role, with fresh possibilities.

My gut feel with Yeo Jin Goo, at least for now, is that he does better at dramatic roles compared to romantic roles (I thought he was so blah in My Absolute Boyfriend, on top of being blah in Hotel Del Luna, that I forgot how blown away I was, by his turn in The Crowned Clown), so this was a treat, to see him in a dramatic role again.

Here, I felt impressed all over again, with Yeo Jin Goo’s acting chops, as well as his onscreen gravitas, in this show. He’s got a very weighty screen presence, for someone who’s only 23!

I found Yeo Jin Goo pitch perfect as Joo Won, our well-heeled, well-connected Inspector from Seoul, who suddenly arrives in the sleepy small town of Manyang, where things are a lot messier than he’s used to.

It does take time for us to see beneath Joo Won’s stoic, finicky surface, but Show does eventually peel back those layers to reveal what really makes Joo Won tick, as well as unveil the ghosts that haunt him, on the inside. I initially found Joo Won quite perplexing, but by the time I finished my watch, I’d grown much more sympathetic – and even a little fond – of him.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. I’m intrigued by Joo Won’s father’s (Choi Jin Ho) assessment, that Joo Won likes to think that he’s rational and sensible, but is in actual fact more emotional and reckless than anyone, while Dong Sik, whom Joo Won sees as a nutcase, is actually a hundred times more rational than Joo Won is. Innteresting. I like that idea, that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and that both Dong Sik and Joo Won aren’t quite what they seem.

E4. As a police officer, I find Joo Won’s response to Jae Yi’s (Choi Sung Eun) egg attack quite unprofessional, particularly the part where he says, “You know you’re going overboard right now, don’t you? Don’t push it. If you’re not careful, then we may find out every dirty secret you have.” That.. sounds like a personal threat to me.

E4. Watching Joo Won trying to make headway in his investigation this episode, felt like watching him trying to swim the length of an Olympic-sized pool, when in effect, he’s barely managing to tread water to stay afloat. And, because all of this is happening because of Joo Won’s almost-fixation, on the idea that Dong Sik is the perpetrator that they’re after, I can’t help but feel like Joo Won’s dad has a point in saying that Joo Won’s a lot less rational than Dong Sik is, even though he’d like to think the opposite.

E6. Chief Han and Joo Won appear to have an interesting way of relating to each other; they don’t seem to get along very well, but they also come across as having an astute understanding of each other. The way Chief Han manages to understand what Joo Won is really saying, from Prosecutor Kwon’s (Park Ji Hoon) tattling of Joo Won’s request for the CCTV footage, is really interesting to me.

“Why would he ask a prosecutor for a police station’s records? You need to also ask someone from the police to get those records. Who in the police force won’t ask him to repay that favor later on? He knew you would tell me, but he asked you. It means he’s warning me that if I don’t help him, he’ll poke around here and there. It’s better to give him what he wants, but leave out what needs to be left out.”

And apparently Joo Won knows that Chief Han will accede to his indirect request, too. If Joo Won’s so good at thinking out of the box, though, why hasn’t he shown any suspicion towards Jin Mook, whose statements sound suspicious, even to my untrained civilian ears?

E7. Joo Won really does seem intent on solving the case, no matter what it takes. The way he steps onto his precious, spotless car, in order to mimic the CCTV’s range, startled me. This is the car that he carefully wipes every speck of dirt off of. And now, he’s casually walking all over it, tracking dirt on it, with his shoes? Joo Won’s definitely in a different headspace now.

E8. From the way Joo Won drinks alone in his apartment, his eyes tinged with tears, and gazing intently at Lee Geum Hwa’s (Cha Chung Hwa) name on his data board, it feels like he’s still very much affected by his involvement in her death.

E9. One of the things that I’m very curious about, is what is up with Joo Won, this episode? After the opening scene, where he attempts to get punished for abusing his authority and being involved in Lee Geum Hwa’s death, and apparently fails, he completely changes his vibe for the rest of the episode. From being serious and solemn almost all the time, he does an about-face, and channels a much more outspoken, sassy sort of vibe.

I’m quite thrown by this, because this is absolutely not the Joo Won that we’ve gotten used to, and so, it doesn’t feel like we’re seeing the real him. I’m very curious about what he’s thinking, and why he’s putting on what feels like a big act.

E10. I do get the sense that Joo Won’s bitten off more than he can chew, as he puts a tracker on Chief Nam, and continues his secret investigation. I also wonder how much Joo Won’s interference has changed the course of events. What I mean is, would things have happened the same way, if Joo Won hadn’t planted that fake evidence?

E11. I think Show does a really good job of teasing out Joo Won’s guilt around Chief Nam’s death. It starts off with very small beats, like how Joo Won hesitates, as he opens the door to Jae Yi’s shop to join the others in having a drink with Chief Nam’s picture, but the beats get larger and more pronounced, until Joo Won actually verbalizes his guilt.

I appreciate that even though it may be true that Joo Won’s actions might have influenced the circumstances under which Chief Nam died, no one actually allows him to own that guilt. Instead of finger-pointing, there is sympathy and compassion, as Jae Yi, and then Jeong Je, tell Joo Won not to blame himself.

On that note, I also want to say that I’m glad Joo Won apologizes to Jae Yi, specifically for blackmailing her with the dashcam footage. This is the first time he’s stepping out from investigating in the shadows, so to speak, and I like that he’s being honest. I’m also glad that Jae Yi accepts his apology, and even tips him off on where to find Dong Sik, who’s arguably struggling the hardest, with Chief Nam’s death.

E13. I’m slightly startled at how cold Joo Won is, in the way he approaches his mission, because, well, he is Chief Han’s son, after all. But I guess that’s what makes Joo Won a worthy police officer; he doesn’t allow his personal relationship with his father get in the way.

E14. Show finally gives us some backstory around Joo Won’s mom (Woo Jung Won), and my gosh, the poor woman appeared to have been driven to desperation and insanity, by her marriage to Chief Han. Talk about a toxic relationship. I mean, that moment, when Mom promises Dad that she won’t try to commit suicide again, if he’ll agree not to lock her up, and Dad answers, “Trying it isn’t the problem. The problem is that you fail every time,” is just blood-chillingly cold. It wouldn’t be a problem if she’d just succeed at killing herself, is what he’s really saying, and that’s just horrible.

The most key piece of information here, I think, is how Joo Won steps back, when Mom asks, “If I leave [Joo Won] here, will you let me go?” Joo Won had been ready to go to Mom, because she’d been calling out to him. But the moment the idea was planted in his head, that if he’d just stay with Dad, maybe that would help Mom, I think he begins to see himself as a hostage. And I think that’s something that’s stayed with him since. 💔

E14. It really seems that Joo Won’s determined to be punished for his role in Lee Geum Hwa’s death. Even though Dong Sik makes him promise to stay silent during the interrogation, Joo Won goes ahead to admit his guilt, and he seems quite defiant about it too, when Dong Sik stops the proceedings to ask what Joo Won is doing. It’s almost like he’s creatively finding ways to be punished, even while other people are looking as creatively, for ways to spare him from punishment.

[END SPOILER]

Dong Sik and Joo Won

Dong Sik and Joo Won’s partnership is the key bromance in our story, and what a journey these two chart, by the time we reach our finale.

In the beginning, I was mostly fascinated by the antagonistic undercurrent between Dong Sik and Joo Won, and then, as we got deeper into our story, and as Dong Sik and Joo Won come to understand each other better, and work together better, I couldn’t help but delight in any and every little indication that these two complemented each other as a team, or cared about each other.

Like I mentioned earlier in this review, Show treats this bromance with a restrained hand, but that absolutely doesn’t take away from the depth of the kinship that we eventually see between this pair of reluctant partners.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. It becomes clear that Joo Won is here in Manyang because he’s specifically interested to solve the murder of Bang Ju Seon. Alongside that, he’s also suspicious of Dong Sik’s involvement in his twin’s disappearance. With that layered on top of the prickly feels that are arising from their very different personalities and the circling of two alphas, I feel like there’s going to be lots to mine from the relationship between Joo Won and Dong Sik, going forward.

E4. In that scene where Joo Won goes to visit Dong Sik at the holding cell, Joo Won tries to bait Dong Sik, saying that he must have bonded with his victims before killing them, since he values relationships as much as he does, but in the end, it seems that Joo Won is the one who ends up feeling shaken, when Dong Sik counters with something that really hits a nerve, “That burner phone lady. She was a trap that you set up, right? Did she know that you were pushing her to her death?”

Ooh. Dong Sik really does seem to understand Joo Won better than Joo Won seems to understand him.

E4. It’s quite compelling, how Dong Sik seems to consistently turn the tables on Joo Won, every time Joo Won thinks he has Dong Sik in a corner.

This time, even though Joo Won is training a gun on Dong Sik, it’s Joo Won himself who ends up feeling cornered, with Dong Sik out-talking and out-logicking him every step of the way.

From calling him out on recording the conversation, which can’t be used as evidence anyway, to the implications of the security cameras, to talking about his alibi, to talking Joo Won through the best way to shoot someone, to talking through each of the cold cases and why they are likely to remain cold cases, it’s Dong Sik who’s directing the flow of the conversation, and it’s Dong Sik who has the upper hand, every step of the way. It’s basically a game of chicken, and it’s Joo Won who’s left in the dust of defeat, as Dong Sik saunters away.

E5. What a great twist, that Joo Won’s questioning of Dong Sik, culminates with him accidentally outing himself to Dong Sik, in terms of his involvement in Lee Geum Hwa’s case. Dong Sik immediately picks up that Joo Won had announced 7 names in his impromptu statement to the press, but lists 8 names in this conversation. Dong Sik is turning out to be such a clear thinker, even under duress. I’m impressed. I think Joo Won’s also unwillingly impressed, judging from the slight cornered expression that we see on his face.

E5. The reluctant teamwork between Dong Sik and Joo Won is pretty great. Even though Dong Sik specifically instructs Joo Won to stay in the car and not get involved, Joo Won can’t help but get involved, and back Dong Sik up, when Chairman Lee (Heo Sung Tae) orders a group of guards to take Dong Sik away. What a treat, to see Dong Sik and Joo Won fighting side by side – even though it’s quite short-lived, and lands them in trouble.

E5. Joo Won has an interesting hypothesis, that perhaps Dong Sik didn’t do what he did in the heat of the moment, but as part of a calculated plan. Given how clear-thinking Dong Sik’s proven to be under duress, I’d say that that’s not an unreasonable conclusion. And it’s quite possible that Dong Sik created that scene on purpose, in order to prevent unsavory people from making use of Jin Mook. How cool, that Joo Won’s starting to have a better understanding of Dong Sik.

E5. Dong Sik pointing out the disconnect between Joo Won’s stickler-for-the-rules reputation, and his shady dealings with Lee Geum Hwa, seems to hit a nerve with Joo Won.

Later, when Prosecutor Kwon talks with Joo Won about making a statement that Lee Geum Hwa had been one of the people she’d met during his investigation, and that he doesn’t know what she’d texted him. It’s interesting that when Prosecutor Kwon asks Joo Won to let him know now, if this isn’t true, Joo Won insists that it is – all while Dong Sik’s words are ringing in his head. Joo Won’s being forced to confront his duplicity, and right now, he appears to be in denial.

E7. I’m glad that Dong Sik decides to work with Joo Won instead of against him, when Jae Yi calls Dong Sik in a panic while Joo Won’s questioning Dong Sik about his possible involvement in Chief Nam erasing the CCTV footage of the minimart.

I could barely breathe when we see Jin Mook unearthing Min Jeong from the shallow grave that he’d put her in, in his own backyard. This is so disturbing and messed up, honestly. I was so stoked to hear Joo Won’s footsteps approaching, because this meant that Jin Mook wouldn’t be able to get away with his crime, and instead, would be caught redhanded. And what a thrill, to realize that Joo Won had come with Dong Sik in tow. YES. Teamwork! 👊🏻 You guys have together caught Jin Mook in the act of trying to dispose of the body!

E8. I’m glad that we get that flashback, so that we see how Joo Won went from questioning Dong Sik and trying to stop him from leaving, to actually working with him, to catch Jin Mook in the act of digging up Min Jeong’s body. I like that the thing that shakes Joo Won out of his tunnel vision intent of cornering Dong Sik into giving up some answers, is the idea that Jae Yi might be in danger.

He’s so quick and decisive in uncuffing himself from Dong Sik and calling for back-up, the moment Dong Sik indicates that Jae Yi’s in trouble. I like that. He sincerely doesn’t want Jae Yi to get hurt, and this is the most intensely protective I’ve seen him, in a case, I think. Before this, I’ve mostly felt that Joo Won tends to be cut and dry, and quite cold and distant, when it came to handling cases. But his swift actions, bordering on panic, makes me feel that something’s changed, for Joo Won.

E8. While Jin Mook appears to play a cat-and-mouse game with Dong Sik in the interrogation room, I did find it quite thrilling any time Joo Won and Dong Sik display any hint of teamwork. I realize that I am rooting hard, for these two to embrace being on the same team, so that they can work together. Even in little things, like seeing Joo Won adjusting the computer cable for Dong Sik, and then them both sitting down in one single motion, makes me happy.

How sharp of Joo Won, to come to the (correct) conclusion that Min Jeong wasn’t Jin Mook’s biological daughter. Plus, it gives me a thrill, to see that Dong Sik appears to know exactly what it is that Joo Won plans to ask, before Joo Won actually asks it. This, even though the question itself shocks everyone who’s in the observation room. This makes me feel that Dong Sik and Joo Won make a great team.

E8. Ha, at Dong Sik and Joo Won being on the same wavelength, and separately traveling to Busan to look for Min Jeong’s mother, only to end up running into each other because they headed to the exact same location. 😆

How significant, though, that Joo Won’s showing Dong Sik pictures of the texts that he’d received from Lee Geum Hwa, and telling Dong Sik what he thinks Lee Geum Hwa had meant by those texts. This is a pretty huge milestone, I feel, because it actively acknowledges that they’re on the same side and aren’t working against each other.

I like that it’s Joo Won’s and Dong Sik’s combined efforts, that lead them to the discovery that Min Jeong’s mother had died in a car accident, and that Jin Mook had been actively looking for her. Their subsequent ruse, of baiting Jin Mook with the false information that, 1, a paternity test confirms that he is not Min Jeong’s father, and 2, Yoon Mi Hye (Jo Ji Seung) is still alive, is what leads Jin Mook to give up information on where the various bodies are buried.

E9. I’d been wondering about Joo Won badgering Dong Sik to turn himself in to the police, especially since he continues to do so, even after Jin Mook is revealed to be the murderer. This episode, we finally get some clarification. Joo Won wants Dong Sik to surrender for having taken Min Jeong’s fingertips, and laying them out outside the minimart.

In the flashback, we also see that Joo Won says that Dong Sik knew Min Jeong had been alive when she’d been abandoned. Hmm.. I don’t think Joo Won’s right about that. Dong Sik had been so distraught when he’d realized that Min Jeong had been buried alive, that I don’t think Dong Sik knew Min Jeong was alive when she’d been abandoned.

E10. Last episode, I was very puzzled about what was going on with Joo Won, and this episode, we get some kind of indication, at least. When Prosecutor Kwon had gone to see him in Busan during his vacation, he’d remarked that Joo Won wouldn’t be able to win against Dong Sik unless he’s reborn, and that had stopped Joo Won in his tracks. We’re not told more than this, but it does look like Joo Won’s new sassy persona, is his effort to be reborn, so that he can beat Dong Sik at his own game.

I have to confess that I felt rather frustrated with Joo Won, during that conversation between him and Dong Sik, when Dong Sik visits him at his apartment. He keeps taking Dong Sik’s past words, and using them back at Dong Sik now, when Dong Sik asks him about planting the evidence against Chief Nam, and he wears this smug look on his face, while he does so, which I find altogether quite annoying.

If he wants to beat Dong Sik at his own game, maybe don’t copy Dong Sik? It’s not at all creative, and it’s extra exasperating to see that he seems to feel that he’s being quite clever. Sigh. This is not being clever, Joo Won. This is being unoriginal. This is why you can’t beat Dong Sik. I’m glad that Dong Sik tells him to his face, that he lacks creativity. Pfft. My thoughts exactly.

However, I do appreciate the partner type bonds that we glimpse this last stretch of the episode, with Joo Won calling Dong Sik for back-up, and Dong Sik calling it in, and referring to Joo Won as his partner. And then, there’s the scene at the end, where Joo Won just holds Dong Sik, as Dong Sik cries over Chief Nam’s body. It’s painful, to see Dong Sik so gutted over Chief Nam’s death.

E11. What a thrill I got, from realizing that our boys had set up a sting operation at the restaurant, to nab Councilwoman Do (Gil Hae Yeon), while having Station Chief Jung (Jung Gyu Su) in the room next to her! Joo Won making that call from Station Chief Jung’s phone, to Councilwoman Do’s secret mobile, and then actually opening the door to catch that phone ringing in her handbag, is all quite thrilling.

E12. I enjoy all the scenes of Dong Sik and Joo Won putting their heads together and analyzing the clues as a team. They complement each other really well, and I like how they conclude that Chief Nam had probably wanted to speak with Jin Mook about the guitar pick, the night that he and Station Chief Jung had discovered Jin Mook’s suicide.

E12. There’s a sense of daring and experimentation in the way Joo Won drops off Jeong Je (Choi Dae Hoon) at Dong Sik’s house and tells him that Dong Sik’s given permission for Jeong Je to stay in his basement. This strikes me as the sort of unconventional, crazy thing Dong Sik himself would do, if he weren’t so emotionally involved. As it is, Dong Sik has too much of a personal emotional attachment to Jeong Je, to stomach the idea of putting him in that basement, out of worry for what this might do to his fragile mental state, so there’s a sort of poetry to Joo Won stepping in, and doing this for him.

E13. I like that Dong Sik and Joo Won are still sharing information and working together, even though Chief Han’s possible involvement in the case would be uncomfortable for Joo Won. I like how Dong Sik answers Joo Won’s prickly questions, by pointing out that based on the information they have, there is cause for reasonable doubt – just like Joo Won likes to say. Pfft. That is quite cheeky of Dong Sik, I have to say.

While it might come across as a bit odd that Dong Sik then leaves everything in Joo Won’s hands – since this is something they’ve been working on together – I like to think of it as an expression of trust, and a big one, at that. Even though there’s a likelihood of Chief Han’s involvement, Dong Sik trusts Joo Won enough, to leave the next steps of the case squarely in Joo Won’s hands. Ok, maybe Dong Sik’s testing Joo Won too, but even so, I think that you need to have a minimal level of trust, to even proceed with a test, especially in a situation like this, no?

How interesting, that Dong Sik asks Joo Won if he’ll be ok, if Chief Han turns out to have something to do with Yu Yeon’s death. And even more interesting, is the fact that Dong Sik seems as surprised as Joo Won is, that he’s asking this particular question. We’re getting glimmers of overt care, and I like it.

E14. When Dong Sik arrests Joo Won, and Joo Won says tersely, “What do think you’re doing?,” I gotta say, he had me going for a minute, thinking that perhaps Dong Sik’s acting alone, and taking Joo Won by surprise. But no, that turns out to be all part of the act.

Who would’ve guessed, that it was Joo Won himself, who’d talked Dong Sik into arresting him, because – unlike Prosecutor Kwon’s condescending assumption that Joo Won had only come prepared with ineffectual ammunition of the bribery case – Joo Won had a gut conviction that his father would wriggle out of the bribery situation that Joo Won had tipped off the reporter about. This arrest was his real ammunition.

Of course, one might then wonder why Joo Won hadn’t just led with the arrest, and my thoughts on this, is that, 1, it was to keep us as an audience on the edge of our seats, and 2, getting arrested like this, for the involvement in someone’s death, is serious stuff; perhaps this arrest was a Plan B sort of thing, which might not have had to be activated, if the bribery thing had actually worked?

I do like that detail, though, in the flashback, where, once again, Dong Sik shows concern for Joo Won, and once again, Joo Won leans in to ask Dong Sik, “Are you worried about me, Inspector Lee?” Ha. This is starting to feel a little like a running gag between them, where any and all indication of care or concern is roundly squashed, the minute it’s questioned. These two guys respect each other and care about each other more than they’d like to admit, that’s for sure.

[END SPOILER]

Choi Dae Hoon as Jeong Je

Choi Dae Hoon was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at this year’s Baeksang Awards for his role as Jeong Je, and I have to say, that nomination is well deserved indeed.

Jeong Je is presented to us as a rather bemusing character, in that he remains so ambiguous for so much of our story. Show does a great job of eventually unveiling the truth of Jeong Je’s character, and Choi Dae Hoon does a fantastic job delivering Jeong Je’s multiple facets, along the way.

[SPOILER ALERT]

There are so many odd little details around Jeong Je as a character, that for a long time, I was suspicious of him, and wondered whether he was lying about not remembering stuff.

I began to feel sorry for Jeong Je at around the episode 5 mark, when we learn that Jeong Je’s spent 4 years in a mental institution, for hallucinations that involve him killing a person who looks like a deer. I felt that that explained a lot of his odd behavior. I’d found Jeong Je an odd combination of sometimes appearing completely normal, and sometimes seeming to be rather off, in a regressive sort of way. Sometimes he seems quite childlike, like in the scene where he’s drunk and draws a deer, while at Jae Yi’s shop. And yet, at other times, he can appear quite normal.

This didn’t quite absolve him from being on my Suspicious List, but it did explain a lot of his odd quirks.

Here are some of the more important scenes around Jeong Je as a character, and my thoughts to go with.

E7. That scene between Jeong Je and his mom at the police station, where he’s surrendered himself as the last person to see Min Jeong alive, is very interesting to me, because for the first time, I’m getting the feeling that Jeong Je doesn’t trust himself. I’m getting the sense that he doesn’t remember harming Min Jeong, and yet, he can’t discount the possibility that he might have harmed her, and not remembered it. That’s awful. I mean, we know it’s not Jeong Je; it just strikes me as a harsh way to live, when you can’t even trust yourself and your memories. 💔

E10. That flashback that we get, when Jeong Je looks at his reflection in the mirror in a daze, is quite startling. Was he the last person to have seen Yu Yeon, before she’d died? Dang. If that’s true, and not a figment of his imagination, this would mean that he’d been the last person to see 2 victims, before they were murdered. First Yu Yeon, and then Min Jeong. That would definitely mess someone up.

E10. Jeong Je definitely has regrets about his last encounter with Yu Yeon, seeing as how he tries to tell his past self to go after Yu Yeon – which is something that he didn’t do. Gosh, I can see how this particular set of circumstances would have driven him crazy; I’m sure the thought of how she might be alive today, it he’d just gone after her, still haunts him. Poor Jeong Je. That must be so awful. No wonder his mental health is so fragile.

E12. I’m beginning to understand why Choi Dae Hoon was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, in this year’s Baeksang Awards. He’s simply outstanding this episode, as Jeong Je starts imploding, first from his desperate desire to remember the events of the night Yu Yeon had died, and then from the memories actually coming back. Ack.

It’s heartbreaking, really. His pain and desperation, infused with so much helplessness, is so palpable, as he asks his mother what had happened the day Yu Yeon didn’t come back. How powerless he must feel against his own brain, that he can’t remember, when his memories promise to contain important information that has been eluding Dong Sik for decades.

E12. What a reveal, that Jeong Je had actually been secretly dating Yu Yeon. That would make it so much worse for him, because this means that he’d not only run over his best friend’s sister; he’d run over his girlfriend. Yikes. Plus, it appears that Jeong Je had been on some kind of high, while driving, which would have made any charges against him so much worse.

Jeong Je’s anguish, as the memories come back to him, is so raw and so palpable, as he weeps and asks Dong Sik to kill him. Oof. This must be so overwhelming for him; I imagine that he feels suffocated, like a drowning person, in this moment.

E13. Kudos again to Choi Dae Hoon; that scene where he tells Dong Sik his lost memories, as they come back to him, is so powerful. His horror and grief is so palpable, as he, all glassy-eyed and sobbing, tells Dong Sik that he’s sorry, and the he was the one who’d killed Yu Yeon.

[END SPOILER]

Choi Sung Eun as Jae Yi

I found myself really, really growing to like Jae Yi, over the course of my watch.

She’s young, but she’s got a good head on her shoulders. On more than a handful of occasions, I found Jae Yi’s opinion to be the voice of reason &/or wisdom, and I grew to respect her for being as grounded as she is.

On a related note, I have to say that I’m quite impressed to realize that this is Choi Sung Eun’s first drama role. There’s a naturalness about her, that I don’t expect of a rookie actress. Very promising, I hafta say.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. I feel really bad for Jae Yi, whose butcher shop becomes the focus of the investigation, because of Joo Won’s hypothesis, that Dong Sik had carried out the bloody part of the crime there, because it’s a place where having blood on the premises is considered normal.

Given the context that we’re given, that 1, this digs up old wounds around the disappearance of Jae Yi’s mom, who still hasn’t been found, and 2, this also digs up old rumors about the butcher shop being cursed and unlucky, it feels extra cruel, that all of this emotional upheaval is foisted on Jae Yi, because of Joo Won’s baseless theory. I can’t blame her for throwing eggs at him and his car, honestly.

I do like Jae Yi’s words to Joo Won, “Are you annoyed people are talking about you? This annoys you? You branded an innocent person as a criminal. You put a scarlet letter on him forever. But you’re annoyed that you got a little dirty?” This feels like a good reality check, from where I’m sitting.

E5. The more we find out about what Jae Yi’s been through, the sorrier I feel for her. Not only has she had to take over the butcher shop while enduring all sorts of gossip, in the wake of losing both her father and her mother, she has to live in limbo, where she doesn’t know where her mother is, and whether Mom is dead or alive.

The flashbacks to Jae Yi approach a motel entrance on a tip-off, terrified of going inside, is so poignant. The fear of not knowing what she’d find, and the fear of not finding anything at all, is quite palpable. And yet, we hear Jae Yi say in the present, that you get used to it. That’s harsh. What a difficult way to live.

E7. I like how steadfast Jae Yi’s trust in Dong Sik is. When he tells her that she shouldn’t trust him because he could have killed Min Jeong, there’s a tired compassion in her eyes, as she answers,  “You’re just insane, that’s all. The sorrow you held all to yourself brimmed over at some point, so you just began to go around doing crazy stuff.”

E8. Poor Jae Yi. That scene where she sees her mother’s remains, confirmed by the matching hairclip that’s found with the remains, is so heartwrenching to watch. What an awful way to get closure, and what a bombshell, to realize that Mom’s been buried behind the restaurant, all these years. 😭 That’s surely got to mess with Jae Yi’s mind.

E11. I really like how Jae Yi approaches things, when they set things up to confront Officer Cho (Son Sang Gyu), to ask him what the heck is going on, and what he knows. Instead of getting angry with him for hiding stuff and sneaking around, Jae Yi approaches him with gentleness, and articulates her trust in him, saying that she knows he’s a good person. That’s so wonderful, honestly.

“Ahjusshi. We were like a real family. After my mom went missing, you and your wife took care of me a lot, right?” … “You’re actually not a bad person. So tell us everything. Please.”

Beautifully done.

E12. Jae Yi’s response in defense of Jeong Je feels so refreshing. She’s so matter-of-fact, as she notes that, 1, Jeong Je had recognized his mother’s burner phone number in Officer Cho’s phone records but had chosen not to say anything about it to Dong Sik, 2, Jeong Je’s 4 years at the psychiatric hospital indicate that he’d been greatly shocked about something, 3, Dong Sik’s been chasing even the faintest leads about Yu Yeon’s disappearance for years, and 4, Jeong Je cares about Dong Sik and had watched him do that.

I appreciate Jae Yi’s conclusion, that Jeong Je would want to remember, more than anyone, and I like her point, that Jeong Je should be given the opportunity to remember. I like that she believes in Jeong Je enough, to not think of him as fragile and unable to cope; somehow, this strikes me as a type of dignity.

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-outs:

Lee Do Hyun as young Dong Sik

Honestly, I would have never thought of Lee Do Hyun, while thinking of younger actors who could plausibly be a young Shin Ha Kyun, and yet, watching Lee Do Hyun on my screen during the various flashbacks, I was so taken with this casting decision!

Their features are more similar than I’d thought, and given the story developments, I can totally see how a young, carefree Lee Do Hyun might turn into a jaded Shin Ha Kyun, whose painful secrets are etched into the lines on his face. Very impressive. I echo everyone else before me: whoever had the idea of casting Lee Do Hyun as young Shin Ha Kyun is freaking brilliant!

Also, how fitting, isn’t it, that the actor who won Best New Actor at this year’s Baeksang’s, would play the younger version of the actor who won Best Actor, at those same awards?? I love that because of how competent Lee Do Hyun is an actor, we can see glimpses of similar layers in young Dong Sik, that we see in present-day Dong Sik.

The small town nature of Manyang

I actually really liked the small town-ness of Manyang, and appreciated how this small town-ness is woven into our story in a way that feels natural and organic.

Here’s a quick rundown of the various times during my watch, when I felt this small town-ness come to the fore.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. The small town nature of Manyang really hits home, when I see Jin Mook sobbing while clinging to Chief Nam. Even though Chief Nam is there on official business, in this moment, Jin Mook sees him as a friend. And as a friend, Chief Nam looks genuinely pained, and he can’t help but give Jin Mook the space to cry, because he knows how much Jin Mook has lost, in Min Jeong.

E3. The tears that our various police officers get in their eyes, as they go about their duties in relation to Min Jeong’s disappearance, feels so personal. And of course it’s personal, because they all knew Min Jeong, and they all know Jin Mook as well. It’s really lands differently, when the victim in the news, is someone that you know.

E5. The scene where Dong Sik and the entire police substation crew come out in force to back Joo Won up, and send the nosy reporter on his way, is kind of heartwarming, in that they’d put up a united front when it’s an us-against-them sort of situation, even if there are tensions among their own.

E8. As problematic as it can be, for everyone in the small town to be so connected, I really appreciate that kinship, when it shows up in the form of consideration for Dong Sik. Even though a couple of the investigators protest, Chief Nam overrides them, and Dong Sik is allowed to grieve at the spot where Min Jeong’s body is found. This feels very compassionate, to me.

E11. I really like how everyone bands together, in the wake of Chief Nam’s death, not only to mourn his passing, but also, to investigate how and why he’d died. This feels like quite the breakthrough, because now, it feels like everyone’s placing their individual cards on the table, and combining their resources, where before, it had felt like everyone was keeping their cards close to their chests.

Also, I really like the fact that this is initiated by Dong Sik and Joo Won. It’s Joo Won who first shares his findings with Dong Sik, and it’s Dong Sik that then pulls everyone together. I like that thought, that these reluctant partners are an actual catalyst, when it comes to everyone finally working together.

Even though the investigation involves looking into people whom they consider their friends and colleagues, I like how our new crew resolves to do it anyway, citing the idea that they are being suspicious, so that they will no longer have to be suspicious. Meaning, they are investigating in order to clear their friends of suspicion. I like that angle quite a bit.

I also like, how, in the spirit of that, Jae Yi and Ji Hoon (Nam Yoon Soo) actually come clean to Officer Hwang (Baek Suk Kwang), after tailing him to Police Headquarters, and realizing that his actions have nothing to do with Chief Nam’s case. They actually didn’t have to ‘fess up to Officer Hwang, but they did anyway, and I like how that fosters honesty.

E13. That moment in the car, when Ji Hwa muses that she’s scared that she’ll have to choose between Dong Sik and Jeong Je, is so poignant. It really brings home the point, all over again, that here in Munju, everything’s personal. People are connected and invested in one another, and it’s impossible to separate personal relationships from business, because those personal relationships go back so far, and the connections run so deep.

[END SPOILER]

SPOTLIGHT ON REVEALS, TWISTS & TURNS

It’s impossible to cover all of Show’s twists and turns in this review, but here’s the quick spotlight on some of the moments when Show legit blew my mind, with its reveals.

[SPOILER ALERT – DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW!]

E2. I have to say, I’m shocked at Min Jeong’s disappearance, particularly since Show tells us just how closely related she is, to Dong Sik. She’s almost like a niece or even a daughter to him. And, I have no idea what to make of what we see towards the end of the episode.

On the one hand, Dong Sik looks completely gutted when he sees her severed fingertips laid out on the table, and his expression is deeply haunting.

BUT. We also see that he’d behaved quite strangely during the barbecue gathering whenever Min Jeong’s name came up. And then there’s that closing scene, where we’re shown that Dong Sik is the one who’d laid out the severed fingertips on the table himself. Say, WHAT?!? 😱🤯

E8. The biggest shock this hour, has to be the reveal, that Min Jeong had died from cardiopulmonary arrest due to multiple organ failure, meaning that she had still been alive, when Jin Mook had buried her. WHAT. 😳🤯 How could he have been so cruel?? Wasn’t it bad enough that he was killing her? This is the moment I realized that I hadn’t fully appreciated the full portent of this show’s titles – Beyond Evil / Monster – because a father murdering his own daughter had only been part of the story. What an awful, cruel, painful way to die. Poor Min Jeong. 😭😭

Dong Sik’s gradual breakdown, as he sits alone and processes the implication of this reveal, is so painful to watch. His mind going back to how he’d been there at the house, and ransacked the backyard; even searching the crocks, and he hadn’t known that Min Jeong had been right there under his feet, still alive. Ack. It’s too much, really, and I can practically feel Dong Sik’s guilt and heartbreak, through my screen. 💔

On a tangent, that flashback is really well done, with the camera giving us a shot of Min Jeong, still breathing, encased in plastic, and then panning up to above-ground, where Dong Sik is frantically searching for her, or clues of her. Way to bring out the horror of the situation, Show. Really good job, and also, oof.

E9. WHAT A REVEAL, that Jin Mook had literally buried Yu Yeon in the wall, of her own home. 🤯 This is somewhat similar to how he’d buried Jae Yi’s mother next to the restaurant, so burying victims right under the noses of their loved ones feels like his modus operandi, but STILL. This must be unimaginably awful for Dong Sik, to realize that Yu Yeon, whom he’d been searching for, for literal decades, was in the walls of their house, all along. It’s just.. sickening to think about, really.

E11. That flashback to when Yu Yeon had died is awful to watch, though I am glad Show is revealing the events of the night to us. So it seems that Yu Yeon had managed to run away from Jin Mook, after he’d severed her fingertips, but then Jeong Je had run into her with his car. He’d then called his mom, who’d then called Chairman Lee. And, it seems that Chairman Lee must have then run over Yu Yeon multiple times to ensure her death 🤯 (since that’s what the autopsy suggested). That is just the most appalling thing. It’s no wonder Jeong Je’s so tormented that it’s affected his mental health. That is the kind of thing that can make you insane.

Poor Yu Yeon. She’d been so terrified, and she’d thought that those headlights had been a sign of help to come. Little did she know that those headlights would be her death sentence. 😭

And how apt, that we then get this episode’s biggest reveal, that it hadn’t been Jeong Je who had first run over Yu Yeon, but Chief Han. DANG. 🤯😱 No wonder we see, in Jeong Je’s recovered memories, that Yu Yeon had been lying on the road, when he’d run over her. Chief Han must have dragged her from the field and put her there, before driving off, so that some other poor soul would end up driving over her, afterwards. Poor, poor Yu Yeon. 😵‍💫 Just how many things did she have to suffer, the night that she’d died? 😭

E14. What a twist, that Chairman Lee had been commissioned by Chief Han, to have Jin Mook killed. We still don’t quite know how Chairman Lee had succeeded in convincing Jin Mook to kill himself, but we know now, that the reason Chief Han had wanted Jin Mook dead, is because Jin Mook had witnessed Chief Han running down Yu Yeon. Ooh. I hadn’t expected that. Plus, we also get confirmation, that it had been Chairman Lee who had lured Chief Nam to the junkyard, and killed him. I’m guessing that that had been with Chief Han’s knowledge too?

[END SPOILER]

STUFF THAT WAS OK

Cheon Ho Jin as Chief Nam [SPOILERS]

The reason I’ve got Chief Nam in this section, is because I felt that the ambiguity with which he’s written and with which he’s delivered, sits a tiny bit tenuously with the truth that’s revealed about him.

I understand that Show needs him to be ambiguous, because our entire story works on the principle that multiple characters appear suspicious to us in the moment, while we are watching. It’s context that gives color and meaning to those ambiguous behaviors, when said context is revealed.

I feel that the truth around Chief Nam doesn’t quite work so comfortably or naturally, with the suspicious behavior that we’re shown earlier in the show. Of course, this might completely be subjective, and you might feel that Show is completely justified in portraying Chief Nam the way he is.

We learn the most about Chief Nam in episode 11, which is why I thought I’d give episode 11 a bit of a spotlight here.

Episode 11

E11. The flashback of Chief Nam paying his respects at Dong Sik’s father’s funeral, is so poignant and heartfelt. The way he solemnly apologizes to Dong Sik’s father, for not being able to find his daughter; the way young Dong Sik brokenly asks if he’d be able to find Yu Yeon, if he becomes a police officer, and if people would forget by then, and believe that he didn’t kill anyone; the way Chief Nam hugs Dong Sik to himself, and promises that he will bet his life on making all of that happen for Dong Sik.

It’s all so quietly heartbreaking, and it’s here that I see more clearly than ever, how much Chief Nam has blamed himself, not only for having arrested him and beaten him as a prime suspect, but for, in so doing, ruining Dong Sik’s credibility in the eyes of society at large.

It’s quite poetic, how Show uses that funeral wake flashback, to mirror Chief Nam’s own funeral wake now, where Dong Sik is, again, the chief mourner. But this time, it’s Joo Won who’s paying his respects to the deceased, and who is also clearly bearing a burden of guilt. I thought this was really well done.

There is a lot of very real emotion that our characters experience in relation to Chief Nam’s death, and I appreciate how Show demonstrates this in the details. Like how Dong Sik carefully places Chief Nam’s shoes at the entrance of his house, facing outwards, as if Chief Nam will soon step into the shoes to walk out of the house, or how the police crew brings his funeral picture to Jae Yi’s shop, so that he can drink with them, and how they reminisce about his quirky food suggestions, and then repeat the toast he’d always made, when they clink cups.

Also, what a poignant reveal, that Chief Nam had bought real estate, in both his and Dong Sik’s names, so that they’d both be able to live carefree, in that faraway place with clean air and water, that he’d referred to.

Choi Jin Ho as Chief Han [SPOILERS]

Choi Jin Ho is just so good at these types of roles, where he’s an influential father with ambition to rise to greater heights, and his son is not living up to his expectations. I feel like I just saw him in a somewhat similar position, during our Dr. Romantic group watch, heh.

The thing that strikes me about Chief Han, is how cold he is. He doesn’t hesitate to break the law if it suits his purpose, and he doesn’t hesitate to cut his son off, if he perceives that his son is interfering with his own ambition.

I was suitably slack-jawed when Show reveals that it was Chief Han behind the wheel of the car that had killed Yu Yeon, because while I’d expected him to be involved, I didn’t think he would have been the one driving the car. Also, the reveal in episode 13, that he’d been drinking before he got in that car and mowed down an already traumatized and injured Yu Yeon, just makes it so much worse, in my eyes. In my head, this ups his culpability, because maybe if he hadn’t been drunk, he might not have killed Yu Yeon.

All in all, I do think that Chief Han’s characterization is consistent throughout, and I feel that Show did a good job wrapping up his arc.

Heo Sung Tae as Chairman Lee [SPOILERS]

Not gonna lie; I found Chairman Lee fascinatingly repulsive, through my watch. There’s just something very.. oily, in the way that he’s presented. From his strange bouffant of an Elvis hairstyle, to his weird habit of spouting Russian phrases, to the shifty-eyed gaze that he wore so often, I just felt quite repelled in general, by him. 😅

..And that’s even before we’re told that he’s been heavily involved in killing people. I was actually pretty shocked, when he started mumbling about it maybe being time to kill Councilwoman Do. I mean, they’d worked together for so long, after all. That just goes to show how faithless he is.

Personally, my biggest jaw-drop moment when it came to Chairman Lee, was the reveal that he doesn’t actually have a bum leg, and doesn’t actually need that walking stick. I’d thought that the disability might have been a cover, so that people wouldn’t suspect him of his crimes, but it turns out that he’d faked it when he’d gotten shot in the leg for his gang boss, in order to get out of his previous gang. Wow. So he’s walked with a fake limp for literal decades, because of this? It’s mind-blowing to me, honestly.

All in all, I thought Chairman Lee fit the story space that was allocated to him very nicely. I never liked him, but I understood that he was necessary to our story, and that’s why he’s in this section.

Gil Hae Yeon as Councilwoman Do [SPOILERS]

I thought Gil Hae Yeon was pitch perfect as Councilwoman Do. I actually think this is a pretty great role for her, because the character gives her so much room to play with.

I’m used to see Gil Hae Yeon play mothers to key characters, like she did in 2018’s Something in the Rain and 2019’s One Spring Night. And she does play a mother in this drama too. The difference here, is that her character is not only a mother who fusses over her child, but is also a councilwoman with a whole lot of ambition. I didn’t like Councilwoman Do, but I found her interesting, and I thought Gil Hae Yeon did an excellent job playing her.

As I’d guessed, Councilwoman Do’s fear of the past, and the truth around that past, proves to be her undoing. I’ll talk more about this in my section on the finale, but for now, I’ll just say that while Show’s twist around Councilwoman Do’s ambition in episode 15 really got my attention and had my head spinning for a bit, I didn’t care too much, for the double twist that we end up getting, during the finale.

Lee Gyu Hoe as Jin Mook [SPOILERS]

For the record, I did not like Jin Mook as a character one bit, but I am highly impressed by Lee Gyu Hoe, for the way he plays Jin Mook. And, I am also pretty fascinated with Jin Mook, as a character.

Also for the record, I’d been suspicious of Jin Mook as early as episode 2, so I was pretty chuffed to realize in episode 6, that Jin Mook really is the killer that they’re looking for. I had no evidence to go on, really; it was just my TV instincts at work. Yay me, for watching so much TV..? 🙈😅

One thing that did strike me about Jin Mook, is that while he appears to be slow because of his disability, he only appears slow. There’s nothing wrong with his cognitive abilities, and he’s also good with his hands, judging from the way he’s able to make kimchi on such a massive scale. It blows my mind that Jin Mook’s pretended to stutter all these years, just to give himself the perfect cover.

Most people would automatically think of him as less able, because of his disability, and therefore not suspect that he might be the perpetrator, when in reality, he nurses dark, condescending, dismissive thoughts about others, and is disturbing enough in his behavior, to freak out his own daughter, such that she doesn’t like going home.

I’m just really impressed with Lee Gyu Hoe for the way he manages Jin Mook’s duality so impressively. When Jin Mook’s being awkward and shy, he’s perfectly believable. And then, when he adds that layer of crafty relish that we glimpse from time to time, where he seems to enjoy a great deal of satisfaction from successfully duping others, it still somehow works. Really quite excellent, I must say.

With this new information given to us, everything that Jin Mook does takes on a layer of sinister darkness. The way he apologizes practically in every other sentence; the way he expresses concern for the police officers working on Min Jeong’s case; the way he cries over Min Jeong’s disappearance; it all rings with so much duplicity now, and that’s very disturbing, honestly. He’s taking pleasure in successfully throwing everyone off the scent, and sneering at everyone for being stupid and incompetent, all while practically begging them to find Min Jeong.

It’s hard to watch Jin Mook strangle and subdue his own daughter – his! own! daughter! 😳😱 – in such a methodical, cold manner, in the flashback. It’s crazy to me, that he’d be able to do all this in such a detached manner, as if he has no emotional ties to Min Jeong whatsoever. The casually systematic way that Jin Mook clears up the house afterwards, is so disturbing. But the award for most stomach-churning moment arguably goes to the moment Jin Mook sucks the blood off his finger, when he notices it during Ji Hoon’s visit. It’s gross enough without context, but in context, it’s absolutely revolting. 🤮

What kind of sick animal is Jin Mook, to be able to tell Ji Hoon and Dong Sik, that Min Jeong’s as deep asleep as a dead person? He obviously takes private pleasure in the irony of the statement, like he’s in on the joke while everyone else is oblivious. There is some serious superiority complex going on with Jin Mook, I feel like.

We do see, from the flashbacks, that Jin Mook’s fixation with cutting off people’s fingertips had to do with how people always pointed their fingers at him, both literally and metaphorically, and treated him like an outcast and as less than. I can see how that might have turned into an emotional burden and unhealthy, angry fixation for him, but.. that doesn’t change the fact that he murdered people, and was cruel and gleeful about it.

This may have started out as a crime of passion, where he’d reacted angrily in the moment and killed someone. But.. that definitely turned into a something that was premeditated, and he definitely took a lot of secret pleasure out of it, going so far as to bait investigators with his innocent act, while sneering at their stupidity. Shudder. Jin Mook’s a very sick, very twisted individual for sure.

From the flashback, it seems that Jin Mook’s decision to kill Min Jeong was triggered by her declaration that she’d get a DNA test to confirm that she’s not Jin Mook’s biological daughter. It looks like Jin Mook would rather kill Min Jeong, than have her deny him. I guess if she’s dead, she can’t deny him, and therefore, even if she dies, she dies as his daughter? His emotional baggage is clearly extremely complicated.

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

Logic lapses/stretches and unanswered questions

Show is very solid all-around, but there are a few instances where I feel like logic was stretched, or things didn’t add up too well. Here they are, for the record. If you have an answer to any of these, feel free to share in the comments!

E5. In that scene where Dong Sik confronts Ji Hoon and asks him why he’d tipped off the reporters about Dong Sik’s arrest, Ji Hoon’s answer makes no sense to me. He’d tipped off the reporters because he believes Dong Sik to be innocent? What on earth does that even mean?

E6. As Joo Won asks Jin Mook questions, it strikes me that Jin Mook’s answers are overly specific. Like the way he’s able to list the exact timings of things, off the cuff, and the way he’s able to pinpoint Min Jeong’s towel as missing. These aren’t things that most people would be able to name offhand, and yet, he does. That alone makes him appear suspicious, to my eyes, and I feel like this should set off at least some alarm bells, in any police officer. Joo Won, as a trained and competent police officer, however, doesn’t appear to think these statements are out of the ordinary, though. I thought this was weird.

E7. How did Jae Yi know the passcode to unlock Min Jeong’s phone? We see that Dong Sik had seen Min Jeong unlock her phone before, but how would Jae Yi know? It’s not like she and Min Jeong were particularly close?

E7. Even though it still does feel like Jin Mook is unlikely to be the only murderer in our drama world, we get evidence this episode, that he was also involved in the death of Lee Geum Hwa, since we see Dong Sik unearth her mobile phone from Jin Mook’s kimchi urn, neatly encased in a tupperware box. But wasn’t that phone found on Mt. Simju by investigators? I was going to assume that this was Lee Geum Hwa’s own mobile phone, and not the burner phone that was found, but judging from the way Dong Sik flashes back to Joo Won handing her the burner phone, it does seem like Show is saying this is the burner phone. How could this be possible..? 😳 How did the burner phone end up in Jin Mook’s possession?

E8. How would Jin Mook have managed to bury dead bodies in other people’s gardens and backyards? That seems quite a difficult undertaking, especially in Jae Yi’s case, where the body was right behind the restaurant?

E8.  Jin Mook gets to retain guardian rights, even though he’s the one who’s being held for Min Jeong’s murder? How does this work? And, if Min Jeong’s been murdered, shouldn’t she not be cremated and given a funeral, while the case is ongoing? I don’t understand this.

E14. What happened between the time Jin Mook steals Yu Yeon’s body, and when he actually installs the body in the wall of the basement? I mean, clearly, some time passed in-between, seeing as how Jin Mook is only shown doing work on the basement, while Dong Sik is away doing his military service. Did he bury her in his own patio, just like he’d kept Min Jeong’s body there, before trying to move her?

THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]

The idea of Truth vs. Trust.

E12. Dong Sik muses that trust is a fickle thing, and Joo Won explains that when truth pushes its way in, trust can be broken anytime. It’s an interesting idea, and the true litmus test will come, when truth and trust are pitted against each other. Could you still trust someone, when the truth contradicts that person’s trustworthiness – or at least appears to?

How fascinating, that Dong Sik does the opposite of kill Jeong Je (even though he raises that mallet, eep). Essentially, he’s choosing to trust Jeong Je, even though the truth that’s come out, is not in Jeong Je’s favor. In fact, he sends Jeong Je home to his mother.

Is blood thicker than values?

E12. I appreciate that when Joo Won questions him, Dong Sik essentially points out that Jeong Je isn’t the same as his mother, just as Joo Won isn’t the same as his father. Or at least, he raises the question, of whether one is the same as one’s parent. The question here, is whether Jeong Je and Joo Won can still be trusted, even if their parents turn out to be involved; would they go against their principles, in order to protect said parent? Is blood thicker than.. values, I guess, is the question.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

It’s a testament to Show’s confident, cryptic style of storytelling, that at this late stage of our story – at our penultimate episode, no less – I still can’t guess at the details of how Show is planning to wrap this all up.

I figure that justice will be served and the guilty will be punished, but I don’t actually have an idea of how. All I know right at the moment, is that, 1, there are still more reveals to come in our finale, and 2, I feel pretty darn sorry for Joo Won, who looks like he’s trying to save the whole world – but is losing himself, in the process.

It must be such a huge blow to him, to have confirmation that his own father is the person who had killed Yu Yeon. I’m sure that he – as we all did previously – had had an inkling that his father was somehow involved in the murky mess, but he likely never imagined that his father would have been the person behind the wheel.

Joo Won’s mind must be reeling, from trying to piece together everything around how it all fits together, along with the implications of the lengths that his father must have gone to, to keep this under wraps.

And then there’s the thing where he’d been convinced for so long, that Dong Sik had had something to do with his sister’s death – and yet, it was Joo Won’s own father who had killed her. It’s all really messed up, and Joo Won’s mental and emotional implosion is completely understandable; warranted, even.

I’m trying to understand what’s going on in Joo Won’s mind, when he goes to Dong Sik, and essentially begs Dong Sik to allow him to be the one to bring down his father. The imagery Joo Won uses is startlingly dark; he says that he will become a monster, and grab Chief Han in his arms, then fall from the highest place, together with him, into hell. That’s sounds pretty disturbing, doesn’t it?

Joo Won says that this is how he’ll make his apology (to Dong Sik, I’m assuming), and that this also the best way of taking revenge on Chief Han. So perhaps destroying himself is part of the punishment he has in mind for his father? Admittedly, I hesitate to believe that Chief Han would have enough sincere fatherly love to actually care all that much, if Joo Won destroys himself, but I rationalize that at least it would matter to Chief Han’s reputation, and that, he certainly does care about.

Even though I don’t think it’s necessary for Joo Won to destroy himself, I get that this is where his heart is at. He feels that guilty for any self-righteousness he’s shown in the past regarding Yu Yeon’s murder, and he also feels that strongly about unveiling his father’s role in Yu Yeon’s death.

I’m not sure of Joo Won’s actual strategy in taking down Chief Han, although it makes sense to me that he’d want Chief Han to successfully be appointed Commissioner General, because that would be the highest place from which to fall. From what’s happened so far, it feels like Joo Won’s trying to bait Chairman Lee into testifying against Chief Han, but that fails, since Chairman Lee gives false testimony, and points suspicion at Councilwoman Do instead. I guess there’s enough connecting Chief Han and Chairman Lee, that Chairman Lee would protect Chief Han, even when baited like this.

The thing that really took me by surprise this episode, is Councilwoman Do turning around and telling Jeong Je that she’s never truly been motherly; that she’s only been trying to be motherly, all these past 20 years.

That did blow my mind, honestly, because all this time, Councilwoman Do’s gone to great lengths in order to protect her son. Not only did she cover up his hit and run accident, she’s allowed herself to be blackmailed for 20 years, because of him. This means that she’s lost large amounts of money and property on Jeong Je’s account, and now, she suddenly turns around and announces that she’s never been truly motherly, and therefore she’s going to lock him away now.

This is shocking, for sure, but it makes some kind of sense, even though at face value, it can feel hard to swallow. She’d locked Jeong Je up at the deer farm out of annoyance at his timid personality, but had felt very guilty for it, when it started to look like he’d lost his sanity because of this. That guilt drove her to overcompensate, by then trying to be the most protective, best mother she could be, for 20 years. But now, with Jeong Je not only not getting better, but even actively trying to cause trouble for her, something’s snapped, and she’s done with feeling guilty. I suppose part of her might also feel like the last 20 years of penance has been enough to pay for her sin, and now, she’s ready to put herself and her ambition first, again.

What a huge blow this must be for Jeong Je, though. If his mental health is already fragile, this would likely smash it to smithereens, right? 😥

I am very intrigued about where we end the episode. I mean, we know that Chairman Lee had wanted to kill Station Chief Jung, and had gotten stopped in his tracks by Dong Sik. We also know that the message sent to Dong Sik’s phone sounds eerily similar to the text that Chief Nam had received the night that he’d died.

Does that mean that Chairman Lee had sent that text to Dong Sik’s phone, in Station Chief Jung’s name? It certainly looks like it.

I do appreciate that Joo Won’s instinct is to protect Dong Sik, and that’s why he chooses to go to Station Chief Jung’s house in Dong Sik’s place. But how did Station Chief Jung die? Was the house rigged such that someone coming in the front door would trigger something that would kill him? Coz that’s the only thing that comes to mind, in terms of how Joo Won ended up killing Station Chief Jung, after entering the house. After all, he certainly hadn’t gone in there to kill Station Chief Jung, or even confront him. If that’s the case, however, how would that have worked?

I’m very curious for Show to give us the reveal in the finale – which means this was a very successful penultimate episode. I am admittedly concerned for Joo Won, though. What’s going to happen, now that he’s somehow (maybe) killed Station Chief Jung? I’m just relieved that Dong Sik is there, to help and support him through whatever comes next.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

What a solid, solid ending to a solid, solid ride.

Even though I watched this after Show won its Best Drama nod at the Baeksang’s, it still surprised me a little, to realize that Show wrapped up as confidently as it’d started; a feat that not many dramas can claim.

In the end, justice prevails, and all our characters get the outcomes that they deserve. Importantly, Show manages to maintain its story and character integrity all the way to the end.

The only thing that I find a bit less convincing, is the double twist around Councilwoman Do’s turnaround. In our penultimate episode, Show reveals that she’s never been motherly, and only been trying to be motherly, for the last 20 years. This episode, that’s revealed to have been a last ditch effort – a motherly one – to protect Jeong Je. I find this hard to believe without reservation, because the manner in which Councilwoman Do had thrown Jeong Je to the curb last episode, had been cruel, with a lot of potential for lasting psychological damage.

I find it difficult to accept that Councilwoman Do, as a loving mother, would have the heart to do that to her son, knowing that his mental state is as fragile as it is. I would rather believe the hypothesis that our penultimate episode serves up, because it’s easier to believe that a heartless mother would do such a thing to her own son.

Aside from this, though, I found everything else consistent with the high standards of logical and emotional integrity that Show has set, from the beginning. We even get one final reveal: that Councilwoman Do had been aware that Jin Mook had been burying bodies at the site of the deer farm, because she’d been the one to give him the key.

I found it satisfying to see the trust disintegrate among our baddies, to the point that they are finally pointing fingers at one another, and I found the confrontation scene between Chief Han, Joo Won and Dong Sik powerful and poignant.

Of course Chief Han is a coward at heart, even though he speaks the loudest, when it comes to calling others cowards.

After all, if he hadn’t been a coward, he wouldn’t have covered up his hit and run accident with Yu Yeon in the first place. So it’s not that much of a surprise to see him make a decision to end it all, rather than face up to the consequences of his crimes.

Joo Won clearly understands his father well; the way he charges into Chief Han’s study, it’s as if he’d already guessed that this would be his father’s chosen course of action. The way both Joo Won and Dong Sik challenge Chief Han to shoot them, is with a conviction that feels pure and real. I believe that this isn’t just a dare; in this moment, I believe that they are both so invested in this outcome, that they are willing to put their lives at risk, on the off chance that Chief Han really does shoot.

That’s precisely the thing that separates Joo Won and Dong Sik from Chief Han, though. While Chief Han is a coward who hesitates to act on his threat to shoot, both Joo Won and Dong Sik are all in – and I believe that Chief Han can see it in their eyes.

What a momentous, important thing, that Dong Sik gets to put the handcuffs on Chief Han, arresting him for the murder of his sister, all those years ago. This is what he’s been dedicating his life to, for the last 20 years, and his efforts have finally come to fruition.

Such important closure, and such relief and release, finally available to Dong Sik and Joo Won.

The aftermath of the arrest is, to my eyes, the most moving scene in this entire show. The way Dong Sik and Joo Won desire to set each other free from the remaining ghosts of guilt that remain, and the way they each also desire to pay the price for their unlawful actions, in order to assuage their consciences, is so deeply heartfelt.

I still get a lump in my throat, thinking about how Joo Won reluctantly puts the handcuffs on Dong Sik, with tears running down his face, even as Dong Sik smiles comfortingly at him. That gesture, of Joo Won holding Dong Sik’s hands in his own, and bowing down to press his face against those hands, conveys so much grief, regret and apology. There are no words that are enough, but this gesture says it all. 💔

I’m glad that we get that time skip, where we see that everyone still gathers in Jae Yi’s shop, in remembrance of Chief Nam, on the anniversary of his death. It’s poignant and heartwarming to see that even though various people’s circumstances may have changed, the friendship and camaraderie still remains.

Most important of all, I’m comforted to see the accepting sort of welcome that Dong Sik gives Joo Won. Joo Won clearly is still holding on to some guilt around his father, and it’s freeing to hear Dong Sik brush it all off, saying that it has nothing to do with Joo Won.

I’m really glad that we get to see Dong Sik and Joo Won take a walk together afterwards.

As always, there’s still a lot left unsaid between them, but in Dong Sik’s parting words to Joo Won – for him to eat well, sleep well, and even poop well – and in Joo Won’s fake-annoyed retort, that Dong Sik shouldn’t speak casually to him, I feel a sense of kinship that runs very, very deep.

Even though they might not work together anymore, I feel like each of their lives has been changed by the other, and that this experience that they’ve weathered together, will unite them in profound ways, for the rest of their lives. ❤️

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Smart and compelling on multiple levels; good to the last drop.

FINAL GRADE: A

TEASER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Beyond Evil, is Bossam. The positive word of mouth got me to check it out, and I’m surprised by how engaged I am, after just the first episode! 😃

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️

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BE
BE
8 days ago

Okie dokie. I finished binging Beyond Evil a bit ago–thanks to KFG and the folks here providing me some insight, especially with regard to lens, have had a bit of time to digest it, and just now took in K’s commentary and the responses here. So here is my take, and to some degree I will follow K’s review structure in order to deal with spoilers, because the show turns on its spoilers, and she does a wonderful job in her review of keeping them pretty much close to the vest till the later sections of the story.
First of all, I want to reiterate, I have been reading and watching suspense/crime/police procedural/ noirs for decades. I am jaded that way. And I will say I prefer the edgy thrillers to the cozy whodunit puzzle game ones. Also, I do tend to have an old school preference for single crime of passion or circumstance kind of story to the serial killer variety, which popped up beginning around the late eighties in pulp novels, often authored by women in the US, England, and Scotland, later being featured in drama from those locales and really jumped on in Scandanavian nations, and has become such a pervasive trope that one might easily compare it to the S. Korean fascination with zombies, that is monsters there to disturb the audience, purely evil, and without nuance. That is, the serial killer is a kind of gimmick in which by chiaroscuro we are given the ambiguity of the detective wrestling with his inner demons to see in clear relief as the monster or monsters, address and solve the mystery in no small part because of their internal struggle and ensuing growth as a result. The problem for me with these kinds of suspense dramas whether in print or on screen is that I cannot get the bad taste in my mouth of seeing serial murder as an element of entertainment, and most of the time, the victims of these killers are pretty much relegated to an even less nuanced position than their killers as, well, bodies with a name and not much more, so the stakes in human terms of their killing are not present, and at best, as with Beyond Evil, there is a little, “hey get in contact with the police if someone you goes missing; this is a problem we can solve together” announcement after the show, almost as a disclaimer for just using that whole motif to entertain you.

That said, many of the novels I have read or shows I have seen using this icky motif have been excellently constructed with very interesting characterizations, as is the case with Beyond Evil. I would rate the show a B++, not an A however. It is certainly is much better put together than every other suspense/crime K Drama I have seen, because of the acting and as so many folks have noted what follows the identification and immediate aftermath of the apprehension of the serial murderer in episodes 7-8. I do not mind revealing that openly because if there are other viewers like me, whose consternation with the first few episodes was a deal breaker, I do believe folks should understand that show really takes off after that. And despite the typical K Drama tendency to throw in fifty too many plot complications that never in the end get resolved, Beyond Evil, which might be titled Red Herring Soup, manages by and large to successfully solve all the riddles it puts before its audience by show’s end. It sticks the landing, a serious necessity for all good suspense stories and one ups all sorts of other kinds of K Drama hits that are great but fail to close the deal.
Nonetheless, I found the initial mystery story underwhelming, not only because the red herrings are positively annoying, off putting, in the initial episodes, but when I settled in to watch the show with a more patient eye, I also was pretty clear whodunit by episode 3. And while the actor enacting this sociopath did an excellent job being creepy, I also found it hard to believe that no one, especially our seemingly brilliant ML had been so taken in by him

spoiler
as to have allowed the creep to not only leave his mother to Kue Hoe’s ministrations, at the very best guy is the whole bowl of rice shy of your bimbingbap, but more importantly given Dong Shik’s closeness and semi paternal relationship with Min Ha, I find it hard to believe she never, not once, confided in Dong Shik about just how creepy Kue Hoe was with her in one those convos in which Dong Shik is trying to help her grow out of her self destructive tendencies
. There were other plot holes in show both with regard to the initial mystery in other spots but I will wait to discuss them. But I also found that writer, director, and actor made Dong Shik in his interactions with Joo Won, in order to serve both the misdirection of the audience and to set up the chiaroscuro between Dong Shik and Joo Won, slightly over the top. That is, I found Shin Ha Kyun’s Dong Shik a bit more creepily menacing with Joo Won in the early episodes. And I must say, that was part of the reason I dropped the show twice before picking it up again, and could not fathom why everyone was raving about his performance.

But after watching show, it does strike me as an exceedingly minor flaw in an exceedingly powerful and sympathetic performance. To be honest, despite several other good elements in show, it was Shin Ha Kyun’s performance that made this drama memorable, especially in his interactions with Joo Won. And there is so much to like about their interaction as it grows over the course of the show. First there is the actual physical characteristics of each actor. Yeo Jin Goo is as one woman I know describing such a man, too good looking to take seriously, but his face like his complexion and all its other perfections borders on lack of affect; to be honest he tends to register almost solely as a pretty boy, and the role of Joo Won requiring as it does an almost humorless, self absorbed, serious portrayal in which character himself regards a poker face as one of his better assets, enhances that read. In contrast, while few at first glance might consider Shin Ha Kyun to be in the same league appearance wise, until Dong Shik dons that nerdy hair style in the final episode, his face is so full of nuance, expression, intelligence, humor, tragedy, anger, the gamut really, and above all character, so that in reality it strikes me that after watching whole show, one could easily aver the man is more attractive than his foil on physical looks alone. When they are on screen together the eye repeatedly moves to Dong Shik, and we begin to take Joo Won’s good looks for granted. And this physical appearance is also a kind of metaphor by which we see the two characters develop. We grow to like and sympathize with Dong Shik as show goes on, and we are caught by how in some very real ways Joo Won’s obsession with perfection betrays and bollixes not only Dong Shik at almost every turn, sometimes for no good reason except that he wants to be viewed as a better person and detective, but bollixes everyone else involved. It is only in being laid low in the final episodes, forced out of his own obsessiveness with being perfect, that he, in fact, brings a kind of redemption to himself and whole drama. Both the actors are just great and consistent.
Other actors I would like to note for their performances: as with KFG, I really liked Choi Sung Eun, who for my money, enacted THE single most sympathetic character in the show from start to finish, Jae Yi. A wonderful performance, in which in real time, one identifies with her emotional delivery, without any need for more back story or flash back to connect the dots.
Kil Hae Yon as City Counselor Do was excellent as perhaps the most complexly beyond evil character in the story, from her political machinations, phony baloney front played with exceeding relish, mustard, catsup, and raw onions, her abject icky helicopter mom act, and in the end the reveal of pure sociopathic greed. Even though I hated her character from the beginning, one can hardly admire enough how complexly her evil is enacted over the course of the whole drama.
Heo Sung Tae as Chang Lin as the repulsive Russian/Korean gangster (the equivalent in the American drama of the Ukranean gangster stereotype) turned Land Baron villain. The guy is good at being bad, and in the milquetoast show to Beyond Evil’s kidney and intestines plate, Racquet Boys, the guy is even annoyingly distasteful as a badminton coach. He does bring to mind my wonder how all Korean film gangster types like the toughs way back in my middle school days signified themselves with an Elvis Presley hair style. He is a caricature, but does the job with brio.
Finally, in an understated way, I also really liked Kim Shin Rok as Ji Hwa. She has screen presence through out even when she is not speaking. And Ji Hwa’s character like Jae Yi’s is sympathetic throughout. One always feels a great deal of backbone and consideration in her character.
What I particularly had trouble with on the other hand: the biggest, if exceedingly minor, plot hole in the story, it is simply unbelievable, even though there is one scene in which Ji Hwa tries to explain her youthful attraction, that she ever could have possibly entertained more than a one night stand with Chang Lin, let alone married him. That bit of backstory which is totally unnecessary to any plot development in entire show makes no sense whatsoever, and as such, editors were sloppy in keeping it a point of emphasis anywhere.
I also have a difficult time on the face value of it how Jeung Je ever got, let alone, kept his job as policeman. We are talking seriously problematic with a profound set of PTSD symptomology. I can see him playing the same role in this drama as merely the old friend of Dong Shik, but his being a policeman seemed like a contrivance to me.
While there was enough Min Ha, albeit her relationship with Dong Shik might have been fleshed out a bit more, and a little about Yoo Yeon’s virtuousness, the lack of development between Dong Shik and his sister even more glaring, there was nothing about the third victim portrayed in story, and the one who set the plot in motion, the illegal immigrant forced into a life of prostitution was given no other real development to portray a real human being. See above, my gripe with the serial killer trope. And in her case, the one loose end, was any development whatsoever to resolve her killing and the whole issue of gangsterism vis a vis undocumented immigrants and sexual slavery, not only in S. Korea, but as a function of the world wide diaspora currently plaguing the world. These were backdrops only in the end, functioning as entertainment shorthand to move plot forward.
Finally, I thought Choi Jin Ho, was by contrast with other members of the cast, a bit underwhelming as

spoiler
he is in fact, the real Monster of show to which the title in Korean refers
. It is true he is very good at these kinds of roles–see Dr. Romantic 1 & 2, but I would have preferred an actor less type cast in the role, perhaps an actor who could play the role with more complexity and nuance. As it was, he seemed to me simply a slicker version of your typical S. Korean drama caricature of self aggrandizing corruption than City Counselor Do. Joo Won has serious problems with obsessive compulsive cleanliness, knuckle headed tunnel vision, and pretentious self righteous as a result of being his father’s son, but Jeong Je is simply screwed up to beat the drum, the band, and his own brains out as a result of his mother.

Finally I want to speak to the issue of

major spoiler for someone who has not seen show
the fingers. Perhaps my biggest problem with this is that show seems to indicate that physical evidence takes a back seat in convicting a criminal to confession of the crime. Show seems to indicate that no amount of physical evidence will lead to a guilty verdict in a court of law. Here in the states, confessions actually hold less water than physical evidence. In an American crime drama, Dong Shik would have called in the police, who would have had a warrant as a result to search the property, which would have led to digging up the back yard, finding Min Ha’s corpse in a shallow grave, and that, likely would have been that. The way show reveals all that seems to indicate that the mere evidence would not lead to a conviction and in fact had Dong Shik been caught laying out the cut fingers in store’s front as he is by the audience, Dong Shik would likely given the suspicions about his part in the killing of his sister, been the likely suspect. Because American justice, at least in drama, seems to be so much less about confession, so much more about physical evidence, and we as audience catch Dong Shik redhanded, making his fit in front of Jin Woo feel complete bull pucky, led to my alienation of characters in the story. I already thought that Jin Woo was a sketchy cop with an even sketchier dad all part of the cop corruption trope, but when the lead is presented in such a light, with the hyperbolic sociopathic behavior and expression I spoke of earlier, I could not really get why someone would want to hang with such creeps over the course of the long series
. But as it turns out I completely agree with the awards givers and everyone else Shin Hya Kun puts in an absolutely breathtaking, mesmerizing, iconic, role of a lifetime kind of performance in this, and really carries the whole.

Trent
8 days ago
Reply to  BE

Wow, really outstanding commentary, BE, thanks for taking the time to write it all out.

I agree with an awful lot of what you say here. I think I would have rated the show just a tetch higher because of something you touch on: you say you’ve watched a lot of crime thrillers over the years and are somewhat jaded as a result. For me, on the other hand, crime thrillers have never really been a big part of my entertainment or diversionary consumption, so I feel much less jaded, or much less familiar with the tropes and conventions, if you will, when I do sit down to engage with one. So it probably all feels a bit fresher and more innovative to me.

(I think a similar dynamic was at play with Flower of Evil (also a serial killer crime thriller), which I really really liked–one of my top dramas from last year–but KFG rated a bit lower in her review, I think at least in part because she’d seen so many more, not necessarily crime dramas as such, but just dramas with the full range of tropes and surprises, so that Flower of Evil‘s twists and dynamic and what she (probably rightly) termed its lapses of logic seemed less forgivable, engaging, or innovative than to a newbie’s fresh eyes).

I completely get what you say about the inherent problematic nature, the distastefullness, of relying on the serial killer trope as the basis for our entertainment. Particularly when so often it has a baked in element of misogyny, as our sociopathic villain preys on (usually young) women. I believe I had a comment along similar lines as we were watching this over on the Patreon, and I think KFG had a pretty good insight, which (to paraphrase) is that Show does at least somewhat ameliorate this issue by not gratuitously wallowing in the gruesomeness and dwelling on the violence. There is some, sure, probably impossible to avoid, but unlike I think some other shows I’ve seen, it doesn’t revel in the cruelty and the terror-and-violence-for-its-own-sake atmosphere. Or at least, that’s my impression.

Kay
Kay
15 days ago

Wow! Such high praise 🙂 This one is on my list since Yeo Jin Goo is one of my must watch actors. I heard it was really dark though, so I’ve been holding off since I’m in the mood for lighter fare these days. It certainly sounds really dark! Glad to know you enjoyed it so much even though you don’t usually gravitate towards this genre 🙂

BE
BE
16 days ago

Thanks to everyone posting here and because I tend to trust K implicitly, thinking about her comments on lens, and Trent plus all of you who responded to me, I started show again, this time more patiently and with greater confidence (also all this talk about “bromance,” seemingly at odds with everything early in show also allowed me to hang fire on my judgments), and it is as if I am watching an entirely different show than the first two times around and am finding myself quite captivated by it. So once again, thanks all.

Trent
16 days ago
Reply to  BE

Ooh, I love this, BE. I hope you’re able to continue through with enjoyment and keep feeling captivated! Like I said, I felt quite lost the first few episodes, but for some reason nevertheless didn’t feel bored, and then somehow it started to all come together and I was a very captive audience from there. Just another atmospheric, well-shot, beautifully-acted show, I thought.

And as KFG and others noted, the bromance is real, for sure, but it’s subtle, you kind of have to look for it in the interstices, even intuit it in a few places. But once you’re in tune with these characters’ emotional vibe and wavelength…it’s there.

Tara Yeo
Tara Yeo
16 days ago

Hello, kfangirl! I’ve been waiting for your review on this phenomenal series for ages! Thank you, I enjoyed reading it. I just would be dropping two things based on what I’ve read.

  1. Beyond evil is not a crime thriller. It’s a psychological thriller, that’s why it’s not that dark as what you expect it should have been. 
  2. Lee Yu Yeon was not dragged by Han Ki Hwan. She was thrown on the other side of the road after she was hit by his car. If you’ll take a look back on the said scene, she was already on the other side of the road, parallel to Chief Han’s car, when the latter was revealed to be the culprit.

 And thank you so much for giving the series an A rating! Really well-deserved rating! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

Last edited 16 days ago by Tara Yeo
Lee Tennant
Lee Tennant
16 days ago

Such an amazing drama and I’m so glad I watched it.

Lee Tennant
Lee Tennant
16 days ago
Reply to  Lee Tennant

Also if you watched this, does this mean you’re finally going to watch Forest of Secrets???

Deeja
16 days ago

I already watched this once it enters Netflix. I was very curious because this drama nominated to & win many awards.

I thought if Flower of Evil was a masterpiece, Beyond Evil must’ve been way better. And truly Beyond Evil amazed me!

This drama introduces me to Yeo Jin Goo😅 I’ve been binge-watching his dramas ever since. The Crowned Clown is a must watch.

Hope to see more of him in thriller genre.

I’m currently rewatching this drama with my hubby who hasn’t watch it yet. It’s not easy to get him watching kdrama (even Vincenzo, Strangers & Flower of Evil don’t appeal much to him)

But with Beyond Evil, this drama hooked him big time! Ha!

Last edited 16 days ago by Deeja
wonhwa
wonhwa
16 days ago
Reply to  Deeja

I am also trying to convince my husband to watch this. I think he’d love it if I can convince him to start it.

eri
eri
20 days ago

i think i can answer some of your questions

1) jihoon tipping off the reporters and claiming it as his way of helping dongsik: i see it as his way of letting the press in on the situation so that they could help with ‘an innocent person being taken in for a crime he did not commit’. jihoon, ironically, could not trust the police with dongsik bcs yk the track record, they have always wanted to pin the murders on dongsik and he was their favourite suspect both 20 years ago with juseon and yuyeon, and also with sangyeob. so he tip off the reporters as his last resort.

2) [A]joowon’s surety about dongsik being the murderer. he suspected others (jeongje) but only thought of them as ‘accomplice’ bcs obviously, dongsik had to be the prime suspect, the reason he came to manyang in the first place.[B] joowon’s empathy towards the victims and their families also led to his tunnel vision and ultimately him failing in suspecting jinmook in the beginning. i see him as a person who couldnt care less about others not until they are the victims of the society. his views on jaeyi changed drastically after he came to know that she was missing person family and also the way he let jinmook hold his hands when thats smth his mysophobia doesnt allow. [C] for the drama, bcs yk they wouldnt want the viewers to see jinmook as the suspect so that the revelation comes off as a shock.

3)i believe minjeong and jaeyi were particularly close. the way they both went to the sauna together, jaeyi gifting her a towel for which they both went shopping together, jaeyi knowing the details about minjeong even down to how she used to tie her towel in a bow and then the 2 main characters going to jaeyi to know more about minjeong all pointing to close they must have been. so jaeyi knowing the passcode to her cell phone didnt budge me

4)the events in ep 7 where dongsik finds the cell phone in the kimchi urn are in the past, the future to which was in ep 3 where jihwa and company finds the burner phone and call joowon in for an interrogation.
to sum it up, dongsik found geumhwa’s burner phone in the kimchi urn the day minjeong was murdered and he planted the phone on mount simju where the police found it and ran a forensic test on it and jihwa called joowon for an interrogation. so thats the same burner phone

5)thats the modus operandi as you mentioned. he buried them all at a place where nobody could even imagine them to be, the safest place where nobody would look into. so whenever a person went missing they looked everywhere expect the place that person lives in bcs thats normal and it would serve the narrative of the bodies never being found. as for jaeyi, we know she went to far off places and clubs looking for her mom, that could be when he buried her mother in the backyard. i think this mustve been the easiest for jinmook since he could move in and out of that butchers shop without raising any questions since, well, the manyangs were all a family.

6) i dont know how the law works for the guardian rights, but cremation or burying depends on the family mostly bcs religion? beliefs? idk how to put it out the right way. kang minjeongs case was quite a closed case since they found the criminal red handed, all what was needed was him being indicted. after the autopsy nothing really remained that required minjeong to be buried and not cremated so i guess that could be it, (but mostly what i mentioned earlier).

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
20 days ago

As opposed to KFG, crime thrillers are something I do gravitate to, but good ones are so hard to come by (like Signal). Some start off compellingly well then lets me down along the way (not exactly crime genre but Flower of Evil and When the Camellia Blooms come to mind). Some have a penchant for way too much gore and human filth (Tell Me What You Saw—but I loved Jang Hyuk in it!), while some are just plain bad (Voice—not even my love for Jang Hyuk can salvage it). And then there are those series that receive a lot of love but are just alright with me (like Stranger/Secret Forest). 

Good thing I have been on an unintentional Yeo Jin Goo binge these past four months (My Absolute Boyfriend, The Crowned Clown, House on Wheels) and naturally couldn’t resist watching Beyond Evil. Turns out this is one of those rare cases when all key components that make a drama great (writing, directing, acting) align and bring out the best in each other.

I believe that at the top of the many things that make Beyond Evil special (and there are many!) is the well-researched and vivid portrayal of the trauma that family members deal with in cases of disappearances. It was also lovingly, respectfully done—never exploitative. I personally know of several people dealing with the involuntary disappearance of loved ones and the way the drama highlighted their despair and the various ways they cope is spot on. Time is frozen for those who wait and while they may look normal on the outside, their grief is ever present, just beneath the surface. 

With that said, my attention did wander off the tiniest bit during the last 2-3 episodes but this doesn’t subtract from the drama’s excellence as a whole. The characters were written so well and all the actors complemented this by bringing each to life with their own quirks and nuances, I can’t think of a single weak link amongst them. I particularly have a… fondness? for Chairman Lee, his mannerisms and his unabashed constant flirting with his ex-wife. He’s my favorite bad guy in Beyond Evil and probably in the recent k-dramas I’ve watched.

Also, for shows that rely on big reveals, I normally wouldn’t be as interested to watch it again. In Beyond Evil’s case, I have just finished this last night and now I’m open for a rewatch (hopefully with someone who hasn’t).

One very superficial complaint I have is that I noticed Shin Ha Hyun looks way older than he is (actual age and age in the drama). But that’s just me nitpicking.

Shahz
Shahz
20 days ago

What a show! And such a solid and satisfying ending. With crime dramas you always tend to find the ending slightly underwhelming or a loose end here and there.

Spoiler
And that handcuff scene. So beautifully acted. The best scene I have seen all year closely followed by when they cry in each others arms at Chief Nam’s death. So glad that they are in each other lives and how fantastic that Joo Won was working with a Women’s group and the fact that he picked up Dong Sik’s work as well. Loved the fact they were going to stay in each other lives. Even at the end Dong Sik winding up Joo Won like a naughty older sibling.

Last edited 20 days ago by kfangurl
Ally
21 days ago

I’m definitely going to binge this one the next time I have time to devote several hours at a time to this. I like a well done crime drama, and have had my eye on this one since I knew Yoo Jin Goo was starring in it. I do better binging them though. I also am excited you’ll cover Bossam! I do want you to check out @wishfultoki’s WordPress blog, “THE SAGEUK CLUB,” which she started just for this show. There’s a lot of great historical information on it that will make watching this more enjoyable.

BE
BE
21 days ago

I am amazed at your past two day output. Egad! Hardest working person in the blog business (an understatement)!

I did not read much except your intro because I have tried to watch show twice and never could get beyond episode six. Maybe I will give it one more try sometime later. Obviously you are not alone in your praise of show. Insofar as I know I am one of handful of people in the world that just did not get it. And I like crime-thrillers, been reading them and watching them in film and on tv for as long as I can remember in my life, albeit I find myself gravitating far more in the direction of such shows produced in the states or Europe. I will say I did like the underrated gem Nobody Knows, a Kim Seo Yeung vehicle from last year.

My big question for folks who liked show has to do with my difficulty with it. Did anyone watching really like any of the characters? I have been told I should make it to episode eight when it really takes off and the relationship between the two leads eventually becomes twisty and interesting, but I found every character, most of all the two leads, completely distasteful. The best crime thrillers I have seen or read over the decades always have characters, or at the least one character, that I could sympathize with, sometimes even the crooks therein, but through episode six, I could not get invested in a one in this. Everyone seemed so skeezy. Of course, I felt similarly about the cast of characters in Money Flower as well, so it goes to show what I know.

learjet1
learjet1
21 days ago
Reply to  BE

I can answer your question about liking the characters. It wasn’t until the second half of the drama that I starting liking (or hating) any of the characters because so much is hidden about each character and only revealed very gradually. I starting feeling empathy as the episodes past whereas early on, it was about the plot, the atmosphere and the opaqueness of the drama. I actually found it quite heavy going to episode 10 but stuck it out because it’s so well done. At that point, I got more emotionally engaged. I have to add that the acting of both the MLs in episode 15 and 16 was breathtaking. Some of the best I’ve even seen. Watching those two together is a privilege and joy.

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
20 days ago
Reply to  BE

I love the characters in Beyond Evil—our two antagonistic leads and their tight-knit circle of co-workers/friends and even some of the repulsive bad guys (i.e. Chairman Lee).

In comparison, I think there is nothing likable with nearly all of the Money Flower characters. Most of them have their own selfish agenda and aren’t recovering from anything remotely traumatic. Our lead Kang Pil Joo has a tragic past and is such a loner as an adult, how I wish he had the support of a good group of friends like those in Beyond Evil.

I don’t get the (others’) recommendation for you to wait until halfway through the series though. I think if you don’t find it compelling/enjoyable enough during the first few episodes, the second act of the show won’t make that big of a difference in raising your assessment of it. So I say no need to give it another try (even though I loved the show to bits).

On a separate tangent, I’ve been dying to recommend to you the “variety show” House on Wheels with (what I know is) your/our favorite Sung Dong Il plus Kim Hee Won and Yeo Jin Goo. I have only watched less than five korean variety shows in all of my drama watching years because I don’t like the usual format of silly games, fake laughs and what-not. House on Wheels is such a nice show for me, nothing much happening but gives me a smile every time (especially season 1).

wonhwa
wonhwa
20 days ago
Reply to  BE

I absolutely loved both main characters, but part of what I loved about them is that they were complicated, prickly, messy and not “likeable” in the traditional sense. I also loved that their relationship was always uncomfortable, even when it became clear that a deep unspoken emotional bond had developed between them. I expected either a classic protagonist/antagonist relationship or a more standard opposites attract buddy cop duo, and the show was so much more interesting for opting for neither of these approaches. That being said, that’s not a choice that will necessarily work for everyone.

Trent
21 days ago

Another great review; you’ll be unsurprised to hear that I agree with it pretty much down the line, including the final grade.

This was a (very pleasant) surprise; I hadn’t been intending to check this out until it picked up three awards at the Baeksang, at which point I felt like I kind of had to investigate the hype. It turns out that this is really really well done, not least because, like another twisty serial killer crime thriller that I’m very very fond of (Flower of Evil), it’s as much a character study as it is a crime thriller.

One interesting thing was that I felt this was a fairly slow burn in the early episodes: show and writer are confident enough with where they’re headed that they kind of meander around, throwing out misdirection and chaff with abandon for a few episodes. It’s a testament to the quality level that I didn’t feel bored or annoyed with the slow burn, but I wasn’t particularly confident that I had any sort of accurate idea where it was going.

But then, wow, did it draw the threads together with a vengeance! I still get shivers thinking of that episode 7, what a tour de force that was. I was on the edge of my seat for pretty much the entire episode, right up to the explosive conclusion. And how many crime thrillers have the moxie to actually solve what appears to be the central mystery–who dunnit?–by the 7th episode of a 16 episode show? Where does it go from there? (as we found out, it had a lot of places to go, and the reveals and layers were by no means done).

This was so well acted; all of the actors and roles you highlighted are well deserving of the praise. Like you, I was particularly impressed with Jae-yi, and the job that Choi Sung-eun did with the role as a near rookie (she got a nomination for Best New Actress at the Baeksang for this role); I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what she’s up to in the future.

All in all, highly recommended.