Korean Drama Review: Stranger (2017)

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The Korean crime-drama “Stranger” is engrossing. It doesn’t have the cliche K-drama cliffhangers but does a very effective job gripping at my binge-watching attention. It’s unpredictable storyline kept me addicted, had me guessing and left me stunned.

Network: tvN / Netflix (international)
Year: 2017
Episodes: 16
Runtime: Saturday & Sunday
Cast: Cho Seung-woo, Bae Doona, Lee Joon-hyuk
Where to watch: Netflix

To say this was the best crime drama tvN produced would be my lying to myself. But I would rate it on the same tiers as Signal, Bad Guys and Squad 38 – all dramas from other tvN seasons.

Though “Stranger” details a prosecutor’s take on upholding the law, the show has the ability to humanize each person’s choices, whether right or wrong, creating a sense of familiar realism for us to empathize with.

“Stranger” starts in the weeds of an investigation: Hwang Shi-mok (Cho Seung-woo) investigates the murder of a powerful broker who made a fortune bribing public officials and providing prostitutes. Shi-mok’s initial investigation indicts the wrong suspect, resulting in the suspect committing suicide in order to ‘prove his innocence’. The mishap of the investigation wrecks havoc and a special investigations team is created to correctly right the wrongs.

As a teen, Shi-mok underwent brain surgery that took away the part of his mind that processes emotions. Hence, the show maintains a calm and collected atmosphere that accentuate the stoic mentality of Shi-mok’s character. The show lacks in romance – albeit that could change in Season 2 – but makes up for it in political ingenious. The acting is done superbly by Cho Seung-woo, whose character later on starts to develop emotions that we may see more of in season 2.

Ahn Gil-Ho’s directional pace keeps the climax steadily growing with constant revelations and twists. I normally get bored with dramas where the foe is known and its a matter of episodes before the lead figures out what I already knew. That’s why I thoroughly enjoyed following the investigation in “Stranger”. In their world, I’m one of them. I’m just as confused, if not more. As they tried to figure things out, I was by their side doing the same. It’s refreshing as its purpose of being a thriller allowed it to succeed and shock me.

But the best part is yet to be realized, and only after I watched the last episode did I realize how neatly all the pieces fell in line and how inquisitively cynical I was the moment my rollercoaster ride ended. Was this show trying to tell me something beyond what I already knew? “Stranger” does such a good job complicating situations that maybe that can be said of people too. People are complicated and maybe what we know of them aren’t always what it looks like.

If you are interested in other crime drama reviews, click here!

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