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)
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.
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