Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Drama Reviews - Forest of Secrets/Stranger (2017)

The first 2017 drama I've watched! Actually started on Dear My Friends after Age Of Youth because I wanted a similar vibe about friendships, but DMF is super draining on my emotions and not great for marathoning, so I looked for something else. Saw a lot of people recommending Forest of Secrets/Secret Forest/Stranger (LOL why so many names) and hyping it to be even better than Signal, plus I saw that crazy cast, so I watched the 1st ep and was hooked. Thankfully, I marathoned it just in time for the last episodes so no wait agonisation here. It was GREAT.

The story starts with a murder, which brings Prosecutor Hwang Shi Mok (Jo Seung Woo) in acquaintance with Lieutenant Han Yeo Jin (Bae Doona) from the police, and they slowly start to work with each other to unravel more and more secrets behind the victim, the prosecution service & police force. 

(Spoilers abound!)

I was surprised when I saw the cast because I have not been following drama news for awhile and was shocked they not only got Jo Seung Woo, a critically acclaimed actor who usually does musicals, but Bae Doona, who has been acting in foreign productions and films only for a long time. And thankfully these 2 got casted, because these complex characters could have been ruined in the hands of lesser actors.

Shi Mok, as an 'emotionless' prosecutor, could easily be wooden, stiff and boring. But he wasn't. He kept his poker face, but had the teeeeeniest of microexpressions and never felt wooden. (reminds me of Han Yeri's amazing performance as poker face Jin Myung in AoY).

And Yeo Jin, as a more cheerful police officer, could have been made into a really irritating character. But Bae Doona won me over and Yeo Jin is one of the best female characters I've seen in dramaland. She's smart enough to draw links and conclusions, strong enough to outrun men & fight baddies, empathetic enough to read the emotions of others and support them, and upright enough to fight for what she thinks is right. Plus, her drawing skills gave us much needed lols & awws (the last drawing!!)

The other characters were well fleshed out too. My favourite is Lee Chang Joon, acted so superbly well by Yoo Jae Myung. I love how till the final episode, we're still guessing if he's good or not. And he was both.
Eunsoo was a very controversial character. I understood her intentions, but she was too young, too rash, too reckless. But I liked the fact that she's a smart female character, and that Eunsoo & Yeojin never had any real romantic rivalry.
Seo Dong Jae, well he's a snake, an unintentionally funny snake with his shamelessness, and Lee Joon Hyuk acted him okay-ish, though I think he paled in comparison to the rest around him.
Yoon Sewon is a really sad character and I felt for him even when he was revealed to be the killer. No doubt due to great acting by Lee Kyu Hyung (who looks alot like Jo In Sung, right?), especially when his lips were quivering during the confession scene.

Of course, good actors would be nothing without a good script. And this script was so so SO good. On top of well written, morally grey characters, the script was so tightly plotted with every clue having a meaning. Riveting is an understatement. Honestly, I read the recaps before I watched the episodes because I wanted to take note of every clue on my first watch (since I don't really have time to rewatch), and this really helped elevate my appreciation for the well thought out script.
My favourite part of the writing would have to be Lee Chang Joon's last words in the final episode. So beautifully poetic, and so apt for a country that has just undergone a huge shock last year regarding the President, and has seen many other instances where the rich & powerful abused the system, misused the people's money and caused unnecessary deaths.

Lastly, directing was solid. There were some points the camera was shaking so much I couldn't tell if it was intentional (but probably not), so that was a minus point. But that's just me being picky and in general, the scenes were well shot. And thankfully, OSTs were cut to the minimum, which really made the drama feel like a long film.

Forest of Secrets is definitely not to be missed, even among the countless dramas dealing with prosecutors and corruption nowadays. I picked such a high quality drama for my first 2017 drama that it'll be hard for others to top this :/