Time Between Dog and Wolf: A Review
It took me a while to get around to this drama, but I finally did. Yay – old drama checked off my list! I’m glad I watched it, because in a way I got to see how action dramas worked in 2007, and compared it to the more recent dramas of late (think IRIS, ATHENA, and City Hunter). I have to admit I went into the drama with pretty low expectations; when I watched the first episode years ago, I couldn’t sit through the first half-hour. I was bored to death. But with nothing to do except some snuggling against my couch and huddling under a blanket, I sat through the entire first episode – and the entire series.
This drama has almost every melodramatic cliche you could squeeze into a 16-episode revenge/action drama, which is both its strong point and its weakest. While the fast pace of the drama helps keep the tensions high, it has more plot holes and crazy plot lines than I could keep track of. It also fluctuated between the story being propelled forward, and then stretches of meandering about as characters dance around the truth but never really get there. But perhaps a summary is in order for those who haven’t seen this series.
Lee Soo Hyun (Lee Jun Ki) was raised in Bangkok by his widowed mother, who worked tirelessly as a prosecutor, trying to bring the Jung Triad to justice after the untimely death of her husband (an NIS agent). Her investigations and police operations attract too much attention, and the Jung Triad decides to swiftly eliminate her.
It also doesn’t help that one of the higher-ups, Mao Liwarat (Choi Jae Sung), just lost his wife and daughter Ari to Seo Young Kil (Jung Sung Mo), one of his underlings. Young Kil made a deal with Soo Hyun’s mother where he would be given safe passage to Korea with Mao’s family (whom he loves dearly) in exchange for information about a scheduled drug sale. So Mao is filled with vengeance when he goes to kill the mother – point blank, and right in front of Soo Hyun’s eyes.
Mao, wearing a Thai costume mask, aims to kill again, but Soo Hyun holds his hand over the nozzle of the gun, holding his mother’s last gift: his father’s broken watch. Moved, and unable to shoot a child in the face, he leaves, but not before Soo Hyun remembers the tattoo on his arm. Soo Hyun had met Mao before when he walked Ari home, and shook hands with him, but guess he never saw the tattoo then…
Ari is forced to leave her home and her newfound friend for Seoul; she never had issue with her father, who was the best father he could be, but she wanted her long-suffering mother to be happy as well. Likewise, Soo Hyun’s parents’ friend Kang Joong Ho (Lee Ki Young) adopts Soo Hyun as his own and takes him to Korea.
His son Min Ki (Jung Kyung Ho) doesn’t have much of a problem with Soo Hyun, but dislikes that Soo Hyun is so distant and cold. He just wants to be friends!! They get into a schoolyard scuffle, and then get caned by the father at home. Joong Ho’s wife and son think that he would never hit Soo Hyun because he’s not his real son and is favored, but Joong Ho whips the boy for his insolence. Bonding moment — and Soo Hyun becomes a real part of their family.
Time passes. They grow up, and Min Ki and Soo Hyun become NIS agents just like their fathers. Min Ki is the troublemaker, being the more lazy agent, and so he ends up in the data mining section. Soo Hyun is quiet but brilliant, and super sharp – he becomes a field agent. It’s a testament to their bond as brothers that neither side is jealous, and neither is surprised by Min Ki’s playboy ways.
They bump into Seo Ji Woo (Nam Sang Mi) accidentally, with Min Ki pursuing her as a love interest, and Soo Hyun in the middle. But when the two old friends recognize each other and reunite, Min Ki can’t stand in the way of their sparkling chemistry. Or more like, Ji Woo’s enthrallment with Soo Hyun, and Soo Hyun’s indifference.
Soo Hyun is assigned a reconnaissance case against the Jung Triad and Mao, who have arrived in Korea in hopes of expanding their market and establishing a hub there. He’s nervous as he plants a camera bug, but then is in for the shock of his life when he recognizes Mao’s tattoo.
He goes rogue, attempting to kill Mao himself, and fires his gun against him. It’s caught on tape – and caught by Min Ki as he reviews the case, no less – and he is subsequently fired. Soo Hyun goes to Thailand immediately, and is followed by Ji Woo and Min Ki, who know he’s plotting revenge.
Soo Hyun tries and fails, and gets hurt, and then goes home. Director Jung, the chief of NIS, recognizes his talent and thirst for revenge, and offers him a position as a narc – he will go deep undercover in Thailand and attempt to infiltrate the Jung Triad. Commence Infernal Affairs plot, with a dash of Amnesia, a heavy dose of Denial and Revenge, a teaspoon of Brothers Reuniting, and a sprinkle of Final Showdown with a Twist.
This drama has loads of Lee Jun Ki at his best, or should I say, trying his best? Whether it’s making spinning kicks or besting others at “Who can shoot first?” he always looks impressive and cool as he does it. Just how I like my heroes. However, there were moments of him screaming in despair or agony that had me wondering, “Are you screaming because this is all too much? Too over-the-top?”
Jung Kyung Ho holds up his end admirably, going from dorky to badass agent when he tries to take Soo Hyun’s place in NIS. The best part is putting the two of them together; together you have a wonderful bromance that shows how much they love each other and support each other.
Despite all the lies and betrayals, I’m glad that Min Ki quickly gets over it because he realizes that 1) he has his brother’s back, and 2) he understands his brother’s need for revenge. I think this drama had too many episodes with them not together, which totally sucked.
In regards to the love triangle though, because Jung Kyung Ho played Min Ki so well, I really wished that he ended up with Ji Woo. Though he threw tantrums when she couldn’t let go of Soo Hyun’s memory, he tried so hard to win her hand. He was a good guy, and I felt bad that Ji Woo wouldn’t accept him.
As for Soo Hyun, I never felt his love for Ji Woo – I think he lacked any chemistry with Nam Sang Mi, despite the drama claiming otherwise. Nam Sang Mi herself was quite annoying – she was always getting in the way of Soo Hyun and Min Ki’s plans, and I just wanted her to shut up and wait until the fighting was over. Though she saved Soo Hyun a couple of times, she also put him in a lot of danger too. Grr – I guess because I didn’t like her character, I didn’t like how these two guys were fighting over her.
[SPOILERS AHEAD] The drama had some crazy plot lines and plot holes that raised more questions as I watched than answered. I mean – when Soo Hyun comes back from the dead in the movie theater, the first thing the agents do is arrest him. Really? You don’t pause and stare mid-punch, crying: “Is that you, Soo Hyun!? Welcome back, buddy!”
Granted, you all asked once, “Is that Soo Hyun?” as you stared at him through the one-way glass, but it falls flat because no one even wants to pursue the possibility with a DNA test. It’s like in Ocean’s Twelve, when Matt Damon makes a passing remark that George Clooney’s wife looks like Julia Roberts. Umm, duh?! At least in Ocean’s Twelve, they do something about the likeness; in Time, they don’t.
Soo Hyun even conveniently gets amnesia, and at that point in the drama (around Episodes 6-8), I felt the series was dragging its feet. Things didn’t make sense – I kept asking myself, “Wait, don’t Mao and Soo Hyun recognize each other already? There are so many signs!” or “Shouldn’t he have seen that watch earlier?”
And then nearer to the end, I wondered, “How’d the Chief survive that flash bomb in his office?” and “Was Mao’s bodyguard Giraffe a double agent too or something?” and “Why the hell do we find out now that Mao and Soo Hyun’s father were friends?” At that point it was such an unnecessary detail that I wish they didn’t include that connection. The drama would have been fine without it.
It was ridiculousness built upon ridiculousness, to the point that when I reached the end, I was willing to buy everything despite my questions because there were too many gaps and potential plot wells to keep track of. “Don’t you know that already?” and “Oh, now you know?” were constant refrains in my head.
I felt the show didn’t pick up again until around Episode 13, when every episode after that had a better cliffhanger than the last. It’s like they got a whole new scriptwriter and editor for the final episodes, because suddenly the story was quicker, more exciting, and wrapping up its story.
Once Soo Hyun remembered who he was, allied with his brother, and their plans came to fruition, the wait became worth it. I don’t like the ending because it was so cheesy, and yet, I love how Min Ki and Soo Hyun essentially became their fathers, and Soo Hyun continued being a narc. In the end, I only cared about these two brothers.
I don’t mean to bash this drama, since I do think that because it was so short, and was trying to move as quickly as possible, it kind of glazed over a bunch of details. I will give this drama some props for developing solid characters like Min Ki, Soo Hyun, and even Ji Woo (as annoying as she was). It had a great supporting cast in Sung Ji Roo, Lee Tae Sung, and Kim Gab Soo, all of whom made me feel sympathy, made me smack my lips in deliciousness, and made me love to hate, respectively.
At its core, Dog/Wolf was about revenge, and yet it got sidetracked with the side story of Soo Hyun trying to take down the Triad in forgettable ways (except the time he finally teams up with his brother – see, two heads are better than one!). I’ll draw some parallels to more recent shows. IRIS took a little diversion with the whole NIS takeover, which was important, but all you really wanted was for Hyun Joon to just get chief Baek San already!
It also makes me appreciate City Hunter more, because it had a well-thought-out plot with enough twists that weren’t dropped in the last five minutes to keep me interested. City Hunter was also about revenge, but its plot of going against five men was actually laid out better than this drama’s plot of going after one man. Time Between Dog and Wolf is a drama that marks its time in 2007 – it’s a drama that makes me appreciate the later action dramas, which had less ambitious plots, but more focused storytelling.
If I were to ever watch this drama again, it would be because of Lee Jun Ki and Jung Kyung Ho’s bromance. I might just watch the first five episodes over and over again, and then skip to Episode 13. Anything with the two of them is worth it; episodes with them apart just makes the drama fall apart.
- Behind the scenes of Arang and the Magistrate
- Arang and the Magistrate: Episode 1
- Lee Jun-ki gets into character as the magistrate
- Lee Jun-ki’s first post-army shoot
- Nam Sang-mi in January’s Sure magazine
- Light and Shadow’s groovy ’60s-themed promos
- No drama at the 2008 Seoul Drama Awards
- Scene analyses and comparisons: Sam-Girl-Wolf-Rose edition