[2017 Year in Review] Let the darkness consume you
Strong Woman Do Bong-soon
I always tell people that my favorite dramas are the dark thrillers. Not that I don’t appreciate a good romantic comedy here and there, but there’s something about grim, murderous lunatics that gets me going in ways that rom-coms just can’t accomplish (you know, in a totally well-adjusted, non-psychopathic sense). This year in particular I found myself gravitating to the dark side more and more.
Maybe it was the fact that I’m now one semester from graduating college and will soon face the cold, harsh realities of proper adulthood, so I was taking the time now to prepare myself for all the undoubtedly bleak truths I am about to uncover. Whatever the case may be, 2017 didn’t disappoint with its delivery of soul-crushing misery to wallow in throughout the year. But enough about American politics, let’s get to the dramas!
Given the preponderance of serial killers permeating the airwaves this year (well, let’s be honest, there seem to be quite a few of them every year), it seems fitting to start with perhaps the most skin-crawling, monstrous killer I’ve had the pleasure of encountering.
For all of Voice’s faults, Kim Jae-wook’s portrayal of complete psychopath Mo Tae-gu is definitely a high point for the show. Everything from his unbelievably brutal methods of killing, to his deranged obsession with toying with Kang Kwon-joo and Moo Jin-hyuk after the fact, to his commanding, intimidating presence every second he was on screen, all combined so perfectly to form what can only be described as a pure demon.
Coupled with the extraordinary level of violence that Voice was willing to present, Mo Tae-gu soared to levels of heinousness heretofore untouched. I mean who has a separate house specifically so they can callously bludgeon people to death for their own sick enjoyment?
If only the show’s actual premise didn’t fall flat for me, since I could never really buy into our heroes’ stories beyond the obvious “catching the bad guy is good.” It’s a shame because this villain with a better surrounding narrative could have led to a really cool, interesting drama instead of one that left me largely disappointed.
Some killers, though, were lucky enough to find themselves in dramas that managed to also contain excellent stories of their own. I somehow managed to be out of the loop on the true nature of Tunnel’s Dr. Mok until the moment of the big reveal. Something about killers hiding in plain sight like that always tickles my fancy.
What was nice though, was that in spite of me missing the truth all along, upon rewatch it was plainly obvious to me that the signs were all there and I was just blind. Part of the reason I trusted Dr. Mok so foolishly was that I found him interesting as a character even before his murderous ways were apparent. One of the most effective strategies for making a narrative intriguing is to make both sides of the conflict interesting enough to foster your investment in the story, and Tunnel manages to do that with the eccentric doctor.
Sure, maybe the show suffers from being a bit too similar to Signal, but watching Kwang-ho and company match wits with a capable foe like Dr. Mok is a lot more entertaining than if they were up against a more one-dimensional killer like, say, the killer from Strong Woman Do Bong-soon (not that these shows are in any way comparable). Dr. Mok might not foster the sense of dread that Mo Tae-gu brought to Voice, but he makes up for it by being a more compelling character who is more involved with the case than simply being the perpetrator.
Now, interestingly, the creepiest villain of the year wasn’t even a murderer at all. Well, not directly at least. No villain could match Rescue Me’s Father Baek in the creep factor. Turns out that preying on young women and manipulating people into slavishly adhering to your every word is pretty creepy. I mean he even convinced his followers to willingly consume water he used to wash himself with. I mean, why do that? That’s just gross.
Father Baek’s eerie, lecherous misdeeds enhanced the dreary, somber atmosphere that characterized the world of Rescue Me from start to finish. And what a gloomy world it was to sink into. I think it’s safe to say that no other drama this year managed to cultivate the overwhelming sense of complete despair that gushed from every pore of Rescue Me. Even the successful rescue of Sang-mi and her mother from the confines of Guseonwon came couched with depressing realizations that not everyone could be saved from the grasp of the cult, or the corruption brought on by the desire for power over others.
Though I spent a large portion of this year enveloped in these dark dramas, I consider 2017 to be a considerably positive year for myself as a person. Not only am I on the verge of (finally) finishing school, but I was given the incredible opportunity to share my thoughts with the amazing Dramabeans community as a recapper. I can’t give enough thanks to all the awesome people who take their time to read my insane ramblings and share their thoughts in the comments section. It’s an honor to be even a small part of this site and I look forward to a new year of exciting dramas to experience with all of you!
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