Disclaimer: If you haven’t watched the first two episode of this drama, there will be spoilers for those in this review.
Native Title: 왓쳐
Release Date: July 6th, 2019 (released every Sat and Sun)
Episode #: 16 hour long episodes
Director: Ahn Gill Ho (Stranger, Memories of the Alhambra)
Writer: Han Sang Woon (The Good Wife)
Starring: Han Seok Kyu, Seo Kang Joon, and Kim Hyun Joo. Rest of the cast can be found here.
Fitting to be firing back up the first impressions posts with this drama, as the last one that I wrote was for another Seo Kang Joon drama, Are you Human Too. Watcher was high on my watch list out of the new crop of dramas for the month because of two reasons: this is an OCN drama and I tend to enjoy their dramas more than the other networks, and because I very much enjoyed Seo Kang Joon’s performance in Are You Human Too. I was excited to see him in another drama that was in a genre I much more preferred than his last drama, Third Charm. The kid has talent for his age, and I enjoy watching it.
Crime dramas, in general, are what I gravitate towards the most as far as a specific genre. I like stories that involve puzzles and require the audience to be figuring out the clues with the characters to find out what is actually happening. In general, this is mostly seen and done better in crime dramas as opposed to any other genre, and it’s why I tend to favor them most. If the crime drama doesn’t have that element, I’m much more likely to not get invested and drop it all together. For this drama, however, that was very much not the case.
The drama captured me from the very beginning. I was very much intrigued by what was going on and what was happening with the storyline. I’ve noticed there are a lot of times in dramas that I tend to be slightly bored, or let my mind wander, and this was not the case for this one. From the very beginning when we see Young Goon as a young child sitting wrapped in a blanket at the police station with headless adults asking him questions about his father and flashes of his helpless mother dying, it sucks me into the story and the why’s.
I’ve always enjoyed stories where there is the “competent underdog” of sorts, the mistreated when they are in fact good at what they do. You see glimpses of that in Chi Kwang. He is banished to the basement where there’s not even a working water cooler, no other staff to help because of the position he is in. And yet, he is known by others for his work. He has the basement office because there are higher ups that know his worth in the precinct, he is there because he hasn’t been entirely written off and this is all they could do. The Internal Affairs department is by default a department (whether it is liked or not) an essential one, and highly important especially while police corruption cases are at a high. The series touches on the public perception a lot and although it can be said he was put there because it was a much hated job internally, things can be said for allowing him to be the one calling the shots there.
Corruption in police is a trope that I don’t tend to enjoy as much. It’s on par with the “bumbling idiot” cop, as I start to really empathize with the innocent on how those in power and that are there to help them are clearly failing them. However, with this drama I did not mind it. I wonder if it is because of how closely of a tied connection it is for all the characters that there is a sense of the victims taking back the power that pushes me through it? Whatever it is, it’s working.
One of the elements that this drama does well, and is highly effective is it’s use of flashbacks. Every drama has them, it’s something we can’t get away from, but in this drama it is used to pull you into the mind of the characters. The flashbacks aren’t really for us. On the surface, yes - they help you fill in the clues as to what’s going on especially with a drama that has a lot of story that shaped what it is today from the past, but the flashbacks are really to drive the mentality of the character and to understand why they are doing what they are doing. They are haunted by these memories of the past, and the flashbacks are set up to be abrupt almost debilitating reminders. Attorney Han’s hands being drenched in blood as she is watching them (a literal washing the blood off her hands, perhaps?), Young Goon not being able to stop the corrupt cop as he watches on from his past turmoil as a child, frozen. It plays nicely in the show and never once did it not make me even more curious of their past storylines.
Out of all the characters and plots of the story, I find Attorney Han to be the most intriguing. I love a character that is presented in a way that makes the audience second guess every motivation, or in turn every feeling they (the audience) have for them. We don’t know what she is doing or why for the most part, we can only guess and even with those guesses the show makes you question everything you thought and make you believe that you could be wrong. She also sets up a character that I enjoy the most: the morally grey character. So many times characters are presented as cut and dry, especially in kdramas. If they are a villain, they are a villain: an almost caricature of what a villain actually is. We don’t see the characters that are neither extremely one way of the other. Not every villain is a villain all the time, not every good guy is good all the time. Having her presented as a character that is neither and both at the same time is intriguing, and honestly what I find most fascinating about the entire drama.
I do enjoy how all the characters are starting to come together and are intertwined. I find it fascinating the glimpse you see of how Attorney Han is remorseful towards Young Goon. I especially enjoyed that even though Young Goon’s father is a corrupt cop, it is only brought up a handful of times. They don’t make as big of a deal out of it as another drama would. Chi Kwang has a such a strong relationship to Young Goon, as he is not only the one to investigate his father but you find out that Young Goon’s father was a mentor to him, and yet that doesn’t stop Chi Kwang from distrusting him or using that as a means to get vengeance. So many normal tropes that could have happened, didn’t and that’s refreshing. It also helps keep you on your toes and that is essential in this drama as it is part of the overall tone itself. In the end, it is only really Soo Yeon’s character that is underdeveloped. I don’t know if this is because her connection has yet to come into light, or that because she doesn’t have a connected storyline she will be pushed to the side as filler. Either way we’ll have to see how her character plays more as the series progresses.
All-in-all this was a great start for a drama for me. It left me wanting more after the ending of the second episode. I thought about all the puzzles that needed to be fit together for a while and I’m excited to see how this one progresses. As long as it doesn’t lose steam as the four work together and focus on the bits and pieces of the puzzle and try to skew away from that in trying to come up with content to fit the amount of screen time they have, I think this could end up to be a solid drama.