Dark, gritty, well written crime drama with endless twists and turns that will give your brain a good workout. But still love it nonetheless!
Genre: Crime, mystery, action, thriller
Synopsis: TEN is an elite police investigation team tasked with solving the toughest crimes in the nation — those with a success rate of less than 10%. The team is headed by the shrewd and cool detective Yeo Jihoon (Joo Sang Wook) whose heart has been consumed by revenge; a veteran detective with excellent analytical skills Baek Doshik (Kim Sang Ho); Nam Yeri (Jo Ahn) the lone female member who has a keen ability to read the minds of people; and rookie detective Park Minho (Choi Woo Shik).
In this second season of the OCN crime series, we continue from the gripping cliff hanger of season 1 where the team continue their pursuit of the ruthless serial murderer F. For those who haven’t seen the first season, each episode of TEN deals with a different criminal case, but there was one particular serial murder case that was constantly featured since episode 1 of the first season and continues its way to the first two episodes of the second season. I shan’t go into details into explaining what the case is about because it’s COMPLICATED. Yes, complicated is what this series is. In the first season, I often found myself lost because of the many twists and turns in every episode (thank goodness for the dramabeans recaps!), but somehow I just kept coming back for more despite that. The same goes for the second season. I think this is both a strength and flaw of this series — the multiple twists make the show an entertaining and intellectually engaging watch (at no point does the writer treat the audience as fools), but it also can be frustrating when it becomes hard to follow the story. After making through the roller coaster ride, I think several of the plot twists actually do not make much sense or were not properly explained. They were simply there to fool you and to make you doubtful of your own guesses. I certainly enjoyed the guessing game, but exhausted lots of brain cells in the process. Some of the episodes were less confusing than others though, which is a relief.
Putting aside how convoluted the stories were, I think the series was really well-written overall. I really loved and appreciated how events were related to one another somehow, how the show seeks to explore the dark side of human nature and how it succeeds in putting a human face on all the characters. NONE of the criminals in this show were one-dimensional villains, which is a feat considering how many of such villains exist in dramaland. We learn that every person is driven towards crime for certain reasons, and I found myself feeling sad for the criminal in many of the episodes. The amazing thing is that the members of TEN also draw lessons from the cases when they see the criminal and victims as a reflection of themselves sometimes. Given that this is a cable drama, the series had more graphic violence and sex scenes than your usual kdrama, and fortunately, the show uses this to its advantage to present a very dark and gritty crime thriller rather than to simply shock viewers.
This series also scores with its amazing, unique cinematography and excellent choice of music. One of my favourite scenes was the breathtaking view of the half constructed highway in episode two juxtaposed against the sunset. Many of the scenes were filmed in a brown/yellowish tint that matches well with the trademark yellow colour of the OCN channel that is airing the show. Then there were the metaphorical scenes that symbolise something more, such as the use of rain, how our characters cross paths and go separate ways etc. We also have a consistent pattern of storytelling whereby the show begins with a glimpse of the actual crime (often accompanied by a ballad or classical music piece), followed by the investigation process to uncover and solve the clues, and then concluding with the revelation.
The show likes to use songs with a very dark, moody vibe that complement the overall vibe of the show. (I was very surprised to hear one of the instrumental tracks from MBC’s Two Weeks being used in one of the episodes. The instrumental track was not included in the official OST of Two Weeks so I don’t know the title) Check out some of the songs:
Of course, credit has to go to the actors too. It’s refreshing to see these actors play bigger roles here as they often end up in smaller roles in dramas by the 3 main TV broadcasters. This show proves that they CAN act, so it’s a waste that they aren’t given enough opportunities to shine in shows beyond cable TV. Joo Sang Wook was unsmiling and cold for the most part of the show except for the occasional smirk, but never once did I feel that he was wooden, which might be the case if this character was played by a less capable actor. As for Kim Sang Ho, I’ve seen him play minor characters in other shows (often pathetic/comedic ones, perhaps due to his hair loss problem), but he really demonstrated his acting chops here. One does not need to be good looking to be impressive in a show! I’ve not seen Jo Ahn in any other shows but I thought she was alright here. Choi Woo Shik caught my eye in Rooftop Prince and I think this guy has potential to take on bigger roles in the future.
Unlike season 1 that concluded with a cliff hanger, the ending for this season was more conclusive with hints of a third season. However, the ending gives me the feeling that we might expect some cast changes in the new season, which makes me uneasy. I’ve already grown to like the four members of the current team and I can’t imagine anyone else in the TEN team. For one, I know Joo Sang Wook HAS to remain for me to continue watching. There were some hints of a possible loveline between Jihoon and Yeri, and I would love to see more of that in the following seasons.
A gritty crime thriller that takes you into the dark recesses of the human heart, yet manages to deliver with a very humane touch rather than coming off as cold and unfeeling. A breath of fresh air from your typical Kdrama with an intelligent plot and artistic direction. Though I haven’t seen many english shows, I think this is more similar to your crime series like CSI from the West as it stays away from typical kdrama clichés but retains that emotional, heart-moving touch that is characteristic of korean dramas. Just remember not to let yourself get caught up with trying to find answers for everything, and enjoy the ride.