Yay! A new Seo In Guk drama! And it’s even a crime drama (my favourite!). I’m glad to say that the show has gotten off to a good start. If this drama is a scammer, then I’ve already taken its bait.
Squad 38 is unlike your typical detective drama, as the show focuses on the tax collection department that teams up with a conman to get their job done. Taxation is a dry topic, and as a taxpayer myself, I know what a pain it is to file and pay your taxes each year. The drama knows and admits that taxation is nothing fun, as it starts with our lead, Baek Sung Il (played by Ma Dong Seok), going through the same routine each day in his thankless job as a tax collector. He also meets all kinds of people on the job — from the rich guys who refuse to pay up, to the poor who simply can’t afford to cough up the money. He barely makes ends meet and has to put up with nasty backstabbing superiors, corruption and a sly conman out to squeeze him dry, and you get a very grim picture of the life of a law-abiding government official.
The first two episodes offer us an introduction into the business of tax collection and workplace politics that is both insightful and realistic. The upright and soft Baek Sung Il clearly faces a moral conflict in his job, and it’s not hard for us to sympathise with him. The introduction of conman Yang Jong Do (played by Seo In Guk) was done smoothly, though I must say that the multiple transitions between past and present in his part of the story can be a little confusing.
So far, the tone of the show reminds me of Signal somewhat — the pacing is not rushed, with some comedic moments, action, social commentary, and slower moments that give the story a human touch. I also hear a couple of old Korean songs being used, such as “What Should I Do” by Sanulim (this song was also used in Healer), but Squad 38 is definitely not going for the nostalgic route that Signal did so well. Squad 38 has a very interesting choice of music so far that is pretty fun and unique.
I think the biggest highlight for me in the first two episodes is the long and elaborate chase scene in episode two. A lot of dramas have short chase scenes that often end off with a Truck of Doom, but this one ends with an unexpected twist.
We still haven’t been introduced to the rest of the gang that Yang Jong Do will be roping in, and I’m curious to see how these bunch of criminals will work together with the tax officials. We also got a few cameos by some familiar faces, and I look forward to seeing which other surprise guests they will invite. Considering this is written by the writer of Vampire Prosecutor, I would like to believe that we will have a strong story line throughout (please, do not let me down like Vampire Detective did!).