Posted in Commentary, Drama Series

Bad Guys: final thoughts

Now that Bad Guys has ended its 11-episode run, i don’t know where to start…

Even if the finale is one-half hours long, it doesn’t feel as drawn out as say the tenth probably because it is the last leg, or because the truths are finally spilled out it doesn’t let my mind wander elsewhere but to what unfolds onscreen. Questions are answered, mystery is solved, the big picture is revealed, the series is closed in style yet open-ended enough to leave rooms for a possible sequel. However, some of the puzzle pieces don’t quite fit it still leaves me wanting as if something is missing.

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Good thing is viewers know as much as the characters do. This keeps me on my toes at all times and second-guessing basically everyone — can’t trust anyone but our four mad dogs. Because where’s the fun when we (and the side characters) are privy to the big secret BUT the hero/heroine? Then we spend multiple episodes waiting for him/her to pick up the hints to something we’ve known all along we end up cursing at how clueless he/she is… Bad Guys doesn’t do that.

Some characters have the upper hand (e.g. Prosecutor Oh keeps teasing that he knows Team Mad Dogs a little too well, or tight-lipped Commissioner Nam keeps deflecting Mi-young’s inquiries by throwing metaphorical messages/advises instead) and the Pandora’s box is locked a little too long, but we are there with them during the big reveal. Even if something is disclosed to us first, the characters are just one or two steps behind from discovering it too. For instance, when Jung-moon learns of his activities during the blackouts from the scarred man, Goo-tak is just outside the door listening in. Or when the ultimate baddie shows his hand to Commissioner Nam, few scenes and minutes later Team Mad Dogs spots the clincher too — eagle-eyed Goo-tak does, to be precise.

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Each episode has a tight plot and although tension is loosened in the middle episodes, the tone and pace is kept pretty consistent throughout. A lot of things happening in the finale but it never feels rushed (thus the extended runtime?). There is ample time to gather facts and let the truth sink in, to say sorry and apologize, to vent, to mourn, and finally to get it together and continue the chase. Because at the end of the day, they all have one common enemy.

Not that it is surprising, that all events happening to Team Mad Dogs are orchestrated by one person. The big question mark is who and why. At one point i even doubted Commissioner Nam, although after episode 9, i crossed him out from the list. He plays no major role in the drama and often confuses me with his metaphors, still i gasped when he’s the one ends up bleeding at the end of episode 10 as i waited forever for a gunshot sound that never came. Why him?

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The finale begins by rewinding back to show who gate-crashes Commissioner Nam’s lone midnight fishing. Unsurprisingly, it’s Prosecutor Oh. He’s quick to draw the common ground between them: both (like several other characters in the drama) lost their family member to a serial killer and visited the culprit after he’s incarcerated only to find him utterly remorseless. Only then did he realize that the way law works doesn’t really do the victim justice. To make sure the convicts have a taste of their own medicine, he decided to do it his own way: by returning the favor.

Prosecutor Oh is telling Commissioner Nam all of this because he deems the latter’s an important figure to Team Mad Dogs without whom they will be lost. With that, he goes for the kill. Has become a pro by now, hasn’t him?

Still, i fail to see a significant impact of this move. Ji-yeon’s death made Goo-tak hell-bent on proving Jung-moon guilty, the old man’s and Hyun-woo’s caused Tae-soo to confront Jong-seok once and for all, and Lee Doo-kwang’s set Woong-chul in motion to get even with Jung-moon. If anything, Prosecutor Oh outs himself through this case. Otherwise, why would he return to the crime scene with a gang of thugs? It’s easy to outnumber our bad guys, but it isn’t that easy to defeat them. Just so you know.

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Losing them doesn’t deter him. He readily hands over the task of going after them to a roomful of detectives (and citizens by releasing wanted posters of all four). When Mi-young tells him those guys aren’t the culprit after confirming their alibis, he tells her to butt out. I can see Mi-young has started to regret her crossover.

Unfazed by the fact that the whole city is looking for them, the mad dogs remain fixated on unearthing the truth. Jung-moon shares the pieces he does remember (drugged, kidnapped, force-fed a bottleful of pills, woke up with bloodied hands, handed over to the guy who heads the thugs) and Tae-soo deduces that Doctor Kim, Prosecutor Oh and his right-hand man Chief Cha are the three guys to go after. Doctor Kim is the easiest target, and through whom the gate of truth bursts open.

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From beginning to end, no details is being left out. How Prosecutor Oh and Doctor Kim got to know each other, why Jung-moon was brought between them, why him and what they did to him, whether or not he killed those people, and eventually why Ji-yeon was targeted too. Who knows learning the truth can be this chilling, relieving, and heartbreaking?

Discovering the truth isn’t the goal, catching the case’s mastermind is. For probably the last time they strategize and divide the battlefield — Woong-chul and Tae-soo naturally are to face the thugs whereas Jung-moon is to use Doctor Kim as a bait to lure Prosecutor Oh out from the hiding nest.

Was it one hell of a ride? Yes. Was the denouement in every respect satisfactory? No.

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It wasn’t a weak finale by any means. It addressed all questions and tied every possible loose end, yet i can’t help nitpicking over the details.

First of all, the full-face reveal of the man behind the recent hit orders on Jung-moon, Woong-chul, and Tae-soo. We’re led to assume that it’s Goo-tak and i’m okay with camera trick to reveal that it was someone else indeed, but the lower half of the face shot we’ve seen all series long is different from the actual one — suddenly a cigarette got into the picture. That was one huh? moment.

Next, Prosecutor Oh’s motive. If offing serial killers’ family is his kind of law and justice, why stopped when Jung-moon was caught? He can find another scapegoat, unless there weren’t any other serial killer on the loose besides himself. Another huh? moment was police/detective’s failure to connect the dots that all Hwayeondong victims were kins of recent convicts. How could they miss that — how could Goo-tak miss that? Nevertheless, figuring the pattern out wouldn’t necessarily mean Goo-tak could prevent Ji-yeon’s death. I thought it would be some sort of retaliation, but the truth is more messed up than the conjectures. HE’s the reason why Ji-yeon was targeted, because he had suspected Jung-moon; his desire to solve the case and catch the culprit cost Ji-yeon’s life. How devastating is that?

Another shocker comes from the side story of Tae-soo-Sun-jung it’s somewhat a twist. That she was the reason he turned himself in and he had feelings for her are crystal clear it needs no confirmation. But the motive behind her husband’s death is mind-boggling. I am sure i’m not the only one believing Tae-soo was hired to kill her husband, then regretting his action upon seeing Sun-jung’s grief. Who would have thought it was due to his own greed? You think you could win her heart after taking the husband out of the picture? Oh, Tae-soo…

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The last quibble i have is about the final face-off. I anticipated high stakes, gripping tension, badass action sequence, and nerve-wracking adrenaline rush — this is the finale, they should’ve ended it with a bang! Doctor Kim says Team Mad Dogs can never defeat Prosecutor Oh, thus my expectation. Alas, it just seems too cushy. His gang of thugs is only half as formidable as those our guys raided in episode 4; Chief Cha is nowhere as nimble as Jong-seok he’s no equal to Tae-soo. And Prosecutor Oh falls too easily — he doesn’t even put up a fight! — sans realization of what he did wrong. He is no hero but a murderer, and at the end of the day, he became the unrepentant serial killer he so hated to see initially. But that doesn’t serve him right…

Oh! Commissioner Nam’s death does have an impact on Team Mad Dogs: no one’s covering for them and the quid pro quo deal is nullified. Jung-moon’s case undergoes re-investigation (he’s been wrongfully incarcerated for two years!) but why is Goo-tak put behind bars too? Is it because he falsified evidence against Jung-moon or because he released convicts and co-formed Team Mad Dogs?

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All of these aside, i’m happy to see Team Mad Dogs is all well and alive. Judging from the dark convoluted nature of the plot, i feared we would lose someone along the way. So to see them working as a team and smiling at one another after all misunderstanding is already a plus. Each of them is flawed and has committed grave mistake in the past, but they all ready to live as people: to accept punishment, reflect, and receive forgiveness for any crime they committed. That’s how they can live a new life, and heaven will acknowledge them if they are not bad guys.

Ahh, would it be great should we get to see more of their reluctant teamwork and petty competition, spend less time on the cases and more on dissecting their characters. Although the second-half of the drama moved away from baddies catching bigger baddies plot point, i still believe these mad dogs can be the most effective detectives ever, if given the chance.

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Rating: 4/5
Director: Kim Jung-min
Production: OCN, 2014
Cast: Kim Sang-joong, Ma Dong-seok, Park Hae-jin, Jo Dong-hyuk, Kang Ye-won, Kim Tae-hoon
Genre: Crime thriller, K-drama (11 Episodes)

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I blog sometimes, gush ofttimes, snark all the time.

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