Wading through the Secret Forest that is Stranger

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Credit: tvN

Since “Signal” ended more than a year ago, no other Korean drama – not even the wildly popular “Goblin” – had caught my eye until Stranger (Secret Forest) came along. Incidentally, all three dramas are the works of tvN, which has become the de facto standard for quality drama productions.

“Stranger (Secret Forest)” – hereinafter referred to as “Stranger” – is a crime and legal mystery thriller where a prosecutor Hwang Shi-Mok, played by Jo Seung Woo (“God’s Gift: 14 Days”), teams up with a police investigator Han Yeo-Jin, played by Bae Doona (“Cloud Atlas”; “Sense8”), to solve a murder.

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Credit: tvN

Hwang had brain surgery when he was young, and that left him unable to express his emotions. He is being seen as a cold and unfeeling person, thus a misfit and outcast among his fellow prosecutors. In contrast, Han is affable and has a strong sense of justice as well as passion for her work.

Despite their differences, they share a common goal of wanting to rip out corruption by the roots and restore justice to the society, so they decide to put trust in each other and work together. They end up getting entangled in a web of deceit and lies where they uncover gross misdeeds within the higher-ups in their organisations and powerful conglomerates.

I had refrained from recommending this drama prior to its final episode, for fear that it would not live up to my expectations that had been set so high by “Signal”. After all, many crime dramas produced in South Korea had fallen flat and fizzled out after a promising start. Thankfully, after having watched all 16 episodes, I am happy to say that “Stranger” has officially overtaken “Signal” to become my all-time favourite Korean drama.

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Signal sets high bar for Korean drama

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While every other person seemed to be caught up in the recently concluded “Descendants of the Sun” craze, I was not particularly enamoured by it. Instead, I was attracted to the highly acclaimed drama “Signal“, which was specially aired on tvN for the broadcast channel’s 10th anniversary. Incidentally it took over the time slot from another quality drama “Reply 1988” – what’s with tvN churning out quality dramas helmed by lesser known but hugely talented cast?

 

“Signal” is a detective mystery thriller with an intriguing element in the form of the main characters communicating through time with the help of walkie talkie. This “communicate through time” storyline has been covered by American movie “Frequency” and Hong Kong drama serial “隔世追凶” (“To Get Unstuck in Time”) where father and son communicate that way, but “Signal” takes on a different form where the link is between two police detectives who had never met each other before but ended up joining hands through time to investigate and solve cold cases.

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Korean mystery music shows: “King of Mask Singer” and “I Can See Your Voice”

Korea is known for churning out music variety programmes with a twist. It is no longer about singing competitions like “I Am A Singer” or “K-pop Star”. It is about music shows unearthing gems and encouraging viewers to listen without bias in an entertaining way .

“Hidden Singer” (singers and their vocal doppelgängers sing behind a screen and audience vote on who they think is the real deal) is a trend-setter in the “mystery music show” genre. This year, two new programmes have emerged as worthy contenders, “King of Mask Singer” and “I Can See Your Voice“.

“King of Mask Singer”
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Contestants range from singers, actors, comedians and pop idols. They wear elaborate masks and clothes to conceal their identity while singing. This ensures that the jury panel, made up of celebrities and audience, will not know the identity of the contestants and can vote without prejudice.

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Season 4 of “The Genius” : Grand Final begins June 27th

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Highly-lauded Korean reality-variety game show “The Genius” is back with its fourth season “Grand Final”, slated to air on June 27th. The title “Grand Final” had many fans fear that the show is ending for good. So far the production team hasn’t addressed that concern, so we can only cross our fingers and hope for the best.

(If you have not heard of this extremely entertaining and mind-blowing programme, you can learn more about it in my posts: “The Genius: Rules of the Game”, “The Genius 2: Rule Breaker” and “The Genius 3: Black Garnet”.)

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Plot twists abound in season 2 of “Crime Scene”

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“Crime Scene” is a Korean investigative-variety RPG show in which cast members are given suspect roles to play. One of them will play the real killer who will have to conceal his/her identity while trying to incriminate the others, and the other suspects will have to uncover evidence in the crime scene to find the real killer.

The first season aired on May 2014, and the second season is coming to a close tonight. Season 2 has garnered better ratings and reviews over Season 1 due to the more intricate crime scene sets, seemingly improbable plot twists and better hidden clues.

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Season 3 of “The Genius” : Black Garnet

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For people who are no longer contented with passive entertainment but instead enjoy having their minds stimulated while watching reality variety, fret no more. “The Genius 3: Black Garnet” had started airing since 1 Oct 2014.

If you have not heard of “The Genius”, it is billed as one of Korea’s top reality variety shows that pits wits, intelligence and sociability of the players against one another, with the last man/woman standing crowned the champion at the end of the season. (Yup, just like Liar Game) You can read more about “The Genius 1: Rules of the Game” and “The Genius 2: Rule Breaker” from my posts.

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Korean investigative reality TV show: “Crime Scene”

Crime Scene

[2016-12-09 UPDATE: Season 3 of Crime Scene is slated to air in the first half of 2017!

Sources: Naver, Reddit]

“Crime Scene” is the second Korean reality TV show that I am recommending on my blog, the previous being “The Genius“. Both are similar in a way that they test the intelligence, observation and deduction skills of the cast in a setting that depicts real-life activities and human reactions as realistically as possible.

“Crime Scene” is touted to be the first ever role-playing detective game in Korea. Produced by Korean cable network JTBC, the show presents murder cases that are modelled after real-world incidents, and cast members will play out the various suspect roles that they have chosen prior to the start of the game.

One of the cast members will play the role of the real killer, and he/she will have to deflect suspicion from himself/herself while diverting attention to the others. It is up to the cast members to build a case against whom they think is the real killer. Continue reading