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.
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.