Wading through the Secret Forest that is Stranger

Secret Forest official poster - 5 cast

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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