“Beyond Evil” First Impressions (Ep.1 to 10)

Beyond Evil, the latest psychological offering by JTBC is centered on the shredded murder mystery that has been haunting the quaint town of Manyang, on the outskirts of Seoul.

Manyang is like most small towns, everyone is well acquainted with each other and it’s hard to keep a secret. So imagine everyone’s surprise when elite Police Detective Han Joo Won is suddenly transferred to the Manyang Police Station. Of course, he has his own hidden agenda which collides with the mysterious past of the regional Police Station’s meticulous yet crazy Assistant Lieutenant Lee Dong Shik. As both of our main leads are partnered together, the story takes an interesting turn when one of the cold cases from the past, is replicated in the present with a shocking similarity. What happens when your own partner is suspicious of your past indiscretions and wants to throw you under the bus?

Lee Dong Sik, a once capable detective, is now demoted to perform menial tasks at his hometown’s Manyang Police Substation. Just as he was beginning to settle into a peaceful life, Detective Han Joo Won, his new Superior is transferred in. Joo Won is an elite detective whose father is the star candidate for the National Police Agency’s next chief. Despite his admirable qualities and high social standing, Joo Won harbors a long-held secret. When a string of gruesome killings occurs, a pattern takes hold that is oddly reminiscent of the cold serial-murder cases from 20 years prior. Joo Wan is highly suspicious of Dong Shik who was the prime suspect but was released due to lack of evidence. As both our main leads engage in an intense battle of will, the serial killer turns out to be at close quarters. But is he the only one or were the cases orchestrated by someone else, who is beyond their reach?

Lee Dong Shik’s Disturbing Reality

Beyond Evil is built on the intriguing contrast between the main leads. Lee Dong Shik (Shin Ha Kyun) is a majorly misinterpreted character. Although in the initial episodes he comes across as manipulative and we are led to believe that he might be the cold-blooded serial killer, the truth is far from the predicted reality. A reality that Dong Shik uncannily projects! At the heart of this major debacle, lies a hurt man who has been fighting his inner demons for more than 20 years. Lee Dong Shik is a misunderstood brother, who lost his twin sister Lee Yoo Yeon and ended up as the culprit, in a small town where lies spread faster than honest facts. So imagine his predicament when he is demoted to the same old town that he escaped and is faced with a replicate horror that paints the gory past of Manyang. Women are killed in cold blood and the serial killer feels a sadistic joy in cutting off their fingers. The corpses are never found, only the fingers are. So, when his new partner and superior Han Joo Wan decides that Lee Dong Shik is the most possible culprit, our hero is left with no choice but to fight back. Of course, he goes about it in an entirely deceptive manner that makes us question his true intentions, but you cannot deny the fact that Dong Shik is smart and plays his cards well!

Han Joo Wan’s Righteous Demeanor

Han Joo Wan is majorly portrayed as a righteous and reserved character. There are so many gradients to this role, that most of his major decisions seem frustrating and his fluctuating emotions will leave you bewildered. His father is an elite detective himself and holds high chances of becoming the next chief of the National Police Agency. His relationship with his Father is rather strained. As such from a young age, Joo Wan has been saddled with high expectations and responsibilities. He is used to viewing the world through rose- tinted glasses and is a stickler for ethics. He does arrive at Manyang with the objective of capturing the serial killer (presumably Dong Shik). But his life is turned upside down when Joo Wan is faced with the stark contrast of the man, who he presumed would be ruthless and undignified. His new partner and suspect, Lee Dong Shik doesn’t make it easy for him. Faced with an opportunistic opponent, Joo Wan is left grasping and teetering to the edges of his sanity. He is unprepared for the psychological warfare and ends up accepting defeat. But a sudden revelation makes him question his incompetence and he returns to Manyang with a fresh perspective to turn the tables on his deceptive partner.

The Sizzling Hot Chemistry

The sheer intensity with which Shin Ha Hyun and Yeo Jin Woo portray their respective characters will leave you spellbound. You can’t escape this magnetic chemistry that comes alive whenever they are in each other’s vicinity. From their first meeting where Joo Wan comes across as an introvert (who might suffer from OCD), something invariably clicks between our main leads. Although he is highly suspicious of his new partner, Lee Dong Shik intrigues Joo Wan on an entirely new level. In the first episode itself, Lee Dong Shik levels the playing ground with his low-key flirting skills and you are left wondering about their strange dynamics.

Joo Wan’s preconceived notions are shattered when he closely observes Dong Shik during their daily patrolling. From searching for old men suffering from dementia to saving kids with mental disorders, Dong Shik goes beyond his job description to help the townspeople. You can actually witness Joo Wan’s inner turmoil as he tries to reconcile Dong Shik’s nature with his presumptions. The fact that Dong Shik is well liked and respected by his friends is another mystery that Joo Wan fails to understand. Dong Shik’s character profile draws Joo Wan like “a moth to a flame” and the attraction is inevitable. Dong Shik notices the same and often uses Joo Wan’s conflicting emotions to his own advantage. Also, Dong Shik has a killer smile and obviously Joo Wan can’t escape the charm!

The high sensual tension between them is enough to set the screen on fire. Dong Shik loves to provoke Joo Wan and ruffle his feathers. Joo Wan even goes to the extent of getting Dong Shik arrested for his niece Kang Min Jeong’s disappearance. However, again Dong Shik uses Joo Wan’s unstable emotions to his advantage. Their tug of war is highly amusing to watch and clearly Dong Shik has the added advantage of leveling the field with his well orchestrated ministrations. He is smart, has years of experience and plays the game quite well. Joo Wan on the other hand is caught in a crossfire where he wants to punish Dong Shik for his evil deeds and still can’t get over his fleeting emotions that tug at his heartstrings. As such, he develops this annoying habit of stalking Dong Shik and claims Dong Shik’s basement as his personal territory. Joo Wan gives the impression of a smart detective investigating his suspect but deep down, he just wants to understand Dong Shik better!

Their dynamics undergoes a rapid change when Joo Wan takes an unseemly step and announces confidential details to the media. While his Father instantly denounce5s him and cuts ties with him for the foreseeable future, Dong Shik and his colleagues render their support. This new experience changes his perception about Manyang and its people. Add to that, Dong Shik constantly surprises him with his unabashed honesty and daredevil attitude. And we are left with a mushy Police Lieutenant who is gradually falling for his Assistant Officer’s charming smiles! Also, the fact that these two love to get into each other’s personal space and have no respect for “Social Distancing Norms” will surely make you question their sudden closeness. Like Officer Oh Ji Hwa rightly points out-

“You both are like a cute, funny couple. You should move in together.”

They grow even closer when Joo Wan begins to recognize Dong Shik’s sudden mood swings. While getting a confession from Kang Jin Mook, Joo Wan is clearly more observant of his partner’s disturbing demeanor rather than the case at hand. He gets increasingly worried whenever Dong Shik disappears for extended periods of time. So when the truth is finally revealed, its clearly a moment of glory for both our detectives (Jin Mook is the serial killer who has been recklessly killing innocent women in the town for the past twenty years).

The tables are turned again as Lee Dong Shik develops a jovial attitude and picks up on Joo Wan’s stalking skills. While Joo Wan is investigating the truth about the illegal immigrant (who got killed because of him), Dong Shik follows him. The entire situation is so hilarious because Joo Wan actually has the audacity to question Dong Shik on his sudden stalking habits (like Joo Wan didn’t spend the last eight episodes stalking the poor guy). Now that the main culprit has been apprehended, Dong Shik seems more carefree and because their love language is provoking each other, he deliberately arrives in Busan to irritate Joo Wan. Trust me, these two have the most bizarre way to show their love and care for each other (It is annoyingly endearing and leaves you sexually frustrated).

However, all good things come to an end and their relationship hits a roadblock. Dong Shik deigns on his promise to get arrested for hiding prudent details related to Min Jeong’s case and Joo Wan loses his calm. As such, Joo Wan confesses to his crimes (of abusing his authority and asks for punishment) and goes into hiding. During this timeline, Dong Shik is promoted and goes berserk trying to find his dead sister’s corpse (because evidently Jin Mook killed all the victims, except for Lee Yoo Yeon). Three months later, Joo Wan returns with changed attitude and entirely different demeanor. He starts a different gameplan of his own and the emotionally exhausted Dong Shik is caught unaware. We can see the tactile shift in their relationship and it makes you wonder about Joo Wan’s true intentions. Is Joo Wan deliberately trying to instigate Dong Shik or provoking him to try his level best?

Although their relationship is strained, there are still fleeting moments where they still flirt with each other. Like the scene where Joo Wan is cooking steak and Dong Shik arrives to question him. It’s obvious that Joo Wan is expecting Dong Shik’s arrival because the way his eye’s sparkle will leave no doubts about his obvious affections for the older detective. Although Dong Shik is well known for his erratic temper, he always tries hard to keep his calm around Joo Wan.

In the initial episodes where he saw Joo Wan as an adversary, Dong Shik always wore a mask to hide his true emotions. But the sudden changes in their relationship is evident because although they are still on the middle of this carefully scripted gameplan, Dong Shik and Joo Wan are more open about their affections. Last week’s episode ended in major upheaval as Nam Sang Bae was kidnapped and Joo Wan runs to his rescue. The parallel was scarily familiar as Joo Wan mouths off the same dialogues uttered by Dong Shik’s dead ex-partner. Dong Shik grows increasingly alarmed and is worried sick over Joo Wan’s safety. Joo Wan realises the same and tries to placate him. As the episode ends on a major cliffhanger, our main leads are left devastated and end up hugging each other tight. Dong Shik’s journey has been difficult and Joo Wan is fast becoming his cornerstone. The brutal scene was touched by a moment of softness and I actually cried in despair!

For now, I’m really enjoying this drama because of the interweaving suspense and thriller elements. Add to that, the amazing chemistry between Shin Ha Hyun and Yeo Jin Woo, Beyond Evil is a definite win. As compared to the other on-air crime thriller “Mouse” (which is based on the same serial killer mystery premise), Beyond Evil will leave you enthralled as each layer of deception is slowly revealed and you get closer to the depth. Watch this show, if you are looking for a decent crime thriller with subtle romantic entanglements!

Rating- 4.5 out of 5

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