There is good drama…bad drama…and then there is Beyond Evil!
One of the most exquisitely scripted and brilliantly directed Korean dramas of recent times, Beyond Evil will always be applauded for its daring portrayal of complex human relationships. The drama showcased human nature and its base tendencies with such a naked honesty, that I’m still stunned with the ramifications. Never before has a drama left me so astounded with its countenance.
A mainstream drama betraying their main lead’s romantic entanglements in an unsubtle and obvious manner was the icing on the cake. Actors Shin Ha Kyun and Yeo Jin Goo delivered and what a riveting performance it was! Their journey started with suspicions, bordered on mutual dislike, slowly bifurcated into respect as well as admiration and ended on acceptance. Helmed by the young director Shim Na Yeon and written by the experienced Kim Soo Jin, the JTBC crime thriller might very well be treated as a deadly combination of mystique and gruesome history. The finale episodes highlighted the tight bonding between Lee Dong Shik (Shin Ha Kyun) and Han Joo Wan (Yeo Jin Goo) as they joined hands to unravel the murder mystery surrounding Lee Yu Yeon’s death to finally grant her justice. Since I’m a huge fan of the main character’s sensual chemistry, we will be dissecting the last episodes based on their team work and camaraderie.
The Romance That Is Shockingly Obvious
As the drama digs deeper into Lee Yu Yeon’s murder mystery, Dong Shik questions Han Joo Wan’s loyalty. Their relationship was never simple and although they always beat around the bush, their feelings are slowly evolving into something substantial. Dong Shik worries that Joo Wan wouldn’t be able to handle the truth. Joo Wan on the other hand hides his emotions well while wearing a mask of indifference. Although he brushes aside Dong Shik’s concern, Joo Wan still decides to investigate his own Father. This is the turning point in their relationship. Dong Shik had to spend his entire life being victimized for a crime that he never committed. The societal rebuke can destroy any kind of human being and he doesn’t want a repeat of history. The conversation where Dong Shik worriedly seeks out Joo Wan and advises him about possible repercussions will always be etched in my mind. The fact that he isn’t worried about himself but stresses more about Joo Wan’s mental health betrays Dong Shik’s affections. Joo Wan is slowly becoming a part of his life and Dong Shik intends to protect him from all kinds of undire situations.
The best part of this show was watching Dong Shik and Joo Wan work in tandem to bring about Han Ki Hwan’s downfall. The ending credits of Episode 13 were a masterstroke. While Han Ki Hwan cleverly dodges the bullet and goes ahead with his Commissioner General Nomination Hearing, his new appointee Dong Shik crashes the party. In perfect synchronization, Joo Wan orchestrates his Father’s downfall by getting arrested, while Dong Shik renders his support. First the pretense, then the smile followed by the smirk, these two partners are upto no good and yet you can’t help but fall in love with their chemistry. Han Ki Hwan isn’t necessarily smart or else he won’t have shaken hands with the devil. I was really amused with Ki Hwan’s abysmal thinking, because he actually believed that transferring Dong Shik to Seoul Agency would get him under control. Talk about being delusional, like anyone can control Dong Shik (Joo Wan is the only exception to the rule).
Episode 14 heightens the tension between our main leads as we understand the reason behind Joo Wan’s sudden arrest. Although he is unsure about Joo Wan’s plan, Dong Shik agrees to follow up. His only concern is Joo Wan’s tendency to act unruly and as such, Dong Shik advises him to not cause unwanted drama. Everything is going according to the plan until Joo Wan forfeits on his promise and accepts the charges filed against him. Dong Shik is befuddled with the situation and this leads to more friction between our lovebirds. As Joo Wan chooses to get punished for his mistakes, Dong Shik is left annoyed. Joo Wan reasons that since Dong Shik didn’t follow up on his promise, he won’t either.
In a stark contrast to his introverted personality, Joo Wan also accepts that Dong Shik has people he wants to return to while Joo Wan doesn’t. As the storyline moves further, Dong Shik and Oh Ji Hwa apprehend Lee Chang Jin by setting up a clever trap with the help of Park Jeong Je. Despite that, Chang Jin walks away scout free for the umpteenth time. As such, Joo Wan decides to take matters into his own hands. Dong Shik is scared about his safety because Joo Wan wouldn’t share details about this new pursuit. Revealing a new side of their relationship, Joo Wan bridges the distance to promise Dong Shik that he will definitely stay connected.
Lee Chang Jin is shaken to the core because the Manyang Police Team are getting too close to the truth. As such, he calls Han Ki Hwan for an emergency meeting. Joo Wan having anticipated this meeting wires his Father’s car. He is left aghast when during their conversation Han Ki Hwan casually accepts he hit Lee Yu Yeon with his car on that fateful night. As Joo Wan tries hard to accept this alternate reality where his own Father is the culprit, he is devastated. We must really appreciate Yeo Jin Woo’s acting talents because at that moment, he perfectly embodies Joo Wan’s mental breakdown. As he goes through various phases of denial, you can see Joo Wan’s trust being shattered irrevocably. He also feels guilty for torturing Dong Shik with his baseless assumptions. The camera then slowly pans to focus on Dong Shik, who is still awaiting news from Joo Wan. The beauty of this script!
As the opening credits for Episode 15 roll on, Han Ki Hwan is still displaying his inhuman characteristics and you can’t help empthatise with Joo Wan for having the worst Father ever. As he exudes Joo Wan’s weaknesses and points out the differences in their personality, you realise that beneath Joo Wan’s gruff exterior, he is a lost child craving his Father’s love and affection. Something he is receiving in abundance from his partner, Dong Shik instead. So when he walks into Dong Shik’s home later, despite Dong Shik’s apparent relief, Joo Wan is unable to face him. Against the backdrop of rain, Joo Wan shares the recording while Dong Shik flares up. As he rushes to take revenge, Joo Wan stops Dong Shik and promises him retribution. You have to understand the significance of this moment because Joo Wan wants to seek redemption for his own accusations as well as his Father’s crime. For someone with an entitled personality, Joo Wan goes to the extent of kneeling down before Dong Shik. He begs for a chance to shoulder the burden that Dong Shik has been carrying for the last twenty-one years. There is an immediate shift in their relationship as you realize that Joo Wan is finally accepting Dong Shik’s innocence.
The high tension confrontation at night is followed by lighter moments next morning, where Dong Shik makes his romantic inclinations quite clear. They have a lunch date where Dong Shik atlast gets Joo Wan to taste fish noodles (it’s important because Joo Wan is stickler for habits and he doesn’t like eating fish). Dong Shik is obviously tensed and hence decides to stay close to Joo Wan. Although he wears a mask of indifference and holds onto the premise of keeping Joo Wan close because of the recording, the truth is far from the surface. He is increasingly worried about Joo Wan’s moodswings and is unable to express his feelings. He is also growing fond of this complex young man who perplexes him constantly. Dong Shik looks at Joo Wan like he wants to wrap him in a blanket and keep him safe. Obviously Joo Wan would smack him hard if Dong Shik actually voiced his opinions, so we have to be content with the soft looks that Dong Shik bestows upon Joo Wan when he isn’t looking.
Familial Love seems to be an alien concept in the Han household and the finale episodes choose to emphasize this point. As against his strong belief in Dong Shik, Joo Wan doesn’t reserve the same kind of respect for his Father. Their confrontation leads to inconspicuous truths being revealed while Joo Wan blackmails his Father into submission. The glaring difference in their personality strikes you. Yeo Jin Goo and veteran actor Choi Jin Ho actually share a very warm relationship off-screen, so the sudden transformation onscreen is almost unbelievable.
Our main couple decide to play “The Good Cop, Bad Cop” tactics on Lee Chang Jin as they catch him red-handed (Chang Jin was about to strike Jung Cheol Moon with his cane). The investigation takes a hilarious turn when Chang Jin corners them about their relationship and Dong Shik slides really close to Joo Wan to emphasize the fact that they are great together. There are these little moments when Dong Shik let’s his guard down and acknowledges their romance without any reservations. Honestly, I love how most of the love confessions in this show happen uncannily in the interrogation room. The episode takes a turn for the worst when Dong Shik receives a strange message from Jung Cheol Moon and Joo Wan realises that it is a trap. He hides the message from Dong Shik and walks right into the middle of the trap to save his partner. Dong Shik understands the situation and rushes to Jung Cheol Moon’s home in trepidation, only to be faced with a horrible situation that paints Joo Wan in a negative light.
As Ki Hwan plans Jung Cheol Moon’s death with Lee Chang Jin, he is unaware that his own son will topple the balance. While the Father spends all his time scheming against innocent victims, the son endeavors to make up for his crimes. Dong Shik is not at all happy with Joo Wan’s hasty decisions and reprimands him for the same. Joo Wan refuses to apologize because he is willing to be the sacrificial goat if it means that he can save Dong Shik from his Father. These two have come a long way, from suspecting each other’s intentions to trusting each other implicitly, their relationship dynamics changed slowly yet steadily. Another aspect of this show that always surprises me is the concept of strong friendships. So when Oh Ji Hwa accepts that she knew about Dong Shik contaminating Kang Min Jung’s murder scene, I was literally stunned with the revelation. The amount of trust that his friends place on him is irreplaceable and Dong Shik is a blessed man.
The finale episode yielded some meticulous amount of plotting that finally gets Lee Chang Jin and Do Hae Won to reveal the secrets. Han Ki Hwan attempts to escape imprisonment trying to commit suicide, but Joo Wan arrives on time.
Their intense confrontation scene was the longest 10 minutes of my life. As both Father and Son lose their temper and the situation escalates beyond control, Dong Shik arrives to save the day. I will never forget the way Joo Wan slides closer to Dong Shik immediately and Ki Hwan realizes the significance of their partnership. As Han Ki Hwan is arrested for his evil deeds, the show surprises us a sudden unexpected twist. Keeping his promise alive, Dong Shik requests Joo Wan to arrest him. Pictured in dull lights without any musical accompaniments, the scriptwriter choose to highlight their love for each other with the subtle changes in their demeanor. Joo Wan’s apprehension (as against his earlier stubborn attitude) describes the tactile shift in his feelings. You can’t miss Dong Shik’s fond expressions and soft “Joo Wan- Ah” as Joo Wan cries resolutely.
The show choose to bless the audiences with an open ending as our main lead’s reconcile one year later. Dong Shik has a new smart look and Joo Wan is almost bedazzled. The Manyang Substation family is together and Joo Wan joins them, having given up on his old habits and pretenses The way they lovingly stare at each other while enjoying the lunch is a vibrant acknowledgement of their feelings. The group of friends even choose to give them privacy as Dong Shik teases his partner about his recent efforts to search for missing people. In an uncanny fashion, Joo Wan replies in affirmative and it is a happy realization that he has been following into Dong Shik’s footsteps for the past one year. Keeping his memories alive by following the same path that Dong Shik walked!
Overall, Beyond Evil is certainly one of the best scripted dramas in the first quarter of 2021. This show’s strength lies in its accurate depiction of human flaws and complacency. Every individual is in this drama is heavily flawed and yet you can certainly draw a line between the good and evil. They shoulder burdens of their past but while Dong Shik and Jeong Je choose to be human; Han Ki Hwan, Do Hae Won and Lee Chang Jin gave in to their despicable nature. Do Hae Won might be an antagonist but she is also a caring mother, who spend twenty years paying for her son’s drunken mistake. The supporting character’s bridge the disconnect between deception and reality and as such, make this drama truly phenomenal. I spend a considerate amount of time comparing Beyond Evil to the recently on-air drama Mouse. Although both shows have similar concepts, I was much more emotionally invested in Beyond Evil. As such,if you are looking for a crime thriller that instantly gets you hooked, Beyond Evil should be on the top of your watchlist.
While the Beyond Evil Nation were bemoaning the end of this absolutely riveting drama, the nominations for 57th Baeksang Arts Award were announced. The show has been nominated in seven categories which are as follows-
1) Best Drama
2) Best Director (Shim Na Yeon)
3) Best Original screenplay writer (Kim Soo Jin)
4) Best Male actor (Shin Ha Kyun)
5) Best supporting actor male (Choi Dae Hoon) 6) Best new female artist (Choi Sun Geun)
7) Technical Award- Jang Jong Kyung
Ardent fans will agree that Beyond Evil certainly deserves awards in all the above categories. Fingers crossed!
Here’s hoping that we get to watch Shin Ha Kyun and Yeo Jin Woo in another drama very soon, because they have a chemistry that needs to be explored further!
Rating- 4 out of 5