Two men with different ideals and ethics, fearless yet unhindered, surrounded by distrust and corruption; what happens when they work together in the pursuit of justice?
These lines should either remind you of the JTBC thriller suspense “Beyond Evil” or the recently concluded dystopian crime mystery “The Devil Judge”. The common denominator in both these trailblazer dramas is the subtle portrayal of the main lead’s romantic inclinations. It would be wrong to say that they were subtle, rather they are unexplored as well as insurmountable. Despite the glaring differences in the subjective, both dramas draw a resplendent parallelism when it comes to the romance (which became the talk of the town). While in Beyond Evil, the Manyang residents are heartwarming yet suspicious; The Devil’s Judge is set in a dystopian universe where the society has devolved to the point that people openly voice their distrust and hatred for their corrupt leaders. Both dramas reflect the common rhetorical question- What happens when your own partner is suspicious of your past actions and those memories haunt you on a daily basis?
We are going to dig deeper to find the answer for this question, as we try to compare the main lead’s in both the dramas based on their chemistry and teamwork!
The Misinterpreted Heroes and Their Clocking Realities
Quite shocking and disturbing, but both of our main leads share the same horrifying trait- an ostracized past where they were convicted for being a cold-blooded killer. While Lee Dong Shik (Shin Ha Kyun) is branded as a culprit in his own twin sister’s murder; Kang Yo Han (Ji Sung) bears the brunt of being framed for his step-brother Isaac’s death. I was actually flabbergasted at the gleam reality, where both our protagonists are majorly dubbed as antagonists. Both are masterminds, project an uncanny attitude which misleads most people into believing that they are the “Anti-Heroes”. They seem manipulative and it is difficult to understand their true intentions. But beneath the veil, both of them yearn for justice and acceptance. The major difference between these characters lies in the “Friendships” they develop. Fortunately for Dong Shik, he has a whole battalion of close friends who form his “Makeshift Family”. Despite his odd nature, they trust him implicitly and always support him; even if the evidence often points in Dong Shik’s direction. Yo Han however, doesn’t share the same luxury. His niece hates him from the bottom of her heart, his co-workers merely work for him because they share the same agenda and he has two morbid love interests- one who doesn’t trust him (Kim Ga On) while the other is hellbent on tearing him apart (Jung Sun Ah). Yes, I feel more sorry for Yo Han, than Dong Shik. Both are fighters and protectors in their own way. But while the people in Dong Shik’s life are appreciative of his efforts; Yo Han is always misjudged. His intentions are always questioned or twisted into depressing alternatives. These two men have faced immeasurable pain and sufferings, which has shaped their character and intellect. While Dong Shik has friends who would pull him back to safety, if he ever falls off the cliff; Yo Han stands alone!
The Unwavering, Righteous Protagonists
There is obviously no comparison between Han Joo Won (Yeo Jin Goo) and Kim Ga On (Park Jin Young), apart from their similar ideologies. Both believe in the legal system and want to abide by the law. A task which becomes increasingly difficult, when they are paired opposite their misleading partner’s. While Lee Dong Shik takes Joo Won on a wild ride where they engage in psychological warfare; Ga On leads a sheltered life where he is protected by Yo Han from the harsh realities of life. The difference between these characters lies in the way they seek redemption. Han Joo Won’s father is an elite detective who holds high chances of becoming the next chief of the National Police Agency. As such, Joo Won is a stickler for rules and regulations. Although he joins the Manyang Police Force, with the vested interest of investigating Dong Shik; once he realises that he was wrong, Joo Wan switches his loyalties. He doesn’t waver from his decisions and even fights against his own Father. While Joo Won’s love and affection for his wronged partner are obvious; Ga On is mostly frivolous and indecisive. This could be attributed to the fact that he trusts his best friend Yoon Soo Hyun (Park Gyu Young) and mentor Min Jung Ho (Ahn Nae Sang) blindly. He goes back and forth and although he doesn’t display any romantic afflictions for Yo Han, his confused attitude is surely a downer. Because Yo Han and Ga On definitely have a sizzling chemistry! His distrustful attitude sinks this ship and regrettably Ga On is no match for the highly intelligent and influential Yo Han. So, while Joo Wan grabs the opportunity to redeem himself and prove his love; Ga On back-stabs Yo Han at the most unfortunate moment and loses his trust. Joo Wan and Ga On are quite similar in the ethical sense; but entirely different when it comes to supporting their partners.
The Irrefutable Romance
I definitely got a kick from the glaring similarities in the above pictures. Joo Wan acts like a posh, elitist; unbothered by Dong Shik’s earnest greeting. Ga On on the other hand is swept off his feet by the very handsome Chief Judge, who doesn’t understand the meaning of social distancing. While Joo Wan has his preconceived prejudices; Ga On is acting as a spy planted by his mentor to monitor Kang Yo Han’s actions. Both men are highly suspicious of their individual partners and yet are invariably drawn to them. Joo Wan goes through an entire cycle of denial and confusion, when he starts observing Dong Shik during their daily patrols. It makes him realize that the man who spend his time searching for dementia patients and helping mentally unstable kids cannot be the “Devil’s Incarnate”. Dong Shik’s helping tendency and his earnest friendships makes it increasingly difficult for Joo Wan to suspect him. Ga On on the other hand faces an alternate reality in Yo Han’s majestic manor, where he comes face to face with a broken man chasing his own demons. Joo Wan and Ga On are both irrevocably drawn to these men who have experienced intolerable pain and despair in their respective lives.
In both cases, our anti-heroes try to deflect their partners with low-key flirting skills. In Yo Han’s case, it’s more glaringly obvious. While Dong Shik uses his devastatingly handsome smile to break through Joo Wan’s defenses and manipulate him; Yo Han tries his level best to recruit Ga On’s help. He is obviously more earnest of the two, because Ga On resembles Yo Han’s elder brother. Our idealist protagonists are left bewildered and suspicious. Both Joo Won and Ga On question their counterpart’s intentions, while trying to understand their true plans. Although Dong Shik tries his level best to confuse Joo Wan, our young detective raises above the occasion. Unlike Ga On who is easily misled and often falls prey to misunderstandings, Joo Wan isn’t easily manipulated. He has his moments of confusion, but Joo Won does give the benefit of doubt to Dong Shik. Something that Ga On fails to grasp, because he is easily swayed by Soo Hyun’s dogged perspective of Yo Han. This constant to and fro will leave you frustrated. The fact that he views the world through rose-tinted glasses is a major deterrent to his blossoming relationship with Yo Han. He lives in Yo Han’s mansion, cooks for him, tries to mend Yo Han’s severed connection with his niece. Despite doing all this, Ga On still finds it difficult to trust Yo Han. I don’t know whom I should feel sorry for- Ga On or Yo Han??
The worlds slowly converge, when Joo Won and Ga On realize that there is more to their partner’s than the image they project. As such, Joo Won spends a lot of time stalking Dong Shik, while Ga On takes permanent residence in Yo Han’s mansion. The high sexual tension between both couples is irrefutable, as both Joo Wan and Ga On are unable to get over their fleeting emotions. The shows diverge into different directions at this point; Joo Won begins to question the evidence that paints a gory picture. Ga On on the other hand is stuck in the old bender where his emotions keeps wavering. One moment, he is helping Yo Han fight injustice and the next moment, he questions Yo Han’s aggressive moves. His mistrust drives a wedge in their rather beautiful relationship. While Joo Wan changes his outlook and perception to match Dong Shik’s game plan, becoming his strongest supporter; Ga On spends most of his time high tailing between choosing sides. If it wasn’t for Yo Han’s patient demeanor, their partnership would be toast.
The turning point in these dramas brings us to the biggest revelations ever. Joo Won realises that his own Father was the real culprit who accidentally killed Dong Shik’s sister. Ga On on the other hand realizes that he was just a pawn in the chess game planned by Sun Ah. While Joo Wan begs for forgiveness and seeks redemption by joining forces with Dong Shik; Ga On loses his mind when Yo Han is arrested and consequently declared dead in the jail. Absolutely different scenarios and the cinematic parallels are yet so intriguing. Dong Shik never questions Joo Won’s intentions, which is quite evident from the soft looks he bestows on Joo Won. He is more worried about Joo Won’s mental state, than seeking revenge. Joo Won strained relationship with his Father is a direct contrast to his soothing romance with Dong Shik. The most interesting fact is that everyone in Manyang knows about their affections and loves to ship our main couple together. Something that is missing in Yo Han and Ga On’s relationship. He doesn’t accept the attraction until Soo Hyun dies (because he is seemingly in love with Soo Hyun). His actions speak otherwise. When Soo Hyun dies, he mopes around his apartment. When Yo Han is declared dead, Ga On goes on a suicidal mission to punish his own mentor. Frankly, I have never met a more confused individual than Ga On.
Both shows give us an opening ending, although I personally feel that Beyond Evil was better. Working past their obstacles, both pairs win the final battle. Joo Won and Dong Shik reconcile after a year of separation, but the way they lovingly stare at each other promises a better future. Our “Devil Judge” couple however have an uncertain separation because Yo Han is declared a criminal. He is forced to leave the country and although their final meeting is highly emotional and charged, their reconciliation seems unlikely. While Joo Won is stationed close by to Manyang, I’m sure it won’t be long before he transfers to the Manyang Substation. Joo Won has been mimicking Dong Shik’s behavior and if this doesn’t scream romance, I don’t know what else will? Ga On lost his chance when he decided to betray Yo Han. Although Yo Han doesn’t hold grudges, I’m not sure if Ga On will ever be a part of Yo Han’s happy family with his niece, Elijah. Ga On found a new family, but unfortunately he lost them because of his own misgivings. Their farewell scene replicates the classic airport romance trope, and yet it is a painful reminder of their broken relationship.
Feminine Strength At Its Best or Worst
There are quite a few people in the Beyond Evil fandom who love to ship Yoo Jae Yi (Choi Sung Eun) with Han Joo Won. I truly understand the charm, although there is no trace of attraction between them. And then we have our eternal antagonist Jung Sun Ah (Kim Min Jung) in The Devil Judge. Both strong women with an independent attitude. They represent the good and the evil. Jae Yi was orphaned at young age, when her mother fell prey to the serial killer haunting their town. Sun Ah on the other hand had an equally horrifying childhood, where she was seemingly abused by her alcoholic mother. Their situations might seem similar, but their characters aren’t. While Jae Yi is righteous, loves her makeshift family and is insanely protective of her Guardian Angel, Dong Shik. Sun Ah lives a dangerous life, tethered onto the edge. In a world dominated by men, she is an outcast. Although she rises from the ashes like a Pheonix, Sun Ah yearns for love and affection. Would Sun Ah be like Jae Yi, if she had the same environment? I don’t think so. Despite her childlike demeanor and bright attitude, Sun Ah doesn’t understand the true meaning of love. For her, it’s simply a possession or an obsession. So, while Jae Yi is mature and honest, Sun Yi is fake, blingy and manipulative.
As such, Jae Yi is surrounded by people who truly care about her and would do their level best to safeguard her. Meanwhile, Sun Ah is left with broken desires when her implanted “Weakness” Ga On takes her place in Yo Han’s heart and her perceived position in his manor. She wanted to be the Queen, but ends up being repeatedly rebutted to the maid status. Jae Yi has an innate strength which she uses to protect, while Sun Ah uses her intelligent mind to destroy and deflect. While I felt proud watching Jae Yi, I pitied Sun Ah’s situation. She is broken inside; her search for love and worldly possessions have turned her into a devil. She does feel remorse and guilt, but she is an egomaniac who won’t bow down before anyone or accept her mistakes. Jae Yi and Sun Ah are two sides of the same coin; only Jae Yi is happy and satisfied with her meager lifestyle. Sun Ah aims for the moon and ends up falling into the abyss.
Both dramas are well executed and armed with a fantastic cast. However, if I grade them based on the romantic afflictions between the main couples, “The Devil Judge” does fall short of expectations. The writing faltered in the penultimate episodes and seemed rushed. Ga On’s character assassination was unwarranted and a promising love story was extinguished to hightail his straight romance with his best friend. Based on these observations, “Beyond Evil” is an obvious winner. The riveting storyline is all encompassing and the underrated chemistry between Shin Ha Hyun and Yeo Jin Woo is the icing on the cake. Shin Ha Kyun was truly deserving of the Baeksang Award. Words fail to express my love for this crime thriller!