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The Good Detective is not your standard detective fare. I went into it expecting a straightforward police procedural and a race against the clock to save an innocent man's life. I was expecting a Grisham style The Chamber thriller.  Instead what I got was a somewhat complex, bleak but ultimately hopeful morality tale concerned with individual choices when presented with real moral and ethical dilemmas ie. what drives individuals to do what they do. The cops and politics storyline is the backdrop to a drama about men and women, who in their pursuit of truth, are up against mammoth external obstacles that threaten to consume them and yet the battle begins within an almighty struggle of the will.


The story largely revolves around the investigative misadventures of Detective Sergeant Kang Do-chang, his savvy post-burn out partner Oh Ji-hyuk and a newspaper journalist, Jin Seo-gyeong. After a bumpy start, all three become more cooperative when a matter regarding a death row inmate is brought to their attention. "New" evidence emerges that the inmate at the heart of the matter, Lee Dae-chul, might not be guilty for the crimes he was allegedly accused of. This scenario creates a quandary for the trio and their associates because re-opening the case, as everyone suspects, will be akin to opening pandora's box. However, there's that troublesome, pesky thing called "conscience" that comes into play


The first half of the drama sees the gang in a race to save Lee Dae-chul from the executioner while navigating through political roadblocks posed by those who have reasons to bury the truth. Rather than a large scale organized conspiracy, it's more a case of an intersection of various agendas at play, all having their own reasons for wanting Lee Dae-chul executed. There's a bit of a twist, a few nasty hits before those on the side of the angels pick themselves up and start again. The second half sees the motley crew painfully persevering to make gradual inroads to clearing Lee Dae-chul's name. 


The title might be interpreted in two ways. Firstly it could be a reference to the main character Kang Do-chang but when we first encounter Kang Do-chang, it's not a moniker that he wears well. At the start of the show, he is on the short list for a long overdue promotion. Despite his experience and achievements, he has seen younger men and contemporaries climb the success ladder that's eluded him. Just as he decides that he can only get to the top by not rocking the boat, the Lee Dae-chul case lands right into his lap again. As if Do-chang hasn't got enough on his plate, his impoverished, recently divorced sister with self-defeating alcohol issues seeks refuge with him. Of course the titular detective could on the other hand be pointing to an ideal type rather than an actual person because before a man becomes a cop, he is a flawed human being first and foremost. So an argument could be made that the show is fundamentally an exploration of what that good/exemplary detective looks like. Or how as the story progresses, Kang Do-chang and all those within his circle begin to take on the attributes of a "good detective".


One of my favourite parts of the show has to be the male camaraderie especially among Team 2. The banter between Do-chang and Ji-hyuk especially could possibly be my most favourite thing in the drama. I am especially partial to the backhanded compliments, the understated sympathy and the wry humour. There's so much affection and respect between the men belying the barbed personal comments and the jibes. The male relationships are so well-written here, very true to life. At least in my experience of watching men interact. But it is a joy to watch the two male leads become true brothers-in-arms over time. Props to Son Hyun-joo and Jang Seung-jo for their convincing performances. Much praise should also be given to Oh Jung-se (who is rather ubiquitous these days) for his excellent turn as the villainous Oh Jang-tae. In general, the performances of young and old, newbies and veterans alike were better than decent.


As for romance, it is played out in understated fashion within the confines of detective work. Oh Ji-hyuk and Jin Seo-gyeong are kept on their toes all the way through as they pursue various lines of inquiry but they steal the odd moment or two over drinks for Ji-hyuk to make his shy confessions and backhanded compliments.


Overall I am of the opinion that this is an excellent thought-provoking crime drama that's not just about catching baddies and putting them behind bars. Although some might find the resolution a tad controversial, it does end on a hopeful note.


1. Plot / story 9

2. Cast / acting 8.5

3. Production values 8.5

4. Re-watch value 8.5


If you're interested in reading more about the drama, go to my blog. Beware of spoilers.

Edited by 40somethingahjumma
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Currently Watching: Welcome to Samdal-ri, The Hope, Twinkling Watermelon


"Love is not an affectionate feeling but a steady wish for the loved person's good as far as it can be obtained." -- CS Lewis.

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On 8/26/2020 at 5:30 AM, 40somethingahjumma said:

The title might be interpreted in two ways.


A more literal translation of the Korean title is "Model Detective" rather than "Good Detective", as in an example of what a detective should or could be, an exemplar, if you will.


I like your two explanations of what the title could refer. I personally thought the title referenced the pathways that a detective might have to undergo in order to achieve being a truly admired detective, including all the pitfalls and temptations it entails, especially with respect to wanting to progress and achieve in the field.


Thank you for an excellent review!

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  • 9 months later...

This drama actually ended up becoming a favorite drama of mine, one which I've re-watched a number of times when I wasn't in the mood to watch something else.


I absolutely loved the interaction between the partners Kang Do Chang and Oh Ji Hyuk, but my appreciation for their relationships with everyone around them has definitely increased with repeated viewings.


Kang Do Chang does want his much delayed promotion, but he's a man with a sense of heightened responsibility. The way he interacts with his divorced sister who is going through her own problems, especially being separated from her young son, is an exercise in both tough love and loving forbearance. He also takes responsibility for Kim Dae Chul's daughter, initially out of a sense of guilt, but also because he feels that is the right thing to do. The way these three people ultimately become a family is a side story that is very emotional and engaging to watch. The resolution with the sister's son had an emotional payoff even though ex-husband was still a total jerk, however, at least he showed that he did have the welfare of his son over his need to jerk his ex-wife around.


Oh Ji Hyuk is an interesting character. An experienced detective with a rebellious streak, he had quit the police force after he inherited a large sum of money from his family, but after awhile realized that he needed something more to do than just spend the money, so had rejoined the police force. So, we meet him in this drama after he's rejoined the police force and has transferred into Kang Do Chang's department, becoming his new partner. Ji Hyuk really has nothing to lose since losing his job does not mean worrying about making a living or losing his pension. So, Ji Hyuk is basically incorruptible in terms of doing things any other way than he thinks is right. He's definitely willing to go against orders from above, but he's also willing to go against traditional Korean values which has family being almost sacred to each other. JH knows that his cousin is not only the head of the family business group but is also an evil person, so he keeps him under watch and is willing to go after him when he thinks he has cause.


Jin Seo Gyung as a reporter is torn between conflicting loyalties. Her ideals, her principles, and her ambitions sometimes conflict with her conscience, and she doesn't always make the right call.


Another character who was a standout is Yoon Sang Mi, a former detective who had worked under Kang Do Chang's supervision, and had been promoted to the Internal Affairs division. She is an ambitious woman who can be cold and calculating in her ambition, but also is calculating in terms of getting the outcomes that she wants. She's presented as a character who is not good nor evil, but rather will do what she feels is necessary, for the sake of the job as well as her sake.


The Violent Crimes 2nd Division, in general, is also compelling, both in their brotherhood, but also in showing how conflicts can arise between personal ambition, loyalties, and doing the right thing. It's not always a straightforward answer. But taking responsibility for one's actions buys forgiveness from people who are not only your colleagues but friends and family.


This drama presents dilemmas that are not straightforward, plus has some thoughtful twists as well as it tells its story. Definitely worth watching. And, looking forward to Season 2 of this drama already!


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