Well that was f-ed up…in a good way?! Gap Dong, tvN’s Friday / Saturday serial killer drama had its last curtain call / murder yesterday and boy oh boy there be some things to talk about. Like how much I respect Lee Joon’s psychopath face. Seriously, this kid does creepy really well. Clown creepy extremely well– so well I think he grew to my lifetime fear of clowns. Now that is a feat in and of itself. Time for a Stone Cities series review. Cheers!
For first impression of Gap Dong click here.
The Players and the Played
The cast of characters was amazing. The acting was amazing. The story was…wait, just look under the bad section. Should we count the ways the characters carried this show even if as a whole there was something to be desired? Count away!
Moon Yeom was a fascinating hero- because it always felt like (or it was blatantly shown) this guy had his own unique depth of madness which skirted the line of what is considered “good” and “bad”. I guess I cannot really blame him for a lot of his actions, I mean his Dad was an accused serial killer so he had a major chip on his shoulder and a theory to prove.
Throughout the series Moon Yeom was a wild card which never quite fit into the mold I projected him in; when I thought he would go one way he often thought in a way I did not see coming (confessing to being Gap Dang for example). How flawed Moon Yeom was – this was no cookie cutter hero cop here – is what kept him interesting for me, even if sometimes I wanted to smack him upside the head. He did the “right” thing in the end, and gosh darn it he survived (I admit I was nervous – no, convinced of his demise as the series neared completion).
Ryu Tae Oh (flawlessly executed by Lee Joon AKA the guy who just made my “watch anything he is in” list) was a different type of crazy. Outright crazy in fact – a cold blooded killer who idolized the serial killer Gap Dong while making it his mission to surpass him. A psychopath of the highest order he ended up a Hannibal Lechtor like guide for our detectives in their hunt for the original Gap Dong. On top of all of his “I am a psycho so I can find a psycho help” he had our three “good” characters crying for him at the end. Yep, they cried.
Tae Oh seemed to be the Gap Dong who Maria, Moon Yeom, and Ji Wool could feel pity for (even if they hid it or played it off). He was the kid who could have redeemed himself (in their eyes, in mine the guy deserved to be locked up with the key thrown away). I may not have always understood how Maria could be okay cradling him as he died or how Ji Wool would still meet the guy or why anyone would travel to his grave, but I would like to think all of it was just another facet of the grey area of humanity this story gave us. No one is wholly bad or good, they are just trying to be human. Or being pushed towards humanity, as Tae Oh was with the trio of “You killed a bunch of people but let us mourn you”. Okay, maybe it never made sense to begin with. Do you three remember all those people he killed? I mean, I believe in redemption but come on already.
Regardless, the characters were a gaggle of flawed individuals who were a fascinating watch. When this show faltered in the plotting department I continued to tune in because I needed to see this group of people make all sorts of out-there decisions (which would make the most placid therapist pull their hair out).
When life gives you lemons the cast of Gap Dong answers the ink blot test with “It is a serial killer with a flower which makes people play rock paper scissors but loves you but cannot understand feelings but hides in plain sight but wants to die only to see if you will stand beside them but also tried to kill you a handful of times did we mention the torture”. Bless you characters, you are one f***ed up lot.
Tae Oh and Gap Dong were addicted to murder. Moon Yeom, Maria, and Cheol Gon were addicted to catching Gap Dong. Ji Wool was addicted to Moon Yeom and to a lesser extent humanizing Tae Oh. What a twisted web of obsession. As the ending credits rolled I found myself pondering how everyone in this story connected beyond the obvious relationships, after much thought it hit me – this was one sick addiction from start to finish. The points of the story which had annoyed me, namely the “he can’t stop, or can he?” questions regarding the murderers was a question asked not only of our psychopaths but of our good guys. At least this was my perception. Could Moon Yeom stop hunting Gap Dong any easier than Gap Dong could stop killing?
As much as the killers were addicted to cold blooded murder the other characters based their lives on finding the perpetrators. It was an obsession, plain and simple. The obsession which drove this twisted cast of characters was fascinating to watch, when you look at how flawed this group of individuals are. Good, bad, in-between – they lived their lives around a goal that invaded every corner of their conscious. How much their shared goal was moral, how much their goal was “human”, was up to the viewers to decide. Maybe I am reading too much into the story, but the word obsession hit me like a brick balloon thrown by Tae Oh. I felt it man, I felt it. Okay – I will stop watching old Dragnet episodes soon. I promise. Stupid obsession!
Reveal, ask questions later
My issue with Gap Dong is its story. Does this counteract my previous gushing about the cast of characters? No, not really. The characters (and the acting) hold up far better than the story does. Where flawed characters drew me in, the revealing nature of the plot put me off. I wanted a thriller from this show, because it promised as much. I got less of a thriller and more of a look at how everyone reacts to the known – because let us face it, the story revealed far too much far too often.
When I think back on the last year of Korean drama thrillers (and there have been a whole lot of thrillers churned out in the last 12 months) I find the shows I have the fondest memories of are those which were able to keep a balance between the tension and the revelation of mysteries. Each episode was interesting and each episode gave us just enough to tune in next week. Gap Dong was a study in opposites- things were laid out on the table first (come on, we knew the killers too soon) and then we were expected to maintain interest on the basis of what we knew and the characters did not. So we know the killer, now pay attention as he is caught.
Call me old fashioned, but I like the hunt before I know everything about the hunted. And such is my complaint about this show, it gave away too much too soon. It lost its thriller Girl Scout badge before it was even ironed on by its drama land Mom. And that was unfortunate because if this show had managed to figure out the pacing I think it would be a strong contender for drama of the year.
Have you been watching Gap Dong? What did you think of the finale? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section! And talk about Lee Joon if you are so inclined *wink wink* BUT NO CLOWN PICTURES!