Series Review: Voice (OCN)

I haven’t talked about a kdrama (Korean drama/tv show) on this blog in a long time, it’s about time I did it again. So, enjoy this review!

파일-보이스_포스터If you know anything about me, you may have noticed that I really like crime dramas (and books). I’m not sure when this started or why I like them so much, but I do. Whenever a new I read about new kdramas, if they’re crime-related, I usually am interested. When I read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to watch it:

Two detectives teamed up to catch a serial killer who murdered their family. Moo Jin Hyuk’s life spiraled out of control after his wife was murdered. He starts to put himself together after he meets Kang Kwon Joo, US-graduated voice-profiler, who lost her police father to the same serial killer. They work together on the 112 (emergency telephone number) call center team.

Serial killer shows also intrigue me (ex: Gap Dong, Signal, and, to some extent, Bad Guys) and so that just sealed the deal for me. The who is, in fact, about Jin Hyuk and Kwon Joo’s hunt for the serial killer who killed their loved ones, but it’s actually more than just that. The serial killer storyline is what brings the two characters together and it’s the overarching theme that runs through each episode, but it’s not what brings the show together. Instead, that is left in the hands of the characters whole make up the call center and the detectives who solve the crimes the call sender sends their way.

Spoilers for the entire show (16 episodes) to follow.

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Jin Hyuk

Jin Hyuk’s characters is call “mad dog” (at least in the English subs on Dramafever) because he’s kind of nuts — but he also doggedly (lol) gets the job done. The show begins with Jin Hyuk and his team solving a crime and then celebrating a job well done while a woman is being stalked in the shadows. She calls someone, who doesn’t answer, and then she calls 112 (911) and Kwon Joo picks up. It turns out that the person on the phone is Jin Hyuk’s wife and he’s the one she called first. He was too bus, both catching the bad guy and then celebrating to answer the phone. His wife is killed and we suffer his guilt and grief alongside him.

We skip to the trial, a man’s arrested for the murder, but all is not as it seems. A woman, Kwon Joo (though we don’t know it’s her) arrives to testify. She explains that she heard the killer’s voice when he killed her father (a cop) and she knows the man they have on trial isn’t the murder. She asks them to play the recording of her conversation with the killer, but it’s gone — erased. The man gets off and Jin Hyuk goes crazy.

We skip three years and this is where the drama truly beings. Jin Hyuk is back to being a glorified traffic cop and Kwon Joo has just returned from life in the United States. She is assigned to the same police station where Jin Hyuk works, determined to find out who killed her father and Jin Hyuk’s wife. She forms what is called the Golden Time Team, which consists of the 112 call center and detectives who solve the crimes that come in. She insists that Jin Hyuk be part of the time and this is the first part of the drama of the show.

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Kwon Joo

Kwon Joo wants to work with Jin Hyuk, but he wants nothing to do with her. He reluctantly begins solving the crimes she throws at him and this is the basis for each episode, except the very last one. There are threads of the serial killer search throughout the show, but the central plot of each episode revolves around cases that come into the 112 line. Similar to a “case of the week” show (like Law & Order or Person of Interest), the Golden Time Team must save people before it’s too late. The beginning of each episode resolves the case of the previous episode and the second half introduces the next case, all mixed up with the search for serial killer.

Some of the cases are tied to the serial killer directly, some not so much. It is through these cases, and the frank honest between Kwon Joo and Jin Hyuk, that they grow to trust each other. Really, that Jin Hyuk learns to trust Kwon Joo. She convinces him that she’s not nuts — her story is that when she was younger, she was gravely ill and lost her sight for many years. During her period of blindness, she honed her hearing and now it is exceptionally good. This is the only true part of the show that is not quite believable, but without it, this show wouldn’t work. I decided, almost immediately, that I didn’t care if this part didn’t seem real, it works too well for me to care.

Once Jin Hyuk grudgingly trusts Kwon Joo, their hunt for the murderer of her father and his husband begins in earnest. While they solve crimes each week, we also slowly see them uncover the truth behind the murders. They uncover conspiracies, are thwarted at every turn and eventually discover a mole in the police.

Voice is a very dark drama. It’s actually darker than many kdramas I’ve seen, even the crime ones that I adore. The stories feel real, the anguish the victims and our cops feel is real, too. Even the emotions of the bad guys, with whom we do spend time, are very raw. There is back story, reasons for why people behave the way they do, and much of is heart breaking. For those of you who’ve read my reviews before, you know I like the “flower boy” detectives quite a bit and Shim Dae Shik is no exception. I adored him, but as with most of our characters, all is not what it seems.

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Jin Hyuk and Dae Shik

Another spoiler warning! Somewhere toward the middle of the show, maybe episode eight, I realized that they were going to make Dae Shik the mole. I didn’t want to be write, I loved his character, but unfortunately I was correct. He was the mole and his storyline just grew more and more upsetting.

Of course, we always knew how this drama was going to end, with the good guys bringing down the bad guys. The truth is that the way they got there was the interesting part. While not a perfect drama, it had all the elements I really enjoyed. Once I accepted how Kwon Joo’s hearing worked, everything else seemed more or less believable. It was a great drama, the acting was by far and away the best part of the show and is, to be honest, a reason to watch it.

I enjoyed Voice much more than I expected and am glad I watched it. Perhaps for my next kdrama I’ll go for something a bit more light hearted. Maybe.

 

 

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Series Review: Fire and Thorns – Rae Carson

Note: This review does not include the novellas, which I haven’t read. You can find the complete list of titles here at LT.

Fire and ThornsPrior to getting into YA literature (before I was even a librarian, but after I had started library school), I had grown tired of fantasy. Obviously I hadn’t yet discovered the world of YA fantasy and had no idea what I was missing out on. But if it had magic, dragons, etc (except for Harry Potter), I just wasn’t interested in it. But once I got into YA, I discovered that there’s a whole world of fantasy that isn’t Lord of the Rings (sprawling, epic fantasy, no matter how popular it is, isn’t for me). In more recent years, I’ve looked for fantasy novels that have strong female characters (Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms series is one of the better ones), which is why I was so excited to pick up the first of Carson’s trilogy, The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

The series is about Elisa, who is the bearer of something called a Godstone, which results in her having some magic inside of her. She is smart, strong and devoted to her studies (religious in nature). Because of the Godstone, she is one of the chosen people and Elisa is left wondering what it is exactly she must do to fulfill this task, a theme which Carson weaves throughout all three novels. In the course of the first novel, she is required to marry into a neighboring kingdom and so the story of Elisa truly begins.

Throughout all three novels, Elisa must fight for her survival, those of her friends and loved ones as well as that of her people/kingdom. Elisa is strong and brave, but she’s more than that. She kicks ass, she fights back and she’s willing to make sacrifices that a queen should make. Carson doesn’t shy away from anything — including the death of characters we’ve grown to care for. The novels aren’t without love and Elisa does have a couple of love interests, but they are not the focus on the story, they are additions that give us a fuller picture. Carson is also good at writing her secondary characters and we learn about them as the story (and stories) progress. I read the three books soon after each of them came out, so there was about a year in between while I waited for the new ones to be published. But as soon as I picked each book up again, it was as though I’d never left.

Carson’s Fire and Thorns series is a fantastic bit of fantasy. It is appealing to both adults and young adults. Elisa is not your standard view of beauty, but you never question that she is, indeed beautiful. I would recommend this series to fans of Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley, as well as anyone who wants to a well written fantasy series.