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K-Drama Review: Stranger

This week I want to feature the Korean drama ‘Stranger’. The drama originally aired in 2017 and ran for 16 episodes.

‘Stranger’ was the first Korean drama I watched. I started watching it because Bae Doo-na was in it and I had been blown away by her performance in ‘Sense8’.

‘Stranger’ or ‘Secret Forest’ as it is also known, was written by Lee Soo-Yeon. The script is one of the reasons why I love the drama so much. There’s a lot of talking. And by that I mean talking that is essential to the plot, heavy with intrigue and subterfuge. It’s amazing how invested you get in what seems a simple conversation until two episodes in, you realize that there’s layers under layers under layers of meaning.

The Plot

In this drama, prosecutor Hwang Shi-mok portrayed by Cho Seung-woo, is trying to discover who murdered Park Moo-sung. He rather reluctantly teams up with Han Yeo-jin, a police detective played by Bae Doo-na. The victim used to bribe a lot of police officers and prosecutors, but he was going to give a list of all the names to Shi-mok because he wanted to come clean. To find the murderer means that they can prove who exactly was being bribed.

That’s not something they want, so there’s a lot of tension and tangled lies. It’s incredible.

This is the kind of show where the screenplay, editing and actors all slot together seamlessly. From the opening seconds till the very last scene you’re gripped by the fast pace, tight writing and flawless acting.

It’s a dark series since we’re basically diving into political intrigue and seedy deals, but it’s also well balanced. There are lighter moments, thanks to Yeo-jin’s character. She’s a sweetheart, a little bit of childlike innocence in her actions. She keeps drawing, but she’s not exactly talented. Her pictures she gives to co-workers and friends. It’s adorable. But Yeo-jin also has a brain and is good at dealing with emotions and looking for motivations.

Yeo-jin balances out Shi-mok’s character because he’s emotionless due to a partial lobotomy in his youth and rather ruthless in his questioning. His main goal is to uncover the truth and he’s clueless in how to deal with people sometimes.

Awards

I’m not the only one who liked the drama. ‘Stranger’ won the Grand Prize for The Seoul Awards. It also received Best Screenplay and Best Main Actor from the Baeksang Awards. The New York Times even placed in tenth for the Best TV Shows Of 2017 which is no small feat. Netflix bought the series for reportedly $200 000 per episode. So you can watch it there.

If you’re not convinced yet, take a look at the other amazing actors who are playing in it as well: Yoo Jae-myung, Lee Joon-Hyuk, Shin Hye-shin (who we featured a different drama from, check that one out here), Yoon Se-Ah, Lee Kyoung-Young.

Take a look at the trailer:

https://www.netflix.com/ie/title/80187302

For people who are obsessed with it as well, there is going to be a second season that should be released in 2020.

Ilse Van Den Heede
A writer with a slight coffee addiction and a tendency to find K-Indie gems in the YouTube rabbit hole.