Inspector Koo – Episodes 3 + 4

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Written by Sung Cho-yi
Directed by Lee Jung-heum

As enjoyable as this was last week, you can really sense Inspector Koo coming into its own with this second block of episodes. The pace is upped considerably, there are twists and turns, storytelling full of incident, all of which culminates with a life-or-death cliff-hanger in episode four. Best of all, the tone of the series feels more settled here.

There is still some wackiness to the humour, but it feels more controlled, and it never comes as a detriment to the darker underpinnings of the drama. Even better than that, the character development is superbly done. The set-piece cliff-hanger that ends the fourth chapter is fantastic for sure, but it’s some of the smaller character moments that work just as powerfully here.

While this is a series focused squarely on its lead character and the serial killer known as ‘K’, the surrounding world and the characters occupying it come into sharper focus. Flashbacks reveal more of Kyung-yi’s previous life as a detective and the case against her husband that led to his death and which pushed her in the life direction she is now on, but also we’re given a sense of how much of a role Je-hee (Kwak Sun-young) played in that part of her life.

So much is said, but more importantly, a lot is also left unsaid during pivotal moments and the series is playing a wonderful game of ‘show not tell.’ The unsaid parts of it might prove frustrating to the section of the audience that wants answers right away, but it works to the core strengths of the series and is a strong component.

What is also becoming clear is how much of a role femininity is playing in the writing, with much emphasis on its largely female cast of characters conversing with each other. Yes, admittedly some of those conversations do involve other male characters, and there are other male characters in the series, but so much of the dialogue here is centred on what its female cast is thinking and feeling as opposed to how it’s filtered through characters such as Santa or Gyeong-Su. The interaction between Kyung-yi and Yi-kyung, not to mention Je-hee’s equally complex dynamic with Kyung-yi, give so much drive and impetus to the thrills on the one hand and the drama on the other.

Of course, this being a thriller, it’s the Kyung-yi/Yi-kyung antagonism that is giving Inspector Koo a considerable edge. There is an undercurrent of threat to go with the playfulness between them that is simultaneously funny but also worrying given that Yi-kyung is a fully functioning sociopath who is so adept at playing roles and faking emotion, even evidently going as far as to pretend that she is a bad stage actor.

The moment when she starts to deliver a convincing performance and well-timed line readings to Kyung-yi during a fantastic one-on-one conversation between them is a superb scene on all fronts, combining great writing with a superlative performance from Kim Hye-jun that goes from playful to threatening and back again in a manner that is both funny and just a tad scary.

Equally fantastic is how the series is exploring her networking approach to serial murder, as well as her motivations in what she is doing. There is an avenging angel quality to her. Dressed to impress while partaking in horrifying murders against those she finds herself wanting to kill, the interesting aspect of her character is the vigilante nature of her modus operandi.

Her victims are those who have ethically or morally done the wrong thing, which makes the prospect of her having killed Kyung-yi’s husband even more intriguing.

It gives the fun thriller antics a considerable charge, and by the end of the fourth episode the series has gone and upped the ante even further by placing Kyung-yi and her charming sidekick Santa (who naturally has more going on than at first appears) on a rescue mission to save their friends and colleagues from certain death.

It’s one of those cliff-hangers that leaves you eagerly anticipating the next episode, almost screaming in frustration in the best possible way, when the end credits roll.

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