Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Jeon Gyeong Ju
MBC’s latest drama The Game: Towards Zero (shortened to The Game below) is a thriller, depicting people who chase a serial killer, mixed with a pathetic romance. It is a story about Kim Tae Pyeong, the man who sees others’ moments right before their deaths, getting caught up in the murder case investigated by Seo Joon Young, a police detective of the serious crime squad.
Its setup is very similar with the existing criminal investigation dramas in the U.S. The Game: Towards Zero is a story of an ordinary person with a special ability who cooperates with detectives and helps them solve cases. To refresh the viewers, it just slightly tweaks the familiar narratives of criminal investigation dramas, consisting of the characters who solve cases with extraordinary talents (even if it’s not as mysterious as abilities to predict death) or supernatural powers, such as The Mentalist, White Collar, Elementary, iZombie and Lucifer.
The relationships of characters in the drama are also interesting. Kim Tae Pyeong, who sees not only his opponent’s death but also his own one, used to think he couldn’t change his decided fate but changes himself as he meets Seo Joon Young. Seo Joon Young gives the brand-new experiences to Kim Tae Pyeong, who is a fatalist. One death foretold by Kim Tae Pyeong was missed for the first time, and unlike the people he’s ever met, only Seo Joon Young doesn’t show Kim Tae Pyeong any sign of her death at all. Kim Tae Pyeong , who used to surrender to his fate, accepts these strange with excitement and hope that he has never had. Since then, the sad secret of the cause he couldn’t see Seo Joon Young’s death has been revealed, creating a fond and pathetic feeling between the two lead characters.
On top of that, the two-faced medical examiner Goo Do Kyung, who forms a counterpoint against Kim and Seo, adds fun to the thriller. He is the son of Jo Pil Doo (a serial killer who murdered Seo Joon Young’s father a long time ago) and tries to carry out his private revenge for his father who was falsely accused of murders, thoroughly hiding his real identity. The drama boldly reveals the culprit early in the story and makes its viewers more immersed by leading Kim Tae Pyeong and Seo Joon Young to play a psychological game against Goo Do Kyung.
On the other hand, the pace of the narrative, which is essential to complete an interesting frame of the drama, is slow. The Game, aired through the middle of the whole story, has made little progress since Goo Do Kyung appeared in front of Kim Tae Pyeong and Seo Joon Young, who are investigating a kidnapping case together, raising tension. That’s because the story is busy going back frequently instead of keeping going forward. Although the creators probably want to show the three main characters should inevitably meet each other, the narrative that needs to be developed quickly has slowed down as their long-standing relationships has been highly emphasized. Particularly, the tension of this thriller has been also disrupted by the excessive focus on the killer Goo Do Kyung’s sorrowful past. Emotions of compassion must be properly dealt with the narrative to be affectionate, but The Game is immoderately concerned with emotional expressions for the tragedy caused by the wrong choice.
The acting skills of the cast are regrettable, too. Kim Tae Pyeong has lived with a sense of shame because he couldn’t change his fate while watching the last moments right before their deaths whenever meeting people. Seo Joon Young also had a painful childhood when she lost her father by a murderer and was targeted by the media. Even though they don’t show off their feelings, the murder case coupled with their past experiences must have made their minds complicated. Nevertheless, it’s hard to feel the subtle changes of emotions from the performances of Ok Taec Yeon and Lee Yeon Hee. It’s doubtful whether the two actors are able to express delicate inner hearts of their roles in the rest story that will maintain a deep emotional flow, as Kim Tae Pyeong now realizes his love for Seo Joon Young while the drama passes the halfway point. Contrary to Ok and Lee, Lim Ju Hwan, who plays Goo Do Kyung, has proved his power to change the flow of the drama tightly from the moment Goo’s true colors are revealed, barely supporting the lingering narrative. Though it started with an interesting setting that sets it apart from the previous thrillers, The Game has gradually got lost in the narrative and made the viewers feel that the main actors’ acting skills are not enough good for the drama. Will The Game be able to make up for this disappointment after the middle part?
Verdict: When does the “real” game start? (5/10)
Watch the official highlight video of The Game: Towards Zero on YouTube!