Edited by Seo Hae Lan
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Stranger (also known as Secret Forest) returned after three years to remove another veil and reveal the truth.
The first season of Stranger was about an emotionless prosecutor and a warm detective digging into the serial murder case related to the corruption at the prosecutor’s office and the truth hidden behind it. Even after three years, its solid story, attractive characters, perfect performances, and excellent production are still talked about.
The second season wraps the backstory of prosecutors and police battling over who holds the investigative authority with “definitions of judicial power.” In fact, the two sides have long fought over “who will have the authority to investigate the case and prosecute the criminals?” Rather than defining which side is right or wrong, the drama features characters who use the truth and even deaths as tools for their own organization and depicts the reality where they are celebrated as heroes. Woo Tae Ha and Choi Bit, the new bosses of Hwang Shik Mok and Han Yeo Jin, order their subordinates to keep the truth silent and to take advantage or even spy on each other.
This season, there is no clear villain role like Lee Chang Jun (previous season), and the real identity of the evil is still veiled. Instead, those with great ambition to prosper their organization engage in “media play” and “political games,” and those who are blind to money threaten ordinary people and colleagues. In a way, viewers face a reality that is, in a way, more trivial and shuddering with the main characters.
How the story unfolds is also quite different. In the first season, a series of events take place, and the truth is revealed at the end. Viewers doubt every character, but can follow the “body” of the story easily. However, the second season feels like a fog. Events that seem unrelated are scattered like pieces of a puzzle. A total of 7 cases or issues, such as the Tongyeong coast drowning incident and the death of a police officer from the Segok District Police Station, have come up directly and indirectly during the past 6 episodes, but I still don’t know their usages besides being used as a topic of the battle between the prosecutor’s office and the police. Also, if all the cases showed its own “weight” in season 1, in season 2, all cases are depicted like a side branch to paint the confrontation between the two sides.
The second season starts two years after Lee Chang Jun’s death. Are Shi Mok and Yeo Jin still the same? Shi Mok sticks to his “my way” method. He does take orders from his boss but he never walks on eggshells, and surprises everyone by always saying what’s right. But yet, Yeo Jin has changed. Her swift moves as a detective became “heavier” after being promoted. Above all, she is now exhausted. Even when she tries to put justice and truth first, she finds herself worn out after throwing herself against a high wall that gives no answers.
In the sixth episode, the scene where the two talk on Yeo Jin’s house’s roof brings together the feelings of hope, defeat, loneliness, and camaraderie we felt while watching this drama. Yeo Jin says, “No matter how much you try, you can’t stop the fog, and no matter how many criminals you catch, the number of bad guys won’t decrease.” Viewers who watched the first season would never have imagined her saying such a thing. To her, Shi Mok asks, “You don’t draw pictures anymore?” and brings back the old Yeo Jin. Instead of nagging or pushing her, he reminds her of what she should do, saying, “We have an obligation to watch the coastline.” Though they might be on opposing sides now, Shi Mok and Yeo Jin proves that they are the real partners who know each other the best and share a belief that values justice and truth above all else.
Then in the 7th episode, Seo Dong Jae (Lee Joon Hyuk) has gone missing, and the story faced a dramatic turn. He, who always dreamed of success, pursued the power, and tried to prove his use, suddenly disappeared. For the first time, all the characters focused on one incident, and Yeo Jin and Shik Mok returned to the scene together, heralding their collaboration. Dong Jae’s disappearances will become a signal that shows the link between all cases mentioned so far. With the prosecution and police at odds, what answers will Shi Mok and Yeo Jin find? Will we be able to feel the joy of getting rid of the shroud and facing the “secret forest”? This is why we look forward to Stranger 2, which faced the turning point in thick fog.
Verdict: The masterpiece that took out the “hero” but added the reality. What we need now is one big blow. (8/10)