Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Yoo Hyang
*The following article contains spoilers.
When we’re in love with a show, we could say that we’ve fallen head over heels for it. Instead of passively taking in the plot, we actively participate in the series by embodying the characters’ feelings and actions. JTBC’s currently airing Beyond Evil is the kind of drama that makes you fall head over heels for it. With the delicate production, plot, and actors’ lively performances, it has become the center of the talk for its addictiveness. The rumors say that it is impossible to stop once you start watching. Amongst watchers, Fridays are called the “Evil day,” as that is when the series airs. But just what is it about the show that makes them so enthusiastic?
“Who is the evil. Is it you or me? Or, Is it us?” Set in a small fictional town of Manyang, Beyond Evil is a story delving into humans’ multifaceted nature, which leads to the 20 years of the disappearances and murder cases. At the center of the plot is Lee Dong Sik, a police officer with a complicated life. Despite being born and raised in Manyang, he is an unwelcomed stranger to the town. The character lost his younger sister in the incident that stirred up Manyang. Later, he became the suspect of the case, and as a result, his family scattered in all directions. Though the police set him free of charges from the case, suspicious and scorning gazes have never left him to this day.
The show confuses viewers by creating a suspicious character who must have gone through a long time of pain and solitude. Soon after the decomposed body resembling the victim from 20 years ago appear, Kang Min Jeong goes missing. She is Kang Jin Mook’s daughter, who owns Manyang supermarket, whom Lee Dong Sik adored like his niece. She disappears with only ten fingers left behind, just like when Dong Sik’s sister Lee Yoo Yeon went missing. With another incident that agitated Manyang, Lee Dong Sik is suspiciously holding onto a secret. Because he was a suspect, we cannot guarantee that Lee Dong Sik, the police, is not the criminal. Even if Lee Dong Sik wasn’t the culprit, it is hard to dispel the suspicions in one way or another.
Lieutenant Han Joo Won intensifies the situation. He disorients the perspective of an outsider, as he suspected Lee Dong Sik right from the beginning when he transferred to the Manyang police station. He openly shows distrust and clashes with Dong Sik, trying to find the connection to the incident. The fierce psychological battle between the two is what drives the show’s plot. Being called an oddball, Lee Dong Sik is uncontrollable as he becomes eccentric when someone persistently interrogates him. However, the more he acts out, the more Han Joo Won is sure of his doubts. The tense conflict makes viewers pay close attention to the two’s relationship and find clues with their sharp senses.
Nonetheless, this show is not simply about two police investigators getting suspicious and wary of each other as they catch the serial killer. It looks into the dark, complex, and hidden feelings of those related to the brutal incident. The abyss unfolds in various forms. It could be as disturbing as Kang Jin Mook, who turned out to be the serial killer. And it could be as helpless and as selfish as the faith that Park Jeong Je and Oh Ji have in Dong Sik. Or, it could be as painful and outrageous as Yoo Jae Yi, who understands Dong Sik’s insane behaviors, and Lee Dong Sik, who had no choice but to break the law and his principles. They are why Beyond Evil is more emotionally immersive than other typical crime thrillers.
It escapes the conventional pattern of a Korean thriller that often focuses on characters’ psychological change, prioritizing explicit scenes and a plot structure that conflicts against the culprit. The question of who the evil is shining a light on a society that gives birth to an evil causes harm to others. Manyang still treats Dong Sik as a criminal and considers him an obstacle to its development projects. They also still share groundless gossips about Jae Yi’s missing mother. Their desires for real estate are too big to console someone and look after their pains. Even the media reports on the victims are biased, as if they were all in it together. The current law, which Lee Dong Sik knows better than anyone else, clearly limits investigating a missing and murder case. These realistic backgrounds are what make this story lifelike.
The twists and turns of the plot cannot go unmentioned when speaking of Beyond Evil. Each episode shocks viewers with unexpected turns of the story, although the story thoroughly inspects the characters’ relationship. Starting with Lee Dong Sik’s heinous appearance as he displays the disjointed fingers, new doubts arise even after Kang Jin Mook has been revealed as the culprit. The closer we try to get to the truth, the further it strays. Questions are particularly rising for what kind of truth Lee Dong Sik and Han Joo Won will face after entering a new phase for Kang Jin Mook’s death and Lee Yoo Yeon’s case in the 9th and 10th episodes.
What is also noteworthy is the relationship between the two. Though Han Joo Won considered Lee Dong Sik an enemy without acknowledging him as a partner, he changed his mind about Lee during Kang Jin Mook’s arrest process. Han Joo Won even swerves away from his values to use Lee Dong Sik’s ways. Lee Dong Sik also considers Han Joo Won as his partner, despite finding him uncomfortable to be around. After being wary and suspecting each other, viewers wonder how the two will overcome the tragedy of Nam Sang Bae’s death and show their bromance during the process. We hope that the two actors, Shin Ha Kyun and Yeo Jin Goo, will shine until the end of the show and make it harder for them to choose who to cast doubt on given their complex inner struggles.
Verdict: It is intense, delicate, and burning (9/10)
Editor Hong Hyun Jung: K-content guide who publishes various articles for people to enjoy Korean movies and dramas deeper and richer. I’ll introduce you to the works that you can laugh, cry and sympathize with.