K-Drama Review: ‘Inspector Koo’: A Refreshing Comedy Detective Drama that Broke Free of Convention

Inspector Koo review

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Cho EK

Inspector Koo review
Credit: JTBC

Just like what �Lee Young Ae said, “I did it because it was a strange drama. It was unique and fantastic,” Inspector Koo takes us into the world of K-dramas that we have never been before. The story of a reclusive ex-cop reentering the game as an insurance investigator searching for clues in crime scenes moves in unexpected directions featuring characters with unusual personalities. Many parts of the series, including the characters, plot, scenes, stories, and music, are fresh and far from those of typical Korean dramas. The story is dark but not too dark and overwhelming. It flows with a light and amusing touch and sometimes gets serious when needed. Right now, the series is on its eighth episode out of twelve, yet it is still very hard to tell how the story will turn out in the end.

Inspector Koo received attention even before its release for Lee Young Ae’s shocking transformation in the play. The actress is well-known for her elegant image, but in this new work, she shocked viewers with her messy hair and wrinkled clothes, playing a character who is all about games and alcohol. However, her change didn’t end there. Her character, Koo Kyung Yi, is more than interesting when we look closely. Koo Kyung Yi breaks the conventional image of women in their 40s. For instance, she is fueled by her heart and beliefs rather than family bonds or worldly desires. As she is not bound by her personal emotions, it is new and exciting to see her constantly doubting things and digging up the dirt with her incredible skills and intelligence.

The same goes for those around Koo Kyung Yi. For instance, K (Kim Hye Jun), who runs parallel to the female inspector and confronts her, resembles no other serial killers we’ve seen in other works. She seems bright and innocent on the outside, but on the inside, she is a dangerous woman filled with dark desires to kill and fight. And if we go a little deeper into her state of mind, we can see that she is incapable of empathy and feels nothing whatsoever. She is also different from other serial killer characters in a way that she doesn’t murder people with a particular emotion. K sets her own rules for killing and selects her victims based on how evil they are, whether they bullied someone or if they preyed on the weak.

Inspector Koo review
Credit: JTBC

The drama differs from the rest of the crime series in a way that it doesn’t center around male characters and it decides not to put female characters in a small box of simple advocates or victims. Koo Kyung Yi’s junior, Na Je Hee (Kwak Sun Young), is the person who has brought Koo Kyung Yi out to the world while she was completely into video games. In the drama, Na has her independent narrative as she weighs her options and choices between her love for Inspector Koo and her ambition for success. Director Yong (Kim Hae Sook) is a character who might be a greater villain than K. She reached out to Koo Kyung Yi first to catch K. However, as time goes by, it is becoming clear that she has a hidden intention, possibly a malicious one, for a bigger picture.

Although the main characters are women, there are great male characters supporting the overall storyline. A great example would be Koo Kyung Yi’s faithful assistant, Santa (Baek Sung Chul). He naturally blended into the daily life of Koo Kyung Yi, raising questions about why he volunteered to be her assistant. Looking all handsome and a little suspicious, he is always around the inspector while communicating with her using the AI voice. Na Je Hee’s peer officer Kyung Soo (Jo Hyun Chul) is often referred to as ‘Mister Over there’ by Koo Kyung Yi. Although he is one of those unnoticeable characters in the play, he draws the compassion of viewers as he struggles with his everyday life. K’s assistant, Geon Wook (Lee Hong Nae), is the only person who is in love in this drama where conspiracies and death are rampant. I wonder if this sweet man who has shown a rare heartwarming gay romance in K-dramas will be able to escape from K’s twisted agenda.

Yumi's Cells

Just like how the BBC’s Sherlock has effectively shown the extraordinary intelligence and skills of the private detective by using masterful film editing methods, Inspector Koo also made some smart choices of partially using cartoon or theatrical scenes throughout the drama. Instead of explaining everything in words, the drama shows the process of Koo Kyung Yi analyzing K’s perfect plan on a stage like a theatrical play. And it depicts her as a game character who gains its energy by obtaining a coin when she drinks alcohol. These little kitsch choices solidify the unique strength of Inspector Koo. The two main actors also deliver their lines with little exaggerated tones to match their character with the overall atmosphere of the series.

Inspector Koo unveiled its ultimate villain at the beginning of its series, and ever since, the series has been narrowing the distance between the two by throwing doubts and questions within the work. Now that the two are clearly aware of each other, the drama has reached its turning point. Koo Kyung Yi has set a trap to catch K, and director Yong used it to cause a great tragedy for the girl who enjoyed killing people like a sociopath. The 8th episode shocked the viewers by showing Koo Kyung Yi, K, and Ms. Yong all in one place. I wonder what will happen amongst the characters in the remaining episodes of Inspector Koo.


Verdict: Lee Young Ae made the right choice. (9/10)

Edited Hong Hyun Jung: I am a 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.

Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.

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