‘D.P. 2’ Review: Harrowing Drama on Military Abuse Goes Deeper

dp season 2 review

Edited by Young Jun Yang
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

dp season 2 review
Credit: Netflix

It’s the story of the South Korean military. With a distinctly Korean narrative, D.P. shook the world and now returns with Season 2. Two years ago, this emotionally impactful series left viewers in tears with its shocking finale. What story does it bring along with its “leave return report”?

Season 2 kicks off with the mass shooting of Kim Lu Ri (Moon Sang Hoon). A victim of military injustice like his friend Jo Seok Bong (Jo Hyun Chul), the scene stealer in last season, Kim Lu Ri points his gun at his tormentors when nothing changes within his unit despite the awful news of Jo’s death hitting the headlines. With the shock of Jo’s incident barely subsided, another large-scale disaster — mass shooting and armed desertion — results in two deaths and several injuries, prompting intervention from not just the 103rd Division D.P., but also the Republic of Korea Army Headquarters (ROKA).

The two groups approaching the incident have starkly different positions. In an attempt to downplay the incident as just an “individual problem,” the ROKA even considers the option of killing Kim Lu Ri. In contrast, the 103rd Division strives to save him. Naturally, the ROKA isn’t happy with them. As they investigate the incident, Ahn Jun Ho (Jung Hae In), Han Ho Yeol (Koo Kyo Hwan), Park Bum Gu (Kim Sung Kyun), and Im Ji Sub (Son Suk Ku) uncover the awkward secrets of the Headquarters, which eventually leads to an unavoidable sharp confrontation with the superior forces.

The D.P., released in 2021, shed light on the tragic scenes of injustices and brutal abuse that continue to occur rampantly within the military to this day. The series, set during a period when such tragic events actually took place twice in the real military, evoked painful memories for those who have completed their military service and left viewers who have sent loved ones to the military in shock. The Ministry of National Defense’s “perplexed” reaction to the show just showed how much the narrative kept it authentic, even if there might have been a bit of exaggeration.

The new season digs deeper into the military beyond simply uncovering injustices unfolding in the barracks. As the series questions where the root cause and responsibility for repeated tragedies within the closed organization lie, season 2 sees the drama’s narrative expand from “individual problems” to “organizational problems.” Naturally, the overall scale of the project has grown. Efforts to bring a mix of new characters, stories, and a variety of genres unseen in the previous season stand out.

dp season 2 review
Credit: Netflix

However, these attempts are not 100% successful. As the 103rd Division characters confront villains like Gu Ja Won (Ji Jin Hee) and Oh Min Woo (Jung Seok Yong) from the ROKA, the storyline drifts towards a clear-cut good versus evil narrative. This turn of events results in a somewhat regrettable oversimplification of previously well-rounded characters. Some unrealistic elements and settings introduced to conclude the series with a “justice prevails” theme also stick out. A prime example is the action sequence inside a train. No matter how good Ahn Jun Ho is at fighting, suggesting he could win a one-versus-many battle with trained D.P. agents seems far-fetched.

The attempt to dress each episode in a different genre is also a polarizing element. While the first two episodes dealing with the Kim Lu Ri incident feel similar to the previous season, the subsequent episodes exude the flavors of musical, horror, chase action, and courtroom thrillers. While some may welcome these changes given the overall dark and heavy tone of the series, it can also be seen as a distraction and cause for confusion.

The performances of the actors are beyond reproach. Jung Hae In, Koo Kyo Hwan (albeit less prominent, unfortunately), Kim Sung Kyun, and Son Suk Ku excellently portray the trauma and guilt from the incidents of the previous season leading to their characters’ growth. The performances of Ji Jin Hee and Jung Seok Yong, who can be seen as the main villains, as well as Kim Ji Hyun, who initially plays a villain but later changes sides, are also memorable. It’s also pleasant to meet new faces Bae Na Ra and Choi Hyun Wook, and the short but strong impressions left by Jo Hyun Chul, Shin Seung Ho, Won Ji An, and Ko Kyung Pyo. However, if I had to pick one actor who gave the most impactful performance, it would undoubtedly be Moon Sang Hoon who plays Kim Lu Ri. If Jo Hyun Chul carried season 1, then it’s no exaggeration to say Moon Sang Hoon carries this season.

D.P. Season 2 is undeniably a worthwhile watch. Despite falling short of its previous season in some aspects, the message it aims to convey is still as powerful. Even if we keep getting told that “things are better in the military,” unless the fundamental issues are resolved, I can’t shake this eerie and melancholic feeling that we will never run out of material for the show. (7/10)

>> Jung Hae In and His Unit Continue the Fight for Justice in ‘D.P. 2’

Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.

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