I began Watcher soon after it started airing, but I could tell that it was one I’d want to pick and choose my time to watch and savor its plot-twisty story, so I put it on hold until I could finish it in as big a gulp as I wanted (the final 9 hours worth in 2 days), and it didn’t disappoint.
Seo Kang-joon plays one of the 3 central protagonists; Kim Young-goon is a young police officer* with the unhappy past. He was the sole witness to his mother’s death at the hands of a murderer and for years he’s thought that person was his father, a top detective in the police force, suspected of corruption. His driving ambition is to discover the truth behind his mother’s death, his father’s presumed guilt, and the reasons why he cannot fully recall the traumatic events of that day.
*He’s not just a police officer but a former elite Army ranger, which means that he’s had lots of training for the tough fight sequences to come.
Han Suk-kyu (who I’ve always admired in his films and drama work) is the veteran detective, Do Chi-kwang, formerly of Internal Affairs and before that a member of the same squad that was headed up by Young-goon’s father. As a result of causing some heartburn with HQ brass because he tried to take them down for corruption, he’s been tasked with a seemingly dead-end position as the director of an Anti-Corruption unit, with one assistant (who’s likely a spy), and soon the angry young man Young-goon.
The third protagonist is the troubled former prosecutor, Han Tae-joo, played by Kim Hyun-joo. She was the prosecutor for the murder case and worked with Young-goon to testify. Unsatisfied with the evidence, she’s prompted later to try new technologies to root out the truth and this leads to the string of violence that forms the basic plot that drives the story forward — there is indeed corruption and collusion in the police and prosecutorial offices and these three form an uneasy alliance in doggedly pursuing the truth, no matter the risks or costs.
This was a very satisfying drama to watch, even if the subject is murder and mayhem because I rarely knew exactly who was involved and who was trustworthy. Well, you knew that Kim Young-goon was trustworthy because this is his journey towards truth and justice (and he was a child when his mother was murdered), but you’d also know because Seo Kang-joon played his role so transparently. Anger looks very good on Seo Kang-joon, as does mistrust, and mistrust he does because Han Suk-kyu’s Do Chi-kwang is one complicated man, one who seems eminently pure and driven and noble and trustworthy… but may not be!
Equally motivated, equally canny, and equally given to pursuing her own agenda (which may or may not support the team’s), Han Tae-joo is a bundle of controlled PTSD nerves (with good cause). I can’t blame her for her seemingly double-dealing ways because they helped keep me and everyone else on our collective toes. Plus, I always applaud female characters who are well-written and complicated heroines of their own lives. She defends those who are loyal and takes down the rest. I could happily watch a sequel with her as the lead.
In fact, OCN could do a sequel with this cast, and may have hopes of doing so, thanks to the (relatively) open-ended finish to the story. I would also like to see if Do Chi-Kwang holds to his mission, and how Han Suk-kyu would portray his hero’s (anti-hero?) journey.
Note: this drama includes scenes of violence that result in regular digit amputations (thankfully blurred), so if you’re squeamish at the thought of that, this might not be for you, but if you do like complex, character-driven mysteries about police corruption most definitely give this one a try.