Detective Cheo-yong ended its spooky run in April, and imo, this may be one of the weaker OCN thrillers yet. Even though OCN attempts to add a dash of ghostly vibe to its rather successful formula of one-crime-a-week, something juz falls short in Cheo-yong. Or maybe it’s a case of me cramping too many thrillers into a week — I have God’s Quiz(zes) and Gap-dong vying for my attention at the same time. =__=” And both series beat Cheo-yong hands down.
That got me thinking why Cheo-yong doesn’t manage to hit that sweet spot for me, unlike OCN’s other thrillers. Possibly it’s a combi of these three factors:
- Typical run-of-the-mill storylines, ghostbuster detective nonwithstanding,
- A female lead who can’t make up her mind on what she wanna be
- The second female (ghost) lead who could have been put to better use
1. Run-of-the-mill stories, except for: [spoilers alert!]
After watching 10 eps of Cheo-yong, there are only 2 stories that stick. One of them is about a poor girl who was tricked by her friend, forcibly made to drink a drug-laced wine, and repeatedly gang-raped by four horrible chaebols. While taking turns, the chaebols played table tennis. After her death, chaebols’ daddies “cleaned” up the mess their nice, lovely sons made. Simply by pouring in loads of money and twisting the case into one where the girl is a cheap whore. “Witnesses” claimed that she “seduced” the boys and basically had her rape fantasies granted. Juz too bad she died along the way. Her dad spends the rest of his life hunting down the chaebols and murdering them one-by-one. Revenge-fueled Daddy almost finished the last guy but Cheo-yong has to step in to save that creep.
And that is the only story which made a more lasting impression in my 10 weeks of watching Cheo-yong. Probably cos the baddies are not driven by extenuating circumstances like poverty or by human emotions that ran amok, but are juz a group of very bored guys who are looking for a kick from their normal nightout.
The second slightly more memorable story is the predictably juicier round up of each OCN series (usually spans across the last 2eps).
For Cheo-yong, the last 2 eps deal with the backstory of the ghost-murderer (and let’s juz suspend disbelief that his high profile killings haven’t made the media go gaga over him). The ghost (when he was previously human), belonged to a self-help cult group that shelters ex-convicts, people with special needs and other less privileged members of society. The leader (who styles himself as a pastor/shepherd of the group) regularly schedules exorcism sessions with young girls. And those “sessions” involve him raping the girl, then passing the “patient” to other (male) members of his flock for continued “treatments”. This was witnessed by the then-human-ghost, who was murdered for being such a nosy parker. His pregnant wife very nearly received the same exorcism session — had she not committed suicide first. When the ghost (yes, he’s dead and buried by then) tried to save her, he meets Cheo-yong…who promptly despatched him to hell without hearing him out. But because his thirst for revenge was so strong, the ghost possessed unsuspecting humans (the latest “model” being Cheo-yong’s previous assistant) to hunt down and kill all those who caused him and his wife’s (and unborn child’s) deaths.
The other stories in Cheo Yong are pretty commonplace, and do not really make use of the series’ supernatural factor. Either the ghosts are irrelevant (i.e. the clues are already there for any non-ghost seeing detectives to crack) or they are clumsily handled. For example, in the case of the Bangladeshi foreign worker murdered by his boss and later returns as a vengeful ghost — the police (the normal, non-ghost attuned ones) close the case without giving viewers any idea how. They got the body of the dead employer, the rotted body of the foreign worker…and so…case closed? Weirdly, Cheo-yong’s colleagues also never wondered about the strangeness of this case and Cheo-yong’s role in it.
Cheo-yong’s colleagues also suffer from the same “blindness” with the ghost murderer case. Cheo-yong’s team mates have first hand knowledge of the unnatural strength of the ghost murderer, but don’t even ASK Cheo-yong about his involvement with it (or him)? Unlike Vampire Prosecutor, where the vampire protagonist downplays the supernatural-ness of the crimes, Cheo-yong plays it UP. So much so that it seems all normal humans in the show muz be wearing blinkers if they never notice any strangeness.
2. Ha Sun-woo — from badass, to wilted flower
Cheo-yong’s new (female) assistant initially holds promises. She appears fast on her feet (and fists), quick on the uptake and fearless. But along the way, her hair grows longer and her masculinity fades. I kinda got quite disappointed in her, since she becomes reactive, doubting, and sighs incessantly over the smallest worry. (i have something against her sighings…especially when i am listening on earbuds) Plus, she turns into a nagger. Where is that proactive and quick thinking girl that I saw in ep1?
And add to the insult of her regression from policewoman to wallpaper, she starts fainting. Ok, to give her some credit, her fainting spells are caused by Na-young possessing and then leaving her body. But that makes her play the damsel-in-distress role in like so many episodes, where she had to be princess-carried to bed by Cheo-yong. And oh ya, she is a terrible drinker too. Considering she works in an all-male environment, she really doesn’t run with the guys. (duh…) And her solution to figuring out her passing-out sessions (either from possession or being dead drunk while possessed) is to scamper to her shrink and whine about her past depression (after Na-young’s death) catching up with her again.
Even at the showdown between ghost murderer and Cheo-yong (plus Na-young), she spends the better half of the time in coma and fireman carried by ghost murderer. Ghost murderer appropriately ties her to a carousel horse — the princess on the dandy horse — waiting to be rescued. Had Na-young NOT possess her body and wake her up from her stupor, she’d probably have stayed in a coma throughout the fight scene.
The last straw for me is her refusal to open her mind to possibilities. She nags Cheo-yong non-stop to trust her and tell her what is happening, why he is acting weirdly, etc…and when he does, in all seriousness, she gives him the evil eye and poohpoohs his “lame excuses”. And then goes back to nagging him again to “trust his partners, blahblah”. Even when she actually comes face to face with the ghost murderer and witnesses his abilities firsthand, she somehow doesn’t get it that he is NOT human. Her sloooow thought processes translate into her retarded reaction and she juz stands there in incomprehension when her bullets do not seem to work on the ghost murderer. Had Na-young not jump in front of her to act as her human (ghost) shield again, she’d have died.
Ironically, in the last 5mins of the show (the epilogue or aftermath), she has a dramatic 180 degrees change from being a “lady who weeps even at falling leaves” (as described by her team leader) to a tomboy who uses her fists before her mouth. I really can’t accept that change, it feels really put upon and very fake.
3. Under-utilised Na-young
I understand why some viewers feel irritated with Na-young, cos sometimes she comes across as a yappy puppy. But maybe it’s Jun Hyo-seong‘s interpretation of Na-young. As a character, she comes across as smarter than her good buddy Sun-woo. She is the first to recognise that the deceased in the gang-rape story (see above) is one of the chaebol creeps who were hauled in for questioning some years back, and is the first to realise that the case files are destroyed from the Archival Room. It takes Sun-woo much much later to even remember she has seen the deceased before.
And majority of those times she possess Sun-woo, it’s to help Cheo-yong solve the cases. Unlike Cheo-yong, who is blindsided by his familial duty as exorcist, Na-young is more empathetic towards the ghostly victims and even the ghost murderer. She is not incriminating or judging the ghosts for their actions, but seeks to understand their reasons for killing humans. Cheo-yong is juz interested in stabbing them to their second deaths and sending their spirits back to Hell. In the case of the foreign worker ghost story, Na-young is able to get through the ghost’s thirst for revenge and very nearly make him gives up killing humans — had Cheo-yong not impatiently end the conversation by killing the ghost.
When she realises who Sun-woo is to her, she doesn’t even consider her own safety and forces her way out of the police station after Sun-woo is kidnapped (the act very nearly drained all her spiritual energy). Not juz making her way out of her confinement, her standing up to ghost murderer when she realises he is HER killer makes her one very brave ghost indeed. Again exemplified when she willingly jumps in to save Sun-woo and volunteers to die a second time in her place.
In the epilogue, she doesn’t die (thankfully), but she is again confined to the police station, which is sad. And Sun-woo somehow doesn’t know that she’s nearby (?) even though Na-young shows up (she becomes visible) to prevent ghost murderer from stabbing Sun-woo. Duh, back to Square 1? If Cheo-yong is to continue with a sequel, it had better allow Na-young more space to roam, than being locked up in the police station and having Cheo-yong and Sun-woo ignoring her most times.
Then again, I secretly hope there’s no sequel.