Yes, this is a rather over dued post, but better late than never right? There is a compelling reason (read below) why Hidden is sent to the backburner while I complete other series which are concurrently airing (or worse, embark on new ones). To be fair though, Hidden hasn’t done that badly, for tvN’s first foray into the spy/police thriller genre.
1. Hidden’s fatal flaw
I like to end off on a good note, so I usually start off with the not-so-good. Imo, Hidden‘s biggest mistake is not taking its characterisation seriously. Other than Cha Gun-woo, we only see short snippets of the other team members’ backgrounds. And for some, like Choi Tae-pyeong and Jin Deok-hoo, we aren’t given any form of information.
Unfortunately, the story is NOT solely on Gun-woo. Yea, he has this revenge, lost-love thingy…but he doesn’t work alone. The whole Ghost hunting operation hinges on Investigative Team 5’s team efforts, and to be able to make me care for them as a team, we need to see more off-case interactions, and given more info on how they ended up together, plus who are they in the first place.
As it is, Hidden is rather measly in doling out such info and we end up with stick figures instead of fleshed out characters. Which is sad, cos I really do like the way Team 5 bond together and work like a pack of well-trained hunting hounds. Ironically, even Gun-woo’s history is repeated scenes of him + Tae-in + Tae-hee laughing over dinner at a pojangmacha, or during police school’s graduation, and the fateful night when Tae-hee dies…it’s like…are there anything else?
Then Min-joo’s familial history is plonked in out of nowhere at the end of Hidden, and we are told suddenly that she is Chairman Lee’s estranged daughter. Result: the “reconciliation” between father-daughter feels so scripted at the end. Cos baddie no. 2 dies, so yunno, yeah we can give him that parting gift. But the biggest mistake, imo, is not giving us the full story on Team Leader Jang and Director Choi’s past conflict.
It is obvious these 2 do not love each other, and they circle each other like a pair of wary wolves…but why??? We only get some sort of hints that both had worked together in the past, and Director Choi had kinda rubbed Team Leader Jang the wrong way in the way he deals with things/ people.
To summarise, in choosing to focus on the action, Hidden gives up on a winning formula which could have made it a top dog show.
2. And yes, Hidden’s biggest strength is
…in its plot movement. Every episode is action packed, and Team 5 always manages to score a goal. The main baddie of every mini-chapter is effectively removed, whether within the same ep, or spanning across a max of 3 — depending on the importance of the baddie. For example, the 2 low level thugs holding the wheelchair bond hacker take only an ep to finish them off, but Nam In-ho, Tae-hee’s murderer, take about 3-4 eps to capture (or die).
Besides the action, there’s a series of rather interesting plot twists. At first, we assume that Ghost is juz some super competent terrorist, and his objective is probably material gain — and we are introduced to Chairman Lee, who kinda fit that mold. Then we learn that no, Ghost’s purpose is larger than that, but we still condemn their modus operandi which will harm innocent civilians.
But what I find interesting is Director Choi and his unwillingness to shed more blood to achieve his goal. So even though yes, he is to blame for Tae-hee, Tae-in’s deaths, he comes across as a more decent guy than Chief Jung, who is basically the mad man in Hidden. And Choi is the only character which had some resonance in Hidden. Mainly cos his background is pretty fleshed out: his goal is to restore his dead comrades’ reputations, he took care of their kids, he kept his identity a secret in order to work towards exposing those who ordered the hit, but eventually ends up getting misdirected due to his rage.
Despite staining his hands with the blood of innocent people, Choi isn’t a megalomaniac like Jung, who thinks he is the answer to the corruption in Korea. Choi has his self-doubts, and questions the purpose of his actions.
So ok, we do get one fairly well-rounded characterisation in the midst of all the punchings and shootings.