TV Review: Live (Spoilers!)

Recently, Netflix has been acquiring Korean dramas aggressively as of late, and interestingly enough, they now have several tvN dramas that aired in 2018. First up was the black comedy with heart “Prison Playbook”, then there was Lee Seung Gi’s fantasy romance “Hwayugi”, and now, the all to real human drama that is “Live”.

“Live” aired on tvN from March 10 to May 6, 2018, and finished its international run on Netflix on March 11, 2018. The show was directed by Kim Kyu Tae (“Iris”, “A Love to Kill”, “That Winter, the Wind Blows”, “It’s Okay, That’s Love”, “Moon Lovers:  Scarlet Heart Ryeo”, etc.). It was written by Noh Hee Kyung (“The Most Beautiful Goodbye”, “Dear My Friends”,  “It’s Okay, That’s Love”, That Winter, the Wind Blows”, “Worlds Within”, etc.) who is critically acclaimed  for her talents as a screenwriter,  playwright, and essayist. She has collaborated with Kim Kyu Tae with the dramas “That Winter, the Wind Blows”,  “Padam Padam”, and “It’s Okay, That’s Love”. I have not seen the dramas in which these two have collaborated together on aside from “Live”, but based on what I have seen through this show, I am pretty sure that each of their projects has a very realistic feel to it, and has very human and flawed characters that you can still relate to.

Live Poster tvning
Image Source: TVING Website

“Live” follows the story of Han Jung Oh (Jung Yu Mi), Yeom Sang Soo (Lee Kwang Soo) and Song Hye Ri (Lee Joo Young), as they graduate the police academy and become probationary officers together at Hongil Patrol Division. The story also focuses on Lt. Oh Yang Chon (Bae Sung Woo), an exemplary detective with anger management issues who ends up at Hongil Patrol Division, and his relationship with his wife, Captain Ahn Jang Mi (Bae Jong Ok), who works in the Women & Juveniles Department. The entire series focuses on the harsh realities and the successes that one experiences working in the patrol division.

This Korean drama stands out of the crowd due the fact that it is very realistic and very character driven. Aside from this, the main characters of the show don’t seem like your typical drama characters. I say this because both Jung Oh and Sang Soo initially didn’t enter the police force due to an overwhelming sense of duty to correct the injustice in the world, they decided to go for it as it would give them a paying job without anyone having to consider their GPA or background experience.  The character development of the characters,  from the main characters all the way to the secondary characters, was also wonderful to follow.

However, as the drama goes along, you will find yourselves becoming emotionally invested in each member of Team One of Hongil Patrol Division, and will cry at the injustices carried out against them, and cheer with them during moments of triumph, no matter how big or small it may be.

This drama was also able to highlight the injustices that occur towards patrol officers and honest policemen and detectives due to corruption, power, and the need for them to always look good in the public media’s eye.

The direction was realistic, and the action sequences were good and weren’t placed there just for shock value, and the acting was just amazing on all levels. The soundtrack  was also very different, as it was a mix of Korean ballads and had a main theme song from an American indie rock band.

All in all, “Live” was a very different kind of Korean drama, in terms of its style and execution. However, despite that they were able to deliver a wonderfully acted, well made show that talks about the harsh realities of being a police officer, and especially of being a police officer in the patrol division. However, be warned that this isn’t an easy watch, so do pace yourself accordingly if you don’t think you can take having more than two consecutive episodes of it being a little bit heavy and emotional.

Now, you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers, so turn around now and watch “Live” before reading on!

warning-spoilers-final

As mentioned earlier, one of the things that made this show stand out was the way it was filmed and how it managed to address major issues while being very realistic and still being a great human drama.

The entire drama felt very much realistic, to the point that it almost seemed like a documentary. Instead of concentrating on a singular case for as the show’s overarching story arc, they focused instead on each of the members of Hongil Patrol Division, Oh Yang Chon, Captain Ahn, and the three new recruits. It was interesting as to how each of them got a moment to shine, even though some of them didn’t have as much screen time as the main characters of the show.

It felt realistic as they didn’t glamorize what being a patrol cop is, and instead focused on harsh realities of their situation. The fact that they don’t get enough pay and are constantly overworked, that officers end up being afraid to protect themselves with a gun against a suspect due to the media’s perception of them, the fact that some are thrown under the bus so that the force could save face, that citizens now have the right to belittle and criticize cops, and that having to deal with minor cases such as drunkards and small fights is better than having an actual homicide  case to work on due to the trauma it can inflict on you if it is your first time. These heavy issues that are very much prevalent today were handled in a way that made its audience understand how it affects the people whose job it is to put themselves in the line of fire everyday to keep everyone safe.

Live Four Leads Poster
(Top to Bottom, Left to Right) Lt. Oh Yang Chon (Bae Sung Woo), Captain Ahn Jang Mi (Bae Jong Ok), Yeom Sang Soo (Lee Kwang Soo) & Han Jung Oh (Jung Yu Mi) Image Source: TVING Website

Another thing that I did like was the rich character development of the main characters, and how our two leads aren’t  really your typical Korean drama leads.

Live JungOh tvn drama fb
Jung Yu Mi as Han Jung Oh Image Source: tvN Drama Facebook Page

Jung Oh didn’t become a cop because she had an overwhelming sense of duty to protect and serve. She became a cop because all that mattered to get that job was to pass the exam and actually survive police academy. No one cares about what gender you are, how old you are and if you graduated with a master’s degree abroad. However, it was interesting to see how several cases affected her, how she dealt with it, and how she ended up staying because there are moments in which the job is rewarding, and because she has a reason to stay as she has become friends with the rest of the division, and embarked on a very low key relationship with Sang Soo.

I liked how they handled Sang Soo’s and Jung Oh’s relationship. I like the fact that despite Sang Soo’s proclamations of love for her, he never did anything too grand to woo her, and still cared for her like any friend would. Sang Soo doesn’t look like the typical Korean drama hero, which makes it all the more interesting to me.

YeomSangSu tvn drama fb
Lee Kwang Soo as Yeom Sang Soo Image Source: tvN Drama Facebook Page

To be honest, it took a while for me to warm up to both Jung Oh and Sang Soo. However, in the end, I loved how Sang Soo ended up becoming the one with more of a sense of justice, and that he ends up getting more emotionally invested in the well-being of some of the people he encounters during his cases. I also think that part of the reason why his sense of justice is very strong is because of his mentor, Oh Yang Chon.

Live Yang Chon tv drama fb
Bae Sung Woo as Lt. Oh Yang Chon Image Source: tvN Drama Facebook Page

Yang Chon is definitely a force of nature, and I can see why he makes a good cop. He’s tenacious, honest, and once he is on to something, he’s like a dog and doesn’t let go. He entered the force with a strong sense of justice, and nothing will ever stop him from being the best he can be. At first, when he’s training them, you will think that he’s harsh, but in reality, he was just preparing them for the harsh realities of police work. I also love how we were able to see him lower his walls down a bit, and let others in. However, I particularly loved his evolution into becoming a more devoted son to his father, and to realizing all of what he did wrong in his marriage with Captain Ahn.

Live Captain Ahn tvn drama fb
Bae Jong Ok as Captain Ahn Jang Mi Image Source: tvN Drama Facebook Page

Captain Ahn’s story was interesting to watch unfold as well. You see how much of a devoted wife and mother she is, and how devoted she is to solving cases and dealing with the harsh realities that her department has to offer. At first, I didn’t know what to think about her divorcing Yang Chon, but in the end, I liked how their separation forced Yang Chon to re-evaluate how good of a husband and father he is, despite the demanding job.

Live Sam Bo and Hye Ri
The Old Mentor and his last Rookie Lee UI Lt. Lee Sam Bo annd Lee Joo Young asSong Hye Ri Image Source: tvN Drama Facebook Page

Hye Ri’s journey into becoming a better officer was also quite interesting. Among the three recruits, she was paired off with a much older mentor, on whom she later on relied upon and valued the advice he imparted to her.

At a certain point, I  really did think that Hye Ri and Jung Oh  wouldn’t have made it to becoming full fledged cops, and I was actually alright with that. Which is why it was such a surprise that the three ended up sticking it out until the end.

Aside from  the characters I mentioned, the secondary characters also had great character development, based on the moments their stories are highlighted, and the choices they make throughout the series.

In the end, the camaraderie that Team One of Hongil Patrol Division ends up winning you over.

The acting in this series was really well done, and a special shout out does go out to  Sung Dong Il, Bae Jong Ok, Bae Sung Woo, Lee Joo Young, Jung Yu Mi and Lee Kwang Soo.

All in all, “Live” is an amazingly realistic show that shows us the harsh realities of the daily life of a patrol officer, the triumphs that happen in between, and how it affects their own personal lives, without it becoming to soapy. It also addresses the various issues that one faces while being a cop. “Live” is definitely a great show to watch, from its acting, directing, all the way down to its writing; and is a show that I definitely think that Western audiences will greatly appreciate more than others.

Have you seen “Live”? What did you think about it? What did you like or not like about it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Image Sources:  tvN Drama Facebook PageTVING Website

 

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