Insurance investigations, a crafty con artist, family, and a tragedy whose truth was yet to be exposed to the world, was the name of the game in KBS2’s 2017 drama “Mad Dog”. Jampacked with interesting insurance fraud cases that served the larger narrative, armed with unusually smart and perceptive villains, and a whole lot of heart that came full circle in a satisfying manner, this drama was definitely a fun ride that no one would should miss out on.
This drama aired for sixteen hour (plus) long episodes, from October 11 to November 30, 2017 on KBS2. It was directed by Hwang Ui Kyung, and written by Kim Soo Jin.
“Mad Dog” follows a private insurance investigation team called “Mad Dog”, led by a former ace insurance investigator named Choi Kang Woo (Yoo Ji Tae), whose sole purpose in life is to find out the truth behind the plane crash that happened two years ago that claimed his wife and young son. The members of the team include Kang Woo, aptly nicknamed Mad Dog; Jang Ha Ri (Ryu Hwa Young) or Player Jang, who used to work on Kang Woo’s team before; Park Soon Jung or Cheetah, a former gangster turned nurse and an old friend of Kang Woo’s; and Ohn Noo Ri (Kim Hye Sung) or Pentium, a genius hacker who is allergic to the sun. Along the way, they end up teaming up with Kim Min Joon (Woo Do Hwan), a genius con artist whose own backstory is closely tied with Kang Woo’s.
What I liked about this drama was that, more often than not, the insurance fraud cases presented during the drama served the overarching story line. At first, the team had to figure out the connection of the cases that Min Joon was giving them to the plane crash, but once they finally were on the same page, then the real fun could begin, as they could start planning out how to entrap those responsible for the plane crash and expose the truth to the world.
The pacing sometimes did suffer, but when things start to pick up, it goes full steam ahead. However, what it did suffer in pacing, it made up for it in great character moments, development, and building up the family dynamic of Team Mad Dog, which, towards the end, included Min Joon as well.
The villains in the show were unusually smart and perceptive, and didn’t go too over the top, and surprised me with the way they acted and how some things were executed. It was fun to have smart villains that were a very good match to the smart plans and traps that Team Mad Dog laid out for them.
I also liked that the love line between Min Joon and Ha Ri wasn’t over the top, and that they spent the entire drama teasing the audience of whether they would get together or not through almost hugs and kisses, but in a way that really built and developed their relationship as the show went on.
In similar fashion, I was also satisfied with the way they built up the different dynamics between the members of the team, whether it be individual relationships or as a group.
Everyone gave out solid performances. The more notable performances for me included Woo Do Hwan, who easily slipped in out of character depending on the job they are pulling off; Yoo Ji Tae who was a tragic figure but a dependable leader; and Jeong Bo Seok’s Joon Hyun Ki, who looked like he was savoring every moment he got to play this crafty and power hungry villain.
“Mad Dog” is definitely a solid watch that won’t let you down, as it balances humor, wit and heart, with a fun storyline, and compelling characters; and that comes full circle in a very satisfying manner.
Now you know the drill. From here on out, there will be spoilers!
I did have some problems with the pacing of the story line, when it decided to slow down a bit in order to cover some important character beats first, but I’m glad that once it latched onto pivotal moments it started going fast enough that audiences could really sit back and enjoy the fun ride unfolding in front of our eyes.
It was also quite refreshing that the villains were just the right kind of smart to be worthy adversaries of Team Mad Dog, who, actually did have a lot of smarts and talent that they brought to the game as well. In particular, I loved how Cha Hong Joo (Hong Soo Hyun) and Hyun Ki developed as villains. Hong Joo’s motivations were mostly based on trying to protect her father and her father’s company; while Hyun Ki was a power hungry businessman who knew how to control the narrative to serve his purposes, and whose main weakness was his love for Hong Joo. I also like the fact that in the end, when they were both finally caught tight in Team Mad Dog’s trap, that instead of throwing a fit, he just calmly looked at Hong Joo and apologized to her.
The main story line was compelling, but at a certain point, when the truth was finally revealed to the audience, what became more compelling was the process on how Team Mad Dog and friends were going to lay the perfect trap to ensnare their enemies in, and in the end, it was all worth it.
I also found it interesting that the strength in the script of this drama was how all the relationships and dynamics were built up, without being too heavy handed. Family was a big theme in this drama, from the villains all the way to our protagonists, and it showed different kinds of relationships as well.
For our main characters, most of them don’t really have families to really go home to, and found a new one within their team. All of the relationships within the team were fun to watch- from brotherly relationships (Kang Woo and Min Joon, Sung Joon and Noo Ri) to fatherly ones (Ha Ri and Kang Woo), to possible romantic ones (Ha Ri and Min Joon).
In the case of the love line between Ha Ri and Min Joon, I found it very refreshing that the build up of their relationship was shown in their banter, their actions towards each other, and meaningful glances, without giving us even one kiss throughout the entire series.
While all of these characters had their own arcs and journeys that they went on, the most prominent ones are the journeys that the two main characters, Kang Woo and Min Joon, went on.
Kang Woo was the one who was more emotional in the beginning, as the cool and collected Min Joon began showing him that the reason why he couldn’t move on with his own investigation with the plane crash was because of the trust and attachments he had to his former company. Min Joon shook things up and showed him a whole new perspective, and when push came to shove, he was able to refocus, become more effective, and become the best leader that his team needed him to be.
And while I felt that sometimes, his monologues were a tad bit dramatic, Yoo Ji Tae pulled off this character well.
It was the opposite for Min Joon, as he started out being closed off and suspicious of everyone, which allowed him to be calm and collected; to him becoming more and more emotional in the right way as he finally let Team Mad Dog, Kang Woo, and especially Ha Ri, in. His journey is also what made the ending so satisfying, as he decided to stay with the team, and called Kang Woo his older brother.
Woo Do Hwan is a revelation to me, and I am very much looking forward to watching him in his other 2017 drama, “Save Me”. I was impressed how he could slip in and out of his Min Joon character in order to pull off whatever character he needed to have for a job.
Also,each job they pulled and each case they investigated were fun and compelling at the same time, and were more than enough to keep me watching episode after episode.
“Mad Dog” is very much a solid and fun watch, especially if you are looking for a good break from romantic comedies, melodramas and intense mystery crime dramas.
Image Source: KBS Drama Facebook Page