TV mocking TV is one of my favorite things. Episode 7 of Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 opens with Chae Wook’s Invective Show. Invective. Now there’s a word you don’t get to use every day – not in my line of work, anyhow. Did you have to look it up to refresh your memory? Me too.
The fictional talk show seems mild by American standards. A supposedly ruthless host lures notorious guests onto the show with promises to avoid unwelcome topics. Naturally he breaks that promise the moment they are on the air. You’d think the title “Invective Show” would tip them off, wouldn’t you? Maybe they neglected to look it up.
It’s hard to be sympathetic towards people who are not only pretentious, criminal and even murderous, but terminally gullible on top of it. And what is up with the entirely female audience on plastic lawn chairs? But I digress. The point is, when the host is murdered, suspects abound. Topping the list is a head-tripping self-styled psychic who predicted the death. Lee Won Jong’s questioning of this suspect, who bedevils him with cryptic nonsense, is a high point of the episode.
In this episode, we learn what happens when
SPOILER ALERT – stop here if you haven’t watched this yet
a vampire experiences a sudden loss of blood. The incident raises several interesting questions. First, was the attraction to Prosecutor Yoo’s neck just a case of proximity, or something more?
Yeon Jeong Hun did take a knife for her, but maybe he was just being a good boss. Then again, there was also that invitation to interview suspects with him, an invitation so unprecedented that it stopped her in her tracks for a moment. Hmm.
Getting back to blood loss, if a blood-soaked friend showed up at your door, would you carefully remove your coat before letting him in? And then, having determined that time is of the essence, would you spray the whole room with blood rather than taking two extra seconds to remove the blood bag caps in a more orderly fashion? Not to mention the waste. It takes months to make that stuff, treat it with respect! Vampires are such drama queens.
Detective Hwang (Lee Won Jong) shows that he is good for a thing or two besides comic relief. It takes him awhile to connect with his prankster suspect, despite the Vampire Prosecutor’s unwelcome vote of confidence in his competence. However, once cop and suspect find common ground, they make good use of it.
Det. Hwang also provides badly needed human-world reality checks for Prosecutor Min, who for a smart guy can be pretty clueless about what he needs to do to keep his, uh, difference under wraps.
A Vampire Prosecutor episode formula is becoming apparent. Lots of suspects, lots of twists and turns, several of the suspects peripherally involved in the murder or events leading up to it. However, the death blow (or whatever) is actually dealt by someone hiding in plain view who was eclipsed by sexier suspects early on. All of which applies here. A last-minute twist reveals the true poignancy of the death, the tragic result of a failure to communicate. The moral (also part of the formula) might read “there are no winners in murder.”
There’s another morsel of backstory tucked in at the end, as the Vampire Prosecutor posts a few more missing persons to his inherited vampire murder room, and confides his concern to his vampire friend, along with a photo of the likely next victim, attorney Yoon Ji Hee. He goes to her apartment, where deliveries have piled up outside the door. There’s no answer, and he sticks his card in the door jamb. It’s pulled inside a moment later.
The formula is a problem. There are too many suspects with too much character development. It calls to mind the classic Bogart/Bacall vehicle, The Big Sleep, which is infamous for a plot so convoluted that you have to see it 3 times to understand everything that happens. The Vampire Prosecutor writers are trying to cram a full 90 minute+ feature film into a one-hour episode. Interestingly, on Drama Fever, the episode length steadily increases as Season 1 progresses. Episode 2 is 44 minutes long, up to 68 minutes by final Episode 12.
The writing isn’t all bad. It is strongest in the development of the relationships between the series characters.
However, in addition to the overcrowding effect of too much story, the plots are not particularly fresh.
Luckily, there are a lot of other elements to keep us interested, such as the opening theme music, which carries just the right blend of building tension and pathos. The cinematography is marvelous. The journey of the tasted blood through the Vampire Prosecutor’s inner landscape would make Nova proud. (It should be traversing his digestive system, not his circulatory system, but I can see how that would be less fun to watch). The actors are alluringly photogenic and the acting, of course, is superb, as you’d expect from Korean drama. Let’s hope the writing will be better adapted to the format in Season 2.