June 4, 2012

Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 – Episodes 11 & 12 – Korean drama review

You will want to watch the last two episodes of Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 in one sitting. It’s all about the hooded vampire and Min Tae Yeon’s back story now, and works best as one taut, ascending ride.

Although the action-packed two hours had the same plotting issues as earlier episodes (too many subplots, hasty and inadequate exposition of critical plot points, big holes), it was so emotionally satisfying that I didn’t really notice this until several hours later when the impact had worn off.

Somewhere along the line, reviews morphed into recaps, and have been getting longer and longer. There is too much story in the last two episodes to recap in detail, and I’m sure that’s already been done a time or two since the original broadcast in December 2011. The cloaked vampire did not turn out to be the person I thought I saw in the emergency room scene in Episode 10, but did turn out to be someone else I had suspected. However, there is another, much more surprising twist on the killings that ramps up the emotional volume to fever pitch.

SPOILER ALERT: stop here if you haven’t watched yet.

Briefly, Yoon Ji Hee (Jang Young Nam) returns, reduced to a blubbering mass of incoherence, and is summarily dispatched. This disappointed me. The character in Episode 4 was made of sterner stuff, and I couldn’t help feeling she was being punished for her uppity independence and success.

The Vampire Prosecutor reverts to his earlier hauteur in a short-lived attempt to protect his team, but they know him well enough now to ignore it. All too soon, he is framed for Yoon Ji Hee’s murder, and imprisoned. For awhile, it looks as if the hooded vampire has outplotted him, but then he turns the tables, brilliantly, and we just love how he anticipates and preempts every move of his adversary. He breaks plenty of laws, but does nothing irrevocably bad, immobilizing myriads of pursuers (including an entire SWAT team) without seriously injuring anyone.

Brotherly love reaches new heights. Prosecutor Yoo persists in investigating very dangerous places without backup, finally gets a real gun, and she and the Vampire Prosecutor rescue each other a few more times. A serial killer graveyard is unearthed. There is another dramatic car chase. Origin mysteries are cleared up (sort of) with a few lines of dialog. Good and evil duke it out, although the lines aren’t always so clearly drawn. And isn’t the killer’s final act really for the best, even if it breaks the Vampire Prosecutor’s heart?

He is the last vampire left standing, but I have many unanswered questions. Some may be cleared up on subsequent viewings. IMO, it should be understandable the first time through – obscurity is a weakness of the series. Or is it an effect of the culture gap? Story is repeatedly sacrificed to hyper-energetic editing throughout Vampire Prosecutor, which is quite unnecessary. We are in no danger of being bored!

I’ve surrendered my expectation of moral consistency. Morality is obviously an emotional position rather than a philosophical one in the Vampire Prosecutor universe. I’m very curious how thoughtful Koreans react to these portrayals of justice and vengeance. I wish I could read online discussions in Korean. That’s what keeps me motivated to study the language.

Then again, maybe I’m reading way too much into a piece of entertainment. But how can I help myself – the acting is so good, I have to engage at a deeper level. Yun Jung Hoon is phenomenal. He is too beautiful and too elegant to be real, which is not only riveting, but enhances his credibility as a vampire. His ability to project extremes of both coldness and vulnerability is also key to his success in this role. None of these things are unique to the Vampire Prosecutor – you can see it all in Can Love Become Money?, for example. But he was perfectly cast in this series.

And it’s a good thing, because otherwise Lee Won Jong might have stolen the show. He gets more lines in Vampire Prosecutor than in many of his other roles, and puts every word to good use. The chemistry between them is priceless.

Lee Young Ah’s character is less defined, morphing in unlikely ways from episode to episode to suit the story arc, which is too bad. At the end of the series, we know more about her back story, but less about her personality than we do about the two male leads. The writers need to figure out who Prosecutor Yoo is and give Lee Young Ah something to sink her teeth into (so to speak) for Season 2. Prosecutor Min shows definite signs of liking her (Korean like) and vice versa in the final episodes, so I think we can look forward to some excellent romantic longing and conflict in the season ahead.

Park Jae Hoon’s bartender was also used more as a plot device than a character, and his aging makeup was pointless and unconvincing. Age progressions/regressions in Korean dramas seem to be either amazing or atrocious. This one was not amazing. I was looking forward to learning more of his back story – how he became a vampire, how he met the Vampire Prosecutor, why he changed careers – but I guess it’s too late for that. Or could they find a way to bring him back? Those scenes of pensive lounging on red couches in the back room of the subterranean bar will be missed. Kim Ju Yeong’s intern was under-developed. I hope we see more of him (and WAY less of Kim Ye Jin’s cleavage) in Season 2.

The cinematography is as much the star of this series as any actor. When I select photos for my posts, this becomes even more apparent. The artistic blocking and framing is marvelous. One wonders how they had the time for such attention to detail.

Note to Season 2 writers: The best Season 1 episodes were those with a balance of back story and murder-of-the-week, like 4 and 10. Scrap the MOTW template and mix up the progression within each episode instead of just tucking a couple of minutes of backstory in at the end. There is too much detail throughout – inhale deeply and kill those darlings. Less is more.

Also with Yeon Jeong Hun:

More Vampire Prosecutor (Season 1) reviews
Can Love Become Money reviews

1 comment to Vampire Prosecutor Season 1 – Episodes 11 & 12 – Korean drama review

  • J. Ellner

    The good doctor/bartender was NOT a vampire until episode 12 (Prosecutor Min’s first victim, if you’ve been following the unfolding mythology) That’s why he offered Min his blood, after all. He was dying. Though I suspect that he knew what would happen to him. I like to think that he still would have offered Min his blood, trying to erase his previous sins. Fun to watch him walk past in the end of episode 12. I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again.

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