In the latest bizarre misstep, “Criminal Minds” attempts of all things, serious emotional catharsis based on catastrophic fate. This isn’t a brand of storytelling I dislike on general principle, it’s just, that’s the kind of thing you’re supposed to do at the end of a series for a proper climax. Doing at the beginning is nonsensical. How in the world is Gi-hyeong’s personal life supposed to be relevant to his work if we only have te vaguest idea of who Gi-hyeong is as a person right now?
Although really, I can dispense with the “we” talk. Recall that Hyeon-joon, our perspective character, doesn’t know anything about Gi-hyeong either aside from his professional reputation. Imagine that you started working with a relatively famous person in your professional field, and then you have to deal with a situation where his family might die. I mean good grief, awkward doesn’t even begin to describe the emotions at play there, although that’s the best description I could come up with for how I felt by the ending.
Aside from not knowing the characters, I’m also troubled how so far we’ve been given no reason to think of them as particularly competent in any way. While Gi-hyeong’s trick with the curtain at the end was fairly funny, the fact that the villain immediately counters with his own trick only calls attention to how arbitrary the whole construction is. The winner of the final encounter does not achieve victory through logically foreshadowed reasons, but simply because the script says so.
The consequences of what happens are also horribly understated. I can’t imagine that Gi-hyeong’s temperament is going to be rewritten going forward considering the traumatic series of events he’s gone through, because it would break the entire format of the drama. Again, as a season ender, this would work fine, since characters can be subtly rewritten between scenes and the changes will come off as plausible. But that’s just not practical in the South Korean drama format.
I don’t have a clue what the production team is going for here. These cheap tricks at trying to create character sympathy are honestly a little insulting. They only work on the purely visceral level. Granted, considering all the misery porn we get of suffering characters who have fallen by the serial killer’s machinations, maybe that’s the entire point and I’m the one in the wrong for wanting a well structured manhunt story. Although really, it’s perfectly possible to do both at the same time!
Review by William Schwartz
“Criminal Minds” is directed by Lee Jeong-hyo and Yang Yoon-ho, written by Hong Seung-hyeon and features Son Hyun-joo, Lee Joon-gi, Moon Chae-won, Lee Sun-bin, Yoo Sun and Go Yoon.
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