By Bryan Tan
This review covers episodes 5-8 of Stranger Season 2, available currently on Netflix.
Eight episodes into Stranger Season 2, it has been a very confusing and mind-boggling ride, and not in a good way. It feels like being a back seat passenger without the seatbelt on in a dirt track racing car, being swung every which way and yelling at the driver to slow down whilst trying to hold down your vomit.
You could call it intricate power plays or subversive politicking between the police and prosecutorial departments, but at the end of the day we should call a spade a spade; if you have to constantly rewind to figure out what’s going on in the show, it’s just bad direction and messy plot writing.
Minor spoilers follow in this review up till episode 8 of Stranger Season 2:
In a nutshell, there are at least five plotlines moving forward simultaneously. Yes, five. The first being two students who drown in a beach accident because they were drunk and did not see the restriction lines removed. The controversy here was that the restriction lines were removed on purpose by a couple looking for cheap thrills, and let off without even a slap on the wrist because their defending counsel was an ex-judge and prosecutor.
The second, a power struggle in the conglomerate Hanjo, where Chairwoman Lee Yeon Jae (Yoon Se Ah) grapples to keep her position and fend off a hostile takeover by her brother, Lee Sung Jae, who is supported by the former chairman, their father Lee Yoon Beom.
The third is a suicide and homicide case of a police sergeant, whose colleagues are suspected of bullying and murdering him by strangulation before making it seem like a suicide.
Still keeping up? The fourth involves a corrupt assemblyman Nam Jae Ik, who was exposed for a scandal placing his drug addict son into a job that he was not qualified for. Nam is also the chairman of the Legislation and Judiciary committee, which has the power to block legislations and bills pertaining to the investigative rights of the police.
The fifth revolves around the kidnapping of prosecutor Seo Dong Jae (Lee Joon Hyuk) because he tried investigating all the above mentioned plots and earned the ire of those involved. His fate remains uncertain.
All these plots serve as satellite states upon which the police and prosecutorial departments do guerrilla warfare upon, each trying to smear and outdo each other using the various cases as leverage. Unfortunately, they completely detract from the main characters, prosecutor Hwang Si Mok (Cho Seung Woo) and police inspector Han Yeo Jin (Bae Doo Na), who are pushed forward in the convoluted sea of plots with little independent character development. Neither are the separate plots really coming together to form some sort of overall coherence and when they eventually do, it’s not a significant revelation.
What little saving grace comes from the scenes where Hwang displays his Sherlock skills; re-constructing crimes scenes vividly in his mind’s eye, remembering the tiniest details with his almost photographic memory to pursue his next lead, and his unrelenting disrespect for his boss and senior colleagues, who in one brilliant scene he accuses of covering up assemblyman Nam’s corruption through deductive reasoning.
It’s not the destination that matters but the journey, as the saying goes. With Stranger, just try to get there without throwing up.