Now that autumn is officially around the corner and everyone’s dying to break out the sweaters and jackets, it’s also the perfect season to enjoy the recently released small town murder show “Beyond Evil,” which is available on both Netflix and Viki (for free!). Complete with morally grey characters, a delicious detective-suspect relationship akin to shows like “Killing Eve” and “Hannibal,” as well as one of the most intriguing murder-mystery plots ever, this 16-episode Korean drama will be an easy favorite that people will want to rewatch over and over again.
“Beyond Evil” centers itself around Lee Dong Sik (Shin Ha Kyun), a man who, 20 years ago, was accused of murdering multiple young women, including his missing twin sister. While Dong Sik was deemed innocent, he still carries the weight of this tragedy as he continues to search for his sister. His life is upturned by the arrival of Han Joo Won (Yeo Jin Goo), the hot new detective who’s trying to solve the mystery of these murders, his main suspect being Lee Dong Sik himself. Things only get more complicated once the murders start again, and thus the game of cat and mouse begins between these two protagonists.
One of the greatest strengths of this show—and there are many, many strengths—is probably the incredibly complex, well-acted protagonists. While the audience questions whether Lee Dong Sik might be the real culprit of all the past and current murders, they can’t help but feel drawn to his character. He appears kind in certain scenes but is deemed a nutjob by the town in others. One moment, he’s smiling and laughing mockingly at the temperamental Han Joo Won, and in the next, he’s showing genuine concern for the detective. Han Joo Won, on the other hand, is a character who comes off as snobbish and abrasive. But as the show unfolds, the audience realizes that at the end of the day, he’s more committed to justice than anything else. These two protagonists make a wonderful pair—Dong Sik and Joo Won are both fascinated and exasperated by each other, the two of them walking a knife’s edge between flirtation and accusation. Simply put, the chemistry between these two characters alone is worth the watch, and with awards-winning Shin Ha Kyun and Yeo Jin Goo as the leads, you really can’t go wrong with their legendary (and yes, very homoerotic) interactions.
Another notable feature of this show is simply the way this plotline is executed. When having a plot that involves female victims, it’s very easy to have unsettling amounts of murder porn. However, this is where director Shim Na Yeon and writer Kim Su Jin deviate from the norm. While this show revolves around two male protagonists and largely female victims, the shots are deliberately filmed to leave more to the imagination, rather than having explicit murder and violence done to women. All the murders are done off-screen, although not without some subtle yet creative details: for example, in some of the opening scenes, one hears the quiet gasping, dying breaths of a woman. In others, one hears the vague screech of a knife being sharpened. All of these details are quiet, yet they are just as effective in delivering the bone-chilling blow of any good murder mystery—but without the uncomfortable, often excessive brutality to women that viewers, particularly female viewers, have to sit through.
Outside of all these things, however, the show’s ultimate strength, despite its grim-sounding plot, is that it’s a healing show. Without spoiling too much, this show explores a great multitude of themes related to what actually makes a person a monster, as well as what one must do to catch said monsters. It’s often the case that at least in thriller and crime shows, those with cool heads and reserved emotions prevail—but one of the most important and refreshing parts of this show is that it demonstrates how while logic is important, emotions and vulnerability are equally important in obtaining justice. Our protagonists struggle together through this journey: they cry tears of frustration and grief, they see each other at their worst and best points, they make mistakes and try again until they get things right. Emotion and vulnerability don’t weaken our attempts to make things better—it is instead a force for good, a force necessary to move forward and eventually heal from past traumas.
So, if you’re in the mood for a bingeworthy show about a small town murder-mystery with off-the-charts chemistry and well-written male characters, then I encourage you to give “Beyond Evil” a watch this weekend. Like Han Joo Won and Lee Dong Sik themselves, this mystery will cling to you for a long, long time.