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‘My Name’ is brutal, bloody and brilliant

The revenge-action genre has always been one of incredible intrigue and entertainment to lots of folks, and for good reason. There’s just something incredibly cathartic about seeing a protagonist finally wreak havoc on those who have wronged them, whether it be through mind games and manipulation or grimy fistfights. There are usually questions about humanity and relationships, and if we’re lucky, then the protagonist might just succeed in their mission to get their revenge. The latest Netflix Korean drama “My Name” hits most of these tropes in its satisfyingly executed story of Yoon Ji Woo (Han So Hee), a young woman who’s searching for the man who murdered her father in front of her door five years ago. 

 

True to the genre, Ji Woo is the perfect dead-eyed protagonist who will stop at nothing to seek vengeance. As her father was involved in gang activity, she eventually finds herself under the mentorship of her father’s friend and gang leader Choi Moo Jin (Park Hee Soon). After a few years of training under his leadership, Moo Jin helps Ji Woo assume the new identity Oh Hye Jin, working now as a detective in Seoul’s police force. It is here where Ji Woo/Hye Jin must take down the leader of the police force Cha Gi Ho (Kim Sang Ho), who’s responsible for her father’s death. Ji Woo/Hye Jin makes the perfect protagonist, balancing intense moments of stone-cold determination with vulnerable anger and grief on the tightrope of this show. Because of her past, she’s absolutely fearless, seething with deadly anger in one moment and then scarily calm in the next.

 

That leads us into another reason why this show is so satisfying: the action scenes. As someone who personally gets very bored with action scenes (you can only see a character punch or kick or slash at a person so many times over the course of a TV show), I was a little wary of how “My Name” would keep up the momentum in interestingly-shot fistfights and knife or gunfights. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Not once does this show hold back in making an action scene as compelling as possible. As typical for most women, Ji Woo is certainly smaller-framed than most of her male opponents, so that forces her to attack vital points, making quick work of taking down all of the goonies that come her way. This makes her fight scenes particularly satisfying to watch as a young woman. Sometimes you just want to see a female character go insane and use nothing but her fists to get through a group of burly men! Sometimes you just want to see a female character get some blood on her face! 

 

Equally satisfying are her scenes with her work partner Detective Jeon Pil Do (Ahn Bo Hyun), who’s the very typical jerk-turned-heart-of-gold sidekick to Ji Woo’s own distrusting, hardened self. While the show never loses its focus on the main revenge plot, their relationship is still a compelling one in that they go from grudgingly tolerating each other’s presence to trusting one another. One particularly memorable scene that conveys the meaningfulness of their relationship is when, in an attempt to help Ji Woo, Pil Do literally handcuffs himself to her—even after discovering that she might not have the clean history he once thought she had. It’s a nice touch, one that’s enhanced by the fact that these two launch into a fight scene against some baddies exactly like that: handcuffed, with Ji Woo and Pil Do fighting back to back. More meaningful than the romance, however, was probably the fact that their relationship was symbolic of another important aspect of the show, and that was the role of trust in the face of something as brutal as revenge.

 

While I can certainly wax poetic about how Ji Woo is such a wonderfully angry, feral force of a protagonist, “My Name” also doesn’t ever let the viewers forget about the sheer loneliness and emptiness that comes with revenge. As she takes on her role as Hye Jin, she closes herself off from the rest of the world. She turns down attempts from her colleagues to eat or drink together—in her line of work, friends are out of the question. The only person she somewhat trusts is Moo Jin, although that’s only because he was friends with her father. Even then, their relationship is rocky and unbalanced, especially given he’s the head of the gang organization she works for. Despite her maelstrom of a life, this loneliness makes Ji Woo a relatable character. It’s much easier for her to forget who she might have been and who she might be if her life was different. So even as the show gets closer and closer to discovering the truth of her father’s murder, the viewers can’t help but wish she at least gets some kind of family or belonging in the process too. The shots in which Ji Woo does get that hint of belonging—like when she watches the snow with Pil Do, or when she’s given grilled meat by her colleagues—are bound to fill the viewers with a hope that Ji Woo will learn to live happily, even after she gets her revenge. 

 

It’s because of all of these balanced elements of the show—this unabashed anger and grief combined with the cold loneliness of being angry all the time—that “My Name” is such a compelling watch, as well as re-watch. I’m currently scheduling a rewatch myself, just because there’s so much more to unpack in the span of this eight-episode show. So if you’re in the mood for some good old-fashioned, blood-soaked fights as well as a gut-punching series about how revenge can affect a person, be sure to bump “My Name” to the top of your watch list this weekend.

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