Episode 1 – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 7 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 10 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 12 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 13 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 14 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 15 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 16 – | Review Score – 5/5
Beyond Evil is a great example of how to take a simple concept and absolutely run with it. Between the exemplary acting, tight writing and numerous twists and turns along the way, this Korean drama is easily one of the best shows of the year. It’s hardly surprising then that it’s been nominated for 7 Baeksang Awards.
At its core, Beyond Evil plays out as a simple murder mystery. Police detective Dong-Sik is haunted by the ghosts of his past, forced to deal with the death of his sister Yu-Yeon 20 years prior. With the case still unresolved to this day, a string of new murders seem to be connected with Yu-Yeon’s death. It also coincides with the arrival of Joo-Won.
This junior detective is the son of the superintendent and has a serious chip on his shoulder. He suspects Dong-Sik is the one responsible for killing Yu-Yeon and sets to work piecing together evidence to incriminate him. Only, as he soon comes to learn, those at Manyang substation are a tight-knit family and watch out for one another.
Could the killer be hiding in plain sight? Are the officers covering up the truth? Or is all of this a red herring for something more sinister?
These questions ultimately drive the series forward, beginning with a simple enough hook and expanding out with some incredibly well placed flashbacks. In fact, the events leading up to Yu-Yeon’s death are chock full of drama unto itself and several times you’ll think you’ve figured everything out, only for the show to hit you with another twist.
Interestingly, Beyond Evil doesn’t hang too much on this single killing. Instead, the killer is caught earlier than the final episode, leading to another string of deaths that cast huge doubts over everything we’ve seen until this point. I’m being careful not to spoil anything but suffice to say it’s not until episode 15 where the truth is finally unveiled for all to see.
Given the simplicity of the story, it’s actually quite impressive that the series adds layers of twists while also making sure there are no plot holes left behind either. Every single character has an alibi, a place to be and – more importantly than that – a motive for killing. In fact at one point there are 8 different possible suspects!
A lot can be said for the acting here too which is quite simply extraordinary. Both Shin Ha-Kyun and Yeo Jin-Goo completely own their roles, with the two leads bouncing off each other in a stunning synchronized dance of perfection. There’s a lot of nuance to their performance too, with something as simple as a smile or a lingering stare giving multiple signals.
One of the more interesting elements of this drama comes from the recurring motif of laughing. The show isn’t particularly funny but laughter is a coping mechanism used by various different characters.
Whether it be Dong-Sik’s spine-chilling sneer and chuckling under his breath or some seemingly innocent laughter around a dinner table, this crops up repeatedly and it’s really clever how the perception changes over time. What begins as an unnerving segment soon turns to poignancy. Another character chuckling will make your blood boil. Another still will absolutely tug at your heartstrings as the truth comes tumbling out.
This intricacy extends across to the camera work and shots in this series too. Small touches like the ending of episode 1 mirroring episode 16’s, or the changing dynamic between Dong-Sik and Joo-Won over time, all work in tandem with the story to give this an extra level of polish. It’s actually quite remarkable when you begin dissecting the different scenes, and keen enthusiasts will find a lot more along the way than I have in this review.
Beyond Evil is yet another example of just how good the writing is in Korea. This is a stunning crime drama in its own right, one packed with intricate layers of beauty that transcend beyond the simple story being told.
This is a tale of forgiveness, healing, and respect. There’s no big romance or montage sequences, there’s just 16 episodes of crime investigating and character development. Beyond Evil completely exceeds expectations, going beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and solidifying itself as one of the best Korean dramas of all time.
Verdict - 10/10