[Review] Gap Dong – 갑동이


In 1996, a girl is brutally murdered. The police believe it to be the work of a serial killer, known only as Gap Dong. The city is gripped with fear because this is the 9th in a series of murders linked by the way each body was tied up by a signature fisherman’s knot. Detective Yang Cheol Gon (Sung Dong Il) believes that the killer is Ha Il Suk, a mentally challenged town resident. However, his arrest attempt fails when Ha Il Suk commit suicide in front of him and Il Suk’s young son, Ha Moo Yeom.

Seventeen years later, Ha Moo Yeom (Yoon Sang Hyun) is now a detective himself but comes to the belief that the infamous killer is dead after the statute of limitation expires. That is until a series of new murders bears the same eerie resemblance to the original Gap Dong murders. Detective Yang Cheol Gon returns attempting to catch the killer who has eluded him all these years but his suspicions quickly turn to Moo Yeom assuming the child has taken up his father’s crimes.

The story of the drama is based on the webtoon series of the same name who based it off the Hwaseong serial murders of the late 80’s which adds a frightening degree to the story. The show’s cinematography plays with dark and light contrasts as well as some interesting angles and the rock-edge of the show’s OST help play up the suspense factor.

Every Single Day – Rush

에브리 싱글 데이(Every Single Day) – Rush

However, the drama forgoes the suspense by giving us the killer (or killers as there were several theories) and focuses more on the psyche of the killer.  Rather than keeping viewers on our toes, the drama does a better job of pointing out how the darker natures of man can resemble that of a serial killer. In some ways, all of the characters make their mark on the Gap Dong lore.

Although the drama delivers a number of twists, there were times when I felt that they weren’t natural and merely there for the sake of trying to surprise us. You can only say ‘ Surprise!’ so many times before it becomes tedious. I even felt that some of them were illogical such as Gap Dong and his copycat’s final showdown.  Why have a helicam (which is actually very noisy) hover over a hostage scene and have the cops stand idly by?

For the most part, viewers are smart enough to know that the killer is in the vicinity of our main characters and appears the least suspicious.  Without giving way the killer’s identity, while I wasn’t surprised by it, I was surprised by the additional layer that the writers gave that character. It was also a nice way to explain how our heroes didn’t realize that they were sleeping with the enemy, so to speak. That layer also gave the actor an unexpected character twist that they could flesh out whereas otherwise they would have come across as an average character.

Speaking of acting, while I’m not used to seeing Yoon Sang Hyun in darker dramas, Ha Moo Yeom is not far removed outside of Yoon Sang Hyun’s typical range as an actor. There’s always this boyish, playfulness with his characters. Nor did I feel that the role of Yang Cheol Gon was unique for Sung Dong Il. The role of a worn-out veteran detective is as instinctive to him as going on vacation with his daughter Bin on Dad! Where Are You Going?

I’ve known Kim Min Jung for years but I’ve never actually seen one of her dramas. I liked the way she approached the character of Oh Maria. From the get-go, we learn that she’s the same Kim Jae Hee whose the only witness to escape Gap Dong’s grasph all those years ago. She returns to the town grown to become this stronger woman who wants to move past the fears and regrets of the past.

However, the stronger woman image is only a front, visually represented by clubbing outfits and wigs she dons on as she dangles in front of Gap Dong as bait. Beyond that armor lies that same young girl who is scared for her life.

Her character has two defining moments in this drama; one where she holds Ryu Tae Oh’s (Lee Joon) life in her hands and secondly where she holds Ma Ji Wool’s (Kim Ji Won) life in her hands. Her character seems to come full circle in that second instance, the non-sensical helicam scene I mentioned above.  However, the important takeaway from this moment is that she proves how far she’s come since that moment as a young girl.

Previously, I’ve seen Lee Joon in Iris 2 and basically trashed his performance with the exception of the dying scene. However, he’s comes a long way since that role and while he’s still got a long way to go, he’s did a great job in depicting Ryu Tae Oh’s psychopathic needs and simultaneously struggling to understand the human condition.

Towards the end of the drama, I especially loved his chemistry with Kim Ji Won as Ma Ji Wools tries to rehabilitate him. There’s a great Dexter-like dilemma that bolsters a thought-provoking progression to his storyline but I think Dexter does a far better job at that if you completely dismiss most of the final season.  However, I’m grateful that the drama doesn’t allow the viewer’s conflicted emotions let him get away with his crimes.

Gap Dong does a decent job in trying to keep the thrills coming. However, it does feel manipulative when the drama does an endless cycle of twists rather than consistently advancing a multi-layer story. I checked out of the drama for certain scenes because they felt convoluted but despite that, Gap Dong does have its entertaining moments.




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