For those who like their drama specifically about the initial set up of behavioural sciences (here’s looking at you Mindhunter fans), here’s another show about precisely that.
Set during the mid 90s to early 2000s, Through The Darkness details the establishment of South Korea’s efforts into criminal profiling and the impact that had on real life serial killer cases.
Based on the memoirs of South Korea’s first criminal profiler, Kwon Il Yong (entitled Those Who Read The Hearts of Evil and co-written with writer Ko Na Moo), Through The Darkness is a lean show that, by virtue of the true nature of its cases, holds back on the quasi-hysterical methods of story telling that K-dramas often rely on.
What Is Through The Darkness About?
Song Ha-young (Kim Nam-gil – Song of the Bandits, Pandora) has the unusual ability to get into the mindset of criminals.
Poached by ex-forensics chief Gook Young-soo (Jin Seon-kyu, The Uncanny Counter, Bargain) and combined with the statistical analysis of Jung Woo-joo (Ryeoun), the newly formed Behavioural Analysis Team ruffle feathers with their non ‘beat suspects into confession’ methods.
That makes it sound much more emotionally dramatic than it actually is. Unlike Mindhunter’s clashing personalities and forays into intimate relationships, Through The Darkness stays mostly focused on the cases and, moreover, the victims.
The show refrains from skewing towards invented melodrama aside from par for the course professional tensions with other police departments.
The result can be, at times, rather dry. Lead actor Kim Nam-gil’s ‘stoic to the point of stone face’ style means that the ever charismatic Jun Seon-kyu has to do much of the heavy lifting to keep us engaged in their dynamic for the first half of the show.
That said, once Nam-gil’s character starts to break under the weight of absorbing the evil he faces then Through The Darkness really finds its feet.
The centrepiece moments are the interviews with killers, be they already imprisoned or freshly caught with the BAT’s help.
None are more chillingly delivered than Kim Jung-hee’s depiction of a murderer based on the ‘Pleasure Killer’, who delighted in watching his victims die.
Separate from the stock of effective but normal ‘arrogant young men’ killers, Jung-hee’s balding appearance, socially inept manners, and twisted logic make for compelling viewing.
Through The Darkness Official Trailer
Is Through The Darkness Worth Watching?
Through the Darkness’ surrounding drama is rather workaday, with initial resistance and mockery from cocksure police quickly dispensed with after a few episodes.
This includes shipping in a swaggering but corrupt cop who effectively swaggers out again before the series closes, and punching an annoying journo in the face before ditching his character entirely.
Similarly, the show spares little time digging in to the other personalities of the Behavioural Analysis Team.
Gook Young-so’s family is simply described as abroad for study, leaving him to fuss over Ha-young’s poor work / life balance, while the show can never find a worthwhile use for its statistics guy.
In that sense Through The Darkness is the opposite end of the scale from Mindhunter: it is so at pains to put the cases and victims first that its surrounding drama is lumpy.
However, such wrap around material is serviceable enough to surround the horrifying reality of its subject matter.
Through The Darkness will be a hit for both true crime fans and lovers of nasty k-drama fare.
What it lacks in initial charisma or flair it makes up for in anthropological intrigue and the knowledge that such criminals were caught thanks to groundbreaking work.
When you read this heart of evil, it will be hard not to keep turning the page.
Words by Mike Record
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