Voice is a 16 episode revenge kdrama (2017) about two police officers who work together to bring to justice the serial killer who killed their loved ones. This is done under the upstart and unwanted Golden Time Team, which strives to get police support to victims in real-time not after the fact. The need for real-time response was exemplified in the first case based on the true case of a young woman who was kidnapped and killed who managed to call the police with sufficient location detail. But the police arrived too late (13 hours late!) finding the victim’s lifeless body (see article with details). The Golden Time team deals with a series of cases featuring criminals committing heinous crimes (murder, abuse, rape, human trafficking, etc.). Several of the crimes are connected by a thread that leads back to the serial killer. Can our leads connect the dots? Will the serial killer be caught? Will justice be served?
Crimes cried out for the victims to be heard. The crimes were shocking. Dating site victims, abused foster children, rape videos, human used like rats in drug trials, etc. The underlying theme was the victims are not heard or served and this needs to change. Voice portrayed an unflattering image of the police, the politics, and the processes that inhibit putting victims’ needs first. I applaud the show for putting the spotlight on this issue.
Marginalization and victimization of women, children, and the poor was front and center. Our female lead was dismissed, bullied, etc. She remained undaunted in her mission to fight for the victims through an immediate response team. Her boss, her co-workers, the criminals, sought to demean and break her. It didn’t happen. I loved her for that. The majority of victims were poor and ignored. Voice relentlessly demanded equal justice for those in the lower rung of society. I applaud the show for this.
Compelling chapters spanned multiple episodes and wove together gritty crimes along with the search for the serial killer. I enjoyed the chapter format which focused on a crime/criminal that the team would deal with. Many of these crimes related back to the serial killer though initially this wasn’t apparent. I was caught up in the life or death situations that each victim faced. Would the child be saved before the abuser killed him? Would the woman be saved before the rape video was shot? There were tense and gripping moments throughout this series.
Gratuitous violence in each crime. This show earned a 19+ rating for certain episodes from the Korean Communications Standards Commission with good reason. Each crime, each murder, showed more violence that was needed. It was difficult to watch. Because Voice also focused on the sound of actions, I become sensitive hearing the crimes. The sound of the murder implement striking, the victims crying for help in moments of life threatening danger, affected me. The violence could have been toned down, the crimes did not need to be actualized as fully as they were, without lessening the impact. It was the crimes themselves that shocked me, a toned down portrayal would not reduce the impact of the crimes.
Minimal character development. One of the enjoyable aspects of a story is the evolution of characters through the storyline. Voice gave little to no character development. For the majority of the series our male lead was a police detective and nothing beyond that job. He was stuck in anger that his wife’s murder had never been solved. Initially he blamed the female lead for helping his wife’s killer go free. He learned he was wrong about that and learned to trust her. But there was nothing on a personal level except flashes of connections with his male co-workers and little seen son. Our female lead was a police officer that fought for victims and determined that her father’s murder would be solved. The female lead didn’t evolve beyond that. There was nothing on a personal level except her compassion for the victims. I was starved for any emotional content or individual evolution, and was never satisfied.
Gaping holes in logic and continuity. The devil is in the details and this writer was not detail oriented. If I had a dollar for every time I had to turn a blind eye to the writer’s inability to weave cohesive plot details, I’d be rich. The series answered some of the questions but left others dangling. If attention to detail is important to you, Voice will drive you crazy.
Characters that worked for me:
Female lead Kwon Joo played by Le Ha Na. Her inner fortitude did not waver. Her beliefs were unshakeable. Her ability to stand strong no matter what a higher status male yelled at her impressed me. Every man wanted to stifle Kwon Joo to accept subjugation. But she dismissed the endless strangulation of her rights. That’s hard to do (in real life too). I loved her for that. Unfortunately, all this was established in the first third of the series and from that point forward the character’s strengths and contributions stayed static. This was a waste of a strong female character.
Male lead Jin Hyuk played by Jang Hyuk. Full disclosure, I watched this series for Jang Hyuk who I consider to be one of the top actors in Korea. He has played an eclectic mix of characters during his career. He wanted to play a police detective. Voice gave him that role but little else for the majority of the series. Jin Hyuk got more interesting once his tag line persona “crazy dog” surfaced. There were a couple of decent fight scenes. Jang Hyuk’s lighting fast hands – impressive. The fact that Jang Hyuk still does all his own stunt work – amazing. In the latter quarter of the series the writer finally unshackled Jin Hyuk and provided moments to shine. Jang Hyuk took advantage of these opportunities and delivered several stellar scenes. But it was too little for me. I didn’t want to diet on Jang Hyuk’s brilliance, I wanted to feast on it.
Jin Hyuk’s blood lust was justified. Do I think that the serial killer was irredeemable and merited death? Yes, I do. What surprised me was how blood lust gripped me. Jin Hyuk was my conduit to work through this at the end of the series. As he worked through his blood lust, I did too. I found that fascinating.
Thoughts about the Writer:
Writer Ma (Ma Jin Won) has no other kdrama credits (per Asianwiki and Wikipedia). If this was Writer Ma’s first drama, then there was mix of success and failure. There were many compelling, gripping, difficult to forget moments. That being said, Writer Ma is the prime driver for failures of this drama. One-note characters that stifled capable actors were in Writer Ma’s control. The inability to logically plot the details of a crime scene to scene, have a consistent methodology the series killer used, answer the back-story questions fully, so viewers aren’t distracted by logic gaps were in Writer Ma’s control. What I’d like stay to Writer Ma in 4 short sentences. Viewers want a journey with your characters. Static characters are boring. Details matter. Weave a tight series story that over arches with your compelling chapters. I hope someone points out the pluses and minuses to Writer Ma. If not, I’m available.
Would I recommend this series?
That depends. If you are a Jang Hyuk fan, can handle gratuitous violence, stymied characters, and logic gaps that must be ignored, then Voice offers an often gripping ride to find a serial killer unlike any I’ve experienced.
Voice had a 3 song OST. Two songs stood out for me. My favorite song was the compelling ballad titled “Voice” by Kim Yoon Ah (who appeared in episode 9). This song provided the emotional frame for this show. Producer Director Kim utilized it effectively. Here are the lyrics. The other winner song is the third song titled “I’ll All Ears” by Chang Mo. It is a catchy tune with a rap flavor that felt like a representation of the relentless pursuit of justice. Check out the lyrics.
The playlist is embedded below or check it out via the link.