7 February 2013 | cremea
A decent, although unspectacular, Korean crime drama series.
Phantom (aka Ghost) is a 2012 Korean TV show about a cyber-crime police unit. It's a 20 episode series that's basically a police procedural drama.
The show stars So Ji-sub as the leader of Korea's special cyber defense team which handles all kinds of criminal cases involving digital technology. His former best friend from the police academy (played by Daniel Choi) is an expert hacker who operates on the wrong side of the law. I like both of these actors a lot, and, I think they're each just hitting the prime of their careers So, I was very much looking forward to them working together in this series.
As expected, both male leads are rock solid; So Ji-sub is particularly good when it comes to playing the no nonsense/stoic hero type. Being a KTV series, there must be a female beauty or two to counter balance the good looking guys. This role is filled by Lee Yeon-hee, who plays the pretty cyber cop who occasionally ends up being at the right place at the wrong time so her character can be thrown in harm's way. Otherwise, she mostly just tags along with Ji-sub's character. Yeon-hee is solid in her role, but this isn't a part that's award winningly written by any means.
Here's your SUPER SPOILER summary (skip to the next paragraph if you wish to avoid): The 2 male leads play cat & mouse for an episode or two until they both get blown up in a warehouse explosion; the cyber cop dies and the hacker barely survives. However, the identities of both are switched in the aftermath, plastic surgery is performed, and the hacker comes back as the cyber cop a year later. This, unfortunately, means Daniel Choi has now exited the show altogether, save for a few flashback scenes. It also means we now have the hacker working in the cyber crime unit under his new identity. Fortunately, the hacker is not evil, and he uses his shadowy skills and the police resources now available to him, to do good while he looks for the really bad guys who set him and his friend up.
Here's your non spoiler summary: Our team of cyber good guys battles against various cyber bad guys; terror and hacking plots are uncovered and then resolved via a host of methods. They run through the gamut of digital devices on this show here as much as possible; computers, cell phones, GPS, monitoring & recording devices all are frequently in use, along with a variety of means to hack them, protect them, trace them, etc. The use of technology is pretty effective and believable for the most part, although I'm sure some tech geek out there will try to nit pick it to death. Hopefully, you won't get stuck watching this show with "that guy".
There's one primary story line that runs throughout the whole series which involves exposing one big network of corporate, political, & police corruption over time. Some side stories are mixed in, some of which are part of the bigger picture, while others aren't really that relevant; occasionally, the cops will spend a few episodes stopping cyber stalkers, power plant meltdowns, internet school suicides, etc. The school suicide story seemed wildly out of place in particular, and plays more like a ghost story in tone than it does a crime drama.
The latter half of the show focuses almost exclusively on the main plot, which is a little hard to follow at times. There's a Rashomon effect in play throughout as various characters see the same event in different ways. There are also numerous back story flashbacks, differing computer/video versions of certain incidents, etc. I generally enjoy this method of storytelling it it's done well, but it's awfully hard to sustain over 20 consecutive hours without causing some problems; at times, I felt like I needed a flow chart to help remember what a certain character's motives actually were in correlation to what was already known or unknown at any given point in time. This is muddled even further when taking in to account what happened in the SUPER SPOILER paragraph above. In retrospect, this show would probably have benefited by having a few more side stories to take some pressure off the main story; this would have alleviated some of the overall confusion, as well eliminated a few random pop up characters & the overly repetitive "we almost caught them this time" scenes that regularly occur. That's asking a lot of the writers though, considering the time constraints inherent with these productions.
This show almost exclusively falls into the crime/intrigue/suspense genre. There is little action, comedy, or romance involved. There was maybe a combined total of 5 gunshots, explosions, fights, & high speed chases during the entire series, so action junkies should look elsewhere. There were very few romantic or comedic elements either, so if you waiting for Yeon-hee to get involved with one of the hunky leads, or expecting an abundance of lighthearted moments, it ain't gonna happen.
Production values are on par with what you'd expect for a show of this nature; there are no exotic locales, special effects are minimal, etc. The secondary cast is mostly serviceable, although there were a few weak performances among them; there's a mixed bag of KTV veterans and relative newcomers that comprise the higher ups, crime unit, evil mastermind, and some other roles. My two favorite secondary characters were the middle aged detective called the Mad Cow (who is actually more of a primary character), and, the tiny young reporter girl. He plays the old school cop who takes the "bull in the china shop" approach to police work, but, he starts to grow on you over time. She plays the cute & spunky online journalist who portrays the female sidekick to both the hacker and the Mad Cow detective.
Bottom Line: Not great, but not terrible either. It's watchable, although unmemorable; a forgiving 7 out of 10 stars!