Police University has made good of its promise of being a youth drama filled with admirable friendships and mentor-mentee bonds. In the premiere week, they clearly established that the series will revolve around honest cop Yu Dong-man (Cha Tae-hyun) and the hacker-turned-police-in-trainee Kang Sun-ho (Jung Jin-young).
The first arc of the series was really about how Dong-man and Sun-ho resolve their differences and work together to find out who’s behind an illegal gambling case. They usually bicker – thanks to Dong-man’s hotheadedness – which eventually became part of their natural dynamic. The development of their bond was done at the right pacing. I quite enjoyed watching them grow in phases: phase one was Dong-man picking on Sun-ho during their training; phase two was when Sun-ho started helping Dong-man in his investigation; finally their last phase was when they got each other’s back during the toughest of time. Their scenes were funny, sometimes action-packed, and heartwarming at most.
Aside from Dong-man-Sun-ho bond, Police University also excels in giving its audience another K-drama squad. Since day 1, Sun-ho got stuck with fellow misfits No Bum-tae (Lee Dal) and Cho Jun-wook (Yoo Young-jae). And since their first meeting, I already look forward to their misadventures in the Korean National Police University (KNPU). I called them misfits because they are not the smartest of the bunch and most of the time their decisions would lead to outcomes that would put them in jeopardizing situations – which are usually hilarious. Despite that, they stick to each other no matter what.
Bum-tae and Jun-wook also had their fair share of the spotlight. I lost count of how many times this duo had me in stitches. Their competition for Lee Eon-joo’s love was also entertaining. Their feelings for Eon-joo were real but the rivalry wasn’t really that serious. I actually don’t mind whoever ends up with Eon-joo because I like her with both of them anyway. Now, if only other love triangles in K-dramas would be as funny as this side story then that trope will most likely be on my favorite list.
There’s actually another love triangle in this series. And that is between Sun-ho and Park Min-kyu (Choo Yeong-woo). Both of them like Oh Kang-hee (Krystal Jung) but it was obvious from the start that Min-kyu was just a plot device for their loveline and for Sun-ho’s character development. I find this part a bit disappointing because Min-kyu could have been a good character to flesh out if they included him in the main squad from the start.
Anyway, at least it made Sun-ho and Kang-hee’s relationship stronger. They are a cute pairing from the start especially because they have gender-bending traits. Kang-hee was physically stronger while Sun-ho was the lanky one. Individually, I actually adore Kang-hee. She could stand up on her own and sometimes would even save Sun-ho from trouble. I also like it when Kang-hee and Professor Choi Hee-soo (Hong Soo-hyun) paired up for an investigation during their summer vacation. They somewhat parallel Sun-ho and Dong-man’s relationship. (Side note: that episode is my fave in this series.)
Police University, as obvious in its title, shows the story not just of its students but also its teachers. And these subplot is as engaging as the stories of the younger characters. Kwon Hyeok-pil (Lee Jong-hyuk) was introduced like he was the bad guy in the series but as the story progresses, it has become clearer that he is on the same side as Dong-man. He and Dong-man might not always see things eye-to-eye but they both share the same value when it comes to their chosen profession. Hyeok-pil also might look like the most serious character in the series but he is actually low-key funny. This characteristic has become apparent when he mentored Bum-tae and Jun-wook during their summer vacation episode.
Hyeok-pil wasn’t involved at all in the biggest plot twist of the show. The men behind the illegal gambling case was actually the KNPU Chief Seo Sang-hak (Kang Shin-il) and Police Department Chief Han Jung-sik (Yu Tae-woong). The resolution of the main plot is actually predictable but it’s a youth drama after all and not a mystery/thriller. And I like how this plot twist questioned the black and white belief of Dong-man. It turns out that it was a Robin Hood crime. They did an illegal thing for a good cause but still, in the end, it’s a crime. This is also similar to how the story started – Sun-ho’s hacking crime. Sun-ho’s line: “Just because we have our stories and excuses, that doesn’t mean we can break the law. Seeing your last moment made it clearer that we can never break laws, that we can’t protect anyone by breaking laws, and that running away doesn’t excuse my wrongdoings” aptly sums up the conclusion of this case.
In the end, too, Sun-ho decided to correct his crime and get the punishment he deserves. I thought it was some kind of noble idiocy at first but it was just the series sticking to the message it want to impart. And since Sun-ho proved he was sincere in wanting to join the force, his professors’ help him to get a restart. It’s kind of sad though that he didn’t graduate with KNPU’s 41st batch but at least we know that he would eventually become Dong-man’s investigation partner.
Overall, Police University is a good youth drama but I have to be honest that it has the tendency to be forgettable because even though their scenes were entertaining they weren’t unique enough to stand out with other youth dramas out there. What would stick to me for a long time however are the characters that I’ve watched grow through its 16-episode run. As Sun-ho said, I’ve watched their “happy, desperate, and passionate” moments. If one is looking for a light entertainment, this series is still worth watching.
-It’s nice to see Shin Seung-hwan here! He appeared as a guest in Unexpected Business and it was a fun episode!
-Now that I mention it, can the Police University squad appear as guests in the second season?
-At least, Min-kyu and Yoo Na-rae (Kim Jae-in) ended up together
-They hinted at a romance between Hee-soo and Hyeok-pil but it’s more of a rom-com, I guess
Image credit: KBS