At first glance, “Inspector Koo” may come off as a typical comedic action thriller because of its vague cat-and-mouse premise. But as I watched each episode, I slowly realized why a Hallyu legend accepted this project. It took a refreshing route for the genre by defying norms, casting reliable actors, and creative storytelling. Now, let me tell you in detail the best of “Inspector Koo.”
Story Defies Gender Stereotype
The story of Inspector Koo is the typical catch-me-if-you-can trope with two characters trying to outwit the other. What’s refreshing about this series is that the story was told with female characters. It proved that a story like this doesn’t really rely on the other gender’s appeal to be an exciting watch. It also raised an underlying point that no genre should be bound to gender stereotypes. It should have been done before but I’m glad it’s becoming normal now for women to top-bill projects like this.
The titular role Koo Kyung-yi is played by actress Lee Young-ae, who amazingly transformed into this character, giving her quirks and nuances that make her stand out. And no, her character isn’t a good-y-two-shoes detective. In fact, she’s the opposite of that. She would often do things that are on the edge of rule-breaking but she still stick to the good side. Probably thanks to her late husband Jang Seung-u (Choi Yong-joon) and her newfound team who are there to remind her of where she should stand. And she needed that because as her husband repeatedly pointed out throughout the series, Koo Kyung-yi is really similar to K (Kim Hye-jun). I really think it was implied that Koo Kyung-yi was able to pursue this elusive serial killer because Kyung-yi also has the mind of a potential murderer. But since she had a different environment from K, she chose to “save the good from the bad” instead of “killing bad people for the sake of the good ones.” The latter was the path K took.
K or Song Yi-kyung outsmarted Koo Kyung-yi in almost every episode. Their push and pull scene were really exciting and thrilling to watch. But I felt more engaged when the series showed K’s more humane side. Because just like what Kyung-yi’s husband said, K is just young and lonely. She would have been on a different path if she met someone who would nurture her. It could have been her aunt Jung Jeong-yeon (Bae Hae-sun) but she rather pretends her niece was normal than to accept who she was. Can I also just add how good Kim Hye-jun is here? She made her character dynamic and memorable with her portrayal. I can’t wait to see more of her in future projects.
Speaking of portrayals, Inspector Koo has a lot of other characters with unique personas played by an ensemble of good and reliable actors. Kim Hae-sook played the role of the main villain here, Yong Sook. This veteran actress never fails to fully transform herself into a new character. And she’s back playing a baddie character. This gave me flashbacks of her previous roles where she made the main character’s life a living hell. In this series, she really reminded me that she’s not one to get typecast in good mother roles because she definitely has range.
One actress that I’m also glad to see here is Kwak Sun-young who played the role of Na Je-hui. She was the reason why their team was formed but her ambitions caused their team to break apart. But I was already attached to every member of the team so I didn’t really hate Je-hui’s decisions in the mid-run of this series. Instead, the plot twists in her character made the finale arc more interesting.
The team I’m talking about consists of Kyung-yi, Je-hui, Oh Gyeong-su (Cho Hyun-chul), and Santa (Baek Sung-chul). Oh Gyeong-su’s character journey is more about how he grew from a skeptic follower to someone loyal to Kyung-yi. His character was there to show us how Kyung-yi isn’t just a mere recluse and that she’s actually competent despite her appearance. Santa or Han Gang-uk, meanwhile, is a mysterious character from the start. They revealed his story in the end but it was vague and left it for the audience to judge.
The series used two themes in their storytelling. The visuals would go very theatrical on scenes involving K while it would look game-ish for Koo Kyung-yi. The series relied heavily on these themes to show what’s in the mind of its characters. I appreciate it whenever Kyung-yi explains K’s thought process for us. Sometimes, Kyung-yi would even break the fourth wall as if she wanted to involve the audience in their chase.