K-Drama Premiere: “Through The Darkness” Delves Into The Inner Workings Of The Criminals’ Minds To Help Solve Crimes

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Faced with a difficult challenge of understanding how a criminal commits a crime, a police officer goes beyond normal procedure to apprehend the culprit.

Through The Darkness is dark and quite gruesome. The first two episodes focus on an individual doing an atrocious act. Set in the late 90’s, the series tells the story of how criminal profiling started in South Korea. The series is based on the book co-written by South Korea’s first criminal profiler, Kwon Il Yong and journalist-author Go Na Moo.

Through the Darkness

Kim Nam Gil stars as Song Ha Young, a Detective with a traumatic past. His calm demeanor and ability to see past the surface of what the evidence and crime scenes suggest, makes him a perfect candidate to hold a position that was unheard of at the time. The drama, despite its grisly subject, is engrossing and its attempt to showcase the main character’s desire to understand how criminals think is also captivating.

Pilot Week Rating:

Through the Darkness Pilot Week Recap

The Lady in the Water

A seemingly ordinary afternoon on Children’s Day in 1975 soon turns bleak as a young boy falls in the water. As his mother tries desperately to save her son, the boy comes face to face with a deceased woman also submerged. The boy gets saved, and the dead body is pulled out of the water.

As people gather around, they talk about the boy who fell and also wonder how the body ended in the river. Amidst the commotion, the boy sees the dead body being put in the ambulance. Though it is mostly covered, the lady’s feet stick out. The boy pulls the cloth and covers the remaining body part. As his mother gets a hold of him, he sees someone in the crowd who eventually turns away from the scene.

The Red Cap Offender

Fast forward to March 1998, the boy grew up and now part of the police force is on a stakeout. Song Ha Young (Kim Nam Gil) sits inside his vehicle together with another cop as the others, dressed in female clothing, roam the streets. The police are investigating a series of burglaries and female assaults in the area. They are trying to capture the culprit in the act. However, the cold weather and the presence of the police seems to alert the perpetrator.

Due to inactivity and the cold, the police officers decide to call it a night, but Song Ha Young chooses to stay. As he looks around the alleys, he chances upon a suspicious guy standing in a dark corner. The man pulls out and wears a red cap, so Ha Young decides to follow. He sees the man trying to get into someone else’s house. A chase ensues and a fight breaks out between Ha Young and the man. Eventually Ha Young apprehends the man, but it turns out he is not the criminal the police are really after.

The Murder of Choi Hwa Yeon

A young woman returns home from her appointment at a clinic on a rainy night of May 1998. As she walks the street towards her home, a man wearing a red cap follows her. She senses him and he immediately changes direction. Choi Hwa Yeon arrives at her front door and sees her mom who visits and brings her side dishes. She invites her to stay as it is raining and it is already late, but the mother insists on leaving.

Hwa Yeon has another surprise visitor, her boyfriend Bang Ki Hoon. A supposedly sweet visit turns sour as Hwa Yeon makes a comment about Bang Ki Hoon’s business. They argue and as Hwa Yeon’s mother boards the bus, the daughter is fighting for her life.

Song Ha Young arrives at the crime scene and notices some strange details. Inside the house lies the naked and dead body of Choi Hwa Yeon. Ha Young asks about the victim’s relative, and a police officer tells him about her mother whose condition got worse she needs to go to the hospital. Ha Young visits but due to the medication administered to the mother, she is asleep. Seeing the woman’s feet protruding out of the blanket, Ha Young covers it.

Kook Young Soo Proposes A Creation of a Profiling Team

Meanwhile, at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, Kook Young Soo (Jin Sun Kyu) talks to Heo Gil Pyo (Kim Won Hae) about a team that focuses on criminal profiling. He says that crime investigation needs a deeper understanding of criminal behaviors. He also states that heinous crimes are more likely to be prevalent so the police force should be prepared. However, despite his passionate plea, they did not take him seriously. Frustrated, Kook Young Soo apologizes and walks away.

Through The Darkness

The Arrest and Confession of Bang Ki Hoon

In the morgue, Song Ha Young and the police learn the cause of death and that the victim was 14 weeks pregnant. The coroner also reveals that even though the culprit undressed the victim, there was no sexual assault. Captain Park Dae Woong and Moon Tae Soo conclude that it must be the boyfriend who committed the crime. Ha Young says that he went to the same school with Bang Ki Hoon.

The two immediately go to Bang Ki Hoon’s tent bar and arrests him. They ask him if he know Choi Hwa Yeon and he admits that she is his girlfriend. They said he needs to come with them as he is the suspect for her murder. During his interrogation, the Captain reveals that circumstantial evidence points to him. He said that his visit coincides around the time of the murder. He also asks him of his whereabouts after he left her house as he did not work that night.

Bang Ki Hoon admits to a fight but insists he did not kill her. He tells the Captain that he went to Han River but other than it there is no one to corroborate his alibi. Through coercion and after getting beat up, Bang Ki Hoon has no other choice but to confess to the crime.

Ha Young Continues to Investigate The Red Cap Cases

With Bang Ki Hoon’s confession, the Red Cap crimes are deemed resolved. However, Ha Young feels that something is off as the evidence suggests. He continues to investigate and collect data around the neighborhood. He notices that there are numbers written on the houses. Ha Young wonders about these numbers and its connection to the crimes.

He also visits and tries to pick the mind of Yang Yong Chul, a convicted criminal. Yang Yong Chul blurted out that Bang Ki Hoon is not the real culprit, but the police dismiss his statement as Bang Ki Hoon already confessed.

Another murder + the apprehension of Cho Kang Moo

Ha Young gets a scolding from his captain when he finds out about his visits with Yang Yong Chul. He is adamant though, that the Red Cap case is far from over. Another murder happens and when Ha Young visits Yong Chul once again, he tells him about a significant detail which provides an insight into the real culprit. Though still mad about his jail visits, Ha Young’s captain finally realizes that Ha Young may be on to something.

In his investigation, Ha Young finds out the meaning behind the numbers on the houses. He arrives at the police station just as a young teenage boy gets arrested for breaking into the house of a woman. Fortunately, the woman’s partner is able to prevent him from doing more harm and calls the police. The teenager, identified as Cho Kang Moo, says that he was just there to steal as most boys his age did.

The police confiscate a pair of scissors as evidence and Ha Young remembers witness’ statements saying that the person wearing the red cap who was seen following Hwa Yeon has an average height and slender built enough to pass for a young woman. He also recalls about the unknown fingerprint he and Kook Young Soo collected at Choi Hwa Yeon’s residence.

The Interrogation of Cho Kang Moo

Following his gut feeling, Ha Young interviews Cho Kang Moo. The more he talks, the more it convinces Ha Young he is not just a petty offender, but in fact the real Red Cap killer. His captain requests to expedite the fingerprint analysis on the scissors.

Ha Young asks Cho Kang Moo to write some of the numbers he found on the houses and immediately notices the resemblance in writing. Convinced that he has the real culprit, Ha Young reveals to Cho Kang Moo that he knows of the things he did and that the fingerprint analysis will come back a match to his. Cho Kang Moo realizes that there is no way out and finally admits to his crimes. Ha Young asks him the reason behind undressing his victims and the teenager reveals that it was what his father did to his mother.

Bang Ki Hoon gets exonerated but then there is public outrage at how the police took on the case. Kook Young Soo sees an opportunity to convince his superiors once again to consider the creation of a behavioral analysis team. To appease the public and save face, Kook Young Soo’s Behavioral Analysis Team gets approved. He and Ha Young now have the authority to officially talk to inmates to understand the psychology of these criminals.

Through the Darkness Pilot Week Afterthoughts

Through the Darkness impressed on the first two episodes. It effectively brought to life the struggles and complexities of crime investigation. The setting, which is the late 90’s and early 2000’s, added to the authenticity of the series’ premise which is the start of criminal profiling in South Korea. Kim Nam Gil once again proves he is one of the best actors out there. His take on Song Ha Young is very convincing and particularly engrossing.

Though motivated by that incident from his childhood to apprehend criminals, it also haunted Song Ha Young. His indifference and stubbornness clearly irk his colleagues. However, it makes him very efficient and good at his job as a detective. Ha Young’s silent and calm demeanor lets him process things deeply and logically that help in his investigation.

Kim Nam Gil makes his character real and compelling. When Ha Young thinks (out loud or hearing his inner monologues), he takes the viewers with him. When there are no dialogues, the way Kim Nam Gil squints his eyes as he ponders on things makes you wonder what Ha Young truly sees and thinks at that particular moment. I love that he does not care about how his colleagues, view him as long as they give him a chance to work and solve his cases.

I also love his dynamic with Jin Sun Kyu’s character Kook Young Soo. They are different yet similar in more ways. While Song Ha Young is the silent and collected type of individual, Kook Young Soo is the opposite. He talks and mingles a lot as evidenced by his network and acquaintances in the police force. He is also not afraid to let people know about his opinions. Both characters are equally stubborn, and they know when to stand their ground.

It is fascinating to see the creation of the Behavioral Analysis Team and the challenges that come along with it. As the concept of criminal psychology and profiling was new at the time, it is understandable that they face opposition and resistance. But all these are important to develop and prove their team’s worth, ushering a breakthrough in the way police solve crimes. It takes a lot of mental preparedness and courage to be able to face the gruesomeness of crimes, let alone understanding the people who did it.

The thing I love the most in this series is that it is reminiscent of the Western procedural shows I binge-watched. While I feel a certain detachment to the crimes and scenarios on those shows, the series is somehow closer to home. It makes the horrendous acts and the characters’ decisions a lot more relatable. For fans of police procedural and crime thrillers, this series is a must-watch.

Through the Darkness airs on SBS every Friday and Saturday at 10PM KST. The episodes are also available for streaming on Viu, a few hours after the South Korean broadcast.

Source: Images from SBS (1) (2)