K-Drama Review: “The Game: Towards Zero” Blurs The Line Between Good And Evil
Instead of focusing on the two extremes of good and evil, The Game: Towards Zero brought viewers to the grey area that lies in between.
Another series that makes you weigh your judgments and sense of morality: that is what The Game: Towards Zero shows. There are no absolutes in life—especially when it comes to good and evil, because our actions as human beings are backed by motivations and experiences that shaped us into making certain decisions.
TITLE: The Game: Towards Zero
THEME: Mystery, Crime, Action
LENGTH: 32 episodes
BROADCAST DATE: January 22 — March 12, 2020
MAIN LEADS: Ok Taecyeon, Lee Yeon Hee, Lim Ju Hwan
HIGHLIGHTS: Well-rounded characters, Cleverly intertwined relationships, A riveting plot that makes you think and question yourself
DRAWBACK/S: Reasonably predictable plot points
RELATED DRAMAS: Black, While You Were Sleeping
Ok Taecyeon (2PM member, Save Me, Bring It On, Ghost) makes his highly-anticipated drama return after being discharged from mandatory military service through the riveting mystery crime series as its lead character Kim Tae Pyeong. Endowed with the ability to see the very moment of one’s death, he begins with a free-spirited yet cynic mindset.
Joining him is actress Lee Yeon Hee (Hwajung, The Package) who plays the strong-willed and courageous detective Seo Jeon Young. Motivated by the death of her father while on duty as a detective when she was younger, she dedicates herself to helping other people.
Completing the trio with ill-fated destinies intertwined is the complex character Goo Do Kyung, who was brought to life by Lim Ju Hwan (Boys Over Flowers, Uncontrollably Fond, The Bride of Habaek).
- K-Drama Premiere: “The Game Towards Zero” Races To An Exciting Premiere With Well-Executed Storytelling
Earning viewers’ love as well is Seoul Central Police’s detective gang led by the characters Nam Woo Hyun (Park Ji Il) and composed of Han Dong Woo (Choi Jae Woong), Yoon Kang Jae (Shin Sung Min), and Ko Bong Soo (Lee Seung Woo).
Aiding Kim Tae Pyeong as well was Teacher Baek (Jeong Dong Hwan), who shares the same ability to see death, and Lee Yeon Hwa (Ryoo Hye Rin), who is at Tae Pyeong and Jeon Young’s beck and call. Park Won Sang also played the integral role of journalist Lee Joon Hee, who showed a character development that viewers will appreciate.
Quick Plot Roundup
The Game: Towards Zero tells the story of a man who sees everyone’s moments of death—except for one woman he meets and falls in love with who convinces him that maybe, his visions are not set in stone and are subject to changes if one desperately wills it to.
Despite his reservations, Tae Pyeong gets roped in to helping a group of detectives prevent an abducted girl from getting murdered via a copycat modus operandi of a popular serial killer in the past. Successful in changing her fated death at first, he unfortunately finds himself in a series of situations that is way more than he signed up for.
In the midst of finding answers in hopes of protecting the first person he saved using his abilities, Tae Pyeong faces a ghost from his past. Or more accurately, a person whose tragic death he foresaw when he was a little kid and continued to haunt him at present. After meeting Goo Do Kyung, he finds out the reason why he is unable to see Jeon Young’s death—because it is he himself who would be causing it.
As mentioned, one of the seemingly top messages that The Game: Towards Zero wishes to convey is that there is no such thing as absolute good or evil, and it effectively delivers that through its characters. A quick example is the two male lead characters, whose decisions combine both the good and bad.
Despite being the protagonist, Tae Pyeong is not portrayed like a hero with a clean record—in fact, he makes dumb decisions based on his outburst of emotions like any human would. However, he takes responsibility for his recklessness instead of taking off from it (even if he, as someone extremely rich, had the means to) and does everything he can to stop the killings. He is the living epitome of the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Although he is the “villain” of the story, Do Kyung makes you sympathize with him for the entire duration of the series—even more than you probably would with the main characters. Haunted both by his past and foreseen future, he holds on to an excruciating pain that was captured by the story in full depth.
Yes, his actions and decisions anger you—but you also understand why he is the way he is and pity him for how things turned out to be. Although killing is unjustifiable, his character would make you feel an empty pit in your stomach as you see through his viewpoint how his life was shattered to begin with.
Cleverly intertwined relationships
Another central element of the MBC series is the connection between the characters which lie deeper than viewers could imagine initially. Without bringing spoilers, every character met in the drama right from the start played a significant role in shaping other characters’ choices and lives.
In other dramas, interweaving stories not just of its leads but also its supporting characters with one another have the tendency to look forced, but The Game: Towards Zero was able to pull off connecting identities effectively and naturally with respect to the plot.
A riveting plot that makes you think and question yourself
All throughout the series, viewers would find themselves grappling with the sense of justice, humanity, and morality for every action and reaction of each character. “Did he/she/they deserve it?” is a question I found myself asking for every episode, especially as the drama presents a reason behind every wrongdoing that makes it seem justifiable.
Good outweighs the bad—and that applies both to the message of the story and to its plot points and elements. Despite the reasonable predictability of some scenes and character’s actions—it does center on the story of a man who foresees death, after all, The Game: Towards Zero gives a gripping and well-narrated story to viewers.
It also reinforced the harsh truth that it is the system which corrupts the people and makes them evil. Despite his attempts to lead a good life, Goo Do Kyung was made into a monster by a system and society which made his life unbearable. His father too was falsely accused of murder and had to suffer both judgment and imprisonment despite being innocent—which only got proven once irreversible actions had already been done.
Even journalist Lee Joon Hee showed that the parasitic and toxic environment and system that the media continues to thrive on can help destroy not just other people’s lives. But, also themselves as they turn into vicious, heartless beings controlled by their work.
The entire cast is also brilliant, down from the main characters to even the minor personalities like Mi Jin (Choi Da In) and Jo Pil Doo (Kim Yong Joon) who don’t make appearances much in the drama.
However, the biggest winner of them all is Lim Ju Hwan, whose portrayal of Do Kyung is spectacular—period. His character and the way he brought it to life was a total standout in the series, thanks to his effective way of evoking emotions from viewers.
Hardcore crime and mystery drama lovers probably won’t find much impact in this series especially if they’re looking for the kind of suspense that would punch you in the gut every time, as well as the hair-raising thrill that they’re used to.
This is because in comparison to purely crime and mystery series, The Game: Towards Zero moves with a slow burn to make way for each character development and story that it presents. Moreover, it gives mellow time in between for viewers to catch their breaths and think about the story, the characters, and their judgments, which serves as its central point.
However, those who have a penchant for crime and action mixed with elements of fantasy and romance will appreciate The Game: Towards Zero with how it doesn’t throw away its chance of being good at every genre that it picked to dabble in. As someone whose pet peeve is the misuse or underuse of the special abilities that most dramas put to pique interest in its main character, I was satisfied with how Taecyeon was able to stick to his character’s power.
Overall, its strongest points lie in its fascinating plot, brilliant cast, and a gripping message that will make its mark especially when you finish watching and face reality afterwards.
Photos Credit To: MBC