Catch the Ghost (2019) Early Impressions


The title is rather misleading and no, it's not a fantasy. The ghost here refers to a mysterious serial killer that haunts the subway system in Seoul.

Riding on the Kim Seon-ho fever that's sweeping the Asian drama-watching world, I decided to take a look at this show because on paper it's right up my alley. For the most part, it's not a bad police procedural really on the proviso that you can stomach the female lead's over-the-top antics especially in the early part of the drama. Her recklessness as someone who has lost a loved one is understandable on some level and it does make her a more sympathetic cop... with more of a human touch than her peers. But does she have to be that all or nothing kind of character? It's exhausting watching her work and it takes a man who has the patience of Job to deal with her with a fine touch. That man is Ko Ji-seok. In the short time that she partners with him, he gets beaten, attacked, hosed down, stabbed at and not to mention a whole host of illegal activities she manages to drag him into because she cannot say "no" to a hard luck victim story.

In a way I get it. She means well. She's narrowly focused on catching baddies because she's driven. Driven by the fact that she lost her autistic sister in the subway tunnels. Driven by a lot of guilt that she hadn't been a better sister. Her passion for the downtrodden is admirable and really, I suppose it's what leads Ji-seok to fall for her despite the trouble she heaps on him. But one can't help feeling that the show seems to be condoning her recklessness because her instincts are usually right. What's more, despite everything Ji-seok is attracted to that overzealous need to rescue every soul that they come across. No doubt he sees something of himself in her. Plus the fact he was on track to be the region's top detective. He gave up a stellar career in criminal investigations to begin with. The subway gig pays the bills but lacks the excitement he secretly craves. Still it's his bread and butter. Honestly the stuff she gets up to could cause him to lose his job. Already he's already been penalized with a pay cut for not keeping her in line.

Kim Seon-ho as expected is very good in this. The man's a star and the total package. He's at home with comedy but skillfully runs the entire gamut of emotions where needed. He nails every emotion perfectly. When he smiles, the room lights up like it's Christmas. He plays the long-suffering Ji-seok and suffer is the operative word here. He's the man who cleans up after Yoo Ryung. On top of all that his mother is in some kind of facility as a dementia patient so all his energy and resources go into prioritizing her care. At the end of the day he is a kind-hearted soul. And entirely the brains behind solving the cases.

Moon Geun-young does what she can in this rather thankless role. She's a seasoned performer undoubtedly. As police partners, the pair do well enough in that crazy 80s television fashion. But as romantic ones... not so much. I don't think they have that kind of chemistry. Still, it's not a deal breaker and their interactions are fun. It's clear that they both like each other through the performances but there's little UST on display.

I guess that they felt they had to have a love polygon. Sigh. Don't know why. Sigh. But Ji-seok's ex, Ma Ri can't let go. Plus Woo-hyuk, Ma Ri's new partner, is keen on Ryung to the point that he's risking all kinds of things helping her find her sister in the tunnels. I'm really not a fan of Ma Ri. She has too much to prove and jealousy is not a great motivator for a lead investigator. To my mind, she's too emotional to be in that sort of leadership role. It's disappointing really. Too many nutty female characters.

What I really like about the show is the subway angle. It's unique in terms of crime shows. It's a rare insight into the petty and more serious crimes that occur in that space. I'm also enjoying meeting the men and women who work and live in and around that environment. I didn't realise that 8 million people use the subway every day in Seoul and it's such an integral part of life there.