The Good Detective 2 (2022) First Impressions
In a more recent episode, one of the additions to the new season is seen reading from a translated copy of The Brothers Karamazov, considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest novels written by one of the world’s greatest novelists. It’s certainly not difficult to see the connections even in these early days of the drama — Dostoevsky’s masterpiece is a theologically rich moral fable that revolves around a highly dysfunctional family dynamic generated by a sly, aggravating father that (inevitably) leads to murder. Similarly at the centre of this second season of this police procedural is also a deeply mistrustful family at the helm of TJ Group, a locally based conglomerate that’s been rocked by scandals. The daughter Cheon Na-na, the aforementioned reader despite maintaining her professional poise in public is an emotional trainwreck who is scheming against her own family for reasons that are fairly obvious from what transpires. The heir apparent to the company’s top job is Cheon Sang-woo (Choi Dae-hoon) who is established very early on as a cunning but not especially outstanding or ethical businessman who is more than capable committing acts of violence. Cleaning up after them is former prosecutor Woo Tae-ho (Jung Moon-sung), the head of the company’s legal department who also happens to be married to Na-na. Their father is the chairman, Chung Sung-dae who is serving seven years imprisonment for a whole range of charges related to commercial crimes.
On the other side of the fence is another family. One that’s made up of a ragtag crew of cops from the West Incheon Office known as Team 2. Although they’re not related by blood in any way, they are a far more cohesive group of people who have learnt to rely on teamwork and due diligence to get them results. On the surface they’re not an especially outstanding group but when the heat is on and their pride as detectives are at stake, they band together like brothers under the reluctant leadership of Kang Do-chang (Son Hyun-soo) and his partner Oh Ji-hyeok (Jang Seung-jo). Two years earlier Ji-hyeok, a transplant from the Seoul Office was pushed out for nosing around and asking too many questions about his shifty supervisor (now working for TJ Group) and an assaulted woman connected to Cheon Sang-woo. Ji-hyeok epitomizes the ideal or the titular model cop — he is observant, razor sharp, quick-witted and dogged. In a fairer and more just world, he would be leading investigations and putting offenders behind bars in record time but in an environment reeking with corruption where Big Business and law enforcement rub shoulders in unseemly fashion, he is nothing more than a pebble in someone’s shoe — a troublemaker who doesn’t know his place in the machinery. What animates him is the fact that he himself is a family member of a victim of crime, a fact that was highlighted all throughout the first season.
What connects the two “households” is the recent murder of an employee of TJ Group Jung Hee-joo who happened to be a member of the legal department under Woo Tae-ho’s supervision. Initially it seems that she has fallen prey to a serial killer but after some digging around by the lads at Team 2, it seems that the answers to her murder might lay elsewhere closer to work.
Like the first season, Kang Do-chang is wrestling with his future as a police officer and his conscience. This time he’s being offered an opportunity to a permanent desk jockey and he’s wondering if it’s time to transition into retirement. On the one hand he wouldn’t mind taking it easy. On the other hand, the untimely death of another man unjustly accused plagues his conscience. It doesn’t take long and with some prodding from those closest to him, his detective instincts win the day. Like Ji-hyeok although differently, Do-chang is a detective to the core. His sense of rightness and his empathy for the victim’s family overrides any misgivings that he may have about ruffling feathers. It’s usually all the impetus that he needs to go after the baddies with single-minded resolve. This time he’s not only haunted by a grieving mother but also the grandfather of Jung Hee-joo who being her only surviving family member, is in search of the hard truth. The helplessness of the two men as they attempt to accommodate one another is one of the more moving aspects of the drama.
On board the Kang Do-chang train also is his sister Kang Eun-hee who is now a respectable owner of a deep fried chicken eatery — an establishment that doubles up as unofficial Team 2 HQ. At the eatery, the men eat, drink and banter to their heart’s content. A home away from home. Lee Eun-hye who was the daughter of the death row inmate returns with her checkered past coming back to bite just as she’s made strides as an art student.
At this point it’s pleasing to see how the various points of intersections are finally being consolidated. After a slowish start, the pace has picked up. The humorous team camaraderie are better than ever while the show continues in its aims to examine the ins and outs of being a "model" detective through Do-chang and Ji-hyeok’s dynamic as they're ably but idiosyncratically supported by the rest of Team 2.
At this point TJ Group feels like a house of cards with the chairman handing out instructions from prison while his scheming offspring are both ticking time bombs. The man who is holding it altogether for now, Woo Tae-ho has the thankless task of mediating between the antagonistic siblings (or half siblings) while trying to placate the real owner. I don’t think he’s particularly keen to take over if everything goes to pot. Clearly the cupboard can only contain so many skeletons before it bursts wide open. Woo Tae-ho is a pitiful figure even if he’s a competent one because of all the moral compromises he’s had to make in service of his in-laws while trying to protect his wife. With all of that baggage, there’s much about the Cheon family to probe and explore as their dirty laundry becomes public knowledge. The performances by Jung Moon-sung, Kim Hyo-jin and Choi Dae-hoon are never in doubt while they play their games and evade one another’s gaze. Indeed there’s not a lot of trust between them. As to how much of this family dynamic continues to parallel that of the Karamazov family, one can only wait and see.
If you’re interested enough to read my non-spoiler review of the first season of The Good Detective please visit Janghaven Forums. There are also various more detailed posts about the drama on this site. As usual, beware of spoilers.