Undercover (2021)

As I haven’t seen the UK version, I’m in no position to comment on how closely this K version follows it but I’ve enjoyed the first two episodes so far and I can safely say it’s very much a Korean drama in all the best possible ways. Rather than comparing it with the original, the presentation and storytelling are reminiscent of last year’s When My Love Blooms especially in its use of flashbacks and younger actors to showcase the leads’ relatively complex backstories. Both Han Su-hwa and Yeon Woo-jin bear strong resemblances to the older actors and give convincing performances as Choi Yeon-soo and Han Jung-hyun.

On first glance the drama seems to be about marriage and there’s certainly a strong element of that going on. An idyllic middle class family of four complete with a pet living in the suburbs. From any kind of standard,, they appear to be a model family raising a special needs child to have some measure of independence.The male lead (Ji Jin-hee) appears to be the ideal husband, supportive of his feisty wife’s (Kim Hyun-joo) career as a human rights lawyer while he runs the home and a bicycle shop. For a man of his skill set, it would seem that he’s given up a lot for his family but he appears content with his lot with no regrets. But if something’s too good to be true, it probably is. A dark cloud looms in the horizon. He’s kept an important secret from his wife about his past for two decades and now his former masters have come knocking. Wife, Choi Yeon-soo has been nominated as the new anti-corruption chief set up by the president and there are people who don’t want her take iti up.

On the other hand, this is also very much about an old K drama favourite — corruption in high places. The husband and wife will have plenty to sort out in days to come especially when the pressure’s on to make Choi Yeon-soo quit. I’m not sure how the National Intelligence Service is run in reality but here, it is presented as a malevolent force that’s become a law unto its own self. During the accountability hearing Im Hyung-rak, one of the top dogs of the organization, gave off Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men vibes. I imagine the NIS is as much a public service as any branch of the military but when those within cross all kinds of moral lines in service of the greater good, the power they enjoy can be corrupting. It seems to be populated with entitled career bureaucrats. After a time of doing great deeds they think that the usual norms don’t apply to them and worse still they take it upon themselves to decide who should or shouldn’t be holding governmental positions regardless of public sentiment.

Ji Jin-hee is suitably cast as Han Jung-hyun who was once a hand on the heart law high achieving enforcement officer who turned in his badge to be a husband and father. It seems now he will have to dust off his old skills to protect not only his wife but do everything to keep the entire family together.