Voice 4 (2021) Voiceless Scapegoats

Contains spoilers for the most recent episodes (10-12)

Those who have followed the franchise from the beginning are certainly aware that Voice is not known for its subtlety. It’s unabashedly violent and usually features at least one moustache-twirling villain everybody loves to hate. This fourth series is no different and there are a whole gallery of rogues (from obstructionist bureaucrats to a home grown serial killer) to choose from. Furthermore the show has never been shy about hammering home its intended themes. Here, family dysfunction is the preoccupation writ large across all the cases.

There’s a madness afflicting the island that has deep roots. Evil runs rampant on Vimo Island because of a history of what appears to be extensive family abuse and even murder going back at least 3 decades. The result of decades of crime and cover-up is personified by Dong Bang-min (Lee Kyu-hyung) who as an impressionable child was systematically compelled to witness his grandfather’s depravity. It’s become increasingly obvious that Sonang Village is little more than a cult-like entity established by the elder, Dong Bang Hyeon-yup to do his bidding — an increasingly dangerous, mindless army deployed to carry out his orders in unquestioning fashion. Brainwashing can only explain so much but it’s clear that even hope can be twisted to the point where it becomes a tool of zealotry as seen in Chief Yang Bok-man’s daughter whose desperation to see her own daughter healed causes a rift in that family. Instead of seeing the elder as the malicious figure that he really is, she blames her father and the newcomers to the island for making the elder angry and depriving her daughter of the opportunity of being healed. Her own frustration sees her using her father as the scapegoat for the fact that her obsession is hindered.

In this world where rationalism clashes mightily with superstition, Dong Bang-min is a symbol of that contest in the flesh. His expression of dissociative identity disorder can be seen by those who eschew the rational as a man possessed by supernatural forces who has knowledge that were once thought to be secrets. He is a broken vessel that’s been filled with malevolence and is on the path of vengeance and destruction. Helpless to act as a child, he has become a distorted adult with no strong sense of self. Like a demon-possessed man, he is beholden to the voices in his head pulling him in different directions to act against his own interests even to the point of self-harm. His own voice as Dong Bang-min is gradually being drowned out by stronger, far more wrathful, bloodthirsty voices wrestling for supremacy.

Min (as he’s referred to by his grandfather) is the scapegoat for his grandfather’s many sins. He is a living record of his grandfather’s double life as it were. On the one hand, Dong Bang Hyeon-yup presents himself to the world as a benevolent philanthropist but what he really is, is an avaricious, cunning puppet master with his own little fiefdom. In the name of helping the vulnerable and the homeless, he exploits their religious impulses in order to solidify his own protection racket. Kwak Man-taek is one of many who fit the bill. As a man in search of healing, he ends up being the scapegoat for Min aka Circus Man aka the young master. Sufficiently brainwashed Kwak Man-taek confesses to a crime he doesn’t commit because he believes that he will find the salvation he seeks even while he lives on borrowed time and drugs.

Kwak Man-taek makes his way to the local police interrogation room where he claims he has “lost” his voice as a result of a neck injury and hands over a typed confession. What he in effect becomes is a puppet for Dong Bang Min’s most calculating personality, a former teacher who leverages Kwak Man-taek’s need for assurance that he will end up escape the horrors of hell in the afterlife. He doesn’t speak of his own accord but becomes the “voice” for the young master who already has his scapegoat prepared.

There’s an inherent sowing and reaping principle at work in this morality tale. While Dong Bang Hyeon-yup was seemingly able to get away with his transgressions for the longest time with his duplicity, he himself planted the seeds for the fruit of what’s emerged in the form of his own grandson, Dong Bang Min. Min is his sculpture, his terrible (and terrifying) masterpiece fashioned over the passage of time. The monster he created has emerged to bite him hard in his rear end.