The 2020 OCN drama Search (써치) is a thrilling mystery that packs a lot into its ten episodes. The fast-paced story and great cast leaves you both satisfied and wanting much more.
Jang Dong Yoon is Sgt. Yong Dong Jin. Just weeks away from being discharged, he gets sent to a small civilian village within the DMZ where he joins a special search unit tasked with uncovering the truth behind a mysterious predator in the nearby forests. He is joined by First Lieutenant Son Ye Rim (Krystal Jung) who specializes in handling chemicals (and with whom he shares a romantic past with), Captain Song Min Gyu (Yoon Park) who serves as team leader, First Lieutenant Lee Joon Sung (Lee Hyun Wook), Sergeant First Class Park Ki Hyung (Lee Ha Yul) and Staff Sergeant Ju Moon Chil (Choi Yoon Je).
Along with the help of a specially trained military dog, the team covertly investigates strange disappearances and murders in the outskirts of the village. And it just so happens this is the same location of a deadly military encounter between South Korean and North Korean forces in 1997.
Though they have initial theories and suspects, they quickly learn that what they are facing may not be of the normal variety.
From there, the story speeds off through a roller coaster of violent clashes, strange happenings and political corruption with the idyllic countryside village (or as idyllic one can be within the DMZ) as the backdrop. They uncover shocking truths about the past that end up playing a big part in the present.
Search is definitely not short of excitement. Produced under OCN’s “Dramatic Cinema” banner, the series is indeed cinematic and thrilling. The mystery carefully, but quickly unfolds. Strategically placed flashbacks help fill in the gaps. And once things become clear, the series shifts to adrenaline-packed action with some effective emotional hooks to complete the enjoyable package.
With just ten episodes, Search has no time for dilly-dallying. It hits the ground running and never lets up off the gas pedal. On one hand, that keeps things interesting. There is a twist and turn at every corner. On the other hand, the series at times feels overly conscious of the ten-episode count that they try to cram in a little too much.
Search has very good characters and they get solid development throughout the series. There is a strong foundation for each character that allows for any plot developments and situational circumstances to resonate and hold meaning. But there are several instances when the series needed some room to breathe and to even expand on some of the themes and ideas they lay out on the table.
Perhaps some more time spent on the people of the village. Having the special unit interacting more with the locals while on their covert mission. Or maybe increasing the mystery factor a little more. Make things even more eerie and threatening for everyone involved. Play up possible backstories for our main characters, all of which were compelling enough in-series. But certainly, worthy of much more, especially with such a strong and capable cast.
The series feels very much like an extended film. And perhaps with some tightening up, the premise could absolutely be a full-length film. But if given the opportunity, the series probably would have had enough for a full 16 episode run. To do that, they’d have to expand and go deeper into character moments, dynamics and adding a little more to the shock and awe of the past and present.
Search balances some humor here and there with the legitimate mystery and suspense. And there are plenty of thrilling action sequences throughout.
Jang Dong Yoon leads a very talented ensemble cast. The confident, strong, charismatic cast really draw you in to the story and the characters. Krystal Jung, Moon Jeong Hee, Yoon Park and Lee Hyun Wook especially deliver excellent performances.
Search may appear to be a very typical series with familiar themes. It misses some opportunities. But its cinematic approach, refreshing and creative ideas and its excellent cast are a good, solid recipe for what is a thrilling mystery.