Last year, I watched seasons 2 and 3 of OCN’s crime thriller Voice (보이스) partly for Lee Jin Wook, one of my all-time favorite Korean actors. Those two seasons were near the top of my Favorite Dramas list at the end of the year. And after watching them, I planned on circling back to season one. When it was announced that Voice would be returning for a 4th season this year, I thought what better time to do that than now. So before jumping into Season 4, I finally decided it was time to watch how it all began.
What was most intriguing was how different the first season was from seasons 2 and 3. If season 2 and 3 were a dark, gritty and explosive psychological thriller, season one was relatively tame and perhaps very familiar.
First though, season one does an excellent job of introducing us to Lee Ha Na as Kang Kwon Joo. Watching this season after seasons two and three, this was like watching her origin story. Season one quickly, and efficiently, introduces us to “Kang Center’s” gift of being able to hear and analyze even the faintest of sounds and how she is able to use that ability to establish the Golden Time Team.
While the Golden Time Team works to save lives with every episode, the season-long arc deals with detective Moo Jin Hyuk (Jang Hyuk) hunting down his wife’s murderer. Of course, Detective Moo and Director Kang clash at first. But during the course of the season, the two grow to respect and trust each other in their shared mission to bring justice to their loved ones and those in need.
As with any crime drama on Korean television, corruption lurks in the background. And aside from the cases of the week and the central mystery is the guessing game of who our heroes (and anti-heroes) can really trust.
What season one shares with season two and three is the way the bonds between the members of the Golden Time Team grow and develop over the season. Those relationships are just as engaging as the central mystery and the weekly crime fighting and emergencies.
And whether it is the personal stories of each Golden Time Team member or the cases and victim of the week, each story is grounded in relatable and empathetic reality. That allows for every twist, turn and resolution to be all the more affecting.
The balance between character-driven story and the procedural aspect of the story is one of the Voice franchise’s strongest accomplishments. And that allows for a wide appeal to the series.
Jang Hyuk is definitely no stranger to heroic leading men characters. And as Detective Moo, he delivers a wide-ranging performance that includes everything from heartbreaking emotion to kickass hero. The balance of strong, noble officer and vulnerable, hurting widow is effortlessly delivered by Jang Hyuk. And for anyone who has ever seen him in action, this should come as no surprise.
His chemistry with Lee Ha Na is also excellent. And it definitely has to be to make the clashing personalities dynamic work well and not just come across as forced.
Of course, Lee Ha Na is the (Kang) center of the entire Voice series. And it is thanks to her excellent performance that we can immediately connect with her and her unique abilities. Being able to endear your character to the audience is not an easy task. But Lee Ha Na makes it look easy. It’s very interesting to watch this first season after already being enthralled with her performance in the following two seasons. But that, I think, allowed me to see how effective her performance is here in season one even more.
Overall, watching season one of Voice, one might not have expected it to be a continuing series and eventual franchise. But looking back now with all the qualities for an engaging and captivating series, from excellent story to exciting action to top-caliber cast, perhaps it’s much easier to see.