TYPE OF REVIEW : GOOD OL’/CHECK-IN REVIEW
Some spoilers for seasons one through three.
The first three seasons of OCN’s Voice delivered top-notch action and stunning performances. Between the relatively familiar crime solving mystery of season one to the darker psychological thriller of seasons two and three, Voice 4 (보이스4: 심판의 시간) finds the perfect balance between those two contrasts. Continuing the story of Lee Ha Na’s captivating Kang Kwon Joo, Voice 4 introduces us to new characters and new dangers while expanding its world in the most unexpected, yet exciting ways.
Voice 4 picks up right where season 3 left off. Kang Kwon Joo, aka Kang Center, and the Golden Time Team are lauded for their successful work in bringing the killers to justice. Even with an upcoming and well-deserved break, Kang Center silently suffers with PTSD. Not only due to the death of partner Do Kang Woo (Lee Jin Wook), but also because of strange dreams and an emerging threat related to her enhanced hearing ability.
She soon meets LAPD detective Derek Cho (Song Seung Heon) who is in Korea pursuing a wanted crime lord. But the two become even more entangled after a suspected serial killer strikes close to home for both Kang Center and Detective Cho. Their hunt for this latest monster brings them to the provincial Vimo Island where Kang Center helps to establishe a brand new Golden Time Team-powered 112 emergency call center.
With some familiar faces returning to the team (Son Eun Seo as team member Park Eun Soo, Kim Joong Ki and Song Boo Gun as detectives Park and Goo) and new ones joining as well (Kang Seong Yoon as IT specialist Han Woo Joo), Kang Center works with Detective Cho to unravel the mystery surrounding this new deadly killer.
And as those pieces begin to fall into place, Kang Center unexpectedly also unravels aspects of her own life and her ability that she never could have imagined. Potentially unleashing an even more dangerous threat upon her, her team and even the greater public.
Voice 4 shares much of what made the first three seasons so successful and compelling. The balance between character-driven story and the procedural aspect of the story is one of the Voice franchise’s strongest accomplishments. And it certainly has become a legitimate continuing franchise.
As season four draws upon characters and stories from the previous three (notably the return of the awesome Baek Sung Hyun as detective Shim Dae Sik), it is able to add its own qualities and depth to the franchise’s foundation. And that works to expand the world within Voice, not to mention the world Kang Center never even knew existed.
Aside from the balance in taking the best of what the first three seasons offered, season four’s island setting gives the series a different feel. In comparison to the urban-based Seoul setting of those seasons, the Vimo Island of season four presents an opportunity for a different tone and opens up different scenarios and atmospheres that the series more than uses to its advantage.
That balance, both in material and tone, works to draw in new viewers as well as reward returning viewers with the surprising twists and turns as well as the continuing in-depth look at each of these characters. The season builds up the tension quite well. And it results in what ends up being a conclusion that is both satisfying and shocking.
Song Seung Heon as Detective Cho is very much in the mold of Jang Hyuk and Lee Jin Wook. Handsome, charismatic leading men with demons and scars who Kang Center is able to help tame. The contrasting personalities between Kang Center and her male partners, including their initial skepticism about her abilities, look to be a signature theme of the franchise. And season four is able to make that dynamic fresh and appealing rather than allowing it to be a tired rerun of what the franchise has already done before.
But of course, leading the talented ensemble cast of supporting characters and guest stars is Lee Ha Na. As the heart and soul of the franchise, she continues to effortless play Kang Kwon Joo as a strong, principled leader where she can be both commanding and relatable. But season four offers her a unique opportunity to present a completely different side of her and a very different type of performance that just needs to be seen to be believed. And with this season’s new twists and surprises, Lee Ha Na gets so much more to work with in all these unexpected ways. Especially at the end of the season, it is her performance that leads the way and leaves you eager for more.
I first jumped into Voice with seasons two and three and only went back to consume season one ahead of the premiere of season four. Though I was pretty sure after my first encounter with the franchise (and its excellent cast, well-rounded characters, edge of your seat story and thrilling action) that I was sold. Season four merely solidified that sentiment. And with the door open for more exploration in the world Voice has opened up, it gets even more opportunity to enthrall in the future.