Ahn Bo Hyun and Jo Bo Ah deliver enthralling performances in tvN’s engaging, fun and timely drama series Military Prosecutor Doberman (군검사 도베르만). Mixing the always ripe for excitement revenge drama with an unflinching look at the realities of today’s society and particularly the inner-workings of Korea’s military and justice system, Military Prosecutor Doberman is never short of material. And it is material that the series delivers with a confidence and sincerity that really connects with the viewer through its 16 episodes.
The title Military Prosecutor Doberman refers to Do Bae Man (Ahn Bo Hyun). After having done what he could to avoid having to serve his mandatory military service, including getting expelled from high school, Bae Man studies for the bar exam on his own. And though he has no problems passing, law firms look down on his educational background. Or lack thereof. It is after one too many insults and rejections that he is approached by high-powered attorney Yoon Moon Goo (Kim Young Min) with “an offer he can’t refuse.”
That offer involves Bae Man enlisting in the military to become a prosecutor that could be bought and paid for by the rich and powerful in order to fix cases in the armed forces to their desired outcomes. Initially reluctant, Bae Man accepts the offer in exchange for assured wealth and success as well as a guaranteed position at Moon Go’s elite law firm after he is eventually discharged.
Bae Man quickly rises up as one of the best and most successful prosecutors in the military, gaining his nickname of “Doberman” for his loyalty and fierce protection of those who employ his services as brokered by Moon Go. After a couple of years, he is more than ready to return to being a civilian.
But his discharge is delayed when he meets new military prosecutor Cha Woo In (Jo Bo Ah) who suddenly opens his eyes to the error of his corrupt ways as they begin to work together to uncover not only injustices in the military, but also the truth to their potentially shared tragic pasts.
Also integral to the story is Division Commander Noh Hwa Young (Oh Yeon Soo), the first woman to hold that position, and her arrogant, troublemaking son Noh Tae Nam (Kim Wooseok) whom she forces to enlist so he can escape prosecution for his crimes.
Military Prosecutor Doberman has an excellent pace in which we are quickly introduced to the main characters in a dynamic and fun way before it delves deeper into more serious themes and topics. Especially when the series begins tackling violence and abuses within the ranks of the military and as the backstories for both Bae Man and Woo In are slowly, but carefully unraveled.
Through these characters, the series is able to tell stories uncovering the corruption within the military, government and even civilian world. And they are able to make those stories personal and relatable thanks to our strong lead characters. Having that sort of bridge allows a relatable connection with the viewer to what might otherwise be out of reach and unrelatable situations. Making these stories accessible and engaging adds another layer to the series’ successful presentation.
It is hard not to compare Military Prosecutor Doberman to Netflix’s now-award winning 2021 series D.P.. Both are similarly themed, focusing on injustice within the military. And Military Prosecutor Doberman is similarly poised to also be one of the best of the year. Though both have their own unique styles and approaches, both are successful in being able to shine a light on stories that might otherwise get swept under the rug, but still very much are an unfortunate reality in today’s Korea.
And again, the series is able to balance those stories with a character-driven narrative that gives each of our main characters deep and meaty material to work with. The way the series is able to give each of the main characters their own, distinct lanes while also seamlessly intersecting their paths is probably its biggest accomplishment.
Profound, emotionally affecting stories are told through our main characters as well as the situations they find themselves in and the different supporting characters they may come across through the course of the series.
Having a perfect tonal balance helps to keep the story moving at the right pace, never a dull moment as both the physical and emotional action comes one right after the other.
The cast is absolutely excellent as a strong ensemble does their part in matching the top quality of the writing and directing.
Cha Woo In is a different kind of role for Jo Bo Ah. But it is one that allows her to show a different side of herself and her talents. This might be her strongest lead role yet as she shows off her range in a way that she might not have had the opportunity to do so yet. Whether it is being a serious, no-nonsense prosecutor or a badass action star or a vulnerable young woman with a tragic past, Jo Bo Ah handles the multi-faceted character with an effortless confidence. And though romance isn’t necessarily one of the series’ major threads, the chemistry she shares with Ahn Bo Hyun allows for any kind of romantic moment to feel earned and welcome alongside her character’s darker and more dramatic turns.
Oh Yeon Soo and Kim Young Min as Commander Noh and attorney Yong, respectively, deliver chilling and ruthless performances. Though it is evident early on that the two of them will soon emerge as the series’ antagonists, they give nuanced performances that keep you guessing even all the way to the end.
Kim Wooseok, meanwhile, delivers what might be his most well-rounded and most substantial drama role to date. The multi-talented musical actor has played good, boy next door roles in his dramas so far. But he too shows off his range as the initially contemptable Noh Tae Nam. While in the military, the layers to his own backstory are also peeled back and the experiences Tae Nam has while enlisted help to deliver what might be the series’ most profound bit of character development. That diverse and deep character is effortlessly brought to life by Kim Wooseok in a way that gives Tae Nam enough room for redemption without disregarding the character’s past.
Kang Mal Geum, as Bae Man’s detective aunt, deserves special mention as well. Not only by providing Bae Man a parental figure, she also has a couple of fun, scene stealing moments as well. And her Detective Do Soo Kyung also plays an important role in helping pieces come together throughout the series.
But Military Prosecutor Doberman‘s focus is rightly on Do Bae Man. It is wonderful to finally see Ahn Bo Hyun in not only a lead role, but as the title character. He has turned in some great performances in supporting roles so far. But finally with this opportunity to step into the spotlight, Ahn Bo Hyun more than proves that he deserves the kind of leading man role that Do Bae Man is.
Reformed anti-heroes are certainly nothing new on Korean drama. But Military Prosecutor Doberman takes the idea in a refreshing and affecting way. Part of that is because of Ahn Bo Hyun’s excellent performance. Being able to immediately endear Bae Man to the audience while establishing the situation he’d chosen for himself and then following him as he grows, matures and realizes the error of his ways; Ahn Bo Hyun takes his experience from all the diverse roles he’s had so far and delivers this nuanced, charming and confident performance.
So far, Military Prosecutor Doberman has solidified its spot as one of my potential favorites of 2022. No other series from this year that I’ve seen so far has been able to bring together this mix of excellent cast, emotionally affecting story and satisfying narrative. A roller coaster of emotions and 16 episodes of engaging drama, Military Prosecutor Doberman is a must-watch.