tvN’s Blind (블라인드) is one of the most legitimately exciting suspense thrillers I’ve watched. There have definitely been plenty of mystery suspense thrillers on Korean television. But Blind is one of the very few that is able to start running from the very beginning and never let up until the very last moments of the final episode. Blending together a fascinating character study, an intricate puzzle of clues and a well-paced narrative, Blind is an action and emotionally-packed roller coaster ride.
Blind centers around Ryu Sung Joon (Ok Taecyeon), a hot-blooded detective who catches a suspect in a gruesome murder of a young woman. His brother, Ryu Sung Hoon (Ha Seok Jin) is the judge in the case. And social worker Jo Eun Gi (Jeong Eun Ji) is one of the nine members of the jury. When Sung Joon suddenly becomes a suspect himself, the three of them come together to try and find answers. Especially when members of the jury themselves appear to become targets of the emerging serial killer.
Meanwhile, the more than 20-year-old story of a since-shuttered Hope Welfare Center orphanage, and the young children who were essentially imprisoned there, is also told. And the horrifying events that transpired there may provide the answers that they are looking for.
On the surface, Blind might seem like a simple story of revenge. But the series is able to take that and many other familiar themes into refreshingly new directions. The idea of revenge may be the jumping off point for the story, but the series is at its strongest when it is able to bring together different themes to craft a consistently engaging narrative.
With elements of law, crime and corruption running alongside soapy family drama, a look at current societal ills and character-driven twists, Blind is never at a loss for engaging story. And that is quite an accomplishment. Many other series with similar basic themes struggle to fill their usual 16-episode orders. Or the answers to any mystery are either obvious or unsatisfying.
Blind works its way around similar pitfalls by deftly laying out its intricate puzzle while also slowly peeling back the layers of each character. All in a way that makes every episode worth watching. It’s a bit of a cat and mouse game where you aren’t quite sure who’s the cat or who is the mouse. There are no fast forward-worthy scenes here, as every scene might hold a clue or two to fully understanding each character and the overall mysteries. (Plural!)
Ok Taecyeon, Ha Seok Jin and Jeong Eun Ji are excellent as they lead the ensemble. All three draw from their diverse experience to bring the three main characters to life. You are immediately drawn into the story in large part because these three characters are that interesting. Whether it’s quieter, more introspective moments or the louder, more dynamic action-filled spectacles, the three actors more than deliver with every scene.
They and the rest of the cast must deliver carefully nuanced performances. Especially when the series needs to keep its audience guessing at every twist and turn. Because the actors are able to have that nuance, the story is able to move along in a way that feels natural and realistic. Even as the story is at times sobering and other times hopeful.
The young cast are particular highlights as they are tasked with the difficult scenes depicting the horrific events at the orphanage that will prove to be the backbone of the series’ mystery. To be able to effortlessly handle those difficult scenes, the young actors’ performances demand the loudest applause in a series that deserves a lot of praise in many aspects.
The series maintains a strong energy throughout. Episode 13 of the series is especially explosive. Perhaps one of the wildest hours of Korean drama I’ve ever watched. An amazing showcase for the large supporting cast. And perhaps the best example of how a properly laid foundation can culminate in gripping television. And it isn’t even the final climax of the series yet at that point.
Blind is simply one of those rare series where in the end, you can go back through the previous 16 episodes and say “Aha!” All the pieces were indeed laid out and presented all along. But the journey toward the end, the unfurling of each character’s motivations and principles and the eventual revelations all make for what is ultimately a satisfying roller coaster ride. And maybe even one of the strongest series of the year.