At times the pacing in "Liar Game" is irritatingly slow- it takes a full two episodes for us to establish Woo-jin's motives, as well as clarify that he and Da-jeong are going to be going through this game show right until the end. I know it's a genre convention that the rough sallow lead character has to initially refuse a team-up with the optimistic one, but there's really no good reason for all of this to take so long, not when there's other more interesting material to get into.
Then we get to the actual scheme, and this is the kind of logical puzzle I can totally get behind. Da-jeong has completely screwed up, and it's clear that there's no way for her to get the money back save for a total screw-up on the side of her opponent. Pay careful attention to the scene where Woo-jin makes his decisive appearance, and the con that lets Da-jeong survive to the next round becomes obvious. Really, it's obvious right when the final stage of the plan comes together- to everyone except the duplicitous professor.
I find that character oddly compelling, even if he's basically just a one-dimensional bad guy caricature. Note how Woo-jin quickly cuts right to the core of this man's character, pinpointing the obvious weakness that comes from a personality that's pretty much vile sociopathic jerk. It's arrogance that ruins him on a basic level. Note how at the end we see that he does, in fact, have people he could trust. The decision to go it alone was a conscious, disastrous decision on his part.
While the episode mostly focuses on justifying Woo-jin's presence in the narrative, by the end it's Da-jeong's participation in the story that's more thematically interesting. She's really straddling the line between kindness, optimism, and stupidity. Again, given the one-dimensional characterization of her opponent, it's pretty much impossible to sympathize with Da-jeong's point of view, especially by the ending. But then, kindness isn't supposed to be easy. That's the whole point.
Overall I'm actually still relatively unconvinced by "Liar Game". The conceits are definitely interesting, but so far there really hasn't been that much depth to them. By a wide margin the highlight remains the actual schemes, but so far we're only getting maybe one or two of these per episode. Hopefully in the future there will be more actual mental throwdowns and less exposition.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Liar Game" Episode 2"
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