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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper"

2017/07/15

There is never a shortage of villainous rich people out to abuse the poor and powerless in Korean drama and "Whisper" breaks no molds. The drama by acclaimed writer and PD duo Park Kyeong-soo and Lee Myeong-woo has quite the big shoes to fill and its own place to find in a very saturated genre and premise.

Detective Sin Yeong-joo (Lee Bo-young) and judge Lee Dong-joon (Lee Sang-yoon) meet as victim and culprit when Dong-joon wrongfully jails Yeon-joo's father. Yeon-joo then uses Dong-joon in order to find justice. "Whisper" is a typical revenge work where people conspire on all sides and engage in a long game of one-upping, constantly trying to frame, defeat and kill one another. It is a familiar story with its pros and cons.

Dong-joon making a bad decisionYeong-joo getting ready for breaking and entering

Revenge and justice stories are a double-edged sword. On one hand they are usually repetitive and oftentimes boring, which is the case for "Whisper" as well, a topic I will get back to in a moment. At the same time, a revenge story is an asset in terms of audience investment, because it taps into the need of audiences for a world where justice works. "Whisper" therefore covers the basics for engagement.

While I recognize the premise as one many would find engaging, I find it hard to become invested in it myself, because revenge stories tend to blend together in Korean drama and there is a thing as being too similar. This is why I am much more interested in and find the drama's strength to be its take on shifting morality and parental influence. "Whisper" barely scratches the surface of interesting topics, but at least it tries.

Try as it may, however, I found myself struggling to feel involved enough for an emotional response. Perhaps this comes down to the genre's popularity. "Whisper" is too standard a revenge story in most aspects. The characters for the most part have cookie-cutter backstories and follow familiar trajectories. The power struggles do not escalate well enough to feel suspense over, an already challenging issue given the set episode duration. We know nothing major can happen until the end.

Jeong-il and Soo-yeon in a difficult situationDong-joon and Yeong-joo during a tender moment

The villains do not help the story, as they are not layered or interesting enough to really hate past the typical annoyance that characters of the type try to spark in viewers. The characters can only be carried so far by their actors' charisma. It is a shame, because the character of Dong-joon acts as a flawed protagonist and similar antagonists would have made their battle gripping.

I feel "Whisper" is a series better suited for those who have not experienced some of the better works of the genre in Korean drama, including those by this writer. As someone regularly exposed to similar stories, however, I cannot call "Whisper" a very entertaining or in any way revolutionary experience and it is definitely not one I would repeat for myself.

"Whisper" is directed by Lee Myeong-woo, written by Park Kyeong-soo and features Lee Bo-young, Lee Sang-yoon, Kwon Yool and Park Se-yeong.

Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'

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