Wow, what a fast-paced premiere. Criminal Minds spends no time in giving us a boring introduction as we’re brought immediately to the meat of the premise—solving crimes using profiling. This episode achieved a record-breaking viewership rating (highest among all the cable Kdramas that have aired to date since January 2017) but it’s no indication of a perfect show. Although I appreciate how the story developed so far, the characterization is lacking in this episode. We’re told that the six main characters are pretty smaaart but each of them did not have a satisfying intro. Anyway, 7.5/10 is a fair verdict.
Criminal Minds centers on a group of National Criminal Investigation (NCI) elite profilers who solve heinous crimes by analyzing the criminals’ behavior. Be informed that this is a CRIME PROCEDURAL drama, so if you’re thinking of watching the first episode to see Lee Joon-gi romancing Moon Chae-won, think again. I don’t know if the story will have the two develop feelings for each other in the next episodes but I’m sure the romance, if any, is simply an extra.
Kim Hyun-joon (cast: Lee Joon-gi). This police investigator is a hot-blooded man who suffered from the tragic death of his comrade. After the serial bombing case occurred one year ago, he thinks that profiling is nonsense, bearing in his mind that such nonsense killed many of his comrades and almost took his life. Now that he’s seeing again the man from NCI who’s directly associated with that nonsense and incident, he couldn’t forget what happened. It’s ironic though, that he detests profiling but uses it unknowingly (or subconsciously) in doing his investigations. That’s because his analysis of the criminal’s behavior in the Park In-hye kidnapping case leads him to think that it’s not a simple kidnapping case, but rather a bigger case like serial murder. Other than he’s smart and he holds this grudge against profiling since the bombing incident, we really don’t know much about this guy yet.
Kang Ki-hyun (cast: Son Hyun-joo). This man was the top profiler in charge of the bombing incident a year ago. If Kim Hyun-joon suffers from that incident, profiler Kang holds too much of the burden from what happened that he decided to take a leave from work. It’s inevitable given how handled the situation and thought that all those men died because he was not sure about his profiling at that certain point. However, it’s not really completely his fault considering the time pressure at that very moment—when he has only less than 60 seconds to convince his superiors to trust his decision and stop the bomb from exploding. In addition, profiling is no DNA test in which one could give an accurate numerical result that validates or invalidates the reliability of a hypothesis, so even if he was so sure about his profiling at that certain time there’s the possibility that it could still be wrong. That’s why it’s difficult to make a concrete decision especially if that decision could save or kill human lives.
The first episode really did not provide us with an enough intro to our heroes, so as for the rest of the main characters (there are four), I’ll just copy what we have written on the Criminal Minds drama information page (DIP).
Moon Chae-won as Ha Seon-woo, a serious and cold female agent who reconstructs the crime scenes from the victim’s perspective. She is a fierce and sophisticated agent who will do whatever it takes, even in the most dangerous situations, to accomplish her job. Her father owns one of the leading law firms in Korea but she hides her background and works very hard as an NCI agent.
Yoo Sun as Na Na-hwang, the best agent in the team when it comes to information technology and computers. Finding information online is her specialty as someone skilled in computer network white hacking. She has a good sense of humor that gives life to her team and sometimes acts as a mother that takes care of her team members.
Lee Sun-bin as Yoo Min-young, the team’s media specialist who has a warm personality. As the mediator between the agents and the media, she has her friendly way of communicating with other people to get the message across. She was an athlete before she joined the NCI team.
Go Yoon as Lee Han, the youngest agent in the six-member behavioral analysis unit. He is a socially awkward but a genius behavioral analyst. He has an almost perfect visual memory that lets him remember information in perfect details. He has a rational way of thinking as an agent but sometimes acts an emotionally immature young man.
A bomb explodes when profiler Kang Hi-kyung fails to insist that his profiling is correct and his decision must be followed. Because of this, a colleague of Kim Hyun-joon close to him has died while they are working to detonate the bomb. One year later, Kim Hyun-joon investigates a kidnapping case that seems strange to him. It turns out it is a serial murder case, so a team from the NCI led by Kang Hi-kyung works with Kim’s police station to catch the killer. They fail to catch the suspect in time and find the dead body of the victim. Later on, the suspect kidnaps another victim and it is the sister of Kim Hyun-joon’s comrade who died in the bombing incident a year ago. Kim Hyun-joon is directly involved in the investigation, and so does Kang Hi-kyung whose hesitance during the bombing case killed his comrade.
As someone who admires the likes of Signal and Tunnel, this drama is my cup of tea. Honestly, I was impressed by the first episode because it feels different (in a good way) from other similar dramas I’ve watched before. I like the background music and OST and I appreciate how the story delves right away into criminal profiling, wasting no time in unnecessary intro elements that have little or no use in the overall direction of the drama. Unfortunately, the let’s-do-profiling-and-solve-the-crime thing went too much to an extent that a much satisfying introduction to each of the six major characters was forgotten. Unlike in Signal and Tunnel, Criminal Minds fails in this aspect. Much of episode one focuses on Kim Hyun-joon and Kang Ki-hyun, starting from the bombing accident up to their meeting a year later because of a serial murder case. As for the others, meanwhile, we’re just told that yeah they’re cool and quite intelligent particularly the youngest in the team, Lee Han. Then the rest of the time is just spent on solving the first case.
But such a characterization is not necessarily negative given the many ‘criminal minds’ that we have here—six of them! I think more info on these characters will surface gradually in the coming episodes and they will be revealed in such a way to give more impact to the development of the story just how the show did in this episode. Without that bombing incident in the plot, the premiere would be totally dull as the incident functions as an important prelude to the first case. That incident affects how Kim Hyun-joon and Kang Ki-hyun will behave themselves in solving a case that happens to intertwine them again after Hyun-joon lost someone to the explosion and after Team Leader King overcame his guilt. Now that I mention about the two, I wonder how they will come to reconcile and become one team that will work together in the future. And most importantly, I am curious as to how Kim Hyun-joon will believe and trust in profiling again as a member of a team where such technique is like the blood that gives the team life to operate. This episode serves to introduce profiling more than the characters themselves. That’s fine but I hope the drama will handle the balance well and lay out a solid character development in the future.
I notice that the scenes are usually dark, which can be an intended effect (now I suddenly remember Tomorrow With You) in a show like this that deals with the bad guys who commit the worst crimes. Moreover, I can feel the tense going on in almost every scene as the narrative continues. Not bad, but when it happens too often that you feel like you’re attending a profiling class in a university instead of enjoying your leisure time, it’s not good either. Criminal Minds has to balance the tense and the light aspect of the story to make itself more enjoyable to the viewers particularly those who are only watching the show for Lee Joon-gi or Moon Chae-won or those who are not really into crime procedural dramas.
Speaking of the two lead actors, I can’t fully provide yet a concrete evaluation of their performance as a police investigator and an NCI agent, respectively. However, I can hardly convince myself that Moon Chae-won is playing an agent in this drama. She’s just like the usual cold, serious Kdrama female lead mistakenly dressed in an NCI agent uniform. Maybe I’m seeing her that way because I lack more information about her character. In that case, I hope to see her in the next episodes as a badass heroine.
All in all, I like the show, all the more when I only look at how the story unfolds so far with profiling taking center stage of the investigations. Criminal Minds is highly recommended to those who enjoy crime and thriller dramas as much as I do.
- Criminal Minds Review: Episode 1