Let me start by saying that I’m over the moon to see Lee Min-ki tackle the crime-thriller genre. After two back-to-back romantic comedies (Because This Life Is My First and The Beauty Inside), this one was overdue. Not that I think Lee was anything short of fantastic in both dramas, but I just feel like very few do the dark and the dangerous vibe as well as him. After watching the first episode of The Lies Within, I’m sure that he’s in his home turf. (Note: this article is about the first episode of the drama.)
For a drama fraught with tension—at least two murders in the first episode itself—The Lies Within couldn’t have chosen a better female lead than Lee Yoo-young. She’s one of those actresses I wouldn’t name as my favorite off the top of my head, but every time I watch a show she’s in, it strikes me how ridiculously good she is. From Tunnel to My Fellow Citizens to this, Lee Yoo-young seems set to try as many different roles as possible and prove her mettle in all. In this episode, she conjures up a performance that makes you feel sorry and unsettled.
The show opens with theme music that is hauntingly similar to the Stranger Things theme and establishes the tone of the series as uncomfortable right off the bat. The music, which begins with the credits, continues to play until the first scene where a woman is standing on a rooftop and smiling at a bunch of boys playing down below. It’s a serene kind of montage that is at odds with the background music. We find out why only when the music is suddenly interrupted by the thud of the woman’s body landing over a car. GASP.
The Lies Within keeps this tone of uncomfortable surprise throughout this episode. We flit from a gasp-inducing suicide and to another shocking accident which is revealed to be a murder, finally ending with a horrible murder surprise. At the center of all this is Detective Jo Tae-sik (Lee Min-ki). Now, I’m really intrigued by the fact that Tae-sik is a very flawed character—not only is he dismissive towards the (apparent) suicide of the young woman (“What was she so pained about, her boyfriend leaving her?”), he also makes casual sexist jokes to his junior Jin-kyung (Kim Si-eun). Underneath it all, however, I could see that he has untapped layers of goodness, like looking out for Jin-kyung; as well as smarts, considering how quickly he smells a conspiracy.
It’s always the unwilling hero who gets thrust into the limelight. Tae-sik is set to transfer, but unwittingly gets involved in the investigations into the death of a Presidential hopeful—Kim Seung-cheol (Kim Jeong-soo)—which is kind of big deal. That’s how he meets Seo-hui (Lee Yoo-young), who is Kim’s daughter, and discovers not one, not two but several discrepancies in the initial ruling of Kim’s death as a suicide. I’m sorry Tae-sik, but it doesn’t look like you’re going anywhere soon.
Lee Yoo-young’s turn as the troubled, helpless damsel Kim Seo-hui already has me hooked. While a large part of this episode had Seo-hui act completely clueless, with a deer-in-the-headlights expression, I can’t help but smell something dangerous about her. She’s related to all the cases in the show—from the death of her father and the young woman rumored to be her husband’s mistress to the disappearance of her husband. And out of the blue, she gets chosen to take her father’s place in the National Assembly. Things smelling a bit funny to you? They sure are to me. That being said, Lee Yoo-young nails every single scene—from the micro-expressions to the really big sobbing bits when her father and husband die. It’s a treat to watch her.
As if the story wasn’t already looking tight enough, Lee Joon-hyuk makes an unforgettable cameo as Jung Sang-hoon, the CEO of JQ Group and also Seo-hui’s husband. He appears grief-stricken after the death of the young woman and has a confrontation with Seo-hui’s dad. This is when other aspects of this show start to reveal themselves. In addition to a murder mystery, we are also dealing with skeletons in the family closet and a political rivalry between Seo-hui’s father and her father-in-law’s company JQ group. I really love it when thrillers have various layers to them—it keeps them from being too bland and single-minded, not to mention the emotional core they add to a show.
At this point, our detective has gotten a whiff of the conspiracy simmering under his nose. But there’s no way to tell if Seo-hui and Tae-sik will be on the same team. It makes sense for them to be, especially because Seo-hui’s father and husband are the ones who died. But like I’ve pointed out before, there are inherent contradictions within these relationships—Sang-hoon seeing another woman and Seo-hui’s dad being against JQ Group—that make me skeptical about her. From an objective standpoint, she did gain the most from the deaths of the two men. But that is just one unlikely theory—Seo-hui is the heroine of the show, after all.
During Tae-sik and Seo-hui’s confrontation scene, he says something that stuck with me, “You’re good at playing innocent but not at lying,” which underlines the conflict between them. I get the impression that our two leads will be circling each other for a long time—one trying to evade, and one chasing after answers. But as much as I’m watching this show for the fast-paced plot and the mystery factor, I’m also watching for the terrific performances I’m confident the cast will deliver. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I’m already hooked.
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