K-drama midseason recap: Voice 4 – crime series beginning to flag
- After a promising start, Voice 4 barges forward with a hodgepodge of lacklustre investigations and a main story that is an incoherent mess of half-baked ideas
- New co-lead LAPD police officer Derek Joo (Song Seung-heon) takes most of the spotlight from Kang Kwon-joo (Lee Ha-na) – and it’s a pretty poor trade-off
This article contains spoilers.
Returning for its fourth season last month, Voice began in compelling fashion, introducing us to a gruesome new group of killers, adding the suave Song Seung-heon as a co-star, and shifting the action to South Korea’s idyllic Jeju Island.
Sadly, after a breathless and intriguing opening, the show has barrelled forward with a hodgepodge of lacklustre investigations and a principal villain who has grown more confused and less threatening with each episode.
When her belongings and a note are discovered by a lighthouse, she is believed to have taken her own life, but against the protestations of the local police, Kwon-joo doesn’t buy that. Through her tenacity and the investigative skills of Derek Joo (Song), the girl’s trail is finally found.
It turns out she has been abducted by a dangerous gang of drug pushers.
So far, so pedestrian, but things kick into high gear when the girl succeeds in evading her captors, who give chase over the land while she swims to the port through underground tunnels.
The exciting chase continues along the piers, until she finds herself locked within a boat’s hull with the water level steadily creeping up towards the ceiling.
Joo and his team arrive in the nick of time to arrest the dealers and, with Kwon-joo’s help over the walkie-talkie, the girl is located and everyone joins forces to hoist the locked lid open – a terrifically tense moment marred by the girl giving up and sinking to the bottom, only for her eyes to pop open and legs to kick into action, shooting her to the surface at the moment the lid opens.
While a measured view of drug use is probably a long way off in a society that still has very strict views about substance abuse that isn’t related to alcohol or cigarettes, hysterical depictions like this don’t do the show many favours, particularly when juxtaposed with more serious crimes that are more likely to draw an emotional response from viewers.
Following this drug-fuelled interlude, Voice 4 returns to its main villain, the so-called Circus Man, who we discover is embodying separate male and female personalities.
Split personality disorders are a-dime-a-dozen in serial killer narratives, but they can still be fun if the character is built carefully and the reveal well handled. That is far from the case here.
The disorder manifests itself as an incessant stream of maniacal cackles and split-personality arguments, and is a disappointing mechanism for revealing the Circus Man’s identity.
What’s more, we’ve seen precious little of Kwon-joo’s auditory skills in this middle run of episodes. In the absence of her unusual and pleasingly fantastical investigative technique, we’ve instead seen LAPD officer Joo hog most of the spotlight thanks to his expertise in just about every subject known to man.
That’s a pretty poor trade-off and, unless some balance is achieved between the leads over the next few weeks, Kwon and her Golden Time team may well drift off into the sunset for good. Hopefully they’ll take the dreary Circus Man along with them.
Voice 4 is streaming on Viu.