This article contains mild spoilers. There’s a scene in Rookie Cops in which a supporting character watches an episode of an acclaimed Korean drama on his laptop, visibly moved by the tense and emotional exchange unfolding on his screen. Several episodes later two teams face off in a tug of war during a sports day and it isn’t clear who we’re supposed to be rooting for, let alone what the outcome of the match is. The drama clip is from Korean drama series Signal and the sporting bout comes only a few months after one of the breathtaking contests in another series, Squid Game . It wouldn’t be fair to compare Rookie Cops to either show, but reminding us of some of their emotional highs offers a deflating contrast. Of course, this series set in a police academy is not a probing fantasy thriller nor a high-concept death game – it’s a youth-centric comedy-drama. That label generally promises oodles of romance and high jinks, but while the show has given us plenty of both, halfway through its 16-episode run we’re still waiting for our heartstrings to be pulled and our funny bones to be tickled. Rookie Cops is by no means a bad show and, compared to some of its peers, at least it hasn’t found itself wading into risky social waters – though there is one somewhat unnecessary onstage K-pop routine performed in drag. It’s more a case of what it isn’t. Korean romantic dramas don’t always needs to reinvent the wheel, but while there’s nothing wrong with sticking to tried-and-true formulas, even a simple show can only succeed if it masters the basics, and there hasn’t been much evidence of that. Rookie Cops: police K-drama on Disney+ is worth a watch but lacks edge The comedy is broad and the boilerplate side plots don’t add much to the pot, but we can probably boil the problems with the show down to two main points: the leads aren’t clicking and the editing is creating some very choppy narrative. As plucky new Korean National Police University (KNPU) recruit Ko Eun-kang, Chae Soo-bin is cute and charming, but K-pop group Wanna One’s Kang Daniel, in his acting debut, still isn’t warming to his part as fellow recruit Wi Seung-hyun. The writing suggests that Seung-hyun is a proficient and principled young man with a chip on his shoulder, but Kang’s indecisive expressions and pouty lips paint a rather uncertain picture. Kang only seems at home when his actions fit his real image rather than his character’s, such as when Seung-hyun and his roommates perform a carefully choreographed dance routine on stage – where exactly did they find the time to rehearse this? Behind the frothy romantic entanglements between the recruits, Rookie Cops has also been hinting at some criminal activity happening behind the scenes, involving top brass from police headquarters and faculty at the school. Naturally, the students are steadily revealed to be connected – knowingly or not – to whatever that mystery is, but the flashbacks have been opaque. It’s too early for all the pieces to connect, but the way the slapdash editing hops between flashback scenes makes it easy to draw some unintentional conclusions. At one point it seems a character’s death may have been faked, which doesn’t appear to be deliberate on the part of the writers. Aside from narrative confusion, smaller moments also suffer from sloppy editing. Anytime the show wants us to feel the growing solidarity between students it stitches a long series of dry reaction shots together, such as one where all the students knowingly nod to each other when they graduate from boot camp. Any K-drama worth its salt makes allusions to at least a few social ills, and in Rookie Cops the main issue is corporal punishment. Eun-kang gets into trouble early on when a spy cam with footage of freshmen being harshly punished is found on her person. The spycam is later discovered to belong to her taciturn and frosty roommate Gi Han-na (Park Yoo-na), which sparks a conflict between the characters and furthers the background mystery which has been slowly threading its way through the show. Seven new Korean drama series to look out for in February 2022 Han-na endures some vengeful punishment during her probation period after she is linked to the spy cam, and Eun-kang won’t stand for that injustice, even though she’s still waiting for an apology from Han-na after almost getting expelled because of the incident. She defies her superior during a drill, and Seung-hyun backs her up. They both refuse to stay down in the assembly hall where all the recruits are being forced to do planks. During the stand-off with their superiors, they start to recite words from their KNPU pledge: “I affirm that I will be an honourable KNPU student and not give in to injustice.” As they repeat the words like a mantra, one by one other students join in until the whole student body rises up in what becomes an uplifting Spartacus moment. Once that’s out of the way, they graduate to the main school, which means Eun-kang gets to be around Jang Ju-chan (Park Yeon-woo), the senior she has a crush on and followed into the school. Broken hearts and misunderstandings follow and eventually the new relationships that form will be challenged when the mystery moves up to the foreground and pits them against one another. But will that be enough to turn things around in the second half of the show? Rookie Cops is streaming on Disney+.