Vampire Detective: A Review

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I have no excuses for why I’m late with these recaps. I stopped enjoying this show a few weeks back. It says something when a depressing melodrama like Dear My Friends can hold my attention more than an action vampire show. If anyone knows me, they know I like my action thrillers. I finished Vampire Detective though, and after a completely unsatisfying finale, I look back to see where this show just lost its mojo for me. (And yes – there are some spoilers here.)

Here’s to better dramas starting this week.

Let’s start from the beginning…

Episode 1 – The Night Life

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It starts off very promising, and I was actually excited with where it would go. A whole conspiracy about a doctor creating superhuman blood that would allow vampires to walk in daylight? Yeah yo – sign me up! Except… once the blood was injected in San we pretty much dropped the whole matter. No one investigated further into Han Gyu Min’s studies or his death, as Gyeo Wool had hoped they would.

But this was a decent start, because we knew that San was a super detective who was only going to be even more superhuman with his abilities.

Episode 2 – 24 Hours

 

A silly case in my original opinion, where the client, an anchorwoman, knew more than the detectives and was just leading them on so that they could figure out her secrets for themselves. She just wanted them to confirm what she suspected – that she was being threatened by several people because of her investigations on homeless people with her former lover/cameraman.

In hindsight though, this episode did help set up the arc for future episodes. Jung Ji Woong was introduced as an antagonist, even though he was a minor one in the chain of evil baddies. We learned that the homeless people were the source of blood for vampires, and that it will all eventually relate to Yona, the main baddie for the show.

So, fine. Maybe this wasn’t a terrible episode. But the case that was used to give us this information wasn’t very compelling overall. And, San did not act like a super-detective that I expected him to be.

Episode 3 – The Dragon Falls Asleep

A super predictable case and one that didn’t make me feel any more confident about San’s abilities. This episode once again just helped set up more details about the world by introducing us to Sun Young and her father’s ability to create new identities for people. It helped confirm that Yoo Jin and Tae Woo were still alive, and that they created new identities for themselves. (Not that it really matters since they never walk amongst the living or took on new jobs that required them to hide their identities. Though “dead,” they continued doing covert activities that didn’t require them to get new names. But whatever.)

Episode 4 – Waiting in the Dark

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Finally we meet Yona here, but this episode left me in the dark as much as the title did. I don’t think this episode was the best way to introduce Yona, because she ends up being someone completely different from what she presents herself to be here. It was like the writer thought, “Hey wouldn’t it be funny if a client ended up being the criminal in the episode, but on top of that was also the show’s main bad gal? Wouldn’t that be such a twist!”

But no. It wasn’t funny, and it wasn’t a great twist. It was obvious from the start what was going on because promotions for the show already depicted Lee Chung Ah as the main baddie, so seeing her as a client was already giving away the twist. On top of that, I still don’t know why she killed all those models, and why Yoo Jin had to take pictures of Yona. Yoo Jin might have been leaving clues for San to find, but after this little bit of investigative work Yoo Jin does nothing but be sequestered in her hotel. This episode was just a device as a whole to confirm what we already knew from episode 3: Tae Woo and Yoo Jin were alive.

Episode 5 – The Actress Must Die to Live

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Throughout the series already there’s this overall frustration that San and Goo Hyung seem to understand his vampiric powers without explicitly trying to figure out what his powers were. It’s like both of them understood something weird happened to San but won’t confront it directly or tell others about it.

In any case, this episode had nothing to do with vampirism, but was a decent procedural case. Slightly predictable, and slightly outlandish (a kid with a grudge ends up being the main culprit but, oh-wait-there’s-more! another actress with a grudge happens to be working simultaneously against the main victim), but a better case for a procedural than weeks’ past.

Episode 6 – The Girl I Killed

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And this is when we started to learn about every character’s backstory. I was glad that Oh Jung Se got his moment to shine and that it was an interesting case to begin with (his first love killed herself – or did she get killed?). But what was kind of annoying was that after getting a taste of Yona and the evil she personified, we got two weeks of human, petty cases that had nothing to do with vampirism. There is nothing in these cases that tie back to the whole conspiracy. At least in episodes 2-3 there was a connection. But 5-6 have nothing to do with the overall arc, and was just done to shed some light on character growth.

Guess what – we can do character growth while still working on the main story arc! Come on drama! It was around these two episodes that the drama was losing me a bit.

Episode 7 – The Night Client

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Thankfully the drama gets somewhere with this episode because we now learn about Yona’s backstory and how she became a vampire. Like, that’s so great! It ties directly with episodes 2-3 (because we see the source of where all the blood comes from and how the whole operation started) and should have followed up episode 4. Granted the episode’s plot was a little weak as San and Yona go on a wild goose chase to hunt her first love down, only to be given very tenuous clues on each next location. The payoff was worth it by the end of the episode, but in regards to San’s friends – that payoff wasn’t worth it because we don’t even learn what happens to them. The episode ended on a cliffhanger (will San’s friends die or not?) and wasn’t even properly resolved in the next episode… So speaking of…

Episode 8 – Judgment of the Soul

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We skip right over how San saves his friends and right into another case that gives us the backstory to the tattoo parlor doctor Hwang Jae Gook. While it’s great to learn about this character, is it really necessary to know his backstory? Especially when once again! this episode had nothing to do with the vampire arc that we established in episode 7. I did enjoy this episode for its supernatural aspect, and because I felt like the antagonist in this episode was actually worthy of pinning down. However, I think its placement as episode 8 was ill-timed. This could have been an earlier episode for sure. And then we would have understood and believed Hwang Jae Gook’s claim that he was a doctor too, instead of thinking he was some kind of hack.

Episode 9 – The Broadcast of Death

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This is when I stopped recapping. And this is when the drama really lost me. We regressed to silly cases of the week, where San must investigate a mokbang murder. It’s ridiculous, especially because it’s clear the victim’s father set this all up. It’s also dumb because the bad guy who “caused” the victim’s death in the first place is someone inconsequential. It doesn’t matter who he was really – he was a nobody that we never met nor had time to hate. Instead, the real “bad guys” end up being the victim’s father, who just wanted revenge done on television, and another mokbang star who had a grudge against that guy. The original “bad guy” wasn’t really a saint, but he also wasn’t this “big bad” that the episode made him out to be. So it wasn’t a good payoff.

We do see snippets of Tae Woo and his war against Yona is waging, but they’re snippets. And honestly I was kind of confused by how it was going and whose side he was on.

Episode 10 – The Food Chain of Evil

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I think the writers knew it didn’t have many well-written episodes and tried to save it for the end, but at that point I really didn’t care about the show anymore. This episode shows what happened five years ago when Goo Hyung, a detective at that time trying to pin down a criminal who set up a pyramid scheme, first recruits Tae Woo, Yoo Jin, and San through the academy. He got a tip (thanks to Gyeo Wool’s unintentional help) about how to get into this “business” that’s really a pyramid scheme, and enlists those three to get in. Goo Hyung has tried before with other officers but they’ve all been caught somehow and vanished without a trace. That’s why Goo Hyung tries these fresh faced recruits that no one would have seen or met yet.

Off the bat it becomes clear that Tae Woo has an inferiority complex towards San and hates the fact that San and Yoo Jin are dating. In a way, this episode serves as Tae Woo’s backstory as well as he is the more compelling character of the three. Tae Woo successfully infiltrates the company and then brings on Yoo Jin, pretending that she’s his girlfriend. Because, if they’re going to be living a lie for now then they might as well make it a complete fantasy?

I enjoyed this episode until it started getting really slow. And once it required episode 11 to finish the story, I was groaning, “Not another slow episode!”

Episode 11 – In A Broken World

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We continue with flashbacks between what happened five years ago with Tae Woo’s betrayal and a few glimpses of the present. There isn’t much to say in the present really because the only thing that happens is Tae Woo and Yona continuing their mini war for power from Episode 7, and Yona requiring some data from San. In exchange she reveals Yoo Jin’s location so that he can go save her. Goo Hyung and Gyeo Wool are shoved to the side as mere plot devices.

In a way I feel like this episode could have gone faster. But to play devil’s advocate, there probably is only so much you can put in an hour if you want to maintain some character depth.

If this wasn’t the penultimate episode though, I might have forgiven its pace and exposition. But at this point I was just ready for the show to end.

Episode 12 – Return of the Night…

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Oh my God. I hated this ending.

So first off, we have a bit of a goose chase that isn’t really a goose chase. San and Yoo Jin are on the run from Tae Woo’s men, but Tae Woo discovers their location pretty quickly because of Sun Young (who is the most useless detective ever). Goo Hyung is already a captive and he just gets beaten up a lot until the very end. Yona actually does something in trying to get Gyeo Wool to cooperate with her, but then gets rid of Gyeo Wool the first chance she gets. This leaves Gyeo Wool stuck in limbo again, riding the car with Detective Park for what feels like forever as she goes after Goo Hyung and San.

Tae Woo does force San to make an interesting choice: kill either Goo Hyung or Yona’s first love Joo Young Kwang, or else Yoo Jin will be burned to a crisp. San finally uses some of his keen senses, although he gets a lot of hints along the way, to shoot the “right person.” By “right person” though, we mean Yona, who switched places with Young Kwang. Since she’s a vampire, she didn’t get affected by the bullet much. Yona then goes to save her first love and leaves Tae Woo to fight it out with San. Not that it really matters since her first love is dying anyways because of the beatings, and he convinces her to step out into the light and die together.

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Tae Woo and San keep going at it until Yoo Jin, halfway freed from her bindings by Goo Hyung, decides to kill herself and Tae Woo with those special UV lights. Why? Because she thinks that’s the only way to save San. I mean, I would have been down to see Yoo Jin fight against Tae Woo but I guess she’s just too weak for that? To her credit, she did seem pretty sick of the whole vampire shtick. To no one’s credit, we don’t even see the vampires’ skins burn up to crisp; I guess the special effects budget was cut? I kind of liked that effect, even if it was a blatant tell of what’s going on.

Anyways – at least Yoo Jin looks like a martyr.

San disappears, and a year later his friends are all looking for him. Suddenly Gyeo Wool shows up with the knowledge of his location and they all joyfully go off to get San. And… that’s it. Like – what the heck. We invested so much into this show and you give us this weird cop-out ending that tantalizes more secrets that don’t make any sense.

This show was just awful in execution when it had really good ideas. It didn’t help already that it aired one episode a week, so we would be getting our updates quite slowly. To make up for that, it should have given us more fully fleshed out details about the world. I get that there’s some kind of business regarding homeless people and their blood, which is being bottled up into wine bottles for the vampires of the world. I get that there was a bit of an argument between Young Kwang and Yona over the company, and I get that Tae Woo was in the middle of it, trying to gain control of it. Why he was trying to gain control of it, I have no idea. I also don’t get how the pyramid scheme covered up this wine business, but I guess that doesn’t really matter right? I don’t understand Yoo Jin’s role in this Battle for the Company, and I don’t understand why she couldn’t be a more proactive character. At least in the five years they were separated, San was at least a bit productive working in the private investigative agency. Couldn’t Yoo Jin become more of a power woman like Yona in that time? I still don’t get where the super-vampire blood falls into place either; it seems like the only sample of that blood was in San. Wouldn’t that make San far more valuable to Yona? Wouldn’t she try to entrap him and get him to her side, or at least kill him? Instead she just threatens people around him and then asks him for help when she’s stuck.

I’m so disappointed in this show for being a spinoff to Vampire Prosecutor, which, though a lot older now, probably was not this terrible in execution. I remember being more excited about each episode and seeing it progress further without being super confusing. I don’t appreciate name-dropping Min Tae Yeon in Vampire Detective as a way to get me excited over how this is all the same world. This drama should have been able to stand alone without requiring any further tie-in to Vampire Prosecutor.

Verdict: A solid 3/10. It was awful. You need to skip it.

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