By: Caroline Frost · February 03, 2018
A team of insurance investigators led by Choi Kang-Woo (Yoo Ji-Tae) partner up with con man Kim Min-Joon (Woo Do-Hwan) to unveil the truth behind the fatal plane crash that cost them their families.
If someone had told me that back then it would have been great: "You didn't do anything wrong. It wasn't your fault."
I love puzzle dramas. They're those shows that keep dropping hints in plain sight, only to, ever so slowly, gather them so as to fit the bigger picture. They'll lead you on a wild goose chase, make you think you know where they're going, who's the culprit, what happened, make you feel so clever for figuring it out, only to do a complete 180 and have you laugh at your own arrogance. Mad Dog is one such show, and a brilliant surprise to boot.
While I'd certainly noticed Woo Do-Hwan's charming features in what little of Rescue Me I managed to stomach (yes, I know, it's very popular and a ton of people loved it), his acting in Mad Dog was simply stunning. I was taken by his character almost immediately because of how interesting he is (mysterious past, obvious smarts, and plans that may or may not be nefarious), but the development of his character just made him insanely loveable (as well as that unbelievable chemistry with Ryu Hwa-Young's Jang Ha-Ri).
It was in his mannerisms, his character, in the way he slowly becomes more human. Sassy, cocky, charming, and insanely clever, each and every one of his scenes is an absolute delight. Seeing his "can't do wrong" face, that winning smile, those grandiose gestures, only makes it more gratifying when his caring side comes into play and he gradually lets his walls down. I will say no more for fear of spoiling the show, but really, people. This has got to be one of the best performances I've ever seen. Not a single false note. I kid you not.
Yoo Ji-Tae was a very different story. I'd seen him before in the very successful Healer, which I loved, but I hadn't really liked him or his character, and his presence as the lead in Mad Dog actually made me hesitate for the longest time before finally taking the plunge. Yet, he didn't disappoint. His performance, while not as breathtaking and immersive as Woo Do-Hwan's, was on point, and I loved the way he was so clearly beloved by so many people around him.
Relationships were indeed one of the pillars of this show. Kim Min-Joon (Woo Do-Hwan) starts out as a heartless con man whom pretty much everybody considers a pest they can't wait to be rid of. But as time goes by and the Mad Dog team keeps crossing paths with him and he with them, they forge bonds that will just warm your heart. It's truly gratifying to see those feelings change slowly from detestation to annoyance to reluctant fondness and then to honest friendship.
Even the relationship between the bad guys was fantastic to see, because it was quite difficult to decipher. Are they really allies? Are they friends? Does Joo Hyun-Ki have feelings for Cha Hong-Joo? Are they only frienemies? The top dog seems pretty clear-cut at first, but is he really? In short, their dynamics were so very interesting.
(And can I just say how wonderful it was to see Hong Soo-Hyun (The Princess' Man) again?)
What to say about the plot without spoiling anything? What I expected to be a pretty boring drama turned out to be one of the sharpest, cleverest thrillers I've ever watched. The show pulls you in straight off the bat, and just doesn't let go until the end credits. The plot, character arcs (because the development here is just amazing to watch unfold), the music, the power dynamics,... Mad Dog might very well be my favorite 2017 drama, and has definitely made it to my top 5.
Title: Mad Dog
Country: South Korea
Starring: Woo Do-Hwan, Yoo Ji-Tae, Ryu Hwa-Young, Jo Jae-Yun, Choi Won-Yeong
Aired: 10/11/2017 to 11/30/2017
Number of Episodes: 16
Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Mystery
My grade: ★★★★★