Around six months ago, Drama Geek and I wrote a first impression post comparing two new dramas with Serial Killer themes. Mouse and Beyond Evil had very different vibes, and it was tough to choose which was better. This brings us to the present, where I have completed both shows and now will try and share which I felt was better and why. So join me as I revisit The Battle of the Serial Killers.
Mouse was one of those shows that had me always asking, “What is going to happen next?” at the end of every episode. It excelled at keeping me guessing where they would take the story. Let me just say that I would never have guessed the plot in a million years. Even the plot arcs I did guess were unique in the execution, and I felt that this show was something I had never seen before. This show was one heck of a crazy pants ride.
The other thing that really stood out was Lee Seung Ki‘s performance. He is one of those actors that has kind of become synonymous with a nice guy in everyone’s conscious, so it was really great to see him do something new. Not only did he choose a very layered role, but he became the one character that kept this show grounded. No matter what crazy plot arc occurred, he played it as totally plausible. A feat that is much harder than you would think with some of these plot twists.
This drama was the Korean equivalent of a noir Scandinavian murder mystery. It was chock full of sketchy characters that ooze malevolent intent, and you are never sure what is true and what is sinister. The unreliable narrator style of storytelling really worked with this drama and gave it a different feel from other crime dramas of the past. I loved that I didn’t know the whole story till the very end.
Once again, there were a few specific performances that really elevated this show to a different level. Shin Ha Kyun gave one of the best performances of his career as murder suspect turned cop Lee Dong Sik. Not only did he steal every scene he was in, but he also won the Baeksang Art Awards for best actor for this role. It was well deserved since I was just watching in awe the whole sixteen hours. I also want to give actor Choi Dae Hoon a shout-out since his performance also made me sit up and take notice. All in all, it was a beautiful and nuanced drama from start to finish.
As much as I loved Lee Seung Ki’s performance, multiple of the other performances were very lacking. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the characters’ story arcs, but the actors portraying those characters tended to be lacking nuance, which took away from the overall quality. For example, the lead cop had two levels, bug-eyed shock and shouting drunken rage. There was no middle ground. With just a slight increase in actor quality, I think the crazy plot twists could have been elevated. Think of how well The Last Empress did with all the crazy because they had really strong actors. The same could have been done here, but they missed their casting mark.
I also heard some complaints about how long the drama was. I personally enjoyed the extra episodes and felt that the overall story benefited from the extra time, but others didn’t feel the same, so I am adding it to the weakness category.
Beyond Evil is one of those dramas that rely heavily on jumping back and forth between the past and present. Add in the fact that the drama doles out the truth of the past in small doses as we twirl around the different mysteries, and it can cause a bit of a confusing timeline. That said, everything does even out as the story goes forward; it just takes a long time to get to the truth. This can be a bit frustrating for those that like a more cut and dried mystery.
My only other very slight complaint is that Yeo Jin Goo wasn’t utilized as much as he could have been. Yeo Jin Goo is an amazing actor, and I felt that he just didn’t have as strong a performance as I have seen from him in the past. Some of this was due to the fact that he was the outsider coming into a situation where he didn’t know all the backstory. He was the equivalent of us trying to figure out everything in a very messy situation. That said, he was the perfect foil for Shin Ha Kyun and was still very enjoyable as a character. Just not as good as he could have been with more to work with.
Serial Killer Story Arc
I am not sure if you can really choose one over the other since they were so very different. Both shows were unique in the Korean crime killer genre. Both had big twists regarding the killer story arcs, and both did these twists very well. They both had me wondering where the final story was going, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the killers in every aspect of both stories. So this category comes out in a tie.
OK, so I can’t pick one show over the other. Both were solid 9/10 dramas, and I would highly recommend for everyone to check out both shows. I think that the way you choose depends on what you are in the mood for. If you want crazy outside the serial killer box plot twists, then go with Mouse. It was such a crazy, fun watch. If you want moody noir vibes and stellar performances that you will remember for years to come, then click play on Beyond Evil. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Also, be sure to come back and chat with me about them. I loved both and wish I could have convinced more of my besties to give them a try.
Til the next great serial killer,
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi