Caution: Review may contain spoilers 🙂
I watched BORDER a couple of weeks ago and FINALLY watched the final few epi today. It did not disappoint and I can see why it was very well-received in terms of ratings and critiques alike. Cheers to another of Oguri Shun’s successful dorama! Synopsis from AsianWiki:
Ango Ishikawa (Shun Oguri) is a detective with smarts and a keen sense of observation. He’s in a great physical shape and also highly ambitious. Ango also only focuses on his work and his personal life is pretty much non-existent.
One day, a former police officer is killed by a gun shot. Ango goes to the scene of the crime, but is shot in the head by the killer who is lurking at the crime scene. Ango hovers between life and death. At that time, he thinks to himself “where do people go after they die?” and then “I don’t want to die.” A miracle then happens. Anglo survives with the bullet still lodged in his head. He goes back to work.
A new murder case takes place. When Ango goes to the crime scene he notices a boy who looks like he is about to cry, but only Ango is able to see the boy. The boy is the one who was killed. Since Ango was shot, he can now see and talk with the dead.
You can’t miss this, Ishikawa makes it a point to say it in the opening of every episode. Another detective drama with added supernatural elements in it you think. That’s what it makes you think. But is it really all just that?
Instead of having Oguri’s character team up with another detective (like all the other detective dramas out there), this series opt to minimize that by making it more character-driven. We see him acting in solitude more often, only requesting assistance when he needs something done ‘not so legally’. It’s good in this drama because Oguri Shun can pull off the scenes very well. In fact, his character experienced a gradual progression, it only hit me in the last episode. Although so, our victims obtain more exposure (Ishikawa talks to the dead). It’s quite handy for Ishikawa though, analogous to a cheat sheet. Of course, the cheat sheet isn’t perfect. We have victims who have barely much memory of their murder, victims with amnesia, and serial killers who refuse to surrender even when they are on the other side. So does Ishikawa has it easy for him? Not really. But still, he literally has the edge, right? Right?
I think Ishikawa initially treated the ‘ghosts’ a bit more like his informants. He questions them standard questions like “who killed you?”, “what did you see when you last died?” and etc. However, his amnesiac victim who forgot how he died showed Ishikawa a rather different way to handle his case. Bottom line, Ishikawa learns that they were once humans and he could have easily joined their ranks too.
The drama channels mystery and suspense but slips in some dark humor sparingly. It also dabbles a little on humanity. Mostly deals with Ishikawa’s sanity and how can we forget themes of justice.
I mentioned something about a gradual progression of Ishikawa’s character. We see him as a detective with heavy sense of justice. He did everything he could to solve cases and laid souls to rest in peace. What he did not realize is that he must have somehow thought that he held an answer to solving all cases in the world. We see him find out the murderer THEN fork out the evidence desperately to pin the crime on the right man. In simple words, he works in reverse. He never required anything like suspects or benefit of doubt. He just knew who did it. He just had had to find a way to punish them the way the law wants.
Like an addict, he spiralled deeper into each of his case and his strong sense of justice lead him to confusion. I’m confused as well. How could getting addicted to justice be bad? Truth and justice prevails, right? Major spoiler ahead! Our hero failed to apprehend the murderer of a young boy due to lack of evidence. In fact there wasn’t any evidence at all but he knew who the murderer was. The last episode left me wondering what on earth are they doing with such a mediocre case in the first half hour. Then, it took a turn in the second half. Ishikawa is a ticking bomb himself and he doesn’t even know it. Yes, yes, a few characters have mentioned how Ishikawa is ‘dangerous’. His naivety and impatience made him cross the very fine line of justice and evil. I like how his underground informer utters that:
“Justice and evil are like two sides of a coin. From far, they look the same”.
Ishikawa was beginning to lose sight of which side of the coin he was on, leading to his confrontation with the child murderer. The murderer knew exactly which buttons to press and unleash the ‘evil’ Ishikawa.
Is the child innocent because I killed him?
Is Ishikawa good because he killed a murderer? Is he now evil because he killed someone? Did his good motivations justify his killing? What is justice if a crime goes unpunished? What defines a crime? Is it a crime if it was done to obliterate evil? All these questions arise and all I can see is the murky gray. It was so chilling to see that Ishikawa actually chose to push the murderer off the roof. It just happened in a split second. And we see how Ishikawa tries to process what happened. It’s gut wrenching because anyone might have done the same to a man who killed a child because he can and he will. It is even more terrifying to see that the murderer (now a ghost) appears behind Ishikawa.
Welcome to the other side.
Poor Ishikawa. That was hell of an ending. I’m curious to see how the special episode will deal with this. Until then.