Updated: Jul 22, 2019
Not-your-average Korean drama Live is the rare masterpiece that will take you on a rollercoaster of almost every emotion known to man, and leave you with a new perspective on life at the end of eighteen hour-long episodes. As a longtime lover of police procedurals, the premise of Live, which is available on Netflix, caught my attention because it emphasized the portrayal of policemen's daily lives in South Korea. The crime genre is usually defined by suspense, action-packed criminal chasing, and main characters who are almost superhuman in their ability to form complex deductions from a labyrinth of arbitrary clues. Live, however, infuses these beloved aspects of the genre with humanity and realism in the form of fully developed characters who are as much brave, unflinching cops as they are flawed husbands and wives, or daughters and sons struggling to reconcile their stressful work with their personal lives.
Police forces in today's world receive no shortage of resentment from the general public, whether it be because of police brutality or corruption. The line between right or wrong is often blurred, and the very people who are supposed to protect us and promote justice can be the ones to harm us. Live is very aware of the issues surrounding police around the world, and from the very beginning outlines the strained relationship between the police force and civilians. By opening with the background stories of two South Korean office workers who apply to the police force because they have no other way of supporting their families, the drama introduces us early to its core theme, that cops are human beings too. When Sang-su and Jeong-o are faced with their first task after completing training at the police academy, they initially refuse to drag innocent college students protesting away by force. Even when the students scratch or hit them, the police are instructed not to respond in any way, and as a result many of them end up being injured while trying to fulfill their duties. Later on, when the two main characters begin their careers at the notoriously busy, crime-ridden Hongil patrol division, Sang-su and Jeong-o must constantly decide between using whatever force necessary to apprehend dangerous criminals to avoid risking the lives of policemen and victims, or taking minimal action to avoid internal investigation and media backlash.
From YouTube user HanCinema: Trailer for Live
This dilemma plays out for all of the characters in the drama in a variety of ways, but what ties the loyal members of the Hongil patrol division is their unwavering conviction to protect one another and innocent civilians, even if the media tells the public otherwise. I grew to love every member of Live's cast, for each talented actor and actress embodied their characters so fully that I cried and laughed with them like I knew them in my own life. Live, true to its name, fully encapsulates the ups and downs of human life, for the Hongil patrol division tells the stories of everyone from the oldest, wisest police chiefs struggling to lead the team with impending illness and retirement, to the naive rookies who make countless mistakes on their way to developing "a sense of duty," as Lieutenant Oh Yang-chon (one of my favorite characters of all time) would say.
With a rating of TV-MA, Live doesn't shy away from portrayals of brutal crimes (albeit brief) or discussions of dark topics such as rape or domestic abuse. The drama, however, treats these topics with maturity and humanity, and never engages in unnecessary amounts of violence. I would say that I cried tears of happiness as much as I did tears of sadness while watching Live, and the lighthearted, humorous scenes honestly made me laugh and smile harder than some shows meant to be funny. I'm not exaggerating when I say that anyone can see themselves in Live's characters and find true value in this drama, because while you may not investigate crime scenes or fight criminals in dark alleyways yourself, you are a person who fights bravely at times, but gets paralyzed by fear at others. You have love-hate relationships with your job and the people you’re closest to. Live understands all that, and shows you that despite it all, being a real-life hero for as little as one other person means life is worth living.
Watch Live and additional trailers on Netflix here: https://www.netflix.com/title/80214523