Dear sweet 5-pound, nine-ounce baby Jesus. I think my brain broke. Liar Game has got to be one of the most amazingly addictive series ever created. It’s like crack. I got the shakes waiting for new episodes. And now, it’s over. Maybe.
All The Spoilers Ahead. Yes, All of Them.
For a series like Liar Game, there is a very fine line between a finale making sense and being predictable, and between being shocking and being believable. The final episodes managed to dance over those lines like they were nothing. I can’t remember the last time a show left me with such a sense of satisfaction while simultaneously sequel begging.
Episodes 11 and 12 are just brilliant. We get to see Bulldog and Actor Gu compete against Do-young in the Losers Resurrection. They lose, but they prove that there’s more to them cast fodder. The game itself is easily the most terrifying thing all series. It’s a variation on Russian Roulette, played with real guns and blank bullets. As much as I know there’s no danger, it’s absolutely terrifying to see everyone pointing guns at each other. The gunshot sound effects do not help. The game transforms in an instant to a very chilling reality.
The chilling factor is amped up for the final round of the game: Woo-jin, Da-jung, and Do-young are completely isolated from both the crew and the other contestants. Woo-jin has turned on a distraught Da-jung in order to save her father, Da-jung is see-sawing on who she wants to shoot more, and Do-young is smiling like a kid in a candy store. And in one stand is a real bullet. We don’t know who has it, or who each person will be aiming at.
I love how when Do-young starts gloating, everyone immediately realizes that he has gone off the deep end. It’s very clear that Do-young has been becoming more and more unhinged as the game has gone on, driven to get back to the last moment where his life made sense. I’m unsure about the reveal that Da-jung was with Woo-jin and Do-young at the orphanage, though. It just came out of nowhere. Maybe if they’d mentioned her “summer at camp” more, it would have worked better. That said, it did allow Da-jung to claim a large role in a finale that would have otherwise been dominated by Woo-jin and Do-young. Overall, mixed bag.
What cemented this drama as incredible was when the actually loaded gun got fired. Da-jung, still loyal to Woo-jin, turns her gun on Do-young. And she, unknowingly, has a genuine bullet. Do-young knows she’s going to kill him, and he looks fine with that. Fine with the trauma to Da-jung, fine with the fact that PD Lee will likely end up in prison, and most importantly, fine with death. He has succeeded in going back to the one memory that has dominated him, so what else does he have to do with his life? Yet, he doesn’t die. Woo-jin figures out what happened and shoves him out of the way. Woo-jin spent 11-and-a-half episodes saying that people are only out for themselves. Then he saved the guy who killed his mother. In that moment, Liar Game gave a perfect middle finger to that particular idea.
The epilogue was pitch perfect, giving every character a fitting resolution to their own arc. Da-jung won the game, but true to her word, split the cash with the others. Bulldog and Actor Gu are able to return to their professions. Sung-hoon– who did not die, yay! –will recover. Dal-goo and Jamie start dating. Da-jung pays off her fathers’ debt and returns to school, and Woo-jin has peace and friendship– the two things anyone needs to move forward. The final message on trust: like it or not, it’s what makes us human.
I’ve spent these reviews talking a lot about the brilliant writing, and I stand by it. Liar Game has some of the best writing I’ve seen in any medium ever. However, I feel I’ve neglected the acting, which is just as incredible, especially among the three leads.
Da-jung is played by Kim So-eun, best known as Boys Over Flowers‘ Chu Ga-eul. Her portrayal of Da-jung is what brings her to life as more than a standard drama heroine. She adds a subtlety to the character, a self-awareness. Da-jung knows that blindly trusting people is going to bite her in the ass, yet resists the idea of changing herself. Kim So-eun drives it home with tiny indignant looks that to Da-jung, most people being less moral is not a good enough reason for her to stoop to their level. And she never does. She starts standing up straighter, starts being a little quicker to pick up on when something’s off, but Da-jung is still the same sweet girl she always was, just smarter.
Woo-jin, played by Lee Sang-yoon (Life is Beautiful, My Daughter Seo-young), is another cliché given dimension by a great actor. The stoic genius is the second most overused stock character in k-dramas, but Lee does amazing work here. Woo-jin may appear to be a human Grumpy Cat, but the cracks are always there. It’s very easy to tell when Woo-jin is in distress, happy, or homicidal. It’s all in his eyes. They are the window to the soul, and Lee Sang-yoon never failed to impart whatever Woo-jin was feeling while making it believable that no one in-universe could.
Shin Sung-rok, though, blew everyone out of the water. It’s one thing to make an audience believe a character is real. It’s another to make them believe that character isn’t human. Starting halfway through the run, Do-young’s moments of solitude started getting more and more terrifying. He never did anything remotely threatening, but the revelation of his psychosis, the eerie feeling that Do-young was nothing but a brilliant mind under a thin facsimile of a person lasted days. Shin so embodied Do-young that it became harder and harder to remember that he was an actor, not a psychopath.
While the ending may have teased at a second series, and tvN does have some experience with that, I’m not holding my breath. After all, I’ve been waiting two years to see if Jung-in survived that bomb. Still, these three and Ryu Yong-jae’s writing are platinum, and if there is a Liar Game 2, I will be watching eagerly. Even if we don’t, though, is there anyone who doubt’s Team Da-jin’s ability to save the day?
(Images via tvN)