This review contains spoilers from the drama.

There are the dramas that leave you aching for more, and then there are the dramas that leave you ecstatic once they’re over. Player fell into the latter category, and it showed nationwide. Despite a strong rating at the time of its debut, the drama’s ratings slowly fell or remained stagnant over the coming weeks, only sky-rocketing during the finale. Despite its strong conviction in spreading significant social values, and improvements in their plot and characters towards the end, the drama fell through largely due to its plot; too many cliched plot points and redundant scenes dragged the drama on, making it seem as though the plot was being stretched thin to meet its 14-episode requirement. 

Despite its flaws, Player does redeem itself, especially in the message it brings about the law and the justice system. Specifically, it brings forth the shortcomings of the legal system but also shows the lack of power the ordinary individual has in ensuring that proceedings turn out fairly. Shedding light on the corruption and the influence of money and connections in legal proceedings, Player didn’t ebb on its social commentary.

To capture one of the villains, lawyer Jin Yong-joon (Jung Eun-pyo), the Robin Hood Crew — which is how I refer to the four members of the main cast — had to come up with a convoluted plan and risk themselves and their lives to get him to justice. They did so with the help of the one (and seemingly, only) prosecutor on the right side of the law, showing that unless lawyers themselves are uncorrupt, it’s difficult for citizens to have a fighting chance of winning. 

However, Player also shows that the law can’t be taken in just anyone’s hands. Three out of the four members of the Robin Hood Crew are eventually arrested for doing almost whatever it took to bring corrupt politicians and prosecutors down, along with stealing the black money that these groups had. With charges such as fraud, blackmail, theft resulting in injury, assault, and various others, the judge claimed that despite their aim being to punish criminals, pursuing their own gain, the Robin Hood Crew’s crimes couldn’t be forgiven or counted as minor. Player is interesting in how it shows the shortfalls of a system but also emphasises its necessity to keep order in society. 

On the other hand, the excessively cliched storyline didn’t help. Despite being an action/crime drama, there were rarely any moments that had me completely engrossed. Every plot twist could be anticipated, and the writing felt heavy-handed. The predictability of each move left little motivation to continue the series.

Take the earlier example of Jin Yoon-jong. To catch him red-handed, the Robin Hood Crew came up with an elaborate idea to capture him, during which Kang Ha-ri (Song Seung-heon) got involved in a serious accident that left him severely injured. Yet, due to the numerous cliched plot points, many could guess that the accident could all be part of a plan to catch the lawyer, which it was (and the injuries were fake).

With countless parts of many plans left to chance, such as anticipating what their target would do in various situations, the drama felt cliched when everything happened exactly according to plan. Even if there were some hitches, they weren’t significant enough to seriously foil their schemes, and thus the foreseeable anticipation felt boring. 

The writers also made the plot overly complicated — Ha-ri was also revealed to be the formerly-believed-to-be-dead son of the lone law-abiding prosecutor’s dead mentor, who had faked his own death so that he could avenge his father. The writers had Ha-ri hide his true identity from his inner circle and trusted crew, but there was no necessary reason to do so. His crew would have been helped him, perhaps even more enthusiastically from an earlier point, had they known his true identity. 

That being said, the second-half of the drama improved greatly from the first. Characters were developed a lot more. With more depth and background given to the characters, their motivations to bring certain people to justice made a lot more sense. The sole motivation of money, at the risk of their lives, seemed unrealistic, especially since they’re not portrayed to be criminal masterminds.

Ha-ri’s motivation was the wrongful death of his father. Byung-min’s (Lee Si-eon) drive was the fact that he had been abused by one of the antagonists, in the process aiding the wrongful conviction of Ha-ri’s father, and wanted to prove himself a friend by being of assistance to Ha-ri. A young Jin-Woong (Tae Won-seok), in his money-minded view, had helped cover up the death of Ha-ri’s father. He, too, eventually wanted to help Ha-ri out in catching the ultimate villain to repent and overcome his guilt. 

The plot converged to go after one villain, who was the mastermind behind the cover-up of Ha-ri’s death and was trying to do the same with the prosecutor. Named “That Person” (major creativity points), the plot built up to take down “That Person” (Kim Jong-tae). As opposed to the numerous antagonists that were present in the former half of the show, having the mission close in on one villain made the plot easier to follow. 

This did make the first half of the show seem slightly redundant. It felt as though the first seven episodes were a very long introduction to a story that didn’t have a proportionate time spent on the build-up or climax. Keeping the drama to 10 or 12 episodes with a shorter introduction may have made for a more fascinating watch. 

All in all, though, Player does perform in terms of the social commentary and morals that it brings across, and showed great improvement in the character development of their main cast. Though it was off-set by issues in the plot, the drama would probably still be a great watch for those who enjoy light-hearted, comedic action that doesn’t require too much thinking or engrossment into the plot. In addition, there’s a solid team of actors, with great direction and camerawork and good production quality. If cliches don’t bother you, then Player is one of the better dramas out there. 

(Nielsen Ratings. Images via: OCN)