[Herald Review] ‘Whisper’ is one tense drama

By Rumy Doo
  • Published : Apr 23, 2017 - 16:48
  • Updated : Apr 23, 2017 - 17:48
Recommended if you enjoy intense, serious characters, their turmoil and their schemes; the bleak depiction of Korea’s powerful lawyers and their disregard for the law.

Not recommended if you seek even a modicum of comic relief or a gripping legal thriller.

The SBS TV series “Whisper,” currently leading in the Monday-Tuesday night time slot, offers tension upon tension in its tale of vengeance, carried by actress Lee Bo-young as its harangued heroine.

At work at Jongno Police Station, Shin Young-joo (Lee Bo-young) is a tough detective. At home, she looks after her family and struggles to pay back their debt, when her father is framed for murder by the head of the powerful law firm Taebaek, who seeks to cover his own illegal tracks.

The case is brought before Judge Lee Dong-joon (Lee Sang-yoon), who comes from an elite family and harbors ideals of social justice. He ultimately caves into pressure from the tangled relationship between his family and Taebaek, however, and finds Young-joo’s father guilty; Young-joo is fired, and Dong-joon begins working as a lawyer at Taebaek.

Vowing revenge, Young-joo approaches a drunk Dong-joon at a nightclub, beds him and blackmails him with sexual assault. She then begins working as his secretary at Taebaek with the plan of freeing her father through all means possible.

Lee Bo-young stars in "Whisper." (SBS)

Righteous anger, greed and mirrored reality

There is very little room for air in this revenge drama, which deals with emotions familiar to Korean dramas -- righteous anger on behalf of a downtrodden family member, displayed by Young-joo, and the hunger for power of a man who comes from poverty, Taebaek’s head lawyer Choi Il-hwan (Kim Kap-soo).

Dong-joon is arguably the most human of the characters, torn between obligations to his parents and the pursuit of a nobler notion of justice. His best intentions, however, are thwarted by a cartel of corrupt lawyers, and when his own interests are threatened, he, too, yields. And so the plot moves along from one tortured character’s scheme to the next.

“Whisper” heavily reflects reality, touching on the subject of ties between the judicial system and the wealthy and a TV news channel (not-so-surreptitiously named “JBC”) that threatens to expose them. 

Lee Sang-yoon stars in "Whisper." (SBS)

The poor woman, the rich woman

Some viewers have criticized the drama for portraying a heroine who is strong in many aspects, yet resorts to blackmailing a man with false accusations of sexual assault to achieve her ends. Until her father’s conviction, Young-joo is depicted as a competent woman, making her way in the world, and a physically agile cop.

Her foil can be found in Choi Soo-yeon (Park Se-young), the daughter of Taebaek’s head Choi. She is to wed Dong-joon in an arranged marriage and embodies every stereotype of the rich and entitled. The heiress cynically describes herself as nothing but a “pretty accessory” at the law firm’s meetings, having learned nothing during her studies abroad.

The 16-episode series, which began March 27 and is slated to end on May 16, is available to international audiences on the streaming site Viki. 

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)