02 August 2023

K Drama Review: D.P. 2 (Deserter Pursuit 2) 3.7 || 4

After watching some not so good dramas released this year, I was really looking forward to D.P. 2. I was thoroughly impressed with D.P. 1 so I was expecting this to be just as (or even more) intense. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations. Fortunately, it only had 6 episodes, and more importantly, it had Jung Hae In, so I was able to watch it til the end. 


The story continues where it left off in the first season. The military is feeling the after effects of Jo Suk Bong's (Cho Hyun Chul of Samjin Company English Class and Hotel Del Luna) attempted suicide. 

The DP boss, Sgt. Park Beom Gu, was taken into custody and won't be released unless he issues a statement consistent with the story the military wanted to release about the Suk Bong incident. Initially, Sgt. Park refused to go along with the military's statement because that would have invalidated the things that Suk Bong was fighting for. But Sgt. Park acknowledged that his refusal to cooperate could make things tough for his staff, Ahn Joon Ho (Jung Hae In), who was still doing DP duty, and Han Ho Yeol (Koo Kyo Hwan of Extraordinary Attorney Woo), who was unable to speak and was hospitalized due to suspected post-traumatic stress disorder. Sgt. Park didn't have to think hard, however. 

The decision was made for him when Kim Roo Ri (Moon Sang Hoon of Extraordinary Attorney Woo), a military service man, gets involved in a mass shooting incident inside their barracks where two of his colleagues died. Sgt. Park realized that he and his team had to work from inside if they wanted to change and/or solve the military's problems that were already institutionalized. The story takes us through how the DP team does everything in their power to fight for the rights of the deserters they've been pursuing. 


I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this show's cast. Everyone's acting was just as solid as in the first season. 

Jung Hae In just keeps getting better and better from Tune in For Love to Reply 1988 to Guardian to Prison Playbook to Something in the Rain to One Spring Night to Snowdrop. I totally felt the shift in Joon Ho's aura/vibe from the first season to this one. It was more pronounced this time that he was bothered, distraught, and burdened by all the abuses and injustices he has witnessed. I saw his attempt to speak up more and not to merely turn a blind eye on the things happening around him. 

Once again, Han Ho Yeol proved to be the perfect partner for Joon Ho. I was scared that he would need a lot of time to recover from his PTSD and he might not be an effective partner to Joon Ho if he could not speak. Thanks to the Kim Roo Ri incident, Ho Yeol finally got back his voice. 

We receive solid performances from the DP bosses too. Kim Sung Kyun (Hospital Playlist, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Reply 1988, and Reply 1994) was still the perfect boss for the DP team as Sgt. Park. I loved how when everyone in the military was trying to protect themselves and advance their own interests, Sgt. Park was one of the few who embodied what true command responsibility was. 

I did not have fond memories of Capt. Im Ji Sup (Son Suk Ku of Jirisan and Suits) from the first season. I remember him as the annoying guy who was useless during the Suk Bong pursuit. Surprisingly, however, he was more likable this season. Although I don't really believe that he would have a change of heart just after the Suk Bong incident. I expected him to be the same useless guy he was before. But still, I was happy that he was on the DP team's side this time. 

Another actor worth mentioning was Choi Hyun Wook (Jirisan) who played the role of Shin Ah Hui, another enlistee who was being investigated for the death of his allegedly bullied or bully superior. Because there were different versions of this story, Hyun Wook had to show us his meek and bullied side and his arrogant bully version. It was so surprising to see him in extreme characters when he was somewhere in between those two in his Twenty-Five, Twenty-One role. 


The first season was released about two years ago. The long break caused me to forget some of the stuff that happened in the first half. I forgot some characters, who I needed to remember because their stories were still mentioned in the second season. I had to go back to the previous story to refresh my memory. 

From the beginning, it was evident that this season was going to be heavier. The major issues the military faced with the deserters from the first season still persisted. 

We still see some annoying characters, similar to what we got in season 1. Like Park Se Woong (Yoo Su Bin of Exit, Big Mouth, Crash Landing on You, Start Up, Live, and Prison Playbook) who pretended to be dumb just so he can get a lighter duty and slack off. 

And we still have the overarching theme of how "cliquish" the military is that it becomes very unbearable for all sorts of divergents - neurodivergents battling mental health problems, those who are physically weak, the big guys, and those with different sexual orientations or preferences, among others. And the military's resistance to change and its refusal to become more inclusive that push these divergents to the fringes. 

While the show's over-all tone was still admirable, I noticed early on that some things felt contrived - like the comedy and how Joon Ho and Ho Yeol seemed to be trying too hard to look cool like in their chase scenes with the broker. I missed the more bad ass season 1. 

I was not too happy with how the show milked the Kim Roo Ri case. First problem is that it was too similar, connected, and close in time to the Suk Bong case. 

Then it felt like an overkill that a lot of soldiers were deployed to catch him. Despite having the clear advantage in numbers and how they barricaded the area surrounding Kim Roo Ri's house, it was funny how he still managed to get in there with a hostage. The military could not control or overpower Roo Ri even if they had snipers. Worse, even Ho Yeol was able to get through the barricades to livestream everything that was happening. Even Roo Ri's mom (Hwang Jung Min of Cleaning Up, Law School, and 1987: When the Day Comes) was able to break free from the soldiers trying to calm her down. 

Everything felt so chaotic and dramatic, in a way that that was not befitting the seriousness of the situation. I wish the show stuck with the realistic action-packed stuff we loved from the first season. 

The bit of lull we got from the Seong Min (Bae Na Ra) case was quite a welcome change after the tumultuous Kim Roo Ri case. Seong Min was proof that sometimes you find yourself in a dead end, literally. It was sad how there was no justice for Ho Yeol who was stabbed by Seong Min. And how Seong Min, who was on the brink of finally fulfilling his dreams after all the hiding, running, and hard work, lost everything in the end. 

I found the DMZ guard post case confusing. Yes, I know it was used to set up the DP team, who was pressuring the military to be more responsible for their enlistees. But I didn't like how there was really no clear resolution on the case. Was it suicide or murder or an accident? 

At this point, I felt that the show was losing sight of its theme to pursue deserters. But it caught back my attention with the surprising plot twist - Joon Ho deserting. The internal abuses and injustices were just too much for the kind hearted Joon Ho. 

I was really hoping that having Joon Ho desert would be the major lift the show needed to make it as bad ass as the first season. Unfortunately, that still was not enough. 

Yes, the fight scenes were really legit. It was nice to see Sung Woo (Go Kyung Pyo of Love in Contract, Reply 1988, Warm and Cozy) back. He looked so evil this time. And it was nice to see two baby-faced guys like Go Kyung Pyo and Jung Hae In engage in heavy fighting. 

But all the other stuff felt contrived. It was incredible that Joon Ho overpowered everyone sent to catch him. The occasional attempts to be funny. The drama. The overkill pursuit operations. The dramatic court hearing. Sgt. Park taking the fall for his guys. The families of Roo Ri's victims were now less aggressive and more civil towards Roo Ri. The sister of one of the deserters who committed suicide while being pursued by Joon Ho forgave Joon Ho and even helped him. 

It was disappointing because the show was advocating for something big and very socially relevant - exposing the abuses in the military and the state's inability to protect their own soldiers whose service they required and mandated. Unfortunately, things didn't work and the show missed the opportunity to use its platform to advance this cause. 

It was also a waste of the very rich talent pool the show had. It was cringey to see Joon Ho and Ho Yeol being overly dramatic over Sgt. Park's arrest. And there's that attempted bromance between the two as they parted ways. It was sad because the show was not able to maintain how gripping the first season was. 

What was really sad, however, was how the show seemed to send a message that the DP team's battle was a losing one. It didn't show us any positive outcome, no matter how minimal, from all the trouble the team went through. Were reforms instituted regardless of how small or insignificant they might have been? I hated how the only result the drama showed us was that Sgt. Park was sent to jail. Don't they have whistle blower immunity? Or any witness protection program? It was as if the show was telling us that the problem is too systemic that when you try to help solve the problem, you'll be punished and not rewarded. 

The only bright spot for me in the end was Suk Bong coming to visit Joon Ho in the military base. Yes, that was quite unbelievable too, that Suk Bong would go back to a place that caused him too much trauma. But I can gloss over that and just focus on how vindicated Joon Ho must have felt knowing that he saved someone. And that he was remembered (in response to his earlier thought if people he met in the military remembered him) and probably appreciated for the lengths he went through to save Suk Bong. 

So while I still love Jung Hae In, who is probably on top of my Oppa List, and while there are still 300+ days until Joon Ho's discharge from the military, I think it would be wise for the show to end its run here and not stretch things further to another season, lest we forget the show's glory in the first season altogether. 

Oppa says...3.7.

Noona says...4 (with bonus points for the cast, especially Jung Hae In).