I'll have to be honest and say I watched this drama Return (2018) for the three main leads whom I love, and not because it was yet another story about yet another murder mystery (if you watch too many of these they can easily become tiresome and predictable, even Sherlock Holmes could get bored!).
Then, when halfway through the series there were issues which arose between the main actress Go Hyun Jung (Sandglass, The Queen's Classroom, Dear My Friends) and the production staff over the direction her character was going, and she either was fired or quit (I've heard rumors of both but don't really care: gone is gone), I began to lose interest in the show when a replacement actress Park Jin Hee took over her role and then tried to reproduce Go Hyun Jung's same style, which was a bust. After episode 15 I skipped ahead to the last two episodes 33 and 34 just to see how everything would turn out.
Go Hyun Jung is a big star, and a senior to everyone else in the cast and crew, and I feel they should have listened to her more and tried to accommodate her concerns, for the fans' sake if for no one else's. You don't start off a show with one big name actress and halfway through replace her with someone with a fraction of the acting experience and expertise and then expect your show to be taken seriously by long term K-Drama fans. I apologize to the two main male stars here, Lee Jin Wook (Nine: Nine Time Travels, Goodbye Mr. Black, Alone In Love, The Time We Loved, etc) and Shin Sung Rok (My Love From Another Star, Liar Game, Thank You: I go to this page to get the URL link, why do I always feel I'm entering a Holy Place?, The King's Face, On The Way To The Airport, etc.) that I just couldn't bring myself to sit through the second half of this series despite their excellent acting skills. With the biggest piece of the attractive puzzle gone I just couldn't maintain my interest in the plot. There will always be future dramas of theirs I can enjoy again, my one consolation.
My Lee Jin Wook Is The Only One
Who Doesn't Look Happy Here, Why?
Go Hyun Jung stars (for the first half) as a defense attorney named Choi Ja Hye who comes from humble beginnings, who spent a portion of her career as a judge, but it's only through hosting a popular legal television show that she earns a reputation as a star attorney, and then gets hired to defend the prime suspect in a high society murder case, who just may be innocent, or who could actually be partly guilty with others of the crime.
Lee Jin Wook plays a hotheaded police detective named Dokgo Young who comes at the case sideways through a drug investigation that lands him in the middle of the complex murder case and trial. He bulldozes his way through the investigation, frustrated with it for various reasons. He and lawyer Choi butt heads at first, in typical K-drama fashion, but soon mutual concerns over the case draw them closer together.
The four main suspects of the murder are a group of wealthy friends who have known each other since childhood (of course!). Among them, a charming chaebol heir named Kang In Ho played by Park Ki Woong (Chuno, Bridal Mask) is the prime suspect, and his wife Geum Na Ra (Jung Eun Chae whom I loved in Dr. Frost) is the one who hires lawyer Choi to defend her husband. The two women went to law school together and work together to unravel the mystery over who really is the murderer. Na Ra is convinced her husband is not guilty.
The other three friends (and suspects) are Oh Tae Seok, played dastardly well by Shin Sung Rok (of course!), Kim Hak Beom played by Bong Tae Kyu (Personal Taste), and Seo Joon Hee played by Yoon Jong Hoon (Misaeng).
Oh Tae Sook Applauds The Entrance
Of The Famous Lawyer Choi At A Party
What Secrets Is He Keeping?
Each of the suspects is scrambling to cover something up from their pasts to hinder the murder investigation. Though we don't know which of these men could be the real murderer, at times it seems that each one of them is guilty! At first lawyer Choi seems amused by the investigation and all the strange people involved in it, even casually asking possible witnesses and suspects whether or not her client killed the victim just like she's casually asking what they want for lunch! Then when the safety of the participants in the case is threatened she becomes far more serious about the case. It was around this time that the drama changed actresses and I became bored with the proceedings and skipped to the end to satisfy my curiosity about the real murderer. (I suspect this strange development of the female lawyer character was unsatisfying to its female star).
Honestly, the most upsetting thing about this drama is the lack of screen time for the two main leads. Throughout this drama you get to see a lot more of the elite group of friends (often misbehaving) instead of the female lawyer Choi Ja Hye and the detective Dokgo Young who are the main characters trying to solve a murder case. At times I was wondering if Lee Jin Wook was doing another drama at the same time and only popping in to this one on occasion. Not good. However, both main characters' screen time increases towards the end of the story where I came in again, although I could never really warm to the replacement actress or see him with her by the end. I've seen Lee Jin Wook work with the best actresses in Korea: this was not a great match. Sorry.
I hope the Koreans never put me through this again! A show that easily could have earned an A or A+ from me went down to B+ (and I think that's being generous due to my fondness for the original main cast). However check it out if you're curious, it is generally suspenseful and will keep you on your toes when it is churning along at a good pace. Also, as usual, the OST is quite fine for the show, with a lot of intriguing instrumental pieces, similar to my favorite crime solving K-drama of all, the masterpiece Missing Noir M (2015). Don't miss that one! It melts all others into the ground and stands alone on a cliff! :)
I hope Shin Sung Rok washed that blood off
his face before he went home to his wife and baby! ;)