Thursday, 27 November 2014

Just finished: Liar Game

Yes, we have spoilers.

This series based around games of bluffing and bargaining ended on a very open note, clearly pointing towards a second, darker series. And, by episode 10, I thought that this series would increase the tension for the series finale. At the end of that episode, one contestant was last seen trapped in an elevator, apparently free-falling to his death. But at the start of the next episode, nobody seemed to be that bothered that he wasn’t around to film the next game or even answer his phone. They just carried on without him.

The other drawback of the final episode of this series was the amount of talking that went on. The motives and events behind everything that happened were explained in quite a bit of detail, and I was somewhat disappointed to see the old storyline of “we were all in an orphanage together but I forgot” to explain why nobody had realised the link between the contestants until the end. This was a plot device I last saw in Final Fantasy 8, and I remember thinking at the time that I hope I never see it again.

Then there was the kidnapping of the main contestant’s father. This sub-plot really came out of nowhere, and wasn’t terribly well thought out. It ended with a rather silly fight between a good guy and a bad guy while the father, tied to a chair, wobbled about a bit in the foreground. I suppose he must have forgotten that he was doused in petrol and he was about to knock a lit Zippo lighter onto the pool of liquid around him. An easy mistake to make.

So that’s the bad news.

The good news is that this remained entertaining despite the slightly shaky finale. And it was better than the Japanese version, by quite some distance in the end. The real life setting of a TV reality show meant that events of the game had some kind of repercussions outside the game. I liked the scenes about debt collectors and how the public were reacting. It put everything in a world I recognised.

I enjoyed the games, too. The Contraband game was far clearer in Korean version. The Japanese version involved taking out the opponents' money and then making them think they were smuggling it back in again. The Korean version was mostly about who to trust and how to trick the game. Plus, it had this shot in it.

It was far better, too, to have the enemy as another contestant instead of some faceless group of enigmatic criminals. Shin Sung Rok was great as the evil mastermind determined to destroy his rival. He was by far the most interesting character in the series – a seething pit of hidden disgust at those around him. Nicely underplayed.

And, perhaps the Korean version’s biggest triumph over the Japanese drama concerns the final episode. In the original Liar Game, it was a two-hour recap of the previous ten episodes followed by a fifteen minute epilogue stuck on the end. You can’t imagine how disappointed I was when I first saw that. I was expecting a feature length Battle Royale to end the fantastic first series. The Korean Liar Game at least sticks to one hour per episode and doesn’t waste too much time with flashbacks.

So, although it wasn’t perfect, I really enjoyed this series and I look forward to the next.

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