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It’s been 3 years since critically acclaimed as well as popular thriller Forest Of Secrets (also known as Stranger) aired but I only got a chance to catch up with it recently and wow, mind officially blown by its brilliance. Story, characters, subject, acting โ€” everything is top notch. It’s a good thing I just finished this series as I wonder how I would have waited for three years for the second season, arriving this August.

Forest Of Secrets starts with a murder and involves prosecutor Hwang Shi Mok (Jo Seung Woo) and police Lieutenant Han Yeo Jin (Bae Doo Na) joining hands to get to the bottom of the mystery which turns out to be much deeper and complex as layers are peeled one by one. The drama navigates through the whole justice system of prosecutors and police and multiple players represent the white, black and grey area of humans.

The incredible thing about this show is that on one hand, we get a fantastic mystery thriller and on the other hand, we also get the moral theme about the deep rooted corruption in the society and how it takes determination and good intentions to weed it out. It cannot happen overnight, but it has to start somewhere and a few good men can at least start the process of eliminating it.

It’s as rare as the stars upon a clouded night to find a drama without fillers โ€” where each and every scene is important and demands your undivided attention. Forest Of Secrets does this incredibly with its gripping narrative. The show also stays away from general dramaland cliches. Each character is sketched with depth and holds importance.

I like that in the drama, though having a strong mystery to unfold, the suspense never overwhelms. It’s more about how and why it happened rather than who did it. There is no episodic nature here, as is usually the case in Korean TV thrillers. I love that we are always gathering information along with the characters and are part of the deductions and conclusions as the hero and heroine piece together the pieces of this puzzle. Constantly keeping you biting your nails, along with that solid background score, adds to the overall impact.

Speaking of characters, there is a nice motley. Of course, the central force is the hero, who is incapable of feeling any emotion (which surely adds a fresh dimension to his personality) but is determined to follow the righteous path. I love how he is always so calm and cool. And his rare smiles are so precious! Jo Seung Woo is amazing here. Equally awesome is Bae Doo Na as the fearless, intelligent and good-hearted woman. She has a very bold and sassy nature too. It’s so fabulous to see these two making observations and deductions, individually or together. They have great chemistry and some of their scenes also provide warmth and rare light moments in an otherwise tensed drama. The camaraderie between the various members of the Special Investigation Team is perfect.

Seo Dong Jae is another fascinating character. He can kiss anyone’s ass for his selfish aim but can also show a human side at times. So not a totally gone case but cannot be entirely trusted. Lee Joon Hyuk is brilliant in this role, showing a variety of shades. Yoo Jae Myung gives another great performance in the show as another central character, perfectly showcasing the walk through the thin line between light and dark. A shout out to Shin Hye Sun, Yoon Se Ah and Lee Kyu Hyung for delivering strong performances.

Overall, Forest Of Secrets is surely a must watch, with outstanding writing, direction, performances and theme. It stays with you long after it’s ended. And also gifts you with a satisfying ending.

My Rating: 10 out of 10

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