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The Weekend Binge: "Death's Game"

Adapted from a Naver webtoon by Lee Won-sik and Ggulchan, Death’s Game (2023) is an eight-episode fantasy-action k-drama from TVING/Prime Video starring Seo In-guk (Reply 1997) and Park So-dam (Parasite).


GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "Death's Game" 8 episodes, fantasy action, with Seo In-guk and Park So-dam

The Plot


After a long and fruitless search for permanent work and endless misfortunes, part-timer Choi Yi-jae (Seo In-guk) applies for and finally lands his dream job: being dead. But Death (Park So-dam) is not impressed—insulted, even. She sends him on a series of deadly “internships” as punishment: experiencing the deaths of 12 different people. Can Yi-jae outwit Death in her game and earn his position in heaven, or will he be forever demoted to hell? 



The Review


Death’s Game starts off bright and sunny, showing the promising future of Yi-jae, played by Seo In-guk. But in the blink of an eye, his situation turns dire, gradually leading him to end his life. His years of pain and frustration resonate with the harsh realities faced by the South Korean youth in real life. However, his choice is not without consequences, as he soon realizes that he has offended Death, personified by Park So-dam. Not letting him have his way, she forces him to experience the successive deaths of 12 persons. He can only avoid hell in the end if he prevents any of these deaths.


As each episode reveals a new twist, the series keeps viewers hooked on its fast-paced and suspenseful storytelling. It follows Yi-jae as he inhabits different bodies as varied as a chaebol owner's son (Choi Si-won, Love Is for Suckers), a hired killer (Jang Seung-jo, The Good Detective), an MMA fighter (Lee Jae-wook, Alchemy of Souls), and a model (Lee Do-hyun, The Good Bad Mother), and tries to prevent their imminent demise. Along the way, people who are connected to him are cleverly (re)introduced: his mother (Kim Mi-kyung, Healer), his girlfriend (Go Youn-jung, Moving), another conglomerate owner's son (Kim Ji-hoon, Flower of Evil), a detective (Oh Jung-se, Revenant), and an artist (Kim Jae-wookHer Private Life).


The k-drama boasts a stellar cast, delivering compelling and nuanced performances. Seo In-guk and Park So-dam's intensely violent scenes help unify the story. Choi Si-won and the other actors playing the characters taken over by Yi-jae do not let themselves be outdone by the leads. Though their scenes are short, they effortlessly draw viewers into their worlds. Even the cameo appearances are not only noteworthy but also integral to the plot—the scene with a producer-director (Ryeoun, Twinkling Watermelon) and an extreme sports athlete (Sung Hoon, Perfect Marriage Revenge) ends episode 1 with a bang.


Unafraid to expose the ugly side of human nature, the drama tackles some serious social issues such as mental health, classism, bullying, corruption, and of course, suicide. However, it balances this darkness with moments of humor and hope.


The series ends with a satisfying conclusion, tying together all the twists and turns. Without being preachy or moralistic, it respects the intelligence of the viewers while challenging the audience to reflect on the value of money and the meaning of relationships. As a viewer, I, too, had to rethink my values, along with my concepts of life and death, fate and will, and sin and redemption. It made me empathize with Yi-jae's struggles, but in the end, it convinced me that Death is right.


Trigger warning: suicide, violence 

 

Stream if you want a fast-paced series with strong social commentaries.

Skip if you are not a fan of episodic or violent content.


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