Netflix’s D.P. (2021) – A Harrowing Look At Humanity
September 3, 2021
Netflix’s latest K-drama D.P. is now on air, and here is my review!
When I first saw the trailer of this drama, it was an immediate “yes!!” for me. Action, comedy, a lot of chasing, and Jung Hae-in? Sold!
The moment it premiered on Netflix last week, I jumped right in and finished all six episodes within a day. Yep, I did that. To be honest, I initially thought D.P. was a movie. Turned out it was more like a miniseries, but hey, nobody’s complaining here. All the episodes were necessary, for this drama was definitely packed with a lot more than what the trailer gave away.
Editor’s note: This is a subjective review and may contain spoilers.
This show revolves around two soldiers, our main leads Private Ahn Jun-ho (Jung Hae-in) and Corporal Han Ho-yeol (played by Koo Gyo-hwan). These two form a unit under the DP department (short for Deserter Pursuit) in the military service in Korea. The team’s main task is to track and bring back soldiers who have escaped from the camp base.
For a bit of context – nearly ALL of the South Korean males aged 18 and above will have to attend this compulsory military training for a minimum of 18 months. It is a tough placement, needless to say, where rules are merciless, training is Spartan-style and notorious for all sorts of mistreatments. Even the thought of it is morbid, but it is, unfortunately, the reality over there across the Korean land.
D.P. examines, rather unflinchingly, the brutality of military service, corruption, and bullying. It is not even the regular bullying we often see in K-dramas, it is a lot worse than that. Throughout the drama, we were shown that sometimes, what we see is not all that there is to the story. It can be a lot darker, harsher, and more heartbreaking.
The plot is simple, yet the storytelling is done in a beautiful exposition, and I thought the six episodes were just nice enough a length to get the job done. Too short and some of the deserter’s stories may not get a chance to fully develop, too long and the drama loses its charm and suspense. So yes, I am happy with the length.
I also like that each episode was marked with a title which makes you wonder what the theme of the episode will be. You can immediately tell that every episode serves a purpose, and every minute feels intentional and thoughtfully laid out. Some of the stories are common, yet it was done in a way that makes us feel, “Look, this is the issue, this is very much REAL”.
Let me just start by saying, I absolutely love our D.P. duo. They were amazing and adorable. The plot develops through the viewpoint of Ahn Jun-ho, a solemn guy with a difficult upbringing due to an abusive father. He rarely shows his emotions. His poker face and nonchalant act often irk his superiors (but we love them). But he has his limits too. And when he does show emotions, it enhances the gravity of the situation and made us empathize greatly with him.
Ho-yeol is Jun-ho’s senior and partner, and his presence constitutes the much-needed comedic relief for what would have otherwise been a very depressing drama. I love him since his first entrance into the drama. He is carefree, full of wits, outspoken and Koo Gyo-hwan carried it with perfection and ease. Yet Ho-yeol is not without his own scars, which makes him even more real. He comes from a place of understanding of how deserters feel and think. He was excellent at his work, and it was good to see Jun-ho slowly trusts and warms up to him. A character that is immediately likable, and perfectly balances out Jun-ho’s more serious tone. Fortunately, the comedy is not over-the-top, so it didn’t feel disrespectful, especially when we are dealing with such heavy topics.
Other supporting characters were also adequately developed. They made us sympathize with them, root for them, or resent them all at once. Special mention for Cho Suk-bong (our Sanchez from Hotel Del Luna, played by Jo Hyun-chul), a tragic case of how much even the kindest person can change when pushed to the edge of their breaking point. I can almost hear the moment when he literally snapped from the intense torment and bullying, physically, emotionally, and morally. It breaks our hearts, as much as it did for Jun-ho and Ho-yeol.
First off, Jung Hae-in does well in this kind of role, no doubt. Quiet, thoughtful, with a kind heart and courage where it counts. Viewers will have no problems rooting for his character. Though, I have to say that he seems to be only stuck with these similar roles as his past works too. Maybe it’s the puppy eyes? Anyways, I look forward to the day when Jung Hae-in will show us a more diverse side.
But my own personal gem from this drama is definitely Koo Gyo-hwan as Corporal Han. I mean, where did this dude come from?? I didn’t notice him before but D.P. really serves him well here. There was that bit regarding his previous traumatic experience with past deserters that left him frozen during the final chase, which I felt wasn’t given enough background story to make us relate more. Probably the only nitpick I have for his character, but whatever little space was given for his development, Koo Gyo-hwan had nailed it. I look forward to seeing more of him in the future!
The antagonists made my blood boil. But it is not just one person. I did not harbor resentment for any one character. It was the collective evil that infested every facet of the organization like a vermin, that was the real villain. The corruption of the leaders disappoints me to no end. The abuse of power disgusts me. Blinded by greed for title and money, it is the usual story, yet one where humans never learn from. I guess it means the drama was effective, and I feel everyone portrayed their parts well.
I applaud this film for its bravery. It is refreshing to see that they did not try to glamorize the military. D.P. did not shy away from showing us straight in the face, what is wrong with society, specifically in the military setting. Bullying, abuse of powers, corruption, all these are common evil, made all the more painful when we realize that these are very much the reality. A darker side to humanity. Somewhere out there, someone is suffering from the brutality. They are pushed to the very edge, resulting in suicide and/or harming of others.
And true to its story, D.P. ends with no proper resolution. To show us that this is an ongoing war that may never truly cease. Yet there are still little steps we can take. Small fights. Resistance to evil. Just like how Jun-ho chose not to bully his juniors and continue the vicious cycle, we all have choices too. A reminder and lesson to take home for all of us.