Progress Report provides ongoing impressions of serials or sets I view them.
Time Between Dog and Wolf is the first Korean crime thriller drama that I've seen from beginning to end and while it doesn't avoid many standard conventions of the form and makes some rather contrived, drama and character shattering story turns along the way, I was still modestly entertained overall as the show did do a good job of keeping up the suspense. It does show that Korea does have the capacity to put together a relatively exciting crime thriller for television, so I'm in no way chased away from exploring the Korean takes on the genre further.
"Time Between Dog and Wolf" in the film is a painting, but points bluntly at one of the themes of the series where the lines blur between good and evil. How so? Well, our protagonist, Soohyun (Lee Junki) grows up in Thailand and loses his parents to a major crime syndicate that's populated with a number of ethnic Koreans. Adopted by his father's friend and ex-partner, Mr. Kang (Lee Kiyoung), he grows up and joins the NIS, Korea's intelligence agency with his adoptive slacker brother, Kang Mingki (Jung Kyungho). Meanwhile, he meets his childhood friend, Ari (Nam Sangmi), the estranged daughter of Mao Liwart (Choi Jaesung), who was the man responsible for killing Soohyun's mother before his very eyes, although no one knows the full extent of the web of relationships. Anyway, once in the NIS, Soohyun becomes faced with the dilemma of personal vengeance at cost to his job and his relationships, furthered as he is given the option of becoming a deep cover operative in Mao's gang. And then the show really gets crazy.
The two things that this show does very well are pacing and creating suspense. There are few episodes that go by without creating a lot of suspenseful cliffhangers and the show is paced very well, leaving little frustrations about the forward movement of the story. Things are constantly changing and shifting. The setup of the story is also quite interesting, creating a great web of relationships where no one knows everything and few characters are purely benevolent or malevolent. However, the story falters a bit, especially with creating contrived situations or having some characters make illogical decisions in order to develop a suspenseful situation and there is one horribly cliche plot device used halfway through the series that seriously hampers character development for our protagonist and annihilates meaningful choices made by him. That plot device is so enormous that it pretty much steals the story and drives it until the end and, in terms of meaningful storytelling, not in a good way, which is why it ended up being my biggest complaint with the story.
The direction is pretty snappy and while it does still rely on some cliches common to what seems like most Korean dramas (like k-pop driven flashback music montages), it doesn't drag and keeps the frame visually interesting, even if never really aimed for subtlety. The production team is pretty good overall, although I feel like the constantly changing hair on Lee was a bit distracting and not nearly as cool as it was aimed to be. Also the hair and wardrobe departments were not subtle at all, bluntly dressing and grooming characters to be "vengeful", "angry", "sweet", etc. Finally, the acting in the series was a but uneven with Nam providing the most consistent performance. The two male leads, however, varied between decent to hamming it up and nearly devouring the scenery. Lee Junki's overwrought expressions in particular had me bursting out laughing in inappropriate situations. I'm really glad I was watching this alone. As for the score and soundtrack, I think it was rather standard fare. Nothing egregious and it seemed appropriate within the culturally accepted boundaries.
The collision of a good setup with the gigantic plot cliche and contrived situations caused the series to lack impact with me. However, I think the whole experience was kept afloat thanks to its pacing and suspense. While I wasn't strongly impressed with much else in the series and I was disappointed by the story decisions made by the writer(s), I still think it made for modest entertainment and would say that it's not a bad way to pass the time. But there are likely better thrillers out there, too. 6/10.