The moment Ahn Joon Ho (Jung Hae In) turns around standing amongst a sea of enlisters with that heart grubbing look as if to cry out for help was the moment I realized this was going to be a hard one, and that it will stay with me for a long time to come -- intensely profound. The first episode was intense, packed, and hard to process scenes yet beautifully acted, directed, and written. That hazing and bullying are/were (not sure what the process is now in South Korea) enforced mainly under the pretext of establishing military discipline, despite evidence that it does not achieve that goal is intolerably hard to watch. Just 10 to 15 minutes into the first episode, I thought to myself, how are any of them going to endure two years of this hell, let alone 10 minutes.
I can completely and more than completely empathize with those who deserted for the sanity of their minds but even that they were never free to have. That anyone thought it was acceptable behavior blows my mind, and it's with that in mind that I was more than okay with how the first episode ends. It's the hard-to-watch and beautifully made dramas that always get you. I commend the drama production team, actors, scriptwriter for bravely taking on the shockingly brutal—and increasingly deadly conscription military service.
Once one gets over the hard-coreness of the first episode, what hits you about D.P. Dog Day is the futility of it all. Life is hard as it is in a society where verbal abuse and violence are common in and outside of the workplace; seniors routinely sneer at and slap those younger and, or underprivileged for not adjusting to office rules or simply for being of lesser status. As I saw it, hazing and bullying in the military, the most rigid and hierarchical institution, was just a logical extension of a nationwide culture of bullying.
To be in situations where one is required to give up control over themselves even in the face of unbecoming behavior from a senior officer must be one of the most degrading, if not the scariest, act a person witnesses. Not being able to take action against a blatant wrong, I cannot even imagine it; if one acts, they are considered insubordinate, vilified, yet they're chastised if they don't act. It's like constantly being between a rock and a hard place -- mortifying. I cheered Joon Ho for taking action, yet at the same time, I felt for him for what that action cost him psychologically and physically.
The second thing that hits you about D.P. Dog Day is the lack of accountability, the allowability of status, and connections to dictate military service with Corporal Park Sung-woo (Go Kyung Pyo). Letting him do as he pleased, and in turn, harming fellow office was quite off-putting. Combine that with humanity's natural affinity towards corruption, and you have abusive leadership that runs unchecked. As a senior ranking officer, Im Ji Sup (Son Seok Koo) recognized the issue and called for Corporal Park Sung Woo's dismissal rather than Private Ahn Joon Ho's was the second ray of hope next to Han Ho Yul strutting into the show and commanding it.
I love Han Ho Yul (Koo Kyo Hwan); he was like a breath of fresh air strutting himself into the men's shower room. Brilliant stuff. I kept replaying that scene in my head over and over again and cannot stop smiling. I love me some Jung Hae In, but Koo Kyo Hwan undoubtedly steals this show. And what a blessing it must've been for Joon Ho to have someone like Han Ho Yul as his superior, one courageous enough to speak his mind even to senior officers, especially bullies. But more one who acted as a mentor. It's not all dread and trepidation with this drama, and that is definitely its saving quality; there are many fun and funny moments all around, which makes this drama more than worth the watch. Add to that amazing OSTs -- wondrous all around.
As I watched events unfold in these first two episodes, I doubted neither of them realized the impact their relationship and the deserter pursuits would have on them, let alone what they would reveal, especially since they were following orders. More, the army is a place of high esteem to many, so it couldn't really be that bad. On the other hand, I'm filled with sorrow, rage, and sympathy whenever I think about the lengths the deserters who someone's son, brother, husband, friend, and boyfriend went through to try and free themselves from the inescapable abusive, and intolerable nightmare military life forced on them. With the process and amount of time and money the military spends on capturing deserters, one would think it would've been more beneficial to spend it on anti-harassment, hazing, bullying, and abuse training.
I have to give credit where credit is due, and it has to be to the casting director of this drama. From the talented Jung Hae In to the brilliant Koo Kyo Hwan (Han Ho Yul) and Kim Sung Kyun (Park Bum Goo) to the multi-faced Son Seok Koo, whom I loved in this role and even the supporting cast in Lee Jun Young (Jung Hyun Min) and Hong Kyung (Ryu Yi Kang). Watch Episodes 1 & 2 Here.