Through the Darkness -- Episode 1 & 2: Are Serial Killers Made or Born?

Where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy -- St. Francis of Assisi.

Kim Nam Gil as a criminal profiler in one of my favorite genres, I need to invest in Through the Darkness. But the drama is based on the real-life experiences of South Korea’s first criminal profiler, which was also detailed in the Netflix documentary The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea, a three-episode series about a brutal murder spree that mystified police and horrified the public in early-2000's Seoul, makes him and it ten times worthy of the watch. Everything Nam touches turns to gold, and I am sure this won't be any different.

Serial killers always intrigued me, so much so that I chose them as a subject of analysis for my senior year dissertation paper in college. As many before me, I too am afflicted by one of the oldest questions whether criminals are born or made. And more specifically, whether serial killers are products of their genetic make-up or more influenced by their environment. The truth is that no matter how much scientists have studied them, they've been able to pinpoint one from the other. And have come to the conclusion that human beings have the instinctive capacity to kill, and perhaps it’s not that serial killers are made, but that instinct in most human beings comes undone by good parenting, stable home and social life. And those who don't have that stability as a deterrent and are survivors of early childhood trauma, whether physical, sexual, emotionally or all three, fully utilize those instincts to attack and kill.


The reality is that not all abused children grow up to be serial killers. It’s true that almost all serial killers suffered childhood trauma. But the fact is that if 100 kids grow up in an abusive home, and one turns out to be a serial killer, and the other 99 grew up to be somewhat adjusted citizens despite their trauma, then serial killing is a choice. The responsibility of the act is solely on the killer, who chooses to act on his or her compulsions. Serial Killers know exactly what they're doing and love it. That's why they are fiercely protective of their skills and get very good at masking who and what they are from the public and law enforcement. So it's with this in mind that I find myself even more curious about how Through the Darkness will tackle serial killing, and specifically serial killers, how to capture them, but more how to stay ahead of them.


As I watched the drama, the director's cinematography and lighting choices intrigued me. The contrast between the lively, almost festive monotones of the seventies, to the dark and dreariness of the late nineties, set the tone. But what struck me the most was a young Song Ha Young (Kim Nam Gil) in the seventies, and his reaction when he accidently falls in the river and witnesses a body under the water. It almost seemed like he was more curious and sympathetic to the drowned woman than scared or horrified. Even in the chaotic scene with cops and forensic personnel running around, he noticed a strange man loitering around. It's almost like he could sense evil even at that young age.


As painful as it was to watch Dae Woong (Jung Man Shik) as a senior police officer abuse his power by beating a confession out of an innocent person, but worse, justifying his actions like he was doing that person a favor. The truth is that I can't even blame him for his methods. I appreciated the realistic depiction of the situation and how society ties the hands, mouths, and minds of bystanders who want to do the right thing, but don't have the courage or power, but to idly watch, but not give up, as injustice worse than the crime committed is dulled out and by those supposed to protect innocence.


I loved that Ha Young, despite the pressure, never once gives up on Bang Ki Hoon (Oh Kyung Joo), but what I enjoyed most was seeing him in action. And the same goes to Kook Young Soo (Jin Seon Kyu). His tenacity and foresight into the endless possibilities of using specialized techniques, of investigative and behavioral analysis, compiling and comparing data from similar crimes and offenders to create a profile of suspects, along with studying the nature of the crimes to be better prepared, is to me the most fascinating aspect of this drama that and of course Kim Nam Gil. Watch Episodes 1 & 2 here.

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