Scripts that commit themselves to taking a neutral or a rather critical approach towards the Armed forces are hard to come by. It is easier to celebrate hard-fought victories than to examine the costs at which they came. D.P. is an even rarer gem in this group, in its direct questioning of the internal operations of the South Korean military. Specifically, it focuses on the men fulfilling their mandatory military service and the reasons why some of them desert (hence the title ‘Deserter Pursuit’). The second season of the show, like its first, does not shy away from taking up difficult issues and zooms in on them with fresh perspective.
Picking up in the immediate aftermath of the last season’s events, when a soldier’s desertion ended in a violent series of events, the second season brings back the military police officers An Jun-ho (Jung Hae-in) and Han Ho-yeol (Koo Kyo-hwan), who as D.P.s are tasked with tracking down and bringing back the men who desert the Army. Last season’s storyline played out in an anthology format, with Jun-ho and Ho-yeol chasing a new deserter in each episode. By the time they caught up with him, they were able to piece together a general idea of why he deserted, which almost always revealed a history of brutal mistreatment from within the Army’s ranks. Jun-ho, himself a new recruit, is forced to confront this prevalent, plaguing culture of abuse and must do so from his position as someone whose job is to bring the deserters back to the units where they faced harassment.
D.P. Season 2 (Korean)
Director: Han Jun-hee
Cast: Jung Hae-in, Koo Kyo-hwan, Kim Sung-kyun, Son Suk-ku, and others
Runtime: 45 minutes
Storyline: As An Jun-ho and Han Ho-yeol track down new defectors, their pursuit leads them to uncover new secrets about the military
The second season hammers in on the hopelessness Jun-ho feels as a witness to this horror while adding a new layer to the narrative that pertains to how these cases of bullying are covered up. As Jun-ho and Ho-yeol recover from the brutality of the last case and encounter new ones, they face challenges in the bureaucracy of it all. Though there is a tired perpetuity in how these cases play out, the episodes never drag. By bringing in a more diverse range of topics this season, including Ho-yeol dealing with his PTSD, the show adds newer dimensions to the Who-s and How-s of the abuse meted out and how it is hushed up. Through focused writing, the show is able to convey the looming bleakness. “There is always more abuse, never less,” says an officer, while a door near him bears a poster with a simple instruction: ‘Stop harassing your comrades’.
As the episodes progress, it seems like the show is finally veering towards depicting the issue as a systemic problem. The writers seek to fold in the individual cases to build a larger case against the military’s silence. But, in the process of executing and personifying this, they sway uneasily between blaming a few bad apples and declaring the whole cart as rotten. These missteps creep into the characterizations, taking away from an otherwise nuanced tale. Despite being the product of the same institute, the characters are divided into identifiable groups of ‘inherently bad’ and ‘resolutely good’ people opposed to each other. Therefore, though consistent in its questioning of the military, it ultimately remains a tiny bit lax in assigning liability.
Certain late additions, such as a victim’s sister who as a civilian learns of the hushed-up ongoings, provide a foreign way to look at the muck and could have been given a multi-episodic arc. Her questioning of the state’s silence, as an outsider, stands in powerful contrast to the repeated confessions of the military personnel saying that their hands are tied.
The second season,like its predecessor, is interesting enough and stands on a solid narrative idea, but sometimes slips to lose a bit of that gritty realness in favour of an action-filled manhunt. Nonetheless, it gives an unflinching and meticulous assessment of an organisation that is otherwise revered.
D.P. is available for streaming on Netflix