Hellbound: Korean Series Review

I’ve been waiting for a while for Hellbound to premiere on Netflix because it marks Yoo Ah In’s return to the small screen since Chicago Typewriter. He’s been quite busy with films in recent years and I’ve missed seeing him act in a lengthier material. It was no surprise that he nailed his new role flawlessly again.

Synopsis: A religious group called the New Truth, led by Chairman Jung Jinsu (Yoo Ah In) has been documenting several phenomenon wherein sinners are visited by the Angel of Death to inform them of the hour or their demise. When the hour is reached, three executioners from Hell violently escort them to the underworld, leaving behind their charred skeletons and no trace of their existence. Detective Jin Kyunghun (Yang Ik Jun) and lawyer Min Hyejin (Kim Hyun Joo), sensing a deeper conspiracy behind the group and its leader, work to unravel the mystery before the world is overrun by religious fanatics.

I was impressed by Hellbound not only because of the amazing CGI but also because of its plot and execution. Yoo Ah In’s layered potrayal of the quiet, charismatic, yet maniacal religious leader was so effective that you want to strangle him every time he appeared on screen. His nuanced performance gave the character a sense of mystery and viewers can just feel the rage brimming underneath the Chairman’s calm demeanor. He seemed like the devil personified. It was a wonder that no one saw through him. The ease in which he manipulated people’s emotions and thoughts to incite riots and crime in the guise of justice was just plain nuts.

The way his followers used social media, broadcasts and vlogs to spread his extreme message really struck home. In this day and age when social media content is digested daily as truth, it is not farfetched that this type of mob mentality would prosper, first because we are already on the brink or it, with people ready to crucify others on social media and make them pariahs because of simple mistakes. People have become too self righteous to crate an image of perfection for themselves that they are willing to cast others as the devils.

In Hellbound, it was ironic that for the sake of salvation, people were too quick to resort to violence and plead innocence. They condoned violence against perceived sinners for as long as they were saved from the executioners’ wrath. They willingly stood by and witnessed the injustices committed by the New Truth and Arrowhead and relished participating in the condemnation because of fear and ignorance. In truth, being complicit made them just as guilty as the people they are vilifying. Its chilling that this is actually happening through hate crimes and religious persecution in different parts of the world now.

Two Chapters

For six episodes, Hellbound explored two chapters. The first being before the new age where Jinsu was convincing the public to believe in his interpretation of God’s will, and the second chapter explored the new era where the New Truth has seized power and had public opinion under their control.

SPOILER: In the second chapter, Hellbound also threw a wrench on Jinsu’s flawed interpretation of God’s will after an innocent newborn received the message from the Angel of Death.

I must admit that the pace slackened a bit after the Chairman’s disappearance and I was disappointed that Detective Kyunghun’s part seemed to end after the first chapter as well.

While the time loomed for Youngjae’s baby’s judgement, the sense of danger intensified and plenty of blood was spilled. Great job on casting Park Jung Min and Won Jin A as the baby’s parents. They gave such powerful performances from being distraught upon learning of their child’s fate, to questioning themselves as parents, to the resignation of subjecting their child to the demonstration and their will to protect their baby up to the last moment. You can’t help but root for a miracle to happen amid all the evil.

By the series’ end, viewers were no closer to finding out the real reason why the executioners collect souls that go to hell, how the “sinners” are selected and what the heck happened to make Park Jungja do a terminator in the end scene. Methinks Netflix is prepping to bring back Detective Kyunghun for a potential second season while the miracle baby will set the third phase of the saga.

Personally, apart from my dismay that the entire first season was set up as a bait for a second season of Hellbound, I was still a big fan. Hellbound was not just a conversation about religion and morality but it also talked of corruption and desperation. It expounded on the concept of free will and how humankind regards it in their daily lives. It left the conversation wide open on the gray areas between good and evil. It prompted a lot of reflection, and its a huge thing for a supernatural series to hit its mark so deeply that its message resonates and applies to the real lives of the audience.