Review | Hellbound — Netflix’s Next Big Hit

Review | Hellbound — Netflix’s Next Big Hit

As many of you may have noticed, Minty has gotten a sizeable amount of us onto watching more Korean Media, not the least of which being me, where I’ve found myself consuming a lot of Netflix shows rather voraciously, including D.P., My Name, Squid Game, and most recently, Hellbound. This is a show I ended up finishing off in about less than a day, which is pretty easy considering its only 6 episodes long, but it successfully tells its story in the time its got. Hellbound has some moments where it drags a bit or the pacing just seems strange but overall it kept my interest and I enjoyed it significantly. As always, beware of spoilers as I discuss and evaluate the things that make this show tick and perhaps why it became even more watched and popular than Squid Game.

While D.P. and Your Name focused on military and police aspects of Korea (to which I am not as attuned compared to US military/police) Hellbound draws on a religious focus. Much like Squid Game’s take on poverty and death games, the religious factor translates much more universally than D.P. or other more culturally nuanced Kdramas. Over the first half of the show, we see a cult evolve into a powerful public religion based around people receiving announcements from angels about their deaths and that they shall be drawn to hell after a certain time. As these are observed by few people with little evidence, these occurrences are dismissed as superstition or jokes until they begin to be recorded. One such “judgement” ends up taking place in metropolitan Korea, the brutal attack and execution being recorded by multiple sources, with the demonic assailants disappearing as quickly as they appeared.

Because beating you to a pulp just doesn’t cut it

This leads to more people following The New Truth Society and their charismatic leader Jeong Jin-soo who has been foretelling of these events and prophecies since a decade before. Things quickly escalate Park Jeong-ja, a single mother of two, is given the judgement while being recorded by her son as a birthday surprise and finds herself reporting this to The New Truth Society and receiving an offer for 3 billion Won or 2.5 million USD if she will agree to televising her judgement (and execution) even if nothing occurs. As this takes place, a radical faction of The New Truth known as Arrowhead are spurred to brazen acts of violence by the loud live streamer, Skullmask, against those who either speak against “God” or are themselves condemned, advocating for people to go out and punish these “sinners.”

Hated this dude almost as much as I hated Dolores Umbridge

Of course with people being stupid and easily manipulated by figureheads, attacks occur, at first by minors who know they will be barely punished even though they live streamed nearly killing a man, because of the failings of “the laws of man.” This ties in with one of the two protagonists through the first half of the series, police detective Jin Kyeong-hoon, whose wife was brutally murdered by a drug addict who was later released 6 years later because he committed the act under the influence. The underlying failure and inequalities of human law vs the alleged infallibility of the judgements leads to more people being drawn into this and when Kyeong-hoon’s partner turns out to be a sympathizer and member of the Arrowhead, Park Jeong-ja’s identity is released and her children are quickly ferried off by our second early protagonist, lawyer Min Hye-jin.

TIL as I was writing this, Kim Hyun-joo (Min Hye-Jin’s actress in the middle here) is 44

In what can only be explained as one of the most tense moments I’ve seen in a show in a while, we watch as Hye-jin escorts Jeong-ja and her children to the airport, at every stop any passerby could be an Arrowhead vigilante and I caught myself holding my breath and watching and waiting for a baseball bat to smash the window, or for Jeong-ja to be missing when Hye-jin returns from dropping the kids off at the airport. But that moment doesn’t happen and I appreciate that the show can build this tension so early on and keep me watching. Finally, we go to the day of Park Jeong-ja’s judgement and her window has been knocked out and a viewing stage has been set up by a shadowy masked cabal who are The New Truth Society’s benefactors. At least they didn’t wear stupid animal masks and have people killed for the lols.

And so, the world watches on as Jeong-ja is brutally murdered on television, with a handful of people not bowing in awe after this and in so being targeted by Arrowhead. The ending of this arc is Min Hye-jin and Jin Kyeong-hoon finding the truth out about Jeong Jin-soo, with Hye-jin meeting with Pastor Kim, the first person that Jin-soo explained the real truth to and Kyeong-hoon finding Jin-soo in the flesh after allegedly running off with his daughter. Hye-jin is left to be beaten to death by Arrowhead with Pastor Kim taking the mantle of Chairman of The New Truth Society. Simultaneously, Kyeong-hoon watches as Jin-soo is killed, but refuses to expose the truth as this would destabilize the world with the threat that god’s judgement was random and not based on sins committed by the individual.

Fast forward 4 years later and we find the world has hit a form of stability that makes me think a lot of Death Note and its acceptance of Kira. The world has come to terms with the fact that these horrible deaths occur to “sinners” who perform sins as defined by The New Truth Society’s dogma and doctrine, and we are introduced to the main character of this arc, television co-producer, Bae Young-jae who sees his colleague taken away in a lake and then his body hidden by the New Truth Society by the mysterious Sodo group with Hye-jin still alive, though scarred and working with these mysterious individuals set to oppose The New Truth. Bae Young-jae’s wife goes to take a video for him of their newborn in the isolated CVICU, to discover in horror that their child is judged for death.

Armed with this proof, we follow as Hye-jin tries to ensure that Young-jae’s child doesn’t die in vain and offers to broadcast the judgement to prove that The New Truth Society’s tenets are a hoax. The New Truth Society in turn discovers this issue Bae Yong-jae’s wife takes their kid in one of the stupidest if not the stupidest moment in the entirety of the show. Admittedly, after this point it becomes a bit of me expecting the show to become a let down (midway from episode 5 to the end of 6) but with them taking refuge at the home of Lee Dong-wook’s aka Skullmask, with him apparently having severed ties with Arrowhead and The New Truth Society after being given a prophecy of his death. Being an idiot religious fanatic, Dong-wook is quickly manipulated into attempting to kill Bae Yong-jae’s child and nearly succeeds but in the end Yong-jae and his wife sacrifice themselves to save their child in front of numerous witnesses, who come to Hye-jin’s aid when she takes the baby and tries to escape from The New Truth Society after Dong-wook’s very satisfying if short judgement.

For real, I watched this again like 5 times getting this shot and it still wasn’t enough for what this jackass pulled.

Overall, I enjoyed the show and tried to just touch on some of the high points, as some of these nuances need to be enjoyed first hand in my opinion. From Jeong Jin-soo’s manipulation of Jin Kyeong-hoon and his daughter in the first act, to seeing the scary nearly dystopian world with The New Truth Society forcing people into guilt filled or coerced confessions, it was a great watch from start to finish, even if I did falter and break faith towards the end. There were a few times where I was left wondering wtf (like about the monsters in general) but figured they were acceptable unanswered questions. The only thing I can’t excuse is that if they had just done an autopsy/biopsy on the body that was cremated (and there were several by the end) then they could have figured out the shady shit that The New Truth were up to fairly early. The cinematography was solid and the acting was good, even if the effects were a tad bit underwhelming at times, but I highly recommend watching this subbed as the dubs are considerably less than good. Tension was there, and I found that you hated the characters you were supposed to hate and rooted for the ones you were supposed to root for. Even though there were no banger OP/EDs like My Name (which is on my workout playlist) I’d recommend this to anyone who likes shows like Death Note (including the second half unlike @blackandyellowog) or dystopian style shows run by corrupt powers.

2 Replies to “Review | Hellbound — Netflix’s Next Big Hit”

    1. The ending wasn’t the best but at least the story was told and it was done. I’ve seen too many shows now a days either leave a lot of plot holes open either to never be addressed or TBD in a future season that may or may not happen. But I’m glad I’m not the only one who got the Death Note vibes!

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