BY HanCinema | Jan 20, 2017 04:03 AM EST
The bookends for the final episode of "Naked Fireman" communicate the emotional core of the drama. Why did Cheol-soo become a fireman anyway? Why is he always so determined to risk his own life to help others? Within reason of course. I really like how "Naked Fireman" demonstrates that in the real world, even a brave heroic man like Cheol-soo very sensibly backs down and is generally pliant when faced with a gun.
The broader realism of "Naked Fireman" is where a lot of the appeal is. In contrast to the ultra-competent leads who normally populate mystery thrillers, Cheol-soo and Jin-ah only have average intelligence. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage against Jeong-nam, who at least has detective instincts. Jeong-nam's only intellectual equal is Seong-jin, whose work as a grifter qualifies him to play mind games. But alas, he can only render indirect assistance.
But enough of the lovely twists and turns that keep "Naked Fireman" viscerally engaging. Emotionally, we're also watching Jin-ah progress from a frightened, lonely woman obsessed with avenging her parents to one who stops learning to be so paranoid. This is obviously fairly ironic, considering how Jin-ah learns that the detective she thought was her friend has in fact been a complete psychopath all along. Of course, the flip side of that is, if that guy's the closest thing you have to a friend, maybe it's time for better friends.
That's what makes Cheol-soo such a compelling leading man. He's not perfect, and is used to conflict. All the same, Cheol-soo always tries to do his best. Cheol-soo never condescends to Jin-ah, and is even willing to admit just how frightened he really is. This encourages Jin-ah to think along the same terms. No matter how terrifying life may seem, courage is having that willingness to ignore that and jump into the fire. Because saving a person, that's what's right.
It's all a fitting tribute come the ending, when Jin-ah must inevitably visit the cremation center. For all Jin-ah has lost, life goes on. There is hope, which is what she really needed. That, coupled with the generally perfect attention to detail and story efficiency, makes "Naked Fireman" a wonder, packing the punch of a drama several times its short four episode length. I mean really, the perfume is used, not just to exposit casual interplay between Cheol-soo and Jin-ah, but even becomes a plot device in the thriller mystery? Well played production team. Well played indeed.
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