Busted! I Know Who You Are continues to be an enjoyable and bizarre diversion with “Kwang-soo, A Murderer” and “Messages from the Dead”, the third and fourth episodes of Netflix’s new k-variety show.
And so continue my wacky misadventures in the world of k-variety television, which I continue to know very little about, and which I suspect might be some elaborate ploy by the Korean people to hypnotise the West and stealthily infiltrate our streaming services with more of the same. This week’s episodes of Busted! I Know Who You Are, Kwang-soo, A Murderer and Messages from the Dead, continued to present the charismatic cast with capsule mysteries to solve in a blend of mini-games and bouts of subtitled deliberation.
As before, reviewing this show in the typical sense is somewhat pointless given my unfamiliarity with the genre and the fact that I suspect it might be immune to such things anyway. But as I continue to watch and write about Busted! for no reasons greater than curiosity and, frankly, website traffic, I’m treating the whole enterprise as a learning experience, to be helped along by periodic Googling and an enthusiastic k-variety commentariat, a member of which last week suggested that he couldn’t watch “American flicks” because the faces of the stars were “disgusting”.
“Kwang-soo, A Murderer” turns the tables on one of the cast, Lee Kwang-soo, who as I understand it has worked for several years with Yoo Jae-suk, Busted!’s de factor leader, on the show Running Man. That show is, as I understand it, the most popular k-variety show of all time and is still running today. You probably shouldn’t confuse it with the 1987 film of the same name starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which players must compete in order to escape certain death for the amusement of a totalitarian future-state.
“Kwang-soo, A Murderer” seems designed to leverage the chemistry between Kwang-soo and Jae-suk, which has been notable in the show since the first two episodes, rapport between the cast being something that, given the nature of the format, usually takes a while to develop. The episode also runs for 77 minutes, which is shorter than the previous two. Is this a feature of k-variety shows, that they get shorter and shorter until they don’t air anymore? It’d be a neat gimmick. Do let me know me.
Of course, Busted! is airing two episodes at a time, and will continue to for another three weeks, so we’re not in danger of it disappearing just yet. Thus: “Messages from the Dead”, episode four, which at just 75 minutes is shorter still, concerns the diary of a dead girl discovered by Jong-min, and the detectives gather at her school to investigate her demise.
I’m led to believe that Busted!’s scripting is one of its noteworthy characteristics, such things usually being mostly improvised. Which would make sense, given how kindly Netflix have treated the show, with a weekly distribution model and two episodes a week gracing the platform’s front page. I do wonder why we need two at a time, especially given that they’re longer-than-average as far as television goes, but no matter. Perhaps it’s easier to gauge general interest if the season runs its course quicker.
But the scripting and the scale of the show guarantee a baseline level of quality which it has met consistently thus far, and continues to in both “Kwang-soo, A Murderer” and “Messages from the Dead”. I enjoy the show’s production, especially the block-caps clues and objective checklists that grace the screen whenever something of note pops up – which is all the time – and the show’s weird fusion of childish playfulness and distinctly adult themes and concepts continues to be oddly compelling.
I still don’t feel I’m in a position to properly grade Busted!, so I’ve given “Kwang-soo, A Murderer” and “Messages from the Dead” the usual three-star treatment on the basis that I continue to enjoy the show even if it’s decidedly unusual to the typical Western consumer. I’m all for new stuff, of course, and I’ll continue to tune in and document my learning experience as I go, hopefully with the help of fans who know much more than I do. Which I suspect is all of them.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.