THE VICTIMS’ GAME (2020) TV review

p2593495547The second Mandarin-speaking original Netflix series (after Nowhere Man, already starring Joseph Chang), Chuang Hsuan Wei and Allen Chen’s The Victims’ Game is based on the 2015 novel The Fourth Victim, written by Liang Shuting and Xu Ruilang. Unfolding in eight episodes, it follows Fang Yi Jen (Joseph Chang), a forensic detective with Asperger’s syndrome, who’s brilliant yet shunned by his colleague for his antisocial behavior. His dour life is turned upside down when he discovers that his long-estranged daughter may be behind a series of murders, all looking like suicide. Fang teams up with driven journalist Hsu Hai Yin (Tiffany Hsu), and soon finds out that none of these murders are what they seem.

This is a series that would have benefited from a shorter runtime. Across eight episodes, its pace is too glacial, and its plot twists – though occurring on a regular basis – too far between for it to truly engage. One can imagine that with half as many episodes, it could have been a much more compelling watch; as it is, its interesting characters are simply not probed enough for it to be remain gripping over almost eight hours. Joseph Chang is solid but one-note throughout, never given the chance to elevate his character above the average ‘brilliant, socially-awkward detective’ trope – he only gets to shine in the final episode, but by the time Fang Yi Jen becomes a deeply-affecting character, the show is over.

Tiffany Hsu is excellent, and her arc is an interesting look at journalistic ethics in a sensasionalistic world but not much is done with her relationship with Chang’s character, a missed opportunity considering how often they share the screen. Still, the plot is beautifully intricate, a dark and desperate web of death that’s finally undone by a low-key yet strong message of hope. The series’ ace in the hole is Ruby Lin, who’s only a presence in the final episodes, and in a role we dare not reveal: she sheds her smooth and pretty image completely, in an impressively somber and chilling turn.

Long Story Short: Intricately-written yet spread too thin over eight episodes, The Victims’ Game rewards patience with an affecting a coda – and an impressively chilling turn by Ruby Lin. ***

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3 Comments

  1. I’ve just finished watching this on UK Netflix – really enjoyed it. I agree it could have been 6 episodes instead of 8 but I liked that the lead didn’t suddenly become something he’s not. I’m all for character development but not at the expense of common sense, and I felt he was superb. The journalist was fantastic – and I liked how it turned out between them at the end.
    This made me look for more Taiwan dramas on Netflix, but sadly they either have Korean romances or China mainland pretty-but-boring period pieces.

    Reply
    • Yes I too hope we get more Taiwanese series. Have you watched Nowhere Man? It got very middling reviews but the concept is interesting.

      Reply
      • Yeah I saw Nowhere Man just before this. Have to say it was a fascinating concept and I was drawn to the characters but it felt really long. In the end I was watching to see how my faves ended up.

        Reply

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