Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kdrama Review: God's Quiz Season 1 (2010)

God’s Quiz
신의 퀴즈

Oh dear. It’s another episodic crime scene investigation story – my least favorite genre ever, thank you American TV over-saturation for my dislike of the genre. Why on earth did I start this one then? Because I’m a glutton for punishment. Also, I like to branch out a bit and pretend that I don’t just watch mushy rom-coms. Also, after dropping Faith by episode 4 I was genuinely intrigued by the one actor that didn’t seem to annoy me. Oh well, this was only 10 episodes long.


Ryu Deok Hwan plays brilliant doctor Han Jin Woo, who for some reason has consented to take a post as a medical examiner at the ‘National Scientific Criminal and Investigation Laboratory’ established in a regional Forensic Scientist office in Hanguk University. This is a fancy way of saying he works in what amounts to a morgue, doing autopsies on bodies that (in this case) almost always had bizarre or extremely rare diseases. The team is joined by detective Kang Kyung Hee, played by Yoon Joo Hee, who for the sake of viewers serves as the outside perspective, to whom all medical terms need to be explained.

Without using spoilers, I’m going to do this review a little differently, because I think we can look at God’s Review in two separate lights: generally, and by individual episodes. My verdict is that some episodes, particularly the early ones are not very good. But like all episodic shows, it takes a little time for viewers to get attached to the general cast. The dynamics of an investigation team are always the heart of this genre, and looking past the formula of disease/death-of-the-week episodes, God’s Quiz’s overarching plot and its characters are especially well done. 

A decent medical investigation drama? I guess I can deal with that...


The Main Guy – Ryu Deok Hwan (Dr. Han)

The drama is basically carried by its lead man’s peculiar charms. Ryu Deok Hwan isn’t an actor I look at and necessarily think “hot!” but he is every bit as charismatic, and his Dr. Han is what initially attracted me to the drama and kept me going. He’s a smart aleck with zero people skills. You’d think this makes him perfect to work with dead bodies, but he’s not actually thrilled to put his surgeon skills to use doing autopsies, and only grudgingly accepting the post because of his sunbae. Why? “Because it smells so bad!” Alright, so there are some other reasons only hinted at in episode one, but let’s just say there is more to Dr. Han than his own strange mannerisms and seemingly perfect physique. That’s right. Did you get my hint? Dr. Han may even have a rare disease all of his own. But instead of the eye-rolling I expected to be doing, the interweaving of this particular sub-plot was seamlessly done and pulled all the right emotional strings out of me.

Character done right, with some extra depth? Yeeeep, that's me. 

The Main Girl – Yoon Joo Hee (Detective Kang)

She’s your standard female detective fare – sharp and deductive, and she gives Dr Han a lot of crap for his faulty and abrasive manners. They’re totally awesome together. If only the drama wasn’t modeled so much on the standard investigation genre, I’d ship them whole-heartedly. However, watching their friendship (and maybe something more?) progress both at work and out of it is very touching. They make a good pair, even if he is a bit shorter than her. Detective Kang is also the easiest character to approach from the viewer’s standpoint, being firstly, well, normal. 

The Rest of the Team
It’s a good mix for the rest of the investigation team. Everyone’s got their personalities and their screen time, and the chemistry among them is pretty good. I particularly liked Park Jun Myun as the ‘matriarch’ of the group who starts off being super unimpressed by our little hot-shot newbie but warms up to him later. Choi Jung Woo is the other veteran actor who here plays Dr. Han’s senior and mentor.

Now let me give you the low-down about this show:

What’s This ‘Quiz’ About?

God’s Quiz is primarily an investigation genre show, however I find that for all the dead and dying people the main plot deals with, there’s a lot more on the discussion table – especially about human life.
“I feel like I’ve met the biggest text book in my life. It’s so hard to even flip the pages and even if I do, it is just so hard to read. What is in it that makes it so hard? Now I want to know.” “The problems you had to solve through each case are like a quiz from God. Quizzes made so the arrogant human won’t become too proud. But in these quizzes, there are no hints in it. It is a question that you have to solve forever” (Ep 1). 

Give me a moment, I'm thinking about life here.

Maybe because Dr. Han struggles with himself as much as with the victims he investigates, but when he’s not being eccentric, he’s deeply conscious about life and human perceptions of life and death.
"There is only one way for a human to be born. But there are so many ways for a human to die. Ironically it might be our happiness to actually have our own way of death, among the various ways of dying. Thinking about it now, our job was not only to prove something. It was to give them their last rightful happiness and to give answer sheet to god. And that was the way to prove that we are the real humans. We had received the qualification as a living human being, not from god, but from the dead. We all did. Maybe that was god's purpose. Not to get an answer.” 

"People aren't ignorant about rare diseases, but they are ignorant about humanity."

God’s Quiz Episode Guide:

  1. Dracula’s Tragedy
  2. The Lost City of Idols
  3. Assassin
  4. God’s Daughter
  5. Protein Tracer
  6. Fan Death
  7. Paper Doll
  8. Last Present
  9. Thanatos (part 1)
  10. Thanatos (part 2)

Episode 1 “Dracula’s Tragedy” really could have been a stronger. It’s a good set-up to the cast and work environment, but the disease-of-the week death was a bit weak for my taste. I’ll rate this episode: Meh

Episode 2 “The Lost City of Idols” takes us behind the scenes of the idol world, when an overworked idol drops dead. It’s a little cut and dry on the plotline, sort of like they were going for social commentary via sensationalism. I suppose it does the job, but it was another: Meh

Episode 3 “Assassin” was a strange ‘little’ mystery that was actually pretty sad. Opposites attract, or rather – patients with opposite diseases attract and team up to murder for money to fix themselves. A solid: Fair

Episode 4 “God’s Daughter” brings out the supernatural when a possessed daughter murders her own mother. Is there actually possession involved or is it just a cover-up for something else. More interesting than the actual story, we learn more about some of Detective Kang’s past demons, and see our two leads learning how to handle the other. Fair

Episode 5 “Protein Tracer” involves a kidnapping rather than an already dead body. It’s a nice change of pace as we get to see the investigation team working against a deadline instead of just wandering around looking for clues. We also start to notice something is not alright with Dr. Han. And what’s more, his team members are maybe starting to notice. Good

Episode 6 “Fan Death” is by the far the greatest of these episodes. Who killed the girl? Did the fan do it? Or is some other rare disease is the culprit. Dr. Han fights not only about cultural superstitions but his own superstitious crew. By all means, he will clear that fan’s name! ! I give this episode: Outstanding

Episode 7 “Paper Doll” had to me, one of the most interesting diseases-of-the-week, with a unique and sympathetic victim. It’s also adds another step to what will be our finale. Just who is it that’s watching Dr. Han and what does he want? Good

Episode 8 “Last Present” was another heartbreaking episode. Usually I leave my emotions at the door for victims and their fates, but this one got me crying unexpectedly for a girl who would literally die if she expressed any emotions. Also, Dr. Han starts to investigate the strange circumstances of his ‘Thanatos’ stalker, and a team member discovers the secret of his disease. It’s completely: Outstanding

Episodes 9 & 10 “Thanatos” introduces in person one of the creepiest, most gruesome, but ultimately relatable villains in the form of a Thanatos-loving psychopath. This two-parter episode takes the story back from the episodic formula and the investigation team works together to save their own. Outstanding

Psychopath with a gun, and a lot of other creative methods of killing.


As long as I was in the mood for this type of story, God’s Quiz really made my day. So if the genre is right, then I suspect this could be a great show. Personally though, it’s not really my kind of show, which is why I probably spent a great deal of time thinking about the overall feel of the story after I finished watching it when it no longer felt so burdensome to watch. Oh well, as you can see – I bothered to make this review so I evidently liked it well enough. At some point, I may even watch Season 2.

The best part of God’s Quiz is in the human interactions, especially in the main cast and investigation team. The overall plot arc really brought it together too, and I love the contrast of personalities Ryu Deok Hwan put into his character as someone who often seems shallow, but underneath is really a deeply contemplative human being. Unfortunately, I just wish more could’ve been focused on these things and less on the episodic cases. I guess though, it’s just not going to happen.


  1. So funny. We have completely point of views but both seemed to enjoy it (me more so than you). I hadn't actually thought about it that I love the crime dramas that this is modeled after. From a story and writing standpoint I thought this show was really well done. Dr Han is probably on my top 10 list of Kdrama characters. Have you checked out the other seasons? I watched 2 which was more exciting but wasn't as well written but haven't seen 3. (I'm afraid to see what they've done with Dr. Han)

    1. Haha, yeah I typically do not enjoy crime dramas, and I avoid them like the plague on regular TV. However, since it's Korean, I made an exception for God's Quiz xD

      I loved Dr. Han! and if I made up a character list, he'd be pretty high up there as well. I'll watch season 2 this year sometime, but now you've got me worried about what'll happen in season 3. Oh noes!

  2. Totally fell in love with this show for Dr. Han. Ryu Deok Hwan's awesomeness cannot be denied! And our loveable psychopath? That actor...I've only seen him in bit roles elsewhere which shocks me as he did an amazing job playing our death god.

    Season 2 - good but not as good as 1

    Season 3 - still need to finish but I miss the female detective.

    1. That actor was phenomenal! He should be getting more roles just for that performance. That's sad.