The new Netflix thriller is proof that Korean storytellers still have it when it comes to revenge tales. I’m not sure why they’re so keen on this genre, but it seems to have worked grossly well for them since time immemorial. Going all the way back to the Vengeance trilogy and the most recent popular show, The Glory, it’s a subgenre that mostly finds success. Although you can’t really call Mask Girl original because, at the end of the day, every little detail of the show feels somehow familiar, it is the way it is presented that makes it unique. Mask Girl follows Kim Mo-Mi, an ordinary office worker by day and a cam-girl by night who gets embroiled in a murder mystery because of her night job. Mo-Mi’s story is poignant right from the start. She’s the ugly duckling that nobody wants anything to do with. Mo-Mi’s insecurities stem from parental disregard, along with a heavy dose of bullying. Mo-Mi’s story may be relatable to a lot of the public, especially in a country where getting plastic surgery is as common as getting a part-time job. The seven-episode series is fast-paced and keeps you on your toes from the start. It’s extremely entertaining, and the time that it is set in—the late 2000s—makes it even more intriguing somehow. You see busy streets with people dressed in black and gray corporate wear, which contrasts completely with Mo-Mi’s style at night.
Visually, the show is captivating, and the color scheme is stunning. There’s this one particular episode where Mo-Mi wears this green and purple outfit, which also happens to be the color of the room she’s in. These little details make it more polished and stunning to watch. Mo-Mi is played by multiple actresses throughout the show because she happens to get surgery and is on the run, but somehow each of them manages to bring out their own charms while still maintaining the original Mo-Mi throughout the show. You never once feel disoriented seeing a different face when you hear the name. At least not more than seeing a friend who got their face done. Of course, Mo-Mi is no saint; she has her own vices, and we see why she developed them. The show really focuses on the nature vs. nurture aspect of things and pushes us to see how bad parenting can really make or break a human being. The show is linear, but there are time jumps, and even though sometimes you feel like you’re finding out about the past of a random character, you realize it’s completely relevant by the end of the episode. Mask Girl really emphasizes the consequences of one’s actions on their family. Episode 6 has to be one of the best in the season, and it’s a shame I have to wait a little longer to see the finale.
The story is woven tight, with no stitch out of place. Every actor does an incredible job at portraying their twisted character, and not a single character is flawless. Everyone treads the line of gray, and you find yourself being considerate towards all of them. In a murder mystery, we commonly see only one side of the story: that of the killer, the investigator, or the victim’s family. In Mask Girl, we get a taste of all these sides and more. Some episodes feel straight up like a mystery thriller, whereas others bring in the drama of finding a friendship so dear you would give up your life to protect the other. Although it seems very uneven, it all feels extremely smooth. Like how the waterbed makes Mo-Mi feel in the show, the story will leave you feeling uneasy with the ups and downs it puts you through. While some of these stories may come across as superficial with no real substance, Mask Girl is extremely thorough in its presentation, leaving no crumbs. I say all this after having only crossed the midpoint of the show.
There’s nothing extraordinary in the dialogue, but it feels very authentic to the characters. The direction is noir-like, with mood lighting and dramatic transitions. There are certain scenes where a person blacks out, and then you see through their eyes. One particular scene in episode 3, where Mo-Mi looks in the mirror, is incredible to look at. Although some of the blood splatters look extremely fake and wannabe Dexter, we can let them go because of how great the rest of the show is. The costume design is really good, and the color palette changes with the feelings of the main character, which really adds to the overall feeling of the show. As I’ve said earlier, there are a lot of familiar things in the show; there’s a scene that looks like it was taken out of Basic Instinct, there’s the knife-wielding incel, and more such inspiration in the show, but it never comes across as copied and meshes well into the plot.
While our main characters all seem to be looking for retribution, whether for their children, themselves, or their friends, there’s some kind of vengeful agenda. All the women in the show are fantastic, and you can’t really say the show is gruesome, but it doesn’t feel like it’s holding back in any way. We just get to see as much as we need. Mask Girl is a story about mothers as much as it is about daughters. It’s about how small comments and little things can really impact people and their minds. Mo-Mi’s entire life is wasted thinking about her insecurities. The one time she begins to forget it and be normal, it turns out to be all fake, and she realizes there’s no turning back from where she is.
I can say that the show is ready to take us through the moral dilemma of each and every character who does wrong. It’s almost as if we must empathize with them all before they do something terrifying or get swallowed by their vengeful desires. What is at the core of these murders, and why would someone go so far? That is one of the many questions the show poses and simultaneously tries to answer. There’s definitely a certain direction the show pushes us in, and it’s possible the writers had some mommy issues, but jokes aside, Mask Girl is a breath of fresh air. I’d give the show 4 out of 5 stars, but keep in mind that this review is of the first four episodes. It’s possible the show will take a downward turn, but I can imagine it’ll continue to excel, and that is my hope. There’s a lot of profanity, violence, sexual violence, and other R-rated content on the show. Make sure to check for trigger warnings before seeing the show if you’re sensitive. If not, go check out Mask Girl on Netflix for some thrills and exciting dance numbers (the song won’t leave my brain).