Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Blood Free, on Hulu

Considering Greenpeace blocked the cultivation of life-saving Vitamin A-enriched “Golden” rice in the Philippines, how do you think environmentalists would respond to entrepreneur Yoon Ja-yu’s laboratory-cultured meat and vegetables? Judging from the unhinged protestors outside her corporate offices, probably not well. In fact, she receives so many death-threats, she needs a bodyguard of Woo Chae-woon’s butt-kicking caliber. However, the former Korean Naval officer has his own agenda in the ten-episode Blood Free, which is now streaming on Hulu.

Woo showed up just in time, soon after a stockbreeder deliberately took a header off an overpass, onto Yoon’s SUV, in protest of the economic threat her company, Blood Free, represented to his livelihood. Soon thereafter, her lab’s computers are hijacked by a ransomware gang. Not so coincidentally, Woo had an encounter with the same gang during his military career.

His presence is not a coincidence either. The former president, Lee Mun-gyu helped facilitate his recruitment. Several years ago, Yoon was present when a terrorist bombing killed dozens of people and forced the amputation of Lee’s legs (along with his political career). Since then, Woo and Lee have suspected the official story was a little too pat and convenient.

Initially, Woo intends to investigate Yoon, but he gets distracted saving her life repeatedly. Clearly, someone has it in for her. The suspects include a Shining Path-style terrorist group, Park Dae-seong, the chairman of Blood Free’s closest corporate competitors (and awkwardly Lee’s son-in-law), as well as every farmer, rancher, and fisherman in Korea.

Although Yoon talks a green game (her company is called Blood Free, after all), the series does not feel very environmentally focused. In fact, there is sometimes a
Fountainhead-Atlas Shrugged vibe, as the government and special interests constantly try to pull down the innovative company Yoon has built with her blood, sweat, and capital. On the other hand, the storyline of terrorist-collaborators hiding in the upper echelons of government and industry is very much in the tradition of paranoid, post-Watergate thrillers (maybe there are some similarities with The Terminal List too).

Regardless, Ju Ji-hoon is as steely and hardnosed as it gets portraying Woo. He is not a superman, because Superman never bleeds, but his many cuts and scrapes just make him look tougher. Han Hyo-jo is also terrific playing the outwardly driven and inwardly sensitive Yoon. Lee Mu-saeng, Jun Suk-ho, Park Ji-yeon, and Kim Sang-ho also add lot of color as Yoon’s suspicious lieutenants. However, nobody can out-sleaze Lee Hee-jun as Seonu Jae, the Prime Minister (and the son of Park and grandson of Lee. It’s small world, isn’t it?).

Blood Free
is one of those rare series that maybe could have used another episode or two to fully do justice to its conclusion. Halfway through episode ten, viewers will wonder if they have enough time, even allowing for the inevitable cliffhanger ending. There is maybe a small measure of resolution, but only just a little.

Be that as it may, it is highly entertaining to watch Woo beat and brawl his way to the truth. It is also nice to see a capitalist risk-taker like Yoon get credit for trying to make the world a better, more profitable place. Highly recommended for fans of
The Terminal List and two-fisted K-dramas, Blood Free is now streaming on Hulu.