Crime thrillers are my weakness. If you ask me to choose between a romantic saga or a mind-blowing thriller, I would always choose the latter. But unfortunately, the Thai BL genre is littered with shows that literally have no substance or credibility. We have tons of college romances at every juncture where the Faculty of Engineering students have romantic sojourns. However, series that feature the investigation of malfeasance, rape, or murder or the stories behind them are pretty much nonexistent. So I was damn excited when WeTV announced their new Original Series “Manner of Death” in collaboration with TV Thunder Official.
—Edited by TheFNGee
I also had the opportunity to interview Sammon Scene, Author of the book on which the adaptation is based, and it was an interesting conversation. She pretty much laid down the structure plan for this show and gave us a glimpse into her state of mind while she was scripting this suspense thriller. The first two episodes premiered on 30th November to everyone’s anticipation, and the reactions were pretty much as predicted. Have the main leads Max Nattapol, and Tul Pakorn, hit the nail with their performance, or was it amiss? Was this drama worth the hype and excitement? Let’s start with a dissection of some scenes because we have a lot to talk about.
- Max Nattapol portrays one of the main leads, Tan. He is a sponsor as well as a teacher at his town’s middle school. He is also the suspect in the murder case of his girlfriend Jane.
- Tul Pakorn, as the second lead, plays the role of Dr. Bunjit. He is a medical examiner who discovers some anomalies in the death of his close friend Jane and unknowingly becomes the target of a killer.
- Great Sapol plays the role of Inspector M. He is the investigator of the killer case. He is a fun-loving person and also friends with Dr. Bun.
- MD Nutthapong portrays the role of Oat. He is Dr. Bun’s intern and works with him in assisting with the ME’s duties.
- Meiko Chonnikan plays the role of Jane Jira. She is Dr. Bun’s close childhood friend and Tan’s girlfriend and works as a middle school teacher.
- Mint Nattavara plays the character of Jane’s elder sister, Rung.
- Foei Patara plays the role of Prosecutor Peud. He is Dr. Bun’s childhood friend. He seems to have an interest in Jane as well.
- Actor A Suraphan plays the role of Peud’s father, Por.
- Bhu Pudis plays the role of Tat, an unruly gang leader.
- Putter Dechphisit plays Tat’s apparent love interest, Sorawit.
As Dr. Bunjit returns to his small home town of Viangpha Mork to work as a medical examiner, his arrival coincides with a murder case where the teenage victim seems to be sexually assaulted. As he further investigates the case, the findings are rather crude. While he is figuring out the “Manner of Death,” Bunjit meets with his old childhood friend Jane. A rather surprising encounter with the handsome Tan at a nightclub leaves Bunjit reeling from shock. Later, when he discovers that Tan is actually Jane’s boyfriend, Jane is found dead the same night, and her body points at anomalies that rule out suicide. Will Dr.Bunjit be able to figure out the mystery behind these killings? Is Tan responsible for Jane’s death? How will Bun investigate this case and bring the truth to light when the murderer targets him instead?
My Opinion on The First Two Episodes
Viangpha Mork, the dainty small hometown of our main protagonist Dr. Bunjit, seems to the epicenter of this storyline. The locales around town rather remind me of my own hometown here in India – the Nilgiri Mountains. I’m actually enjoying how the show’s producers’ have paid attention to the little details like the landscapes and the local markets, which paint the picture of modest rural life. So, the first question that comes to your mind is – Why return to this place after 15 years? The answer might be either Bun is looking for some peace and quiet, away from the bustling city life, or he is hiding something or from someone.
Spontaneity at its best, as the show traverses quickly into the death of the first victim, Natty. A school teenager, Natty, is found dead on the streets from excessive bleeding from her uterus. The scene switches right to the autopsy table, and I was hit with a feeling of deja vu. A few months back, I was watching the popular Chinese Crime thriller “Medical Examiner Dr. Qin.” The show was adapted from the novel “The Eleventh Finger” by Qin Ming and focuses on the highly proficient Chief of Forensics, Dr. Qin. Along with quirky assistant Li Da Bao and detective friend Lin Tao, the trio solve a variety of bizarre criminal cases.
The premise in both these shows is similar. While Bun was examining Natty’s body and questioning his intern Oat, it took me back to Dr. Qin’s first episode. I was amazed by the similarities because both Bun and Dr. Qin switch effortlessly from being a Forensics Expert to a Teacher. The way they question their Assistant and needle their way through the autopsy is shockingly similar.
The show’s centerpiece is Dr. Bunjit, as the narrative is from his point of view. It’s rather exciting because we hear his concise thoughts and observations as he makes new acquaintances, the most surprising one being Tan. As the town Inspector M invites our Doctor for a fun night out, Bun gets excessively drunk and unknowingly bumps into Tan. The scene is so surreal because it highlights the two in silhouette as Bun plants a kiss on the unsuspecting Tan. The surprise and shock on Tan’s face are rather intriguing because the way he softly holds and then balances Bun’s neck leaves you shell-shocked for a moment. The interest is mutual, but I kept wondering how Tan knew that Bun is a Doctor. Have they met before? Or because it is a small town, so the news travels fast. Does Tan know Bun because he is the new Medical Examiner, or is the interest merely curiosity?
When the two meet again at a birthday party, the play of emotions is quite obvious. Tan has a mysterious aura, and Bun is drawn to it, like a moth to the flame. That is until Jane introduces Tan as the sponsor of the school she works at and spills beans on their relationship. Both Tan and Bun seem to be stuck in an alternate universe with unspoken emotions forming a barrier. The next scene where Tan approaches Bun for a conversation is even more surprising. Both are apparently interested in each other but are suppressing those feelings. While Tan is a tad more obvious with his affections, Bun seems embarrassed and hesitant. The resultant play of words leaves you dumbfounded as Tan tries to needle Bun about the night they met. At first, it seems that Bun doesn’t remember anything, but later, memories of the kiss come flooding back. Their chemistry is off the charts, and the sexual tension is so thick that we could cut it with a knife. Both Max and Tul have an odd sensuality and comfort with each other, which makes their onscreen pairing so believable, you can’t help but get excited.
Towards the end of the episode, Jane takes center stage, and you wonder about this character. It’s obvious that she is worried and anxious about the death of her student Natty. Pued is another angle that I’m trying to figure out. He is both Bun and Jane’s friend and seems to have romantic inclinations for Jane. However, when Bun questions Pued about those possible feelings, Pued brushes off the concern rather quickly. But that doesn’t stop Pued from misbehaving with Jane at the party, leading to a major fight with Tan. On the surface, Tan seems like a calm and reasonable person. There must be a reason why Tan suddenly loses his temper and lashes out at Pued while Jane tries to stop the fight. Pued’s offhanded answer to Bun’s questions syncs with Tan’s obvious worry for Jane, and you wonder about their relationship. Is Jane in a secret relationship with Pued and using Tan as a front? The question might never be answered because the next morning, Jane is found dead. Until he arrives on the spot, Bun doesn’t know the victim’s identity.
You need to appreciate Tul’s acting talents in this scene. He walks in, expecting to find a random dead victim, and suddenly realizes that it is his close friend Jane. The play of emotions, the choking, and the way Bun regains control are exemplary. The fact that he just spoke to her hours earlier, and now she is sitting there lifeless in front of him, is an obvious shock. However, Bun is a thorough professional, and he suppresses his expressions while working on the initial findings. I appreciate how the show’s producers have added footnotes to the subtitles explaining the medical terms because they could be difficult to understand for laypeople. The situation turns dire when Inspector M tells Bun that Tan was the one to report Jane’s suicide.
Tan appears jittery and fidgety like he is hiding something, and Bun instantly zeroes in on that. The second session on the autopsy table seems different because the victim is Bun’s friend, and he is worn out. However, that doesn’t stop him from analyzing the body thoroughly and discussing the details with Oat. I must appreciate MD Nutthapong because although this is his second time portraying a doctor’s character role, the posture and diction are done well. Despite being paired off with a veteran actor like Tul, he manages to hold his own quite well, and his grasp on the medical terminologies is as good as Tul’s.
The second episode focuses primarily on Bun’s mindset as he tries to piece together the information at hand and figure out the manner of death. As both Inspector M and Bun are highly suspicious of Tan, our main lead’s chemistry switches from sexual to doubt and suspicion. Despite that, Tan’s attitude with Bun is rather indulgent, and you wonder whether the interest is genuine or he is just trying to manipulate Bun’s emotions or mindset. The word sparring between them in the scenes that follow set the stage for future entanglements and are on the point. While Bun directly accuses Tan of being the killer, I was wondering about Bun’s gutsy attitude. Either he believes that Tan might not hurt him, or is he simply provoking the suspect?
Some facts about the case grating on the investigative team’s nerves are the excessive bruises and the needle marks on both Jane and Natty’s bodies that point towards drug injection and sexual abuse. While Bun digs deeper, he is assaulted by the killer, who warns Bun to cite suicide in Jane’s death and leave it at that. This home invasion is quite violent in the book version, and the show’s producers have toned down the scene to make it palatable for more audiences. These scenes of violence actually redouble Bun’s insistence on finding the murderer. Tan visits Bun during his recovery, and although Bun is still suspicious of Tan, he vehemently declares that he will never stop trying to search for the answers. He is not only doing it because Jane was his friend, but because “dead bodies don’t have a voice.” The thought struck a chord with me, and I was pleased with his conviction.
Another interesting conversation with Pued grabbed my attention. While interviewing Sammon, the author talked about how “Manner of Death” combines evidence from the investigator and the body itself. Dead bodies cannot speak, and Bun listens to the unspoken words left on the body. So when Bun visualizes the entire crime scene in his mind, I was left astonished. I couldn’t help but again draw comparisons to the Chinese drama where Dr. Qin has an actual conversation with the dead body highlighting the anomalies. Here Bun inserts himself into the murderer’s mindset. Two different approaches to study the victim’s body and deliver an accurate result. The second episode ends on a major cliffhanger, and I’m looking forward to the next episode.
Will Bun accept Tan’s offer of help or continue the investigation on his own? Is Tan responsible for the deaths and simply trying to mislead the investigation?
Keep watching this space for further updates on this exciting crime thriller!
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. [See our Review Guide]