From a young age, numerous girls are informed that they don’t meet the standards of beauty, thinness, or any other societal expectations. This can have a significant negative impact on their mental well-being.
“Mask Girl,” a gripping new Korean thriller series adapted from a webtoon of the same title, is filled with murder, hidden identities, and tales of plastic surgery. It stands out among Netflix’s K-drama offerings by making audacious choices akin to the impactful social commentary seen in “Squid Game.” The show takes bold risks with numerous twists and turns, leading to an impressive start. However, as the complexity grows, “Mask Girl” struggles to maintain its initial brilliance.
This suspenseful thriller, which combines genres, explores the journey of Kim Mo-mi, a woman in her twenties whose appearance leads to persistent insecurities and societal marginalization, ultimately resulting in serious consequences. The tale of revenge spans decades and portrays Mo-mi through the performances of three different actors: Lee Han-byeol, Ko Hyun-jung, a former Miss Korea runner-up who later won the Baeksang Arts Award, and Nana, a singer-actor from K-pop groups After School and Orange Caramel. Fans of K-dramas will also identify Yeom Hye-ran from “The Glory” and “The Uncanny Encounter.”
At its core, “Mask Girl” revolves around a woman, Kim Mo-mi, who has endured the label of “ugliness” as bestowed upon her by various characters. Early on, Mo-mi’s dreams of fame were hindered by her appearance, exacerbated by hurtful comments from her mother and peers. Now an adult stuck in a mundane accounting job, Mo-mi lives out her fantasies online, engaging in flirtatious dances on live streams while concealing her face with a mask. A crush that remains unreciprocated triggers an irreversible chain of events.
This detached theme connects to the show’s notable and somewhat whimsical aspect: characters portrayed by different actors after undergoing miraculous cosmetic surgery. Mo-mi is played by three actresses throughout the series, each representing different stages of her appearance transformation. This technique, reminiscent of soap opera conventions, adds to the melodramatic ambiance of “Mask Girl.”
Yet, the series eventually succumbs to a common pitfall of melodramatic storytelling, prioritizing shocking plot developments over consistent character development. In its latter half, “Mask Girl” strives for dramatic twists that feel contrived, potentially evoking frustration from viewers rather than awe. The show loses its initial clarity as it progresses, shifting into a partially developed revenge narrative that fails to address the earlier themes raised. While “Mask Girl” starts strong, brimming with innovative ideas for portraying ordinary individuals, it struggles to navigate its own intricate layers.
All six episodes of “Mask Girl” are currently streaming on Netflix.