Under the Skin (猎罪图鉴) – A young Shen Yi (right) was an ambitious, self-confident and outspoken artist – the pride of his professors and headed for an amazing future in the arts. This worldview upended when he became the unwitting assistant to the murder of a well-respected officer in the police. What Shen Yi thought was just an opportunity to showcase his skills with an age progression drawing actually revealed the identity of the undercover agent to a gang of highly organized and brutal criminals. Caught up in the investigation and incapable of recalling the person who ordered the drawing, Shen Yi runs afoul of the dead officer’s young protege – Captain Du Cheng (left) – who blamed him for the murder.
Now five years later, Shen Yi has decided to use his talents to save victims and joins the police as the new sketch artist. Neither is quite thrilled to learn he has been assigned to Du Cheng’s team. Can the two work out their differences to solve the cases headed their way. And is it possible, that now. . . working together. . . . they might be able to solve the five-year-old case and put an end to both their demons?
“Under the Skin” is definitely one of the better Chinese mysteries in a while and 100% worth a watch. It offered a fascinating discussion of “perception” and the role it plays in criminal investigations. Examining how the police and witnesses’ perception of the crime and crime scene can influence or distort the reality that exists within the setting. And how small changes to a scene can completely alter how the setting is perceived and how the people involved are understood to be connected.
The show worked through 5-6 crimes (each “story” taking up a few episodes) with the larger mystery of who killed the police detective five years ago underlying the later stories. In terms of unique plotlines, this show exceeded expectations – they went far beyond the usual romantic triangle with a touch of jealous slaughter on the side. The integration of small tidbits of historic intersections of art and crime were a fascinating addition as well.
Part of the series is a bit graphic but mostly in terms of its role as a forensic crime show. Some of Shen Yi’s ability lies in rebuilding faces from skulls and that can be a bit gruesome. But in general, it’s not too bad. There is not a lot of comedy and no particular romance — it’s most a show about the two men (and the police team in general) helping each other grow beyond a shared trauma and internal grief. Along the way, they strategically utilize art, psychology, and good old-fashioned detective work to uncover the trauma and motives behind the crimes that arise.
Although most of the stories start off with the “whodunnit“, they also spend quite a bit of time on the why it happened. Caught up in their own desire for revenge, both Shen Yi and Du Cheng are guided through the motives and rationale of others who took their stressors a step too far. Pushed to understand both the criminal and the victim, their profiling skills improve and strengthen as they move towards the conclusion and face their greatest threat yet.