Written by Sung Cho-yi
Directed by Lee Jung-heum
There is a brilliant sense of exploring the origins of what has led to the events of Inspector Koo in this block of episodes, but where so much of the story has been centred on its titular character, episode five finds itself eagerly getting to grips with the early life of its antagonist and with it asking a surprisingly intense question; what is it that makes a villain?
Villains can be fun, and K is a particularly entertaining foil for Kyung-yi and her team of investigators, but one must ask themselves what it is that leads to somebody becoming a bad person. Some movies and television series aren’t really that interested in seeing what makes their villains tick; they just want someone for their cool hero to go up against and win the day over. Given that we’ve been privy to K’s time as a student, and with it the moment she killed her first victim, one cannot help but wonder what was the catalyst that led to the moment when murder seemed like a viable option for her to use as a means for achieving a sense of justice.
Of course, Kyung-yi may not see herself as a villain of the piece. Her choice of victims screams out a sense of someone who believes they are righting wrongs, but she is still someone who is dispensing violent justice when she herself frequently displays sociopathic behaviour. Her entire life it seems is a performance and only we the audience, not to mention her only friend and partner in crime Gun Wook, are privy to those moments when we see the real her.
Even her aunt isn’t aware of the real her, although you get the sense that it may only be a matter of time before she does and it’s hard to figure out what the ramifications of that might be.
The sense of justice that surrounds K’s motivations gets mentioned by Kyung-yi in episode six’s massively entertaining fight sequence where, after weeks of build-up in suspense and antagonism between them, they finally let rip with a fight that is simultaneously thrilling and funny in equal measure. It manages to be well staged, but it also has its moment of levity to go with some surprising amounts of physical violence.
For anyone that is sticking with the series at this stage, every week we’re witnessing a narrative that is getting better and better. There is a great command of storytelling and tone here, and every instalment leaves you frothing at the mouth for the next episode.
The cliffhanger at the end of episode six is a brilliant one, calling to mind the final scenes of the feature film The Usual Suspects, even down to the image of a falling cup smashing on the ground and with it the prospect of revelation just dangling at the edge of the story.
Whether or not the following episode will follow through in a manner that the audience is expecting is something that we’ll just have to wait and see, but the most powerful weapon at this week’s disposal is its explorations of just what it is that makes these characters who they are.
Both our hero and villain are allowed moments of vulnerability in a manner that we’ve not really been privy to recently but which the story frequently hints at, but it’s Yi-kyung who we’re allowed just a little bit more of a chance to explore through her childhood and that dark incident in the woods when she lost her parents.
Violence and murder are a pivotal part of her backstory, which doesn’t really come as a surprise. We never witness the moment when her father killed her mother in those Seattle woods, but the build-up, the argument and the image of Yi-kyung’s father dragging her mother out of the car to her death is disturbing enough.
It gives the character a semblance of sympathy for a change. Her cheery demeanour and inability to comprehend the carnage she leaves in her wake means that while she is an entertaining character to watch, made even more so by Kim Hye-jun’s wickedly fun performance, the series is finally starting to lay down the breadcrumbs for something approaching psychological realism in a manner that it has only hinted at prior to this.
There is still some humorous fun to be had. An encounter with a conspiracy theorist brings with it a surprising reference to The X-Files, while the discovery of a handwritten ‘confession’ gives a drunken Kyung-yi a moment of vulnerability that feels real in a manner that we rarely get to see outside of flashbacks to her life before her husband’s death, and even then this feels like something substantially different to the steely resolve she displays when in detective mode.
Better yet, there is a sense of sustained suspense trickling into each episode. K’s next victim might very well be her most high profile yet, and you get the sense that Director Yong’s role might be at the cusp of some sort of revelation itself at some point in the not-too-distant future.
A chilling conversation with Je-hee lays down just how much of a potentially dark threat Yong might very well be, and couple that with the potential reveal of Santa’s motives at the very end of episode six, and it’s all getting really good. That final scene will leave you screaming for the next episode.