Side dish: My significant other suddenly got it into his head to make pyttipanna yesterday, a kind of Swedish hash. He used some kebab left over from a barbecue in the dish, but if you want to go more traditional, here’s a recipe.
An unidentified, mysterious man checks his email on the computer. On the screen, we can read that his name is David Lee (Seo In Guk), and that he’s just received an email about a murder of a 20-year-old woman in Bangbae-dong. As he scrolls through crime scene photos, he tells us in voiceover that the story of his life was paused in place, but that someone has just sent him a message to restart it for him.
In a police station, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cha Ji Ahn (Jang Na Ra) comes up to the other members of the Special Investigation Team, hotheaded veteran Son Myung Woo (Min Sung Wook); cheerful rookie Min Seung Joo (Kim Jae Young); and thoughtful Choi Eun Bok (Son Seung Won) to inform them that another body has been found, in Mapo Dowha-dong, similar to the case in Bangbae-dong. They all go to the crime scene in an apartment block, discussing the possibility that it might be a serial murder. One of them reminds the others that their new team leader is supposed to arrive today, and they assume that he’ll be coming to meet them at the crime scene.
In the victim’s apartment, they find Lee Hyun (aka David Lee) already there. While Ji Ahn recognizes him, the other team members mistake him for their new team leader, Kang Eun Hyeok (Lee Chun Hee). When asked, Hyun avoids the question of his own identity, and instead starts grilling the team about their evidence on both the Bangbae-dong case and the one in front of them. While Ji Ahn gapes open-mouthed, Hyun gives a rundown of the killer’s characteristics, as well as the commonalities between the two victims.
As the real Eun Hyeok makes his way to the crime scene, the flabbergasted team wonders at the source of Hyun’s information on both crimes. Instead of answering their questions, Hyun shushes them and points upward. The team, including Ji Ahn, goes on high alert, but their concentration is interrupted by the arrival of their new team leader, Eun Hyeok. As he introduces himself, the team starts to relax and lower their guns, until Seung Joo asks the obvious question: who is Hyun? But, he’s already gone when they turn around to ask him.
Ji Ahn chases after him almost immediately, but the rest of the team is too bemused to follow. It’s only when Myung Woo realizes that Hyun might be the criminal that they set off in pursuit, leaving Eun Bok to check Eun Hyeok’s ID.
Hyun is about to get into a taxi when Ji Ahn catches up. Despite locking eyes, Hyun just gets into the cab and drives off. Ji Ahn gives chase on foot, and he leads her along through the streets, but doesn’t actually stop until she calls out his name. Finally, Ji Ahn turns a corner and runs straight into his chest. Hyun takes a moment to steady her, and then asks her how she knows him.
In voiceover, Ji Ahn explains that it’s been 20 years since she met Hyun, and she has been stalking him ever since. We see Ji Ahn and Hyun at different ages, as she follows him while he goes about his day. Out loud, Ji Ahn avoids the question. Hyun asks if it’s her, and again, instead of answer, Ji Ahn locks handcuffs on him and grins.
At the polices station, Ji Ahn interrogates Hyun with the help of Myung Woo and Seung Joo. They don’t readily believe his story about receiving an email from the National Police, but it’s Seung Joo who asks the relevant questions of how he got into the crime scene, and how he knew so much about both crimes with such little information. Hyun explains that he has higher-than-average abilities to read information, but he can’t resist needling the short-tempered Myung Woo. Their repartee is interrupted by the arrival of Eun Bok, who explains that they have no reason to hold him, since his story checks out.
Hyun has already concluded the same thing, and shows himself out, over their protests. The team tries to prevent his departure, but they’re stopped by the arrival of Eun Hyeok and the planning manager, Hyun Ji Soo (Im Ji Eun). Ji Soo repeats that his story checks out, while Eun Hyeok attempts to introduce himself again, to no avail; Ji Ahn is too busy chasing a rapidly departing Hyun down.
Ji Ahn catches up to him in the elevator, and tries to get him to admit that he had a different reason for coming to the crime scene. He refuses to tell her unless she tells him how she knows him, but it ends at a stalemate. Ji Ahn yells at Hyun not to leave the country as he walks away.
On his way out, Hyun considers her question as to why he really came back to Korea, and he thinks back to the email. A painting in the background of one of the crime scene images prompts one of his lost memories, of a drawing from his childhood with his father and brother. He believes that it’s a signal to him, and immediately calls his boss (the dean of John Jay College of Criminal Justice) for a leave of absence.
Upon arrival in Korea, at the airport, Hyun looks around at all the symbols at the airport, and realizes that the crime scene contains symbols representing flag semaphore, and quickly decodes them to find a set of coordinates. It was these coordinates that led him to the crime scene in the apartment block in Mapo Dowha-dong. As he takes a cab ride, he wonders who it was that was sending him these signals. Hyun’s destination turns out to be a house, and as he walks through it, he flashes back to memories, of himself and his brother, Min as kids, with their father, police psychiatrist, Lee Joong Min (Jeon Kwang-Leol). His final memory is of himself finding the body of his father, face-down in a pool of blood.
Our next shot of the house is a flashback to 1996, where we see Joong Min come upon Hyun as a child, playing in the dirt. When Joong Min asks him why he’s not helping with the move, Hyun sasses back at him, but they’re interrupted by the arrival of Min, demanding to know where his drawing materials are. Hyun goes inside to help him, while his concerned father digs around in the dirt where he was playing. He comes upon an animal paw, which he quickly covers up, but Hyun has already returned. Hyun tells his father that the animal was already dead when he found it.
Inside a prison, inmate Lee Joon Young (Do Kyung Soo or EXO’s DO) is brought to a room, where he requests the guard to open a window, since he’s sensitive to smell. The guard takes offence when Joon Young tells him to change his skin products. By the time Joong Min walks in to the room, he finds the guard gasping and handcuffed on the floor. Joong Min sends the guard away, as Joon Young opens a window.
As Joong Min begins his interview, Joon Young recounts living in fear of beatings by his mother. Joong Min cuts him off by replaying his past interviews, where the perpetrator was his grandfather and his uncle. He points out that Joon Young has no mother, grandfather nor uncle, but Joon Young is unperturbed. He tells Joong Min that he was a normal child who simply wondered why he couldn’t hurt other people.
On his way home, Joong Min runs into two policemen outside of his house, who turn out to be his fans. They warn him that someone in the area has been hurting dogs, and as Joong Min goes home, he finds Hyun playing in the dark at the same spot where he found the buried animal.
But, it’s just a nightmare, as Joong Min is woken up at his desk by Hyun, who has brought him coffee. As Joong Min reassures Hyun that he’s just having a nap, Hyun’s attention is caught by the photos of serial killers on Joong Min’s desk. Hyun wonders how they can all look so normal, but Joong Min cautions him that evil can hide behind the most angelic of faces. He warns Hyun not to speak to strangers, and also that he’d like him to act more like a normal kid.
At this tender young age, Hyun has already learned sarcasm as he asks his dad to go to the amusement park, and adds that he will no longer take care of Min, pay the bills or manage Joong Min’s schedule or coffee breaks like he used to. Joong Min quickly drinks his coffee, and praises Hyun’s coffee making skills. Hyun reminds him that it’s time to leave, and to take his jacket and bag. But, before he gets out the door, Hyun asks Joong Min why people can’t hurt other people. Joong Min is stricken as he flashes back to Joon Young asking the same question.
And, we’re back in the present, with an adult Hyun in the same house, confronting a phantom of his childhood self.
The members of the Special Investigation team are getting an introductory lecture from Eun Hyeok, who congratulates himself on his own awesomeness in joining the team, instead of following the expected elite path. The rest of the team, meanwhile, are busy pondering how Hyun gleaned so much information from the two crime scenes. They only tune into Eun Hyeok when he mentions Hyun, but stop listening again when he simply asks who he is.
Hyun digs through boxes at his old house, until he turns up his brother’s sketchbook. He flips through a bunch of creepy drawings, until he turns up one of a two-headed boy with his foot on a dead bird. He pulls out his phone to compare it to a painting at the first crime scene.
Back at the police station, Hyun is still the hot topic, as the team members continue to ignore Eun Hyeok, while he awkwardly tries to join in on their conversation. Seung Joo is impressed by Hyun’s deductive abilities, while Myung Woo is skeptical of his credentials as a professor. Eun Bok, on the other hand, confirms that Hyun’s credentials are legit and that he even wrote a book. Eun Hyeok suggests approaching Hyun to get whatever information he has on the case, and the rest of the team agrees. Ji Ahn volunteers to ask Hyun for his cooperation, but the team isn’t convinced she can do it. Ji Ahn is met with complete silence when she suggests that she’ll fall back on her looks if she can’t find another way to convince him.
Meanwhile, back at his childhood home, Hyun is busy cleaning in an apron and kerchief, until he gets a call from Ji Ahn. It’s clear her method of persuasion isn’t going to be sweetness, when she leads in with surprise that Hyun didn’t give them a fake phone number. Hyun already knows that she’s calling to request help on the investigation, but Ji Ahn won’t admit to it. When she finally gives in and makes the request, he refuses it anyway, since he’s too busy cleaning his house. Hyun hangs up as Ji Ahn curses at him.
Back at the house, Hyun notices that there are missing items, and figures out that someone has been in there. He looks around to discover that his father’s memo book is missing, but some tapes of Joon Young’s interviews have reappeared.
Hyun flashes back to his childhood, when he put on the same apron and kerchief to clean the house. He notices his father’s bag sitting on a chair and calls him, but gets no answer. His father is at the police station, chatting with Ji Soo, who asks him if anything is troubling him. It turns out she’s the one who’s troubled, since she’s getting a divorce. Instead of confiding in her, Joong Min asks if she can set up Joon Young’s last interview in the central office.
Little Hyun carries his father’s bag into the central police station. His reputation as a genius must have preceded him, because the police officers there spend their time testing his arithmetic skills rather than showing him where to find his father. A smartass among them drops the contents of a box of matches and asks him how many have come out. Hyun tells them it’s 571, and when they doubt him, he tells them to count it. Distracted by counting out the pile, they leave Hyun to wander off by himself to find his father.
Joong Min, meanwhile, is in the interview with Joon Young, and ready to take a break. Significantly, he puts down his pen before he leaves the room to take a walk. Hyun continues to wander around, but is apparently not enough of a genius to avoid ending up alone in the interrogation room with Joon Young.
Hyun is intelligent enough to know who Joon Young, and curious enough to wonder how Joon Young ended up the way he did. Joon Young is all too happy to explain, and uses the metaphor of how ducklings imprint on the first person they see after birth to explain how humans have a critical period while their brains develop, which sets their behaviour for the rest of their lives. When Hyun asks what his critical period was like, Joon Young turns the question around at him, asking him what his critical period is like. He asks Hyun if his father trusts him.
Upstairs, Ji Soo finds Joong Min and asks him if he’s seen Hyun. Surprised, Joong Min goes off to search of Hyun, but it’s too late; down in the interrogation room, Joon Young is removing his handcuffs. When he gets them off, he holds his hand out to Hyun, who hesitantly reciprocates. As Joong Min watches from the doorway, Joon Young tells Hyun a secret that we don’t get to hear.
Joong Min belatedly hurries into the room and drags Hyun out, leaving behind a grinning Joon Young. Joong Min hands Hyun off to Ji Soo upstairs, and goes back to the interrogation room. As he packs up, Joong Min tells Joon Young that they likely won’t see each other again. Before he leaves, Joon Young asks him if he’s worried about Hyun, if that’s why he kept asking about Joon Young’s childhood. Joon Young taunts Joong Min about his worries that Hyun will turn out to be a monster like him, until Joong Min self-control snaps and he beats Joon Young up.
Later, Joong Min writes in his notebook at home about his experience with Joon Young, about how Joon Young had noticed his fears for Hyun and used them against him. Despite this, Joong Min goes searching in the kids’ room, and finds Min’s sketchbooks. When he asks Min who drew the disturbing pictures within, Min confesses that it was Hyun who did it, but asks Joong Min not to tell Hyun. Min tells Joong Min that Hyun can’t be trusted.
Joong Min contemplates the evidence before him with the help of a psychiatrist; that Hyun is a bedwetter who is cruel to animals and sets fires, which seem to confirm his belief that Hyun is a psychopath. Joong Min writes down his thoughts in his notebook, which Hyun reads shortly thereafter. That night, Joong Min goes into Hyun’s room and promises to protect him from Joon Young. He thinks back to Joon Young telling him that he would leave the prison and come to meet with his son.
Later, Joong Min calls Hyun into a basement room, equipped with a bed, a table and two chairs. It looks like a prison cell, and as he explains to Hyun that he’ll be living there from now on, it becomes clear that a prison is exactly what it is. As he listens to Joong Min, Hyun thinks back to Joon Young’s words that people become what other people see them as. Joon Young asks Hyun how his father sees him. Back in the basement room, Hyun looks into Joong Min’s eyes as the episode ends.
I guess it should come as no surprise, given my past experience with crime dramas, that parts of this story are so unbelievable that they jarred me out of an otherwise enjoyable viewing experience. One example was when Hyun wandered into Joon Young’s interrogation room as a child, there was neither a guard nor a lock on the door to stop him. I’m not sure why, if Joon Young has repeatedly demonstrated that he can get out of his handcuffs, they didn’t use something else to restrain him, or at least lock the door on him.
On the other hand, if you can swallow these bits of chicanery on the part of the writer, this was a well-paced first episode, nicely balanced between flashbacks and the present. It did a good job of effectively laying out the foundation of the story, and introducing the principal players. While we have minimal insight into the relationship between the two lead characters, we do have a pretty good glimpse into the character of Lee Hyun, and Cha Ji Ahn’s team of special investigators. And, on a slightly more shallow note, both Seo In Guk and Jang Na Ra looked pretty good.
Another point in the show’s favour is the interesting visual style. I liked how they used skewed camera angles for both Hyun and Joon Young, to convey how different they are from everyone else. I also liked how the past and the present had distinct colour palettes, that reflected the tone of both.
Anyway, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m interested enough to carry on. Here’s hoping some logic enters into it when they get back into police work.