And now we come to the (all-too-soon!) end of Girl K, which I hate to say goodbye to because I feel like we’ve only just hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of what this premise could do. I know, I know, I should be grateful for what I get. But can I help it if they’ve made me greedy?
SONG OF THE DAY
Lucia with Epitone Project – “안녕, 안녕” (Goodbye, goodbye) [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Now for the matter of the grotesque experiments that Mirae is conducting on young women. In the lab, the lead scientist observes the subjects being kept on upright slabs under plastic shrouds, who look dead but are alive, as we can see from the twitching fingers and breathing movements.
A junior scientist surreptitiously downloads data from the lab computer and tucks away the mini drive. A whistleblower, perhaps?
Chairman Kwon fishes with business contacts, a police chief and a politician (Congressman Kang, from the previous episode). There’s a clear double meaning as Chairman Kwon hooks a small live fish onto his hook and says, “There’s no bait like the living kind” — just as he brings up Mirae’s new research.
The congressman speculates that his 20-year stem cell research will have required a huge number of human samples — a jab, since he knows that’s true. Contrary to the eager-to-please police chief, Congerssman Kang leaves abruptly, at which point Chairman Kwon nods at Ji-young, who understands his message.
Ji-young immediately sends a text message to Yeon-jin. New mission activated.
The rogue scientist locks up her stolen data in a public locker for safekeeping, sends a message on her cell phone, then tosses the phone to avoid being linked to it. Immediately, the transmission is picked up by the SS1 team, who traces the location.
The man who arrives to pick up the data is Dr. Choi, the ex-Mirae scientist and the congressman’s informant. He picks up the data, then recoils at the sight of Ji-young, waiting for him. This leaves Congressman Kang pacing worriedly when Dr. Choi misses their rendezvous.
Yeon-jin arrives outside his hotel suite, dressed up like a tart this time, saying coyly that she’s on familiar terms with the congressman, who called her here. She’s given the patdown, and the bodyguard frowns when he feels something strapped to her leg. He asks what it is, and she replies, “A Glock 17C.”
She proceeds to knock the guards all out in hand-to-hand combat, in full dress and heels. So much for their special forces training.
The last bodyguard opens the door to check on the others and gets a quick shot to the chest. Congressman Kang makes a run for it, but Yeon-jin easily takes him down with a sideways shot through the cracked doorway.
This time, though, Yeon-jin isn’t nearly as stoic as in the past; on the way back, she sheds a tear.
At Mirae, we finally get more info on that phallic glass tube, which is labeled Cha Yeon-jin — must be those valuable stem cells Chairman Kwon is so excited about. And — creepily enough — the fluid is hooked up to an IV that drips into the Chairman’s arm. Ah, so when he says he needs Yeon-jin, he’s being literal; must be her cells keeping him alive.
Ji-young reports that they haven’t been able to locate a leak within the lab yet, and warns that there is still the risk of their research being leaked. She suggests pushing back Mirae’s big opening, wherein the Chairman will reveal the fruits of their stem cell research. The Chairman Kwon refuses, saying he’s been waiting years for this day.
Sung-ho sees the news of the congressman’s murder and is certain it’s Chairman Kwon’s doing. He fills in Tae-young on the facts: the Chairman was a stem-cell researcher, but contrary to the public spin, his interest is purely selfish, because of his own sickly health. But he encountered too much opposition to his early research, so he formed SS1, where he could conduct his experiments in secrecy.
In his heyday, Sung-ho was the chief manager of SS1. Chairman Kwon and a group of five powerful men were in this together — and as soon as the research yielded its results, Sung-ho and Ji-young were ordered to wipe out the other five.
Furthermore, Sung-ho suspects that Yeon-jin is involved in the recent murders, and looks toward Mirae’s big unveiling as an important date.
At school, the undercover teacher/SS1 employee takes aside the three girls who hate Yeon-jin, who soon afterward go missing.
Yeon-jin sits alone on the rooftop, where Young-min finds her. He assures her with his adorable teenage bravado that if she’s got worries, she can trust him, and invites her out.
He takes her to an amusement park, and makes a failed attempt to put his hand on her shoulder. (So cute, the way he turns away trying not to give himself away, while cringing in embarrassment.)
He asks what her dream in life is, and tells her enthusiastically how he’s going to be a famous photographer.
He finally finds the moment to take her hand, and when she doesn’t pull away, the biggest grin spreads across his face. There’s something really sad and stark about the contrast of Young-min giddy over this date with the girl he likes, and Yeon-jin looking out at the other mother-child pairs at the amusement park, thinking of her own dead mother.
As they leave the park, Young-min works up the nerve to make his bashful confession: “I…l-like you.” Yeon-jin tells him, “I know.”
He wonders, “Was it obvious? I tried not to be obvious.” Aw. You were about as subtle as a tiptoeing elephant in a tutu, but I love that you think you were being smooth. He tells her that today was the second happiest day in his life, then admits sheepishly that the happiest was the day he saw her.
She tells him not to like her, though, adding that she doesn’t like him back. Awwww, poor lost puppy! She’s lying, but it seems like the fair thing to do in her position. He tells her he won’t give up, but that just makes her shut him down harder, which also pinches my heart just a little. Okay, a lot. Yeon-jin bursts out, “I don’t like you! I just came here today because I was bored.”
Ouuuch. She walks off, and Young-min deflates. But he’s energizer puppy if ever there was one, and calls after her, “So-yeon! You’re even cute when you’re mad!”
Back in the stark white cell that passes for home, Yeon-jin smiles at the photos Young-min took of her, which she quickly hides from Ji-young, who asks about her skipping class. Yeon-jin lies about hanging out in the gym, and Ji-young warns her to be careful.
Yeon-jin asks hesitantly, “How much longer do I have to work?” She wants to stop killing now. Ji-young puts on a sympathetic face, though it hardens when she turns around. Saying she understands, she adds that she’ll find a way out for her.
The three girls are absent from class again, which makes Yeon-jin suspicious. She confronts her teacher, who feigns ignorance but immediately gets on the phone with SS1 as soon as she’s alone.
In a dark, underground location, Ji-young approaches turncoat Dr. Choi, now captured and bound. She demands the name of his insider informant, warning him that his big ally — the congressman — is dead. She threatens his daughter to get him to blab the details about his scheduled rendezvous, then shoots him.
Yeon-jin stays in her classroom long after school’s over, thinking of her mother. It’s here that Sung-ho finds her, amazed and relived that she’s still alive, accompanied by Tae-young. She nervously tells him he’s mistaken, that she’s So-yeon, but he’s not fooled.
Sung-ho guesses that she’s working in SS1 with Ji-young and Chairman Kwon, and urges her to leave with him. She flings off his arm and heads out, but stops short upon seeing Ji-young walking toward her. The men catch on to danger and duck out of sight, but Ji-young reads the uneasiness in Yeon-jin’s expression, and seems to sense the others’ presence. For now, she lets it go.
At the appointed meeting place, the SS1 scientist waits for her contact, who is, of course, not forthcoming. The museum is about to close and she’s anxious. Nearby, a group of students in a photography club heads out together — Young-min among the members.
Outside the museum, Ji-young pulls up with Yeon-jin and tells her this will be her last mission for a while, since she’ll be giving her a long break. Her target is Han Yumi, the scientist who stole from their lab.
Yumi sees Yeon-jin approaching and senses trouble — your company’s killer for hire coming after you can’t be a good sign. Yeon-jin follows, not even noticing the group of boys outside — but Young-min’s attuned to everything Yeon-jin-related and catches a glimpse of her. Ever the faithful puppy, he pulls a stuffed bear from his back and follows her with an excited smile. Ahhhh! You adorable, lovesick fool! You’re going to get yourself dead! If you die…I’m gonna kill you, I swear.
Ji-young sees him entering the building and takes note. Yeon-jin stalks Yumi through the mazelike museum, and Young-min follows much farther behind.
Yumi gets more and more scared as she runs through the exhibits, until she finally comes face to face with Yeon-jin, who shoots her in the throat.
Oh thank god it wasn’t Young-min. I mean, yes, all deaths are tragic, and Yumi didn’t deserve to die either, but killing the puppy by mistake would’ve just been too much for Yeon-jin. And, yes, for me.
Yumi lays twitching on the ground, gasping, and holds out the flash drive of data to Yeon-jin. She tells her, “It has to stop. If it doesn’t, more girls other than you will…”
Hearing a sound, Yeon-jin whirls around and levels her gun…on Young-min. He doesn’t assume she’s the predator, though, and worriedly registers the blood on her face. And just as he asks if she’s okay—
BAM! A bullet flies through his head.
AHHHH! You can’t kill him! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!
Ji-young steps into view, gun in hand. Then for good measure, she shoots again, saying she had no choice. Of all the killings aside from her mother’s, this one hits Yeon-jin hardest; she screams at Ji-young, crawling over to Young-min while sobbing. Ji-young sees that things are about to spiral out of control, so she whacks Yeon-jin in the back with her gun, knocking her out.
Yeon-jin falls to the ground, landing in Young-min’s dead embrace, hand in hand.
Yeon-jin is taken to the lab and sedated. Ji-young foresees that killing Young-min was probably a mistake, as it’s going to fuck up Yeon-jin for a good long while, and asks the scientist/teacher about memory erasure. They’d done it once before, but that agent ended up dying several months later.
But it’s still the better choice in Ji-young’s eyes, and she orders Yeon-jin’s memory wiped.
SS1 receives word that Sung-ho has been located, and Ji-young mobilizes a team of heavily armed operatives.
Yeon-jin wakes up in the lab, where the teacher greets her while surreptitiously arming herself with a scalpel. She flings it at Yeon-jin’s head, but Yeon-jin catches it with her lightning-fast reflexes and flings it back, marking her teacher on the face.
The teacher grabs for her guns and fires, but Yeon-jin ducks out of range and slams through the lab window. The teacher proceeds cautiously through the corridors, calling out into the room, “Cha Yeon-jin, there’s nothing we can do about it. These are my orders.”
A shadow darts by, and the teacher heads after it. From behind, Yeon-jin grabs her and wrestles her in close holds, causing the guns to fire in random directions.
Finally Yeon-jin kicks the guns out of her hands, and they go diving in opposite directions, both grabbing one. Yeon-jin’s faster, and shoots the teacher in the shoulder. The teacher comes up to take a shot anyway, and Yeon-jin fires a second shot, killing her.
Now Yeon-jin remembers Yumi’s last words, and heads back to that secret restricted lab, where she sees with horror the bodies strapped to slabs, still moving under their plastic coverings.
Uncovering a few bodies, she finds her missing classmates, one of whom mumbles, “It hurts so bad…save me…”
A flashing alarm message on the computer screen grabs Yeon-jin’s attention. First it states that Sung-ho has been located and all operatives have been ordered to move out after him. Second, Yeon-jin’s escape has been discovered, and agents are ordered to shoot to kill.
Yeon-jin promises her classmate she’ll return to save her, then runs out.
Meanwhile, SS1’s whole damned militia shows up outside Sung-ho’s hideaway and slowly advances on the building. Not knowing this, Sung-ho grabs his bag of munitions and heads out amidst Tae-young’s protests that he’s heading into suicide. Sung-ho says that Chairman Kwon has been waiting for today’s opening ceremony for years; this may be his only chance.
Just then, Sung-ho’s tripwire system is triggered, alerting him to intruders. He orders Tae-young to leave immediately, to go to the Chairman’s event.
Sung-ho moves stealthily through the hideaway, and fires bullets through the glass to strike the shadowy heads just outside. The men start making their way inside, and Sung-ho picks them off one by one. There are still tons more SS1 agents and he’s vastly overpowered, but Ji-young looks at her incoming death reports with alarm.
Next is a gas attack, but even though he wears no gas mask, Sung-ho just steps into the smoke and mist and fires away with unerring aim. Then it’s a sheer numbers game as agents start pouring in, but Sung-ho’s so eerily accurate that he takes them down, and this starts looking like a massacre of SS1 agents. Well, I guess that’s one way to take down the group — just kill them all. Damn, badass ajusshi.
Sung-ho even pauses to look right into a dead agent’s camera, knowing Ji-young’s watching this. The fight moves outside, and Sung-ho survives a grenade attack only to find that he’s out of ammo and defenseless on the ground, with two men running toward him.
And then…they’re taken out with shots from the side. It’s Yeon-jin, who covers him and runs toward him, handing him a gun.
Working together, they shoot their way toward his truck. Inside her own vehicle, Ji-young takes off her jacket in an angry motion, grabs her own weapon, and heads outside.
Ji-young positions herself at a distance, focusing her sniper’s rifle on Sung-ho as he comes into clear view. She mutters, “I told you that we’d become enemies. Goodbye.”
And she shoots him in the back.
Yeon-jin cradles him, sobbing, and Sung-ho gasps out to make sure she’s okay. With his dying breath, he apologizes for not being able to ensure her happiness: “Protecting you through the end was my last mission. I’m sorry.”
Yeon-jin cries over his body, but quickly becomes aware of the danger. Ji-young is on the move, so Yeon-jin grabs Sung-ho’s high-powered rifle and takes cover. She sees a flash of Ji-young running through the scope, and hears the bang when Ji-young shoots her comrade to put him out of his misery. (Nice to know medical treatment wasn’t an option, eh?)
Then, Yeon-jin’s voice comes through on Ji-young’s earpiece; she’s taken one from one of the dead bodies. Yeon-jin says this is a lot like their training sessions, and Ji-young — seeing a flash of dark hair exposed in her sights — reminds her that Yeon-jin has never beat her.
Ji-young: “Today will be our last training session. One of us will have to die for it to end.”
Yeon-jin: “Why are you doing this to me? Manager Min, you’re a good person.”
Yeon-jin looks around for Ji-young’s location, but can’t find it. Ji-young, meanwhile, focuses her gun on Yeon-jin’s head, waiting for her shot.
Ji-young: “I thought you were like me. But I was wrong. This is our fate.”
Yeon-jin: “I’ve heard all about how evil that place is.”
Ji-young: “No, I don’t think of it that way. We’re just on opposite sides.”
Ji-young shoots, her bullet just missing. With her location revealed, Yeon-jin shoots after her, getting close but not hitting. Ji-young runs for the building and finds new cover.
Yeon-jin: “End this now. is this what you taught me for?”
Ji-young: “I didn’t teach you the most important thing: How to obey orders.”
Ji-young tears off the earpiece and shoots. Both ladies go on the move, ditching their cumbersome rifles for handguns, and face each other on open ground, firing away. They both miss, and keep advancing. See, this is why you’re not as badass as Sung-ho, who could have taken you both down with a single bullet, while chewing gum, and humming and walking. Admittedly, he IS dead, so there’s that downside to being him.
Finally, a shot lands: Yeon-jin gets Ji-young in the eye. And then again. Ji-young falls, but fumbles for her gun anyway. Her shots go way wide, and, Yeon-jin lowers her gun as she approaches, crying, asking, “How could you do this to me? Even though I hated it, I endured it because of you.”
Ji-young sheds a tear as she laughs a twisted, garbled laugh, and raises her gun to Yeon-jin. Yeon-jin raises her gun and finishes her off.
Meanwhile. Chairman Kwon prepares for his big opening, with the nation focused on the news coverage. Tae-young tries to convince his police chief of his SS1 explanation, but he has a history of crying wolf and no evidence to back him up. He vows that this is true, and stakes his career on it.
Chairman Kwon waits backstage and asks after Ji-young, only to hear that she’s out of contact, as are all the other operatives. He takes his place and begins the presentation, which includes three case studies that support the miraculous recoveries they underwent under Mirae’s care.
Yeon-jin shows up to the building covered in blood and grime, and finds Tae-young. She gives him the flash drive, telling him that all of Chairman Kwon’s secrets are there: “Now it’s your turn.”
Chairman Kwon triumphantly declares the future of health in the country. By using pig, mouse, and dog samples, all they need is human DNA to develop livers, hearts, brains, “and even youth.”
Just then, one of the members of the press corps screams, breaking up the proceedings. She’s looking in horror at the big screen, and people start murmuring. Projected, City Hunter-style, are pictures of deformed babies, the secret lab, and the captive test subjects.
While Kwon’s men scramble to cut off the images, Tae-young enters with his own microphone and unveils the Chairman’s secrets to the room, which include not only the tests on people but the recent assassinations.
The chairman’s minions start to forcibly remove Tae-young, but his boss arrives and finally backs him up. That gives Chairman Kwon the few seconds he needs to escape, and Tae-young belatedly pursues.
Kwon orders his helicopter readied, demanding to know where Ji-young and all his agents are, and arrives at the helipad to find it empty.
A shadowy figure appears on the roof and approaches with guns in hand. He squints and wonders who it is, asking where Ji-young is. But it’s Yeon-jin, who raises the gun and tells him, “Seeing as I’m here, can’t you figure it out? She’s probably in hell, waiting for you.”
She asks accusingly if he wanted so badly to live so long — he’s been extending his life and bolstering it with her stem cells — that he would kill for it.
Reduced to blubbering, the Chairman confesses, “I’m sorry, Yeon-jin. But you’re my daughter.”
Stunned, she lowers her gun and mutters incredulously. She accuses him of lying, but he tells her that it’s true. That he died, and needed her cells to live. She screams at him to shut up, gun aimed again, and tells him she has no father: “Bring back my mother!”
He begs her to let him live. Tae-young and his cops are nearby, just below, as they hear a gunshot. Thinking Yeon-jin in danger, Tae-young races up to follow the sound.
On the rooftop, Chairman Kwon takes the dropped gun — Yeon-jin is gone now — and turns it on himself. As the cops arrive on the rooftop, he pulls the trigger and falls back, dead.
Two years later.
Tae-young catches a criminal, sporting a new hairstyle but full of the same cheeky bravado as before, and arrests him for drug use. He stops to wonder how Yeon-jin fares these days, not seeing her emerging from the cafe just moments after he leaves.
She’s with those three bitchy girls, who are now her friends. They’re all students in university now, talking about things like MTs and future graduation trips.
But bumping into this mundane scene is a woman, who hits Yeon-jin’s shoulder as she walks by. Immediately, Yeon-jin is alert to danger, and makes an excuse to send off her friends so she can confront this new conflict.
At a distance, the woman stops, dressed in kimono and bearing a sword. She turns and murmurs in Japanese, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.”
Facing each other, the woman shouts, “Now, shall we begin?!” Out come the blades, and they charge.
Aw, man, they killed all my favorite people! Then again, you don’t go into a Tarantino movie expecting people to survive, so I wasn’t exactly surprised that the only people who came out alive were the heroine and the bumbling secondary (we might even call him tertiary) comic relief guy. I hated when they killed Young-min, even though I’d been expecting he might get whacked, but once it became clear that everyone was going, somehow that eased the blow in a strange way. If Sung-ho died, then it was only fitting that Ji-young had to die, too. At least it was gratifying to watch them go out, guns blazing, in one last showdown together. Like a Father and Daughter shootout.
I’m super bummed, still, that this movie was just a three-episode deal, because there’s so much series potential in it. I want Girl K to have a full length drama series even more than I want a City Hunter Season 2 (I know!), because at least I feel that City Hunter got its full, complete, start-to-finish season. Girl K, on the other hand, feels incomplete, like they were just beginning to get to the good stuff when it had to end.
I read a few comments that felt the disparate elements — SS1, school, the cop — felt disjoined, but I didn’t have that problem, because to me it seemed like everything fit. It IS strange in theory to mix all those elements together, but the directorial hand is so present in every bit that the scenes flowed wel, in my book.
For instance, the amusement park scene, which could very well have seemed crammed in out of nowhere. On the contrary, the use of the lighting, camera work, and music gave it a melancholy ambiance, one that fits with Yeon-jin’s emotional state as she experiences a few moments of “real life” while stuck in her mental headspace full of dead moms and revenges and killings.
That’s why I really love the school scenes, because they make the contrast between her SS1 identity and her age/school status so great. They highlight the “what could have been” aspect. In fact, if (in my dreamland fantasy where I can dictate drama production) they were to turn Girl K into a full drama series, I wouldn’t want a sequel as much as I’d want a reboot of this world. I’d want her to be a student, juggling her real identity with the SS1-owned one, and crushing puppy-dog hearts in the name of her killer fate.
Girl K started out as a lot of slick action and cool fight scenes, and if anything was missing from the first episode I’d say it was a strong emotional anchor. But it found that soon enough, not just with Yeon-jin’s revenge and her grief about her mother, but in the relationships that sprung up with her and Sung-ho, Young-min, and Ji-young.
If this is what cable can do these days, then I’m going to be looking a lot more enthusiastically at what cable is going to be offering in the very near future. Channel CGV (the one that produced Girl K) will be doing a four-part movie that follows this one closely in terms of structure with their Bang-ja Chronicles, while OCN and tvN bring us vampires and flower boys, respectively, with Vampire Prosecutor and Flower Boy Ramyun Shop. And we can’t leave out MBN’s Vampire Idol, which has both.
This year in cable has been very good so far, and it looks like it’ll be getting even better.