So the game begins and pieces are set into motion. Their identities now switched, old grudges bubble just under the surface while new misunderstandings take root. The brothers soon find themselves as marionettes caught up in the intricate web of the puppeteer’s strings. Pulling at one string tugs at another and now there’s no way that either twin can step away unscathed.
From where we’re standing, there’s no way to tell just how deep and dark this rabbit hole is.
SONG OF THE DAY
Explosions in the Sky – “The Birth and Death of the Day” [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
We enter a flashback and see a teenage Shin-woo arrive home to find Mom asleep amid a messy pile of energy drinks. Given his exasperated sigh, this scene must be a common occurrence by now.
As he silently clears the scattered bottles, Mom wakes and she whispers, “Ajusshi… ajusshi.” Oh no – do you not even recognize your own son? Rummaging through her pockets for money, Mom begs for just one more bottle. So these aren’t ordinary energy drinks then.
Shin-woo’s voice breaks, “You have me. Do Shin-woo. Your son.” But Mom pushes him away and she shrills her demand for more drugs, hopelessly trying to squeeze another drop out of the empty bottles.
Shin-woo escapes to his room and cries while Mom sits in a daze, muttering, “Eun-chang ah. Our Eun-chang… where are you?”
Back to the present as Shin-woo is brought to his knees in front of Boss Go. Before they can exchange formalities, they watch Eun-chang return to the scene of the accident and Shin-woo recognizes his brother.
Shin-woo looks back at Boss Go with a tinge of fear in his eyes. But Boss Go walks away with a smirk, and a kick renders Shin-woo unconscious.
Boss Go introduces himself to Eun-chang and tsk-tsks at the sight of So-ri’s corpse. He smiles devilishly, “I thought you’d save So-ri first…”
It dawns on Eun-chang that the man before him must be So-ri’s employer and he barely keeps it together long enough to ask why Boss Go stood by and left So-ri to die. The answer he gets is a simple one: “Because I was the one who ordered [her death].”
That makes Eun-chang lose it and he demands to know why Boss Go killed her. He chuckles, “I haven’t killed him yet. See? He’s still alive.” Then we see Shin-woo being dragged away by his men (This exchange doesn’t have any pronouns, so both of them can refer to different people.).
Eun-chang runs to catch up to the car and is promptly pummeled by Boss Go’s men for his troubles. Boss Go instructs his men to go easy – he’ll be useless if he’s beaten to a pulp.
Eun-chang is brought before Boss Go and when asked for his name, he ekes out, “Do. Eun. Chang.” But Boss Go corrects him, “No. It’s Do Shin-woo.” And as long as Eun-chang follows his instructions, little bro will be just fine.
Boss Go finds Eun-chang much more agreeable to carry out the job than stick-in-the-mud Shin-woo. If it makes him feel better, Eun-chang can consider it roleplaying. “Just think of your brother,” Boss Go tells him, “You don’t want him to end up like So-ri.”
All Eun-chang has to do is arrest the guy Boss Go tells him to (“Don’t worry. It’s a really bad person.”). Eun-chang lifts his head and grabs Boss Go, warning him that he’s someone who was sent to prison for murder.
Eun-chang: “Keep him alive. My little brother… our Shin-woo. You better take good care of him. Or I’ll send you to hell.” Boss Go nods.
The next morning, Eun-chang wakes in the hospital to the voices of Shin-woo’s men by his bedside. The news of So-ri’s death, now confirmed, hits him hard and Detective Lee clocks his reaction.
Eun-chang is left confused since the officers keep calling him “Chief Detective Do Shin-woo” but he quells their fears of amnesia by correctly identifying Detective Park. He asks who else was involved in the accident and Detective Park names a third person but turns around to find him gone.
Detective Lee asks why their Chief Detective was with a lady late at night and sighs at the mention of drugs. But Eun-chang clarifies, “He said they were going to give him drugs. So-ri was still alive. But because of the drugs…”
That piece of intel pings Detective Lee’s radar, recalling the patient who was limping out of the room minutes earlier. They run out to nab the druggie.
It’s Eun-chang who tracks down the druggie first and pounces on him just as the druggie stuffs the small stash into his mouth. Eun-chang asks, “Did you do it just for that?”
He yells that So-ri’s dead and no matter what anyone says, it was the druggie who ran her over while she was still alive. Tears well up in his eyes as he cries, “Her eyes were open…. but because of you, she’s gone.”
But the junkie is too high on his drug trip to respond and Eun-chang grabs him by the collar, “No one told you to do it. It’s not something someone can make you do. Killing someone… it isn’t like that! Don’t you know how hard it is to keep living after you’ve killed someone?!”
Shoving the druggie back to the ground, Eun-chang breaks down.
The officers arrest the junkie and Detective Park curiously wonders what kind of relationship their boss had with the deceased victim.
Eun-chang heads to the morgue and weeps over So-ri’s body. Gah, it kills me how he takes her hand and asks why it’s so cold. He even tries to warm it by breathing on it.
A little later, he looks upon her corpse with new resolve. With his gloved hand, he squeezes her hand (which now bears the gloves he intended to give her) for the last time before he walks out.
Boss Go is none too pleased to see a group of thugs with bats leave just as he arrives. His office completely trashed, he picks up a call by the mysterious Choi. Now that we’re introduced, we should probably call her Madame Choi and she asks if Boss Go liked his “present.” Gee, what do we get if you’re happy?
She hates being lied to and is wary that Boss Go can recover the large amount of lost smuggled goods in a few short days. She tells him that there’s no need to clean up the place since Boss Go might be out of the job soon. Well that’s one way to light a fire under someone’s ass.
The camera pulls back and we see that she’s in a hotel room with a chaebol son under her heel. He threatens that he’ll get Daddy to come after her but those words hardly affect her, “Daddy didn’t come home last night, did he?” Ooh.
Back to Boss Go who orders his men to find out Madame Choi’s schedule. He knows that she’ll seek out other sources to acquire the drugs. Ah, so she must be the one you’re trying to bring down.
He asks if Chief Detective Shin-woo is settled in at his new position yet.
Speaking of whom, Eun-chang carefully looks around Shin-woo’s office. When Detective Lee knocks at his door, he asks, “What kind of person is Do Shin-woo?”
Detective Lee laughs, wondering if he should dole out the compliments first and Eun-chang asks, amazed, “There are things to curse about him too?” Ha.
He listens as his brother is described as smart, conceited, and doesn’t cut anyone any slack. Eun-chang’s face falls, as those qualities make Shin-woo pretty unlikeable. Then Detective Lee adds, “But he’s a pretty good cop.”
Eun-chang smiles that it might take some time for him to learn the ropes again. Detective Lee furrows his brows for a split second – he’s not used to seeing (who he thinks is) Shin-woo smile.
A check-in call from Boss Go gives us some background on Madame Choi. Her rich husband passed away at an early age and a year later, there arose a rumor that named the madam as his killer. Boss Go instructs Eun-chang to meet him later that night.
Detective Park figures that there’s something fishy about the connection between So-ri and Boss Go, Club Mao’s owner. But Eun-chang appears before they can make any more suspicions and their eyes widen when Eun-chang mention there’s been a kidnapping.
Eun-chang stammers that it’s his “hyung” and he asks the team to do their best to find him and bows deeply. Everyone jumps back a little, surprised.
I should note that Eun-chang speaks in jondae to both of Shin-woo’s subordinate officers. I get the sense that he finds it uncomfortable to drop the formality with the older men and also unaware that his brother usually speaks to them in banmal. Furthermore, neither officer has mentioned the change though I’m sure by now, Eun-chang’s probably clued in on their reactions.
Boss Go’s minions are annoyed to hear that there’s been a location change and one of them complains, “This is too heavy!”
Suddenly, Shin-woo pops out of the bag and knocks the guy down, heading to the docks. He slips and falls on the ice but gets back up and makes a run for it.
He calls the station but they mistaken him for a prank caller, so he calls Ahn-na to disclose his location just before getting hit by a car. And as luck would have it, Boss Go rolls down his window and emerges from the car.
Eun-chang takes a call from a worried Ahn-na who heaves a sigh of relief at sound of the familiar voice, thinking it’s Shin-woo. She wonders why he called from an unknown number but more than that, why he’s suddenly speaking to her in jondae.
Eun-chang switches to banmal and Ahn-na tells him the location somewhere by the docks. Ack! Don’t go there alone!
Meanwhile, Shin-woo is getting beaten to a pulp by Boss Go’s men. His face bloody, he asks what it is that Boss Go wants. He’s shocked to hear that So-ri is dead. Boss Go tells Shin-woo that the police’s Christmas raid cost him a pretty penny and reminds him that they’re not at the police station. Shin-woo breathes, “Even so… we can still arrest you.”
Their conversation is cut short by a phone call and Boss Go sighs when he hears that some men have dropped by his club again. He mutters, “Madame Choi…” and Shin-woo’s ears perk up at the name.
But no, it’s Detective Lee and his men who have come to visit. Detective Lee hints with a smile a saying that “a crayfish and a crab aren’t always on the same side,” and tells him not to underestimate the police. Seriously, whose side are you on, Detective Lee?
Boss Go frowns.
Back to Eun-chang who waits for the opportune moment to burst in with a gun, demanding to know where Shin-woo is. Boss Go’s minions don’t even blink an eye and lazily tell him to pick up his ringing phone.
It’s Boss Go who instructs him to turn around and cheerily says that Shin-woo’s in the car. The car door opens and Eun-chang sees his brother’s limp body fall out of the car. He runs out, screaming Shin-woo’s name. “What happened?! You said you’d keep him alive!”
Boss Go: “He still is.” He explains that his brother is in this bloodied state because Eun-chang didn’t keep his end of the bargain. Eun-chang warns Boss Go not to lay a hand on his brother if he wants to live to which Boss Go laughs, “Have I laid a finger on him?” Oh, semantics schmantics.
He does, however, show Eun-chang little bro’s beat up face and says, “You said that you went to prison for killing someone, right? How about if little bro goes in for the same crime?” He eggs Eun-chang on to fire the gun in his hand.
Eun-chang hesitates, the gun shaking in his hand. Boss Go breaks into derisive laughter and puts the phone up to Shin-woo’s face. He tells Eun-chang to remember his brother’s voice clearly since it could be the last time he hears it.
Eun-chang screams for him to stop and drops the gun.
He stammers, “S-save him.” Eun-chang’s voice turns desperate and he begs for Boss Go to save his little brother. It’s utterly heartbreaking watching him say that it’s his fault and ask Boss Go in a panicked voice to let Shin-woo go.
And then he drops down to his knees. Wow, if that’s not considered conceding defeat towards your enemy, then I don’t know what is.
Boss Go has the galls to mock Eun-chang even further, asking if hyung is on his knees ’cause he can’t tell. He informs Eun-chang not to cross him again by putting a police tail on him.
He’ll put Eun-chang in contact with Madame Choi but he better not muck it up. Eun-chang breaks down in tears and howls his sorrow to the heavens.
Eun-chang trudges back to the police station and the officers are puzzled when Eun-chang calls off the search on his brother. “I f-f-ound him.” He splutters in explanation. “By the sea.”
The officers wonder if that means the missing person was just on vaycay and are plenty annoyed when Eun-chang confirms it. Now it’s Eun-chang’s turn to vent his anger and he bursts in a very Shin-wooesque manner, “I told you I found him!”
And though this outburst seems routine to the officers, the Chief Detectives’ odd behaviors aren’t lost on Detective Lee.
Boss Go drags Shin-woo back to Club Mao and Shin-woo asks in a halted voice if Boss Go can give him some drugs too. Boss Go raises an amused eyebrow, “Why would you take something that’s hazardous to your health?”
Though Boss Go remains mum about the smuggled drugs, he does offer Shin-woo a small stash as a present. Shin-woo asks for the ones in “the bottles.”
Soon Boss Go twirls an energy drink bottle in his hand and remarks that it might be past its expiration date. He pulls up a chair across from where Shin-woo is tied up as Shin-woo follows the bottle in Boss Go’s hand with his eyes.
Shin-woo lets out a little laugh and says, “It was a restaurant near here. She worked in the kitchen there. And one day, a customer gave that to her. Told her it was a health drink.”
Boss Go gives Shin-woo a curious look, “Who is this story about?” Shin-woo smiles for a moment before it fades away, “What a relief. That I found the right guy.” Boss Go murmurs, “You sure talk a lot.”
Then he gets up to open the bottle and shoves the contents into Shin-woo’s mouth. Dayum.
Thankfully, Shin-woo spits it back at Boss Go’s face and yells that the victims were ordinary folk. “Because of people like you, they lived in hell. Because of people like you, those nice people, even to their families…!”
Glaring at him, Shin-woo seethes and Boss Go just sniffs his handkerchief, “It’s gone bad.” Shin-woo hisses, “You too.”
Then Boss Go starts, “Please… please, just one more bottle.” As the mad desperation in his voice intensifies, it begins to sound eerily similar to Mom’s pleading we witnessed earlier in the episode. The imitation is so spot on that it even disturbs Shin-woo.
Boss Go replies that he never made the addicts take the drugs; he was just a supplier to their ever-growing demands. “Those who screw up their own lives shouldn’t blame others for it. If you’re an adult, you should take responsibility for your own decision.”
Shin-woo tells him, “There will come a day where you’ll have to take responsibility for your decisions.” Not just Boss Go but everyone who gave and took the drugs, he’ll bring them all to justice.
A tear rolls down Shin-woo’s cheek when Boss Go leaves him. Staring at the now broken bottle on the floor, he closes his eyes and whispers, “…Mom.”
In a dream-like sequence, Mom lovingly pats a sleeping Eun-chang who stirs awake. He reaches out his hand to touch Mom’s face …and jolts in his seat when his eyes fall upon Ahn-na instead.
Eun-chang stares blankly when Ahn-na asks about the lead to the docks. After a long moment, he shares that Mom always told hyung to take good care of little brother. Then when Ahn-na asks if hyung kept his word, Eun-chang shakes his head.
Ahn-na gives a sympathetic nod – his earlier words that wished hyung had never been born make sense now. She promises to take care of him and suggests they move on with their lives without thinking about hyung.
Later that night, Eun-chang and the detective force barge in on the tail end of a drug deal hosted by Madame Choi, thanks to a tipoff from Boss Go. As Madame Choi squirms in the backseat, Eun-chang calls it in and Boss Go practically jumps with joy at the news.
Little does Boss Go know that the waiter (who previously saw Shin-woo being dragged into the club earlier) hangs back until the car drives off. Then he runs to the back to untie who he thinks is Eun-chang.
The waiter wonders what kind of poor first impression he’s made about the job assigned to him to end up as a bloodied mess. Shin-woo asks, “Job?”
Shin-woo’s eyes flicker wide when he hears that Boss Go has gone to see Madame Choi at Gwangryung. Calling the station proves useless once again as Detective Park laughs that the Chief Detective should be satisfied that they’ve caught Madame Choi and her men.
Eun-chang approaches Boss Go with the drugs in hand and asks after his brother. Boss Go assures him that little bro is doing just fine but Eun-chang’s job as his lackey isn’t quite over just yet. Shin-woo watches this exchange from a distance and fumes.
After Boss Go inspects the drugs, his men go to fetch Madame Choi, who is currently cuffed in the car. Her mouth taped shut, she’s brought before Boss Go, who smiles devilishly.
At the same time, Eun-chang is about to leave when a voice calls out his name. He turns around and relief washes over his face to see Shin-woo emerges from the shadows.
Eun-chang runs to embrace his brother but Shin-woo doesn’t return the hug. Rather, Shin-woo says coldly, “You shouldn’t have done that. You shouldn’t have done that, you bastard!”
Shin-woo reaches into Eun-chang’s coat pocket and grabs the gun, pointing it straight at his brother. Shin-woo tells hyung that Mom always thought Eun-chang was a good kid and was always looking for him even when he was in jail. Eun-chang stutters, “S-shin-woo…”
Shin-woo hollers through gritted teeth, “That’s right! My name is Do Shin-woo. She never called me by that name with warm affection. She only looked for you. ‘Eun-chang ah.’ Just you. It was like a crime for me to stay by her side.”
He asks what hyung is doing here with Boss Go and Eun-chang stammers out “drugs”. Shin-woo interrupts him saying that those words shouldn’t come out of Eun-chang’s mouth, “Even if it means you have to kill someone again.”
Eun-chan looks at his brother in shock but Shin-woo continues, “Even if it meant you were to kill me, those drugs…! You shouldn’t have handed him those drugs, Do Eun-chang!”
He fires the gun.
Let me take a deep breath here.
With its high-intensity, fast-paced storytelling, I feel like I have to remind myself to breathe after each episode because I’d forgotten to do so through half of it. What makes watching this series so enjoyable as a viewer is to see how each scene is portrayed. It’s as if we’re seeing a musical score play out before our eyes and ears with nuanced facial expressions and lines that build upon each other like a dramatic crescendo towards a climax that takes our breath away.
Deeper and deeper we travel into the complicated maze of relationships between our characters, especially Eun-chang and Shin-woo. Shin-woo’s ambivalence towards their mother is an interesting one: he craves that same kind of doting adoration Mom poured on Eun-chang and yet loathes her for turning to drugs as an emotional support instead of her own son. The opening scene that portrayed the horrific reality of Mom’s addiction was truly heartbreaking and solidifies Shin-woo’s earlier words that his true enemy isn’t Boss Go or Madame Choi, but drugs.
Speaking of which, I’ve found that this show handles mature content (e.g. drugs) with delicate storytelling hands. We hear the crazed desperation in an addict’s voice for more and see the extent to which a junkie will go to trade someone’s life for a quick fix. In fact, none of these drugs are outright named in the show (perhaps because of the show’s rating, which is kind of like PG-13) but that doesn’t seem to matter since we can see just how far the rippling effect spreads.
Moving on to Eun-chang, I loved watching him in this episode as he jumps into Boss Go’s clutches, holding fast to that naive belief that one more job will set him and his brother free. Just one more job, eh? That sounds familiar. I’m not sure if Shin-woo meant to imply this or not but his hatred towards seeing Eun-chang work for Boss Go is an extension of his own deep loathing for drugs.
Even under that cold, hardened exterior, there still lies an instinctual desire to protect his brother.