Gap-dong: Episode 3
Gap-dong is back after taking a week off, and the break somehow made me feel like the show had been on the air for a lot longer than it had—we’re only in Week 2 now, as the case heats up and everyone scrambles to prevent this new murder from turning serial. Everybody’s got their own theories, but it’s hard to get to where you’re going when the good guys are splintered, as we find when suspicion becomes a hindrance to the case, not a tool. (Then again, we’ve also got a tool in charge, so…) By now we all know that the shifty character that is Tae-oh is dangerous and creepy, but the question remains: What exactly is he after? Yes, he’s earned his spot under the Bad Guys column, but is he ultimately a detour on the path to discovering Gap-dong, a mere distraction?
SONG OF THE DAY
Jung Joon-il – “Monster” [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
We resume at the bus stop where Mu-yeom makes a phone call, having come here on a hunch. This was the location of Gap-dong’s second victim’s disappearance, and Mu-yeom is retracing the steps of the original case. He calls the station about the motorcycle without license plates, and as he talks, Tae-oh returns.
We see the attack from Tae-oh’s perspective this time, as a manic look seizes his face and he takes a hard swing at the back of Mu-yeom’s head with his helmet. Mu-yeom’s head has no chance; he falls to the ground unconscious. Tae-oh breathes hard, but that’s probably from whatever he was doing just before (say, murdering?) and not this. He brushes straw off himself, dusting Mu-yeom’s body with it.
Tae-oh hangs up the phone call with the police, then makes a call. A reporter picks up, and mention of Gap-dong has him sitting up at attention and hurrying to take notes.
The sudden call interruption is enough to bring the cops to the scene, thankfully, and Mu-yeom is taken away in an ambulance. Partner Hyung-nyun is at his side, and he puts in a call to inform Ji-wool, who does not take this news well. (I’m sure her concern is warranted, but her wails are cutely over-the-top. I laughed.)
As the ambulance speeds along with siren blaring, Tae-oh catches up on his bike and drives in front of the vehicle. The ambulance tries to go around, but Tae-oh slows and swerves; it looks like he just enjoys toying with them, and soon he speeds off.
Dr. Maria takes a bus to that stop, having seen it in Profiler Han’s notes, but she’s missed all the action.
In the morning, our elderly monk is at the hospital with wife-partner Hyung-nyun and the female officer who was on the phone with Mu-yeom, and the two cops apologize to the monk for what happened to Mu-yeom. Aw, they’re treating the monk like he’s Mu-yeom’s father; it’s sweet to imagine the makeshift family that has come together under his care. The monk says it’s hardly Wife’s fault and just asks him not to divorce Mu-yeom, heh.
The other officer, Young-ae, quips that it looks like there’s another wife in the picture, and we see Ji-wool at his bedside, checking for vital signs. The monk explains that Ji-wool has been stuck like glue to Mu-yeom’s side after he saved her from going down the wrong path as a thief.
Thankfully Mu-yeom isn’t badly injured (apparently he’s sleeping, not unconscious). But there’s some tension in the air as Officer Young-ae takes a few swipes at Ji-wool for being a kid and inappropriately close to Mu-yeom. Hm, is she jealous? Ji-wool won’t be bested, though, and snipes right back that she’s all grown up, calling Officer Young-ae “ajumma” to boot. She scoffs at Young-ae for being old and uncool for not recognizing what a webtoon is, and informs her that she is a webtoon artist going by the pen name of Matilda.
Ji-wool boasts that her newly released webtoon, “The Beast’s Path,” will be all the rage soon, only to get a surprise: “The beast has returned” is already No. 2 on the portal search list, right under “Gap-dong.” She clicks, thinking her webtoon is already a hit, only to realize that the topic is about Gap-dong’s return.
This breaking story comes from that call Tae-oh put in to Reporter Bae, but curiously, the source is reported as Mu-yeom. The cops double-check with Reporter Bae, who says that the informant identified himself by name, leading the police station to gripe that Mu-yeom has stirred up trouble for them. Wifey Hyung-nyun is the only one who argues against that assumption, positing that someone else used Mu-yeom’s name falsely. Aw, he’s so the faithful sidekick.
This is a headache for the district attorney as well, who talks it over with Chul-gon, complaining that informant Mu-yeom even offered predictions for a second murder, and went so far as to describe details like the color of the future victim’s clothing (red).
Reading the news in the hospital, Ji-wool and the monk suppose that if Mu-yeom was the informant, it means he believes Gap-dong is going to strike a second time. That’s when Mu-yeom wakes up, and this is all news to him.
Profiler Han gives another lecture in his university class, and today’s subject is Gap-dong’s second murder, which took on January 7. Time’s a-tickin’.
Reporter Bae receives a lunch order in his office, only to realize that the deliveryman is Mu-yeom. He identifies himself and goes along with the assumption that he was the man who called Reporter Bae, but asks for clarification on what he said in that call (citing drunkenness for a hazy memory).
The reporter says that he’d warned that going public was necessary to prevent a second murder, and that he’d mentioned a riddle of some sort. But “Mu-yeom” hadn’t given him the answer, saying that he would tell him if he couldn’t figure it out from what he’d already said. Mu-yeom plays along, saying that answering the riddle now would be no fun, and that he’ll do it later.
As Mu-yeom takes the elevator down, Maria steps out of the arriving elevator. He sees her, but the doors close before he reacts.
Reporter Bae’s assistant greets Maria’s arrival with skepticism, since they’ve been inundated with people claiming to have important information about the case. Maria asks her to pass along the message: She’ll tell him about Gap-dong’s appearance if he’ll talk about Gap-dong’s voice.
Mu-yeom waits outside until Maria exits the building, then follows her taxi in his car. The taxi lets her off in front of a neighborhood store, where she buys a copy of every newspaper in the rack with Gap-dong-related headlines.
Mu-yeom follows her through the neighborhood for a while on foot, until she becomes aware of having picked up a tail. She speeds up and hurries toward a building, while Mu-yeom hangs back, seeing that she’s caught on.
Maria grows panicked as she ducks around a corner and fumbles for her taser. He approaches cautiously, and then sidesteps when she reaches out to zap him. He disarms her rather easily; either he knocks her out or she faints from the shock, because the next thing we know he’s carrying her on his back.
She’s holding some keys but the door only uses codes and cards, so he looks around in confusion, not knowing where to find Maria’s place. And then he spots the trailer around the corner, which piques his interest. Her key fits.
Gap-dong is the talk of the town, and Tae-oh smiles to overhear cafe patrons talking about the case. But even as one woman vows not to date anyone for fear of Gap-dong, a second later she’s looking at Tae-oh with interest, saying that he looks sweet. And that’s his superpower, managing to seem unthreatening despite his intentions.
Maria awakens in her trailer, and sees Mu-yeom from the back, which puts her back on her guard. Grabbing a lantern as a weapon, she advances slowly, about to bash him over the head until he turns and she recognizes him.
He asks why she lives here and carries a taser, and she tries to play it off as a character quirk. He doesn’t buy her nonchalant act and guesses that she’s keen on self-defense, which makes him wonder: For someone who’s so full of fear, why is she going around chasing Gap-dong?
She recoils when he asks to see her hand, but all he does is place something into her grasp—a whistle, to sound in times of need. When he asks what she’s really all about, Maria is evasive, calling herself a psychiatrist earning a living. She does guess that he wasn’t the informant, though, keenly noting that like her, he believes Gap-dong put in the call.
But he just says it was a prankster out to screw with the police. He asks if she’s come up with any leads—any interesting riddles solved? To which Maria replies, “It has a beginning but no end.” She advises him to take a closer look at the informant’s report: “Gap-dong told of a way to find him, but not to catch him.” She tells him to find that end quickly—because if he doesn’t, he won’t be able to catch him at all.
At the police station, Chul-gon rages at his team for not getting anywhere with the case, especially since they’re under increased scrutiny to prevent a second murder. He checks to see whether Mu-yeom’s alibi checked out or not, and hears that it hasn’t. Not yet, at least. Then to add to the foreboding, Chul-gon is told that Mu-yeom went looking for Reporter Bae and promised to answer his riddle later. Just our luck, the conversation was recorded. Gah, that can’t be good.
Ji-wool drops by the cafe, not there with the intention to see Tae-oh but happy to reconnect with her potential sketch model just the same. She wastes no time filling him in on the amazing coincidence of her webtoon coinciding with true events, excited at the idea of her webtoon becoming a hit due to the association. She shows him her sketches of her main character, a cop who’s modeled after a real person, whom Tae-oh guesses is the officer informant from the news.
He asks if Mu-yeom’s nickname is Crazy Monk because he’s a psychopath, and the suggestion appeals to Ji-wool: There’s a nice poetry in a psycho cop going up against a psycho killer. Tae-oh agrees to be her sketch model as the killer character, saying he doesn’t mind being a psycho if he’s not the only one. That says a lot about him, doesn’t it?
Ji-wool sees Mu-yeom passing by and chases him down, eager to pump him for info about the case so she can do more research for her next toon. Where was that bus stop? Where was the body found? She’s started Part 2, but can’t figure out how to end it—words that ring ominously in his ears. “That’s the end,” he realizes.
Profiler Han reviews the photos of Victim 2 in his office, which is where Chul-gon finds him. Profiler Han is cheery to see his old colleague, but Chul-gon much less so, giving him a stern warning: “I’ll catch the criminal. Don’t waste your time figuring anything out and stay out of it.” He adds a message to convey to Mu-yeom: Don’t do anything stupid.
Profiler Han advises him not to act on his emotions and points out that Chul-gon and Mu-yeom are working toward the same goal, but Chul-gon hardly sees it that way and drops a bomb: The man that the profiler believed unable to tie a simple knot worked at one point with fishermen. He sold bait, but perhaps picked up other skills in the process. Chul-gon learned this detail too late and blamed Profiler Han for leading him astray during the case. “Now do you know why you were ostracized in this field?” he asks.
Chul-gon confirms that Profiler Han told Mu-yeom about the fishing knot the day before the murder took place. Gack, I hate how his mind works—with the facts, but against the truth.
Chul-gon gives his team the directive to prevent this from turning into a serial killing case, determined to prevent Gap-dong or the copycat from repeating history.
Section Chief Cha gives a press conference, which is televised live and watched by Tae-oh from his curiously luxurious apartment. Tae-oh doesn’t seem much concerned with Section Chief Cha’s declaration to catch the killer, merely going through some dance exercises before he starts whistling a familiar tune. He thinks back to meeting Gap-dong in the prison hospital and calling him his god.
At that hospital, the inmates watch the same news report, and the camera lingers on a face we haven’t seen before. Gap-dong, is that you? He looks amused as the other inmates discuss the case and how a lack of follow-up to their DNA samples being taken mean that there was no match. Inmate Poopy wonders why he would kill on the same day as twenty years ago since that would make his capture easy, but the others just tell him the crazy killer probably has his reasons.
By the time January 7 rolls around (the predicted date of the second murder), the whole city of Iltan is on alert. Everyone is so on edge that any woman wearing red is stopped and advised against it, and the bus stop in question is closed for the day.
Operating on his new hunch, Mu-yeom heads out to the fields and digs through piles of straw, recalling that the second victim was found under a cover of straw. But despite hours of digging, he finds nothing. Time ticks on and they make it to evening without any bad news.
Chul-gon mulls it over, thinking they missed something but not sure what that is. Section Chief Cha has gotten an alibi for Mu-yeom, with the hospital CCTV showing that Mu-yeom was unconscious the whole time. But Chul-gon clues in to something else, zooming in on his shirt—and the bits of straw clinging to it. Oh, crap. “Burn it all,” he says. “All that straw.”
Mu-yeom arrives at the stacks of straw set ablaze by police and calls Maria. She’s in full-on Vixen Maria mode tonight—or should I say, Vixen Bait Maria, since she’s wearing red and standing by the bus stop, as though daring Gap-dong to come for her. A it happens, someone’s watching in the shadows. Waiting. Tae-oh.
Thus Maria doesn’t answer the phone when Mu-yeom calls. He leaves a message saying that he’s figured out the answer—straw—but can’t see where that leads.
Tae-oh walks toward Maria, the look of glee on his face growing as he gets closer, though by the time he gets to her he’s back to shy ol’ Tae-oh mode. He greets her as his friendly doctor, while Maria mutters to herself that he must not be coming after all. She turns to walk away, giving up her mission.
Mu-yeom overhears the farmer arguing with police about burning down everything. He’s trying to protect one last bundle because it’s been promised (to our ill-fated artist), but the cops insist and start throwing that stack into the fire as well. And then Mu-yeom’s ears perk up as the farmer grumbles at “that strange woman” for promising to come right back and staying away for days.
Tae-oh walks Maria home to her trailer, and she tells him to run along. But he angles for a coffee invitation like a cute puppy-boy, which would be effective if Maria were less suspicious (we can be thankful that she looks fully on her guard, not trusting his act). She must have a plan in mind, because she invites him in, despite seeming quite wary of his motives.
Mu-yeom presses the farmer for the straw artist’s contact information, but the man doesn’t have it. The farmer assures him that he’s worrying for no reason because his exchange with ehr occurred before the recent Gap-dong fuss… but Mu-yeom’s suspicions are firing and now he thinks back to the motorcycle without plates.
The mood at the police station starts to relax once the clock passes eleven, now that they’ve only got one more hour to ride out this day. And then Section Chief Cha receives confirmation that he’s reluctant to pass along to Chul-gon, but pass along he must: The material stuck to Mu-yeom’s coat was straw. “Find out where he is,” Chul-gon whispers to Cha. “Quietly.”
Mu-yeom inquires into straw craftsmen in the area and hears there’s only one. He tells Officer Young-ae to locate where that woman is using any available records.
But when Mu-yeom arrives at her art studio, he sees that she hasn’t been there for days, based on the number of flyers plastered to her door and the deliveries gone ignored. She hasn’t used her credit card or cell phone in a week, either—this isn’t looking good. He gets a clue, though, when the security guard informs him that the lady works at a separate studio. Where is that?
Chul-gon must be acting on another tip or hunch, because he mobilizes the whole squad, and they drive out in a procession with sirens blazing. Chul-gon has a moment of humility in wondering if he started this by returning when he shouldn’t have, but it’s certainly misplaced humility since he thinks he drove Mu-yeom to the edge and spurred him to copycat Gap-dong: “I provoked his innate beast’s nature.” What-e-ver, I have no use for useless cops wielding power like a weapon.
Mu-yeom gets to the artist’s workshop just minutes before midnight, bashes in the chains locking the door, and starts digging furiously through the stacks of straw inside.
In her trailer, Maria prepares coffee for Tae-oh and makes cheerful small talk. Then Tae-oh asks why she went to the bus stop, admitting bashfully that he’s been curious to know but scared to ask for fear of the answer. She asks, “Scared of what? Gap-dong?”
His eyes fly to hers, surprised. She admits that she was there waiting for Gap-dong, which stuns him speechless.
Tae-oh puts on a pretty good show of getting worriedly angry at her recklessness, though she smiles and says, “I’m Maria. Wouldn’t even Gap-dong be afraid of Maria?” (I suppose she means Virgin Mary, pronounced as Maria in Korean.)
But now it’s his turn to answer. She leans in close and asks, “Why did you go there? By any chance, are you Gap-dong?”
The entourage of police vehicles pulls up in front of that same building… where Chul-gon recognizes Mu-yeom’s car.
Mu-yeom digs and digs, convinced he’ll find something although nothing turns up in the straw. The clock strikes midnight and he growls, “If I catch you, I will destroy you.”
And then, a whistle sounds. Mu-yeom stops in his tracks and turns toward the source. Where is it coming from? There’s one last pile of straw on the other side.
He walks closer… closer… Is it me, or is the whistling growing louder?
Mu-yeom fishes in the stack, until he finds it: a pair of hands, tied together. There she is, the straw artist. An audio device is tucked into her hands, and as Mu-yeom clicks it off, the whistling stops.
And then, Chul-gon calls his name. He stands there in the studio, looking mighty smug. “Nice to see you, returned Gap-dong.”
Gah, I hate Chul-gon so much. SO MUCH. He is the worst kind of “good guy,” which is a term I use loosely with him but which I suppose is technically accurate, inasmuch as his goal is justice. He’s not a corrupt cop, he’s not out for personal gain, he’s not motivated by evil intentions. And yet, he’s the worst kind of hero, in that he believes himself to be a hero despite controverting all of the attributes that come with heroism. It may actually be worse to be incompetent and powerful than to be competent and impotent. Because while the good man without power often finds his hands tied and unable to do any good, at least he’s not actively doing harm. You can’t argue the same for Chul-gon, who is his own worst enemy in being so blind to alternate theories that he’s torpedoing his own investigation. I suppose I should find some bittersweet satisfaction in that irony, but mostly I just hate him.
On the other hand, it makes Mu-yeom the kind of hero I love to root for, who is smart and driven (and sure, a little bit crazy, but in a good way!) and the biggest underdog of all. It’s not enough to make him less powerful than Chul-gon, but to make him into an active suspect turns his uphill climb even steeper. It’s akin to the Three Days dilemma of our hero being forced to go rogue to get anything done—but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing, seeing as how ineffective bureaucracy is. Giving him the excuse to go rogue may be just the thing to drive this case forward, because otherwise they’d all be barking up the wrong tree forever.
Maria remains an interesting contradiction, with her brassy alter ego at odds with the fear she displays at other times. I might be more inclined to go with Mu-yeom’s perception, which is that she’s a scared person acting bold. But we’ve seen enough of her being bold that I don’t think it’s a fearful woman tamping down her fear to act confident; it takes serious balls to taunt a serial killer to come and kill you, and that makes her fascinating.
(I do wonder if the show is hinting at a romantic turn anywhere down the line. I don’t expect or even want it, and even if it were to happen I suspect the show will never make it the prominent storyline. But it’s a K-drama, so romance will always be a question in the back of my mind. I’ll say that in this case, I would probably prefer a lack of romance, not because I don’t want romance (I’m always up for romance!) but because I’m not sure this pairing does it for me. Actually, I’d actually prefer a Crazy Monk/Ji-wool pairing, because she’s adorable and their dynamic cracks me up. But I recognize that’s probably not going to happen.)
It’s too early to be giving definitive judgments, but I will say this about the drama so far: It’s very well-produced and entertaining, and I have no qualms about watching or recapping. I’m enjoying it. But tvN seems to be opening itself up to a blind spot, which it may not even recognize as a potential pitfall: Its shows are all very polished and confident, with a level of production quality that adds a shiny gloss to everything, and perhaps obscures that the shows sometimes feel a little empty of something. Heart? Content? Complexity? I find Gap-dong surprisingly easy to watch (I expected darker, and truth be told I want darker), and its plot seems relatively uncomplicated.
Granted, I fully expect the plot to get a little more complicated than this, if only because IT HAS TO—we can’t have seen the villain in his full form in Episode 2, without more twists down the line, right? But if Tae-oh isn’t our endgame, I’d rather we get to the actual plot right away. Either that, or the show is misstepping by showing us the bad guys’ point of view alongside the good guys’—there’s no mystery left. No sense of eeriness, no wondering if a good guy is actually evil, no sense of tension because we already know what happened. So if we’re going to be getting twists, as the producers promise, I’d really appreciate if they came sooner rather than later.
- Gap-dong: Episode 2
- Gap-dong: Episode 1
- Gap-dong’s special webtoon high on chills and thrills
- Oh Snap! Killer on the loose
- Mystery-thriller drama Gap-dong’s main posters
- Character previews abound with tension for Gap-dong
- First look at detective Yoon Sang-hyun in serial-killer drama Gap-dong
- Yoon Sang-hyun’s suspense thriller Gap-dong moves to weekends