Hidden Identity: Episode 1
Hidden Identity is slick, well-produced, impeccably acted, and delivers lots of action and angst in its premiere episode. Our hero is your typical disillusioned cop who’s lost someone he cares about, but there’s enough mystery in his backstory to make me wonder if I’ve got him pegged all wrong. The setup is compelling, and I’m serious to see where this is all going to take us.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
“The Archangel Michael, and the Devil Lucifer, are said to look like brothers. People think a demon is stronger than an angel. But isn’t it possible for the angel to appear like the demon to fight”
We see a series of city scenes, with people bustling about their day, as a voice tells us: “We hide our identities just like criminals, in order to catch them. We don’t exist in the police records, nor in any other records. We are the criminal investigation team.”
A man on a subway, CHOI TAE-PYUNG (Lee Won-Jong) checks his phone for a photo, and sees his target, a nerdy young man, sitting nearby. He follows him off the train as another man, JANG MOO-WON (Park Sung-woong) monitors events from a control room filled with computers.
At a nearby hotel, a bellboy alerts the team to the arrival of another man, known simply as TEACHER JUNG (Kim Min-joon) and his assistant, MIN TAE-IN (Kim Tae-hoon) and the team swings into action. A woman dressed as a hotel employee, JANG MIN-JOO (Yoon So-yi) checks Teacher Jung into the hotel and deftly swaps his credit card with a decoy.
Tae-pyung follows the nerdy man, who is the seller in this scenario though we don’t yet know what he’s selling, to the same hotel and is slipped Teacher Jung’s real card. He settles into the lobby near where a final team member, JIN DUK-HOO (Im Hyun-Sung), is set up with his laptop. Whew, that’s a lot of people. Duk-hoo uses the credit card to confirm the seller’s identity as IM JAE-MYUNG, a college dropout who sells gaming items.
We cut away to see a young man walking alone to his rooftop apartment: this is our hero CHA GUN-WOO (Kim Bum), a detective. He ignores a call from someone named Chang-min, who turns out to be his partner, and who fusses at him during a stakeout the next morning for missing his daughter’s birthday. Ha, Gun-woo is still ignoring him.
They’re watching for a suspect who’s guilty of pretty much everything you can think of — drug dealing, sexual assault, serving to minors in his nightclub, you name it. Chang-min seems to be the optimistic white-knight sort, out to make the world a better place for his children.
Gun-woo reluctantly gives Chang-min a sweet little pair of pink shoes for his daughter, making Chang-min’s day since Gun-woo is known for being such a grouch. Gun-woo steps out of the car to get coffee, and while he’s at the vending machine, the suspect, PARK SUNG-MO, and his minion show up.
Chang-min tries to call Gun-woo back, but he left his phone in the car, so Chang-min gets out and approaches the two men alone. Nooooo, this is a bad idea. Sung-mo idly swings a golf club like there’s nothing going on, and his bodyguard tells Chang-min he’s got the wrong guy. He gets a bit pushy so Chang-min throws him to the ground, and looks up just as Sung-mo swings the gold club and cracks his head wide open.
Chang-min goes down hard, which is when Gun-woo finally realizes something’s happening. He chases the car as Sung-mo drives away, but Gun-woo lets them go and stops to check on his partner. Oh damn, there’s blood everywhere, and Gun-woo cradles Chang-min’s head and screams for an ambulance.
The doctors tell Chang-min’s wife that he won’t make it through the night, and Gun-woo drives away from the hospital in a daze. Not only has his partner been killed, but word from above is that all of the charges against Sung-mo will be dropped. Someone high-up has been corrupted.
Gun-woo goes to Sung-mo’s nightclub, and when he finds the guy, Sung-mo actually smirks at him. He sends an army of his goons at Gun-woo, who calmly and methodically kicks their asses one by one. He’s an exceptional fighter, though he takes his share of the beatings, but he’s got one goal in mind — get to Sung-mo.
It’s kind of awesome how, by the time Gun-woo makes it though all of Sung-mo’s lackeys, Sung-mo himself looks terrified. Not so confident when you don’t have a goon army around you, are ya? He runs in fear to the roof of the building, with Gun-woo right on his tail.
Sung-mo actually has no idea who Gun-woo is, not having seen him that morning, but he freaks out when Gun-woo says he’s a cop. Wow, Sung-mo is a total coward, begging to be allowed to turn himself in and swearing Chang-min’s death was an accident. He even offers condolence money to the family, but Gun-woo is in no mood.
Sung-mo’s attitude comes back when Gun-woo’s superiors arrive to stop him, and he holds out his hands to be arrested. But Gun-woo isn’t about to let him go this easily, and I don’t think I like that look in his eyes. Gun-woo leaps at Sung-mo, throwing them both off the building, and they land on a car several stories below with Sung-mo cushioning Gun-woo’s fall. Whoa.
Gun-woo lives, and watches Chang-min’s family cry at his funeral. Aww, his daughter is even wearing the pink birthday shoes from Gun-woo. Gun-woo stays behind after everyone leaves, regretting that he wasn’t friendlier with his partner while he had the chance.
Gun-woo is suspended for six months, and deliberately walks past Team Leader Jang on his way out of the station. Jang calls after him not to blame himself for his partner’s death, but Gun-woo doesn’t stop to talk. Clearly, there’s some history between these two.
Tae-in helps Teacher Jung pick a tie for the day, and they discuss how he’s worked for Teacher Jung for three years now. Interestingly, Teacher Jung calls him Woo-shik, and offers to arrange for him to finally meet someone he refers to as the Elder if their next deal goes well. Before they leave, Tae-in makes sure Teacher Jung has his inhaler for his asthma.
Team Leader Jang sets up a plan to discover what it is that Teacher Jung is buying from Im Jae-myung, which should give them an idea what he’s planning. They watch on the hacked hotel CCTV cameras as Tae-in leads Jae-myung to Jung’s room, and yep, it becomes clear that Tae-in is on the team when he surreptitiously turns on the bugs they planted in the room.
They catch Teacher Jung on the phone with a black market dealer, then Jae-myung presents his invention. Techer Jung tells him to do a test with it as if it’s the real thing, but Tae-in’s moment of hesitation (to allow the police scanner to warm up completely) causes Teacher to look at him suspiciously.
Luckily, he chalks it up to Tae-in just being detail-oriented, and allows the delay. Another stall tactic comes in the form of Tae-pyung dressed as a bellhop delivering VIP wine service, and he manages to waste enough time for the police to scan the item Jae-myung brought.
It turns out to be a nifty little device that can scramble CCTV cameras, which would come in pretty handy if you had some illicit activities you were planning. Sure enough, Teacher Jung turns it on and all the hotel cameras go dead. In his control room, Team Leader Jang muses that now they know how, they just need to find out when and where.
The seller Jae-myung scurries out of the hotel with his money, with several of the team on his tail, and manages to get outside — only to find Team Leader Jang himself waiting for him. HA, Jang’s bland expression kills me, as he sweeps the leg and Jae-myung does down. He’s taken in for questioning, but he claims not to know who Teacher Jung was planning to use his device against.
Team Leader Jang follows Tae-in on the train, and the two men get out at the same station to sit on different benches and talk. Tae-in doesn’t know what Teacher Jung’s plan is either, but promises to try to find out, suspecting the device is meant to use in some trade they’re making with China.
Tae-in declines backup, saying that if this deal goes well he’ll be allowed to meet the man in charge, so he doesn’t want to cause any suspicion. Jang tells him to do things however he thinks best. Before they go, Jang brings up Gun-woo, but Tae-in cuts him off and says to stop mentioning him.
Some time later, Tae-in and Teacher Jung meet some shady characters at a wharf, and several boxes of fish are carried into a warehouse. The fish are just a cover (literally) for a shipment of black market guns, but Teacher Jung gets angry when the leader of the sellers sasses that he only ordered guns, not bullets.
Things get tense when Teacher Jung accuses them of being thieves, but when the seller opens a briefcase to find a bomb stashed in among his payment and Teacher Jung holding the trigger, he agrees to cough up the bullets.
Tae- in is sent out to warm up the car, and finds a cop taking down their license number. The cop says the car was reported as stolen, and when Tae-in hands over his ID, he whispers to the cop to please just leave because it’s dangerous here.
Tae-in sees his men coming, and slings the cop against the building to growl that he’s a cop too, instructing the man to just act natural and go quietly. When Teacher Jung arrives, Tae-in smiles and says the cop is leaving, but Jung isn’t so willing to just let the man go.
Suddenly the cop steps up, and totally rats Tae-in out to Teacher Jung — oh no, it was a setup. One of Jung’s henchman stabs Tae-in in the gut, and Tae-in barely has time to alert his team to trouble with his phone before he does down. The team swings into frantic action, tracing Tae-in’s phone and sending someone out to retrieve him.
Gun-woo suits up to visit the resting place of Yeon-hwa, who we see in flashback was a woman that he loved. The two lie in bed in soft morning light, smiling at each other, very much in love. Another flashback shows us Gun-woo and Tae-in both at her memorial soon after her death, and Tae-in had told Gun-woo to let her go. Yeon-woo had told him that both men were making her tired.
Confused and grieving, Gun-woo had asked Tae-in why he was acting like this, but Tae-in had only cryptically instructed him to find a way to survive. Today it’s Team Leader Jang who finds Gun-woo here, and takes him to the station.
He tells Gun-woo that Tae-in is working with him these days, but something went wrong. He introduces Gun-woo to the group (who nearly all come off like quirky weirdos, which is awesome) as his Team Investigation Five. They are a secret exclusive team meant to deal with specific types of crime.
Everyone freezes when Gun-woo asks where Tae-in is, and Team Leader Jang leads him to speak in private. Tae-pyung notes that Gun-woo seems cold, and Min-joo says that people who are hurt, usually become like that and hurt others. She should know, she speaks from experience on both sides.
Gun-woo is shown Tae-in’s file, marveling reluctantly that he was undercover for three whole years. Team Leader Jang plays a video of Teacher Jung’s voice requesting a sniper, which is why Gun-woo is here. They want to plant him on Teacher Jung’s team, to discover what happened to Tae-in.
Gun-woo doesn’t seem happy to be asked to work with Tae-in, but Jang admits that Tae-in was exposed, and they’ve lost contact with him. Though there’s obviously bad blood between them, Gun-woo seems nervous to ask if Tae-in is still alive, and Team Leader Jang says that’s what they need to find out.
Gun-woo rolls his eyes angrily to hear that he’s the most qualified person for the job, since he blames himself for his partner’s death. Jang reminds Gun-woo that he owes Tae-in for something Tae-in did for him once, and this is Gun-woo’s chance to pay him back.
Gun-woo doesn’t care and says he’ll pretend he never heard this, but Jang says that if Tae-in was exposed, the whole team may have been, too. Gun-woo insists that Tae-in would never give up his partners, but Team Leader Jang isn’t willing to take that chance and wants to minimize the number of people who could die. But this plays right into Gun-woo’s fear that he could make another mistake and cause another death, and he leaves.
Later he sits alone at a pojangmacha, recalling how Team Leader Jang had tried to pique his curiosity about what Tae-in has been doing. He reminds Gun-woo that it’s been eight years since they had their falling-out, and says that he should at least try to find out how Tae-in has been living. Even if nobody else cares, Gun-woo should. Gun-woo takes one last shot of soju, and makes a call.
Soon he’s in a car with Min-joo, staking out the black market dealer that Teacher Jung asked for a sniper. Gun-woo steals the guy’s taxi, forcing him to grab the next one which happens to be driven by Tae-pyung, and Min-joo follows behind so that they’ve got the guy fenced in.
They drive the man to a remote area and stop in a tunnel, faking an accident, but the dealer figures out pretty quickly that he’s been isolated by the cops. He smirks that he’s the best fighter from his army division, but yet they only sent four people to subdue him. Tae-pyung asks to see his moves then, if he’s that good, and Gun-woo comes out to fight him.
The guy is pretty amazing, and gets in a few good licks to Gun-woo, but suddenly Gun-woo picks up the pace and manages to win the fight easily. Tae-pyung is impressed, and Min-joo seems surprised at Gun-woo’s fighting ability.
Tae-in is alive, and hangs bleeding and handcuffed in a warehouse somewhere. Teacher Jung comes to cluck at him, since he checked but the police don’t seem to know who Tae-in is. If he’s not the police as he claimed, then who is he?Tae-in asks what made Teacher Jung suspicious after three years of working together so closely, and Jung admits that before this big project, he tested everyone on his team.
Everyone had different results, but Tae-in was the only one that passed his test cleanly. No matter what he tried, Jung couldn’t find anything at all on him, and that in itself caused his suspicion. He gives Tae-in three days to do… something, but it’s not clear what Teacher Jung wants.
Min-joo gives Gun-woo his fake identity and documentation, and the black market dealer is coached to call Teacher Jung and recommend Gun-woo (or his alter-ego, more precisely) to be his sniper. He’s supposedly a designated driver, so Teacher Jung calls him to check him out.
Teacher Jung has brought his two best men along, and Gun-woo has already been briefed on them: Lee Kwang-shik, the bodyguard, and Ahn Kyung-soo, an expert hacker. Gun-woo’s fake ID is scanned and declared legitimate, and he’s taken to a building in the middle of nowhere.
Teacher Jung offers him a job, which Gun-woo accepts as long as the pay is good. He asks what the job entails, and Jung signals a couple more of his men to enter. One of them sneers when he sees Gun-woo and introduces himself as “100 Percent,” but when Gun-woo reaches to shake his hand, he slings him roughly into the wall.
100 Percent pulls a knife on Gun-woo, snarling, “You know me, right?” and says that he saw Gun-woo at Yongsan station. He announces to Teacher Jung that this guy is police, and all the other men pick up weapons. Teacher Jung comes closer, and asks if Gun-woo is really a cop.
Hidden Identity gave us a strong opening episode in most aspects, and while I’ll admit that this is a genre I don’t usually find myself watching, I’m interested in the characters enough to be curious to see where this all goes. I’ve made no secret that my interest in a show depends almost entirely on the characters and whether I care about them, and there’s enough information given here that I do want to know more, particularly in regards to Gun-woo and Tae-in.
It seems as though long ago, the two men shared a close bond, most probably a sunbae/hoobae relationship where Gun-woo looked up to Tae-in, but it that went sour along the way. I’m sure it has something to do with Yeon-hwa, Gun-woo’s love, and her death. But Tae-in’s comment that she’d shared with him that both men were making her tired, hints at a deeper conflict than just her dying. And it must be something serious if both men are still unwilling to even discuss the other, eight years later. Team Leader Jang’s statement to Gun-woo was also interesting, that even if nobody else cares, he of all people should know what Tae-in has been doing. Whatever happened between Gun-woo and Tae-in, it’s clearly affected both men in profound and lasting ways. More even than the dead girlfriend, I’m itching to know what happened between these two, and look forward to some possible bromance as they risk their lives for each other.
I do hope that Gun-woo opens up a bit more soon, because as a hero I find him a bit initially one-dimensional. I know many may disagree with me, and it’s no reflection on Kim Bum’s acting abilities (he’s always great), but when your lead is this tight-lipped about his feelings with the people around him, we need to at least see some of his personality in other ways. Whether you use flashbacks, voice-overs, or other writing tricks, the audience has to be able to connect with your character in some way if you’re going to start him out this severely closed-off emotionally. But as he’s shown in this first episode, the most emotion we’ve seen of Gun-woo was his shock and upset at his partner’s death. Other than that, I have no sense of him as a person other than that he’s pretty grouchy — I don’t know if he’s angry, or sad, or what. I do hope that we get some more insight into Gun-woo and how he ticks soon, so that we can bond with him as an audience and care what happens to him.
Other than that, and maybe it’s because as I said, this is a genre I don’t normally follow, but I’m a bit murky on what-all is happening. Teacher Jung is obviously pretty high on the Bad Guy ladder, though there’s someone above him, the Elder, who calls the shots. Teacher Jung is planning some sort of major operation and is still working on getting his team and his plans together, but at this point I don’t think we know anything about the operation other than that it requires scrambling of CCTV cameras. I know the show is keeping us in the dark on purpose, since even Team Leader Jang doesn’t know what Teacher Jung is planning, but I’ll admit that I would be more compelled to watch if I knew a bit about what was in the works. That may just be a personality quirk of mine, rather than a weakness of the show, so I’m willing to hang in there and see what happens next.
But though I’m confused about some things, I’m willing to accept that it may be more my problem than a problem of the show. And I’m interested enough to stick around and give the show a chance to grab my attention. It has all the right ingredients to do that – good characters, hints at interesting personal conflict, quirky sidekicks, great casting, and a Big Bad who seems capable of surprising me – so I’m here to see if it puts those things together in the right ways. If it can, I think we’re in for an exciting time.
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