Mrs. Cop: Episode 1
Mrs. Cop comes out of the gate hard and fast, with great, relatable characters and a compelling conflict for the heroine to tackle: What’s more important, your career or your family? You’d think it’s an easy decision, except when your career involves protecting the families of your fellow man. It’s hard to prioritize a dance recital when lives are literally on the line, and Young-jin struggles to make the right choice. I have a feeling her struggle will be quite the amazing journey.
The show opens on our heroine, policewoman CHOI YOUNG-JIN (Kim Hee-ae) having dinner at a street cart. She asks if the ajumma-owner has seen a man, showing her a photo on her phone. The owner says she hasn’t, but just then the man walks right past the cart. Young-jin brushes off a call from “Stepmom” to follow him.
He’s busy trailing after an attractive young woman, and Young-jin is nearly caught when her phone buzzes with a text message. It’s from “Stepmom” again, threatening to move out with Ha-eun if Young-jin doesn’t show up to Ha-eun’s performance. “If you don’t come, you’re not even a mom.”
Young-jin cringes, but forgets all about the message when she notices that her target is gone. He’s getting closer to the young woman as she threads through dark alleys, sensing that the man behind her is up to no good. She runs to her door but as she fumbles with her keys, the man grabs her.
Young-jin hears the woman scream and runs toward the noise, calling her partners to catch up with her. She finds the guy manhandling the woman and he runs off, leaving the woman unconscious. Two more cops arrive and run after the attacker while Young-jin tries to revive the young woman.
Another call from “Stepmom” has her barking into the phone that she’ll call back later, and we join the woman on the other end of the line, her sister CHOI NAM-JIN (Shin So-yool). She’s with Young-jin’s daughter HA-EUN, an adorable wee fairy in a ballet tutu, at a dance recital. Nam-jin lies to Ha-eun that her mother promised to come, and Ha-eun sadly nods as if she knows better from experience.
Young-jin bundles the victim into an ambulance and calls her partners in time to hear what sounds like a horrific confrontation — which it is, since the attacker has just thrown garbage water at one of the men. Ha, the other cop is more incapacitated than the wet man, as he retches uncontrollably.
They get their man, but Young-jin holds the cop who got splashed at arm’s length (leg’s length?) and orders him to take a taxi back to the station because he reeks so bad. He whines that it’s a miracle that Ha-eun is such a good girl, with a mother like her.
The recital is over, but little Ha-eun refuses to leave until her mom shows up like she promised. Her aunt Nam-jin is honest about the fact that she never keeps her promises, and Ha-eun bursts into disappointed tears.
Young-jin does come to the recital hall, but it’s too late and they’ve gone. Nam-jin jumps all over her the moment she gets home, admonishing her not to make promises she can’t keep and accusing her of never even seeing her daughter’s face. Young-jin seems sorry, but she doesn’t even go into her daughter’s room, instead laying on the couch whining about how tired she is.
Young-jin catches it at work the next day as well, for leaving her partners to do all the paperwork the night before. The attacker is refusing to talk, and a previous victim’s sister bursts into the station screaming and demanding to know where he is. She runs at him with a weapon, threatening to kill him, and has to be forcibly removed.
Later, someone sneaks into the interrogation room with the attacker, whose name is Ho Jong-nam. He doesn’t see the woman’s face, and she grabs him from behind and threatens to kill him, for killing her sister. He stammers that it wasn’t him, begging pitifully for his life, and the woman whirls him around to see that it’s actually Young-jin.
She checks Jong-nam’s rap sheet, and he’s really no more than a petty thief. Young-jin thinks he’s not the killer, especially since she just said to him that the sister was killed in a different neighborhood than where the murder actually happened, and he didn’t contradict her.
Her teammates are JO JAE-DUK, YEOM SANG-MIN, and maknae LEE SE-WON (Lee Ki-kwang), and none of them look pleased at this morning’s events. Jae-duk complains that she relies too much on intuition, but Young-jin counters that it’s her vast experience.
A pair of suited men sit at a small corner restaurant having a meal, and one of them compliments the other on how skilled the police are these days, even catching serial killers. The other man, police CHIEF YEOM, says they were always skilled, they just didn’t catch them because they didn’t try.
The first man, KANG TAE-YOO, CEO of a conglomerate called K1 Group, wants to publicly announce the capture of the killer because his son is going to be arrested the next day, and he’s hoping the flurry over the serial killer will squash the news of his own son. Chief Yeom isn’t willing to risk his career when they haven’t confirmed they have the real killer, but Tae-yoo is all Since when did we need evidence? Of course, a hefty stack of money convinces Chief Yeom to bend his principles.
And so it’s announced that Ho Jong-nam is the same man who raped and murdered four women in the last year, and Young-jin is furious. She confronts Chief Yeom, asking what he’ll do if it turns out they have the wrong man, insisting that the man they caught was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Chief Yeom reminds her that her job is to catch criminals, not determine their guilt, but she wants to know why the announcement went out without the case team leader’s knowledge. He has no valid answer so he pulls rank on her, and they end up just screaming at each other.
Young-jin goes to vent to her friend PARK JONG-HO (Kim Min-Jong), head of the Violent Crimes Division. They clearly know each other well, as he rubs her shoulders and strokes her hair, and she smacks him in the butt in retaliation. He’s a major flirt, and teases her right out of her fury.
Once she’s calm, he advises her to let it go, and she counters that he lets things go too easily — that’s why he’s not married. It’s his sore spot, but he grins after her when she goes.
Another young woman is found murdered in her apartment, and Young-jin and her team are first to the scene. She was killed in the same way as the other murdered women, having been raped then strangled, but with a knife left in her back. What’s worse, this woman was pregnant.
Young-jin finds a newly-purchased package of rice cakes on the floor, and checks the fridge — there’s unopened packages of the same rice cakes in there. Why would she buy more when she had plenty?
Young-jin imagines a man coming to the door using the excuse of delivering snacks to his new neighbors to gain entry. The victim must have asked him to leave them, then when she opened the door to pick them up, he attacked. It would explain the duplicate rice cakes, and the lack of forced entry.
Young-jin finds the shop that sells those rice cakes, and the owner remembers the man and says it was strange — he declined a free package, only taking the one. They take the package he left behind and find fingerprints, and the team swings into action.
Young-jin takes Chief Yeom a form to sign saying that Ho Jong-nam is no longer the serial killer suspect, but he tells her to leave it and he’ll sign it after he gets back from a three-day training workshop. She wonders why he won’t just sign it now, but he just bristles and leaves.
Young-jin actually stops the bus and confronts Yeom in front of his colleagues, saying that she knows signing the form will be embarrassing. But it’s unfair to make Ho Jong-nam live as a murderer for three days while he’s gone. His colleagues mutter for him to sign, and he walks off the bus.
Once the bus pulls away, Chief Yeom kicks Young-jin in the shin and yells at her, but she’s not cowed and asks if she’ll be forced to report him for not signing. He hollers at her to do it, then.
That night Aunt Nam-jin is confronted by a shop owner — Ha-eun shoplifted a stuffed bear. She lets it go this time, and Ha-eun lights up when Young-jin arrives home during her scolding. Nam-jin grouches that Ha-eun shouldn’t talk to strangers, ha.
Their family dynamic is that Nam-jin is more of a mother to Ha-eun, taking on the role of caregiver and disciplinarian, while Young-jin behaves more like the fun auntie. Nam-jin complains that she doesn’t even have time to date, but Young-jin blows her off. She does at least pay Nam-jin for her hard work.
Jae-duk happily bounces up to Young-jin at the station, having discovered that their killer, Nam Sang-hyuk, is a regular at a certain nightclub. He’s apparently obsessed with one of the employees, and J ae-duk and Se-won follow her as she meets up with a man in an apartment. They think it’s Sang-hyuk, so Young-jin sets up her men to wait for him to come out.
Nothing happens until the next morning, when Sang-hyuk saunters out of the building just as Young-jin is waking up. She pretends to be stretching and he walks right past her, until she calls out a cheerful greeting.
In moments he’s surrpounded by cops, but he makes a breeak for it anyway, and Young-jin falls in the chase. The team finally flank him on a bridge, but Sang-hyuk kicks Jae-duk in the stomach and jumps off the side into the creek bed. He gets quite a distance, then he’s suddenly gone.
Jae-duk sends the team in different directions, but something tells him to check the enclosed sewer (“Augh, every time I wear new clothes!” HA). He finds Sang-hyuk trapped by a fence, and Sang-hyuk silently holds his hands out to be cuffed. I… don’t trust him, not with that smirk.
When Young-jin catches up she gets the same idea to check the sewer, and Jae-duk calls that he’s got him. She starts to make a phone call and hears a shot, and runs inside the sewer duct to find Jae-duk gut-stabbed and Sang-hyuk gone. Jae-duk groans for her to go catch the killer, but he’s bleeding badly and Young-jin panics because she can’t get cell reception down here.
Later Chief Yeom rakes her over the coals for not calling for more backup (seriously, she had something like fifteen men, come on), but Young-jin is a bit broken and just quietly apologizes. Yeom says she’s stubborn with an attitude problem, and that this situation is all her fault.
He takes her off the case and reinstates Ho Jong-nam as the main suspect. How does that make sense?? Young-jin finally finds her spirit and objects to Jong-nam being charged with the murder, but Chief Yeom just says that in his opinion, thief or murderer, they’re all the same and should be killed. Whoa.
Young-jin says that she heard from reporters that the day they announced Ho Jong-nam as the killer, was the same day the son of K1 Group was arrested. That case didn’t make headlines, and the reporters had asked her why they made such a big announcement while still investigating.
She’s supposed to give them an answer today – what should she tell them? She can’t say that she, as team leader, didn’t know about the announcement, so should she have them ask Chief Yeom directly?
Again with no explanation, Chief Yeom just kicks her out, and tells her to issue a formal apology by tomorrow. Young-jin spits that she will take responsibility for losing her suspect and getting her man hurt, but she practically orders Yeom to change Ho Jong-nam’s charges from murder to burglary.
Young-jin visits Jae-duk in the hospital and they’re joined by his wife, who pointedly ignores Young-jin. She mutters that nobody appreciates how hard he works, even though he basically died and came back to life during surgery.
Jae-duk is all Shut up shut up! but his wife goes on angrily, wondering why they go to such lengths when the pay isn’t even that good. She’s mostly scared, and says that she just wants to live a normal life. Young-jin apologizes, and she tells her to just catch that killer and remember that Jae-duk has a wife and two kids.
Young-jin arrives back at the office to find all of her team’s files being confiscated by the prosecutor’s office. Young-jin notices Chief Yeom looking suspicious, but she’s distracted by a call from Jae-duk’s wife and heads to the hospital. The prosecutor’s men are checking everything, even Jae-duk’s personal items.
His wife is losing it, having to deal with her husband’s stabbing, the discovery during his surgery that he’s got cirrhosis of the liver, and now this insult all in one day. Young-jin isn’t much calmer and chases the men out, though one of them manages to tell her that she’s been ordered to come to the prosecutor’s office tomorrow.
Jae-duk asks what the hell is happening — did someone get caught accepting bribes or something? Young-jin calms herself and tells him to just rest, and she’ll handle this.
Jong-ho finds her drinking and joins her, and she asks him to tell her what’s happening. He reminds her of a situation when she and Jae-duk had roughed up some high school kids for smoking — those kids have caused some more trouble and are associated with a gangster named Dal-joong.
Apparently Dal-joong sold Young-jin and Jae-duk’s names to the kids’ parents, who are now claiming that they bribed the two of them. Young-jin says that’s too easy to disprove, and demands to know what’s really going on with Chief Yeom. When Jong-ho tells her with a pained expression to ask him herself, she figures out that Yeom must be behind this.
Jong-ho says that he knows Young-jin is good at her job, but the Chief is where he is for a reason. He warns her to look out for him and not oppose him so much — it will only make her life harder.
Young-jin is called away to her neighborhood police station, where little Ha-eun is in trouble for stealing another stuffed animal. The store owner (not unkindly) says that Young-jin should spend more time disciplining her daughter than chasing criminals, and Young-jin doesn’t argue.
She asks Ha-eun why she did it, but Ha-eun just shakes her head. On the walk home Young-jin takes her daughter’s hand, and it’s telling how hard the little girl grips her mother’s hand in return. But Young-jin still doesn’t punish her, and only says not to do it again with no authority in her voice.
Ha-eun begs her mom to sleep with her tonight, and Young-jin says she will if Ha-eun tells her why she stole the toy. With a tear in her eye, Ha-eun says that the store owner said that if she stole, she’d take her to the police station and call her mom. Oh, that’s heartbreaking, and Young-jin is truly stricken.
She asks tearfully if that’s true, that Ha-eun did it so she could see her mommy, apologizing when Ha-eun nods yes. They lay in bed, hugging each other and crying together. Later Young-jin looks through her photo album, and it’s so sad how the early pictures are of her and Ha-eun with Ha-eun’s father, then suddenly he’s gone and it’s just the two of them with aunt Nam-jin.
Young-jin and Nam-jin see Ha-eun off to school the next day, and Young-jin tells her sister to find out what a trip to Jeju Island costs, for a short vacation. She goes to work and contemplates her uniform for a minute, then turns in her gun, handcuffs, and badge to Chief Yeom.
She officially quits and asks Chief Yeom to leave Jae-duk alone, apologizing woodenly for all the times she fought with him. Chief Yeom jumps to the conclusion that she’s expecting him to apologize and beg her to stay, but she says it’s for real, proving it by presenting her resignation letter.
Young-jin runs into Jong-ho on her way out, and he calls her crazy for doing this. She just says she’s a mother before she’s a cop. She couldn’t take care of her husband, and she can’t take care of Jae-duk, but she wants to take care of her daughter before it’s too late.
She turns to go, but Se-won runs in and yells that there’s been another rape in Nam Sang-hyuk’s style. Craaaaap. Young-jin whips around and freezes, torn as to what she should do.
This was a strong first episode, giving us a satisfying amount of backstory and characterization, and I’m definitely interested. I love Young-jin with her realistic and understandable conflict between her career and her personal life, and her team all seem well-fleshed-out. I don’t yet have a strong feel of what the overarcing story will be other than that, but sometimes it can take a few episodes to get the whole picture, so I’m willing to be patient.
Young-jin is a fantastic heroine with lots of meaty character ground to delve into. I love her fire and passion about her job, her pinpoint intuition and her determination to do the right thing. It doesn’t even come off as idealism, because she’s been around the block enough to know that there’s no easy answer — she just does what she can to get the bad people off the street. But even then she’s unfailingly fair and willing to fight for their rights — she’s just not okay with a culprit being accused of something he didn’t do. Ho Jong-nam may not be innocent, but he IS innocent of rape and murder, and one thing I love about Young-jin is her willingness to put herself on the line to defend that innocence.
But it looks like it’s not going to be an easy fight, and it looks like her corrupt Chief Yeom is only the tip of that iceberg. He seems like the kind of man who wasn’t bad to begin with, but years of losing the battle with justice coupled with the temptation of money, have broken him. Young-jin is going to have a difficult time fighting Chief Yeom, whose ability to ignore facts and do what he wants is frustrating because you can’t argue with “Shut up and do what I say even if tit doesn’t make sense.” Not to mention, his creedo that all criminals are equal and deserving of death will be a hard wall to crash into. But I have no doubt that Young-jin has the strength to do just that.
I do wish the show had shown her interactions with her sister and daughter more, because I want to know more about how their little family works. Clearly Young-jin’s priority is her work, and Nam-jin knows it. She’s a good aunt to take care of Ha-eun the way she does, but it’s interesting that she lets her unhappiness about the situation be known loudly and often. And Young-jin’s relationship with her daughter is problematic in an obvious way, not just because she’s rarely home to take care of her, but because she goes overboard with the permissiveness with Ha-eun out of guilt. Even if she doesn’t have much time for her daughter, she’s still not a mother when she does see her, and it’s no wonder that Ha-eun is acting out to try to get attention.
But Young-jin seems to finally be realizing it, though I fully expect her to be pulled right back in with this latest murder. It’s hard to break a lifetime of habits that quickly, and easy to justify the decision when people are dying and more will die if you don’t do something. But as a viewer I’m glad she’s going to be sucked right back, because that push and pull between home and work is what makes Young-jin such a great protagonist. She imperfect, and torn, and often makes the wrong decision. But now that she knows exactly what it’s costing her daughter not to have her mother around, her inner struggle will be that much worse, and that much more interesting to watch.