Criminal Minds: Episode 20 (Final)
It’s our last foray with our profilers, and a final chance to set things to rights not just for Ki-hyung, but the whole team. But as the time runs ever lower, desperation needles the bad guys as much as the good, and the Reaper threat that’s hung over them for so long is about to come to a head. But between Ki-hyung and his nemesis, can either live while the other survives?
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Hyun-joon puts down his gun and tries to convince copycat criminal Kang Chi-hwan to let his victim go. But Kang goes for the kill anyway, and with a shout, Hyun-joon leaps at him with his baton. He gets the girl out of harm’s way and tackles Kang to the ground, finally arresting him. As he’s brought out, Kang grins as he spots Reaper weaving through the crowd.
At NCI headquarters, Hyun-joon questions Kang about the fanfic club, accusing him of murder. Kang’s smirk turns into a full-fledged grin as he says they just did “murder practice” and nobody died for real. He says he gets excited reading their fanfic, and feels like he’s committing the murders himself.
He asks Hyun-joon if he isn’t curious about how it feels to kill someone. Face darkening, he adds, “People will die at some point anyway. Why must I waste my time like this because of people who are already dead?”
From the other side of the glass, Min-young notes that Kang is cocky because he knows they haven’t got anything on him. Worried about losing him to the prosecutors, Ki-hyung tells her that they’re going to try to unsettle him psychologically.
They lower the temperature and fill the room with boxes of files before Ki-hyung enters. He shows him a photo of the first victim, Go Joon-hee, and Kang offers up easily enough that they used to be involved in a mystery cafe together. He asks who killed her.
Taking a sidelong glance at the profilers, then at the screen full of photos of Joon-hee’s body, he describes her murder in gleeful detail. When the slide changes to the next victim, the drive-by shooting, and Kang does the same thing, eyes shining. “Did I make any mistakes?” he asks.
Offering a barbed smile of his own, Hyun-joon says everything he described is spot-on, “But how did you find out the culprit’s signature?” Kang falters for a second but then says it was in the fanfic. Ki-hyung says it sounds like Kang is admitting to the crimes.
Smirking, Kang lists the ways they’re trying to unsettle him, from the lowered temperature to their deliberate silence. Laughing again, he asks them to lower the temperature more, claiming it makes him think better.
Nana goes over with Han and Sun-woo all the circumstances that fit Kang to the crimes, frustrated that none of it counts as hard evidence. She tells them that the fanfic site has also vanished—moved, Han thinks. He’s right, and that night, a figure whose face remains hidden taps away at the new site, now called “Night Reaper.”
The next day, a man tears into a wedding dress shop looking for his fiancée—the woman Yong-chul kidnapped last episode. He calls her mom to tell her that he hasn’t been able to contact her for two days, and wants to tell her dad.
At base, Ki-hyung watches Chief Director Baek on the phone, reassuring a superior that they’ve got things in hand. Oh no, the fiancée is his daughter, isn’t it?
Yong-chul has the woman chained up in his lair, and she screams as he yanks the chain wrapped around her neck. Looking bored, he films her. On the side, he watches a (live?) video feed on the Night Reaper website: A group of students enter his old hideout and look around, awed to be where the famed Reaper once was.
Ki-hyung again notices Chief Director Baek on the phone, but meets the team (minus Hyun-joon and Sun-woo) to discuss the fanfic murders. Nana says more such sites are springing up—with more murderers in the making. Ki-hyung thinks that may have been the Reaper’s objective all along.
Chief Director Baek bursts in and tells the team that they’re off the case. He explains that the higher-ups think the NCI being on the case is making things worse. Ki-hyung argues that the Reaper is after them, but Baek tells him unequivocally that it’s an order. His phone rings again, and looking worried, Baek goes out to answer it.
A short time later, Ki-hyung spots Baek hurrying out. This time, he calls Nana and tells her to track the chief’s location. Meanwhile, Kang Chi-hwan is released, and gives Han and Min-young a cheerful wave as he leaves with his attorney.
A little later, Han runs into Ki-hyung’s office and shows him something weird posted on the NCI internal bulletin board. On the road, Sun-woo and Hyun-joon see it, too. It reads like one of the murder fanfics, and in it, a woman gazes at a glass-fronted building and avers that she will die today. “I hope you’re the one who kills me,” it finishes.
Sun-woo points out that unlike the others, this one is talking about an event yet to take place. Taking the details from the story, Nana matches it to a location, and Hyun-joon realizes it’s where they were staking out Kang Chi-hwan the day before. The Reaper must have written it, he concludes.
Nana finds out Chief Director Baek’s location and tells Ki-hyung that he’s at the hospital where the latest victim is. Unable to get the chief on the phone, Ki-hyung heads out.
Arriving at the hospital, Baek calls somebody for instructions. But he’s shocked when he opens the door to a room and finds the latest victim inside. Sure enough, it’s Reaper Yong-chul he’s speaking to, and Yong-chul says he must be disappointed that it’s not his daughter.
He sends Baek the video he took of his daughter in chains, which Baek watches in increasing horror. Taunting, Yong-chul tells him to kill the girl in the room if he wants his daughter to live. Baek pleads with him to meet with him if he has demands, and not hurt his daughter.
Yong-chul grows angry—why is he overthinking it when he can save his daughter by just killing the girl in front of him? Giving him a final chance, he orders Baek to take a scalpel from the drawer. Interestingly, Yong-chul appears to be in the hospital himself.
Ki-hyung and his team descend on the hospital and a white-coated figure passes by in front of them with a covered gurney. Safe in the elevator, the figure pulls off his mask: It’s Yong-chul.
In the victim’s room, Ki-hyung pulls back the curtain—and we cut back to the elevator, where a man’s arm flops out from Yong-chul’s gurney. Oh nooo, it’s Chief Director Baek!
The victim lies dead in her bed with blood everywhere. Sun-woo tells Ki-hyung she just found out that Chief Director’s Baek’s daughter went missing. It’s immediately clear to him that Yong-chul abducted her to threaten them.
Night has fallen by the time they find Chief Director Baek’s car—empty.
Later, Nana discovers a new posting on the NCI bulletin board, which indicates a location. And now, we catch up to the opening scene of the previous episode, as Ki-hyung and Hyun-joon approach Yong-chul in a cafe.
Hyun-joon demands to know where the chief is, and tells Yong-chul that he won’t be able to take a single step out of there. Yong-chul smirks that he’ll be able to walk out of here in ten minutes. Ki-hyung holds Hyun-joon back from attacking, and takes a seat instead.
Yong-chul sips calmly from his cup, untroubled by the laser sights trained on him by the SWAT team marksmen outside, whom we now see. Ki-hyung tells him that he understands his suffering, though Yong-chul himself doesn’t feel it. Yong-chul chides him for over-complicating things, saying that Baek understood him better.
He lifts a bag onto the table, calling it his ticket for safe passage out. He encourages Hyun-joon to open it: “Aren’t you curious about what might be in a psychopath’s bag?”
With dread, Hyun-joon does so, and is met by the gruesome sight of a head (Reporter Sohn’s—thanks for clarifying, Yong-chul). Hyun-joon is on the verge of attacking, but Yong-chul halts him by checking his watch and switching on the TV.
A breaking news bulletin displays an alert for a potential live-broadcast murder: It’s the five teenagers Yong-chul was monitoring in his old hideout earlier, who are now trapped inside. The culprit sent a message stating that all five would die if not rescued in time. Among the five is the child of a political figure.
“Shall we start over?” Yong-chul asks. The SWAT team outside is armed and standing by, but their boss orders them to hold fire for now.
The captive kids shout for help, but to no avail, and their panic builds as some kind of smoke fills the room. A single oxygen mask drops from the ceiling, and they fight each other for it. Watching it, Yong-chul takes a loud slurp of coffee and asks Ki-hyung if he’s ready to talk yet. “Tell me what you want,” Ki-hyung bites out.
Hyun-joon comes out and reports that Yong-chul wants to leave with Ki-hyung in his car. He’ll reveal the kids’ location once he reaches his chosen destination. With the kids’ lives on the line, they have no choice but to cooperate.
Yong-chul—with a spring in his step—ensconces himself in Ki-hyung’s car like a VIP, and warns again that a rash move on their part will result in the kids’ death. As soon as they leave, Hyun-joon follows, asking Nana to track Ki-hyung.
As they drive off, Yong-chul says that both Ki-hyung and Chief Director Baek are the same, losing reason when their family’s lives are on the line. “You can’t beat me,” Yong-chul tells Ki-hyung, and he chuckles over how thrilling it is to watch people run around in panic.
Leaning back, he lazily gives Ki-hyung directions. While tracking them, Nana loses the signal and quickly realizes the car has entered a tunnel. She gives Hyun-joon the location.
Yong-chul calls a stop in the tunnel. He tells Ki-hyung that the kids are in a warehouse at the top of the hill out there, and he’s got five minutes to get to them. Sauntering away in the other direction, he promises that they’ll meet again.
Ki-hyung spins the car around, and passes Hyun-joon entering the tunnel as he’s about to leave it. He sends Hyun-joon after Yong-chul while he goes for the kids.
At the warehouse, smoke pours out of the door, and he finds the kids trapped behind a chained grille inside, nearly passed out.
With some effort, he smashes the chains and opens the gate, but the kids are too weakened to move. Ki-hyung rushes inside to check on them and help them out.
Reinforcements arrive and the kids are reunited with their families. Inside, Han investigates the source of the smoke, and discovers it’s the same substance used for smoke-effects in a nightclub—harmless. Reaper relied on their fear and wanted the kids to turn on each other, Ki-hyung observes.
In a dark room, Chief Director Baek struggles against his bonds. Flashing back to his abduction, we see that he was aware of Yong-chul creeping up on him in the ward. With the scalpel in his hand, he tried to attack the killer instead. But Yong-chul stabbed him with a syringe and knocked him out all too fast.
Now, he saws at his bonds on a metal edge behind him, and finally manages to free himself. He discovers he’s in Yong-chul’s lair, and hearing a faint cry for help, he realizes his daughter, Seo-young, is locked up in the other room.
Smashing the lock open, he stumbles to her, and they sob in each other’s arms. “Daddy, I was so scared,” she cries, as he unties her. But just as they’re about to escape, Yong-chul returns. Noooo.
Urging his daughter out, Baek throws himself at Yong-chul, and manages to seize him in a headlock. He seems to have the upper hand, until Yong-chul grabs a lamp nearby and thrashes Baek with it to escape his grip. Finally free, he hurls one more strike, this time at Baek’s head.
Seo-young makes good her escape, and we catch up to her in hospital with her family. Ki-hyung has to tell her that they haven’t found her father yet, but promises they will. Seo-young’s voice breaks as she begs him to save him. Ki-hyung looks close to tears himself.
He holds a team meeting. Considering Yong-chul’s activities, they don’t believe he’s acting alone. If they can lure in his followers, they think it will lead them to Yong-chul. The fanfic site might be the answer, since they’re certain he reads everything there.
Nana tells Ki-hyung that a video has been sent in for him, and they’re shocked to see Chief Director Baek tied up and barely conscious. The phone rings, and Hyun-joon puts it on loudspeaker.
It’s Yong-chul, of course, and he asks if Ki-hyung is ready to cut a deal yet. He promises to let Baek live and disappear himself if Ki-hyung would only acknowledge that he’s been beaten, and stop coming after him.
But Ki-hyung tells him what he’s told him before: that he doesn’t make deals with bastards like him. Though his words are calm, he snaps the pen in his hands. But Yong-chul tells him that until he’s willing to throw away his pride, he’ll never win against him.
Later, Ki-hyung examines CCTV footage of a patrol car, and asks for information on the driver. Hyun-joon arrives to tell him there was another accomplice at the church murder. Ki-hyung indicates the footage he’s watching: It’s the person who discovered the first victim’s body, an officer called Choi Hyung-jin.
Ki-hyung reveals that the Reaper’s seventh victim had been Choi’s fiancée. Choi is also shown to be the face behind the Night Reaper website (which he’s reading that very moment). Hyun-joon deduces that Choi helped Kang Chi-hwan, pretending to act like he was in league with him in order to avenge his fiancée.
A taxi drops a woman off in front of a building, and Choi watches her from his car as a man in a hat tries to drag her away. She fights him off, but he gets her into a headlock. But he’s forced to let go when she bites him.
As she runs for it, Choi leaps out of his car and catches her, but she attacks him, too, and gets him on the ground, arms behind his back. The first attacker approaches and… hey, I know that jawline! It’s Hyun-joon, and he reveals his face as NCI operatives apprehend Choi.
As he’s escorted away, Choi complains that they can’t catch the Reaper with their feeble methods. Slamming him against a car, Hyun-joon snarls that he’s no more than a murderer himself.
Ki-hyung is staking out a different area, and somewhere else still, we see Yong-chul secretly taking photographs. Ohhh I see where this is going. Nana alerts Ki-hyung that a car close by is starting to move.
Ki-hyung and Hyun-joon tail Yong-chul to a hospital, which occupies the site of the old mental hospital he had burned down. They accept it’s possible they’ve been lured here, but Ki-hyung says they have to save Chief Director Baek.
They make their stealthy way in. Somewhere inside, Yong-chul absently grinds coffee while a CCTV monitor behind him clearly shows Ki-hyung and Hyun-joon’s progress.
The profilers burst into Yong-chul’s den, guns drawn. But the place is empty, despite steam rising from a coffeepot. They find a screen showing Chief Director Baek with a bag over his face, but a view of him from another angle gives a glimpse of the room they’re currently in.
Looking around, they go through another door and find Baek there, groaning. But Hyun-joon falls back at Ki-hyung’s warning, and Ki-hyung calls out, “Kim Yong-chul. Stop your games.”
It’s not Baek in the chair after all, but Yong-chul, who pulls off the hood, and draws a gun. Hyun-joon threatens to blow his head off if he doesn’t tell them where the chief is, but Yong-chul merely chuckles that if he kills him, they’ll never find out.
He suggests they drop their guns and talk, and drops his own gun first. Unarmed, he tells Ki-hyung this is his chance to kill him: “If you don’t shoot now, you’ll regret it forever.” Ki-hyung lays a hand on Hyun-joon’s arm to calm him, and empties his own weapon and throws it away. Hyun-joon follows suit, though simmering with rage.
Ki-hyung asks where the chief is, and Yong-chul locks them in and throws a bag at their feet. It’s similar to the one that contained Reporter Sohn’s head, but Yong-chul tells him it might not be what he thinks.
A gas mask is inside. Yong-chul has already donned one, and at the press of a button, smoke starts to pour in—toxic, this time. With one gas mask between them, he tells them to confirm for themselves how heinous humanity can be when their survival depends on it.
Hyun-joon launches himself at him, but Yong-chul’s already vanished from the spot. He puts the mask on a wheezing Ki-hyung, and Ki-hyung secretly transfers something to his hand: a single bullet. Hyun-joon dives for one of the guns, but Yong-chul knocks him out with a strike to the head.
As Yong-chul taunts, Ki-hyung knocks him out and rushes to Hyun-joon to put the mask on him. He returns to Yong-chul, who now comes at him with a knife. Ki-hyung tackles him to the ground, but Yong-chul gets the better of him and their positions reverse.
Punching Ki-hyung repeatedly in the face, Yong-chul crows that he already killed Chief Director Baek. As he pulls his fist back for another strike, Hyun-joon roars his name and cocks his gun at him. Yong-chul immediately shields his body with Ki-hyung’s.
With his arm around Ki-hyung’s neck, Yong-chul murmurs into his ear that of all the people he killed, touching Hye-won’s body thrilled him the most. Provoked beyond endurance, Ki-hyung breaks free of his hold.
Fighting at close quarters, the figures are indistinct in the smoke. With nothing for it, Hyun-joon releases a volley of shots into the dark and both men drop. But… I thought he only had one bullet? Or did he find the dropped cartridges?
Aghast, Hyun-joon shouts for Ki-hyung. Between coughs, he breaks the window to let in fresh air. A figure emerges from the smoke, and he lowers his gun when he sees it’s Ki-hyung, who trudges past him to the broken window. Hyun-joon finds Yong-chul dead on the ground with a bullet in his chest.
For the last time, Hyun-joon narrates the closing quote, from Dostoevsky: “God and the devil are fighting, and the battlefield is none other than the human heart.”
On a beach camping trip, Ki-hyung and little Han-byul sit at the water’s edge. Han-byul asks why the waves come and go, and Ki-hyung explains that it keeps the water from getting stagnant. Han-byul asks if that’s bad, and Ki-hyung replies that staying in place could be both good or bad.
But Han-byul wants to think that staying is a good thing: “Because then we could be together for a long time.”
He knows that Han-byul’s thinking of his mother. Smiling lovingly at his son, he tells him that Mom will stay with them in their hearts, and scoops his son in a hug.
Han-byul spots their visitors first, and calls out to them. Ki-hyung is surprised to see Hyun-joon, Han, Nana, and Sun-woo making their way down the beach, waving and smiling.
Well, that was anticlimactic, but I have to say that watching it a second time around makes me feel much more affectionate towards this send-off. I remember this feeling when I was recapping Superdaddy Yeol (my other recapping horror-experience), that the negative feelings burn off in the first watch, meaning that the better emotions really come through on the second. Because while the first time watching this left me feeling disappointed, and yes, a little angry, the tenderness and sad moments touched me with genuine feeling.
However, what happened to Chief Director Baek is a tragedy for which we got no closure—closure his character deserved, after being such a hero. Perhaps not an obvious hero, but he, like Ki-hyung, never bowed to the Reaper’s demands, and never sold himself out. I thought about it, for real: What kind of choice would any of us would make in that position? Kill someone else to save your loved one? We all know what the right answer is, but do we know what we would truly do? Though the Reaper was mostly a flat character to me, I did find intriguing how that was the one question he kept trying to force. He kept trying to prove that others were no different from him, or were different only by virtue of circumstance, so he created scenarios intended to expose that nobility as an empty front. It was satisfying to see him proven wrong not just by Ki-hyung—who had already lost his wife to that question—but also by Chief Baek. Especially when the chief was presented to us as someone who was potentially wavering.
We’ve already talked about the missed potential in the team bonding, but Ki-hyung and Hyun-joon’s last stand this episode suddenly made me realize that other gnawing thing that’s been missing from this show. From the start, the two men’s relationship was set up for conflict, and while that was resolved quickly enough, what I really wish we had seen was how their mentor-mentee partnership would have developed. As the end proves, there was poignancy and potential for growth between them, and though we get a glimpse of it here—having each other’s backs, sacrificing their own well-being for the sake of the other—it is, as ever, cruelly and tantalizingly too little. How great would this show have been if they had a true, bone-deep bromance? Perhaps that’s the pairing that went most to waste, and it’s a testimony to both Sohn Hyun-joo and Lee Jun-ki as actors that they expressed as much as they did with what little opportunity they had.
If the show were to make one change that would instantly make it better (apart from giving Moon Chae-won actual things to do), it would be to clearly define each character’s role. I think that’s been one of the biggest detracting points about the team, and when you have time to change Lee Sun-bin’s hair three times, then you had time to figure out who does what. We had Hyun-joon as the Special Forces bomb disposal expert turned detective turned profiler, Min-young the media liaison turned junior profiler, and Nana the hacker who always needed Han’s help and did a bit of counseling when called for. Then you had genius profiler Han who was a better hacker than the hacker (I guess he’s allowed because he’s a genius), and Sun-woo who wasn’t much of anything. I liked all the characters, but they suffered badly from indistinct characterization.
Even the Reaper was multi-talented, as an accomplished murderer who uses both knives and guns with surgical precision, but who is also a hacker, an amateur photographer, and yes, even a barista. Do one job! There’s no large organization on the face of the earth that has its employees playing multiple specialized roles. Just employ someone for each job! Ki-hyung is perhaps the only person within the central cast who has that one clearly defined job, and his character was somewhat the better for it… except they spent half the show trying to get him off the job. Seriously, the “five-man band” archetype exists for a reason, use it!
I feel like over the last several weeks, lovepark and I have said everything there was to say about this show, both in its strengths and missteps. At this point, I think the best favor I can do for myself is look forward to these actors’ next projects, and hope they pick good ones. I also vote for that Lee Jun-ki–Moon Chae-won melo (but not too melo), stat. And yes, those shirts looked good to the end. Bright sides.
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