A Beautiful World: Episode 4
Parents want the best for their children, hoping that they live better lives than theirs. However, blinded by their pursuit for success, parents become obsessed with achievements and neglect what’s truly important. In their earnest attempts to protect their children from setbacks, have parents inadvertently created monsters, instead? As the show proposes, evil is surprisingly ordinary.
EPISODE 4 RECAP: Evil is Ordinary
Teacher Lee interviews students in his class about Sun-ho’s incident, but their responses range from indifference to annoyance. They are more worried about their grades than their classmate, and the interviews reveal nothing about the case except for the selfishness of the students.
Detective Park shows the CCTV footage of the surrounding area to In-ha and Moo-jin, retracing Sun-ho’s footsteps that evening. No one besides Sun-ho entered the school that night, and the other students’ alibis check out. As for the number that sent the video, it’s from a burner phone, so for now, all Detective Park can do is ask forensics to check the authenticity of the video. In-ha can’t believe her son would commit suicide without leaving behind a letter, and asks the detective if he checked the school’s back gate or talked with Da-hee.
Da-hee sits outside, staring at the trashed flowers that Soo-ho brought, when her mother returns from her meeting with Teacher Lee. She asks her mother if she told her teacher about that, but she reminds her daughter that no one will find out. Da-hee wonders how Sun-ho is doing, but her mother reprimands her for worrying about him, muttering that Sun-ho at least has a conscience. Seeing Da-hee’s tears, her mother tells her to pretend that nothing happened, and in time, everything will go back to normal.
While leaving the police station, In-ha shares her misgivings with Moo-jin, but he asks if she would prefer the alternative—that Sun-ho was pushed by his classmates. He understands the overwhelming guilt she must feel because it’s crushing him every day, too. She agrees that the guilt is killing her, but she isn’t trying to avoid her guilt like he’s suggesting. Even if others point their finger at her, she won’t stop fighting until she uncovers the truth.
They part ways at the station, and Moo-jin stops by the school to investigate the back gate. The guard happens to pass by, so Moo-jin asks him about the rear entrance as well as the broken CCTVs. The guard says that he didn’t notice anyone come in from the back and explains the broken cameras as a frequent occurrence.
Later that day, Ki-chan’s father barges into the school drunk and rebukes the guard for stopping him. Teacher Lee steps in between them before a fight breaks out, but he ends up arguing with Ki-chan’s father, instead. Things calm down when the vice principal intervenes, but while escorted away, Ki-chan’s father comments on Sun-ho jumping from the school. Having witnessed everything, Soo-ho chases after him, but the guard stops her. Powerless, Soo-ho breaks down into tears.
Ki-chan flips over a desk, dropping a form from the School Violence Committee, and mumbles about feeling embarrassed. Meanwhile, Sung-jae’s mother meets with Eun-joo to inform her about Ki-chan’s claims concerning Joon-suk’s involvement in Sun-ho’s incident. To Sung-jae’s mother’s surprise, Eun-joo already knows everything and even apologized to In-ha for her son being a guilty bystander.
Sung-jae’s mother clarifies again that Ki-chan was the one who called Joon-suk the leader and reasserts that her sudden visit was only meant to help Eun-joo. Though she thanks her for the concern, Eun-joo casually mentions the mixed-up priorities since Sung-jae’s mother should apologize to In-ha’s family first. The two keep up the cordial smiles, but once alone, Eun-joo’s façade drops and she shakes uncontrollably.
Ki-chan’s mother nags Young-chul’s mother for her laissez-faire attitude, especially since Sung-jae’s mother is already pulling strings. Young-chul’s mother doesn’t see the point since all their children are equally responsible, but Ki-chan’s mother informs her that if the case goes to court, she’ll be hit the hardest.
Still bummed from earlier, Teacher Lee mopes, so Teacher Shin offers him a drink to cheer him up. He tells Teacher Lee that they might have responsibility but no authority over their students’ lives. Hence, he should just think of this as a bad experience that might earn him some points for a promotion later. Teacher Lee huffs at his attempt to comfort him and vows to never having kids of his own.
In-ha calls Teacher Lee to ask about Da-hee, and he promises to stop by and inform her in person. Joon-ha grumbles about Da-hee’s mother’s refusal to see In-ha, but that’s only the tip of the infuriating iceberg as Ki-chan’s and Sung-jae’s mothers step inside the bakery.
Jin-pyo meets with school personnel to make sure they’re all on the same page: the bullying was a one-time event that may or may not be directly related to Sun-ho’s suicide attempt. Teacher Lee disagrees with that assessment and finds it hard to believe that the bullying wasn’t a repeat offense. The principal sympathizes with Teacher Lee’s stance, but Jin-pyo reminds them both that the most important task is to protect the school’s reputation as well as the other innocent students.
As for the bullies, the school has placed them in the counselor’s office to reflect on their actions, and Jin-pyo encourages the school to take a restorative rather than punitive approach. The principal agrees, but when he mentions justice for Sun-ho’s parents, Jin-pyo throws a manual on the table—all they have to do is follow instructions.
At the bakery, Ki-chan’s mother accuses In-ha for overreacting to a little fight between boys, which has embarrassed Ki-chan. In-ha drops formalities and says that Ki-chan should feel ashamed since Sun-ho can’t do anything while they continue with their lives. She screams at them to leave, but Sung-jae’s mother tries to calm her down and resume their conversation.
Sung-jae’s mother isn’t here to pick a fight and believes In-ha is acting too emotionally. Spinning her side of the story, she tells In-ha that Sun-ho also fought back, making both parties the perpetrators. From the entrance, Moo-jin scoffs at her nonsense and stands by his wife to defend her.
He asks what’s the point of sending their kids to elite schools to become successful adults if they can’t even know right from wrong and apologize for their mistakes. He wonders what the children will learn when the adults are setting poor examples, and says that Sung-jae’s mother should be ashamed of herself. Before they can argue, he orders both mothers to leave.
The two mothers grumble about how unreasonable In-ha and Moo-jin are, and with no other choice than to cooperate with the School Violence Committee, they agree to keep Joon-suk out of the picture. Back in the bakery, Joon-ha steps out to give In-ha and Moo-jin some privacy.
Staring off to the distance, In-ha reflects on her mistake of thinking that moving to this neighborhood would solve everything. All she wanted for her children was to provide the opportunity to pursue their dreams unlike her, but now, she wonders if that was all her greed. She blames herself for believing Sun-ho’s lies that he was alright, but Moo-jin tells her that she was, is, and will be a great mom. He apologizes for not being better and promises to try harder for all their sakes.
Soo-ho confronts Ki-chan and Sung-jae after school and silently kicks Ki-chan in the shins—twice. Sung-jae sees through Soo-ho’s ploy to mark them as repeat offenders and stops Ki-chan from retaliating. Having been discovered, Soo-ho screams at them to die, which rattles Ki-chan, though he refuses to admit it.
Joon-ha surprises Soo-ho at the school gate and convinces her to skip her after school classes to go eat. They chow down on some spicy rice cakes, and Soo-ho notes how these were Sun-ho’s favorites. The thought chokes Joon-ha up, but she blames the spiciness for her tears. Soo-ho plays along with the ruse, and the two exchange smiles.
Young-chul waits for Joon-suk outside his house to ask him if he met Sun-ho the night of the incident and mentions “Laputa.” Hiding his disconcertment, Joon-suk invites Young-chul to his house, and in the privacy of his room, he asks for more details. Flashing back to that night on their cram school roof, Young-chul accidentally saw them talking while sneaking out for a smoke. However, he only overheard Sun-ho ordering Joon-suk to meet him at “Laputa” (the name of a flying island described in Gulliver’s Travels).
Young-chul promises that he didn’t tell anyone about this, but Joon-suk coolly plays it off as no big deal since he didn’t meet Sun-ho afterwards. He praises Young-chul for being a true friend, and Eun-joo listens from the hall as Joon-suk repeats Jin-pyo’s words without any hesitation. Taking it one step further, Joon-suk hands Young-chul a new, expensive vaporizer as a gift, but reminds him that if he gets caught, then he takes all the blame.
Teacher Lee tells In-ha that Sun-ho liked Da-hee which made her uncomfortable. Joon-ha jumps into the conversation, suggesting the possibility of Da-hee being a victim as well, but Teacher Lee brushes off her speculations as unfounded.
When Teacher Lee leaves, Joon-ha chases after him and asks that he do a proper job with the investigation this time. He’s indignant at her implications, but Joon-ha explains how the students would be more forthright with him if they thought he was trustworthy. Sun-ho’s family fights every day, so Joon-ha simply wishes for Teacher Lee to do the same.
Moo-jin shoots glances at Soo-ho in the passenger’s seat and shares how admirable he finds her for visiting Sun-ho. He then asks her for a favor: whenever she’s about to do something, could she think of her parents for just a minute? Soo-ho interprets his words to mean “stop causing trouble,” but Moo-jin explains, “I’m telling you to never forget that your mom and I are always by your side.” Then much to Soo-ho’s embarrassment, Moo-jin sends her hearts and calls her his angel.
Standing at Sun-ho’s bedside, Eun-joo stares at him and apologizes. She reaches out for his hand, but Sun-ho suddenly grabs her and sits up. Eun-joo wakes up from her nightmare, and the first thing she sees is Jin-pyo through the walls of glass in their house. She recalls all his puzzling statements, hinting at a deeper secret she may be hiding, and through the glass, Jin-pyo stares back at her.
Soo-ho sees Sun-ho for the first time since the accident and stands quietly by his side. In her thoughts, she begs him to wake up, promising to do anything he asks, but out loud, Soo-ho gruffly says that she has nothing to say. In-ha and Moo-jin talk with Sun-ho’s doctor who informs them that Sun-ho should be transferred to a different hospital since he has a slim chance of waking up. Despite neither parent wanting to move, the doctor tells them that there’s nothing they can do.
The day of the investigation comes, and Detective Park finds the detective in charge of Sun-ho’s case to ask if he can tag along. At the school, In-ha and Moo-jin arrive, and they silently walk past the assailant’s parents while holding each other’s hand.
The detective interviews Sung-jae first, but they don’t learn anything new, especially with Sung-jae’s father in the back interfering. Ki-chan is second, and his parents bring along an attorney who coaches Ki-chan through the process. He deftly avoids incriminating himself with the ever useful “I don’t remember,” but when the detective mentions Joon-suk, Ki-chan ignores his parents’ pleas and blames Joon-suk for orchestrating the whole thing.
The new information perks Detective Park’s interest, but before they can ask Ki-chan for clarifications, the attorney intervenes. Detective Park reminds him that this isn’t a courtroom, but the attorney accuses Detective Park for breaking protocol and overstepping bounds. Muttering under his breath about the absurdity of the attorney’s claims, Detective Park takes his seat, and the interview resumes.
Ki-chan tells the detective that Joon-suk gave everyone roles while he acted as the “audience,” demanding an entertaining show. However, when it’s Young-chul’s turn, he denies Ki-chan’s statements concerning Joon-suk. His mother urges him to tell the truth, but Young-chul asserts that he’s being honest. After the interview, Young-chul passes Joon-suk in the hall and gives him a thumbs up.
During Joon-suk’s interview, Detective Park personally asks him about his spectator role, but Joon-suk refutes the accusations, even claiming to have stopped the others at the end. Flashing back, Joon-suk, indeed, stopped the “game,” but his words of concern were more mocking than genuine. Sun-ho asked why he’s doing this to him, but as Joon-suk smirks at him, his face overlaps with images of him screaming.
Though the investigation is over, a verdict hasn’t been made, so the detective can’t disclose anything to In-ha and Moo-jin. He can’t even share if they found new information, but when Moo-jin asks if they at least admitted to the assault, the detective apologizes.
Alone in the classroom, Da-hee stares at Sun-ho’s empty seat. Meanwhile, Eun-joo takes Joon-suk home, but when they arrive, she confronts him and asks if it’s true. He wonders if she’s talking about his interview, but Eun-joo clarifies, “That day, when you said it was an accident, was that true?”
In-ha and Moo-jin also come back home, but In-ha stops in the entrance and stares at Sun-ho’s neatly tied shoes. She can’t believe she just noticed it, but when Moo-jin asks her what’s wrong, In-ha wordlessly opens the shoe closet.
Sun-ho doesn’t tie his shoelaces! I knew I missed details from before, but man, the clues were right there. The director lingered on Sun-ho’s shoes multiple times in episode 1, and now it all makes sense. This only reinforces the fact that someone took Sun-ho’s shoes (something the audience already knew), but now it’s naturally revealed to the characters as well. There’s a surprising air of intrigue in this show, and even though the perpetrators are known, there’s enough mystery surrounding Sun-ho’s incident and his relationships leading up to it that leaves the audience guessing. Eun-joo is clearly hiding a secret, but from her last scene, it seems that her sin may have been turning a blind eye to her son’s wrongdoings rather than guiding him towards repentance. However, her reoccurring nightmares could also be a reflection of a warped reality, and maybe she did see Sun-ho fall and even more horrifying is the thought that Sun-ho could have reached out to her after he fell. I shudder at the thought that someone could be so heartless, but if Joon-suk was the one who caused the “accident,” then I can see Eun-joo committing the unthinkable.
As for Sun-ho’s complicated relationship with Joon-suk, I’m left scratching my head over how they were once best friends. In fact, I don’t quite understand how this friend group formed in the first place. If his parents, teachers, and classmates all thought the five of them were friends, then there’s a good chance that Sun-ho was, in fact, friends with them once. Maybe Sun-ho was just as terrible as them but gained a conscience recently (unlikely given what we’ve seen so far) or it could be that Sun-ho only pretended to be their friend but was bullied all along (rather unconvincing). The most likely scenario is that something happened that caused the rest of the group to change and start bullying Sun-ho. Yet this doesn’t explain why Sun-ho would “participate” in their “game” and show up to meet them if the violent bullying wasn’t a one-time event. Maybe the video is clouding my judgement as well as the main characters’ and causing us to focus on this one tree rather than the forest. Though the clip was horrifying and portrayed the difficulties Sun-ho endured, it only paints Sun-ho as a helpless victim to school violence and is used to explain why he may have jumped (or ran away from his bullies). No one is questioning the assailant’s motives for beating Sun-ho in the first place and readily accept it as a cruel “game.”
Besides the main accident, there is another mystery surrounding Da-hee, Sun-ho, and Joon-suk, which may be the root cause behind these tragic events. This is all speculation, but from Da-hee’s mother’s response to her daughter’s distress, I’m cautiously assuming she may have been sexually assaulted. Her mother’s desperate attempts to hide whatever happened to her daughter reveals an unspoken shame which is often associated with sexual assault victims. It’s a terrible pattern of shaming victims to hide rather than seek justice as if ignoring the crime will somehow make the trauma go away. Whatever the case may be, Da-hee seems to hold the key to this mystery and could offer an explanation as to why Sun-ho was bullied in the first place. As for Dong-hee, she’s also an enigma. She cares for Sun-ho unlike the other classmates, but from the way Soo-ho described it, it doesn’t seem like she had a particularly close relationship with him. However, she’s so adamant about Sun-ho not committing suicide that there must be something else she knows but won’t share. As Joon-ha pointed out, Teacher Lee must not feel trustworthy to Dong-hee, and with no other adult shown in her life thus far, it might take a while for Dong-hee’s secret to come out.
Amidst all the deception and selfishness, In-ha and Moo-jin’s relationship continues to be a ray of hope piercing through the darkness. Admittedly, they have their faults. They say cruel things to each other in the heat of the moment, often making callous accusations out of their own sense of guilt. However, it’s these mistakes that emphasize the magnitude of their love and forgiveness for each other. Even after all the hurt they sling unintentionally, In-ha and Moo-jin always find comfort in each other and stay intact as a team. When Moo-jin grew frustrated with In-ha’s insistence over Sun-ho’s incident being an accident, his words about avoiding their guilt for being bad parents hit a chord with In-ha. She shares this pain with him later in the bakery, and this time, Moo-jin apologizes for not being a better father and husband. He tells her that she is a good mother, and lifts her up when she’s at her lowest. Though neither In-ha nor Moo-jin ever directly apologize for their mistakes, the subtle ways they show repentance by taking back their previous words keeps their relationship afloat during these troubling times and can only be done if their relationship is founded on trust and love. In contrast, Eun-joo and Jin-pyo never argue, but whenever they converse, it’s a tense sparring match as each party tries to hide their true intentions and uncover the other’s secrets.