Memorist: Episode 3
Seconds count when you’re trying to stop a killer, but what to do when the clues all point in different directions and the people who are supposed to be on your side are standing in your way? Our hero isn’t having an easy time finding the culprit, especially since his hands are physically and metaphorically tied. There is one person he can count on — he just doesn’t know it yet.
EPISODE 3: “Baptized in Blood”
Ye-rim manages to get out of her cell through a crawlspace in the ceiling, but her fellow captive, Bo-yeon, makes so much noise that she alerts the killer to Ye-rim’s escape. He finds her outside and brandishes his hammer at her, while at the same time, both Dong Baek and Sun-mi search nearby for clues.
Dong Baek finds a gate flying a wind sock, with the red pig from victim Seo-kyung’s memory. He texts Chief Gu and Se-hoon to meet up with him, but seconds later, prosecutor Seok-do and his team catch up and arrest him again, beating him and tasing him for good measure.
Despite being fired, Sun-mi follows her own clues to a farm near the affluent neighborhood where she believes the true culprit lives. There are a lot of cameras and a tall gate, but oddly, the gate isn’t locked. Even more strange is the fact that the barn is full of cattle, which should mean lots of workers to care for them, but there’s not a soul around.
Sun-mi guesses that the farm is a front for something else, and sure enough, she finds a vehicle matching the description of the one that Bo-yeon disappeared in, sitting in a shed. There’s fresh blood in the straw, and the blood leads to a hatch in the floor. But the screams coming from underground prove beyond a doubt that she’s in the right place, so Sun-mi opens the hatch and heads down the stairs, gun drawn.
She soon runs right into the kidnapper, and she follows him through the tunnel for a ways. When she loses him, she draws him out by removing a few bullets from her gun and letting him hear the click click of the empty chambers. He thinks she’s out of bullets and shows himself, and Sun-mi shoots him point-blank in the chest.
Unfortunately, he’s huge and strong, and he doesn’t go down. He raises his hammer to strike Sun-mi… but a voice calls out and he stops. It’s Dong Baek, having somehow gotten free from Seok-do, and we go back thirty minutes to see what happened.
Dong Baek had woken from his tasing stupor, and taken advantage of the situation to wobble back and forth between the men on either side of him. He started tattling on everyone on Seok-do’s team — this guy turned that guy in for taking bribes, Seok-do had been hitting on the maknae’s girlfriend, etc. — which caused the entire team to fight, so Dong Baek grabbed the taser and knocked out the driver. The car had crashed, allowing Dong Baek to escape.
Now he tells Sun-mi not to kill the kidnapper, because he needs to capture him and get as many memories from him as he can. The kidnapper starts swinging his hammer wildly, and Dong Baek evades it for a time, but then the kidnapper hits him hard and he falls to the floor.
The kidnapper turns on Sun-mi, and this time when he’s about to hit her with the hammer, Dong Baek gets up and stabs him in the back with a shard of wood. He runs off, leaving a trail of blood for Dong Baek and Sun-mi to follow, along with his voice fervently repeating, “Blessed eternal life… blessed eternal life…”
When they catch up, he’s standing in a corridor praying, with his back to a deep hole. When he sees them, he falls backwards into the hole, killing himself and depriving Dong Baek of the chance to read his memories.
They hear a woman sobbing, and they follow the sound to the kidnapper’s bedroom, where they can see several live CCTV feeds on a television screen. Sun-mi opens the cell where the woman is crying and finds Bo-yeon alive, but Dong Baek is frozen by what he sees on another feed. Oh no… Ye-rim’s body lies on the bed in her cell, bloody and lifeless.
Seok-do and his team have followed Dong Baek to the farm, and they find him underground and arrest him again, but Dong Baek barely notices. Ye-rim’s body is taken to the morgue and identified by Chief Gu and Se-hoon, and her mother insists on seeing her daughter one last time. Chief Gu tells her honestly that Ye-rim’s body is in very bad shape, but her mother just screams and struggles until she almost passes out, and she’s carried to the hospital.
Reporter Ji-eun witnesses the scene, but she doesn’t allow her photographer to take any pictures. Instead she reports from the farm, where forensics combs the farm for clues. She reports that the kidnapper has been identified as Han Man-pyung, who inherited the farm — and the underground shelter built during the Japanese occupation — from his parents.
A tent is set up on the premises for the task force to work on site. Department Head Lee sends Chief Byun to reinstate Sun-mi and make sure she’s given the credit for finding the kidnapper and rescuing Bo-yeon, instead of Dong Baek (Department Head Lee’s exact words are “make her a star”).
Dong Baek is put in a holding cell but not questioned, as the plan is to transfer him later to Seok-do’s district. Meanwhile, Seok-do gloats to Chief Prosecutor Im that he got lucky that the kidnapper killed himself, so nobody will be interested in his sex scandal. But Chief Prosecutor Im says that the public will want to be angry at the culprit, and since he’s dead, they’ll be looking for someone else to blame.
Still believing that the kidnapper had an accomplice, Sun-mi orders her team to check anyone that Man-pyung ever contacted. But when the forensics results come in, Sun-mi holds a press conference to announce that no evidence evidence was found of any accomplice. Ji-eun asks about Dong Baek’s presence on the scene, and Chief Byun interrupts to say that Sun-mi got there first.
Department Head Lee watches from his office, monitoring his plan to make Sun-mi the star of the investigation. But Sun-mi deftly evades questions that would lead to that conclusion and repeats that she didn’t solve the case alone. She admits mistakes such as not looking at the area sooner when Ye-rim was taken only a mile away, and not taking Dong Baek’s advice when he gave it, frustrating Department Head Lee.
Soon after, Sun-mi gets the news that her entire team is being dismantled in 72 hours, which means she has a very limited time to find the accomplice. She calls Chil-gyu, who’s at the hospital, but he can’t get permission to talk to Bo-yeon because her mother is pitching a fit about the hospital bill.
Sun-mi calls her team together to apologize for making them look bad by taking responsibility for Ye-rim’s death. But she says that the person who needs to feel responsible is the murderer, so she’s going to spend the next 72 hours finding the real killer.
According to her profiling, she believes that Man-pyung only held the girls captive, and that the person who actually killed them was a charismatic member of high-class society. She singles out a collection of vacation homes a short walk from Man-pyung’s farm, where the killer could easily go to the farm, kill the girls, then get back home without being seen.
Focusing on homeowners who are often there on Tuesdays, she sends her team out to ask questions, sure that someone must have witnessed something. A patch of land near the farm is found to be in Man-pyung’s mother’s name, and there’s a small cabin on the land. Inside is just a table and two chairs, and an ashtray full of cigarette butts, as if two people meet there frequently, but Man-pyung didn’t smoke so some of the butts are taken to be tested.
Ji-eun receives an anonymous tip about the fact that Chief Prosecutor Im was buying Claw Hammer Killer victim Seo-kyung’s sexual favors, and when Chief Prosecutor Im gets to his office, the building is surrounded by reporters. On television, Ji-eun (correctly) speculates that Chief Prosecutor Im impeded the murder investigation by arresting Dong Baek in order to hide his own crimes.
As a result, Dong Baek is set free, but he still seems broken by Ye-rim’s death. Chief Gu and Se-hoon pick him up, but instead of going home, he has them take him to the hospital to speak with Bo-yeon. He catches her trying to sneak out, but she refuses to let him read her memories, snapping that his memory-reading ability creeps her out.
Ignoring that, Dong Baek tells her that what happened to her isn’t her fault, stopping Bo-yeon in her tracks. He says that regardless of her choices, the fault lies with the adults who are accountable for their actions, not a mere teenage girl.
The DNA on the cigarette butt leads to a man named Kwak Hee-joo, a man who was previously convicted for sexual assault and who owns a home in the very area that Sun-mi is targeting. He’s arrested and questioned, and he freely admits that he and Man-pyung would meet up and discuss their faith, and that Man-pyung even belonged to a cult.
Next Dong Baek goes to see Ye-rim’s mom, who says that she knows how hard he tried to save her daughter. She blames herself for falling asleep and not picking up Ye-rim at the bus stop that night, and she sobs pitifully at not having been able to give Ye-rim a better life while she was here.
Chief Gu tells Dong Baek of the news that they’ve caught who they believe is the real killer. But Hee-joo asserts his innocence with the fact that he did a forty-day internet broadcast discussing faith, never leaving the camera except to go to the restroom, which wasn’t nearly long enough to run through the forest and commit a murder. Not only that, but Sun-mi determines that he lacks the charisma of a serial killer.
Meanwhile, Bo-yeon calls out Dong Baek to tell him that he’s wrong — it’s her fault that Ye-rim died. She takes his hand, and he sees in her memory how Ye-rim tried to escape, but Bo-yeon screamed so loud that Ye-rim was caught and murdered. Dong Baek goes to the station and barges into Sun-mi’s situation room where her team is watching part of Hee-joo’s broadcast.
Hee-joo is released, and he smirks to Sun-mi that it’s the truth that she arrested the wrong person. The word “truth” triggers something, causing Sun-mi to rush back inside the station. Hee-joo turns to talk to Dong Baek about his gift, but Dong Baek also seems to realize something and takes off without a word.
He catches up to Chief Gu and Se-hoon and tells them that Hee-joo’s voice isn’t the same voice as the one he heard preaching in Bo-yeon’s memory. He’d even heard the voice change slightly when Bo-yeon heard Ye-rim being killed, as if the person preaching was in the room with her — whoever is on the lecture videos the girls were forced to watch, is the person who killed them.
Just as Sun-mi’s 72 hours are up and her team is officially dismantled, she finds what she’s looking for. All of the victims received a scholarship at the age of 10 from the Truth and Sky Foundation, which is well known to actually be a cult, and whose chairman just happens to own a villa near Man-pyung’s farm.
Sun-mi drives to the Truth and Sky building, where the chairman, Park Ki-dan, is holding a service inducting new members into the cult. The audience hold candles and chant along with him, seating in the form of the hammer. Sure enough, Chairman Parks’ voice is the same one from the videos, and from Bo-yeon’s memory of Ye-rim’s murder.
Sun-mi storms in and walks up to the stage, glaring openly at Chairman Park. He pauses in his chanting, his hand on a supplicant’s head, but neither of them say a word. Suddenly the supplicant grabs Chairman Park’s hand and raises his head — and it’s Dong Baek, reading Chairman Park’s memories and shaking with rage.
Okay, now it’s really getting interesting. I’m not at all surprised that a cult is involved, what with all the religious testing of the victims, but it will be interesting to see how a cult leader turns into a serial killer who specifically targets recipients of his church’s scholarship. I like that I can’t predict where this path will lead, but I’m fascinated and can’t wait to see more.
I was worried that Ye-rim wouldn’t make it, but I’m not super happy that she got “fridged” just for Dong Baek to find motivation. I know Ye-rim’s death hits the police team hard because it affects one of their own, but I’d buy Dong Baek’s devastation more if he’d actually met Ye-rim and saw her as a potential girlfriend (as her mother hoped). Still, her death is tragic, and more so because if Seok-do hadn’t detained Dong Baek, he might have gotten there soon enough to save her life. But then, Ye-rim’s death allowed Dong Baek to hear the killer’s voice in Bo-yeon’s memory, so maybe her murder did serve a higher purpose after all.
Science fiction dramas require a certain suspension of disbelief when things like cops with superpowers are a part of the lore. But as much as I like the characters and plot of Memorist, I find myself having to look past a lot of things that just don’t make much sense, and aren’t explained. For example, in Episode 2, why were Dong Baek and his team discussing the fact that Ye-rim might have been taken by the Claw Hammer Killer in her mother’s home where she could hear them? For that matter, why were they there at all? Bo-yeon tossed SK’s found phone out the window when she realized she was being kidnapped, which eventually led Sun-mi to the right area, but why would Bo-yeon throw a stranger’s phone out the window? And the strangest thing — at the top of this episode, Sun-mi and Dong Baek ended up at the same farm to find the kidnapper at the same time. But the farmgate that Dong Baek found, with the red pig wind sock, was a green metal gate, while the farmgate Sun-mi found was a solid wooden gate… so how did they end up at the same farm half an hour later? I feel like the show is either being sloppy and thinking we won’t notice, or that it’s much smarter than I am and these things do make sense, but I’m just not seeing the connections.
That said, I do still enjoy the drama and don’t find these to be reasons to stop watching, they’re just annoyances in continuity. I still enjoy the quick-moving plot, the characters themselves, and the sense of mystery that says there’s a lot we don’t know at this point. I’m ready for Dong Baek and Sun-mi to start actually working together — they keep ending up at the same places at the same times while following different clues, which makes me think that together, they’d be an unstoppable powerhouse. Plus, I believe that they’re both hiding a lot of secrets, and I’m dying to find out what they are and how they contribute to who Sun-mi and Dong Baek are today.
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