Mystery Queen: Episode 15
Now that Wan-seung’s lost an important source for the answers he’s been chasing after for so long, our team faces their biggest challenge yet, as shadowy forces work to undermine them from behind the scenes. With every victory slipping out of their fingers before they can fully grab onto it, how can Seol-ok and Wan-seung defeat an enemy whose ruthlessness seems to have no limit?
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Detective Go gives the order for Wan-seung’s arrest, and Wan-seung recalls Ji-won telling him that everything was a setup, as well as Detective Go’s lies about the Shinim-dong case. He smiles and asks how Detective Go knew to come here, or that the victim is Jang Do-jang. The officers advance on him, guns firing, and Wan-seung darts into Jang Do-jang’s car and speeds away.
The police cut off his escape and he’s forced into a narrow alley, so he abandons the car and runs away on foot, losing his pursuers. Detective Go gets chewed out by Chief Kim over the phone, who tells him he’d better find Wan-seung tonight—tomorrow, or CEO Ha will take action.
CEO Ha calls Chief Kim, demanding to know why he’s made Wan-seung into a murderer. Chief Kim says that he’s only doing as he’s told by his superiors, and tells CEO Ha that it’s time for him to make a decision; after seventeen years, he can’t have his back anymore. “Your life and mine are at stake,” says Chief Kim. CEO Ha says he’ll take care of it.
In her study at Kyung-mi’s, Seol-ok promises her parents’ photograph that she’s not going to rely on Ho-chul to solve their murders anymore, but will do it herself. She looks over the old newspaper clippings about their deaths, remembering when she’d arrived at the scene as well as her disbelief and sorrow when Detective Go told her they had committed suicide.
She sits on the front porch of the store, and repeats to herself that it wasn’t suicide. Wan-seung calls her, asking if they can meet right now. She teasingly asks why he wants to see a married woman at such a late hour, but he says it’s urgent, and asks to meet at the lunchbox store. Surprised, Seol-ok peers down to see him leaning against the front steps.
She’s shocked to see his bloody leg and gets upset when he tells her that a bullet grazed him. They move to the back room, where Seol-ok carefully bandages his thigh and scolds him as she works. He smiles slightly as he watches her, remembering the last time she took care of his wound.
She asks crossly why a veteran detective is always getting hurt, and he replies that it’s usually because of her. She says that’s more reason to be careful—it makes her even angrier when he gets hurt because of her. Awww. She tucks a tube of ointment into his shirt pocket, and he assures her he’ll use it often to prevent infection. She studies him for a second and says he’s gotten nicer.
He asks jokingly if she was waiting for him, and she teases back that she was. “I told you, I’m a bad boy,” quips Wan-seung, but he sobers when his gaze falls on the old newspaper articles. “You and I are connected,” he says seriously, and she laughs. She thinks he’s still teasing, until he shows her the Shinim-dong case file.
Seol-ok cries as she reads her father’s “suicide” note. Wan-seung says that forensics found it to be her father’s handwriting, and she confirms this, but says that he didn’t write it. She tells Wan-seung that he simply copied someone else’s words, and that the note carries evidence of his murder.
After failing to find Wan-seung at his apartment or trace him by using his phone, Detective Go calls Kwang-tae to ask where he might be. Kwang-tae says that if he’s not home or at the police station, he’s probably at the lunchbox store.
Seol-ok tells Wan-seung that each person’s writing is like a fingerprint; her father always used “me” instead of “I,” and used to habitually misspell words, but this note is written perfectly. Wan-seung points out that it’s also strange that a man’s last words would be full of details about a crime he committed—even the vocabulary used is like that of a detective.
Seol-ok says that Detective Go, who was in charge of this case, is suspicious. Wan-seung tells her that he was the one waiting for him at the scene of the murder as well; it’s also strange that Jang Do-jang suddenly changed where he wanted to meet to Shinim-dong, which was in Detective Go’s jurisdiction.
Wan-seung says that they can’t reinvestigate the case without clear evidence, but Seol-ok says that they have some: not a single fingerprint was found in the taxi, as if someone erased them. In addition, the briquette that was found in the car hadn’t burned enough to actually kill someone, meaning that her parents were moved into the taxi after they died. The autopsy result, which would show the cause of death, is also missing. Seol-ok asks him where he got this case file, wondering whether he’s hiding something from her.
She says that she found out a lot about Wan-seung from the police station’s PR materials: He joined the police academy in February of 2001, right after Hyun-soo’s disappearance, and started out in the Intelligence Division in order to look for her. On March 21, 2007, he transferred to Traffic Safety in order to look for the taxi that Hyun-soo took before she disappeared, and found taxi driver YOO IN-SANG—Seol-ok’s dad.
She adds that Wan-seung and her father had planned to meet on November 13, 2007, in Shinim-dong. A flashback shows young Wan-seung on the phone with In-sang, who told him that the man who had Hyun-soo had a snake tattoo and needle marks on his arm. Seol-ok says that he never met that driver, but in 2009, he transferred to Narcotics to find the man with the tattoo.
“Jang Do-jang,” murmurs Wan-seung, and we see in flashback that he was Hyun-soo’s kidnapper and that the two had taken In-sang’s taxi that day, leaving a cell phone behind on the back seat. “My dad died the day he was supposed to meet you. Could it be a coincidence?” asks Seol-ok.
Unable to meet her eyes, Wan-seung apologizes, but Seol-ok cuts in tearfully that her dad was always so meddlesome. He looks at her then, quite shaken himself. A noise startles them; it’s the cops, and Wan-seung finally tells her that he’s wanted for Jang Do-jang’s murder.
Detective Go and his men search the place, and he makes it into the back room before the security alarm goes off. Having broken in without a warrant, they leave, and Seol-ok and Wan-seung emerge from the cabinet they were hiding in. Seol-ok says that her parents’ murderer must be related to Hyun-soo’s case, and Wan-seung promises to catch him. She sighs as she watches him leave.
Joon-oh arrives home to find Wan-seung waiting in front of his apartment, and although he complains, he helps Wan-seung up the stairs. Once they’re inside, Wan-seung asks for his pajamas, and Joon-oh asks why he would have them. “You know—our couple pajamas,” says the older man. Joon-oh grins.
Kwang-tae arrives then to ask Wan-seung if he’s all right, and if he’s really being blamed for Jang Do-jang’s murder. He asks Wan-seung what he’s going to do now, and Wan-seung replies that he has to find the real killer. Suddenly, they hear the front gate creak downstairs, and Kwang-tae calls Detective Go and tells him that Wan-seung is at his house.
Wan-seung waits until they’re gone before creeping down the stairs—but the police come out of hiding from all directions, and he’s caught immediately. In the interrogation room at Shinim Police Station, Detective Go says that the evidence points to Wan-seung’s guilt, adding that he should just confess.
Wan-seung says that Jang Do-jang said before he died that he didn’t do “it,” and wonders aloud what that might have been. He points out that the man was killed after promising to tell Wan-seung everything, and Detective Go was immediately at the scene, just as if he’d been waiting. “Do you know Seo Hyun-soo?” asks Wan-seung.
CEO Ha arrives, cutting the conversation short. He calls Wan-seung pathetic and tells him to just go to the U.S. Wan-seung laughs at this evidence of Ha & Jung’s influence, and his father says it’s only because of the firm that Wan-seung is still alive. Wan-seung counters that CEO Ha is nothing without the firm, either—it’s not as though people grovel to him because he’s a great man. But his father just warns that this is Wan-seung’s last chance.
Seol-ok comes to visit Wan-seung the next day. She reminds him that Detective Go started work at Shinim Police Station right before Hyun-soo disappeared and says that everything was planned, which reminds Wan-seung of Ji-won saying the same thing. She tells him that Detective Go had probably been watching In-sang. “Even if you hadn’t looked for him…” Seol-ok trails off, before promising to save Wan-seung.
He sighs and tells her that he’ll clear his own name, warning her not to do dangerous things when he’s not there to save her life. She tells him that she wants to brag about saving him for once, but he says that there’s no comparison and gruffly tells her to go.
Seol-ok goes to the crime scene, where police block her entry until CSI Park and CSI Na see her. CSI Park lets her in and shows her the position Jang Do-jang was lying in when he was killed, right after he got out of his car. They don’t have the car, however, since Wan-seung used it to escape. Seol-ok studies the scene, then says that based on the direction Wan-seung approached from, he couldn’t have been the murderer.
Inspector Woo joins them when CSI Park goes on break, and he and Seol-ok study the bloodstains around where the body was found. He positions her body and mimes stabbing her from different directions with his pen. CSI Na tells them that there are no other suspects, since the only working CCTV was at the entrance to the building, and it only recorded Wan-seung.
Inspector Woo somehow deduces the height of the murderer by dropping fake blood on a piece of paper, estimating that he’s 180 cm tall, in his late thirties or early forties, about 90 kg, and unused to using a knife. CSI Na agrees that the killer wasn’t a habitual knife user, since Jang Do-jang was stabbed four times.
They figure that the culprit must have needed a place to wash off the blood, and Inspector Woo says that there’s a bathroom nearby. They check the bathroom with luminol, which shows faint traces of blood.
Seol-ok wonders how someone like Jang Do-jang gave up his knife so easily; CSI Na adds that his defense wounds weren’t severe, and furthermore, only blood type A was found at the scene. Inspector Woo posits that the murderer had a gun and must have been someone that Jang Do-jang believed wouldn’t kill him. Like a detective, suggests Seol-ok.
They check a nearby phone booth with bloodstains inside, and CSI Na confirms that it’s also type A. Seol-ok hypothesizes that the murderer called the police from there to report the murder, then waited for them to show up.
Back at the crime scene, they spot Detective Go talking to some uniformed officers, and Inspector Woo lists off all his attributes, which match their profile of the murderer exactly. But when Detective Go sees them, he has Seol-ok forcefully removed from the scene.
Greeting Inspector Woo effusively, Detective Go sticks out his left hand to shake, and Inspector Woo notices blood underneath his fingernails. He comments that Detective Go is a lefty and asks to examine his hand, motioning for CSI Na to prepare her tools. Offended, Detective Go tells them to get a warrant and walks off. Inspector Woo looks satisfied and tells CSI Na that the killer isn’t very meticulous; they’re sure to find other evidence he overlooked.
Seol-ok finds another CCTV in the area and asks Joon-oh to come and look at it, not knowing that Detective Go is watching her. When she and Joon-oh ask to see the tape, the building owner tells them that someone matching Detective Go’s description just came and took it away.
Now the only evidence left is the bloodied clothes, and Seol-ok and Joon-oh wonder where he might have put them. Inspector Woo joins them and suggests the trunk of Detective Go’s car—a safe place no one else would have access to. They can’t open the trunk without a warrant, but Inspector Woo says that he just reported Detective Go’s car for illegal parking, and it’s been towed.
The three of them wait outside the impound lot for Detective Go to reclaim his car, and as Inspector Woo predicted, the first thing he does is check its trunk to make sure that the bag of clothes is still there. They run toward him, with Seol-ok grabbing the bag out of the trunk while Inspector Woo and Joon-oh tackle Detective Go. Joon-oh tries to read him his rights, but he throws them off and pulls his gun on them before driving away.
Joon-oh goes to visit Wan-seung to tell him that they have evidence that Detective Go is the murderer, and once they have results from the National Forensic Service, Wan-seung can go free. He also shares the bad news that Detective Go got away, and Wan-seung warns Joon-oh to stop Seol-ok in case she tries to go after him.
Seol-ok is walking outside alone when Joon-oh calls her, and she asks if Wan-seung was thankful for her clearing his name. Joon-oh says that Wan-seung only said to hold her back, but nothing can ruin her mood. Seol-ok tells herself proudly that she saved Wan-seung’s life, since he was about to die of boredom in that cell.
Kwang-tae and Joon-oh go to CSI Park’s office at Seodong Police Station, asking suspiciously why Wan-seung hasn’t been released yet and why the higher-ups have been speaking with him. CSI Park says that all of the blood so far was found to be Jang Do-jang’s, adding that he did all of his work conscientiously and according to the rules.
An auditing team suddenly comes in and takes CSI Park away for corruption. Kwang-tae reports this development to Inspector Woo, who has just arrived at the NFS. He’s about to go in when he receives a call from Detective Go. When Inspector Woo arrives back at Shinim Police Station, Joon-oh and Kwang-tae ask him if he’s given the clothes to the NFS, but Inspector Woo acts like he doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Detective Go stops his car on a dirt road in the woods. He gets out and stares at his hand, remembering the night he murdered Jang Do-jang; afterward, he’d called Chief Kim from the phone booth to report that the job was done. He opens his trunk, where Seol-ok is lying bound and gagged. He drags her into an abandoned building.
Inspector Woo meets Wan-seung in the interrogation room and tells him to do as Ha & Jung ask. Wan-seung is suspicious, until Inspector Woo reveals that Detective Go has kidnapped Seol-ok, adding that only Ha & Jung can help them save her. He plays a recording of Detective Go telling him to bring the clothes and come alone if he wants to save Seol-ok.
Inspector Woo warns Wan-seung that Detective Go is desperate and likely to go to extremes, and that he works for Ha & Jung, though he won’t tell Wan-seung how he knows that. Inspector Woo’s phone rings again, but Wan-seung grabs it. He tells Detective Go that he’ll meet him instead, and Detective Go gives him until 6:00 p.m. Inspector Woo asks Wan-seung how thinks he’s going to get out of here.
Cut to Wan-seung clutching his bloody thigh and moaning exaggeratedly as paramedics take him out of the station on a stretcher, Inspector Woo following beside them. (A flashback shows that Wan-seung poured Inspector Woo’s fake blood on his bandage.) They keep up the charade until they’re in the ambulance, with Inspector Woo shaking Wan-seung and dramatically entreating him to stay strong. Hahahaha.
Once they arrive at the hospital, Inspector Woo frees Wan-seung when no one is looking, and Wan-sung hijacks the ambulance. However, he’s soon surrounded by police and forced to stop, with the chief of Seodong Police Station himself blocking Wan-seung’s path.
Looking as though the act physically hurts him, Wan-seung calls his father and asks him to clear the way. CEO Ha says that this is his last chance—if he goes with the police, he’ll become a murderer, and if he comes home, everything will return to its place. Wan-seung hesitates, then says he’ll do everything his father wants, live the way he wants, as long as he lets him through.
CEO Ha makes a call to the chief, and the cops lower their guns and leave the road clear. Wan-seung arrives at the address Detective Go gave him, and something about the dirt road in the woods jogs his memory of finding Hyun-soo in an abandoned building. He starts to run.
From a window in that building, Detective Go watches the road. Seol-ok is tied to a chair behind him, her hands cuffed behind her. A flashback shows us that she found some motor oil when she was trapped in the trunk and managed to pour it all over her hands. Now, she struggles to slip them free of the metal.
Kwang-tae, Joon-oh, and Inspector Woo arrive and park by the ambulance, and although Inspector Woo warns that they’re endangering Seol-ok, the other two fear that Wan-seung is acting irrationally and worry that leaving him to find her alone is more dangerous. With that, they run off toward the building.
It’s 6:02 p.m. Detective Go calls Wan-seung, just as Seol-ok frees one hand. He asks Wan-seung why he hasn’t come, and Wan-seung tells him he’s almost there, but at that moment, Detective Go spots Kwang-tae and Joon-oh in the distance. He says angrily that he warned Wan-seung to come alone, growling that Wan-seung has killed Seol-ok.
Detective Go turns away from the window to find Seol-ok gone, and he goes after her with his gun. She runs through the empty rooms and down the stairs with him following—but then he sees her on a flight of stairs below and shoots at her from behind.
Wan-seung freezes at the sound of the gunshot. Seol-ok falls the rest of the way down the stairs and onto the ground floor, where Wan-seung sees her. “NO!” he shouts, as he runs toward her unconscious body.
Oh no! How can this happen to Seol-ok now, after Wan-seung just made that huge sacrifice just to get to her in time? I’m going to believe that Seol-ok will be okay, if only because at this point it’s pretty much tradition for him to save her life, and for her to pretend like she totally could have done it herself. I have faith in you, Show! I just hope Wan-seung brought his gun, because he’s running straight for an armed murderer with nothing left to lose.
The various threads of the overarching mystery that were teased from the beginning are finally coming together, and although we’re still left with a few questions, it’s becoming clear that whoever is behind Chief Kim is pulling the strings in this whole conspiracy. It seems that even CEO Ha has been a victim of blackmail by this shadowy figure, and that all these years he’s been trying to bend Wan-seung to his will in order to save his own skin, or to save his son from harm—or both. Hyun-soo is clearly at the center of this tangled web of lies and murder, and I wonder if she might be the daughter of some powerful figure in the government. Perhaps her family disapproved of her choice to pursue theater as well as her relationship with Wan-seung?
Mystery Queen wasn’t a perfect show, but there was a lot to love about it, especially its low-key, smart sense of humor, and the moving, realistic relationships between its characters. My favorite thing about it will forever be the partnership that developed between our leads over the course of the show, from the way they slowly grew to know and appreciate each other as they bickered and solved crimes together until they became indispensable to each other’s lives. How great was it that Wan-seung immediately called Seol-ok when he was in trouble, instead of going full Noble Idiot as would be par for the course in any other drama? And even better is the fact that I knew she’d be the first person he called, because the show has done that good of a job in establishing its characters. Their interactions always stay true to their personalities, without ever becoming boring or clichéd.
I love that Seol-ok and Wan-seung have such an equal relationship; they’re always worrying about the other’s safety, but not in a way that denies them agency. We haven’t had any big declarations between them, and we might never get an explicitly romantic plot line (oh please, Show, pleeeeease!), but it’s the small moments between them that really get me in the heart. Their fondness for each other is clear in the way she fusses and scolds over his wounds, or the way he cheers her up when she’s feeling down, even at the expense of his own dignity. Their running joke about how he’s a bad boy and her crush on him is doomed to failure makes me crack up every time.
It was at the end of this episode, however, that I think it really became clear to Wan-seung how much Seol-ok means to him. At that moment in the ambulance, with her life hanging in the balance, he gave up his career as a detective, accepting the very real possibility that along with it went his last chance to find Hyun-soo. For a man who has been chasing the same demons for seventeen years, the magnitude of that sacrifice can’t be overstated. I do think that he’ll be able to find out what happened after all, if only because he has Seol-ok on his team, and there’s no way she’ll give up without getting 100% of the answers. I only hope that once they’ve both laid their past traumas to rest, they’ll realize that where they belong is right by the other’s side. (And if this realization comes with smooches, I’ll be a happy shipper.)
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