Criminal Minds: Episode 8
There’s an age-old question about why good people do bad things, but maybe the question we should really be asking is “What does power to do people?” Perhaps the most important qualifiers in questions of good and evil are strength and weakness: Does goodness rise from strength, and evil from weakness? Do we all have the capacity to become monsters, given the wrong combination of circumstances?
EPISODE 8 RECAP
On the NCI bus, Ki-hyung discusses the shooter’s motive with Min-young and Han, and they parse it as an emotion-driven crime. Ki-hyung wonders aloud what triggered it.
On an empty road, the shooter stows his shotgun in his trunk just as he gets an angry call from his manager. He apologizes to him nervously, but is even more rattled as a squad of police cars tears by, sirens blaring. Once they pass, he howls in rage and frustration, kicking at his car repeatedly.
On their way to meet the rest of the team, Hyun-joon speculates to Sun-woo that rage must be the reason for the shootings, but Sun-woo argues that it might not be as simple as road-rage, given how the second shooting was clearly premeditated.
Ki-hyung’s group deduces their suspect to be a middle-aged man in an emotionally demanding job. Since he used such a powerful weapon, Han theorizes that he would be timid and fearful in real life, used to suppressing his feelings.
We rejoin the shooter, whose name is Jang Ki-tae (Jo Han-chul), taking lunch alone at his desk at work. Ki-hyung’s voice provides an accompanying voiceover as he describes the suspect’s low self-esteem and weak personality that can’t stand up to others. Exactly as Ki-hyung said, Jang Ki-tae is bullied by co-workers and then by clients, one of whom even shoves him aside.
On Min-young’s suggestion, Ki-hyung requests a list of men in their 40s and 50s who’ve received mental health treatment within the local area. As they arrive at the police station, they’re met by a Chief Detective Lee, who takes the trio to the shooting case’s incident room.
The detective is dismayed that Ki-hyung intends to set up there, too, but Ki-hyung assures him that he wants to cooperate on a joint investigation and requests his help.
Together, the detectives and profilers go over the case. The profilers think the first case was unplanned, meaning that the car the shooter was driving then was his own car.
Hyun-joon urges Ki-hyung to announce the profile to the public, worried that the shooter will kill again, but Ki-hyung vetoes it, saying that it would provoke him more. His answer frustrates Hyun-joon.
They hear that the first victim has regained consciousness, and Sun-woo and Hyun-joon go to question her. She can’t remember much, but recalls passing Jang’s car, and how she snapped at him.
Hyun-joon asks what he said to her, but she replies regretfully that she didn’t let him get a word in, explaining that driving always made her edgy.
The victim’s story confirms to Sun-woo and Hyun-joon that the first shooting was indeed impulsive, when the shooter felt pushed over the edge. It dawns on them that the second shooting deliberately re-created the pattern of the first—which means he may well be looking for his next target already.
In his garage, shooter Jang Ki-tae broods over a photo of himself with a little girl. Pumping his sawn-off shotgun, he presses it against his throat. But a child’s singing, coming from his phone, makes him drop it. Choking on tears, he clutches the phone instead, where the wallpaper is the same girl. Overcome by emotion, he smashes his head on the table repeatedly.
Remembering how his wife sneered about him, his daughter ignored him, and his manager yelled at him, his face darkens. When he emerges from the house later, he’s transformed his look entirely, wearing a metal-studded leather jacket with his hair slicked back.
At the same time, Nana’s driving to the crime scene. Oh nooo! She (accidentally) cuts in front of another car, which begins to tailgate and flash its lights at her. But she’s terrified when it draws up alongside her, with Jang peering over at her. He cuts in front of her repeatedly, and she brakes hard. His car goes on ahead, and she sends an SOS to her team.
Just as she thinks she’s out of harm’s way, the car returns, aiming straight for her. Images of the last victim flash through her mind, as a man emerges from the car brandishing a golf-club—but it’s not Jang. What. Leaping onto the hood, the man smashes in her windshield while Nana sobs in terror.
A crowd has gathered by the time the NCI team arrives, and Hyun-joon drops the attacker on the ground with a vicious kick. He places him under arrest for attempted murder, while the rest of the team comforts Nana.
In an empty road elsewhere, Jang pulls up alongside a woman’s car, keeping abreast of her even as she tries to get away from him. She screams when she sees the gun he aims at her through his window. He shoots and drives off, but luckily, the bullet only gets her in the arm, and she’s able to reach for her phone.
Oh noooo! Jang circles back, and now on foot, he approaches her from behind, gun hidden at his back. He initially pretends to be a good Samaritan and offers to call emergency, but then his face twists into a dark grin and he pulls out his gun. He shoots her twice at point-blank range, and her blood sprays across his face. He shoots out the black-box camera, too, before fleeing.
Once home, he stares at his blood-spattered reflection in the mirror, and smashes the offending glass. His fractured reflection now stares back, and he meets it with a deranged smile.
Ki-hyung and the team escort Nana back together. She passes over the list of men that Ki-hyung had asked for earlier, but they’re diverted as they get word of the latest shooting.
It’s morning when they arrive at the scene. On seeing the dead woman, Ki-hyung thinks back to Hyun-joon’s warning about the shooter killing again.
“If we’d moved just a little faster, this woman would have lived,” Hyun-joon says now, but Sun-woo counters that the profile wasn’t complete. Hyun-joon replies fiercely that it’s more important to save lives. It’s becoming a recurring argument between them, and as usual it’s Sun-woo who drops the subject first.
Ki-hyung leaves without a word, and is immediately surrounded by reporters. He says nothing to them either, and Hyun-joon watches him go.
Shooter Jang surprises his colleagues by turning up at a posh work dinner, looking transformed: He’s dressed sharply and carries himself with confidence, and his co-workers note the difference. In the bathroom, one colleague praises Jang’s improved performance at work. But then another colleague emerges from a stall and mocks Jang for being no more than a pawn.
Taking off his glasses, Jang follows his colleague out and seizes him by the throat. “If I’m a pawn, what are you?” Jang asks, advancing on him with his gun. Whoa, that escalated quickly.
He orders the man to deliver a project proposal to him by the next day, “Before I kill you.” Crushing the man’s hand beneath his shoe, Jang gives a demented little laugh at seeing him cower.
In bed that night, he leans over his sleeping wife and draws his thumb across her neck, as if imagining killing her. Moving to her forehead, he pulls the trigger of an imaginary gun. Well this isn’t creepy at all.
Quietly, he goes to his daughter’s empty bedroom. He hunches on a child-size rocking horse, while a photo of that same little girl from before looks back at him. He returns to his garage and soothes himself by cradling his shotgun.
Hyun-joon studies maps of the shoot locations with Nana. He notices that they all took place near temporary merging lanes in road construction zones, and takes his findings to the rest of the team. Ki-hyung guesses that the shooter must have continuously haunted those roads in search of his next victims.
Hyun-joon is sure that there must be a witness among the construction crew, and the next day, he and Sun-woo go out to meet someone. The worker says he noticed someone dressed like a thug but driving carefully, which he found weird. Sun-woo sees it as a sign that the shooter is losing his grasp on reality and has begun a roleplay.
The worker also says that he saw the driver put out an arm across the passenger seat, as if to protect his passenger—except the seat was empty.
They deduce that the shooter must have a wife and child, and Sun-woo reports their findings to Ki-hyung, who is concerned he’ll act out his delusions on real people, putting the shooter’s family at most risk.
The joint investigative team convenes at the NCI for a profiling session. Taking into account the shooter’s ultra-macho attire and aggressive actions, and his choices of female victims, Ki-hyung concludes that the shooter is suffering a crisis of masculinity, which would have been triggered by some severe trauma.
They share the shooter profile with the police, describing a meek, middle-aged man who is looked down on by his family. He has multiple cars and knows the vicinity of the crime scenes well.
Ki-hyung also guesses that he might be so far gone that he can no longer function in his everyday life, making him dangerous to anyone around him. They set up a trap near a construction zone to catch him, with checkpoints to filter the traffic through, and put it under covert surveillance.
The next day, Jang Ki-tae takes lunch alone at his desk again. This time, we pan to a photo of him with his family… and he had two daughters? Okay, now it all makes sense. He relives his last shooting, but snaps back to reality at his manager’s arrival.
His manager congratulates him on his recent performance, and thanks him for overcoming his hardships. He asks Jang to let go of any hard feelings towards him, but Jang remembers the abuse he suffered from him. Once he leaves, Jang looks unnervingly after him.
Min-young gives a press conference detailing their profile on the shooter. It plays on TV at Jang’s workplace, where he walks in on his colleagues watching it. Finding it alarmingly accurate, he’s gripped by panic and flees, shoving his manager aside in the process.
In the NCI situation room, Nana tells the team that she came up with a result when she cross-referenced black sedan owners in the area with illegal gun purchases, but they’re surprised to learn it’s a woman.
They’re about to ask about a spouse when Han announces he’s found the suspect, thanks to a tip-off from the shooter’s colleagues. “Jang Ki-tae,” Nana confirms. Hyun-joon tears off, and Ki-hyung asks Nana if there’s anything notable regarding Jang’s family. She tells him Jang had a daughter named Ji-soo…
Jang drives furiously, and the scene melts into the past, where Jang was driving with his little daughter Ji-soo in the back. But the car broke down, and while he was under the hood, Ji-soo had dropped a stuffed toy out the window.
Letting herself out, she ran across the road to retrieve it—straight into the path of an oncoming car.
Though Jang rushed her to the hospital, Ji-soo couldn’t be saved. Jang had sunk into a stupor while his wife argued about not receiving the insurance payout. Back in the present, Jang pounds his steering wheel in frustration, looking ever more unbalanced.
At headquarters, the profilers add Ji-soo’s photo to the evidence board, and Han watches closely as Ki-hyung sadly reaches out to touch it.
Jang bursts into his house where his wife and older daughter are chatting cheerfully at the table. He draws his gun on them and they scream, Mom immediately shielding her daughter. He orders them to get out.
Back in his car, Jang is pursued by Hyun-joon and the police. Beside him, his wife yells at him to stop the car and his daughter pleads with him as well. His wife says they’ve been suffering too, especially watching him become increasingly strange, but Jang says bitterly that he’s as good as invisible to them.
He snarls that all she could think of when their child died was money. “Money is more important to you than our daughter,” he accuses. But his wife says tearfully that he was the one who ruined everything, and the words strike him deeply.
Meanwhile, Hyun-joon has gained on him, and Jang pulls out his gun and fires at him, sending Hyun-joon skidding away. In the car, the wife and daughter scream, and Jang nervously reassurse them.
Ki-hyung arrives at Jang’s house with Han and Min-young. It’s an absolute mess inside, and they hold their noses at the smell. Min-young finds something in one room, and Han in another. A body?
Hyun-joon recovers quickly and catches up to Jang again, and shouts at him to stop the car. But Jang instead takes his hands off the wheel, and his wife begs him not to do it. “It’s all over,” Jang says, smiling, as his car crashes into a barricade. It slides across the intersection on its side before finally skidding to a stop.
A body is taken away from Jang’s house—no, wait, two bodies. What? The profilers look on, Min-young especially disturbed, and Ki-hyung lays a comforting hand on her shoulder.
Jang kicks out the windshield of his upturned car, and emerges. Hyun-joon and the police surround him, and Hyun-joon orders them to hold fire, laying down his own gun.
Looking bewildered, Jang begs them to save his family, and Hyun-joon asks him to drop his gun first. The very sight of it in his hand spooks him, and he drops it like a hot potato.
When Jang turns back to the car, calling out to his daughter, Hyun-joon swoops in and apprehends him. In voiceover, we hear Ki-hyung say that the bodies recovered from his house had been dead twenty days.
Jang is frantic to save his family, and Hyun-joon looks at him with pity and tells him it’s already over. Jang lurches to the window, calling his daughter’s name… but the car is empty. Totally empty. What.
He staggers away and collapses against the wreck of the car, howling. The rest of the team arrives, and Hyun-joon signals everyone to leave Jang alone.
Fate is not satisfied with inflicting one calamity, narrates Ki-hyung, quoting Roman writer Publilius Syrus.
And now, for a change of pace: A couple takes their daughter Yuna to an amusement park, where the father leaves the ladies to watch some performers while he gets them cotton candy.
There’s a sudden commotion as a woman searches the crowd, yelling in distress for her lost child. Yuna’s mother’s attention is distracted by the crying woman, and she doesn’t notice her own child being taken. By the time she looks down to warn Yuna to stay close, she’s already gone.
She searches the crowd, but to no avail. Yuna’s father comes back and they go to the security office, the mom getting increasingly agitated. While Yuna’s disappearance is announced over the PA system, a detective asks if the mother saw anyone suspicious at the time, and the mom recalls how her attention was caught by the commotion the other woman made.
At that, another woman who’d been watching them since earlier steps forward and says she lost her child the same way—eight years ago. She looks haggard and her tone is desperate, but a uniformed officer bundles her out, scolding her for spouting the same old story and smelling of liquor. The distraught mother pleads with the detective to listen to her, even as she’s bodily hauled away. Yuna’s mom cries in fear for her daughter.
Ki-hyung arrives at a lavish restaurant where Chief Director Baek awaits him. Before his arrival, the chief had agreed over the phone to do something, and he now shows Ki-hyung Jang Ki-tae’s psychiatric evaluation. He points out that Jang had lost the ability to make rational judgments, adding that he went on to do truly terrible things.
A flashback shows us how Jang had walked in on his wife with his gun that very first night he’d shot a driver and she’d ignored him. He shot her in cold blood, contrasting sharply with his horror when the delusion broke. Ki-hyung asks why the chief is showing him it, and the chief hands over another envelope, revealing that Ki-hyung’s results aren’t that different.
He asks why Ki-hyung vetoed the public investigation that Hyun-joon had urged, and says that the higher-ups are concerned about his judgment. He tells Ki-hyung to leave the team, and take a break to convalesce.
Ki-hyung says he’s fine, but the chief confronts him about his visit to his old mentor in prison.
“Why don’t you realize that your personal feelings could throw your team into danger?” Baek asks. He instructs him to think carefully about what’s best for the team, and expects a sensible decision.
I find the deeper we get into Criminal Minds’ world, the more unexpectedly rich it becomes. When I said a few weeks ago that I was looking forward to see how Ki-hyung’s tragedy would change him, this is not what I thought would happen. But it’s painfully realistic, watching Ki-hyung fall apart, and Jang Ki-tae really does hold up a fascinating mirror to Ki-hyung’s own mental condition. Jang is his cautionary tale, the proof of how deeply grief can destroy you and eat away your sanity until you lose your humanity. Becoming a monster, unable to distinguish the delusion from the reality, is only its natural endpoint. It was haunting to see Ki-hyung make that connection himself, and I felt like we were watching him slip a little deeper just from being exposed to Jang. But even though he says he’s fine, I don’t think he genuinely believes he is—there have been signs for the last few episodes that he’s quite aware that he’s not fine at all.
So is he holding himself together for the sake of team, because he doesn’t want to let them down, or for the sake of catching Reaper? I’m not a hundred percent sure. There’s some mixture of duty, perceived necessity, and also the desire for something more complicated than revenge, which includes closure for his wife’s death, an end to his fear for son Han-byul, and the need to remove Reaper from society.
I don’t think he feels that there’s any real justice to be had, anything that can make up for Hye-won’s death even a fraction, but until Reaper’s off the streets (or indeed, the mortal coil), there’s no way for Ki-hyung to continue life normally. Reaper’s made this very personal to him, and as long as he’s out there, Ki-hyung is trapped in stasis, with everything precious to him under imminent threat. I think the thought of losing more than Hye-won is killing him, and it’s under that crushing burden that he carries on—not because he wants to, but because he must.
Until now, I’ve liked how implicitly Sun-woo trusts in him, but I’m beginning to think her faith in him is at risk of being blind to his changed state of mind. She doesn’t seem to want to admit that he’s not infallible, and I understand her extreme loyalty. To her, he’s the father figure her real father doesn’t live up to, so she’s deeply emotionally invested in him, and perhaps like Ki-hyung himself, it affects her ability to be objective about whether or not he’s making the best calls right now. And that’s another reason why I think it’s been instructive for them all to see Jang Ki-tae in his final, pitiable state, because perhaps it’s a warning they all need, that the line between sanity and madness is not as wide as they think.
The last two cases have really been showcases for the criminals. I don’t know how it bears on the original series, but I find it an interesting format to center the eponymous “criminal minds.” I continue to enjoy how the show can trick me and then deliver a climax that leaves me gaping, as it did with the reveal of Jang Ki-tae’s delusion. It’s a really effective device for giving the viewer a taste of psychosis that’s as discomfiting to experience as it is compelling to watch. I was actually convinced that Reaper had a hand in this case, and was so sure that the body found in Jang’s house was Hyun-joon’s friend that the appearance of two bodies totally threw me and I didn’t realize what actually happened until the show spelled it out. (I told you I was dense!)
Actor Jo Han-chul has provided the most intriguing and complex villain in the show so far, with his character’s transformation from meek salaryman to macho gunman fueled by an explosive mix of grief, fear and rage. It also raises the interesting question of how the most timid of people become capable of the worst of crimes, and there was more than one point where I thought to myself, this is too dark for me. I think most disturbing of all was watching the light in Jang’s eyes change, as he starts to see the world with new eyes—a world where everyone is someone he can potentially kill. I even got the impression that killing people was in some ways his version of being cowardly, because it was pretty clear that the person he really wanted to kill was himself. But he killed others because killing himself was too hard. Which makes him a very strange kind of murderer—oddly relatable while simultaneously totally alien.
The one downside of highlighting the day players is that perhaps it comes at the expense of the main cast, who are relegated to the background as the criminal’s story takes prominence. So I do hope that as we go on, the cases won’t end up overshadowing our team. Though we haven’t spent nearly enough time with them, I really adore the little moments of tenderness they share, and how quick they are to comfort and support each other. Like the Han-Hyun-joon bromance? I cannot get enough of it. And I love how much Nana uncomplicatedly adores Hyun-joon while Min-young clearly has a crush on him (and I’m fairly sure Han has a crush on her). And though Sun-woo’s been in the team longer than Hyun-joon, she seems like the outsider sometimes, and I want to see her not hold everyone off at arm’s length—not when they can all climb into each other’s hearts and live there forever.
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