A Beautiful World: Episode 5
As the fight for truth continues, the world seems intent on forsaking justice and maintaining order. Obstacle after obstacle block our heroes’ path, and it becomes more difficult to distinguish friend from foe. However, the truth may be closer than they think, but facing it may challenge everything good they know about the world.
EPISODE 5 RECAP: The Gates of Hell
Coming home from the interview, Eun-joo asks Joon-suk if it really was an accident that day, and his face hardens. He doesn’t see why that’s important and storms off to his room, slamming the door in Eun-joo’s face.
At Sun-ho’s home, In-ha makes a discovery and takes out all of Sun-ho’s shoes. Comparing them to the ones he wore the day of the incident, she points out to Moo-jin that Sun-ho doesn’t ties his shoelaces with a ribbon. She argues that someone else must have been with Sun-ho that day and made the scene look like a suicide.
Eun-joo begs Joon-suk to open the door, and he listens to her pleas on the other side with tears streaming down his face. Flashing back to the day of the incident, Eun-joo picked up Joon-suk from cram school, and noticing his sour mood, she tried to cheer him up. He said that everything was fine and asked to be dropped off at school near the back gate since he left something behind.
She offered to wait for him, but Joon-suk told her to go home first, growing impatient when she insisted on staying. Despite her worries, Eun-joo left, and Joon-suk went in alone. Back in the present, Joon-suk comes out of his room and silently walks past Eun-joo. She falls to the ground trying to chase him and helplessly watches him leave.
In-ha carries a bag to the police station, and on her way in, she bumps into a man. She barely registers the other person, too fixated on finding Detective Park and the others. She runs into them in the hallway and shoves the bag in their face. She tells them that Sun-ho didn’t tie these shoes, and the man she bumped into eavesdrops on their conversation.
Moo-jin asks the school guard if he remembers how Sun-ho’s shoes were tied, but the guard doesn’t recall such a small detail. He tells Moo-jin that it seems farfetched to assume foul play over some shoelaces, and Moo-jin correctly guesses that the police won’t take In-ha’s claims seriously, either. However, Detective Park scolds his junior partner who scoffs at In-ha’s request for fingerprints, and calmly explains to her that fabric doesn’t retain fingerprints.
The problem doesn’t end there, though. Even if forensics somehow pulled fingerprints, the parents would have to give consent for the police to get the students’ fingerprints since they are minors. In-ha asks what the police can do to help then, and accuses them for protecting the assailants rather than the victim. After she leaves, Detective Park takes the forgotten shoes with him, growing more suspicious of all the inconsistencies cropping up in this case.
The man from earlier follows In-ha out the station and introduces himself as Reporter Choi. He is curious about the shoes, wondering if her child was a victim of school violence, and offers his help. Without even looking him in the eye, In-ha tells him that she doesn’t trust reporters who approach out of curiosity, and gives him the perfunctory “I’ll call if I need you” farewell.
The vice principal reports the results of the interviews to Jin-pyo and specifically describes Ki-chan’s statements about Joon-suk as dishonest. Jin-pyo admonishes the vice principal for calling Ki-chan a liar and swaying the School Violence Committee against him. Yet at the conclusion of their meeting, Jin-pyo says that it’s about time the vice principal was promoted.
Teacher Ham also informs Teacher Lee about the interviews, and though she can’t quite believe Joon-suk was the ringleader, she does credit Ki-chan’s statement as the most detailed out of the four. The vice principal catches them whispering, and in a visibly chipper mood, he tells Teacher Lee to not take his harsh words too personally.
His influence far-reaching, Jin-pyo hears about the fingerprint request from the chief of police, and even has the clout to reprimand the chief for wasting money on a closed case. Lacking the same power, all Moo-jin can do is actively investigate the scene himself and notices a food truck owner by the school.
He asks the owner if he was there on the day of the incident, and the owner remembers that night because of the ambulance that came. Unfortunately, the owner was asleep most of the time and doesn’t have a dashcam either. He does, however, vaguely recall a car parked nearby.
Teacher Lee finds Dong-hee still at school and wonders if she has something to tell him about Sun-ho. He pressures her to speak, but Dong-hee thinks back to her brother warning her against getting involved in other people’s business. He told her that no one will believe her if she doesn’t have proof, but even if she does, money can cover it up.
Without concrete evidence, Dong-hee decides to say nothing since speaking up at her old school did not end well. Teacher Lee criticizes her for acting no better than the perpetrators, but Dong-hee throws the accusation back at him, asking how he’s any different. Like everyone else, he treated her like a ghost, and the truth behind her words stuns Teacher Lee speechless.
Joon-ha tells Moo-jin that she’ll watch over In-ha but is more worried about him since he keeps everything bottled up. He reassures Joon-ha that he’s taking care of himself and puts In-ha in her care for now. Keeping her promise, Joon-ha buys her sister rice porridge and offers to play music to lift her spirits.
Joon-ha’s earnest attempts to cheer up In-ha backfire, though, as In-ha disapproves of her cheerful attitude. She reproaches her for not understanding how a mother would feel, but Joon-ha explains how she wants to cry, too, but can’t. She’s done listening to In-ha’s insensitive remarks and barges out of the bakery.
Joon-suk paces outside Da-hee’s house, and she watches him from the window with her hands trembling at the sight of him. He turns around when she doesn’t answer her phone but runs right into Soo-ho who asks him why he’s here. He feigns concern for Da-hee, but Soo-ho is outraged since he doesn’t seem too worried about his best friend. Soo-ho calls Joon-suk a coward and a terrible person, echoing Sun-ho’s prior accusation of him. She vows to get revenge, and Joon-suk grits his teeth in anger.
Walking alone, Soo-ho remembers peeking at Joon-suk from her room, too shy to hand him the Valentine’s Day chocolates she got him, but she ended up tossing the box aside after overhearing Joon-suk say that he doesn’t like chocolate. The memory of her one-sided crush now torments Soo-ho, and Joon-ha finds her crying on the sidewalk.
The assailants’ mothers meet, and Ki-chan’s mother blames the others for turning against her son. Sung-jae’s mother refuses to listen to her drivel, so Ki-chan’s mother continues blabbering to Young-chul’s mother about her son’s honesty. At the same time, the sons are also gathered together, and Ki-chan remains uncharacteristically quiet.
Young-chul calls Ki-chan a traitor for mentioning Joon-suk, but before Ki-chan can argue back, Joon-suk appears. He reassigns Ki-chan as “Ant-Man” and Young-chul as “Captain America,” and the others say nothing as Ki-chan airs his grievances. Joon-suk tells him to go home and takes the others away with him—making Ki-chan the obvious outcast.
As soon as Young-chul comes home, his mother sits him down to talk. She asks him why he lied during the interview about Joon-suk, but Young-chul quickly defends Joon-suk as his best friend. His mother is offended by his lack of repentance, but Young-chul dismisses her as inflexible and ends the conversation.
At the bakery, Joon-ha tells In-ha to just apologize already, but when In-ha says “sorry,” Joon-ha complains about the lack of sincerity. In-ha thanks her for the porridge from earlier, and Joon-ha finally smiles, forgiving her. She tells In-ha not to question Soo-ho too much, and they both ponder over what could have made her cry.
Outside the apartment, Young-chul’s mother waits for In-ha, and through her persistence, comes inside to talk with her. She mentions her late husband who unexpectedly died in a car accident and explains how In-ha helped her through that tough period. Young-chul’s mother realizes the hurt she caused to such a friend and apologizes over and over again.
Still bothered by her son’s outburst, Eun-joo waits for Joon-suk to come home and is surprised to see him walk in with Jin-pyo. Noticing the tense air between mother and son, Jin-pyo asks if they fought, but Eun-joo denies it. He tells her about In-ha’s request for fingerprints from Sun-ho’s shoes, and Eun-joo sighs in relief when he says that fabric doesn’t retain prints.
That night, In-ha watches the CCTV footage of Sun-ho entering the school, and from the doorway, Moo-jin silently watches over her. Also unable to sleep, Eun-joo paces around her house nervously but then stops in her tracks as an idea strikes her.
The next morning, she goes to the bakery and suggests to In-ha that Sun-ho transfer to her father’s hospital. Seeing In-ha hesitate, Eun-joo tells her to only think of Sun-ho’s wellbeing and describes the offer as her way of apologizing. In-ha relays the proposal to Moo-jin, who initially feels burdened, but he eventually agrees with her decision to accept.
The School Violence Committee has made the final verdict, and the results are mailed to the parents. In-ha and Moo-jin read over the documents but are bewildered by the decision: Young-chul, Ki-chan, and Sung-jae must perform three days of volunteer work and attend a four-hour special education class. Sung-jae’s parents are satisfied with the outcome while Ki-chan’s mother complains about the special education class.
Jin-pyo treats the involved school personnel to dinner for all their hard work with the School Violence Committee. The principal splashes cold water on the party, commenting on the likelihood of Sun-ho’s parents requesting a retrial, but Jin-pyo brushes the concern aside as not their problem. He raises his glass for a toast, but Teacher Lee is too dazed to notice. His stupefaction continues even after dinner as he walks the streets, and he passes the bakery where he sees Joon-ha drinking alone in the dark.
Soo-ho sits at her desk and reads over the instructions of how to submit a petition. In the title section, she types an appeal for them to unveil the injustice her brother faces. While Soo-ho seeks the truth in her own way, Eun-joo rummages through Joon-suk’s desk, also looking for answers. He catches her in the act and accuses her of never believing him from the start.
The night of the incident, Eun-joo turned her car around and went back to the school to find Joon-suk. Since the school doors were locked, she walked around the side, mirroring the events of the nightmare that plagues her. As she turned the corner, she found Sun-ho laying on the ground, blood pooling around his head.
Eun-joo immediately called the police, but suddenly stopped as her initial shock turned into realization. After hanging up, she called Joon-suk and heard his phone ringing from above. Ascending the stairs to the rooftop, she found Joon-suk huddled in a corner. His mouth bleeding, Joon-suk said through his tears that it was an accident, and though he pushed Sun-ho, he didn’t mean for it to happen.
Looking at his tear-streaked face, Eun-joo put her phone away and ordered Joon-suk to wait in the car. She went back to Sun-ho, and while she took off his shoes, Sun-ho’s finger twitched. Unbeknownst to Eun-joo, Joon-suk witnessed everything as she went back to the rooftop to stage the suicide. Apologizing to Sun-ho, Eun-joo neatly tied the laces of his shoes and picked up a uniform button before leaving the scene. Returning to the car, Eun-joo wordlessly caressed Joon-suk’s face and drove them back home.
Eun-joo stops Joon-suk from leaving and declares her trust in him. However, Joon-suk doesn’t believe her since she didn’t call the police that night. If she believed him like she claimed, then she should have called for an ambulance to help Sun-ho. He admits to seeing her take Sun-ho’s shoes, and holds her responsible if Sun-ho dies. She unconsciously slaps him and immediately looks horrified by her actions.
In-ha and Moo-jin stay by Sun-ho’s side at the new hospital, and while holding Sun-ho’s hand, In-ha feels the slightest movement from him. She lets go and takes a step back to look at him. While In-ha and Moo-jin silently stare at Sun-ho, Eun-joo feels someone’s gaze and turns around to find Jin-pyo staring at her through the glass walls. In the hospital, Sun-ho’s fingers move again for a second time.
What the show does great again and again is peel back layers of these characters and make scenes meaningful beyond the surface interactions. The big reveal this episode was Eun-joo’s secret which wasn’t a huge shock plot-wise because all the clues pointed at her fabricating the “accident” site to look like a suicide. The part I found shocking were the eerie similarities between Eun-joo’s actions and Jin-pyo’s. When faced with a situation that could ruin them and Joon-suk, both parents quickly assess their options and choose to manipulate the facts to best suit their needs. While their motivations differ—Jin-pyo is more interested in saving himself and Eun-joo is clearly fueled by a need to protect Joon-suk—the end results are disturbingly alike. Just as Jin-pyo coached Joon-suk on how to interpret the bullying and his role, Eun-joo reinforces the fact that Sun-ho’s fall was accidental even though she doesn’t seem to believe this claim herself. For both parents, if the truth seems inconvenient, then a better-suited version of the truth must be made. Though Eun-joo is racked by guilt (a nonexistent concept in Jin-pyo’s world), her selfish desires make her as terrible as the husband she fears. Even if she trembles at sight of the clear deceit committed by her family, she’s just as complicit (or even more so) in hiding the truth. As In-ha stated in a previous episode, humans are scary, but apparently, it’s not just those without a conscience that are terrifying but those with one, too.
While I thought Joon-suk was becoming more like Jin-pyo, I realized that he’s learned just as much from Eun-joo about manipulating facts and people. With each passing episode, Joon-suk grows more corrupt as he bribes friends and creates outcasts to maintain his superiority and control. The way he swapped the roles between Young-chul and Ki-chan shows his calculative nature and his uncanny ability to assert dominance through exploiting other’s insecurities. By creating a hierarchical system from the beginning, Joon-suk controls the relationships within the group and can easily punish those who disobey him without having to do anything more than rearrange some fake titles. The others quickly realize the implications behind Joon-suk’s actions, and naturally comply which causes the intended consequences to the offending party. Thus, Joon-suk doesn’t even have to get his hands dirty to get revenge on Ki-chan, and unintentionally, the others give power to Joon-suk by following along and not wanting to become the outcast. Though he is a terrifying child, Soo-ho and Sun-ho are right when they call him a coward. He hides behind his lies and pretenses to act like the “good” person, but the Ho-Ho siblings see through his games. Joon-suk still trembles when he’s alone because he’s still a child who lacks the callousness and confidence that an adult like Jin-pyo has. In some ways, he overcompensates to protect himself which has left him with no one to trust, not even his own parents. However, it doesn’t seem like Joon-suk wasn’t always this terrible person as the quick flashback of Soo-ho’s crush on Joon-suk reveals that both siblings once liked him.
This show isn’t about mysterious twists and major reveals, but its strength lies in the careful and thoughtful creation of a complex world that mirrors reality. Though the main incident is about a supposed suicide by a victim of school violence, the show looks at this event and its aftermath from multiple viewpoints. Hence, the situation isn’t just about the victim’s family or even the assailants, but how third parties from teachers, police officers, guards, and even reporters are involved in the process of seeking justice or hiding it. The show is filled with layered characters who are terrifying because of their realistic contradictions that make it hard to divide things into black and white categories. Humans are flawed, relationships are hard, and tragedy befalls even the best of us. However, there may still be hope at the end of the tunnel, and as In-ha and Moo-jin watched Sun-ho’s fingers move at the end, the fight is far from over.