Class of Lies: Episodes 15-16 Open Thread (Final)
Well that was certainly one heck of a finale, does anyone else feel wide-eyed and just a little awed? Class of Lies did something fresh with its school drama/legal thriller mashup, and has been occasionally uneven but it’s indisputably entertained at all times, and delivered on each of its promises by any means necessary.
It makes for some dark TV, but I can’t say I didn’t think it was weirdly perfect…
EPISODES 15-16 (FINAL) WEECAP
Beom-jin faces off with his dad, who is staggered by the revelation that his son is Soo-ah’s killer. Beom-jin isn’t a bit cowed. He reminds his dad of the time he’d told him to remember that wherever he was, to remember he was his father’s son. He flips that back on his dad and says that he should have remembered that he was Beom-jin’s father. As if their roles are reversed, he instructs his father on how to clean up the situation by eliminating Moo-hyuk.
I find this exchange so interesting in how much it diminishes Congressman Yoo and strips down their dynamic. Yoo might have believed that he had the natural upper hand, but Beom-jin is the one who understands better which strings to pull and how, even his own father’s.
Meanwhile, So-hyun recovers Soo-ah’s lost mail, and the envelope reveals a journal she’d kept, documenting everything that had happened since Lee Tae-seok recruited her, to the very day she died. So-hyun delivers this to Han-soo and he makes the difficult decision to reveal it.
Before he does so, he makes a sobering statement to the cameras urging them to remember one thing, before they judge Soo-ah: that she was a victim, and that those who should have protected her failed. It’s a heavy moment for us as viewers too, a PSA that these women who are judged so harshly by society are in fact casualties to power, and that the greater sin of those who exploit them is forgotten.
It’s sad and incredibly moving that Han-soo has really been the only one to cut through the lurid stories to remember Soo-ah as a friend, as someone he loved who wanted and deserved better than she got. Because there’s a tragedy at the heart of this story I had forgotten myself, and Moo-hyuk and the gang are not the only ones who needed that reminder.
With Prosecutor Cha back in action, Moo-hyuk goes on full-on offensive. In a press conference, he reveals all his findings about Soo-ah’s murder case, with the full story on Lee Tae-seok and his trafficking activities, to Congressman Yoo’s relationship with Soo-ah. In a final gambit, he names Beom-jin as Soo-ah’s murderer, though he’s well aware the evidence is still only circumstantial.
Beom-jin endures the whispers and the sideways looks of the other students in school, and is hounded by reporters outside. His grasp on himself becomes ever more tenuous. Ki-hoon hears Moo-hyuk’s revelation that Beom-jin is Soo-ah’s murderer, and damn, is it ever satisfying when he hunts Beom-jin down and sends him sprawling to the floor with a ferocious kick.
Ugh, that single tear that slips out of Ki-hoon says so much; it’s shame, sadness, repentance. He knows he was a POS, but he also regrets it. It took Soo-ah’s death for him to see himself, but I think his worst is behind him. This kid is going to turn out okay, I really believe that. ♥
Beom-jin is reduced to glowering in the dark in the now-empty Veritas lounge. How the mighty have fallen, huh. But he meets Moo-hyuk and crows that he’s won—Moo-hyuk has no proof, only conjecture, there’s no way he can win in court.
Moo-hyuk gives him this pitying look and tells him that he doesn’t understand. “Winning” doesn’t mean winning in court. Winning is never having to go to court at all, and he’s satisfied that the hell that is in his own head is far worse for Beom-jin than going to prison. Ain’t that the truth.
Congressman Yoo counters with a string of his own press conferences, but each one goes worse than the last. As a last resort, Yoo instructs the bent detective, DETECTIVE OH, to turn himself in and take the fall for him and Beom-jin. He makes a thinly veiled threat on the detective’s daughter if he doesn’t comply.
Detective Oh turns himself in as instructed, and makes a full confession. But at the very end, he adds that it was under instruction from Congressman Yoo. The prosecutor on the case is one of Yoo’s people and he tries to shut the detective up. Unfortunately for him, Prosecutor Cha and Moo-hyuk are on the other side of the glass, pretty pleased with the latest development.
It turns out that Moo-hyuk went to see the detective earlier, well aware that this would be Congressman Yoo’s chosen move. I really like how Moo-hyuk’s persuasion methods are never about emotional manipulation but pointing out facts—often ones that the other person already knows—and pointing out the merits and pitfalls of their various choices. It’s an extremely rational approach, and maybe that’s why he’s so successful.
He pointed out to Detective Lee that Yoo never left loose ends, and Oh would be no different. How could he come back to his daughter then? On the other hand, he could take Yoo down with him, and they would reduce his sentence in exchange for his testimony.
Well it’s all going wrong for Congressman Yoo. Not only does he lose the nomination to represent his party in the presidential elections, eventually he’s booted from the party altogether. We learn that Moo-hyuk also visited with Yoo’s rival, and he barely even had to do any convincing—he simply presented the evidence.
Moo-hyuk meets Attorney Lee Do-jin, and suggests he dissociate himself and his firm from Congressman Yoo if he wants to come out of the scandal clean. When the congressman comes to Lee to ask him to represent him, Lee goes along with it and asks him for the truth.
Yoo admits to the relationship with Soo-ah (and makes it sound like it wasn’t his fault), but denies murdering her. Lee Do-jin may be a man of questionable ethics, but Yoo’s confession clearly repulses him. In a crowning moment of just triumph, Prosecutor Cha and her team file in and arrest him.
They go to trial from there, and in yet another twist, the elder Yoo confesses to knowing Soo-ah, but merely that he was her guardian and she his ward BUT that Beom-jin misinterpreted their relationship and the subsequent cover-up was to hide his son’s crime. Ohhh, you didn’t! But he did. Wow. Now that’s a politician—still spinning the story to make himself the hero and throwing his own son under the bus. What a snake!
Beom-jin bursts into the courtroom, to prove on his own that he didn’t do it. Moo-hyuk plays hidden camera footage they uncovered that places him in Soo-ah’s house shortly before she was killed. But Beom-jin’s decisive testimony seems to be only to say, “I wasn’t there and didn’t do it.” Okay then?
Well, either way, Han-soo is cleared and the elder Yoo goes down. Literally, I think… as he’s taken away in the prison van, it makes a stop and the transporting officers look the other way while the other prisoners converge on the former congressman… Whoa. Dark.
Beom-jin wanders the streets, lost in his own head. He relives a memory… of murdering Soo-ah. Well wow. I mean, we were told this, but somehow, I was willing to believe until the last moment that it wasn’t him, that there would be one more twist. I’m almost more surprised that there isn’t.
Moo-hyuk finds him in the crowd and looks at him with a mixture of pity and revulsion. Beom-jin is totally broken now, and gibbers that he can be perfect again. Moo-hyuk leaves him with a promise to find the decisive evidence that Beom-jin killed Tae-ra, and tells him to wait for him in his personal hell until he does.
Then, he leaves him alone to his own madness… and one final twist, as someone jostles past him and sinks a syringe into his neck. Beom-jin writhes on the ground, scrabbling at his throat, and his black-clad assailant disappears into the night. WHOA.
And that… is that.
Han-soo returns to school and everything (almost) returns to normal. The school is like a school again, Ye-ri is friendless as she deserves, though Yoonah takes pity on her. Ki-hoon confronts Han-soo… and apologizes. Life goes on.
Does anyone feel… shaken and disturbed by how this went? That ending was SO DARK, a full-on tragedy, Macbeth-style. I actually think it’s brilliant, maybe the best of the entire show, but it’s definitely not where I thought we were going.
That said, all along, the show has never sugar-coated any of its ugliness, and has constantly turned away the narrative of people—especially young people—being innocent at heart. It creates an interesting gradient in how we are asked to interpret the relative evil of the many villains in this show (and there were many).
In a way, with the exception of a handful of characters, everyone’s a villain, or at best, an antihero in Moo-hyuk’s case. But each of them get a different trajectory based on their choices, and I like how that preserves their agency. They aren’t evil “just because,” but they each make decisions that take them on a road to better or worse. For example, Ki-hoon could represent redemption, and Detective Oh expiation.
On the opposite end, both Yoos, elder and younger, receive their just desserts. Its literary justice in a way I haven’t seen on-screen for a long, long time. And don’t get me wrong, it has been pretty delightful watching terrible people being terrible every week, but always with the desired endgame of them being served with their rightful endings, and I’d say that happened in a spectacular fashion.
There’s a lot that could be said about Beom-jin and his descent into self-destruction. I feel like it’s a cautionary tale to obsessive perfectionism (which in all honesty makes me feel a little attacked, haha). The way the veil dropped between father and son once all the cards were on the table was so revealing of the true state of their relationship the way Beom-jin sees it.
To Beom-jin, everyone exists as a prop to his ambition—an ambition that eclipses his father’s. His father might be a congressman, but Beom-jin, you got the sense, saw past the glamor of station and understood that true power was more subtle than that. His last few confrontations with Moo-hyuk after everything is out in the open were just electric, because Moo-hyuk sees through him.
Beom-jin’s curse was to be able to see too much and too far, and that left him trying to control courses that had never begun. It’s that very insight that brings him down in the end, and always would have, I think: He’s the kind of person whose ideals retain perfection so long as they’re untested.
Imagine that same boy rising to adulthood, where with the resources and tools of power at hand, the possibility of him doing either great good or great harm would be always be balanced on the edge of a knife. I don’t think, within the bounds of this fictional world at least, that he could have been “saved” after he began his fall. Not in sixteen episodes, anyway. He was ultimately too broken to continue to function in society.
I’ve had a couple of days to think about it, and now I’m sure about the identity of the boy in black. It’s definitely between Ki-hoon and Han-soo, and my money’s on Han-soo. Compared to Ki-hoon, he’s taller and more built, and although I closely analyzed the attacker’s figure, the clincher for me really is in what I know about their characters.
Han-soo loved the real Soo-ah, and he was the one hurt most by her death. Han-soo is a very black-and-white, physical kind of person, loyal and simple in the best way. He was willing to die for her, and it makes perfect sense that he was willing to take a life for her, too. I can easily see him as the kind of person who can take a secret like that to the grave: It’s justice for Soo-ah, and exactly what Beom-jin deserves. There’s so no internal conflict for him over that.
But as much as he deserves it, I can’t help feeling some pity for Beom-jin. If I had to pick the moment that he broke, I would say it was when he pushed Tae-ra from the roof. That destroyed something fundamental in him that killing Soo-ah didn’t.
I think he felt justified in killing Soo-ah, and therefore it didn’t cause him any cognitive dissonance, but Tae-ra’s murder… he wasn’t able to justify that to himself. It doesn’t make “sense” and that’s the point. Murder isn’t logical, nor is it an appropriate or proportional solution to his problems. It’s so fitting that his sanity, his soundness of mind—the thing he values above all else—should be the price he pays for the lie he tells himself, that he’s innocent of all wrongdoing. It’s exactly the worst hell he can be in, as Moo-hyuk so astutely calculates.
Moo-hyuk has had a really satisfying evolution too, and I love that his journey kind of comes full circle in the last scene, where he returns to the world of school and the kids he left. As much as not underestimating the kids has been his strength, I think he also needed to see with his own eyes how they were still vulnerable and in need of protection, not hardened criminals or miniature adults or unreasonable fools.
Even though some of the kids definitely were criminals, their capacity to change given the right support was something the show really gave thought to. Moo-hyuk’s preferred method might be slamming people with hard logic, but he needed to learn the value of compassion as well. The fact that he was able to develop a sense of sympathy he didn’t have before is a sign of his growth, and maybe he needed a crisis all along, to make him a better person than he was.
The obvious instrument for that has been So-hyun, but while I’ve enjoyed her presence in the team, I admit she’s often been irrelevant, or just a cog to move the plot forward. I think at times, the show had so many moving pieces that it couldn’t do justice to all of them, so inevitably some characters did end up being relegated to plot devices, even though they had more potential. People like Prosecutor Cha, the reporter, Yoon-ah, Ki-hoon, and plenty other among the cast of characters were rich for exploration, but time constraints obviously played a part in curtailing their stories.
The shift from school back to legal drama territory at the end also added to that somewhat, but nevertheless, I think each character was sent off rather magnificently. We got to see Won-seok play “Park Bo-gum,” and that closing scene where they all-out break the fourth wall was just pure joy (and PPL, lol). Not every show entertains to the utmost degree, but if I’m grinning my face off even after it threw its darkest moments at us, I’d say Class of Lies did a damn good job.
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