The Game: Towards Zero: Episodes 7-8
Once again, every new revelation only leads to more questions, and our killer doesn’t seem to care if anyone finds out who he is. In fact, he taunts our hero mercilessly, both in reality and in visions, as if he wants to be caught. The game is on, and if our hero loses, someone will lose their life.
Tae-pyung sees Mi-jin’s death again, this time at the hands of medical examiner Do-kyung while still in the hospital. The time he saw in the vision has already passed, so he convinces Team Leader Han to call Mi-jin’s mom, and although she suffered severe convulsions a short while ago, thankfully Mi-jin is alive. Team Leader Han asks Tae-pyung to stay at the station and answer some questions.
Tae-pyung tells Team Leader Han that he met the killer when he visited Hope Orphanage with Teacher Baek twenty years ago. From behind the one-way mirror, Chief Nam’s eyebrows shoot up at the name of the orphanage… interesting. Tae-pyung continues that he always meant to find the boy he met, but by the time he did, the orphanage had closed.
Team Leader Han asks why Tae-pyung looked for him, and Tae-pyung hangs his head: “I saw myself in his death. He commits suicide while surrounded by police, and I’m his hostage.” Team Leader Han points out logically that Tae-pyung has no proof and he can’t just take his word for it, but he offers Tae-pyung the chance to prove his ability is real with a test.
When Joon-young returns to the station, she’s angry about the test, but Team Leader Han has a logical explanation for how Tae-pyung could have known the details of Mi-jin’s kidnapping. He even suggests that Tae-pyung could be the killer, and that he helped them find Mi-jin so that she could be killed later, like Jo Pil-doo’s final victim.
While he waits, Tae-pyung thinks about the vision, and how Do-kyung spoke directly to him: Why do you think I’m doing this? You saw this, so you would know! It means that the killer knew Tae-pyung would see Mi-jin’s death, but how and why?
Joon-young offers to administer the test to Tae-pyung, and she shows him photographs of three murder victims. In all three cases, Tae-pyung correctly states the way they died (bludgeoning/drowning, strangulation, and domestic violence) and details that only the police would know.
When he’s finished, he asks Joon-young why she showed him her mother’s picture when they first met. He’s angry that she’s showing him gruesome deaths now, while her mother’s picture was proof that she already believed him then — because she died a peaceful death. Joon-young asks how he knew it was her mother, and we see what he saw.
Joon-young’s mother was lying in a hospital bed holding her newborn daughter, with her husband by her side. She had named Joon-young (“joon” for bright and “young” for shining”), then had peacefully faded away. From where he’s watching, Chief Nam knows that Tae-pyung is telling the truth, because he was there, too.
Tae-pyung tells Joon-young that he saw the article about how her father died while capturing Jo Pil-doo, and he says that her dad would be proud of her if he was alive. He says that maybe it wasn’t his foresight that enabled them to save Mi-jin, but her belief that they could save her. He tells her that he’s seen Mi-jin’s death again, this time at the hospital, but that if she’s certain they can stop it again then he’ll help her.
Joon-young asks Chief Nam to let her hire Tae-pyung as a consultant, but Chief Nam still isn’t convinced that Tae-pyung isn’t the killer, plus even he said himself that it wasn’t his foresight that saved Mi-jin. Joon-young asks if she can at least have Tae-pyung make a composite sketch of the killer, but Chief Nam refuses, and warns her against trusting too much in pseudoscience.
Outside, Tae-pyung can tell from Joon-young’s face that she didn’t get permission for him to help. Instead of getting discouraged, he says they’ll just show Chief Nam another miracle by catching the killer. He says that it’s bothering him that the killer knew he would look at Mi-jin’s picture and see her death again because he asked why he was killing her.
Joon-young asks about the orphanage where Tae-pyung met the killer, and from a short distance, Do-kyung watches them from his car. He stops by the security booth and looks at the sign-in sheet to get Tae-pyung’s name.
Back home, Tae-pyung tells Yeon-hwa and Teacher Baek that the police tested him and he proved his ability. He asks Yeon-hwa to find someone to do a composite sketch, and Teacher Baek asks if this means he plans to go up against a murderer. Tae-pyung says it’s the boy he met at the orphanage all those years ago, and Teacher Baek thinks, “Will they end up meeting like this?” Okay, he knows something.
Chief Nam is disturbed by Tae-pyung’s story about meeting a boy at Hope Orphanage twenty years ago. It reminds him of a day when he had taken Jo Pil-doo to one of the sites where a victim had been buried, to re-enact the crime. Pil-doo had kicked the mannequin into the buried coffin, then looked up to see his son in the crowd, watching him.
It was young Do-kyung, only back then his name was Hyun-woo. Having seen the boy, Chief Nam was disturbed when he went to the orphanage to find little Joon-young talking with Hyun-woo. He recalls being told that Jo Hyun-woo died fifteen years ago.
He looks into the orphanage, only to learn that it shut down in 2004 when there was a fire, and all the records on the children had been destroyed. How convenient. He confirms that Jo Hyun-woo hung himself, and that a friend had identified his body. Also convenient.
Chief Nam comes to the disturbing conclusion that if Jo Hyun-woo is alive as Tae-pyung says, then he staged his own death all those years ago. He also remembers an unsettling phone call he got three years ago, wondering if it was Jo Hyun-woo. He had just been promoted, and he’d gotten a call late at night from someone who didn’t identify themselves.
We can see that it was, in fact, Do-kyung, and he’d said that Jo Pil-doo was innocent. He’d claimed to know who the real Midnight Killer was and that he was still killing women. He’d told Chief Nam that it was a man named Kim Hyung-soo, that he ran an animal shelter, and that if he went there, he would find a red box with a lock of hair from his most recent victim.
Chief Nam now goes to check out the tip, but he doesn’t found a red box or any hair. He doesn’t found Kim Hyung-soo either — a man tells him that the place was owned by a Kim Yong-bae, who’d changed his name to Kim Hyung-soo, and who went missing three years ago.
Joon-young visits Mi-jin in the hospital and stays until 7 p.m., her expected time of death, passes safely. She tells Kang-jae and Bong-soo that they need to take turns staying with Mi-jin at this time of night until she’s discharged. Lurking nearby, Do-kyung overhears them, and he checks the time. Crap, now he knows when they’ll be there… and when they won’t.
Tae-pyung has a composite portrait made of Do-kyung, and Yeon-hwa is surprised to see such a handsome killer. Tae-pyung gets a call from Do-kyung, who somehow knows about the composite portrait already. He asks Do-kyung why he’s trying to kill Mi-jin, but Do-kyung asks in return why Tae-pyung is trying so hard to save a girl he only met once. Tae-pyung asks what Do-kyung wants from him, and Do-kyung says that he only wants one thing… for Tae-pyung to see the truth with his power.
Reporter Joon-hee goes home to shower, and Han-gyu calls him while he’s there. He’s unsure about releasing the article on Jo Pil-doo, but Joon-hee says to publish it since this all started with Pil-doo. The article states erroneously that the police say Pil-doo is directing the copycat from prison, frustrating Chief Nam.
Soo-hyun calls Joon-young with the results of the hair found in the coffin with Mi-jin, and surprisingly, the DNA matches Jo Pil-doo. The shoeprint they found also happens to be from the same shoe that Pil-doo wore twenty years ago. Soo-hyun had done some digging and learned that Pil-doo wasn’t in prison on the day of Mi-jin’s abduction, he was in the hospital being treated for his lung illness.
Joon-young heads to the prison to speak directly to Pil-doo, taking Tae-pyung along with her. They have to navigate through a crowd of protesters calling out for Pil-doo’s execution (he recently asked for a stay of execution due to his serious illness, but was refused).
Han-gyu is in the crowd covering the protest, and Joon-hee calls him to talk about a follow-up article. He’s back at the hospital, and he barely notices that Do-kyung is standing inches away, listening as they talk about the fact that Joon-young is currently at the prison.
Up in Mi-jin’s room, Ji-won gets a text from Joon-hee, asking her to get his wallet from his car so they can pay the hospital bill. But… he’s on the phone with Han-gyu? Ji-won thinks it’s strange that Joon-hee doesn’t get his wallet himself so she tries to call him, but he ignores her call (argh, didn’t he learn a lesson?) to continue speaking to Han-gyu.
Ji-won leaves Mi-jin’s room, confident that her guards will watch over her for a few minutes, especially since it’s hours until seven p.m. She passes Do-kyung, who’s wearing a white lab coat and mask, and moments later a cart flies from a room and hits a patient walking in the hall.
The commotion distracts everyone on the floor, including the guard posted outside Mi-jin’s room. While they’re all helping the patient, Do-kyung slips into Mi-jin’s room.
At the prison, Joon-young confirms that Jo Pil-doo was in the hospital on the day Mi-jin was kidnapped. When he’s brought to speak to her, he’s extremely weak and ill. Tae-pyung is surprised — he expected to see the man from his vision of the last victim’s death, but this is another man entirely, and Tae-pyung realizes that Pil-doo is innocent.
As soon as Joon-young introduces herself and tells Pil-doo why she’s there, he insists that he’s not the killer. Joon-young growls that her father died because of him, and he looks stricken to realize that this is the little girl he saw at the police station years ago when he was arrested. She’d asked why he killed her father, and he’d looked sincere as he’d apologized.
Joon-young holds up pictures of the victims and recites their names, accusing Pil-doo of killing them all. He flips dramatically and starts screaming details, dates, and names of each murder. As he does, Kang-jae and Joon-young come to a startling realization… he’s perfectly reciting the confession he wrote twenty years ago, word for word.
Pil-doo works himself up so badly that he begins spitting up blood, so the guards rush him away before Joon-young can ask if he abducted Mi-jin. Tae-pyung says that he didn’t kill those girls, because he saw the killer of the seventh victim and it wasn’t Pil-doo. He mutters that this is what Do-kyung meant when he said he wanted him to see the truth, and Joon-young asks how he knew Tae-pyung would be here to see Pil-doo.
Tae-pyung grabs Mi-jin’s picture and watches Do-kyung assault her again, but now, the time of death has changed to 4 p.m. He thinks to himself that he wanted to believe that it was Joon-young’s strong will that let them change fate, but now he realizes it was only a murderer’s warning.
He tells Joon-young that Mi-jin’s time of death changed, and oh no, it’s already a minute past four. When Ji-won returns to Mi-jin’s room, she finds her daughter’s lifeless body on the floor. She screams for the doctor just as Joon-hee arrives, but it’s too late — Mi-jin is dead.
Joon-young gets the news, so they all head back to the hospital. She orders the hospital’s exits sealed in case the killer is still on the premises, and Tae-pyung gives the guard a description of Do-kyung as he saw in his vision, including a scratch on his left wrist that he got from Mi-jin. But Do-kyung was prepared, and he changes clothes and hides the scratch, then stays at the hospital instead of trying to leave.
As they arrive at the hospital, Tae-pyung shows Joon-young the composite sketch he had made of the killer. She’s surprised to see that it’s someone she knows, and she remembers that he even thanked her for saving Mi-jin. Tae-pyung thinks about the day he met young Jo Hyun-woo and predicted his death, then his recurrent dream of an adult Hyun-woo telling him to wait until he loses someone precious just before falling to his death.
Suffering from profound shock after seeing his daughter dead in his wife’s arms, Joon-hee wanders out into the hallway. He screams at the guard for failing to protect Mi-jin, and in the gathering crowd, Do-kyung watches him curiously.
Joon-young calls Do-kyung to ask him where he is, and he tells her that he’s at the hospital on Mi-jin’s floor. She tells him not to move, that she’s on her way up, and when she hangs up on him, Do-kyung just continues watching Joon-hee with a sick little smile.
In the elevator, Tae-pyung thinks to himself, “If I hadn’t told him how he’ll die back then, how would it have been? It feels as if my prediction came back as a curse.”
So much information to unpack! We learned a lot in this episode, most importantly that Do-kyung is actually Jo Hyun-woo, Jo Pil-doo’s son, and that Jo Pil-doo was not the Midnight Killer. So now we have to ask more questions… most importantly, why is Do-kyung killing now? Obviously this is something he’s been plotting for many years, since he faked his own death as a teenager. But why, and why now? If it’s so important to him that his father be exonerated, why become a killer himself and plant evidence that his father was there?
There’s likely a revenge element to it, as he chose the victim of someone who was tied to the original cases, but things still don’t quite add up for me. It seems an odd choice to try and prove your father’s innocence by becoming a murderer yourself. Then there’s the fact that Do-kyung seems to know things he couldn’t possibly know, like that Tae-pyung would see both of Mi-jin’s deaths, that he made a composite sketch of him, and that Tae-pyung would be at the prison at that time. Does Do-kyung have some sort of supernatural ability, too?
I have two theories, though the first doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny — that Do-kyung/Hyun-woo was the killer all along, even as a child. It would explain why Pil-doo was willing to confess and go to prison for life, though it doesn’t answer a lot of other questions. First of all, Tae-pyung clearly saw the seventh victim’s father, Hong Jung-ho, killing his daughter in his vision, though that only proves he killed her, not that he killed any of the others.
My second theory is a bit stronger, that Hong Jung-ho is the Midnight Killer, and that he’s been changing identities and faked his own recent death. He could be the man who Do-kyung sent Chief Nam to investigate three years ago, but unfortunately Chief Nam didn’t follow up and he got away. But someone has been living as Hong Jung-ho, because neighbors and the employees of the hospice where he supposedly died all reported knowing him. The whole thing is very convoluted, and right now I’m just waiting to see what else there is to learn.
My main concern is how this all ties in to Tae-pyung, and what Do-kyung wants from him. He says he wants Tae-pyung to see the truth, but what truth? That his father is innocent? That he’s guilty? Who the real killer is? I’m worried that he’s going to keep killing in an attempt to push Tae-pyung into whatever he wants, and I’m very scared that Joon-young will be one of his victims. Since Tae-pyung can’t see her death, he won’t be able to help her. And if Joon-young can’t really change people’s fates as Tae-pyung sees them, they need to stop him as soon as possible.
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