The Game: Towards Zero: Episodes 9-10
This episode focuses on the past, and the events and connections that led everyone involved to present-day events. We get to see how it all started twenty years ago, which clears up a few lingering questions our hero has been asking himself. But again, many of the answers only lead to more confusion, and lives will be lost if he can’t find the solutions fast enough.
Joon-young and Tae-pyung head upstairs to confront Do-kyung, as Mi-jin’s distraught parents are being led from her hospital room so the murder scene can be investigated. Do-kyung greets Joon-young cheerfully, and she introduces him to Tae-pyung. Do-kyung turns, and the two make eye contact for the first time since they met as children twenty years ago.
Tae-pyung sees Do-kyung’s death again — they’re both standing on a rooftop in a standoff with the police. Do-kyung has a nasty burn on his right cheek, neck, and hand, and he’s holding a scalpel to Tae-pyung’s throat.
He says the words that Tae-pyung has been hearing in his dreams for all these years, “Do you think you’ll be any different? Try losing someone you deem the most precious. Then you’ll know.” But then Do-kyung leans in closer and says something that Tae-pyung forgot: “You’ll never find Seo Joon-young.” Do-kyung straightens, then lets himself fall backwards over the edge of the roof.
Shaken, Tae-pyung fears that this means that Joon-young will die because of him. Seeing Do-kyung in person again jogs loose all of Tae-pyung’s memories of that time in their lives, which were more entwined than they knew.
Twenty years ago.
Tae-pyung was able to see people’s deaths in their eyes from a very young age, including his own. Even as a child, he watched his own death every day when he looked in the mirror. He sees himself having a heart attack on a beach, while holding a necklace, but he doesn’t know where he is when he dies or why he’s crying.
We switch to little Joon-young and her father, Dong-chul, playing on a similar beach (or maybe the same one?). Dong-chul says he wants to build a house there someday because the beach was Joon-young’s mother’s favorite place and he feels close to her there.
Elsewhere, young Tae-pyung finds Teacher Baek in the bathtub, unconscious after slitting his own wrist. He calls for help and Teacher Baek is rushed to the hospital. A pair of cops ask Tae-pyung questions about what happened and why he’s in Korea alone, but he’s overwhelmed by seeing both of their deaths at once and passes out.
Dong-chul was called to the hospital (regarding the Midnight Killer’s seventh victim), and while Joon-young waits for her father, she sits next to the still unconscious Tae-pyung and sucks on a lollypop. When her father finally collects her, she tucks a lollypop into Tae-pyung’s hand before they leave.
When Tae-pyung eventually wakes up, he and Teacher Baek are back at Teacher Baek’s house, and Teacher Baek says that Tae-pyung saved his life. He knows that Tae-pyung somehow made his way here alone from the U.S., and he asks why. Tae-pyung asks why Teacher Baek tried to kill himself when he already knows that’s not how he’ll die, revealing that he has the same ability.
Tae-pyung says that he came because he wants to ask Teacher Baek if he should tell people when he sees their deaths. Teacher Baek only says cryptically that knowing how one will die is painful, but that not knowing certain deaths is worse.
There’s a photograph of a pretty woman on the table, and Tae-pyung sees her and Teacher Baek taken to the hospital together after a terrible accident. Teacher Baek tells him that he had just proposed to her that night. In the car, she had asked him why he loved her, and he’d said that she made him feel normal because she was the only person whose death he couldn’t see. But moments later, another car had slammed into them.
Teacher Baek says that if he’d known, he could have stopped it, which means the woman he loved died because of him. Tae-pyung asks if he means people’s deaths can be changed, but Teacher Baek doesn’t answer.
After the Midnight Killer’s seventh victim is murdered in the hospital, her ID is found with Jo Pil-doo’s fingerprints on it. Dong-chul and Chief Nam find him in an abandoned warehouse, but he fights them, insisting that he found the ID and was only going to return it to the girl’s parents.
Dong-chul chases him up the stairs, and Pil-doo lashes out, accidentally sending Dong-chul to fall several stories to his death. Pil-doo is so shocked that he barely resists as Chief Nam punches him repeatedly, furious over his friend’s death.
We see again the rainy day when Jo Pil-doo is made to re-enact one of the murders, but now that we know he’s innocent, it seems obvious that he’s only doing what Chief Nam tells him to do. His son, Hyun-woo, is there, and he’s traumatized by the way people scream insults at his father.
Joon-young is at the station when Pil-doo is brought back after the re-enactment. She’d seen Joon-hee’s article on her father’s death, and she asks him why he killed her daddy, and Pil-doo sorrowfully apologizes.
They don’t notice Hyun-woo, who followed them to the station and witnessed the exchange. As he trudges back out into the rain, Joon-hee approaches him and takes his picture, and soon he’s surrounded by yelling reporters and flashing cameras.
Later, Hyun-woo and his mother huddle in fear inside a restaurant owned by Jo Pil-doo’s relatives as an angry mob pound on the doors, demanding to be let in. Eventually Hyun-woo’s mother goes to confront them, telling Hyun-woo to stay hidden.
When she steps outside, the seventh victim’s father, Hong Jung-ho (I was mistaken, the man who killed his daughter was a different person — I’m sorry!), throws a bucket of blood at her and accuses her of knowing that her husband was the Midnight Killer.
Hyun-woo disobeys his mother and runs outside, screaming that they didn’t know. The mob turns their vitriol on him, saying that he’s just like his father. Nearby, Joon-hee snaps photographs of Hyun-woo and his mother with stark terror on their faces.
After listening to Pil-doo’s relatives arguing about them, Hyun-woo and his mother go to the bus station to leave town. His mother gives him some food and says she’s going to the restroom, but instead she boards the bus alone. Hyun-woo spots her in the window as the bus pulls away, and he never sees his mother again.
He’s found and taken to Hope Orphanage, and he gets a job delivering newspapers. It’s particularly cruel when Hyun-woo has to deliver publications with headlines about his father’s sentencing, and even how his mother abandoned him.
At least the nun in charge is kind, and she talks to Hyun-woo in advance when Joon-young has to stay at the orphanage briefly due to some bureaucratic red tape. Curious about Joon-young, Hyun-woo watches her from a careful distance.
He witnesses Joon-hee sneak onto the premises to take more unwanted photographs of Joon-young, so he grabs Joon-hee’s camera and smashes it. He tells Joon-hee to stop this and let him breathe, and Joon-hee retorts that that’s rich coming from someone whose father killed seven girls and a father.
After he stalks off, Joon-young catches up to Hyun-woo and thanks him. She asks his name, but Hyun-woo tells her, “I don’t have one.” Joon-young guesses that he’s an orphan like she is, and gives him a lollypop.
A little while later, Teacher Baek visits the orphanage with Tae-pyung in tow. The nun offers Tae-pyung refreshments, but he doesn’t eat or drink. When he finally looks into her eyes, he says that she must be very sick because he sees her dying in the hospital. He’s surprised Teacher Baek didn’t tell her, but the nun (who knows about Teacher Baek’s former ability) says he started visiting after he lost his sight.
Some of the orphaned boys overhear their conversation, and when Tae-pyung is alone in the sanctuary, they force him to look at Hyun-woo and predict his death. At first Hyun-woo struggles, but at the expression on Tae-pyung’s face, he demands to know how he died to make Tae-pyung look at him like that. Tae-pyung tells him, “You’ll kill yourself in front of police officers. You’ll fall and die.”
Tae-pyung and Hyun-woo, now Do-kyung, face each other again, and Tae-pyung wonders how things would have turned out if he hadn’t told Do-kyung how he would die. Do-kyung says that he’s heard of Tae-pyung’s ability to predict death, and he sees the way Tae-pyung’s eyes snap nervously to Joon-young.
Suddenly Joon-young grabs Do-kyung’s left arm and pulls up his sleeve, revealing the deep gouge Mi-jin made in his skin as she fought for her life. It confirms that Tae-pyung’s vision was true, so she slaps handcuffs on Do-kyung and makes an emergency arrest. Smirking, Do-kyung asks if Tae-pyung told her he’s the killer, and Tae-pyung grabs him, screaming for him to say what it is that he wants.
Meanwhile, Team Leader Han has received the composite portrait that Tae-pyung made of the man from his vision. He shows it to Chief Nam and says that it’s Go Do-kyung, the medical examiner who performed gangster Oh Sung-min’s autopsy. Chief Nam tells him to get a sample of Do-kyung’s DNA, and to keep this out of the press.
Joon-young goes to Mi-jin’s room, where Soo-hyun is taking evidence photographs of Mi-jin’s body. Soo-hyun notices that Mi-jin has a broken fingernail, so she takes a sample of what is hopefully her killer’s DNA.
Tae-pyung is badly disturbed by the confrontation with Do-kyung, so Joon-young goes to check on him. He looks at her, thinking again how he can’t see her death and fearing that it’s because he’s the cause of it. Chief Nam asks to speak to Tae-pyung alone, and he asks why Tae-pyung was so upset by Do-kyung earlier.
But when Tae-pyung looks up at him, he sees Chief Nam’s death — he’s at the police station, and when he enters a room, there’s an explosion that kills him instantly. Tae-pyung just repeats that Do-kyung will kill himself while surrounded by police. Chief Nam asks if he’s sure the man in the composite portrait is the killer, but Tae-pyung snaps that if Chief Nam had let him do the composite sooner so that the police guards had known his face, Mi-jin would be alive right now.
Chief Nam says that he can’t just take Tae-pyung’s word for it, so Tae-pyung tells him, “Then find the evidence. His DNA should be under Mi-jin’s fingernail. Even when Mi-jin was dying, she tried to see who the culprit was. That’s how I was able to see his face. The culprit who killed Mi-jin was Gu Do-kyung, so don’t let him get away.”
Reporters Han-gyu and Ye-ji arrive to cover the prison protest, and when they see the protesters all reading the latest news on their phone, they check and see that Mi-jin is dead. Ye-ji worries that Mi-jin was killed because their article speculating that Jo Pil-doo was behind the recent case provoked the murderer, but Han-gyu shushes her, saying that he published that because Joon-hee told him to.
Do-kyung submits to a DNA swab, loudly objecting to being accused of murder because of a supposed vision. Joon-young reminds him that he met Tae-pyung twenty years ago at the orphanage, and that Tae-pyung predicted his suicide. But she says that it won’t happen, because she’s going to see him in prison for murdering Mi-jin.
They only have twelve hours to produce solid evidence, so Joon-young orders Bong-soo to watch the hospital’s CCTV footage and Soo-hyun to rush the DNA test. Do-kyung is taken to the police station and fingerprinted, and Tae-pyung asks Yeon-hwa to check at Hope Orphanage to see if anyone knows Do-kyung.
At home, Tae-pyung asks Teacher Baek why he didn’t tell him the reason he can’t see Joon-young’s death when he knew all along. Teacher Baek says, “That’s why I told you that you two are in an ill-fated relationship. You like each other, but you can never be together…. You can’t see her death because you cause her death. That woman, Seo Joon-young, will die because of you.”
I think that it’s a logical conclusion for Teacher Baek and Tae-pyung to come to, to assume that they didn’t see the deaths of the women they love (or will come to love) because they’re the cause of that death. Heck, it’s a theory that viewers have come to without even knowing the circumstances of Teacher Baek’s fiancee’s death. But there’s another possibility for them not being able to see those deaths — simply because it’s the woman they love. It’s possible that Tae-pyung and Teacher Baek’s inability to foresee those specific deaths is fate being merciful and giving them the peace of not knowing how the one they love will die, in exchange for being forced to see the deaths of everyone else. It could just be a tragic coincidence that Teacher Baek’s fiancee died the way she did, and it’s possible that Joon-young could live a good, long, happy life.
I’m glad that we got to see what Do-kyung went through after his father’s wrongful arrest and conviction, and how he himself was abandoned and rejected. It doesn’t excuse murder, but I can understand why he grew up so angry and vindictive. And that’s before Tae-pyung’s prediction of his suicide, which I think is the event that pushed him over the edge and made him do what he’s doing now. He seems like he was a good kid with a strong sense of justice, but we still don’t know what happened to him in the twenty years since he was told he would die in a police standoff. I don’t understand what Do-kyung means to accomplish by becoming the killer his father never was, but I’ve realized that what appear to be plot holes in this show are actually yet-unfilled gaps in information. I want to understand what’s driving Do-kyung and why he created a copycat murder, so I’m trying to patiently wait for the answers.
I still have so many questions, and the show keeps raising even more. We know through Tae-pyung’s visions that Jo Pil-doo wasn’t the Midnight Killer, so why did he confess to the murders when there was only weak circumstantial evidence against him? Who made him memorize his confession to the point that he still remembers it word-for-word, twenty years later, and why? Who is the man that Tae-pyung saw killing the seventh victim and where is he now? Why was Joon-hee obsessed with Joon-young and her father’s death to the point of stalking a very young child, when Hyun-woo seemed to be a much more interesting and accessible target? Yes, it’s tragic that her father died trying to catch a serial killer, but you’d think that the abandoned son of that serial killer would make a much more compelling news story.
As confused as I am, for me it’s a good kind of confused, because it means that The Game: Towards Zero isn’t telling a predictable story. We seem to be barreling through plot points at the speed of light, yet I don’t feel rushed — more like a building anticipation that things are about to blow up (figuratively and literally). We’ve got a lot of clues that haven’t even been touched on, such as the true Midnight Killer’s identity, the violent and simultaneous deaths of the entire police team, and Tae-pyung and Joon-young’s mysterious deaths. It may feel like the story is getting to Do-kyung’s end too quickly, but I believe that in fact, we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.
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