Memorist: Episode 5
With one death, allies become adversaries and everything we thought we knew is turned upside-down. What’s happened so far is just one small part of a much larger whole, and I don’t think our heroes have seen even the tip of the iceberg. The true enemy is much more powerful than anyone suspected, and may be the only person with the ability — literally — to outsmart even a supernatural detective.
EPISODE 5: “Prayer for Protection”
A teenage girl complains to a friend on the phone that her mother is making her go to church, and she’s worried that “the pervert” will do something to her. On the way, a man brushes past her muttering a prayer, freaking her out even further.
When she arrives, her mother smacks her for calling the preacher a perverted murderer, claiming that evil spirits are slandering him. She leads her daughter into a prayer meeting that’s being led by Chairman Park and makes her kneel on the floor. As he speaks, Chairman Park fondles the girl in a way that looks paternal but makes her shiver.
As Chairman Park drones on, the girl nods off, almost like she’s in a trance. She wakes to the sound of screaming, with blood splattered on her clothes and face. She sees Chairman Park lying dead in a pool of blood, and the other worshippers distraught.
Sun-mi summons Dong Baek to the scene, but when he reads the witnesses’ memories, not one of them recalls seeing Chairman Park being killed. Sun-mi thinks that this was done by someone with supernatural powers, and that the killer wanted to make a scene, like putting on a magic show.
She tells Dong Baek frankly that he’s her main suspect, and when he protests that he doesn’t have the power to erase memories, she retorts, “But you’re the only one who knows that.” Oh yeah, good point. Dong Baek says that’s fine since he’d rather be investigated by someone he knows, and leaves.
As he’s walking through the building, a giant painting catches Dong Baek’s eye. It depicts an angel standing over a man, and the pose is almost the exact same pose that Dong Baek’s remembers seeing his mother and her murderer in. Over his head, in the painting and in Dong Baek’s memory, the angel wields a hammer almost exactly like the one that Chairman Park used to kill his victims.
Sun-mi heads to an emergency department meeting led by Department Head Lee, and Sun-mi tells him that she believes Chairman Park’s murder is a supernatural crime. She invokes Occam’s Razor, which says that the simplest solution is most likely the right one, and heavily implies that she suspects Dong Baek. Department Head Lee re-establishes her team and gives her three days to give him an answer.
After the meeting, Department Head Lee and Sun-mi speak privately. She says that the idea of there being a second person with supernatural powers is more far-fetched than the possibility that Dong Baek can erase memories. Department Head Lee admits that he’s always been unsure about Dong Baek being in the police force, since his ability could lead to the people losing faith in them and cause them to lose funds and approval.
He tells her not to worry about protecting Dong Baek, and she says she won’t, if he’s guilty. Smiling, Department Head Lee gives Sun-mi his top secret personnel file on Dong Baek to help her investigation, though he admits that the answer isn’t in it.
As Sun-mi reads the file, we see a scene from Dong Baek’s childhood — he’s about seven years old, and he sits, pale and shivering, on a bench at Dongbaek Train Station. Eventually an employee asks him if he’s sick, but his eyes roll back and he passes out.
Still at the Truth and Sky church building, Dong Baek annoys Chief Gu by saying cryptically that he’ll tell him how he recognizes the painting “when it’s time.” The employee in charge of maintenance tells them that Chairman Park loved the painting and would stare at it for hours. The employee suddenly notices something strange, and says that when the painting was first delivered, the angel was holding a sword, not a hammer.
Sun-mi’s team digs further into Dong Baek’s past. He was found at the train station, and he was thought to be disabled because he wouldn’t speak. He eventually ended up in an orphanage and was named “Dong Baek” after the place where he was found. He grew up normally, revealed his ability at age twenty, and turned down many more lucrative jobs in order to be a cop.
Dong Baek concludes that whoever sent the painting to Chairman Park must the the same person who killed him. Before they can talk to the maintenance man again to ask about its delivery, the young witness’s mother chases them out of the office. But the daughter tells them that she saw the delivery truck, and she offers to let Dong Baek read her memory in exchange for his phone number. HA, she has a crush.
The girl also insists on giving Dong Baek her memories her way, which means taking pictures with Dong Baek and touching him (a lot) in the process, heh. While she’s hanging on him, he gets the name and phone number of the company that delivered the painting.
Sun-mi’s team accesses the CCTV footage from his apartment building. It shows that last night, though Dong Baek was supposedly home all night, the automatic lights in the stairwell came on at midnight, then again at 4 a.m. The strange thing is that only the third and fourth floor lights came on, but Sun-mi has an answer for that — the roof.
But when they go up there, the nearest building is far enough away that even Chil-gyu says that Dong Baek would kill himself if he tried to jump to it in the dark. They’re interrupted by the blood test results of the witnesses from Chairman Park’s murder scene and learn that sleeping gas was found in their systems, but Sun-mi refuses to let go of her theory that someone used supernatural powers on them.
She goes to see Dong Baek’s doctor, who explains that many doctors have studied Dong Baek, yet none of them will tell her anything for fear of losing the chance to study a once-in-a-lifetime patient. Sun-mi pleasantly threatens to get a warrant, but the doctor isn’t persuaded. Sun-mi guesses that she didn’t ask what grounds she’d be able to get a warrant on because she already knows Dong Baek might be dangerous.
She does manage to intimidate the security manager at the hospital into showing her the CCTV footage from the night Dong Baek was admitted. She sees that he sleepwalked out of his room, but there are no cameras in the stairwells, so she can’t see what he did there for an hour. He was carrying a pen in his hand, so Sun-mi goes to the spot where he was found and sees that he drew a vase shape on the wall.
The guy who delivered the painting tells Dong Baek that he made the delivery two days ago, but that he never saw the guy who had it sent to Chairman Park. He’d picked it up at a villa community, so Dong Baek and the guys go there and find the door suspiciously open. Inside is a horror scene — a woman lies dead, slumped over a desk, her severely desiccated body chained to the desk by the ankle.
There’s a lot to take in… the woman seems to have been an artist by the paintings and sketches all around the room. There’s a pool of blood by her mouth, and the blood was used to write a series of numbers on a newspaper on the desk. There’s an empty bottle of methanol alcohol on the floor, and she appears to have been working on a drawing of a shadowy man holding a cross-shaped hammer at the time of her death.
Se-hoon determines that the dead woman is Yeom Hwa-ran, and Dong Baek says that someone chained her and forced her to draw. She’d been denied water until she was so thirsty that she willingly drank the bottle of methanol alcohol, even though she knew it was toxic.
Her body is withered, and there’s no odor of decomposition because the killer treated it with embalming fluid. Se-hoon says that Hwa-ran was recently in the news for driving drunk and killing a family of three, but she wasn’t even punished for the crime.
Sun-mi and her team arrive at the scene, but Dong Baek already knows that she put a tail on him so he’s not surprised. He doesn’t even blame her, conceding that of course the only known person with a supernatural ability would be the primary suspect in a supernatural crime.
Sun-mi takes in the scene dispassionately until she sees something that drains all the color from her face. It’s a sketch of a man tied to a chair, his head lolling while another man looms over him holding a knife.
The learn from Sun-mi’s command center that Hwa-ran’s DUI was actually her third, but she was only given probation. Apparently her lawyer was in-laws with the judge, and the only surviving family member of the victims has dementia, so all the settlement money went to the director of the hospital where she lives.
After the trial, Hwa-ran posted a picture of herself online celebrating with a glass of champagne — wow, talk about not getting it. The internet exploded with death threats towards Hwa-ran and her family, causing her parents to lose their jobs and Hwa-ran to hole up in her villa.
Nobody heard anything when she was held captive because the villa next door has been empty for a year. Sun-mi tells her team to look for witnesses, making Dong Baek scoff that if twenty people were in the room when Chairman Park was killed and remember nothing, there certainly won’t be any witnesses to Hwa-ran’s death. He offers his help but Sun-mi dismisses him, and he smirks that she’ll regret it.
Dong Baek ignores Chief Gu and Se-hoon’s complaints about his rudeness as he searches for something on his phone. He pulls up a newspaper article, saying that the killer told them to look for it with the numbers he wrote at the murder scene. The numbers were “16669-19,” which means he was saying to look at the 16,669th edition of that newspaper, on page 19. The paper came out in October of 2000, and the article on page 19 is about the country needing a system to support crime victims. Bingo.
Hwa-ran’s body undergoes an autopsy, and cause of death is determined as methanol abuse. The coroner also finds over half a pound of small chunks of cement in her stomach, which he believes may have been a torture tactic. Blood analysis of the scene shows that the numbers were written in Hwa-ran’s blood, but there were blood traces from someone else that don’t match with Chairman Park’s blood… which means there’s another victim somewhere.
Se-hoon finds a video of an interview with the doctor who wrote the newspaper article about supporting victims. In it, Doctor Nam says that the government needs to help victims process their trauma, and he uses a young girl as an example. She saw her father murdered and suffered from PTSD, proving that there are more victims in such crimes than just the person directly harmed.
Unfortunately, Doctor Nam now suffers from dementia and lives in a nursing home. The nurse lets Dong Baek talk to him anyway (those idol-crushes all the women have on Dong Baek sure come in handy), reassuring him that everyone she knows is on his side, and he gives her a cute little fist-bump.
Sun-mi finally gets to go home, where she flips through her pictures of Hwa-ran’s murder scene. She figures out the clue of the numbers and calls her command center to look up the newspaper, then goes back to the pictures. Something about one large painting in the room bothers her.
She recognizes that it’s the same painting in the background of the photo of Hwa-ran celebrating her win in court, but something about it seems off. Eventually it clicks — it’s not the same painting, but a mirror image.
Unfortunately, Doctor Nam is completely unresponsive to questions. Dong Baek asks the nurse about contacting his family members, which is really just a ploy to get her out of the room so he can read Doctor Nam’s memories. When he gets only random images, Dong Baek plays the interview video to hopefully stimulate Doctor Nam’s mind, then reads him again.
This time Dong Baek sees the little girl from the interview drawing a picture. It looks like the sketch in Hwa-ran’s villa of the seated man being stabbed, but seen through the same vase-like shape that Dong Baek himself drew on the wall at the hospital.
Doctor Nam finally speaks, saying the little girl’s name, Kim So-mi. He mutters that she witnessed her father being murdered through a keyhole, and that every time she was afraid, she would recite a prayer to a guardian angel: Angel of the Lord, my guardian dear, to whom his love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.
On their way to their car, Dong Baek notices that Chil-gyu and his partner are hunkering down in their car nearby. Chief Gu learns that Kim So-mi was adopted by a couple in the U.S., but that’s all the information he can find. Dong Baek asks for the car keys, and at the word “key,” he realizes that the shape in the drawings wasn’t a vase… it was a keyhole.
He believes he’s seen that keyhole before, but he doesn’t tell Chief Gu and Se-hoon where he’s seen it. He takes off and commandeers Chil-gyu’s vehicle, and he frantically tries to call Sun-mi as he drives, but she doesn’t pick up.
When he can’t reach Sun-mi, Dong Baek calls her command center. He’s told that she’s at the villa following a lead, which sends him into a panic. He tells Sun-mi’s team member to send backup, bellowing that it’s a trap.
Meanwhile, Sun-mi goes back to Hwa-ran’s villa to look at the giant painting. She finds the same small chunks of cement that were found in Hwa-ran’s stomach scattered on the floor, and she follows their trail to the painting and sees that the wall behind it has been busted through.
Sun-mi steps into the empty villa next door and sees an arrow drawn on the wall in blood, pointing to a door. The door has a keyhole like the one in Dong Baek’s drawing, and when Sun-mi looks through the keyhole, she gasps out loud — on the other side are two figures, exactly as in Kim So-mi’s and Hwa-ran’s drawings.
Sun-mi makes herself open the door, her gun drawn, but she realizes that the figures are only statues. She slowly moves closer until she can touch the arm of one, and the cement crumbles, revealing human skin underneath. The second figure also has some missing cement, showing blood inside, and Sun-mi realizes that there are human corpses under the plaster.
She begins to pray fervently: “Angel of the Lord, my guardian dear, to whom his love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.” Oh dear, she’s Kim So-mi, isn’t she? She hears a noise behind her and whirls to face the threat.
Okay, so what we have here is a lot of information, some that seems connected and some that doesn’t, at least at this point. There’s a serial killer who kills those who have killed others, and who also, for as-yet-unexplained reasons, has re-created a murder that Sun-mi witnessed when she was a child. This killer may have a supernatural power similar to Dong Baek’s, but instead of reading memories, he erases them. We also have Dong Baek, who almost certainly witnessed his mother’s murder, but who appeared out of nowhere as a child with no family or history. The killer also knows this, and sent a painting echoing that murder to Chairman Park.
I’m frustrated that Sun-mi and Dong Baek found themselves at odds again so soon after starting to trust one another. But I can also understand why Sun-mi thought Dong Baek might be the culprit, as he’s the only person anyone knows of with supernatural powers. But her use of Occam’s Razor to justify her conclusion was frustrating, because to me, the simplest explanation isn’t “Dong Baek is the only person we know of who has powers, therefore he’s the killer,” but, “If one person has powers, then it stands to reason that others do, too.”
But I do think that Sun-mi and Dong Baek will end up working together again, as soon as Sun-mi realizes that Dong Baek really is trying to help. They appear to have a lot more in common than they know, including the fact that they both witnessed a parent being murdered. With Sun-mi’s incredible intuition and profiling ability, and Dong Baek’s memory-reading and skill at putting clues together, they were able to find a serial killer within days. They’ll need to work together like that again to catch this new threat, especially now that he’s targeting one of them personally.
While there were still some Very Dramatic Scenes in this episode that didn’t really seem to lead anywhere, I did find this hour a lot tighter in terms of plot (a killer who punishes killers is fascinating) and dialogue, which made events much easier to follow. That might be because the first four episodes were actually a prelude to the “real” murder case, funneling Sun-mi and Dong Baek towards the real enemy of a killer of killers. The story just feels more streamlined and purposeful now, and I liked how Sun-mi and Dong Baek suddenly found themselves antagonists after having worked closely together to solve Chairman Park’s case (it was frustrating, but also interesting in a plot-twisty way). I enjoy the unpredictability of the show, and I hope it can keep things simpler and smoother like this hour as we go forward.
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