Memorist: Episode 6
The closer our detectives get to the truth, the more they realize, to their horror, that this case is a lot more personal than they thought. They’ve both been his victims before, and he’s victimizing them again now, taunting them with their inability to catch him. And it’s possible that catching the Executioner isn’t the end to their struggles — it might be just the beginning.
EPISODE 6: “The Second Man”
Twenty years ago. Young So-mi hides from a storm in her closet that she’s decorated into a tiny little sanctuary. Her dad says there’s nothing to be scared of, but So-mi pouts that there was a thunderstorm when her mom died, then again on the day they interred her ashes. Dad reminds So-mi that her mom told her to pray to her guardian angel whenever she’s afraid.
So-mi is evidently quite intelligent, as she competes against students much older than herself at an international mathematics Olympiad. She gets nervous and runs to the restroom to vomit, but her guardian angel prayer gives her the courage to go back and take the test. That evening, she takes her gold medal home to show to her photo of her mother.
She falls asleep in her little closet, hugging a picture of herself with her parents. When she wakes up, she hears a strange noise in her room, so she peeks through the keyhole. She starts to pray when she sees her father, tied to a chair and being methodically stabbed by a man wearing a hoodie.
In the present, Sun-mi, who we now know used to be So-mi, recites that same prayer as she investigates two bodies encased in plaster and in the same positions as her father and his killer. She hears a noise, and she whirls to see Dong Baek entering the room. Sun-mi trains her gun on him, still thinking that Dong Baek is the most likely suspect as he quickly takes in the grisly scene.
Sun-mi asks how Dong Baek knew to come here, and he grumbles that her unit told him where she was. She’s suspicious that he got here before the backup she called for, as if he were waiting for her, so he quickly explains that he followed the killer’s clues to Doctor Nam, who told him about Kim So-mi.
Still disbelieving him, Sun-mi accuses him of scanning her memories when she stopped him from hitting Chairman Park, seeing her father’s murder, and recreating it here. Dong Baek says that his scans don’t work that way, and that he was reading Chairman Parks memories when she touched him.
He admits that he saw a faint image of a shape that he thought was a vase (because traumatized memories come through first), and that he didn’t realize it was a keyhole until he saw So-mi’s drawing in Doctor Nam’s memory. He connected that picture to Sun-mi’s memory, and that’s how he concluded that she’s So-mi.
Unconvinced, Sun-mi says that Dong Baek is the only person capable of playing this game with her memories. Dong Baek protests that the killer isn’t just messing with her, but that he did the same thing with his past, which means he’s after both of them. He tells Sun-mi about the painting the killer had sent to Chairman Park that perfectly mirrors his one childhood memory, that he believes was his mother’s murder.
Chief Gu and Se-hoon catch up to them just moments before Chil-gyu and his partner. Looking closer at what he can see of the plaster-covered bodies, Dong Baek concludes from the many superficial scratches that they were forced to fight each other. Sun-mi adds that the killer probably promised them that whoever killed the other would be allowed to live.
Six year after her father’s murder, So-mi had returned to Korea and began investigating her father’s murder herself. She took her huge pile of notes and gave it to a detective, explaining that she studied criminal psychology in the States. She told him to check for a scar under the killer’s left ear, which she saw when he killed her father.
Sun-mi meets with Dong Baek, who says that someone could have put together her “memories” from her past records, but that it wouldn’t be possible to do with him. He tells Sun-mi that he only told one person of his lone memory, and that it remained a secret between them.
Sun-mi demands to know who it was, but Dong Baek just asks if she ever just relies on her instinct. She says it’s too easy to leave important decisions to luck when you do that, like he does. He huffily reminds her that he saved her life when Man-pyung almost killed her, and she mutters that she’d have gotten out of that herself, ha.
When Dong Baek complains that he was actually grateful for a moment that she took him off her suspect list, Sun-mi says curtly that he’s still a suspect. Incredulous, Dong Baek asks if she’s really willing to work with someone she considers a suspect, but she just retorts that she operates on the principle of “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
She invites Dong Baek to her place to investigate the case further, and it’s adorably obvious that Dong Baek has never been in a woman’s apartment before. Her home office is literally wallpapered with evidence, which she tells Dong Baek she’s been compiling for twenty years.
In another flashback, we see that Sun-mi pestered the detective about her father’s case, but he’d claimed to have too many cases already. She had seen that he was using her notes as coasters and had spilled food and drinks all over them, so she’d gathered them up and stormed out.
In the present, she tells Dong Baek that she’s focusing on the killer’s motive, but it complicates things that he’s taunting them with their pasts. Dong Baek says that she can’t expect logic from a lunatic, but she continues that they could play along with his game and look for his weakness.
She video-calls Mi-ja at her command center after telling Dong Baek to make sure they don’t see or hear him. Mi-ja says they’ve identified the victims, and that they were involved in a murder case six years ago. When they were thirteen, one of them was jealous of a girl who was getting attention from the boy she liked, so she and her friend killed her.
Because of their young age, they weren’t punished for the murder. But a year ago, a screencap of a text conversation between them was leaked, in which they mocked the girl they’d killed. The public had wanted another trial, but they couldn’t be tried again for the same crime, and they even had the nerve to sue those who badmouthed them.
Horrified, Dong Baek yelps, and Mi-ja hears him. She asks who’s with Sun-mi, and because Sun-mi tries so hard to redirect her, she assumes it’s not just a man, but a man. They hang up, and HAHA, Mi-ja and Seul-bi, who handles communications, mercilessly tease hacker Bong-kook for his obvious jealous crush on Sun-mi (“His voice was sexy, I bet he’s really handsome!” LOL).
It seems clear to Dong Baek and Sun-mi that this is a killer who targets those he sees as evil. Sun-mi says that she had gone to see a reporter named Jo Sung-dong, but he’d been downright hostile at her request for him to look into her father’s killer. He’d said loudly that she should be ashamed of herself after what her father did.
But she’d gone back to the detective convinced that Reporter Jo was the killer she was looking for — he had the same scar under his left ear as the one she saw on her father’s murderer. She shows the detective that there were five other, similar murders, and that every one had been scooped by Reporter Jo. She had even seen him outside her house, before the police even arrived, and she’d passed out cold when she saw his face.
Sun-mi says that she calls the killer “the Executioner,” and Dong Baek says cheerfully that it’s a good moniker for someone who kills those who deserve it… oops, apart from Sun-mi’s dad. But she says it’s true — all the victims were people who were responsible for the deaths of others but weren’t punished by the law, and that they were all tortured for hours until they eventually died.
Dong Baek asks why the police didn’t suspect a serial killer, so Sun-mi explains that there were witnesses in three cases, who all saw different people — an old man, a woman who was even caught on camera, and in her case, a younger man with a scar. Dong Baek asks tentatively how Sun-mi’s father died, and she says that he was stabbed seventeen times in non-lethal locations, once for each death he was directly or indirectly responsible for.
She tells Dong Baek that the detective gave in and brought Reporter Jo in for questioning, but he’d had a solid alibi for the night of her father’s murder, and his medical records showed that he got his scar during his military duty. After that, Sun-mi kept trying to follow leads, but everything lead to dead-ends.
She’d suspected there was some kind of trick involved, and Dong Baek guesses that the “trick” may have been a telepathic ability to manipulate memories, like the witnesses at Chairman Park’s murder. Sun-mi reminds him that sleeping gas was used, but he thinks that’s a misdirection since even the security guards who were outside had their memories altered.
However, he’s not fully convinced that this crime was committed by someone with powers, but someone with access to extensive details of crimes, like a cop or a reporter. There’s also the question of why he stopped killing twenty years ago and just recently started again.
Still looking for facts, Sun-mi shows Dong Baek the CCTV footage from around Hwa-ran’s house from the time of her murder to the present. Dong Baek notices that a news van entered the neighborhood before the police lines even went up — just like in the past, someone tipped off a reporter as soon as the murder was discovered.
It just happens to be the station where reporter Ji-eun works, so Dong Baek and Sun-mi meet with her and her superiors again to ask how their van got there before the police did. Ji-eun’s boss tries to claim that the van was there just in case, but Sun-mi wants to know how they knew there was a case there at all (Dong Baek: “Are you really this bad at your job, or just pretending to be??”).
They switch to saying that they have an anonymous informant and are obligated to protect them, and Dong Baek asks if it occurred to them that their informant might be the killer. Sun-mi guesses that the tip came from the inside, and guess who their boss is… Reporter Jo.
They’re allowed in to see Reporter Jo, though he’s very insistent that they come alone. He acts like he’s meeting a celebrity, fawning all over Dong Baek while Sun-mi stares at the scar under his left ear. Dong Baek holds out a hand, but Reporter Jo jovially refuses to shake it and invites them to sit.
Sun-mi gets right to the point and asks Reporter Jo if he’s being tipped off by a serial killer, now and twenty years ago. He laughs that they have wild imaginations, but Dong Baek warns that if he doesn’t tell the truth, they’ll arrest him for murder. He asks why it’s a problem if it is true, and Sun-mi snarls that if he’d reported that they were the work of a serial killer (as opposed to random murders), they could have stopped this decades ago.
Still laughing, Reporter Jo says that the police already knew it was a serial killer, but they buried that fact because they couldn’t catch him. He says he was being a good journalist by just reporting the facts, but Sun-mi counters that he was waiting for the right time to out the serial killer, but his plans fell through because the police figured it out.
He asks them to leave, and tells them that if they want to know what really happened, to dig through the police records. Dong Baek has Chief Gu and Se-hoon look through the records, and Chief Gu and Dong Baek end up bickering over which of them is the boss (Se-hoon: “Is this a lover’s quarrel?” hee).
Chief Gu mentions that Sun-mi’s father’s case went to Special Investigations along with a few other cases, which is unusual, but that the investigating team was dissolved and most of the evidence disappeared. The only useful piece of information is that the lead detective in the case was Deputy Chief Lee (my apologies, I’ve been calling him by the wrong title!).
It seems pretty obvious that Deputy Chief Lee is the one who canceled the investigation because they couldn’t solve the case, especially since the murders stopped. Dong Baek wants to go after Deputy Chief Lee, but Sun-mi thinks they’ll get caught, so they have to find another way. Frustrated, Dong Baek whines that they’re back to square one… but then his own words give him an idea.
He says he needs to read the memory of someone who saw the Executioner — Sun-mi. She’s hesitant to let him into her mind, but Dong Baek just gives her a look that says You know this is the only way, and she relents. He reaches out, and Sun-mi reflexively backs up a step, but she stands her ground when he reaches for her again and lets him touch her shoulder.
Dong Baek finds himself standing in Sun-mi’s childhood bedroom as her father is being stabbed to death. He pauses the memory and steps closer to the killer, and he sees the scar under his ear, only it’s not a scar… he’s wearing a prosthetic mask.
The mask explains how the witnesses seemed to see completely different people, and in fact Sun-mi believes that he made sure he was seen so that the police wouldn’t link the murders together. But she still wonders why he chose Reporter Jo to tip off to the murders, and why only Reporter Jo, if he wanted the world to know about his revenge.
Dong Baek reads her memory again, this time following young So-mi outside where she came face-to-face with Reporter Jo. Just before she passed out, Dong Baek sees someone behind Reporter Jo… his photographer. Got him.
Sun-mi’s team quickly identified Reporter Jo’s cameraman from twenty years ago, and they learn that before working with Reporter Jo, he was part of a team that did prosthetic makeup. He moved to China twenty years ago, and just returned two months ago.
Dong Baek and Sun-mi go to the cameraman’s home, but Sun-mi hesitates to ring the doorbell. The see a man approaching them on foot, wearing a very familiar hoodie. He steps into the light of a streetlamp, and Dong Baek and Sun-mi can clearly see his face.
First of all, I’m happy to see that the show continues to improve from a technical standpoint. This episode was even better than the previous one, and was almost entirely free of the confusing edits and nonsensical scenes that led to nowhere that plagued the first two weeks. The plot was nice and streamlined, one thing leading to the next in a logical way, and Dong Baek and Sun-mi’s hunt for the killer made complete sense to me the first time around. I still think the casting is fantastic and the characters are layered and interesting, so I’m glad to see that the issues that were holding the show back are clearing up now.
Well, it seems like we’ve finally found the Executioner, though there have been so many false alarms that I’m keeping an open mind that this may not be our guy. But all the pieces fit — he knows how to do prosthetic makeup, and he’s close to the reporter who wrote about all the murders and who somehow knows when and where a murder has taken place even before the police. And being in the business himself, he would be in a prime position to know the details of the horrific cases he chose to avenge. What I really want to know is whether he truly does have the power to alter memories, and if so, how that ties in with Dong Baek’s ability.
At this point we’re assuming that the Executioner killed Dong Baek’s mother as well as Sun-mi’s father, which makes me want to know why. Sun-mi admitted that her father killed quite a few people, but we don’t know the details, and he seemed like a kind, loving father to her. And if the Executioner only kills those who have killed others, then what did Dong Baek’s mother do to earn his wrath? To know that, we have to learn more about Dong Baek’s childhood, and unfortunately his entire memory from before his mother’s murder seems to have been wiped.
The scary thing about this killer is that I can see Dong Baek becoming like him if he’s not careful. If the killer does have the ability to manipulate memories, it’s possible he just snapped one day after seeing too much violence in the minds of others, and decided to punish those who got away scott-free. Dong Baek also has a tendency to let his emotions get the better of him when he reads someone’s violent memories, and he’s already in big trouble at work for assaulting criminals. I think he’s too personally affected by this murderer, and too principled, to let himself become another Executioner, but if he were even slightly less of the upstanding man he is, it would be an easy pit to sink into.
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