Memorist: Episode 12
The hunt for a killer leads our investigative team further and further into the past, as the killer himself (herself?) turns their deadly work towards a more personal direction. The killer has evaded capture for two decades, and unfortunately, the detectives are slowly losing their best way of gaining clues. They’re running out of time, and if they don’t hurry, their opponent could very well win this deadly game.
EPISODE 12: “Child of Darkness”
Two men spar with kendo swords while wearing armor, one in black and one in white. When their match ends, the one in black removes his mask to reveal that he’s Deputy Chief Lee.
Chief Byun comes to Deputy Chief Lee’s office to report that police chief Chun Ki-soo’s son was killed by the Eraser two days ago, then yesterday the Eraser tried (but failed) to kill a firefighter in Shimbae. Deputy Chief Lee asks where Dong Baek and the firefighter (Noh Kwan-kyu) are now, and whether Kwan-kyu knows any of the doctors at the hospital where he’s being treated.
Surprised, Chief Byun affirms that Kwan-kyu’s wife is a doctor at the hospital. Deputy Chief Lee sighs that if Chief Byun fails to catch the Eraser, his career is over, but that all that will happen to him is that his pride will suffer a little. He tells Chief Byun that he has to catch the Eraser before the prosecution does, and gives him three days.
At the hospital in Shimbae, Dong Baek lies unconscious after trying to read Kwan-kyu’s memories. His doctor tells Sun-mi that they’ll transfer him to her research center once he’s stable, and she picks up that Sun-mi is worried for Dong Baek on a personal level.
She says that when she first met Dong Baek seven years ago, she thought he was a con artist. Then she learned his ability was real and he became like a savior, halo and all. Now she says he feels like a dongsaeng, and that she’s worried about him, too. She asks Sun-mi to try and stop him from using his ability, because it’s getting to the point where it could kill him.
Eight years ago.
Dong Baek is a high school student with a part-time job in a convenience store, and young girls come to giggle at his good looks and bring him gifts. He lets them touch his hands as he’s handing out change, though he doesn’t look like he enjoys it.
He and the girl from the rooftop have become friends, and Dong Baek has developed a pretty big crush on her. He waits for her at her house, and when she shows up, he’s quick to explain that he’s not keeping the gifts from the giggling girls. Apparently he took that job on her advice, so that he could practice reading memories.
He reports that he’s able to control his ability pretty well now and wants to quit, because he hates seeing the painful and sad memories, which always come through first. He thanks his friend for her help and sneaks a hand towards hers, but she doesn’t notice. She demands to know why he’s never asked her to help him, so Dong Baek confesses that he can’t read her like he wants to, but he doesn’t know why.
She gets right up in his personal space, flustering him. She kisses him and Dong Baek’s eyes flutter closed… then he wakes with a start. He leaps from his hospital bed and runs through the halls until he finds Chief Gu and Se-hoon, and tells them frantically that the Eraser has a scar on his right forearm. He also tells them that the Eraser left a clue on firefighter Kwan-kyu’s body, in his nose.
Unfortunately Kwan-kyu disappeared during the night, and on CCTV, they see someone wheeling the still-unconscious Kwan-kyu out of the hospital. But there was no gurney left in the parking lot and no trucks or vans left the property, which means that Kwan-kyu is still at the hospital.
Since the Eraser failed to asphyxiate Kwan-kyu once, they assume he’ll try it again, so they look for a place where the Eraser could leave Kwan-kyu to die from oxygen deprivation. Dong Baek heads for the walk-in freezer in the cafeteria and Kwan-kyu’s wife joins them, and when they open the door, there’s a sheet-covered figure lying on the floor. Thankfully, when Dong Baek removes the sheet, there’s just trash underneath.
Meanwhile, Se-hoon wanders off on his own to the hospital basement. Following his instincts, he makes his way to the morgue, but he’s told that all of the storage compartments are empty. He notices that one of the compartments’ refrigeration monitor is on, and when the coroner checks, there’s a body inside. There’s a plastic bag over the body’s face so Se-hoon rips it away, and it’s Kwan-kyu — thankfully (and startlingly) still alive.
Kwan-kyu is stabilized, and the doctors do find something inside his nose, as Dong Baek said. It’s a message that says The innocent shall be crucified in place of the sinner. Dong Baek tells the team that it’s called “punishment transference,” killing an innocent person to get revenge on a guilty person… so if Kwan-kyu was the innocent, then his wife, Doctor Song, must be the sinner.
Sun-mi and Dong Baek talk to Doctor Song in her office (well, Sun-mi talks, Dong Baek glares), and explain the situation to her. Doctor Song immediately looks guilty, and Dong Baek offers to read her memories if she doesn’t want to tell them what this is about. She bursts into tears and tells them a story of something that happened twenty years ago.
She’d been summoned to the morgue to examine the body of a young man who was said to have jumped to his own death. She had noticed a bad, very recent burn on his arm, which made her suspicious. Chief Chun Ki-soo, whose son was just killed by the Eraser, had come to talk to her about the death and had forbidden Doctor Song to do an autopsy.
He had mentioned Doctor Song’s young son, who was very ill and needed a bone marrow transplant. Ki-soo had promised to find a donor and convinced Doctor Song to forgo an autopsy on the young man. She admits that it had frightened her how fast he’d discovered her weakness — the young man had only been dead for two hours — so she’d guessed that Ki-soo had someone very powerful backing him.
Doctor Song vividly remembers the young man’s name, Moon Young-dae. She sobs that she’s already been punished… although her son received the bone marrow transplant, it was unsuccessful and he passed away anyway.
They’re called away by a code blue in the ICU, and Doctor Song reflexively runs to her husband’s room. She’s relieved that he’s not coding, but oddly, Deputy Chief Lee is there. He speaks to Sun-mi in the hall, unhappy that she’s still poking around this case, and she says it’s strange for him to be here without an entourage.
His entourage shows up just then (Sun-mi’s old entourage, including her right-hand man who finally gets a name — Sung-han). Deputy Chief Lee forbids them to allow Sun-mi near a crime scene and makes them escort her out. Dong Baek slips away from his doctor and joins Sun-mi in the elevator, but she remembers his doctor’s warnings and tells him to stay here and recover.
He ignores her, of course, and rides along with her as she talks to Bong-kook. He’s learned that Moon Young-dae’s mother also committed suicide, and that his father, Chul-joo, still lives in Shimbae. Young-dae died two months before the seven students died in the warehouse, and Dong Baek wonders out loud if they killed him.
Sun-mi notes that Chun Ki-soo was involved in both cases and covered them up. Just then, Dong Baek gets a call from Chief Gu that Ki-soo has disappeared from his hospital room, and they believe he’s gone into hiding. Dong Baek yells at Chief Gu to find him, since he might be the key to everything.
Dong Baek and Sun-mi find Chul-joo’s home, but it’s evident that nobody’s been there in a very long time. There are pictures of Young-dae when he was alive, with another young man who looks very similar to him. The phone rings, and Sun-mi sets up her phone to record as she answers.
The Eraser’s distorted voice calls Sun-mi and Dong Baek’s names, and tells Dong Baek that “the future murders are on you. It’s for what happened to Cho-won.” Sun-mi realizes that before he died, Jae-gyu hadn’t been telling her to find a meadow, he’d been saying to find someone named Cho-won.
Dong Baek recalls one night seven years ago when he had grown worried when he tried to call and text Cho-won, his friend, but she hadn’t answered. He’d gone to her house after getting off work, only to find flyers all over the gate saying that she’d gone missing.
Sun-mi gets a call from Mi-ja, her team manager, who’s found out more information about Chul-joo. He became an alcoholic after losing his wife and son, and was reported missing ten years ago. The person who reported him was a distant nephew named Moon Young-kang, and he’s been paying the utilities on the house since then.
Looking at the photos of Young-dae with the similar-looking young man, Sun-mi asks if Young-kang has any siblings, but Bong-kook says he’s an only child. Sun-mi figures out the truth — Young-kang is Chul-joo’s secret son, who was adopted by a relative.
She pegs Young-kang as her main suspect, and Bong-kook sends her his information. He was a SWAT member for six years, until he left last year and became a private bodyguard. His client is Bang Joon-seok, a former assemblyman who’s been overseas for six months.
When they arrive at Assemblyman Bang’s house, it’s crawling with reporters, including Ji-eun. She jumps in their car and tips them off that prosecutor Seok-do is wiretapping their phones and is on his way here. She tells them that Assemblyman Bang’s wife, Soo-kyung, has been abducted. Soo-kyung is so famous for her charity work that she’s considered a saint, which fits the Eraser’s new MO of going after the innocent to punish the guilty.
Sun-mi and Dong Baek are stopped at the gate by her former teammates, but Chief Byun wanders over and lets them in. The secretary who was there when Soo-kyung was taken tells them that Young-kang went to pick up the assemblyman at the airport. She remembers that the person who took Soo-kyung had a scar on his right wrist, but nothing else.
Still trying to figure out who the “sinner” is that’s being punished, Sun-mi asks about Soo-kyung’s family. Her father was a Supreme Court justice but he died last year, and her mother is the principal of Shimbae High School.
Sun-mi tells Chief Byun that she thinks the Eraser is done being “the Executioner,” and is now seeking personal revenge by killing family members of his enemies. He started with the police chief who covered up two murders, and is slowly working his way up to build fear in his true target. She thinks there’s a 50-50 chance that Young-kang is the Eraser, and he’s on his way here now.
Seok-do shows up first, but Assemblyman Bang gets home, with Young-kang right behind him as his bodyguard. Assemblyman Bang is absolutely delighted to see the famous Dong Baek at his house, and Seok-do tells Assemblyman Bang that Dong Baek is suspended, but Assemblyman Bang makes it clear that he wants Dong Baek looking for his wife no matter what and orders Seok-do off his property (HA, Dong Baek looks so smug).
Once Seok-do is gone, Dong Baek asks Young-kang to roll up his sleeves. He does have a burn scar on his left wrist, but the secretary says that the scar she saw looked like a knife scar. Dong Baek asks to read Young-kang’s memory of the time Soo-kyung was abducted, but he refuses, so Dong Baek prepares to do it by force.
Sun-mi sighs and takes out her phone, so thankfully she’s recording when Young-kang grabs the secretary and holds a knife to her throat. The cops draw their guns, but Young-kang keeps backing towards the gate. Eventually he lets go of his hostage and flees in the assemblyman’s car, but Ji-eun blocks him from getting too far.
Young-kang takes off on foot with Dong Baek right on his heels. He steals a deliveryman’s motorbike, but Sun-mi knows where he’s heading from the assemblyman’s car’s GPS log — right after Soo-kyung was abducted, Young-kang left the hospital and went to Shimbae.
Meanwhile, Soo-kyung is chained up in an empty warehouse room somewhere, and the Eraser comes to visit her. He’s got a nailgun, which he starts to use on a piece of furniture, and Soo-kyung sees The innocent shall be crucified in the place of the sinner written on the wall in red paint.
It’s dark outside when Sun-mi and Dong Baek arrive in the spot where Young-kang went the day before. They hear the faint sound of a phone ringing, which they follow to an abandoned bus. Sun-mi answers the phone and Young-kang is on the other end, insisting that he’s not the Eraser. He tells Sun-mi that he’s been hunting the Eraser most of his life, and before he hangs up he adds, “It’s all there. The red button.”
Dong Baek sees a device with a red button on it, so he presses it. A projector plays a slideshow on the wall of two men sparring at kendo, and of the man in black removing his mask to show Deputy Chief Lee’s face, as well as a scar on his right wrist.
Dong Baek and Sun-mi storm into Deputy Chief Lee’s office, and Dong Baek rips back Deputy Chief Lee’s sleeve to uncover his scar. He flies into a rage, accusing Deputy Chief Lee of being the Eraser, and he refuses to heed Sun-mi’s warnings not to read Deputy Chief Lee’s memory. He grabs Deputy Chief Lee’s throat and activates his ability, taking them back to Shimbae all those years ago.
As it turns out, Deputy Chief Lee was there — he was the hooded man tied to the chair, that Jae-gyu saw when he came to his senses. Deputy Chief Lee had freed himself from his hood, only to witness the horrific scene of seven young men trying to kill each other. They had fallen one by one as Deputy Chief Lee struggled to untie himself.
Just as he’d finished, the last remaining man had attacked Deputy Chief Lee with a shovel, causing the injury that put the scar on his wrist. He’d raised the shovel again to kill Deputy Chief Lee, but he’d collapsed and died. Dazed, Deputy Chief Lee had opened his eyes and seen a young boy in a black hoodie standing over him — Dong Baek.
In the present, Deputy Chief Lee laughs up into Dong Baek’s horrified face. He relishes telling Dong Baek, “You were the one who killed seven people in Shimbae twenty years ago.” Dong Baek screams his denial and tightens his grip on Deputy Chief Lee’s throat, but Deputy Chief Lee continues, “You are the Eraser who killed all those people.”
I don’t trust anything Deputy Chief Lee says, not at all — I still don’t think he’s the Eraser, but I can’t really stomach the idea that Dong Baek is the killer, either. Things just don’t add up, especially when you take into account that the Eraser can alter memories, so I don’t take anyone’s memory as truth. For one thing, Dong Baek’s location has been verifiable too many times when the Eraser was committing murders… when Ki-soo’s son was killed, Dong Baek was at Sun-mi’s apartment with Chief Gu and Se-hoon. He was unconscious in a hospital bed when the CCTV cameras recorded the Eraser taking the firefighter from the hospital. And how could Dong Baek have been terrorizing the assemblyman’s wife when he was in the car with Sun-mi during that time? There are too many things that the Eraser has done while Dong Baek was otherwise occupied.
It feels like another misdirect, like the show wanting us to think that Deputy Chief Lee was the Eraser… but for Dong Baek to be the Eraser would mean that he’s been committing complicated, sophisticated murders — and getting away with it — since he was eight years old. It would also mean that he’s either been suppressing very specific memories for a very long time, or he’s suffering from dissociative identity disorder (previously called multiple personality disorder), and we’ve seen no evidence that Dong Baek has any of the symptoms of either condition. If anything, the doctor who’s been treating him so closely and for so long that she cares for him like a little brother would have noticed something.
Just because Dong Baek was at the scene in Shimbae doesn’t make him the Eraser any more than it did Deputy Chief Lee, and just because Deputy Chief Lee believes Dong Baek is the Eraser doesn’t make it true. I hope we learn why Deputy Chief Lee believes it to be true, and if so, why he’s allowed Dong Baek to join the police force. I’ll bet that this mysterious Cho-won in Dong Baek’s past is the key, though I have no idea how. I think it’s also significant that Dong Baek couldn’t read her very well, though again, I’m not sure how. But I believe that whatever happened to Cho-won, and why the Eraser blames Dong Baek for her going missing, is going to be critical to discovering Dong Baek’s past and the identity of the Eraser.
For that matter, Cho-won might even be the Eraser, since I still think there’s a better-than-even chance that the Eraser is a woman. The Eraser blames Dong Baek for what happened to Cho-won — what if it’s her, and she believes that what happened to her was Dong Baek’s fault, so she’s doing all this for revenge? It would certainly explain the Eraser’s vendetta against Dong Baek and his/her fixation on punishing wrongdoers. As the person who urged him to develop his memory-reading abilities and helped him figure out how to do it, it stands to reason that Cho-won might have had a similar ability herself. It would even explain why Dong Baek couldn’t read Cho-won’s memory… maybe because she was erasing whatever he saw as soon as he saw it? There are still a lot of loose ends that need to be connected before we find the Eraser’s true identity, but I can see how they could all add up to Cho-won.
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