The Devil Judge: Episode 5
It’s our judges’ third trial, and they’re faced with an unprecedented decision when the prosecution has an unusual sentencing request. Meanwhile, our youngest judge feels pulled between his long-time mentor and recent frenemy who both encourage him to pick sides. Torn between his duty to the law and his empathy, he struggles to figure out the right thing to do. No matter what he chooses, there are bound to be consequences that could affect not only him but those around him.
Yo-han dreams of the fire and his brother who stands out of his reach. He wakes crying and is startled by Ga-on standing in his doorway. Seeing how unwell Yo-han looks, Ga-on goes to check his forehead but Yo-han bats his hand away.
Elijah comes up, wondering what’s going on. Ga-on decides to talk to Yo-han later and leaves him to calm down, but Elijah gives him no such courtesy. She taunts that he looked uncharacteristically surprised “like you saw someone you killed.”
Yo-han is still shaken and retorts that he doesn’t care about who he killed, assuming he’s the culprit. Elijah glares and wheels herself out, leaving Yo-han to collect himself.
Later, Ga-on formally apologizes for the hurtful things he said and vows not to complain if Yo-han sees fit to boot him from the show. Yo-han lifts Ga-on’s chin and admits it was unpleasant hearing that accusation from someone with that face. Ga-on knows it must be hard to look at him and offers to step down, but Yo-han doesn’t blame him for coincidentally looking like Isaac.
When Ga-on guiltily talks about how he investigated him, Yo-han asks what he discovered. Ga-on theorizes that Yo-han has been preparing for this “hunt” for a long time. His old court rulings never rocked the boat, as if he were lying in wait to strike. In a flashback, Yo-han rules in favor of a domestic abuser while imagining gruesomely stabbing him in the eye with his pen.
Ga-on doesn’t understand everything, but he does understand Yo-han’s anger. Still, it’s wrong to manipulate a trial. Yo-han doesn’t need his understanding, but he does need to know if Ga-on will stand with him or against him.
He warns Ga-on that he has no problem eliminating obstacles. Yo-han then tells him not to step down because he enjoys working with him.
Yo-han’s lackey steps out of the shadows once Ga-on leaves. When Yo-han says it’s as expected, his lackey wonders why he’s doing this then. Yo-han isn’t sure and admits Ga-on’s understanding flustered him since he’s unaccustomed to it.
Elsewhere, Minister Cha leverages her position to sneak into the prison. She stifles a cry when she sees her son writhing in pain on the floor of his tiny cell. After an agonizing minute of watching him, she walks away but instructs the guard to take good care of her son.
At the mansion, the housekeeper decides to cook a meal for Ga-on since he’s a guest, however “unwelcome.” Yo-han finds her in the kitchen and harshly reminds her she’s not supposed to be in the house after sunset. She apologizes and walks out.
Ga-on follows her, confused. She posits that Yo-han must think she’ll poison him or something for what he’s done. Ga-on asks if she’s sure Yo-han was responsible and guesses she probably doesn’t want to believe that of the child she raised either.
Meanwhile, a desperate President Heo tries to connect with the public by live streaming a tour of the Blue House with his wife. They’re painfully fake as they put on that “I’m just like one of you!” act. Once they wrap up, they catch the tail-end of Minister Cha’s interview.
She’s lauded for her sacrifice, upholding her duties to the nation despite the pain she must feel as a mother. During a break, Sun-ah compliments her on turning her crisis into an opportunity. But she smugly notes the show isn’t over yet.
The host puts up a picture of Young-min’s torn-up back and says many are calling the punishment barbaric. Minister Cha’s voice breaks as she argues it’s a just punishment. Sun-ah grins when she sees Minister Cha gauging the reaction of the audience before leaning into the crying.
Yo-han watches, impressed with how she’s changing public sentiment. He makes a call, telling someone to find out who’s backing Minister Cha.
When Ga-on walks into the office, Jin-joo squeals with delight and grabs him in a hug. She shows him his desk full of letters and gifts from his fans. The PD comes in with flowers, talking about Ga-on’s heroism in the face of death. Ga-on isn’t thrilled with the exaggerated narrative, but Jin-joo tells him not to sweat the details – it’s all about the story.
Jin-joo pulls the PD aside to ask if things will be okay after Minister Cha’s performance. He tells her not to worry and to treat it as noise marketing. Ga-on wonders what’s going on, but Jin-joo tells him not to worry about it.
Ga-on calls Soo-hyun – who for some reason takes his call while catching criminals – and asks if she’s free in the evening. Meanwhile, someone at the courthouse is spying on Yo-han and makes a call when he leaves the office.
Yo-han’s lackey couldn’t find Minister Cha’s backer and thinks she might be working on her own, but Yo-han disagrees. She’s not the showy type who’d fake a photo of her son and steer the interview like that. Yo-han decides to go on the attack using their connection within the Dream Village project. Someone watches nearby and rides off on a motorcycle.
When Yo-han gets home, he finds a homecooked meal on the table. The smart speaker plays a message from Ga-on, telling Yo-han to eat it so he’ll sleep well. He nags him to stop skipping meals or he’ll get more wrinkles. “Think of your age,” Ga-on’s voice teases. Yo-han grins.
He takes issue with the speaker addressing Ga-on as “Master Ga-on” and jests with it like it’s a person. Yo-han sighs as he looks at the meal Ga-on prepared, but he eats it all.
Elsewhere, Ga-on and Soo-hyun visit the ex-cop again, and Soo-hyun pressures him about the large payout he received. Before she can finish suggesting that Yo-han paid him off, Ga-on cuts in. “How much did you get from the foundation?”
The ex-cop makes a break for it, leading Ga-on and Soo-hyun on a chase through the streets. When they start to catch up, he jumps down from a walkway onto a car below. By the time they get down there, he’s gone.
Ga-on shares Yo-han’s story of the fire with Soo-hyun, explaining that’s how he guessed the SRF paid off the ex-cop. Soo-hyun is suspicious of Yo-han’s story but does admit Yo-han wouldn’t have been powerful enough at the time to orchestrate a full coverup.
As for the canceled donation, Ga-on reasons Yo-han was either greedy for his brother’s money or just didn’t want it going to the SRF. Whatever the case, Soo-hyun wants Ga-on to keep his distance from Yo-han and his dangerous activities. Ga-on smiles at her familiar protectiveness.
We flash back to their high school years. Soo-hyun treats the multiple cuts on Ga-on’s face and pleads with him to stop getting hurt. Soo-hyun cries as she asks him to think of how sad his late parents would be.
In the present, Ga-on promises Soo-hyun he’ll be careful. Knowing Ga-on well, she reminds him not to let Yo-han’s reason, however sound, sway him. It’s no excuse to break the law.
When Ga-on says she’s a good cop, she denies it. In flashback, we see that she only chose to become a cop so she could protect Ga-on. Now Ga-on worries about her getting hurt and asks Soo-hyun to be a bad cop this once, but she says it’s too late to let this go.
The following day, Chief Justice Ji informs Yo-han that they’ll be cooperating with the prosecution from now on to select cases for the People’s Live Court. He even threatens to replace Yo-han if he can’t accept it. Yo-han snidely remarks that Chief Prosecutor Ji clearly remembers who appointed him.
The next trial commences, and Ga-on is startled when he’s warmly welcomed back as the judge who “beat death.” He even has a group of fangirls outside, chanting their love for him like he’s an idol.
This time, the defendant is a famous actor named Nam Seok-hoon who is charged on multiple counts of sexual assault. Seok-hoon pleads guilty, but we see in flashback that he was quite unrepentant. He only admitted his crimes after the prosecutor threatened to leak information about Seok-hoon’s membership to some VIP room.
Flogging certainly upped the ante on sentences because the prosecution not only requests a 20-year prison sentence but actual castration. The prosecutor compares Seok-hoon to an animal and argues this is what the people want. Jin-joo and Ga-on look uncomfortable at the audience’s cheers.
Yo-han looks over and is surprised to see Sun-ah enter the courtroom. We see that she’d cooked this scenario up with the help of Minister Cha. Sun-ah called it “homework” for Yo-han. If he allows it, the people might start thinking he’s going too far. If he opposes it, they might think he’s weak.
Understanding what’s at stake, Yo-han recesses for the day. At home, Ga-on finds him going over articles about neutering animals. Ga-on asks if humans are just like those animals to him.
Yo-han gets that Ga-on thinks he’s a monster but seeing that look on Ga-on’s face hurts. Feeling bad, Ga-on insists that’s not what he meant. “If you talk like this, I’ll waver,” Yo-han thinks to himself.
He cuts Ga-on off and says he might be right. Some are born monsters who use revenge as an excuse to hunt. Ga-on tells him to stop pretending to be strong, wrapping himself in the label of monster to avoid being a victim. “You don’t have the courage to acknowledge your own wounds.”
Ga-on then echoes Yo-han’s thought exactly and says, “If you talk like this, I’ll waver.” Once Ga-on leaves, Yo-han releases a shaky breath. He stands in the middle of the room and closes his eyes. When he opens them, Yo-han sees his frightened younger self as his father prepares the ruler and orders him over.
Tears fall down adult Yo-han’s face at the sight of the scars on child Yo-han’s back. Before his father can strike, adult Yo-han grabs his arm. “Don’t hit me,” he says quietly through tears.
Yo-han comes to in the present and sighs that his loathsome father is everywhere. Outside, Ga-on and Elijah play with the cat which Ga-on named Gomi. Yo-han watches them from his window as they argue over who Gomi likes best. For once, Elijah is smiling and relaxed. Yo-han hastily closes the blinds when Ga-on spots him at the window.
On the way to grab lunch with Justice Min, Ga-on notices a motorcycle with a delivery sticker parked outside. He takes stock of the specs and thinks it’s too high-tech for a delivery bike.
Justice Min sees him staring and guesses that he wants to ride it. We flash back to a teenage Ga-on yet again sporting cuts and bruises on his face. Justice Min had marched right up to his motorcycle and beat the crap out of it with a golf club. He’d threatened that they’ll both be dead by his parents’ graves if Ga-on causes trouble riding motorcycles again.
When Ga-on jokes that he’ll give him a ride, Justice Min switches into parental mode and loudly berates him for still not having his act together. Ga-on shushes him as colleagues pass by.
While they eat, Justice Min says he’s not sure what’s going on between Ga-on and Yo-han, but Ga-on needs to choose. Will he be a whistleblower or an accomplice? Ga-on recalls Yo-han’s similar statement about deciding where he’ll stand.
“And who pushed me into that situation?” Ga-on has enough on his plate in dealing with his own past, let alone carrying this burden. Behind them, news coverage of the possible castration plays on TV, making the restaurant ajumma shudder.
When they leave, Ga-on is disturbed to see little kids playing flogging outside. Nearby, a woman watches Ga-on before hopping on that same motorcycle Ga-on saw at the courthouse.
In his office, Yo-han watches a livestream in support of the castration. The influencer has on a Yo-han T-shirt and thinks the castration is a foregone conclusion. Yo-han switches to a video of Ga-on’s fangirls begging Ga-on to marry them.
Yo-han’s smile drops when he switches back to see his fan start bowing to a poster of him and proclaiming, “We are all Kang Yo-han!” Yo-han watches in distaste and wonders why he gets the creepy fans.
At the mansion, Ga-on overhears Elijah on a call in English discussing Texas prisons and learns from the housekeeper that Elijah is an engineering student at Stanford. Ga-on checks out the Stanford website and sees that Elijah Hall was built in 2025. The housekeeper says that Yo-han tends to be irrational when it comes to Elijah.
She has more important things to discuss, though, and urges Ga-on to “cut it off.” The housekeeper says she’d do it to Seok-hoon herself if she could. Meanwhile, Seok-hoon meets with his lawyer in prison, but despite his desperation, he’s not willing to expose how the prosecutor threatened him.
In the office, Jin-joo says that as a judge, a sentence of castration is unacceptable. But as a citizen, she’s torn. Ga-on agrees with her sentiment, but wonders, “Is it really okay for the state to hold a knife against one of its citizens?” Ga-on thinks the nation can be as frightening as the criminal.
During the reconvened trial, the prosecution and defense argue over the best sentence. Yo-han obsessively clicks his pen and stares at the graph showing the current votes highly favoring castration. When the defense attorney makes a statement about the nation’s low crime rates, Jin-joo cuts in to ask where he lives.
He admits he lives in a well-guarded and safe apartment. Jin-joo supposes he’s never had to live in cheap spaces like she has where a murder even happened next door. The crime rate is only low like he claims for the rich – the poor live in a different world and deserve to have their rights protected too. The room erupts in cheers.
The defense switches tactics, arguing that a brutal punishment like this will harm the nation’s international image. Yo-han has heard enough and declares they’ll break to reach a verdict. The vote stands at 92% for punishment.
When they return, Yo-han vigorously digs his pen into his paper, leaving a hole. He sentences Seok-hoon to 20 years in prison. While everyone holds their breath, Yo-han looks over at Ga-on for a long moment. “And that’s it,” Yo-han announces to everyone’s shock.
In his cell, Seok-hoon laughs in relief and thinks he’ll easily be able to buy himself out of prison. But then he starts screaming in pain and is rushed to the hospital due to appendicitis. He wakes up to find Yo-han in the operating room with a pair of scissors ready for a little extra surgery. And with that, Ga-on jolts awake from his dream.
The judges return to the courtroom for the real verdict, and Yo-han announces that Seok-hoon will be sentenced to prison only. However, they’ve worked out an agreement with a prison in Texas that exclusively incarcerates sex offenders. He’ll be serving his 20-year sentence there. Sure, we’ll pretend that makes sense. Yo-han locks eyes with Sun-ah and gives a little grin amidst the cheers.
At the mansion, Yo-han is rather chipper and jokes around with Ga-on about his outlandish dream. When Ga-on notes that Elijah is sleeping late, Yo-han reveals that she’s the one who negotiated with the US about the prison because apparently in this world, teenagers can handle State affairs under false identities.
After getting an invitation from the SRF (or Sun-ah rather), Yo-han drives to a shipping container lot that night. The woman on the motorcycle sneaks up and knocks him unconscious with a blow to the head.
Yo-han wakes handcuffed to a chair and looks around. The place he’s being held has been modeled to eerily resemble his mansion. Sun-ah walks in and says he’s as pretty as ever. Everything clicks and it suddenly hits Yo-han who she is: the young maid from his childhood. She waltzes over and forcibly kisses him while he remains stone-faced.
Everything about that was super uncomfortable. I knew something was off with her, but Sun-ah is more deranged than I anticipated. She’s quite the hypocrite, isn’t she? After all her admonishments of Chairman Seo’s harassment, she straight up assaults Yo-han while he’s entirely powerless to stop her. That whole scenario was so creepy, including the weird recreation of Yo-han’s home. I had thought her focus on Yo-han was due to his potential usefulness or appreciating him as an adversary, but she might just be a stalker. I’m guessing she’s the servant the housekeeper referenced who had a crush on Yo-han and jumped from the second floor. Sun-ah has come a long way from cleaning houses, and I’m curious to learn how she gained so much power. I wonder why she chose to reveal herself now. I can’t tell if she wants revenge on Yo-han, just plain wants him, or is using him. Probably all three to some extent. Whatever the case, her fixation on Yo-han is disturbing. He really does get all the creepy fans, doesn’t he?
Staying in that house full of trauma can’t be good for Yo-han. Although with Ga-on there bringing some warmth, it’s starting to feel less like a dreary castle and more like a home. Even perpetually angry Elijah is beginning to soften and smile on occasion. Try as he may to stay cold, Yo-han is becoming more and more affected by Ga-on. He’s clearly not used to being on the receiving end of kindness and empathy. I think Ga-on is right about Yo-han labeling himself a monster so that he doesn’t have to face his trauma head-on. Monsters don’t get hurt by people and can’t be victims. Telling himself he’s a monster might be a way to make sense of his abuse and distance himself from all his trauma.
It seems like Ga-on has taken on Yo-han as a project and might just stay in that house until he’s kicked out. But the longer Ga-on stays, the more he empathizes with Yo-han and inches closer to his side. He may disagree with Yo-han’s methods, but if he thinks taking down the SRF and corrupt officials is the greater good, he could be swayed. I’m glad Ga-on confronted Justice Min about the terrible position he put him in from the start. It was unfair for Justice Min to put that responsibility on someone so young and powerless, particularly taking into consideration that Ga-on feels indebted to him. Justice Min could have investigated Yo-han’s actions himself instead of sitting back and letting Ga-on take all the risk. This sort of thing could ruin Ga-on’s career or even put him in danger. Regardless of how he got there, though, Ga-on is involved now and needs to decide where he stands.
I try to ignore the legal nonsense that happens in these trials, but it’s getting more challenging by the episode. I know the legalities aren’t the focus, so I’m fine with them taking some artistic liberties when it comes to the courtroom. But it’s impossible to take any of it seriously when there’s no attempt at even a semblance of reality. The trials themselves are farcical, and I’m starting to doubt this version of Korea even has a penal code. Rules appear nonexistent, leaving Yo-han to do basically whatever he wants like he’s the king of the judicial system. Nothing about the resolution of the Seok-hoon case made sense. Why on earth would the US or any country willingly take another country’s sex offenders? The idea of two nations cooperating on domestic criminal cases that don’t involve citizens of both countries is hard to buy in any case. And apparently, that was somehow made possible by a teenager secretly negotiating on behalf of a nation. I guess I’ll just have to try to convince myself that some alternate reality logic is at play so I can sit back and enjoy the scheming.
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