The Devil Judge: Episode 14
The judges of The People’s Live Court begin working on their next trial, determined to expose the government’s heinous actions. Grief renews our youngest judge’s resolve to bring down those in power who play with citizens’ lives, but he questions how far he’s willing to go when our mastermind judge enacts an audacious plan that involves the whole nation.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
At Soo-hyun’s burial, Ga-on watches from afar. We get a montage of their memories together before flashing back to when Ga-on took his oath of office. Soo-hyun and Justice Min looked on proudly and took a family photo with him.
We see a childhood memory that mirrors Soo-hyun’s last moments. Little Ga-on got hurt and cried, which distressed little Soo-hyun. She told him not to cry and comforted him with a hug and an “I love you.”
Once the funeral party leaves, Ga-on approaches Soo-hyun’s grave. Yo-han and Elijah arrive to pay their respects but hang back to let Ga-on grieve. Watching Ga-on sob, Elijah cries and even Yo-han gets teary-eyed.
Yo-han and Elijah bring him back to sleep at the mansion and are by his bedside when he wakes. Ga-on immediately asks if they caught the culprit and hops up, saying he’ll catch the shooter himself. Yo-han struggles to hold him back, but it’s Elijah who gets through to him.
Would Soo-hyun want him to go get shot in the street? She begs him to stay with them for now while they come up with a plan. Holding Elijah’s hand, Ga-on sinks to the floor in grief. Yo-han watches silently with sad eyes.
When Ga-on is calmer, he goes to ask Yo-han what he knows. Yo-han theorizes that Soo-hyun wasn’t the target. The SRF were desperate to cut off the broadcast and cover up the truth, so they tried to literally kill The People’s Live Court. Ga-on breaks down again at the thought that Soo-hyun died in his place.
Yo-han understands how Ga-on feels. “It’s going to be hell, the most painful hell from which you can’t ever escape.” He’s living there too. The only way to survive is to make those responsible pay.
Ga-on pulls himself together and asks if Yo-han caught Jukchang. Yo-han nods. Ga-on stands tall and says he’s ready to do this.
The three judges address the press. Yo-han denounces the government’s coverup of the assault on and murder of civilians in the quarantine zone, as well as the death of a police officer. He vows to hold them accountable through The People’s Live Court.
Jin-joo announces that she will not be participating in the oppressive emergency court. Ga-on argues the trial has already begun with over 5 million citizens voting “guilty” through the app. Anyone who blocks this trial is the true criminal.
The SRF gang argues over what to do about this. President Heo thinks they have no choice but to allow the trial. The whole nation watched an old man get beaten to death with a pipe. Sun-ah says they first need to cut off the tail.
President Heo holds a press conference and blames “overzealous” frontline workers for the tragedy. He warns against conspiracy theories and declares that if the trial gives into that sort of slander, “it is clearly treason against the nation.”
After his speech, President Heo shocks Sun-ah with his arguably most disturbing suggestion yet. Since people are questioning if there’s really a virus, they should give them one. They just have to introduce it into a particularly poor neighborhood.
He has no problems sacrificing some poor people for the sake of the majority. Even Sun-ah looks disgusted, which President Heo doesn’t miss. She doesn’t commit to his suggestion but promises to take care of Yo-han so long as President Heo takes care of Jukchang.
Meanwhile, Yo-han and Ga-on discuss plans for the trial. First up is meeting with a researcher from the emergency relief headquarters. Yo-han asks Ga-on to go with him, then pauses to ask if Ga-on ate. When Ga-on says he doesn’t have an appetite, Yo-han awkwardly says he’s making ramyeon for himself … should he make another bowl? Aw. Ga-on smiles and thanks him, but says he’ll eat with him next time.
Minutes later, Elijah goes up to Ga-on’s room and asks if he ate. She’s making ramyeon. Ha. Ga-on smiles and irritates Elijah by saying she resembles Yo-han; they’re both awkward at consoling people. “But it’s comforting because it’s awkward.”
Once Elijah leaves, Ga-on goes back to repeatedly listening to the recording of Soo-hyun jokingly asking him to marry her and saying she loves him.
In her office, Sun-ah thinks of President Heo’s terrifying suggestion that they introduce the virus into a poor neighborhood. She calls Jae-hee and asks if her childhood neighborhood and the youth welfare center she gave that speech at are quarantined.
Jae-hee assumes Sun-ah’s old neighborhood would be, given how poor it is, but that the welfare center is excluded since it’s with the SRF. Sun-ah tears up thinking of the teenage girl with the abusive, alcoholic mother. Jae-hee is surprised Sun-ah is so worried about others.
After she hangs up, Sun-ah wonders how she got here. “What can I do? I’m already here,” she says to herself as she swigs liquor from the bottle.
Elsewhere, Yo-han and Ga-on meet up with the researcher who admits he’s found no evidence of the virus. President Heo replaced the researchers a month ago and classified key data. The military has taken control.
The dead from the supposed virus are predominantly elderly homeless people who appear to have died of malnutrition and related illnesses. He accuses the Blue House of cleansing the population. Despite the dangers, the researcher agrees to testify in court.
The trial is closed off from the public due to the supposed virus, and a military lawyer from the emergency headquarters is serving as Jukchang’s defense attorney. He has the nerve to call the murder of the elderly man an accident, even when faced with the video footage.
He asserts these are war-like times where frontline workers are risking their lives. This was an accidental death in the line of duty where civilians resisted an evacuation order. Who will be responsible if the virus spreads while they argue over human rights?
Jukchang is so frightened to be back in court he’s shaking, and his eyes grow wide when Yo-han says he’ll question a witness about the virus variant supposedly discovered. The defense attorney is strangely calm about it, which is the first sign of trouble.
Yo-han calls for the witness multiple times, but no one comes through the door. The defense attorney says that, unfortunately, Dr. Yoon passed away from the virus this morning. Yo-han and Ga-on share alarmed looks. While the defense attorney uses his death as proof of the seriousness of the virus situation, Jukchang clamps his hand over his mouth in halfhearted attempt to contain his laughter.
During a recess, Yo-han tells Ga-on and Jin-joo that he has a backup plan to make Jukchang talk. They just need to watch without interfering.
Given the circumstances and his client’s remorse (say what now?), the defense asks for a lenient sentence. The prosecution requests a seven-year sentence. Yo-han turns to Jukchang as he plays the video Ga-on found of Choong-shik’s days as a staffer for President Heo.
When Jukchang plays innocent, Yo-han reminds him that he and other campaign staffers used to violently break up peaceful demonstrations and loot. Didn’t he help get President Heo, the law-and-order candidate, elected?
To the SRF gang’s panic, Yo-han continues pressing. Was Jukchang ordered to drag residents out? Jukchang maintains that he did everything on his own.
Yo-han plays another video of President Heo urging people to take to the streets to restore order. Shortly after that broadcast, Jukchang attacked foreign workers with the same followers who were at the quarantine site.
Jukchang yells that he did it out of love for his country and because he believed in President Heo’s philosophy. Yo-han again confirms that he did everything of his own volition and is therefore fully responsible.
Since Jukchang and his lawyer agree so much with President Heo’s philosophy, the solution is simple. He plays another clip of President Heo arguing that murderers should be executed rather than using up taxpayer money.
Yo-han walks down to the terrified Jukchang and says the price of a life is a life. He shoots down the defense’s emotional arguments – not everyone in difficult circumstances commits crimes. Yo-han puts the question of punishment to the nation. The vote is 75% for the death penalty.
Ga-on and Jin-joo watch uncomfortably but say nothing, even when Yo-han orders death by electric chair in 24 hours. Jukchang begins sobbing. Yo-han tells the citizens that their votes will determine the voltage; more than 1 million of them must vote in favor tomorrow for the death to be carried out.
As usual, Sun-ah is the only one of the SRF gang to remain calm and sus out Yo-han’s plan. The chairmen fight over how to stop Jukchang from talking until President Heo intervenes. He’ll handle it since he knows Jukchang best.
At the courthouse, Jin-joo is horrified by Yo-han’s tactics and argues what he’s doing makes him no different than President Heo. Yo-han tells her she can leave the bench if she doesn’t approve. She appeals to Ga-on, but he stays silent.
After seeing the news that Justice Min is resigning over this latest sentence, Ga-on rushes to his office. Justice Min urges him to stop Yo-han who he calls the devil. Ga-on argues that Yo-han is just trying to get Jukchang to talk, but Justice Min isn’t having it. Is that an excuse for Yo-han to turn the citizens into torturers?
Justice Min tells Ga-on not to believe Yo-han, a man who uses people’s weaknesses. Ga-on counters that the people at the top are hurting innocents and even killed Soo-hyun. “Are you sure?” Justice Min thought they murdered Soo-hyun at first too, but then he thought about when Soo-hyun came to see him because she was worried Ga-on was being deceived by Yo-han.
Ga-on is surprised to learn that Soo-hyun had been digging into Yo-han’s past, including the fire. Justice Min even knows she was looking for Joseph who worked at the church and happened to be in charge of monitoring the CCTV. What if she located Joseph and Yo-han found out?
Ga-on argues this is all speculation just like the claim that Yo-han killed his brother. He’s seen firsthand that Yo-han’s suffering over Isaac’s death isn’t faked. When Justice Min suggests that suffering could be due to guilt, Ga-on has heard enough.
Justice Min leaves him with a final question. What would Soo-hyun think if she saw Ga-on standing by Yo-han and murdering someone via electric chair?
Ga-on sits alone and recalls Soo-hyun’s opposition to Yo-han’s methods and how she warned him not to let Yo-han’s excuses sway him. He then thinks of her face when she saw him next to Minister Cha’s body and how tormented she was over destroying evidence for him.
That night, Jukchang is kidnapped from his jail cell and brought to President Heo. At the mansion, Ga-on asks if Yo-han is truly going through with this. Punishing a criminal is one thing, but turning innocent citizens into murders is another.
Yo-han believes it’s more honest to kill someone with your own hands rather than having others dirty their hands on your behalf. No one is truly innocent. Ga-on disagrees, arguing that there are those who do no harm or fight to protect others with their lives like the researcher Dr. Yoon and Soo-hyun.
“A world where everyone’s hands are covered in blood is hell,” Ga-on says. Yo-han responds he’s always lived in hell, but Ga-on doesn’t want to see him do something he can’t take back. Yo-han says he has no other choice.
Ga-on asks if Yo-han knew there’d be casualties at the quarantine site due to the confrontation. For the residents to fight, didn’t Yo-han predict they’d need a victim? Yo-han doesn’t answer and tells Ga-on to focus on doing something rather than asking questions.
Before the execution, Yo-han goes to the empty courtroom and sits in the electric chair it now houses. When it’s time, Yo-han again checks with Jukchang – now strapped into the chair – whether he committed the crimes on his own.
Jukchang confirms it, so Yo-han tells the citizens to begin. Everyone is hesitant with only a hundred or so citizens pressing the button at first. Ga-on enters the courtroom to watch from the sidelines as Jukchang asserts he did nothing wrong.
We flash back to Jukchang’s secret meeting with President Heo who’d assured him that Yo-han is only putting on a show to get him to talk. All he has to do is endure the chair for a while; President Heo will make sure he doesn’t die.
He wins Jukchang over with his talk of nationalism and promise to make Jukchang’s dream of a steady government job with a nice apartment a reality. President Heo called him brave and hugged him as he cried.
Now, Jukchang is confident Yo-han can’t kill him. And he may not be wrong: the number of participants hasn’t even hit 1,000 yet. Yo-han looks over at Ga-on who shakes his head, although whether it’s a refusal to participate or a warning for Yo-han to stop isn’t clear.
Yo-han addresses the public, asking them to take responsibility and be the owners of this nation. Jukchang laughs, calling it nonsense, but it works. The number surges past 100,000 as people are emboldened to dole out punishment themselves.
Jukchang grunts in pain as the shocks begin but says he can endure it because “he” told him to. He continues to endure as the pain intensifies, and the participants reach 500,000. Ga-on resolutely marches out of the courtroom.
The number just shy of a million, Jukchang cries out in agony on the brink of death. The power goes out. Yo-han is informed the execution has been suspended by the judicial council thanks to Ga-on’s press conference.
Yo-han turns to the screen to see Ga-on announce that the trial has been manipulated. Justice Min stands behind him. Ga-on closes his eyes, clearly struggling with this betrayal. Yo-han stares in disbelief and disappointment.
I had a feeling Ga-on wasn’t going to be able to stomach this latest stunt of Yo-han’s. While Soo-hyun’s death made Ga-on more determined, it also made him feel more guilty for crossing lines. He doesn’t share Yo-han’s nihilistic view of the world that prioritizes winning at all costs; Ga-on has managed to hold onto a shred of idealism and still believes in justice. His reason for fighting to bring down the corrupt elites is to create a better, more equitable society. Instigating a million or so people to participate in murder is in direct opposition to the world he hopes to create through this fight. He also cares about Yo-han and doesn’t want to watch him go too far and become a monster in truth.
I’m not sure how Yo-han will react to Ga-on’s betrayal. Jukchang was about to die and still hadn’t talked, so that plan might’ve been a bust anyway. I imagine Yo-han will find a way to turn this around like he usually does, but Ga-on’s admission could complicate things. Will Ga-on’s sincerity mean anything to him or will he only see Ga-on getting in his way? Yo-han has been sympathetic to Ga-on’s grieving and has even been trying in his endearingly awkward way to look out for him. I do think Yo-han cares about Ga-on, but he’s not the sentimental or forgiving type. His sympathy for Ga-on’s pain likely only goes so far, and Ga-on ruining his plans might be the limit.
While Soo-hyun’s death was undeniably tragic, I didn’t feel the emotional punch I think I was supposed to feel. Unfortunately, the emotional impact of her death is mostly in Ga-on’s reaction rather than in mourning her as a character. There’s always been a disconnect for me with Soo-hyun. It’s not that I disliked her – I just never felt an emotional connection, which was highlighted by her death. I’ve come to realize that my disconnect stems from the fact that her character solely existed for Ga-on and his journey. Every interaction they had focused on Ga-on and his needs. She even became a cop to protect him! I know nothing about her outside of her connection to Ga-on. I didn’t even know she had a family until we saw them crying at her funeral. I wish she’d gotten more of her own arc and independent personhood rather than functioning merely as a motivator for the hero.
Once again, I find myself growing suspicious of Justice Min. Why did he know so much about Soo-hyun’s investigation? Sure, she might’ve told him a few details, but I don’t see why she would’ve kept him updated to that extent. He’s trying too hard to turn Ga-on against Yo-han, and it makes me question whether there’s an ulterior motive there. I might be entirely on the wrong track, but something about him is just shifty. Watch him turn out to be the Big Bad, which admittedly would be kind of a fun twist, although it would put poor Ga-on through the wringer again. Justice Min’s theory about Yo-han having Soo-hyun killed isn’t unreasonable, but it seems unlikely. Yo-han’s style is less assassin in the night and more exploiting weaknesses to get his way. Even if Ga-on didn’t buy Justice Min’s theory, the seed of doubt was planted. And now that Ga-on has messed up Yo-han’s scheme, I imagine things are going to get tense between them as we head into the final week.
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