The Road: Tragedy of One: Episode 1
A popular news anchor shakes up the nation with a broadcast revealing dirty secrets of some powerful people. He pours all of his energy into this investigation, hoping to obtain enough evidence to make a difference. However, when family gets involved, our anchorman will need to reevaluate his priorities.
Note: This is a first episode recap only.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
Deep within a tranquil forest, an unsuspecting deer is shot down by a hunter. BAEK SOO-HYUN (Ji Jin-hee) approaches the wounded animal as its mother flees the scene. The hunter is Chairman SEO KI-TAE (Chun Ho-jin) of Jegang Group, Soo-hyun’s father-in-law.
They don’t exactly see eye-to-eye, with Chairman Seo commenting that it’s in the deer’s nature to leave their dying young — something one must overcome to become someone great. Soo-hyun’s here to advise Chairman Seo to give up because “it” will be on the news later. It’s his job as a news anchor to report the story.
The chairman claims that his beliefs can hurt people, and kills off the deer to demonstrate that it’s best to get rid of pain before it begins. Soo-hyun picks up the abandoned rifle and aims it at Chairman Seo. After an intense stare-off, he shoots the doe that returned for her child to show that he sees things through to the very end.
One day before the abduction.
The BSN News Night team debrief on a case. Two weeks prior, they were sent copies of Jegang Group’s slush fund accounts and evidence that the corporation sent illegal campaign funds to Assemblyman HWANG TAE-SEOB (Kim Roe-ha).
It’s a huge scandal that has prosecutors, police, and assembly members hoping to prevent the original files from being released. The whistle-blower is a nightclub CEO named Kim Seok-pil who was previously investigated for sponsoring prosecutors. It’s believed that he’s releasing the information to take everyone down with him.
Seok-pil contacted Chairman Seo after sending the files to them, indicating his willingness to join forces with whoever can help him more. Soo-hyun decides to make this public tonight and force him to join their side.
The higher ups aren’t happy with Soo-hyun and an executive angrily demands him to drop the story. Chief of the news department Kwon Yeo-jin advises Soo-hyun to slow things down, and Soo-hyun is suspicious of her when she asks whether he has the original files.
When News Night goes live that night, Soo-hyun reminds the audience of a situation that they reported on six months ago. A Gangnam club owner was caught sponsoring a high-ranking prosecutor with dirty money, leading to the resignation of the public prosecutor general. It was an example of society putting money first and ignoring social justice.
Soo-hyun reveals that the same club owner is involved in another scandal, explaining that “J Group” sent illegal funds to a four-time assemblyman. Chief Kwon is blindsided by this segment and receives a call from Assemblyman Hwang immediately.
Sharing that he wasn’t sure about reporting on a case still undergoing investigation, Soo-hyun tells the public that there’s pressure to cover this up even within BSN. He announces that they’ve decided to share the story and become the most dangerous station in the nation.
Chairman Seo watches the broadcast with his daughter SEO EUN-SOO (Yoon Se-ah), who apologizes but trusts her husband Soo-hyun. Despite her father’s wealth, Eun-soo has never sought after his money and she’s resolute about having no qualms regarding a document in front of her.
Once off air, Chief Kwon accuses Soo-hyun of backstabbing her. He apologizes for not looping her in and claims that she needed to be kept in the dark to keep her job. She scoffs at this, and asks again whether he has the original files. Soo-hyun watches her carefully as she denies having an alternative reason for needing the originals.
Soo-hyun expresses concerns about Chief Kwon with PD Kang Jae-yeol. He decides to cut her off from their team because her actions indicate that she’s hiding something from them. PD Kang receives a call from Kim Seok-pil as Soo-hyun had predicted. Soo-hyun speaks to the informant and confirms that he’ll be picking up the original files alone the next morning.
Announcer CHA SEO-YOUNG (Kim Hye-eun) speaks to Chief Kwon, who’s worried that she’ll lose her job. Seo-young later crosses paths with Soo-hyun and wonders if he’ll get fired for his broadcast. He takes note of the pen in her pocket and tells her to save herself before someone releases the documents.
Soo-hyun finds a note on his car and calls out to the only person who’d leave him threats. Entertainment reporter Park Sung-hwan reveals himself, intending to torment Soo-hyun until he gets his old job back. They get into a scuffle and Soo-hyun growls that their team is still paying for the bribe Reporter Park took a decade ago. As long as Soo-hyun’s in this industry, Reporter Park won’t be able to return.
Soo-hyun lives in a heavily gated community called Royal the Hill. His future self narrates that it’s a place where no secret can leave, yet no truth can enter. Once you cross a certain line, there’s no return.
“That’s why I was always afraid,” the voiceover continues as Soo-hyun enters his home, eyes darting around warily. “I wasn’t sure where I stood and had to keep looking around. However, I didn’t know it then, but I’d crossed the line long ago.”
He finds Eun-soo working late to prepare for a charity event. She pulls him close and sees that he’s had a difficult day, and Soo-hyun stiffly says that it’s better now that he’s with her. They make out and things move into the bedroom once he confirms that their son isn’t home.
We’re given a glimpse into the lives of other residents within the community. Chairman Seo eats dinner with a young man, Assemblyman Hwang scrubs his shoes clean, and Seo-young’s a hysterical, sobbing mess who pulls her crying husband in for a kiss. In the middle of the night, Soo-hyun receives a text notifying him to meet at a chemical plant the next morning.
The day of the abduction.
Soo-hyun heads out in a rush after Eun-soo hands him his medication. Meanwhile, Chairman Seo digs into a steak meal prepared by his wife BAE KYUNG-SOOK (Kang Kyung-hun). She’s in charge of a charity event that will have the top 1% of their nation’s people in attendance.
Kyung-sook maintains her smile despite Chairman Seo speaking to her rudely. She asks why Eun-soo was visited and Chairman Seo booms that he told her to keep her eyes, mouth, and ears shut. She’s not Eun-soo’s mother and her son Jung-wook was added to the family registry when she became the director of their foundation.
The chairman steps away and she instructs Jung-wook to finish his meal, even if he doesn’t want to. “It’s all yours,” she smirks contentedly. Seems like she’s eyeing an inheritance through her son.
Soo-hyun arrives at the meetup point and searches through the warehouse. He finds a pile of recently lit cigarettes and corners Seok-pil just as he tries to escape. Seok-pil’s real name is YOON DONG-PIL (Lee Jong-hyuk); he was forced to take on a new identity because of Soo-hyun.
Dong-pil is wary of trusting Soo-hyun again after being betrayed by him once before. With the news out, though, he’s as good as dead. Not only will Chairman Seo and Assemblyman Hwang be affected, but higher-ups in the police force and prosecution will be forced to step down once the originals are released.
The announcer offers to get him a new identity and a safe house abroad. Dong-pil wants crypto and cash as well, but accepts Soo-hyun’s lower counter-offer on one condition. He wants his son/Chairman Seo’s grandson Yeon-woo as collateral. If Soo-hyun betrays Dong-pil, then he can kill Yeon-woo to get back at him and Chairman Seo.
Obviously, Soo-hyun declines. He doesn’t want to work with Dong-pil if he’s not willing to trust him in the first place. Dong-pil merely hopes that Soo-hyun won’t betray him again and is about to hand over the files, but they’re interrupted by two vans of men. Soo-hyun springs into action and fends off the attackers while Dong-pil escapes. He gets tazed in the neck and passes out.
Chairman Seo assures a nervous Assembly Hwang that the public will lose interest eventually, so there’s nothing to worry about. He plans to fix things and is sure that they won’t get prosecuted because there will be no hard evidence.
Jo Moon-do, the chairman’s right hand man, arrives and reports that they failed to catch Dong-pil. Chairman Seo fires a bullet at Moon-do, scraping his cheek, and gives him another chance to fix things. He declares that it’s also time to get rid of Assemblyman Hwang.
Soo-hyun wakes up in his car from a nightmare filled with old memories of a teenage boy running away from an abandoned shack. He changes outfits and pops a pill, then receives a call from Dong-pil announcing that he sees Soo-hyun’s son at baseball camp.
Yeon-woo’s dejected because his team lost, but lights up when Dad comes running into the stadium. Wrapping him in an embrace, Soo-hyun promises to practice with him once he finishes his project. In higher spirits, Yeon-woo urges his friend Joon-young to come home with them, since his parents couldn’t make it.
Eun-soo senses that something’s off when she hears that Soo-hyun attended a game. She shakes her head when he asks whether anyone came by the house or contacted her. When he heads into the shower, Eun-soo grabs a leather-bounded stack of papers to hide and warns someone to wait and to stop contacting her.
We earn ourselves a broody shower scene where Soo-hyun receives a text from Dong-pil saying he’ll decide who to join at tonight’s charity event. Eun-soo warns her husband that these functions are uncomfortable.
Joon-young is envious of Yeon-woo because his parents dote on him. His own mother is Seo-young, who essentially leaves Eun-soo with no choice but to take Joon-young to the charity event.
Before leaving the house, Seo-young confronts her stepdaughter Se-ra, bringing up something from the past that they had to cover up with money. She snaps at Se-ra to wake up, because her dad’s not on her side.
Joon-young arrives at the event wearing one of Yeon-woo’s suits, and Eun-soo reminds him not to lose his inhaler. Chairman Seo greets the family and wonders what Soo-hyun’s doing here, but the two play nice for the public eye.
Kyung-sook barely contains an eyeroll when Chairman Seo heartily claims that Yeon-woo is starting to look like him. The women head in first with the kids and the chairman wagers a bet to see who can find the whistle-blower first. Soo-hyun declines, claiming he never bets on games that he’ll win, pfft. Dong-pil watches their interaction nearby and isn’t pleased that they look friendly.
Assemblyman Hwang’s wife YANG SUNG-JA (Ha Min) greets Kyung-sook and notifies her that a present was placed in the chairman’s room. Sung-ja turns her attention to her husband chugging wine alone; he stomps off when she cuts off his supply.
While sharing a sweet moment with Yeon-woo, Eun-soo ignores a call from “Gallery.” It doesn’t escape Seo-young’s notice. Eun-soo allows her to stick around even though it makes her uncomfortable. When Seo-young leaves to catch up with a magazine editor, Yeon-woo tells his mother that he doesn’t like her.
Soo-hyun scans the rooms for Dong-pil and gets stopped by Assemblyman Hwang. He claims that Koreans are easily distracted and will forget about him once something else blows up, warning that something huge is happening soon. He hops into his car to leave.
The Chairman begins his speech by joking that if something were to happen to Royal the Hill, Korea would be at a standstill. Due to complaints that their community is too secretive, Chairman Seo drafted a will for transparency’s sake recently. Kyung-sook’s face turns sour as she shoots Eun-soo a look.
He speaks highly of Eun-soo and addresses the rumors surrounding their family lately, publicly supporting Soo-hyun. After the speech, Moon-do pulls Chairman Seo away so Soo-hyun sneaks out to follow them after reminding Yeon-woo to stay close to Mom. He gets permission to hang out with Joon-young, then Kyung-sook approaches Eun-soo to chat.
Dong-pil calls again and asks if the car, new ID, and cash are ready. Soo-hyun has it all prepared, advising Dong-pil not to risk his life for the wrong people. The nightclub CEO reminds Soo-hyun that Yeon-woo’s life is on the line too — he might disappear without a trace. He’ll make his decision in one hour. He gets cornered by Moon-do after hanging up but manages to jump a fence and escape through the forest.
Kyung-sook accuses Eun-soo of knowing about the will beforehand, but Eun-soo has nothing to discuss. She is grabbed aggressively by Kyung-sook, who drops her fake act and snarls, “Did he promise to give you and Yeon-woo everything?” As Eun-soo attempts to free herself from Kyung-sook’s tight grip, Kyung-sook’s drink spills all over her and shatters onto the floor.
Soo-hyun steps in to defend his wife, telling Kyung-sook to burn the will if she wants the inheritance so badly. He carefully escorts Eun-soo out, who assures him that she’s okay. She tells him to get back to what he was doing; she’ll prepare for her interview and find Yeon-woo.
Kyung-sook rummages through Chairman Seo’s safe and discovers that both Yeon-woo and Jung-wook are on the will. Unsatisfied that her son’s not the sole heir, she vows, “I’ll kill them all.” Sung-ja shrinks into the shadows after witnessing this.
Yeon-woo isn’t playing games in the kids’ room and the other boys report that he was seen with a strange man a while back. Eun-soo grows concerned while thinking about the leather-bound papers. She drives home immediately to look for him, since he doesn’t pick up his phone.
Dong-pil calls Soo-hyun, thinking that he ordered people to kidnap and kill him after framing him for something he didn’t do. Soo-hyun spots Moon-do driving away and searches everywhere until he hears dogs barking and the sound of a car crashing.
Eun-soo calls him about Yeon-woo, clearly distressed, and he finds her sitting at their dining table alone and scared. A quick flashback shows that she’s experienced these emotions before while sitting in an empty baby room. Eun-soo doesn’t want to lose anything again, and Soo-hyun promises to take care of it.
Soo-hyun receives a call from an unknown man and he realizes that Dong-pil isn’t behind this. “If you don’t do what I say, your son will die.” The man warns him not to call the cops. Eun-soo faints at this news, and the kidnapper requests 3 million won as ransom.
Wanting proof that his son’s alive, Soo-hyun asks what Yeon-woo calls his mother’s snowglobe. The man calls back and answers correctly that it’s “Yeon-woo’s World,” confirming that he really does have Yeon-woo hostage.
Soo-hyun heads straight to Chairman Seo’s place to ask for help. Calling the police won’t guarantee Yeon-woo’s safety, so their only option is to pay the ransom. Chairman Seo promises to help but makes it pretty clear that Soo-hyun’s at his mercy now.
Chairman Seo admits that Soo-hyun’s crisis is his opportunity. If he gives him the money, then he wants Soo-hyun to run for the local constituency once they get rid of Assemblyman Hwang. Soo-hyun easily agrees to sign an agreement, but warns that the two remaining months he has will be used to bring him down.
At 12:15AM, the kidnapper calls to confirm receipt of the cryptocurrency payment. Soo-hyun asks if he’s doing this because of the news, but is told that it’s because of his past mistakes. He arrives at their planned meetup location but because he has a tail, is told to meet somewhere else.
Crying, Soo-hyun thinks about his promise to Yeon-woo about practicing baseball together, angry with himself for not finding time to play catch with him earlier. He swallows another pill and when he gets to the new destination, he hears the sound of a boy crying but gets knocked unconscious.
Eun-soo had been monitoring her phone, tracking Soo-hyun with a GPS app that he installed for them both. She contacts the police at 2:15AM when she senses that something is wrong. Police arrive and Soo-hyun wakes up at the hospital with Eun-soo by his side. Unfortunately, Yeon-woo wasn’t found at the location.
He rips out his IV drip prepared to search for Yeon-woo, but Detective SHIN SEOK-HOON (Kim Sung-soo) arrives, and it turns out the men are old acquaintances. Seok-hoon gets a call and without even saying anything to the couple, they both understand that Yeon-woo was found.
On the way to the crime scene, the kidnapper calls and says, “You shouldn’t have called the police. This is your mistake.”
Soo-hyun runs through the woods until he arrives at the police tape, letting out screams of anguish at the sight of the dead body. When Eun-soo gets there minutes later, she’s also overcome with grief. However, Soo-hyun takes a closer look and notices an inhaler and glasses. This boy is Joon-young, not Yeon-woo…
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Hwang returns home with muddy shoes and blood all over his shirt, to Sung-ja’s horror.
Chairman Seo enters a room within his house and looks down at Yeon-woo, tucked in bed, safe and sound.
Definitely saw that twist coming the moment Joon-young was introduced, but it was still tragic watching this unfold. The poor boy seemed to lead a sad life without attentive parents, and now he’s dead because someone out there mistakenly thought he was Yeon-woo. If Chairman Seo had a hand in this, then he’s absolutely cruel and unforgivable. Chairman Seo knew Yeon-woo was safe. Even if he wasn’t behind the abduction, he created an opportunity for himself by using his own grandson. In the opening scene with the deer, Chairman Seo believed that to be someone great, you need to be so detached that you’re able to leave behind your dying child. Soo-hyun does not agree with this mindset and beelined to his father-in-law for help the moment he was asked for a 3 million won ransom. He makes logical decisions without pride getting in his way, so Chairman Seo used this opportunity to get Soo-hyun into politics. It seems like his goal is to have his people in power, but what good is a pawn that fundamentally isn’t loyal to you?
Although Soo-hyun seems like a man with high moral integrity who’s dedicated to uncovering corruption within society, multiple people have mentioned that they were betrayed by him. Dong-pil specifically said that Soo-hyun framed him for something he didn’t do, which caused him to take on a new identity as Seok-pil. Presumably, he’s referring to the incident where he was investigated for sponsoring prosecutors. What are his true intentions, if Dong-pil is telling the truth? Is he creating false narratives and enacting justice on his own terms, or does he just use whatever means necessary to get to his end goal of exposing those abusing their authority?
Soo-hyun’s kind of interesting in that he’s highly observative and acts more like a detective than a news anchor. He also seems obsessive and paranoid, which makes me wonder what his medication is for. His dream indicates that he went through a traumatic experience, which should explain things down the line. Eun-soo is perceptive to shifts in his behavior, but makes it a point to never push him too far with her questions, letting him decide how much to share. I’m mostly interested in their dynamic because while they seem to genuinely care for each other, there are brief moments of wariness from both parties that makes it seem like there’s more to their relationship.
While the 1.5 hour runtime is not unique to this show, this episode felt especially long for some reason! There were a lot of key characters being shown without proper introductions, which made it confusing to follow along as a viewer. It felt like there was a gap in knowledge when it came to what Royal the Hill was in particular. In this world, it’s a community that everyone knows about, but the viewer is kept in the dark about what it is and who resides there until they search it up themselves. Future episodes will surely go into more details, but it’s important to establish the context of the world that our characters live in from the get go. I didn’t love nor hate the premiere episode but for the most part, felt indifferent while watching. However, my love for Ji Jin-hee and Yoon Se-ah may be enough motivation to give the next episode a fair chance to determine whether or not I’ll continue tuning in.