The Veil: Episodes 3-4 Open Thread
The only thing that moves faster than this week’s plot is our agent when he’s encircled by enemies. Determined to get to the truth about the operation that’s sent him down the rabbit hole, he’s willing to risk anything to get one step closer. With its second week just as satisfying as the first, I’m here to say I’m totally hooked.
EPISODES 3-4 WEECAP
Before we get into the tons of action and plot we hit this week, I just have to say how much I adore a larger-than-life hero. There’s something to be said for slice-of-life stories, but really, there’s nothing more satisfying than a hero that’s utterly fearless, takes down scores of bad guys, is intuitive enough to be ten steps ahead, and is smart enough to know just what to say when it needs to be said. A hero like this makes the story, and Namgoong Min is selling this role with fanfare. From the insane action scenes to the micro-expressions that we see on his face (that expressive brow ♥), when I’m watching this drama I’m completely sucked in.
Our cliffhanger last week left the Huayang “leader” showing off that he knew Ji-hyuk all too well, and Ji-hyuk with a giant black hole in his memory that he’s still trying to fill in. Like any good agent, he starts with his strongest leads, and that’s LEE CHOON-GIL (Lee Jae-kyoon), his North Korean defector informant. Ji-hyuk remembers him at the safe house door before everything goes black, so he picks up that lead and runs with it.
It’s here that his new partner Ye-ji starts to show her worth, and even though she has zero field experience and seems like she belongs in a coffee shop instead of a shoot-out, they team up a bit more and run some decent ops together.
This week’s episodes explore two different leads (Huayang and a new hacker plot line). However, instead of feeling episodic (God forbid), they felt like pieces of the same puzzle, because the overarching case looms over everything.
The first plot arc is around Mo-sool and Huayang’s drug ring in Korea. Thanks to Choon-gil, Ji-hyuk is able to push into his forgotten memories a bit more. He recalls that Choon-gil was indeed at the safe house door, but he had called him out to tell him that their presence was compromised and that it looks like the leak came from within the NIS. Ji-hyuk gets one step closer in the past, which helps his investigation, but he’s still handicapped in the present, as Huayang always seems to know an important handful of things that he doesn’t.
While investigating the shipping container and drug routes they’ve set up, Ji-hyuk is captured and taken to a glitzy hotel penthouse where he’s tortured by Mo-sool. This man is beyond insane, and though the terrifying lunatic drug lord character has been played many a time, this guy really knocks it out of the park.
Every time we think Ji-hyuk has misstepped and is truly in danger, we learn that he’s planned one step ahead of that. So for instance, the GPS tracker they find on him was actually a decoy, and the true tracker is one he’s swallowed. But Ye-ji isn’t meant to raid the penthouse until he forces himself to throw it up (of course he can throw upon command) and take it offline, which is the signal.
When he gets the better of Mo-sool and his thugs, the scene turns into an utter bloodbath — so much that there’s not much for Ye-ji to do when she finally arrives. Even though Mo-sool has escaped, they secure important info on their disgusting meth lab techniques, and Ji-hyuk is able to be with Choon-gil and to hear his dying words.
This blood and mayhem is looked over by the NIS because Ji-hyuk has been on a brief “sick leave.” But of course they’re all smarter than that — Deputy Commissioner Jo knows he’ll really be pursuing the case, Ji-hyuk knows that she knows, and in the same way, the agents are always playing ten steps ahead of each other, and twisting the situation to work for them, as they must.
At the close of Episode 3, we learn that Ye-ji isn’t as dewy and innocent as she seems — well, maybe she is as innocent, but her motives are not. Much like Ji-hyuk, she’s got her own secret investigation going, since her deceased father was also deeply involved in the case. This was a bit of a weaker (and expected) twist, and I don’t really like Ye-ji much, but I’ll take it, because Episode 4 is very much about Ye-ji and her connection to an agent that worked closely with Ji-hyuk for many years.
This agent was Ye-ji’s mentor, and his young son CHOI SANG-KYUN (Ahn Ji-ho known for his breakout role in Nobody Knows) is quite close to her. He’s been patiently waiting for her to solve his father’s “suicide” case, but decides to take matters into his own hands when she takes too long.
Sang-kyun happens to be a genius hacker who has a Plan B all ready to go. He uses his father’s laptop to hack into the NIS servers, and this kicks off an elaborate game of cat and mouse. But the game of cat and mouse is not only between Sang-kyun and the NIS, but within the NIS itself. The more we see the inner workings, the more we learn how the Domestic and Foreign units are in an internal war with each other.
The Domestic team is put in charge of Sang-kyun’s case, but who comes to his rescue in the middle of a Yeouido shopping mall, and later the subway? Ji-hyuk, displaying some more awesome moves, and working in concert with Ye-ji.
The plot of The Veil plays with a lot the idea of trust, whether it’s winning someone’s trust, losing it, building it over a common enemy — or even abusing it. “Always make the other person think they’re using you,” says Ji-hyuk. It’s a tactic he uses successfully again and again.
As the plot line with Sang-kyun escalates, his mistrust of Ji-hyuk eventually lands him in NIS custody. Luckily, Ji-hyuk is able to talk to him off the record, with about a 5-minute window to save the entire bulk of the NIS servers from destruction. We have to believe that Sang-kyun’s hacking skills are this good, but I’m willing to do so, because the interplay between the characters and timelines is just that good. To win his trust, Ji-hyuk comes clean to Sang-kyun, and we learn about the rapport between Ji-hyuk and Sang-kyun’s father.
Sang-kyun’s father was helping Ji-hyuk while on his ill-fated operation in China, and we learn a lot more not only about the op, but the fact that they were closing in on the “rat” that seemed to be in their midst. Whether Ji-hyuk was told who it was or not, he doesn’t remember, and shortly after was Sang-kyun’s father’s “suicide.”
The drama (and Namgoong Min, let’s face it) does such a superb job of tractor-beaming us in. Ji-hyuk seems to know exactly what to say to this hurting boy, and his adeptness wins him an important bit of secret intel, which becomes our twist of the week: the person his father identified as the mole? Her name was Seo Soo-yeon.
Despite being gorgeous and sexy, Soo-yeon has been quite unlikable from the start. We’re supposed to believe that she’s still grieving over the death of Hwang Hee’s character, but there’s something about it that never quite landed for me. Was she really the mole that compromised their mission? She seems to hate Ji-hyuk to the bone, but perhaps the reason for that is different than we were led to believe.
Either way, each week we get a whole new layer of this plot onion peeled away, and the multi-layered unraveling is a lot of fun. The brutal violence continues to be a bit much, but in a way I appreciate this drama’s absolutely unforgiving approach to the brutality that doing this job, and doing it well, requires.
On a final note, The Veil is using their great OST to nail those episode-ending twists much like the early episodes of You Are My Spring did. There’s something so satisfying about that feeling when the music cues, and your brain gets ready for the twist to drop.