Inspector Koo: Episode 12 (Final)
The details of our inspector’s master plan are revealed, but she learns the hard way that not everything is predictable. After she finds herself pitted against not one, but two villains, an ally is taken hostage, and she’s forced to undergo one final showdown.
EPISODE 12 RECAP (FINAL)
We flashback to the day Team B handed over the boat party video to Kyung. As they ride the train to the next stop, Kyung-yi begins formulating her master plan to capture Kyung and Sook. The past and present merge as Kyung appears in Kyung-yi’s memories, sitting next to her on the train and having a tantrum because Kyung-yi had been plotting to take her down long before Kyung even knew that Hyun-tae was a baddie.
“Did you really think I’d hand over the video without a back-up plan?” Kyung-yi asks, and the scene shifts to the day she and Je-hee tied Hyun-tae up in a sack. Kyung takes the place of Hyun-tae in the trunk of their car and asks Kyung-yi why she hid Hyun-tae from her. She assumed Kyung-yi wanted him dead, too, when she handed over the video. Instead, Kyung-yi explains that it was just her way of flexing, showing Sook what she was capable of while simultaneously remaining one step ahead of Kyung.
Je-hee gags Kyung, and the scene shifts again to the night Kyung, disguised as a janitor, was reunited with Geon-wook in the NT Life Insurance lobby. Kyung deduces that Kyung-yi must have released the video to the public so that Hyun-tae would be safer with more eyes on him. Kyung-yi, who is dressed in the same ridiculous disguise as Geon-wook, takes Kyung’s sunglasses and admits to releasing the video, but Kyung is only partially correct in guessing her motive.
Her main reason for releasing the video was to get Sook to come to her and beg for her assistance. The scene transitions to the night Sook kneeled before Kyung-yi and asked for help. The camera pans around Kyung-yi, and when it returns to where Sook was kneeling, Kyung has replaced her. She shakes off Mr. Kim’s assistance as she stands and sits next to Kyung-yi, astonished that Kyung-yi could have concocted such an elaborate plan before she handed over the video. Kyung-yi boasts that she’s always been smart.
Kyung realizes that Kyung-yi was the one who attacked Sook, and the next memory we revisit is the day Sook apologized to the press on behalf of Hyun-tae. Je-hee gives a subtle signal and a man rushes forward and splashes a substance on Sook’s face. Je-hee and Mr. Kim — the latter slightly delayed and with over exaggerated acting — rush forward to cover Sook’s head with a jacket, but underneath it, Sook is perfectly fine.
According to Kyung-yi, she was told it would take three days to make her look like Sook, so while Sook hid out in the hospital with her fake injury, Kyung-yi bandaged herself to look like a burn victim. She didn’t plan anything for Hyung-tae’s press conference because she knew her team had that covered and because she knew Kyung’s real target was Sook, who she wanted to see suffer.
In the present, Kyung feels weird. Even though Kyung-yi predicted her every move, she isn’t pissed off. Instead, she senses a connection to Kyung-yi and is curious to know how Kyung-yi can understand her so well. Geon-wook interrupts the moment and picks up the piggybank-shapped trigger button for the bomb strapped to Kyung-yi. He warns Kyung to step back or else she’s going to be covered in Kyung-yi’s guts. Kyung-yi nervously watches as Kyung and Geon-wook fight over the device, afraid that they will accidentally set the bomb off in their struggle.
Kyung steals it back and tells Geon-wook to be a look-out for Kyung-yi’s backup, but he’s anxious and encourages her to hurry up. After he leaves, Kyung exchanges Kyung-yi’s trigger button for the one set to explode the building full of Ko Dam’s other blackmail victims. She’s curious to know why Kyung-yi didn’t take the opportunity to kill them earlier. Admit it, she probes, they deserve to die, don’t they?
Kyung-yi looks down at the tablet in her lap that is still streaming the live-feed from inside the building. Kyung-soo, who is connected to her via a discrete listening device in her ear, asks her to stall for time. He’s just arrived at the building, but the blackmail victims are distrustful and hesitant to listen to him. After a lot of encouragement and a bit of shoving, Kyung-soo convinces them to go outside, but he fails to see the unconscious Sung-tae.
Kyung is about to push the button, so Kyung-yi delays her by pretending that she wants to be the one to kill them. As Kyung moves closer, gleefully questioning Kyung-yi’s change of heart, Kyung-yi lets the tablet fall to the floor so Kyung cannot see Kyung-soo’s ongoing rescue. She lies that having additional time to think made her realize they deserve to die.
Kyung places the device in Kyung-yi’s lap and assures her that the experience will be cathartic, and Kyung-yi feigns excitement over finally knowing how Kyung felt when she killed all her victims. Kyung releases one of Kyung-yi’s hands so she can press the button, but she also picks up the trigger device for the bomb attached to Kyung-yi, reminding her not to try any funny business.
Kyung-yi waits for Kyung-soo’s signal. Je-hee arrives on the scene and, after confirming with Kyung-soo that all twenty people are present, relays to Kyung-yi that the building is clear. Kyung hurries Kyung-yi to push the button while one of the blackmail victims remembers that Sung-tae was inside. Kyung-soo runs back into the building, but he doesn’t make it out before Kyung-yi pushes the button. Kyung, surprised that Kyung-yi actually did it, picks up the fallen tablet just in time to see the feed turn to static.
Je-hee is thrown back from the blast, but she immediately picks herself up and enters the burning building in search of Kyung-soo. His calls for help direct her to an overturned refrigerator, and inside she finds Kyung-soo and Sung-tae, battered but alive. Kyung-soo cheekily reminds Je-hee that she said refrigerators were the safest, giving her a thumbs up for her excellent advice.
Meanwhile, Kyung is so touched that Kyung-yi has killed on her behalf that she hugs Kyung-yi, assuming they are now a team. Kyung-yi pats her on the back, but her grip tightens when Kyung tries to move away. She will be turning Kyung over to the police, having outgrown the fantasy of killing the bad guys years ago.
Backstage, Santa waits for the police to arrive after sending out an emergency rescue request. He’s trembling in fear, but sighs in relief when he hears sirens. Geon-wook opens a nearby door, and Santa — in an uncharacteristically badass move — whips out a knife and lunges at him.
Kyung realizes that the blackmail victims must have survived the bomb. Kyung-yi’s response: “Kyung-soo may be dense, but he can’t kill people.” Another flashback shows Kyung-yi giving Kyung-soo the memory card containing the other blackmail videos. She instructs him to look angrier as he ditches the rest of Team B at the pizza restaurant, and a nearby Kyung is fooled into thinking he’s their weakest link.
Back in the present, Kyung concedes that Kyung-yi has outsmarted her several times, but she’s baffled that Kyung-yi knew the location of the blackmail victims. Kyung-yi reveals that Kyung’s accomplice Mi-ae had contacted her and asked Kyung-yi to stop Kyung from killing more people, hoping that Kyung would live a better life.
Geon-wook returns, and he has a gun pointed at Santa. Kyung escapes Kyung-yi’s grasp, but her freedom is short-lived because Mr. Kim enters the auditorium with a group of armed men. Kyung-yi unstraps herself from the wheelchair and tries to diffuse the situation by reminding him that Sook will scold him for killing them in such a messy and impossible to clean manner, but he just laughs.
Sook, the woman herself, enters toting a shotgun. She’s perfectly fine if Mr. Kim makes a mess, so long as he covers his tracks by burning everything up afterwards. Mr. Kim adds that the cops aren’t coming, and a nervous Geon-wook fires his gun. In response, Sook fires her shotgun at Kyung, but Geon-wook dives in front of her and takes the bullet in his shoulder. Sook is morbidly pleased with how different it feels to shoot a human compared to a wild boar, and she quickly takes aim again, instructing her lackeys to target the strong ones while she picks off the weak ones.
Kyung takes Geon-wook’s gun and fires randomly, and Kyung-yi takes advantage of the suppressing fire to run backstage and close the curtains. Undeterred, Sook instructs her men to shoot at the curtains, and one lucky bullet hits a very unlucky Geon-wook as he crawls towards safety.
Kyung holds Santa hostage next to her, and Kyung-yi motions to the bomb that’s still attached to her chest. In response to Kyung-yi’s silent communication, Kyung eyes the detonator. Kyung-yi lifts the curtain slightly and slides the bomb across the stage. It stops next to Sook, and Kyung runs to press the detonator button. Sook goes BOOM! Kyung flees with Santa as her hostage, and Kyung-yi follows after them.
Je-hee and Kyung-soo arrive at the theater following the explosion. Mr. Kim is being bandaged in the back of an ambulance, but he ignores Je-hee and remains quiet as she questions the paramedic about Kyung-yi’s whereabouts. While Kyung-soo offers to search inside, Je-hee locates Sook, who miraculously survived the bomb. Her face is disfigured, and she’s unwilling to cooperate with Je-hee, spitefully hoping that Kyung-yi and Kyung died together in the explosion.
Je-hee starts yelling, calling for the nearby paramedics and press and loudly proclaiming that she found the Pureun Children’s Foundation’s director, the mother of Heo Hyun-tae and mayoral candidate Heo Sung-tae. Sook grabs and shakes Je-hee as a crowd gathers, but she stops when she realizes she has an audience. She collects herself and shoves her way through the paramedics and reporters.
Inside the building, a wounded Geon-wook weakly calls for help. Kyung-soo finds him, and Geon-wook heartbreakingly mistakes him for Dae-ho. After calling for the paramedics, Kyung-soo begs Geon-wook to return the favor, fearing Kyung will harm Santa. Geon-wook obliges, whispering something in Kyung-soo’s ear.
Kyung continues to hold Santa at gunpoint as she forces him to follow a set of train tracks, wondering if his silence is the reason Kyung-yi keeps him around. Santa finally speaks, wanting to know how long he has to stay with her, and she reveals that she will keep him hostage until she’s safe. Their destination is a train, and Kyung forces Santa inside one of the attached shipping containers. After Santa closes the door, Kyung, who has grown tired of dragging Santa around, asks, “Should I kill you?”
But before Santa can answer, Kyung-yi, who’d been waiting for them, reveals herself. Kyung calls her a stalker, but Kyung-yi admits she located them thanks to Geon-wook and Kyung-soo. The train begins moving, and Kyung demands to know if police will be waiting for them at the next station. Kyung-yi confirms Kyung will be arrested at the next stop and advises her to quit wasting her energy. They all sit, but Kyung keeps Santa a close hostage as she inspects her gun. There’s only one bullet left, and she wonders what she should do with it.
Kyung-yi advises her to shoot the last bullet in the air, but that doesn’t excite Kyung. She’d rather shoot one of them, but who? Kyung-yi points at Kyung, but Kyung isn’t willing to commit suicide. Kyung-yi points to herself next, but Kyung tells her to quit playing games. Kyung-yi asks Kyung what her motivation for killing is, and Kyung explains, as though it is obvious, that no one else will kill the bad people if she doesn’t. It’s a pity, Kyung-yi says, that Kyung didn’t use her intelligence to save good people, but Kyung counters by pointing out that Kyung-yi wasted her own intelligence.
What is a good person? Kyung asks, looking at Santa. She doubts that he is one, and she’s surprised that Kyung-yi hasn’t figured out his past even though his sticks to her like glue. Kyung-yi believes that Santa is just a nice person at heart, but Kyung disagrees. It’s guilt, she explains, because it was Santa’s fault that Sung-woo died. Santa was Han-gyeol’s secret boyfriend, and someone saw her with him, not Sung-woo, shortly before she’d drowned.
Kyung-yi doesn’t believe her, but when Kyung asks if she’s ever noticed anything odd about Santa, Kyung-yi recalls the time he dropped the mug and his photo album of Team B pictures. If he’d just revealed that he’d been the one with Han-gyeol that day, Kyung explains, Sung-woo would have lived and Kyung-yi would still be living happily as a cop. As Kyung paints a picture of what Kyung-yi’s life would have been like, Kyung-yi’s eyes fill with tears.
Kyung-yi begs Santa to tell her the truth, but his silence causes her to snap. She grabs his collar and demands to know if he killed her husband. He denies it, but Kyung taunts that the always suspicious Kyung-yi won’t believe him. Kyung cocks the gun and offers to use the last bullet on Santa, but when she remembers that the always moral Kyung-yi would never openly condone murder, she instructs Kyung-yi to remain still until the count of three. If she doesn’t move, Kyung will take it as a sign to kill Santa.
Kyung starts to count, but when she reaches three, Kyung-yi lunges for the gun. Kyung fights her off, but Santa comes to Kyung-yi’s aid. Kyung hits him in the head a few times with the butt of her gun, and he collapses to the ground. Kyung-yi recovers, and they resume wrestling until Kyung has the upper hand and the gun. She turns to shoot Santa, but she hesitates, possibly waiting on her “aunt” to give her permission. It’s enough time for Kyung-yi to regain her footing and open the container door. She grabs Kyung and jumps off the moving train with her in her arms. As the fall, Kyung fires the last bullet, but it goes wild.
Kyung regains consciousness in the woods, where a low lying fog adds a surreal quality to the scene. A black cat appears, and Kyung asks it for directions. She laughs at her own absurdity tries to stand, but Kyung-yi latches onto her ankle and refuses to let go. As Kyung struggles to free herself, Kyung-yi begins mumbling to herself and tapping on Kyung’s boot like she would a computer mouse. She’s unconscious and dreaming about video games. Police sirens sound in the distance.
Next we see them, Kyung is in the back of a patrol car, and Kyung-yi is talking to the police. The rest of Team B arrive at the train station, and they fawn over Kyung-yi when they see her, inspecting her for injuries. As the patrol car pulls away, Kyung twists in her seat to watch them, looking envious of their friendship.
Sometime later, MelonMusk parkours over the walls and fences outside Kyung-yi’s hospital. When she reaches a specific rendezvous point, a rope of bedsheets is lowered out a window, and MelonMust ties a bag to the rope. Kyung-yi rewards her with an approving thumbs up after pulling the bag up to her hospital room, where she unpacks an assortment of contraband food. When she gets to the beer, she pretends to sneeze in order to disguise the sound of the can opening, but Kyung-soo whips the curtain open and steals it from her hand. Kyung-yi insists that she should be allowed to drink now that she doesn’t need to think.
Je-hee acts like she’s going to give the beer to Kyung-yi, but she chugs it instead and steals one of Kyung-yi’s snacks before she leaves. Her next stop is a prosecutor’s office, where she hands over the video she took of Ko Dam’s murder. She agrees to testify in court, and the prosecutor reminds Je-hee that she is confessing to a crime, too. Je-hee believes that she should pay for what she’s done, but if the prosecutor was willing to make a deal, Je-hee has a lot more evidence where that came from.
The prosecutor waves for the guy behind the two-way mirror to leave the room so she can speak to Je-hee in private, and after he leaves, he and another prosecutor have a hallway conversation about a steamed monkfish restaurant. Their conversation is interrupted by Mr. Kim, who claims that the restaurant in question has gone downhill. The prosecutors tease him about his sudden chattiness, noting that he was awfully silent during questioning, but he ignores them and continues listing better restaurants. As he stares down at his handcuffs, he wonders when he will have fresh fish again.
Sook is flanked by police officers as she faces the reporters gathered outside Pureun Children’s Foundation. One of them is the reporter she plotted to kill. He asks Sook if she admits to conspiring to commit murder, and she barely restrains herself from hitting him. As the police escort her away, a news report announces that Sook has been arrested and is being investigated for 17 crimes. Hyun-tae was also arrested, and Sung-tae apologized for the distress his family caused and withdrew from the mayoral race. Geon-wook is still unconscious and in the hospital, but Dae-ho refuses to leave his side until he wakes up.
At an aquarium, Na Na is distressed when her grandfather points out a shark that is trying to eat a little fish. Je-hee comforts her daughter, distracting her with a story about mommy fish taking her babies to get food. The story makes Je-hee’s father hungry, and he suggests that they go to the expensive sushi restaurant that they went to before. Je-hee scolds him for mentioning sushi at an aquarium, but she smiles happily.
Kyung-yi has returned to her life as a video game addict, and she’s completely oblivious when Kyung-soo enters her apartment. As he looks around, we’re treated to his first-person perspective as though he’s a level 15 video game character. An on screen icon deems Kyung-yi’s recycling and trash “useless items,” and as he nears Kyung-yi, a warning alarm goes off, instructing him to not engage with the level 99 player. The screen zooms in on a sign hanging above the doorway that reads: Koo Kyung-soo Detective Agency.
A room in Kyung-yi’s apartment has been converted into an office, where Kyung-soo lovingly unpacks his nameplate. He turns to Kyung-yi, addressing her as “Detective Koo,” but she ignores him. As he cleans up the mess that is her apartment, Kyung-soo reports that he checked into Kyung’s story, but he was unable to confirm Santa’s identity. Santa’s past doesn’t matter to him, though, because he trusts that Santa is a good person in the present.
As Kyung-soo finishes his uplifting speech, Kyung-yi celebrates an in-game victory, and he realizes that she didn’t hear a single word he said. In fact, when she spins around in her chair, she’s surprised to see him there. She nods at the office, wondering if they’re really going to start a detective agency, and he says everything is ready. She disagrees, slowly unfolding herself from her gaming chair. She grabs her coat on the way out the door.
Kyung-yi let’s herself into Santa’s apartment and searches to see if his computer is broken since he wasn’t logging in to play games. She says she doesn’t care what kind of person he was in the past because what matters is that she needs him in order to win the game. She digs through her pockets and pulls out a bunch of trash before she finds what she’s looking for: a business card for her new detective agency. Santa is listed as the team leader, and he smiles as he reads the card.
In prison, Kyung meets with her lawyer, listlessly telling him to do whatever he thinks is best. Realizing the time, she asks to end the meeting, but her lawyer protests as the camera pans over a huge pile of paperwork detailing her crimes. She insists on leaving, declaring that “It’s time.” In her cell, Kyung gazes up at the window and waits for the sun to hit the right spot in the sky. She closes her eyes and leans into the sunlight that illuminates her cell. The light disappears and is replaced by the screams of a woman down the hall, claiming that some evil bastard deserves to die. Kyung is drawn by the woman’s screams, and she tugs at the bars of her cell in a frantic need to see the woman.
Back at Kyung-yi’s apartment, Je-hee laughs when she realizes that the security code hasn’t changed. Kyung-soo and Santa, who had hoped for a client, are a bit disappointed when she enters, but Kyung-yi even more upset that Je-hee brought a congratulatory plant instead of beer. Kyung-soo bemoans their lack of clients, but Je-hee happily announces that she brought one. The doorbell rings, and when they answer they are shocked to see Kyung-yi’s well-dressed doppelganger (also played by actress Lee Young-ae) at the door. They all stare at their new client in shock, but Kyung-yi leans into the camera and — with a smile and a wink — whispers, “Something’s fishy.”
Inspector Koo was quite the ride! I can’t say that it was perfect because I often questioned some of the characterization and the tightness and fluidity of the writing, but overall it was an enjoyable and — in my opinion — underrated series.
I will freely admit, though, that I’m extremely forgiving of this drama’s faults because the cinematography was. So. Damn. Good. I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a show — K-drama or otherwise — so visually intelligent and quirky. Kyung’s fondness for the theatre was used as the inspiration for her murders, but as Kyung-yi drew closer to catching her, I loved seeing a discernible overlap in their thought processes whenever Kyung-yi imagined our killer’s crimes preformed as stage productions. The inclusion of video game elements to represent Kyung-yi was also a nice touch because, in a lot of ways, she’s like the character of an MMRPG: using alcohol to replenish her “health,” going on side quests, teaming up with other players, having multiple lives, and defeating the final boss. But as quirky as Kyung-yi’s character was, we can’t ignore that she was extremely depressed at the beginning of the series.
While I know many viewers were uncomfortable with her poor hygiene and excessive drinking, watching Kyung-yi climb out of her depressive state was as much a part of the story as her hunt for the killer. As Kyung-soo stated in the finale: a person’s past is not always important so long as their journey has made them a better person. We see Kyung-yi deliver this message to Santa, but it’s also a message for herself. She has learned from her past mistakes and has come to be more trusting of the people around her, including Santa. I know many — myself included — are a bit disappointed that we don’t have a definitive answer to Santa’s mysterious past or the events leading to Sung-woo’s suicide, but I guess, like Kyung-yi, we’re just going to have to move on and accept that we won’t always have the answers.
Santa was a fan favorite for many, but Geon-wook, in my opinion, is the breakout character of this series. His relationship with Kyung was often confusing. Was he a friend? A sidekick? A masochist who got a thrill from being dominated by Kyung? And there were times when he seemed even more eager to kill than Kyung, but his fear of getting caught stopped him. When Kyung mentioned this episode that she was always killing on the behalf of others, it made me realize that the person she murdered on behalf of the most was Geon-wook. First she killed his father, and later she killed the five members of the boat party who stood by and watched as his former boyfriend drowned. The whole plot of this drama hinges around the boat party drowning and subsequent revenge killings, and given that he took a bullet for Kyung, I’d argue that he was more her friend than either Kyung — or I — originally thought.
However, that seems to undermine the message that the series has been trying to tell us: That the main difference between Kyung and Kyung-yi is that the latter has a support system of friends. Repeatedly, Kyung has claimed that she has no one in her corner. Even as she’s arrested, she stares after Kyung-yi and her friends as though they are some sort of mythical creature she can’t look away from. So is Kyung really friendless or is she just incapable of returning affection? It’s questions and inconsistencies like these that have me waffling over how much I like Kyung as a character and buy her as a killer.
On the other hand, Sook as a villain just made more sense. Perhaps it’s because she fits a familiar mold, even if that mold is usually filled by men more often than women. But it’s the gender reversal that makes her character so appealing. We’re used to seeing men having an mafia-like army of people at their beck and call, but Sook, with her sweet old lady façade, adds something extra to the role. It’s a duality that cannot be pulled off by a man, and it made her somewhat unpredictable because you weren’t quite sure if she was going to bake you cookies or poison you with them. It’s fitting, then, that in our final hour with these characters Sook became a Batman villain, her punishment mirroring her two-faced personality. Not going to lie, though, I low-key wanted to see her suffer more. I guess when it comes to fictional bad guys getting their just desserts, I’m a bit more like Kyung than Kyung-yi.