Through the Darkness: Episodes 9-10 Open Thread
How deep can the darkness in a person run? Our protagonist steels himself to confront an appallingly depraved criminal, but the toll these cases have been taking on him is slowly proving to be too much to bear.
EPISODES 9-10 WEECAP
This week, the drama ruminates on whether monsters are born or made. Ha-young comments that it seems too unfair and cruel for people to have their lives decided since birth, but Young-soo points out that the world they live in would be too desolate if it produced such heinous criminals. He wants to believe in the inherent goodness of people.
Still, Ha-young says, the world ought to shoulder some responsibility if it truly did shape these monsters. He relays a quote he once heard — “one’s inherent good or evil is demonstrated by one’s perception of others.”
Rather than what people are born as, Ha-young thinks it’s more important to remember that one’s decisions are made by oneself, not by others. Agreeing that anyone can become a monster if they choose to, Young-soo warns Ha-young not to fall too deep into that hole.
In a later scene, Ha-young muses that it’s been a long time since he’s had the luxury of having ordinary, daily thoughts. Concurring, Tae-gu says that it feels like criminals keep crawling out of the woodwork no matter how many they catch.
Tae-gu reminds Ha-young that, “he who fights with monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster,” and Ha-young follows up with, “if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you,” quoting Nietzsche.
That sets the tone for this week’s episodes, which really descend into contemptible depravity. The other serial killer, NAM KI-TAE (Kim Joong-hee), has struck again, killing yet another woman outside her home. (Side note: I’ve been calling him the stab-and-run killer, but the police have officially nicknamed him the southwestern killer, based on the region of his crimes.)
At the crime scene, Il-young is trying to retrace the victim’s steps when Ha-young suddenly rushes at him and reenacts the stabbing. It startles him and Young-soo, but Ha-young calmly continues profiling the culprit. He may be aggressive, but not bold; rather than luring his victims, he followed them. The reason he killed under bright street lights wasn’t to show the victims his face, but to see their expressions of fear.
As if it wasn’t already difficult enough to track him down, Ki-tae changes his MO, escalating its brutality even further. He switches from his kitchen knife to a pipe wrench, and he begins sneaking into houses to bludgeon his victims’ heads in.
Attempting to figure out what the murderer used, Ha-young brings several weapons into the office to examine, but he startles the others when he suddenly slams a hammer down on the table. At their concerned questions, Ha-young calmly says that he’s going to become the culprit, then starts swinging the other weapons to test them out. Uhh…
Ha-young’s fixation on stepping into the killer’s shoes eventually culminates in him sneaking a knife out of the office and staking out one of the crime scenes with it. He’s attempting to enter the psyche of the killer, but it clearly takes a toll on him. Phew, Young-soo is observing him from afar, and he steps in when the police are called on Ha-young for lurking around suspiciously.
Young-soo chastises Ha-young for taking up such a dangerous method, pleading with him to take care of himself first. But Ha-young’s tormented by the thought of the killer roaming free, and he confesses that the victims’ faces plague him at night.
Young-soo points out that Ha-young’s unstable; the responsibility of catching the murderer is weighing too heavily on his shoulders. Reminding him that they’re in this for the long haul, Young-soo tries to advise him to take a few days off, but Ha-young deflects his concerns.
On a different note, I’m glad that the other officers are slowly beginning to acknowledge the Behavioral Analysis Team. Tae-gu actually takes the initiative to ask Ha-young for his profiling report, and he advises her that the murderer may move on to arson or breaking and entering in order to satisfy his urges.
Yay, Tae-gu trusts him and relays his analysis in her team briefing. It’s a good call, because a year later, Ki-tae slips into a house and uses what looks like a dumbbell to murder a girl in her own bed. After the deed, he sets fire to the apartment, then flees.
The next morning, our team visits the crime scene. Realizing that the culprit displayed timid aggression in choosing the smallest bedroom for his murder victim, they suspect that it’s the work of the southwestern killer.
Ha-young stares at the bloody bed for a long moment, then raises his hand as if to strike. His expression starts to morph into something almost unhinged, until Young-soo calls his name and snaps him out of it.
Ha-young’s adamant determination to catch every culprit is equal parts admirable and worrying, and the latter is on full display here. We’ve already witnessed him edging onto the path to darkness prior to this, but things are starting to snowball far more quickly now, and it appears he’s starting to slip and lose control. It’s so chilling to watch his eyes turn from empathetic and focused, to blank and glassy, to almost crazed.
Thankfully Young-soo is perceptive enough to catch on and halt Ha-young in his tracks, but you can’t help someone who doesn’t recognize that they need help. At the rate Ha-young is going, he may stop at nothing to catch these murderers, and that’s a downward spiral no one wants to witness.
In any case, Ki-tae’s luck finally runs out when he breaks into a house to steal money, but the bedroom’s occupant wakes up and catches him in the act. Ki-tae starts bludgeoning him in a panic, but he ends up getting overpowered by the man and his father, who immediately call the cops.
A search of Ki-tae’s house turns up shoes with their prints sanded off, as well as a journal with food lists and health tips inside. They’re sure that the weapon must be in the house, given how obsessed Ki-tae is with murder. And they’re right — Ha-young finds a bloody knife taped to the bottom of a closet.
When Ha-young goes in to interview him, he immediately recognizes Ki-tae as the southwestern killer they’ve been looking for. Ki-tae also recognizes Ha-young, having seen a newspaper article with his photo (used without consent by Moo-shik).
That, coupled with Ha-young’s insightful observations, allows Ha-young to easily strike up a rapport with him by stroking his ego to trick him into letting his guard down. Aiming to get a confession to the southwestern killings out of Ki-tae, Ha-young pretends to empathize with him. That gets Ki-tae to lower his guard, and he confesses in tears that he was raped as a child by an old man.
Ki-tae reveals that he’d been assaulted another two times in high school by a neighbor, and yet another time in the military. Having been labelled “reliant, passive, and lacking independence” all his life, he ended up turning to murder. That health journal? It’s so he can live longer to kill more people.
In a second interview, Ki-tae elaborates that the old man had dragged him into the woods and tied his fingers with his shoelaces. Ha-young looks up at the room’s CCTV camera, as if sending Young-soo a signal, and Young-soo texts Woo-joo to search for any cases that match.
Changing the topic, Ki-tae denies that he murdered to vent his anger. Grinning crazily, he declares that he simply enjoys killing people — he feels alive and euphoric while watching people dying. He starts describing the sensation of smashing a person’s head in, growing more excited as he recounts it.
It unsettles everyone, and during a break Young-soo reminds Ha-young that he need not shoulder it all himself. Still, Ha-young insists on continuing the interviews and finishing what he started.
Woo-joo manages to find a cold case from two years ago in which a ten-year-old boy was kidnapped, raped, and murdered. When Ha-young confronts Ki-tae about his assault of the boy, he isn’t repentant at all.
It’s only when Ha-young points out that other killers might take credit for Ki-tae’s crimes like Young-chun did, that Ki-tae nonchalantly confesses to the crime. Then he’s right back to giggling about how gratifying it felt to observe his victims’ faces as he plunged the knife into them. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
Again, this show proves masterful in its details, like the handkerchief Ha-young hurls into the bin because he’d lent it to Ki-tae in an effort to gain his trust. It’s such a small moment, but it really displayed Ha-young’s disgust towards criminals like Ki-tae. He was making a concerted effort to hold himself together and keep his act up in the interrogation room; several times, his distress and outrage flitted across his face, clear as day.
Still, Ha-young’s only human, and those emotions can’t stay quelled forever. Ha-young’s washing his hands in the toilet when he overhears Moo-shik mocking fellow reporter Yoon-ji for focusing on the victims, and snickering about how he’d love to get an interview about Ki-tae’s thought process.
Rage bubbling over the surface, Ha-young grabs Moo-shik by the collar and punches him right in the mouth. He snarls that Moo-shik isn’t much different from Ki-tae — he exploits his status as a reporter to disregard the victims and dig up a scoop.
Some time later, Ha-young sits in a park, observing the happy families and couples enjoying their picnics. All of a sudden, though, the words of the criminals he’s interviewed begin echoing in his mind.
Haunted by their inhuman cruelty, he goes on a night drive to calm down, but it has the opposite effect. Before long, he’s gasping for breath, tears in his eyes, hands gripped painfully tight around the steering wheel. As the panic attack washes over him full force, he can’t keep it together any longer, and his car veers and crashes.
A bloody and barely-conscious Ha-young is rushed into the hospital, and he recalls the moment he fell into the lake as a child. Except he’s an adult now, reaching desperately out to the dead lady in red, but coming up short.
Nooo, Ha-young! It broke my heart to see him so clearly tormented but still soldiering on, persevering through the ache in his heart and the weight on his shoulders. He acts like he’s fine, prioritizing the apprehending of criminals over his own wellbeing. But the truth is that the cruelty of these criminals is like poison, slowly corroding his own psyche.
I wish Ha-young would extend some of the empathy that he displays towards the victims to himself as well. He’s human, not a machine, and putting himself first for once isn’t going to make him any less competent. He carries the resolve to prevent further victims like it’s a responsibility, but he doesn’t realize that it’s turning into a burden. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
I’m devastated that it had to come to this, but I hope this incident will serve as a wake-up call to Ha-young. He can’t keep neglecting himself forever, and I hope this is the impetus for him to finally open up to his team and learn to rely on them instead of bottling everything up.
As usual, we end this week with a preview of the next murderer. I suppose this will be the last murderer of the show, and I’m honestly a little afraid to find out what his MO is. Every time I think a killer can’t get any more horrifying, the next one arrives to prove me wrong. Here’s hoping that our unconventional team and their dependable web of support will be able to apprehend this criminal, all while keeping their hearts and minds intact.