Blind: Episodes 1-2
As promised, Blind delivers thrills, murder, and intrigue, along with a heaping dose of suspicion regarding the integrity of its detective protagonist. All the evidence seems to point in the same direction, but what if that supposed evidence is lying?
Blind cuts straight to the chase, and a grisly chase it is. A group of children run through pitch-black woods, trying to escape a creepy whistling man known as “Mad Dog.” One by one, they’re captured in various horrific ways. Like stepping in a bear trap, or being deliberately run over twice by the same car. Two of them end up hiding beneath floorboards directly under where Mad Dog is looming over one of their fallen friends.
Later, we learn that Mad Dog is a security guard at Hope Welfare Center. One kid who did escape tells a police officer that all the kids there are treated horribly. That they’re willing to risk such violent consequences for attempting to run away speaks to just how horrible said treatment must be.
Unfortunately, even for that one escapee, there isn’t much actual hope to be found, as the officer lulls him into a false sense of security and drives him right back to the center.
That all happened in the past, but don’t worry — the present has its own share of gruesome crimes as well. For starters, the murder of Baek Ji-eun on her twentieth birthday. While her parents waited at home planning a surprise party, Ji-eun was waylaid in a dark alley. Some days later, her body was discovered, wrapped in a garbage bag and sitting straight up in a dump heap, with a Joker-style smile carved into her face.
At the crime scene, we meet Detective RYU SUNG-JOON (Ok Taecyeon). He takes a very hands-on approach to investigating, to the point that he wraps himself in a garbage bag and rolls down the hill to see if it’s possible to land upright like Ji-eun’s corpse supposedly did. He concludes that it isn’t, meaning the killer went to the trouble of carrying her body all the way down here and placing it in that position. Curious.
But Sung-joon isn’t all quirky charm. He has an intense edge that borders on dangerous, like when the mortician informs him the Joker scars were made with a very small, sharp knife — like, say, a scalpel — and he backs her up against the wall with one such scalpel, holding it right up next to her face as he contemplates the exact slicing motions the killer must have used.
Sung-joon’s first big clue comes from one of Ji-eun’s friends. They’d been at a club together on her birthday, where some guy had harassed them and threatened Ji-eun with a knife when she wouldn’t accept a drugged beverage.
When Sung-joon drops by the club, he finds that same guy threatening another young woman in the same manner. He doesn’t back down when Sung-joon flashes his badge, so Sung-joon beats him to a pulp. This apparently isn’t unusual, because the other detectives already have a process in place for cleaning up Sung-joon’s messes.
The person most exasperated by Sung-joon’s latest loss of temper is his older brother, RYU SUNG-HOON (Ha Suk-jin). Sung-hoon is a notoriously principled judge who won’t even eat lunch with others to avoid being roped into owing favors. He wants to see the best in Sung-joon — and Sung-joon for his part seems desperate for his brother’s approval and affection — but Sung-joon clearly hasn’t outgrown the violent streak he’s displayed since their school days.
Despite this little hiccup, Sung-joon’s search for Ji-eun’s killer continues. Given the type of blade used and slicing expertise, Sung-joon figures the killer may be experienced in something like food preparation. (Though an ominous camera pan shows us Sung-hoon is a skillful woodcarver, zooming in on his small, scalpel-like tool…)
Sung-joon narrows down his suspects to a particular worker at Hope Foods, a facility owned by Ji-eun’s father, BAEK MOON-KANG (Kim Beop-rae). And no, it’s no coincidence the place is called Hope Foods, because Moon-kang is none other than Mad Dog of the old Hope Welfare Center. What’s more, we soon learn that Sung-joon himself was one of those kids who hid under the floorboards that dark night.
The suspect, JUNG MAN-CHUN (Jung Jin-woo), ambushes Sung-joon, but he’s quickly apprehended and arrested on murder charges. Perhaps out of desperation, he requests a trial by jury. The nine people selected come from various walks of life, including a fashion influencer, a sushi chef, a taxi driver, and social worker JO EUN-KI (Jung Eun-ji).
Man-chun admits to threatening Ji-eun in the alley, but claims she got away and jumped into someone else’s car. He names Sung-joon as the driver and the actual killer.
So Sung-joon is summoned as a witness. But he’s armed with down-to-earth charm and a mountain of damning evidence. The most damning of all being a woman who has to live with Joker scars of her own, given to her by Man-chun. It’s so convincing, no one sees the need to even ask if Ji-eun really did get into Sung-joon’s car that night.
Pretty much everyone’s mind is already made up, but in the jury room Eun-ki takes her time reviewing the case details. When the others express impatience, she calls them out for pointing to Man-chun’s status as an undocumented immigrant for further “proof” that he must be the killer.
Still, Man-chun is ultimately found guilty. As Sung-hoon sentences him to life in prison, he flies into a violent rage. Sung-hoon never even pauses in pronouncing his sentence, even as Man-chun comes within inches of killing him in front of the entire courtroom.
After Man-chun is subdued and the trial ends, the jury head off to dinner together, having bonded over the experience. Sung-joon and Sung-hoon also convene privately, but their conversation is much more tense. Sung-hoon asks outright if Sung-joon killed Ji-eun, and while Sung-joon sputters, hoping it’s a joke, Sung-hoon pointedly tells him to think carefully about why he might suspect him.
That night, a motorcycle swerves in front of Man-chun’s prison transport, causing it to wreck and allowing him to escape. Worse, in the courtroom chaos, he’d stolen part of the list of jury names and addresses.
Eun-ki, #8 on the list, has long been dealing with a broken front door, so she doesn’t suspect a thing until she’s already inside her apartment, where Man-chun is waiting. He holds her hostage through the next morning, rebuffing police efforts to negotiate.
Sung-joon sneaks onto a neighboring rooftop. He can’t get a good shot at Man-chun, but when Eun-ki manages to lock herself in the bathroom, Sung-joon jumps across and breaks through her front door. Inside, he takes Man-chun down, earning a knife in the back for his trouble.
At the hospital, sinister-looking men sneak into Man-chun’s room. They’re led by Moon-kang, who tortures Man-chun into telling him who orchestrated all this: Jung Yoon-jae, one of the Hope Welfare kids.
After watching the drama’s premiere episodes, I suspect that Eun-ki’s point about prejudice is going to be a driving theme of this show, and not only in relation to identifying the killer. Relying on presuppositions about others can make us, well, Blind to reality, often to devastating effects.
Is Sung-joon secretly a killer mastermind who uses his charm to fool everyone into believing he’s just passionate and a little rough around the edges? Or are we — along with Sung-hoon — being tricked by false “evidence” that uses Sung-joon’s flaws to obscure the true culprit? Is anyone in this show actually who they appear to be?