Little Women: Episodes 9-10
With the mayoral election drawing close, our heroines have their sights set on taking down their wealthy nemeses. Our eldest has her tormentor at gunpoint, but said tormentor has plenty of tricks up her immaculately-tailored sleeve. Meanwhile, our middle child is prepared to risk everything to save her sister — even at the expense of the truth.
EPISODES 9-10 WEECAP
In-joo only gets the momentary satisfaction of leveling a gun at Sang-ah. Then, Sang-ah gives a signal, and a handful of flunkies overpower her. By now, death looks inevitable. Sang-ah is spectacularly indifferent about losing the 70 million won — after all, can you really put a price on art? But, In-joo’s saved by, of all things, the doorbell. Plus, Do-il, with a fire extinguisher. He takes out the majority of the flunkies without pausing for breath — only to be stopped short when Sang-ah raises the gun.
Still, Do-il has another impromptu weapon: Jae-sang on the phone. Sang-ah pouts as her husband tells her to put down the gun, dear; we’re in over our heads. In-kyung is with him. She’s here to trade the slush fund ledgers for In-joo’s life. With her fortune at stake, Sang-ah must cut her private theater piece short.
Now, Do-il and a drugged In-joo are left alone. With hitherto-unseen tenderness, he cradles her in his lap, as she hazily apologizes for betraying him. She’d wanted so badly to see Hwa-young. But now, she’ll trust him with everything, including the location of the cash. She tangles their fingers together, handing over the key to the safe in which she stashed it. If she dies here (you’re not going to die, Do-il assures her) she knows he’ll help her sisters get their share.
In-kyung, meanwhile, is busy watching her entire world fall apart. During their meeting, Jae-sang revealed a nasty little tidbit of information: her boss at CBN — whom she viewed more or less as a father — is a member of the Jeongran Society. Her entire career was an exercise in manipulation. Natural disasters, family suicides — all these stories were assigned to her in the hopes of breaking her spirit. And now, she must watch Jae-sang burn the ledgers that could have wrecked his career, and made hers.
Later, she commiserates over drinks she shouldn’t be drinking with Jong-ho, who has an unexpected solution to her crisis of faith. Move abroad with him. Leave everything else behind. In-kyung realizes this is a repeat of the flippant proposal he made to her years ago. It angered her then, and it doesn’t impress her now. You can’t just fly away to the States every time you hit a roadblock! Besides, she hated how easily he could use money to escape. Jong-ho admits, ruefully, that he shouldn’t have tried to turn it into a joke, back then. He should have told her outright that he loved her. This stops In-kyung in her tracks — for a second. Then, she rationalizes. What they have isn’t romance. It’s kinship. When she’s with him, it’s peaceful… not heart-pounding.
Dispirited, she turns to Hee-jae and his truckload of excessive weaponry. That assassination scheme he’d pitched? She’s in. However, before she can really commit to a life of crime, she receives an email from an unknown address, telling her she’s on the right track — but asking the wrong questions. The sender? “Dantès.” It seems that Won Sang-woo, wrongfully-imprisoned Dumas fanboy, hasn’t given up yet.
Back in their favorite hangout spot, the mystical orchid basement, our teens console one another over recent revelations. Parents — who needs ‘em? Especially when they’re serial killers. Hyo-rin makes an offer strikingly reminiscent of Jong-ho’s: let’s run away together. Unlike In-kyung, who’ll commit to the bitter end, In-hye yearns for escape; she agrees without hesitation. It’s settled: first school, then theater club — then, they’ll leave their families in the dust.
If only it were that simple. Hyo-rin gives her money to In-hye for safekeeping — only for In-hye to ditch her mid-Macbeth rehearsal, taking the train alone. Or at least, that’s what Sang-ah wants her to think. In actuality, In-hye never left the house. Still clad in her Lady Macbeth attire, she wakes in the worst place one could possibly wake in this drama: a closed room. Inside its wardrobe are years’ worth of scratched tally marks, and a message painted in blood — run away. The advice is redundant. Sang-ah has already found herself a new doll. In-hye knows this is the very center of Sang-ah’s psyche: the closed room that haunted her for years. The place where her mother was kept.
In-joo experiences a less perilous awakening, beneath a downy duvet and the placid gaze of Do-il. Granted, she’s a bit creeped out that he was watching her sleep, but, ever dry, he explains he was keeping watch in case she died. He’s arranged everything: they’ll fly to Greece, split their illicit billions — and part forever. It’s all a bit much for In-joo, who thought they’d at least stay Facebook friends. (Do-il doesn’t dignify this with a response.)
But, priorities change. In-joo gets a panicked call from Jong-ho, who has discovered Aunt Oh’s house ransacked by Jae-sang’s people — and In-kyung missing. Do-il begs In-joo to let him work out a plan, but she’s already on the move. Korea might as well be barred to him now he’s betrayed Sang-ah. Helpless, he watches her leave, looking for all the world like a man whose meticulously-constructed emotional armor has been reduced to the state of a leaky colander.
Turns out, In-kyung has checked herself into St Benedictus. Using Hee-jae’s scarily effective infiltration tips, she plots a dark, spidery route through the vents, dropping in on a startled Sang-woo. Only momentarily fazed by the presence of a very dusty reporter in his ceiling, he offers tea and a frank discussion about the Bobae Savings Bank case. The Jeongran Society deliberately ran the bank into the ground, pocketing the money from their unpaid loans. As mayor, Jae-sang could approve dozens of such projects for his cronies with impunity. In-kyung is resolved: Sang-woo must testify.
In-joo and Jong-ho trace In-kyung to the hospital, but their search is cut short by Su-im and her team, who are out for blood — In-kyung’s. Bravely, In-joo improvises. Pulling the fire alarm, she screams for her sister to run, as she and Jong-ho are chased to the roof. Here, brandishing an iron bar, In-joo gets payback for the five hideous blows she received from Su-im. Armed and dangerous is a great look on our girl, who is taking back control, one rich sadist at a time! It’s a short-lived victory, with Su-im’s backup on the way, but it gives In-kyung ample time to escape, with Sang-woo in tow.
Besides, Do-il hasn’t failed In-joo yet, and he doesn’t intend to start. Throwing smoke bombs in all directions, he marches into the hospital to free her. He’d tried to come up with a better plan, he confesses. But, he couldn’t… so, he just came here anyway.
Our heroes reconvene at Hee-jae’s safehouse — another woodland cabin. Here, the sisters reunite, and scold each other lovingly. Do-il ignores his father with blistering disdain. Jong-ho pulls In-kyung into a deep hug: if it’s what she wants, he says, then peace is all he’ll ask for.
They strategize. In three days, Jae-sang will hold a large rally in Seoul. Hee-jae plans to be there, gun (or, more realistically, several kajillion guns) in hand. In-kyung has renewed hopes for taking her findings to the press. Sang-woo, however, quietly determines to take matters into his own hands.
Later, Jae-sang receives a call. Gentle as ever, Sang-woo makes his old friend an offer: in exchange for money and one last meeting, he’s willing to disappear. They rendezvous by the sea, where Jae-sang once talked him down from taking his own life — and, where now, Sang-woo brandishes a gun to his brother-in-law’s head. He calls Su-im, demanding that she wire him money in exchange for her boss’s life. But, he’s too slow; Jae-sang wrenches the gun away, pulling the trigger. No bullets. Sang-woo laughs as Jae-sang beats him, ranting about how far he had to go, how many people he had to kill, to reach where he is now. The last thing Sang-woo sees is Jae-sang’s true, merciless face, as he is bludgeoned to death.
Back at the mansion, we witness new, immeasurably terrible depths to Jae-sang’s marriage, as Sang-ah congratulates him on successfully murdering her brother. However, she is not precisely unaffected. After dosing her husband with sleeping pills, she drops in on her teenage captive, where she tells an unsettling tale. When Sang-ah was nine, her mother threatened to go public with General Won’s murderous dealings, only to be locked up in retaliation. Sang-ah bitterly resented her mother’s pesky morals: why couldn’t she prioritize family? Why couldn’t her brother beg forgiveness? Now, through tears, she insists that In-hye paint a new portrait: one of three children. Herself, Jae-sang and Sang-woo.
Halfway through the initial sketch, In-hye receives a reprieve. Hyo-rin, too jaded to be fooled by her mother’s cover story, helps In-joo and Do-il find her friend. The closed room is battered open. Both teens finally escape the house.
… And indeed, the country. It’s not long before In-joo contacts Sang-ah: the kids have skipped town. Hyo-rin left a heartfelt letter of apology for her mother. In-hye left a torn-off piece of paper saying she’ll call once they’re settled. Both girls have decided to escape the suffocating clutches of their families. Trading smiles on the ferry to Japan, they hold hands and dream of a new life as artists. And, In-joo? Well, she’s willing to let them be free. Sang-ah, of course, wants to send people to spy on them, but every parenting style is different. She’s lets In-joo leave with a parting barb: can In-joo really trust Do-il?
It’s suspiciously timely advice. Do-il is up to his ears in parental abandonment issues, and the strain is beginning to show. He’s already on edge when Hee-jae tries to turn assassination prep into a father-son bonding experience. He offers Do-il his inheritance: an inventory of the wildly illegal armaments he has stashed in his trusty vehicle. Do-il, whose entire MO revolves around avoiding violence, is scathing. However, soon, he receives worse news: his mother, already dying of cancer, is in hospital following a “suicide” attempt.
At her bedside, he is inevitably met by Jae-sang. He’s offered a deal: give up Hee-jae, and he and his mother can go free. Oh, and betray In-joo, while he’s at it. Do-il accepts the terms without flinching, and a plan is set in motion. First, he’ll manipulate In-joo into signing over power of attorney, relinquishing the 70 million won. Sure enough, he hands In-joo a document in English to sign — although, In-kyung and Jong-ho, reading it, seem to think it a “necessary step.”
Next, he sends In-joo to broker a deal with a military contact willing to purchase the Weapons Truck of Doom. His father will drive it to the location… seemingly unaware of the bomb ticking beneath it. In-joo arrives in time to watch the truck explode into flame. Hee-jae stumbles, burning, onto the road. Screaming in grief, she follows him to hospital.
Jae-sang is midway through gloating to an equally smug Sang-ah about his upcoming electoral victory, when he catches sight of the news. It’s In-kyung… and Do-il’s mother. With her tongue sutured after Su-im’s attack, So-young relies on In-kyung to be her voice, revealing how she was framed for murder. The true culprit is Jae-sang’s father. In-kyung promises further details of Jae-sang’s duplicity — ones that touch on the man himself — the next time she’s on air. Afterwards, she approaches Jae-sang. The last time they were surrounded by cameras, she was humiliated. This time, she faces him with pride unbroken.
In-joo, meanwhile, receives the fright of her life when the supposedly comatose Hee-jae sits up to peer over her shoulder. Naturally, Do-il never betrayed them. Instead, he arranged an eleventh-hour sting of immense proportions. Using a fake document to communicate with In-kyung, he finagled a pretend attack on Hee-jae — relying on In-joo’s authentic reaction for verisimilitude. In-joo’s understandably miffed. But, Hee-jae assures her that Do-il insisted she be protected. And, he says — lifting a bag that no doubt contains silly quantities of guns — there’s no safer place than by his side.
… Seconds later, the police surround them. Hee-jae is arrested for illegal possession of weapons — no doubt on the Jeongran Society’s dime.
The day of the rally dawns. Things are looking positive for Team Political Corruption. It’s a shamelessly grandiose affair, with Jae-sang surrounded by a light show, crowing about his triumph over adversity. The crowd goes wild — then, falls silent in confusion. Projected on the screen behind him is blurry video footage… of Sang-woo’s death. Sang-woo’s final act was a clever, desperate gamble: using a secret camera, he goaded Jae-sang into revealing his true colors. Jae-sang’s face is hideous as he brandishes a gun — then, even more cruelly, a rock. The narrative has finally shifted. In-kyung, flush with pride at having harnessed the power of the press, holds another conference, explaining the circumstances of Sang-woo’s death.
Public reaction to Jae-sang being outed as a murderer on the national news is depressingly realistic. Opinions shift… a little. He’s still ahead. All he needs to do is invoke phrase “deepfake technology,” and he’s riding high on 48% in the polls. However, Sang-ah’s expression is resigned.
In-kyung is live on air when the news hits. It’s footage of Jae-sang… jumping off an abandoned building. Reports of his death come streaming in. In-kyung falls into silent shock when asked whether she feels responsible for his suicide.
Meanwhile, Sang-ah exits the mortuary, stony-faced, where Jae-sang lies — a blue orchid curled in his palm — and calls In-joo. Sang-ah warned her there’d be repercussions. In-joo had better be looking forward to what happens now. Horrified, In-joo checks her bank balance, only to find that her billions have disappeared. What’s more, there’s a harsh hammering at the door. It clicks open. She gasps.
Last week, I talked about how Little Women poses the question, who controls the story? — and this week, we’re getting multiple answers. With the power of money and the media, Jae-sang has, up until this point, managed to stay in control of his narrative. In fact, he’s been manipulating In-kyung’s, through his hold over her boss, in a similar fashion to how Sang-ah tried to turn In-joo into a character in her own “70-billion won blockbuster.”
The thing is, their stories are stale. Jae-sang’s speech at the rally was practically identical to his speech from last episode — which, in turn, was plagiarized. The Jeongran Society are committed to telling the same old tale each time: one where the rich reign triumphant, and there’s no beating them — only joining them. Sang-ah, meanwhile, is trapped in an endless retelling of her own trauma, imposing her mother’s fate on the women she believes she can control.
In-kyung is determined to stand her ground and rewrite the narrative by revealing the truth. But, she only made a dent in Jae-sang’s popularity — and now, the story of his death may overshadow all. Meanwhile, In-hye’s answer is to exit stage left. It feels like no coincidence that she and Hyo-rin hold hands over a ferry in a manner reminiscent of the heroines of The Handmaiden — whose response to patriarchal oppression was also to make their escape. In-joo seems tempted by this option too. Will she, like In-kyung, try to effect real change, or will she decide that a new life is the only way forward?
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