Open Thread: Beyond Evil Episode 3-4

Kang Min-jung is dead.

The severed fingers of perennial party girl and daughter of local supermarket owner, Kang Jin-mook, have been found displayed outside the supermarket where she and her father lived.

And while our slightly-tarnished Golden Boy, Han Joo-won, knows that our killer has been targeting sex workers, the average denizen of Munju City believes these crimes are two decades in the past. As the community tries to comes to terms with the airing of dirty laundry it had long wanted to keep hidden, we start to see that under every village and every person there is a thing that lies hidden and is rarely bared – their teeth.

If Beyond Evil is about nothing else, it is about facades. And we start to see exactly what everyone’s facades are hiding – especially those who have crafted an image of amiability, subservience or harmlessness.

Kwon Hyuk putting on his best face

One of these, Kwon Hyuk – Joo-won’s former tutor-turned-prosecutor-turned-obsequious-yes-man to his father, Deputy Chief Han Ki-hwan – shows he was not exaggerating when he told Joo-won last week that his job was to convince Chief Han that he was the superior son. He’s secured a transfer to the prosecution in Munju and sees an opportunity to leverage off Jo-woon’s mistakes to advance his own career. Park Ji-hoon’s effortless switch from fawning to gloating is as off-putting as it’s supposed to be. Don’t discount those who appear to have no power. Once you have your guard down, they will bite.

Speaking of harmlessness, I came out of the first two episodes completely convinced that Kang Jin-mook was responsible for most of the murders in this show for reasons that had everything to do with how the Director treated his character rather than anything that happened on screen. This somewhat coloured how I viewed these next two hours.

Kang Jin-mook grieves - somewhat melodramatically in a way that could be sincere or possibly performative

Me: He’s lying.

Still, the writers did have me questioning whether Dong-shik’s rather unusual best friend, Park Jung-jae, had something to do with it. Not only was he in Dong-shik’s house when Dong-shik came home the night of Min-jung’s death but he seems to be at times almost disassociated from his life in a way that… is experienced with trauma. Well, now, writing this sentence I’ve just convinced myself that he’s actually experienced trauma rather than being a perpetrator. So, ignore that.

Or possibly don’t. Park Jung-jae, we discover, was Dong-shik’s alibi for the night of the murders twenty years ago, which means that Dong-shik was his as well. It becomes very obvious throughout this two parter that the two men weren’t actually together that night. Was Jung-jae protecting his friend or just protecting himself? Precisely who was lying for whose benefit? And we have to ask ourselves that same question again, when Jung-jae alibis Dong-shik yet again, much to Dong-shik’s apparent consternation. If Jung-jae planted Min-jung’s fingers in Dong-shik’s house then it’s possible this alibi benefits him as much as his friend.

Other characters who learn to snarl this week were butcher and restaurateur, Yoo Jae-yi, who pelted Joo-won with eggs after he got a warrant to search her butchery; implicating her business in Min-jung’s disappearance and opening up old wounds around the decade-old disappearance of her mother. Police officer Oh Ji-hoon then bared his teeth as well, showing that a lot of his subservience comes from a desire to protect the people around him by placating those he sees as wielding superior social power. We also find out that he followed Min-jung from the police station that night and may be the last person to see her alive.

Oh Ji-hoon shows a darker side. Subtitles show his dialogue, "That's because you messed with them".

Episodes three and four open with everyone coming to terms with the tragedy of Min-jung’s death, although my reaction to this was, as I said, coloured by my belief that Jin-mook’s grief was insincere (although while I remained convinced he murdered his daughter, I didn’t know why he would do it now and it didn’t mean he didn’t have an accomplice).

Han Joo-won’s pensive contemplation of the murder was coloured by a completely different vibe when Yeo Jin-goo accidentally did that thing where he’s suddenly unbelievably sexy and I have to scrub my eyes with bleach to stop feeling like a dirty old woman (yes, he is still only a ’97 liner… argh!). Thankfully he does not do this often but when he does (like he did in a certain scene in The Crowned Clown), I’m left judging myself harshly.

Pensive Jin-goo doing "that thing" that will only make sense to some.

Don’t google his age, don’t google his.. damn. *scrubs eyeballs*

Of course the show tried to tell me that Dong-shik was involved in some way, ending episode 2 with our nutty detective laying out Min-jung’s fingers in front of the supermarket. But – ignoring the fact that this is a Kdrama and not Dexter and so the odds are low anyway – all of Dong-shik’s behaviour has been that of a man who tries to do the right thing and to care for and protect the people around him. It’s also of a man who has little faith in the system he seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of and whose actions always have a purpose, no matter how crazy they seem. So I did not suspect him of anything except possibly moving the fingers from one location to the other. And this is where my suspicions of Jung-jae came from. If the fingers were planted in Dong-shik’s basement lair then Jung-jae had the means and opportunity to do so.

Yes, this is a psychological crime thriller so of course the male lead has a basement lair with a case whiteboard of crazy. In this case, it’s less a whiteboard than the brick walls and they’re plastered with the case files from 20 years ago; case files that Joo-won goes looking for and that Dong-shik decides suddenly to put back.

He doesn’t just put them back, he installs a security camera, washes everything down with bleach and either plants or ignores a small spot of blood that turns out to be Min-jung’s. Dong-shik pushes Joo-won to investigate him: intentionally implicating himself while making it seem that he’s tried to clean up the evidence. It becomes obvious over the two episodes that it’s deliberate but we have to wait till the end of episode 4 to see the reason for it.

The dance between Dong-shik and Joo-won becomes more and more frenetic as the two episodes unfold and it’s obvious who’s leading. In a masterclass of suggestion, Dong-shik incites him to look for CCTV footage, attempt an arrest, and to announce to the public that there’s a serial killer who’s been preying on women for 20 years. And as the two-parter ends, we see that this was his end goal. Min-jung’s death has led to the decades old case being re-opened as a serial case. He wound Joo-won up and let him fly, even if that arrow might take him out on the way through.

Dong-shik sits in his basement. Standing over him is Joo-won pointing a gun at his head

Speaking of Joo-won, his unravelling is incredibly powerful across these two episodes. He’s not just being led around the case like it’s a dance floor and Dong-shik is in the lead. His unspooling comes as much from the mistakes he’s compounding. He came to Munju City, not just because he believes that Dong-shik is guilty, but because he set a trap for him in the form of illegal immigrant and prostitute, Lee Geum-hwa, whose body was found at the end of episode 1. Evidence has now surfaced that links him to her and, for the Smartest Man in the Room, this is now as much about his reputation, ego and sense of guilt as it is about justice.

For a man who prides himself on his rationality, logic and impeccable… everything… the situation is causing cracks in the facade of perfection he has gone to great lengths to cultivate: a fact that is obvious to his brutally pragmatic father.

Can’t you see that nut is actually a hundred times more rational than you?

Han Ki-hwan (Joo-won’s father)
Joo-won's father, "You pretend you're all rational and sensible but you're more emotional and reckless than anyone"

The parallels between Dong-shik, the openly crazed nut case, and Joo-won, the buttoned up Golden Boy, becomes more obvious. Dong-shik laughs hysterically at several points throughout these two episodes and, when Joo-won finds the case files have been returned? Well, he shows us what we’ve long suspected. These two are more alike than Joo-won will admit and as much alike as Dong-shik has no doubt seen all along.

The plotline about the Munju City redevelopment continues and while it’s not the most interesting plotline, it does provide a motivation for people – especially aspiring Mayor, Do Hae-won, and businessman, Lee Chang-jin – to want this case to stay in the past. Congresswoman Do has paved her path to the polls with Munju’s City low crime rate and a serial killer is the last thing she wants when she’s tilting for the Mayor’s office. She and Lee draft in Joo-won’s father, Chief Han, who, we’re reminded, was working in Munju City when these murders were originally committed. It’s a fact that is probably no coincidence in a psychological thriller where everybody has the potential to bite.

Which is to say, a LOT happened in these two episodes. And I’m still not sure how it all fits together. But watching Dong-shik out-manoeuvre everyone for over two hours was delicious. Here’s a man who’s clearly spent 20 years waiting for an opportunity to solve this crime without putting innocent people through what he went through. And whether it’s Min-jung’s death, Joo-won’s transfer, or something else, he seems to have decided that now is the time.

Can’t wait.


6 thoughts on “Open Thread: Beyond Evil Episode 3-4

  1. Thanks for this post , I’m actually rewatching the drama now since I missed so many scenes while watching on kosmi

      1. It’s one of the image options on WordPress. I think it’s called Compare or something like that.

  2. No Lady Log, but almost the same insane under the sane surface feeling Twin Peaks had.
    Right now everyone can be the murderer, even Congresswoman Do, who so desperately want her son to be quiet.
    I confess my money is on Jin Mook, and not for any particular reason, but everything about him seems odd.
    As for JungJe he’s obviously hiding something… like he always does? Isn’t it too much of a coincidence that the three former friends are now three police officers? I understand DongSik’s motivations, but… JungJe? Did he join just to be close to DongSik? And what about JiHwa?
    (Note: I googled YJG. Can I join the old dirty women’s club?)

    1. When it comes to the three school friends becoming cops, I’ve wondered that myself. In Jeong-jae’s case, I also suspect he was following Dong-shik around for some reason. He doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be a detective.

      (The more people in the dirty old women’s club the better I feel about those moments when YJG does *that thing*)

  3. I was sidetracked by an unanticipated binge-watch of Unrequited Love (2019) last week, but I’m back.
    Now what to say?
    Firstly I suppose that normally what stands as a good thriller to me is one that endears me to the main characters. I can’t say that’s necessarily true here (except Jae-yi – that scene where she pelted Joo-won with eggs was the best out of these episodes). These characters are masterfully written, but so self-contained that it’s difficult to unfurl them enough to see their tender centres. They’re also all far too close to the mystery for comfort, so you can’t help but hold them at arm’s length until their motivations start to show.
    I can see these characters growing on me over the next twelve hours, fortunately, because at this point I think we can safely say that this is a “protagonist is deeply misunderstood, but how exactly?” kind of story and not a “nope, you were right, he was a psycho all along” one. I can’t wait to see the pieces fall into place.

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