The first half of this thriller starring Lee Joon-gi and Moon Chae-won focused on introducing us to the main characters, the major conflicts involving Ji-won (Moon Chae-won) and Hyun-soo’s (Lee Joon-gi) marriage, as well as his real identity. Now, the show turns its focus towards the breakdown of our main couple’s relationship in light of the truth about Hyun-soo’s lies. His backstory is put together while he deals with attempts to frame him for murder. Ji-won, caught in the middle of her marriage and her duty, struggles to cope. In the middle of so many conflicts and secrets, will Ji-won find her way back to the love of her life?
Once the real Baek Hee-seong (Kim Ji-hoon) wakes up from coma after 15 long years, the plot starts to thicken. Previously, I had assumed that the arc with the real Baek Hee-seong and the Yeonju City serial murders were two different, unrelated events in Do Hyun-soo’s life that happened to coincide. With the arrival of the Baek Hee-seong on the scene, matters become even more complicated for Hyun-soo. He has protect himself from being framed as a murderer just because he’s the son of serial killer Do Min-seok, while also surviving attacks from the Baek family, who want their son’s identity back and are now trying to get rid of him.
After finding out the truth about Hyun-soo using Hee-seong’s identity and fooling her for years, Ji-won is unable to pretend that her marriage is fine. We watch the trust and love that our main couple had built over years of marriage fall apart. When Ji-won stops buying into Hyun-soo’s act, he doesn’t know how to react to her and please her. So far in their marriage, he has been relying on reading her cues and moods, but when she becomes a closed book, he is at a loss. He feels unmoored and frustrated without her reactions, and struggles to understand her.
The task of fixing their marriage in the face of such a huge betrayal is a process for both of them, but the love, desperation, and frustration of it all can be felt through the amazing performances of the leads. While Hyun-soo seems convinced that he’s incapable of love, he takes to the task of fixing his marriage with the same single-mindedness he applies to finding the serial killer’s accomplice. Meanwile, Ji-won begins to see things from Hyun-soo’s perspective and decides to give him a chance. Both of them miss each other a lot, but I found that as we progressed, the cycle of self-sacrificing and lying for each other’s sake became repetitive and boring.
The exploration of Hyun-soo and Hae-soo’s (Jang Hee-jin) difficult childhood was done in a way that struck me as sensitive, interesting but also heartbreaking. It spoke volumes about how society’s judgment can ruin the lives of innocent children and leave scars that never fade away. As we see Hyun-soo labeled a killer just because he is different and had a father who was a killer, it becomes clear why he has grown up believing that he is incapable of love. No one has bothered to get to know him enough to see the very obvious signs of his love—holding on to his mother’s memories, taking care of his family, sacrificing himself for his sister. Through it all, Lee Joon-gi emotes the heartbreak, rage, brokenness, and sadness of a lost soul beautifully.
Hyun-soo switching from a cunning perpetrator to the victim is really striking. When he realizes that Ji-won loves him too much to abandon him despite finding out that he’s been lying to her all these years, he breaks down. This confession scene with them crying in each other’s arms was so intense. Hyun-soo cries his eyes out, and this is the first intense emotion we see from his character in the show. Once he realizes that he’s capable of feeling love for his family, his entire demeanor changes—his eyes grow softer, he cries while hugging his daughter, and he wants to become a good person for Ji-won’s sake. The family dynamics in this show are beautiful!
Ji-won’s journey to understanding the broken child lurking in the love of her life is no less interesting than Hyun-soo’s. She used to be someone who needed to see evidence to believe in things, but when it comes to her husband, her trust in him is unshakeable. Moon Chae-won acts out Ji-won’s betrayal, desperation, and faith equally well. She strives to protect Hyun-soo because no one cares for the truth and almost gets removed from the Yeonju City case when her team finds out. I also liked that the show stresses on Ji-won’s competency as a police officer throughout. Her passion for her job doesn’t take a backseat because of her love for her husband.
The other couple in this show is Moo-jin (Seo Hyun-woo) and Hae-soo. Like Hyun-soo, Hae-soo also seems to have internalized a lot of negative things during her traumatic childhood that she can’t grow out of. One of them is the guilt that haunts her because her baby brother took the blame on her behalf. She lives her life on a self-sacrificial mode, letting no joy in. When Moo-jin tries to express his love for her, Hae-soo tells him that she’s broken and can’t go back to the past.
Hae-soo’s guilt is such that even after confessing about her involvement in the murder charge that has haunted Hyun-soo, she feels the need to sacrifice herself for his family. In this case, I both understood Moo-jin’s frustration and Hae-soo’s trauma. During the intense moments of the show, I was glad that Moo-jin’s character brought in some much-needed comedy to break the tension. His clumsy attempts to win Hae-soo over and the scene where he goes live in Instagram while undercover were really great. Little Eun-ha was another bright spot of sunshine in the show, and her bond with Hyun-soo was pure right until the end.
The real Baek Hee-seong emerging as the evil mastermind of the show was not something I could have guessed from the first half, but I enjoyed this development immensely. Actor Kim Ji-hoon deserves many accolades for giving us a thoroughly evil and mesmerizing performance as the psychopathic and manipulative Hee-seong. The way he puts up an innocent act when he sees his parents catching on, the cunning manner in which he sets up a trap to frame Hyun-soo, and his final confrontation with Hyun-soo were all extremely gripping scenes. I’ll be looking forward to Kim Ji-hoon’s future works because he was so good in this role.
The Baek family dynamics, with Hee-seong manipulating his parents knowing full well they will protect him no matter what, gave me goosebumps. Hee-seong’s character’s behaviour can still be explained, but his parents Gong Mi-ja (Nam Gi-ae) and Baek Man-woo (Son Jong-hak) being aware of his killing nature and still being in denial was all kinds of messed up. The parents keep trying to fix or change their son, and their story is sad, but I can’t bring myself to feel sad because of how much they’ve lied and killed in their son’s name. Like Moo-jin pointed out, “What you want to change is not your son’s future but the moment you realized something was wrong with him and pretended not to see.”
The build-up to the reveal of Do Min-seok’s accomplice in the serial murders was filled with a lot of very interesting sub-plots. The human trafficking angle with Yeom Sang-chul (Kim Ki-moo) was quite horrific but well done, and I liked that they linked the kid from one of the earlier cases to the case to get us more invested. That was very clever on the part of the show’s writers. The final twist involving the last victim of Do Min-seok – Jeong Mi-sook—whose body was never found was also incredibly well-written and tied off many lose ends in the story.
Through Jeong Mi-sook’s case, the show once again introduces suspicion in Ji-won and Hyun-soo’s marriage just after they’ve found their way back to each other. Once Ji-won suspects Hyun-soo, something in him snaps, and he begins seeing hallucinations of his dead father again. He declares he won’t believe anyone again and vows to find the accomplice himself. Ji-won wants to accompany him, but he tricks her and leaves her behind, wanting to keep the sanctity of her profession intact. Just when this cycle of push-and-pull is starting to get boring, we reach the finale and the final confrontation between Do Hyun-soo and the accomplice of his father.
The final resolutions begin with a look into why Hee-seong was obsessed with making Do Min-seok’s son a killer. Hyun-soo almost manages to trap Hee-seong long enough to make him confess, but loses it when Hee-seong says that he killed Ji-won. Lee Joon-gi’s acting when Hyun-soo believes Ji-won is dead is so full of sorrow and rage that I was bawling my eyes out. His devastation is so intense that even a seasoned killer like Hee-seong is scared. The final scene over the cliff where Hyun-soo sees the hallucination of his dad, as well as Ji-won calling out to him, damn near broke my heart into two. In that moment, all the suffering of Do Hyun-soo’s life was condensed into a single moment. As if that wasn’t enough, the show packed one more twist in that moment. Phew.
Overall, I would say that both the plot and the characters in this show—both main and side characters—were extremely well-crafted. Sure, the plot sometimes fell into cliches and overdone tropes that I didn’t care about, but all the loose ends were tied in a way that made the overall watching experience very satisfying. Every side character—from the detectives on Ji-won’s team to the other victims—was given their due and treated with respect and full, engaging arcs. I really loved the narrative choice of revealing the characters’ past to us in bits and pieces through flashbacks at the beginning of each episode. The build-up to the climax was great, the pace was good-enough, twists were predictable but extremely detailed and enjoyable, and the main actors all gave amazing performances, especially Lee Joon-gi and Kim Ji-hoon.
Despite the long-drawn conflict and the separation between Ji-won and Hyun-soo, I liked that their reunion was a process that took time its sweet time. I couldn’t wait for them to get back together and for Hyun-soo to finally be happy and relaxed, but after a life time of trauma, it would have been unrealistic to jump back into the happy married life again. Which is why even though it was frustrating, I thought Hyun-soo losing his memories was a nice touch. It gave him the opportunity to live as himself and not the wanted son of a notorious killer or as someone else.
The Do siblings try to live their lives freely after Hae-soo is acquitted by the courts and free of guilt, and Hyun-soo doesn’t have to run anymore. Hyun-soo has no memories of the time he spent with Ji-won and Eun-ha, which means he is back to believing himself incapable of love. Ji-won keeps trying to find her husband in this new Hyun-soo but is unable to. Eun-ha and Ji-won miss Hyun-soo but wish for his happiness. Just when they think they’ve let him go, he slowly begins regaining his memories and remembers how much he loved Ji-won. And that’s where the show leaves us—with our main couple trying to make a new beginning. And I think the ending was perfect!