Stranger 2 Review: Episode 11

New week, new drama to unravel in Stranger-land. This week, our investigative duo deals with a shady witness who seems to be trying to frame a suspect. New developments in Seo Dong-jae’s (Lee Joon-hyuk) case land the police side in trouble, while the prosecution side all but pulls out from investigating the case. Internal politics seems to take over the investigation from both sides, and one wonders if Dong-jae will even remain a priority as we go ahead. Shi-mok (Cho Seung-woo) and Yeo-jin (Bae Doo-na), however, seem to have their eye on the target.

There is finally a major breakthrough in Seo Dong-jae’s kidnapping case. As soon as the witness comes forward saying that he saw the kidnapper’s face, the entire police force swings into action. Teams are split up to track down the witness as well as gather all the police officers who are suspects in the Segok police station cases for questioning, especially after the revelation about the wall clock with the police logo.

Among the Segok police officers, their leader Captain Baek (Jung Seung-gil) has been one of the most suspicious figures since we delved into this case. The flashbacks into Sergeant Song’s story have made it look like the Captain condoned Song’s bullying by the others. It is also very suspicious that all the officers who got charged maintain that their Captain had no idea they were taking bribes. It gave the impression that the Captain had someone very powerful behind him, protecting him. Even till his altercation with Detective Sun-chang, I was of the opinion that the man wasn’t to be trusted.

When the reality of the situation comes out, it’s kind of heartbreaking. The truth reveals a devastating story of police officers resorting to taking bribes to save the mother of Lee Dae-seong, who could not afford the cost of treatment on his measly salary. What was supposed to be a temporary measure later turned into a habit, when the officers couldn’t stop themselves from taking bribes even when their situation improved. Through this case, I feel that the show does a very good job of showing how low wages and terrible systems make monsters out of regular people, forcing them on to the path of bribes and corruption.

Turns out that Captain Baek really hadn’t known when his team had begun taking bribes again. He is also taking care of Lee Dae-seong’s aged mother while the latter is in prison. To me, Captain Baek is looking blameless in this situation. There is another major revelation—Kim Su-hang (Kim Bum-soo) reveals Sergeant Song’s suicide note that he had kept hidden all these years. Does this mean that the Segok police station case is essentially resolved? Just like that? That was a bit anticlimactic.

Despite all this, the witness pins the blame on Captain Baek out of all them. Almost everyone seems to doubt the validity of the witness statement, from Shi-mok and Yeo-jin to Choi Bit (Jeon Hye-jin) and the other police officers. The witness doesn’t make it easy to trust him either, confessing that he is there to get the reward money. The gambling records in his past also don’t help his story. But the case has been stuck for so long that no one wants to question a positive development. Well, except Shi-mok and Yeo-jin get together to concoct a plan to catch the victim red-handed.

After last episode’s bummer, I’m so glad to see Yeo-jin and Shi-mok team up again. There’s a hilarious scene where Yeo-jin goes to check out the place the witness claims to have seen the kidnapping, jumps over a wall, only to come face-to-face with Shi-mok who is already there and investigating. Seriously, these two are born to work together. Their minds seem to work at the same pace and draw the same conclusions. It’s no wonder that all the high and mighty figures in the show feel threatened by their team.

The arrest of an active police officer in the case places Choi Bit and Woo Tae-ha (Choi Moo-sung) in very different situations, despite them colluding with each other. While Choi Bit is frustrated with the building negative sentiment against the police, Woo Tae-ha is relaxed for the first time since investigations into Dong-jae’s case began. And it does not look like he is simply excited that the police are being criticized, it looks like he finally believes he doesn’t need to worry about himself when it comes to the case.

This, combined with Shi-mok and Yeo-jin backing off from Dong-jae’s case and the Central District Prosecutor’s office taking over, spells trouble. It’s almost like everyone is caught up in internal politics and has forgotten that Dong-jae’s life is still on the line. Even after Shi-mok and Yeo-jin manage to catch the witness’ lie, the sense of accomplishment that follows solving a case is missing. It should thrill us as viewers, but it’s just worrying because this means that one more lead to Dong-jae has been lost.

I’m starting to feel frustrated because we are four episodes away from the finale, and Dong-jae is nowhere to be found. If my theory is correct—that Dong-jae was the one who figured out the link between all the cases in the show—then finding him also holds the key to solving all of them. It makes sense, then, that they would leave his rescue to the final episodes, but the mystery has stretched on so long that a little frustration is also creeping in. 

Most new fans must be tired of the comparisons to the previous season, but I can’t help it. When you had a first season that was so perfect in every way then you end up comparing sequels to it without intending to. That way, I felt that this season is structured in a way that is slightly boring. Instead of every case leading to layers of revelations that bring us closer to the final reveal, balancing build-up with payoff, this season just feels like lots of build-up and no payoff at all. 

We’ve had so many cases so far without any revelations in any of them, and that’s not exciting as I thought it would be. It’s possible that I will change my mind when the finale comes around and the final reveals make my jaw drop, but right now, I think that last season was paced way better than this one. As we inch closer to the finale, however, I cannot deny that I’m excited for whatever is in store for us.

Indoor Enthusiast

Indoor Enthusiast (Esha) is usually found going on rants about how Ji Hae-soo from It's Okay That's Love and Sung Bora from Reply 1988 are the best heroines to grace our screens. Thrillers like Secret Forest and rom-coms with sprinklings of feminism à la Because This Life Is My First hold a special place in her heart. She can be reached at [email protected]

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