Stranger 2 Review: Episode 14

Weeks and weeks of suspense finally lead to some answers in this tense episode. We find out who exactly was behind Dong-jae’s (Lee Joon-hyuk) abduction, but his survival is still under question. There are way too many obstacles in the path. Shi-mok (Cho Seung-woo) and Yeo-jin (Bae Doo-na) race against time to save him. Will they get to Dong-jae before it’s too late, or are we about to see the first major character death in this season? 

In a sudden plot twist, Dong-jae’s kidnapping is revealed to be connected to the first case of this season—Tongyeong drowning case. What everyone had believed to be a simple case of two boys drowning while drunk turns out to be much more sinister. The drowning turns out to be a devastating tale of lifelong bullying and a cold-blooded revenge murder. At the heart of it is the original survivor in Tongyeong drowning case—a 20-year-old college-going boy by the name of Kim Hu-jeong (Kim Dong-hwi).

Plot twists are meant to be surprising, but they have to make logical sense for them to truly make an impact on the viewer. I felt that this particular revelation fell slightly beyond the scope of what is logical. It makes sense that Seo Dong-jae spotted the bullying angle in this case, since the show has told us that he had been handling school violence cases quite well. But the road the writers took towards this arc could have been explored more and given more backstory. Dong-jae’s case has been the focus for a majority of the second half, and the final reveal felt kind of underwhelming.

Once there is sufficient evidence to establish who the real kidnapper is, everyone throws themselves into locating Dong-jae. But the boy is infuriatingly calm and unwilling to give out any details. His house has bloodstains and smells of bleach, but the floor doesn’t match the photo they were sent by the kidnapper. His internet history also shows that he had watched the video of Dong-jae’s wife and even commented on it. It’s frustrating that there is plenty of evidence but none enough to implicate him completely. Every second of silence from him brings the chances of finding Dong-jae alive even lower.

The scene with Shi-mok interrogating Kim Hu-jeong caught me off-guard, because I’ve never seen his character lose control like that before. So far during the course of Hu-jeong’s interrogation, everyone has yelled at him, but Shi-mok has kept his temper. Suddenly, we see Shi-mok lose his temper like has never lost it before. He seems to get actually angry and yell at the Hu-jeong. I wasn’t sure if it was just an act Shi-mok put on to get the boy talking or if he was actually angry, but it sure was strange seeing these emotions play out on Shi-mok’s face, who we have only seen completely poker-faced and unruffled so far.

What complicates matters further is that the boy’s father is a former prosecutor who throws his weight around to stop his son from being charged. Hu-jeong’s overbearing father interfering with the investigation almost made me bite my nails. He also promises his son that he will make sure that his arrest warrant will be denied, which puts the police in a helpless position. It’s a real-time example of how someone with connections interfering can derail the whole investigation. Shi-mok and Yeo-jin decide to separate the boy from his father. 

One of the coolest scenes in this episode, or rather this entire season, was when Yeo-jin arrested the boy in front of his arrogant prosecutor father, with Shi-mok holding the latter back. I love it when Yeo-jin lets out the badass policewoman inside her. It was amazing to see how in sync Shi-mok and Yeo-jin are. Just as she puts handcuffs on Kim Hu-jeong, Shi-mok physically restrains his father to keep him from interfering. “If you do this again,” she spits, “we will consider it obstruction of justice. You are his (Shi-mok’s) senior, not mine.” You tell them, Senior Inspector Han Yeo-jin! 

With Dong-jae’s life at stake, there are a number of things that can go wrong. The boy’s father could get the warrant blocked. Dong-jae could lose his life before they find him. The police fail to determine conclusive information from the blood traces found in Hu-jeong’s room. Shi-mok is asked to be taken off the case because he’s Dong-jae’s acquaintance. Shi-mok and Yeo-jin spend most of the episode racing against these insane odds, making this one of the most intense episodes of the season.

In a surprising turn of events, the police and prosecution go from fighting to cooperating on this case as the police race to secure an arrest warrant for Kim Hu-jeong. Choi Bit (Jeon Hye-jin) and Woo Tae-ha (Choi Moo-sung) try to make sure the arrest warrant isn’t denied despite Kim Hu-jeong’s prosecutor dad using his connections in the prosecution. I wonder if this is the case that will be used to resolve the police and prosecution’s battle over investigative rights, since we see them collaborate for the first time.

It is his arrest that finally breaks Hu-jeong enough to confess. He details his years of bullying at the hands of the boys he killed. Once he gives a location to the police, a massive search operation is launched to look for Dong-jae’s body. It’s a tense few moments, with the odds of him being alive low. Thankfully, Dong-jae is found against all odds. Something is truly miraculous about his ability to survive, be it in the cut-throat world of corruption and power and now, as a hostage with injuries. Surprisingly, Yeo-jin finds his tie intact, tied around his hands. This means that the tie that was sent to the police wasn’t Dong-jae’s and wasn’t sent by Hu-jeong.

This episode gifts us one last cliffhanger before finale week—when the police apprehend the man who had pretended to be a witness for money, they find that the floor in his house matches the floor in the image of the tie. It was clearly sent by someone who wanted to derail the investigation and frame the police side. Shi-mok seems to have realized something in this regard and takes over the man’s interrogation. His first line of questioning? Asking if the witness has connections with the prosecution. Wow!

Now that we have Dong-jae back (thank you, writer-nim!), the big mystery will finally reveal itself in the finale episodes, and I can’t wait. It’s clear that his abduction did not have much to do with Park Gwang-su’s case. Nevertheless, Dong-jae definitely knows enough to land some of our suspicious main characters in trouble. We are so close to finding out who is behind the larger conspiracies—those of framing cops using fake clues and Park Gwang-su’s death. There is also the investigative reforms issue that needs solving. All in all, the finale week promises to be a thrilling ride. I will now proceed to wait for it to roll around with popcorn at the ready.

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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