Stranger 2 Review: Episode 16 (Finale)

In the season finale, our main characters deal with the aftermath of the truth in the Park Gwang-su case. Shi-mok and Yeo-jin have to fight against their superiors and their colleagues to make sure the truth is out, while Woo Tae-ha and Choi Bit deal with the consequences of their actions. We learn the value of public service, watch those who have not yet completely lost their morality make sacrifices, and say goodbye to our favorite investigative duo as they take up other challenges.

First off, I’m very unhappy with the way the police-prosecution council was straight-up dismantled without any resolution. It was one of my favorite arcs in this season, and I was looking forward to how they would resolve the fight between the police and the prosecution, but the show didn’t give us any answers. I wouldn’t say it was a cop-out because there was a build-up leading to this, but it still feels a bit anti-climatic to not see any developments in the arc at all.

As the truth comes to light, Choi Bit takes one last stab at regaining her agency and keeping her pride intact. At a press conference, she admits to the charges against her and steps down. A flashback reveals her secret meeting with Shi-mok, who had relayed his plans to charge both her and Woo and offered her a last chance to do something for the police as well as make sure Yeo-jin’s career doesn’t suffer. By taking this chance, Choi proved that she still had some ethics left in her, managed to end things on her own terms, and made sure Yeo-jin was safe. I couldn’t help but sympathize with her character who got dragged into this entire controversy. 

Shi-mok’s meeting with Choi Bit also revealed just how much trust he places in Yeo-jin’s judgement. He goes to Choi only because he believes that Yeo-jin is a good judge of character, and her judgment would not let him down. We know that Shi-mok and Yeo-jin are pretty close, but we find out just how much when Shi-mok talks about how Yeo-jin opens up to others easily but does not respect or trust blindly. He very clearly cares about her feelings and her well-being even beyond the scope of the cases they solve together, and it’s so heartening to see their friendship deepen. 

Choi Bit and Woo’s partnership ends with a phone call when she refuses to be used by him anymore. When she leaves the office for the final time, both her and Yeo-jin tear up even as her colleagues blame Yeo-jin as the reason Choi stepped down. Yeo-jin is bullied and pushed to leave the Intelligence Bureau. She acts tough in front of everyone, but breaks down when the Yongsan team invites her out for drinks and she misses the feeling of belonging in a team. I just wish she would go back to the old team, but this show is all about our characters making difficult decisions, so I don’t think that’s going to happen. 

Between Choi and Woo, Choi clearly makes the better choice, because Woo is blaming everyone but himself till the very end. He starts with Shi-mok, then proceeds to blame Seo Dong-jae. In a surprise move, Shi-mok is asked to investigate Woo by the Prosecutor General but faces pressure to conceal the fact that someone from the prosecution tried to frame the police to influence the police-prosecution conflict. Shi-mok refuses to keep up the fight for the prosecution to retain their authority, reasoning that if they have to fight so hard for it, they probably don’t deserve it.

After leaking Hanjo’s financial statements, Managing Director Park threatens Kang Won-chul that he will reveal Kang acquiring their financial statements illegally through Oh Ju-seon, making it impossible for Kang to investigate Hanjo. While the last season was about people we believed to be good turning out to be corrupt, this season showed people we suspected choosing the side of the truth despite temptations. This is evident when Kang Won-chul steps down from his position because he is compromised, but refuses to let Hanjo gain the upper hand by making sure that an internal investigation team continues to investigate them. 

This season is also about public servants in superior positions sacrificing themselves to make sure people like Shi-mok and Yeo-jin keep pursuing the truth. And so, after Choi Bit makes the decision to protect Yeo-jin’s career, Kang Won-chul looks out for his junior Shi-mok and asks Yeon-jae not to harm him. He goes as far as to remind her of her husband’s wishes and not mess with Shi-mok and Dong-jae. As he confides in Shi-mok later, Kang harbors guilt for closing the Tongyeong case in a hurry, believing that he partially caused the suffering Dong-jae was subjected.

The Hanjo arc is wrapped up when Yeon-jae visits an unconscious Dong-jae in the hospital and mentions Park Gwang-su, indicating that there is something about the case that we don’t yet know. Yeon-jae is a character I find difficult to read. She definitely misses her husband, but it is not yet clear if she shares his vision or if she’s just like her father—greedy for more power. I’m also disappointed that despite Dong-jae being such an important part of the first half of the show, we barely get a single parting scene with him when he’s called for questioning in the Park Gwang-su case.

In the end, Shi-mok is sent to his original post in Wonju. Kim Sa-hyun actually turns out to be quite decent and bids farewell to Shi-mok with an encouraging remark—”If everyone worked like you and Yeo-jin do, we wouldn’t be having a fight over investigative rights.” Despite my wishes for the Yongsan police station team to be reunited, Yeo-jin continues to work in the Intelligence Bureau, but is ostracized by her new team. That is, until the new Intelligence Bureau Director shows up in the form of Kim Won-hae, and welcomes Yeo-jin to the team. Yes, please appreciate my girl!

The last time we see our favorite police-prosecutor duo together is when they get a last drink before their imminent transfers. Yeo-jin goes back to her look from last season and cuts her hair short, while Shi-mok informs her that he’s leaving for Wonju soon. Even as they talk about various things, their exchange seems loaded with unsaid things and emotions. I’ve said this before, but Shi-mok and Yeo-jin’s friendship is my favorite thing about the show and I would watch several sub-standard seasons for them. TV needs more platonic friendships over romances and these two are my favorite example of that! 

This show knows how to give me what I want, because we not only get another cameo from Lee Kyu-hyung as Yoon, but also a last look at most of the cast from the first season. Shi-mok has a dream featuring all the people who inspire him to pursue justice and commit to his profession—Lee Chang-jun (Yoo Jae-myung), Lee Eun-soo (Shin Hye-sun), Kang Won-chul, Yoon, and Seo Dong-jae. He recounts the dream to Yeo-jin, who pays a visit to Yoon because of it. It seems that she was right to be worried because Yoon looks pretty rough. She reminds him that his past choices do not define him, and his existence still holds meaning for people. She promises to stop by every once in a while and encourages Yoon to hold on. I love this girl so much.

Overall, this season didn’t even come close to the high-stakes tension and suspense we had experienced in the first season. Almost every case we saw—starting from the Tongyeong drowning case, then the Segok police station case, and finally, Park Gwang-su’s case—had strange, unsatisfactory resolutions. There were few to no moments of grand reveals or deeper conspiracies. Among new characters, I liked Choi Bit and the resolution of her arc, but Woo Tae-ha was neither compelling nor dangerous and missed the opportunity to utilize the potential of a great actor like Choi Moo-sung. 

My final thoughts are that while the season did not hold up to the high standard set by the first season, it had its charms. I liked the idea that the pursuit of justice is not necessarily accompanied by conspiracies and thrilling reveals, but lie in the little choices people make every day. Reform in judicial and policing systems is not a one-time change that will solve problems—but a culmination of people like Yeo-jin and Shi-mok doing their jobs well and making the right choices every single day, as Lee Chang-jun’s narration in the first and last episodes tells us.

Despite the frustration, this season has left me wanting more. I’m not sure if another season is on the cards yet, but I would like to continue to watch Shi-mok and Yeo-jin face new challenges and continue to be the best friends and partners ever. Most of all, I would love to see more of Shi-mok’s transformation into someone who jokes with people and smiles at his co-workers. I’m sad to see this amazing cast go and keeping my fingers crossed that we get to see them together again and again. 

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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]