The second season of Stranger began with the suspicious Tongyeong drowning case and the introduction of the conflict between the prosecutors and the police. This conflict is the central theme of this season and will result in much of the tug-of-war. The second episode introduces another new key player in this game and also brings back a very familiar face from last season. Si-mok’s involvement with the drowning case leads him to an interesting new opportunity where he might clash with Yeo-jin. The question is: will we see Yeo-jin and Si-mok on two different teams this time? Will they be forced to choose loyalty to their profession over their duty?
Si-mok (Cho Seung-woo) and Yeo-jin (Bae Doo-na) are still digging through the Tongyeong drowning case. Si-mok traces the steps of the victims on the day they drowned, hoping to find witnesses, but does not get much success. He also tries to get in touch with the retired judge-turned-lawyer who got the case closed. It’s obvious that both Si-mok and Yeo-jin think that something is very suspicious about the case—especially with how it got closed in a day when the process usually takes months.
Si-mok files a complaint raising objection over early closure, which Chief Choi (Jeon Hye-jin) uses to further push the case for her personal vendetta. She skillfully diverts media attention to the special treatment angle, points out the hastiness of the investigation, and uses it to argue in favor of the police’s investigative authority. It’s a foolproof strategy because it achieves two goals for her: one, prosecution gets maligned; and two, they have no choice but to accept her proposal of forming a combined police-prosecution council to fast-track reforms. Well played, Chief Choi.
Si-mok’s decision to file a complaint leads to interesting consequences—his impending transfer gets suspended, and he is called to Seoul to join the Criminal Legislation Division, the reformation unit on the prosecutors’ side. It is headed by another key character, Assistant Chief Woo Tae-ha (Choi Moo-sung). My initial impression of Woo—shrewd, but not in the cool, calculated way we usually expect of prosecutors. He seems like an unpredictable character capable of springing surprises. He asks Si-mok to join his team, despite some prosecutors being against his appointment.
The combined police-prosecution council for legislative reforms comes closer to formation. With it, a turf war begins between the two sides to retain their respective authorities. While Choi Bit seeks to remove the police from under the prosecution’s authority and expand it, Woo Tae-ha is intent on preserving the prosecutors’ territory and ignoring the police. Choi and Woo seem to have a personal rivalry going on, with Choi personally calling him after she thwarts the prosecution’s attempts to arrest the Director of Intelligence Bureau Kim Myeong-han for leaking case-related information.
The case of Intelligence Bureau Director Kim Myeong-han is pinging on my suspicion radar. The rank holds immense power—only one person in the Blue House can open files submitted by him, which means that if he knows a secret someone doesn’t want out, all they’d have to do is get him arrested. Now the question is, which side is keen on him being out of the picture: the prosecution under Woo, who are targeting him a bit too zealously for a minor offence, or the police under Choi, who launched an internal investigation on him so that the other side doesn’t get their hands on him. Or is it both?
This episode brings back three key characters from the last season who all have good reasons to use Si-mok for their own games. The first is Chief Prosecutor Kang Won-chul (Park Sung-geun), who is revealed to have been against Si-mok’s appointment to Seoul and defends his decision to close the Tongyeong case without investigation. Kang is also keen on taking down the Hanjo Group. Second, is our resident grey character Seo Dong-jae (Lee Joon-hyuk), who is still up to his old tricks and approaches Woo Tae-ha with dirt on Chief Choi to use against her and the police, for reasons that I’m sure will become clear later. And finally, we have Lee Yeon-jae (Yoon Se-ah), who is overwhelmed with her new duties as the chairwoman of Hanjo group and is at the center of investigations into her husband’s death.
The reformation units face a setback when it is announced that members of the two teams cannot become part of the prosecutor-police council on reforms. Chief Choi Bit and Han Yeo-jin find a way to join the council based on their other titles, as do Woo Tae-ha and Hwang Si-mok. They take the smartest strategies to choose other council members who will benefit them. As serious as this whole process is, I think we might see fun banter between these two pairs on both sides.
With the police-prosecution reform council formed, right now, it is Choi Bit and Woo Tae-ha who hold the most sway over future events. The fact that both of them seem suspicious as well as incredibly shrewd is making things very interesting. On the surface, their goals appear to differ, but I wonder if it is possible that the two might be working together. Cases in point: Woo asking Seo Dong-jae to keep Chief Choi out of his investigations and focus on the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, and Chief Choi not being able to come up with a reason why someone would target the same director.
It is increasingly looking like Yeo-jin and Si-mok are going to be on opposing sides. Will they still be able to investigate cases together? I don’t think there is going to be an issue because we saw in the last season that where their professions are at loggerheads, these two find a common ground in their pursuit of justice. With the return of Dong-jae and Yeon-jae, the obstacles in our leads’ path have just doubled. But Si-mok and Yeo-jin have never let obstacles stop them before, and I don’t see that changing in the future.
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