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Lookout: Episodes 1-2

This is one sharpshooter you do not want to mess with. There’s plenty to look at in MBC’s Lookout, and the main draw is the complex characters, though there are some pretty impressive action sequences too. We’ve got one badass cop who struggles to balance motherhood with her demanding job and a smarmy prosecutor for whom nothing is off limits in the name of guaranteed success, not to mention an all-seeing hermit and a Catholic priest with lots of secrets. Seekers of justice come in all forms.

 
EPISODE 1 RECAP

Angry rap music underscores the opening scene as a black sedan zips erratically down the streets of Seoul. Inside the car, a woman frantically raps against the window for help, but her cries go unnoticed. She pleads with her husband behind the wheel to snap out of it, asking the whereabouts of their daughter, but he hits her and continues to speed ahead.

We pull out to reveal this scene playing out on one of many monitors being overseen by a small hooded figure. We don’t see her face — it’s SEO BOMI (Kim Seul-gi) — but she uses her joystick to zoom in on the action. She’s definitely watching them.

We return to the action, and we see JO SUJI (Lee Shi-young) on a motorcycle determinedly trailing the car. Elsewhere, a frizzy-haired kid whose face is obscured by all the windows open on his laptop — GONG KYUNG-SOO (Key) — hacks into the car and manages to pop open the hood, surprising the driver and sending the car into a tailspin and multiple collisions. A truck is about to ram into the car, but Suji ejects herself from her motorcycle so that it slides underneath the truck and stops it in its tracks.

The cops — LEE SOON-AE (Kim Sun-young), NAM BYUNG-JAE, and MA JIN-KI — hop out of their vehicles, as does prosecutor JANG DO-HAN (Kim Young-kwang). As soon as the crazy driver emerges from his car, Suji kicks him to the ground. He asks if she’s the cop from before. “Not anymore,” she replies, before punching him in the face.

A rapid-fire montage of prior events reveals that Suji’s daughter Yoo-na was murdered, and we see a devastated Suji shout that jerks like Do-han don’t deserve to be prosecutors. We end with Suji firing her gun at something (someone?) before being held back by her colleagues.

One evening, Do-han calls the crazy driver as he spies on him from a rooftop. With his voice manipulated to conceal his identity, Do-han warns that he’s watching his every move before he orders him to turn himself in.

May 3, 2016. Suji’s at home and still in bed while her alarm blares. Daughter Yoo-na shuts it off and plops on top of mom to smack a sticker (featuring Yoo-na’s face, heh) onto her forehead. She says her mom should wake up and go catch the bad guys. Suji finally gets up, only to whine that she was woken up too late.

Grandma sets the table with breakfast while Yoo-na picks out the beans from her rice because they’re yucky. Suji concurs and rushes out the door, brushing off Grandma’s remark that she’s got something stuck on her forehead. Yoo-na tells Grandma that it’s a sticker to reward mom for nabbing all the baddies. Gah, she’s too cute.

Suji arrives for work at the police station and brightly greets fellow officer Byung-jae, but he’s not tickled to see her. He says that women like her belong at home and get promotions for nothing. But female colleague Soon-ae defends Suji and reminds him that he lost a promotion for forcing out a confession the old-fashioned way. He walks off, insulted, and Suji finally removes the sticker from her forehead.

A man bumps into her as he enters the building, and it’s the crazy driver from earlier, KIM WOO-SUNG. Suji notices a bloodstain on his bag, and Woo-sung addresses the camera in the ceiling: “Look here. I’m here at the police station like you wanted. I’ll tell them what happened that day.”

He waves a knife around the cops, but Suji calmly reminds him to do what he came for: talk. He reveals that he killed someone with the knife in his hand. The cops apprehend him when he drops it, and Woo-sung turns to the surveillance camera again: “You’re seeing this, right?”

Suited up and looking positively smarmy, Do-han licks his lips while a multi-course gastronomic feast gets prepared right before his eyes. He asks the server for a photo and poses with his food — which is for Instagram, of course. He carefully resizes the photo and adds a bunch of cheesy inspirational hashtags.

Right before digging in, his phone rings. The caller ID reads, “My Gracious Chief” with a funny photo of his boss, Prosecutor OH KWANG-HO. Annoyed, Do-han holds his breath until he’s red and gasping before answering the call.

He fibs that he’s running to the office now, but is then instructed to go to the police station. He looks at the untouched food and sweetly asks the server if a refund is possible. Doubtful.

During his interrogation, Woo-sung asserts to Suji that he’s the one who stabbed and murdered the store owner in the 2004 Samil Supermarket case and that because the cops messed up, the wrong guy is doing time for it now. But Suji’s not buying it — why let someone else do time for twelve years and turn yourself in now? Woo-sung replies that he’s not doing this of his own volition; he’s being watched, and he pointedly gazes at the camera in the room.

Suji asks if there’s anyone else who knows of his crime, and he answers that his mother, older sister, and one friend are aware. Just then, Do-han barges in and advises Woo-sung to stop talking. Behind the window, Suji’s colleagues wonder who just entered.

Do-han flings Suji his ID, and she learns that he’s a prosecutor. Do-han correctly guesses that Suji isn’t dating and says that if someone were to ask her how many men she’s been with, she shouldn’t answer and let her past remain in the past. But Suji counters that people like the man doing time in Woo-sung’s stead can’t let their past be, since his life is at stake.

Do-han agrees, but adds that there are more lives at stake than his; the detective, prosecutor, and judge associated with the case will all lose their jobs, and he’ll be branded as the prosecutor who stirred up a hornet’s nest by reopening his boss’s old case. He simply can’t have that happen.

The animosity grows between the two, and Do-han warns Suji that the guy who interrupted his expensive feast is someone very high up. He adds that if she continues this investigation, the big cheeses won’t be very happy, so why not wrap this up quietly? But Suji’s adamant on doing her job, and a fed up Do-han leaves.

Prosecutor KIM EUN-JOONG (Kim Tae-hoon) takes a breather at the kickboxing gym but gets right back up and starts punching a bag when Suji arrives. He’s pleased she’s here to see him, but she just came to ask if he knew Do-han. He does and says that Do-han should be avoided; he passed the bar at a record young age, but his intelligence is also the source of his inferiority complex.

Cut to Do-han snootily pretending not to recognize his neighbor from when he lived in a mountain village. But as soon as he enters his car, his native accent comes out. Prosecutor Kim says that Do-han wants to hide the fact that he studied his way out of poverty, which is why he masquerades as a rich man; he’ll do anything if it guarantees success.

After flipping out at a dog that peed on his car, Do-han enters his noticeably drab home and researches Suji. Back at the gym, Suji finally remembers Do-han as the legendary rags to riches “shooting star,” and Prosecutor Kim warns her to be careful working with Do-han, since Senior Prosecutor Oh is behind him. Suji thanks him for the intel with coffee, but she passes on sharing it with him since she has to pick up Yoo-na.

Suji excitedly greets Yoo-na at school, where students from Sunyoung High are volunteering and helping little kids in art class. Yoo-na had been coloring with a male student, and she proudly announces to her class that her mom is a gun and handcuff-toting cop before excitedly telling her mom to show them.

Suji holds up her handcuffs, saying that she’s used these to book murderers, rapists, etc. It’s TMI for the young ears, so she stops and marvels at Yoo-na’s drawing and thanks the high school students for helping out.

Meanwhile, at a bar, Do-han takes a seat next to a woman after shooing the drunkard hitting on her away. He gives her his business card when the grateful woman asks for his name.

On a call with Soon-ae, Suji fills her in on what Prosector Kim told her regarding Do-han and Prosecutor Oh. Soon-ae says she has Woo-sung’s call records, but adds that a call from a burner phone can’t be traced; she’s just not convinced he’s being watched. Her teenage daughter comes home from school then, only to retreat to her room without a word.

Yoo-na emerges from her room and tells Suji that a ghost entered through her window. Suji assures her that she’ll catch it and carries her daughter back to bed.

May 4, 2016. Prosecutor Oh is approached by a reporter (the woman from the bar) who asks him if it’s true that he accused the wrong culprit of the 2004 murder case he oversaw as prosecutor. However, he manages to deflect her questions.

Do-han arrives outside Prosecutor Oh’s office and overhears him speaking furiously inside. He swiftly enters as soon as the ruckus dies down, but he almost gets nailed by a potted plant Prosecutor Oh flings at the wall behind him. “What did you do to cause this mess?” he asks Do-han.

Do-han answers that Suji couldn’t be swayed and that Woo-sung’s confession further complicated things. Prosecutor Oh reminds him that if he goes down, Do-han will too, but Do-han appears untroubled.

Prosecutor Oh wonders if he should speak to Chief Prosecutor YOON SEUNG-RO before things get worse, but Do-han says that Chief Prosecutor Yoon already has too much on his plate. Do-han offers to handle this matter on his own and asks Prosecutor Oh to help him win the chief prosecutor’s favor later.

At the police station, the grandmother of the man doing time for the 2004 murder begs Suji to read all the documents she’s collected over the years from the police office and prosecution. In the interrogation room, Woo-sung’s sister and mother deny that Woo-sung is a murderer, but fellow officer Jin-ki points out that Woo-sung already confessed that they they witnessed his bloody clothes after he murdered the shop owner. Though the mother suspiciously tries to speak for her daughter, they both maintain Woo-sung’s innocence.

From the other side of the window, Suji watches and says that they won’t admit the truth so easily, since they can be charged for helping Woo-sung hide the incriminating evidence. Soon-ae says all they need is the DNA from the murder weapon, but then Do-han enters with an envelope and informs them that the weapon can’t be tested.

Suji and Soon-ae are now back to square one. Do-han reminds them that they currently have no evidence or witnesses and urges them to stop the investigation. Suji points out that Do-han initially came to save Woo-sung and asks if he’s now trying to save his boss, Prosecutor Oh.

She tells him to start doing his job, and Do-han stomps his foot and shouts that he is — and he wants them to let Woo-sung go. Suji eyes him squarely, but the tension is broken up by Soon-ae’s unexpected cooperation; she tells Do-han they’ll wrap up the case by tomorrow, surprising Suji.

After Do-han leaves, Soon-ae reminds a riled-up Suji that all she has to do is find CHOI MYUNG-HOON, Woo-sung’s friend/last witness by tomorrow. Suji scoffs that this solution didn’t hit her sooner and resolves herself to finding him.

 
EPISODE 2 RECAP

Soon-ae and Suji are on a stakeout while parked outside a club. Suji begs Yoo-na for forgiveness via videochat for not spending time with her, but Yoo-na’s bummed that she forgot her promise. Suji insists she didn’t and says that Grandma will give Yoo-na her present, but that doesn’t cheer her up.

After she hangs up, Soon-ae comments that she has the same issues with her own daughter, but that Yoo-na will get over it sooner because she’s younger. At a cafe, Grandma surprises Yoo-na with sparkly blue slippers, but the kid is still glum and sighs that Mom doesn’t even know what promise she broke.

May 5, 2016. There’s a magic show at the welfare center, and Grandma and Yoo-na are sitting in the audience. While Grandma gets distracted by a trick, Yoo-na walks out unnoticed. On her way out, she runs into the student who helped her draw and asks him if he knows of a place closest to the sky.

Meanwhile, Suji and her crew bust a hotel room where Choi Myung-hoon’s been drinking and shooting up drugs. He jumps out the window to escape, and Suji follows suit. She chases him around tight alleyways and corners until there’s nowhere left for him to turn.

She yells that she’s not here to arrest him; she just wants to know if Woo-sung told him about a murder he committed in 2004, but Choi Myung-hoon tries to climb over a wall. Soon-ae arrives and finds Suji with her revolver aimed at him even though he’s unarmed. Suji: “I’ll just give him one later.” Heh.

Suji asks him where he’d like to be shot, and he dares her to shoot. He thinks she’s bluffing, but Soon-ae assures him that she’s being serious; after all, Suji represented Korea in the shooting category. Suji decides to aim for the legs since he made them run, and when Choi Myung-hoon remarks that the first round is blank, she rotates the cylinder to test his luck, ala Russian Roulette. Suji counts to three while Soon-ae blithely tells him that he won’t die, and finally spooked, he gets down from the wall and allows Suji to handcuff him.

Turns out that he fell for Suji’s shooting fable which always seems to work, but Soon-ae clarifies that if Suji didn’t fall for a guy while training, she’d be living off pensions and winning all the medals. While stuck in traffic, Suji gets a call from Grandma, who frets that she lost Yoo-na. Suji assures her that Yoo-na’s probably somewhere nearby and exits the car, since she’s already near the welfare center.

Suji follows the commotion and sees a bloodstained, sparkly blue slipper fall from a stretcher being ushered into an ambulance. She immediately recognizes it as Yoo-na’s and pushes past the crowd and into the back. To her horror, she finds Yoo-na injured and unconscious.

Grandma is inconsolable at the hospital and blames herself while Suji silently reels from all of this. A police officer informs them that it seems Yoo-na went up the rooftop by herself and fell, but Suji shouts that Yoo-na’s afraid of heights, so how do his preliminary findings make any sense?

Suji thinks back to the night of the stakeout. Soon-ae guessed that Suji was contemplating dropping detective work for an administrative role because of the guilt of missing out on all of Yoo-na’s birthdays, but Soon-ae had advised her not to quit, knowing that she’d end up returning since she did the same thing. Soon-ae reminded Suji that she made her a detective after seeing how happy she was after her first case and added that they weren’t born just to become moms — Suji should live her life how she wants to. Preach!

Back in the present, Suji suddenly receives an ominous text message: “Your daughter/not an accident.” Suji immediately calls the number and Bomi, the hooded figure from before, answers. Using a voice manipulator, Bomi says that there’s a security camera monitoring littering next to the building Yoo-na fell from. Suji demands to know the identity of the caller, but Bomi hangs up abruptly and sends her a video clip of Yoo-na accompanied by a male student.

After her surgery, Suji and Grandma find Yoo-na hooked up to several machines and bandaged all over, but conscious. She blinks and nods when Suji asks if something happened on the roof. When Suji shows her the video clip and asks if something happened between her and the student, Yoo-na’s breathing quickens. A flashback reveals the guy lifting Yoo-na onto the ledge, snatching her paper airplane, and shoving her off the building.

Horrified, Suji asks if the guy in the video pushed her, and Yoo-na nods in between distressed breaths. Suji vows to catch the guy who hurt her, vowing that this time, she’ll keep her promise.

Next, we finally see Bomi’s face illuminated by her array of monitors. She’s watching the tearful hospital scene with a neutral expression and turns to another screen where Kyung-soo informs her that the footage of Yoo-na with the student is all that he’s found.

They’ve done all they could, so Bomi tells him to quickly leave since a guard is approaching. He tries to exit without raising suspicion, but the guard stops him and remarks that no one reported a server failure. Kyung-soo tries to play it cool, but a group of guards chase him, and he hightails it out of there on his skateboard.

Kyung-soo enters a confessional at a church and sticks a note underneath the counter. He doesn’t stay to repent for his sins — he’s got too many — but he lights a marked candle once he’s outside. Moments later, a Catholic priest glances at the candle and takes the note Kyung-soo left behind.

It reads: “Mission — cleared! But next time, let’s not take on such dangerous missions.” The priest looks up from the note with a tiny smile on his face.

That evening, Suji enters Prosecutor Kim’s office and asks for a warrant to search all the schools in the vicinity, since she has video footage of a male student accompanying Yoo-na.

But Prosecutor Kim says that the video and Yoo-na’s testimony aren’t enough for a warrant — hard evidence is needed since there were no assault wounds on Yoo-na’s body. Suji asks for a favor, not as a detective, but as a mom whom Yoo-na was proud of for being a detective. “She trembled in fear when she saw this boy’s face. She lay there with every bone in her body broken, barely able to breathe, but she clearly said he’s the culprit. Please help me be a mom,” Suji pleads, her hands clasped.

But Prosecutor Kim is steadfast in not granting her a warrant. As she’s about to leave, he speaks up: “That was everything I can say as a prosecutor. Now this is me speaking as a colleague who’s caught bad guys with you. Let’s catch that jerk.” Yes!

Cut to Suji and her crew (plus Prosecutor Kim) passing out flyers to students and asking if they’ve seen the guy in the photo.

May 9, 2016. They’re still passing out flyers, this time at a different school. Suji’s eyes land on a particular student, but when she turns him around to face her, he’s not the one. The student that was with Yoo-na walks right past her, and we see the same sticker Yoo-na stuck on Suji’s forehead affixed to his backpack.

Suji catches sight of the sticker and immediately turns around. Cut to Do-han barging into Prosecutor Oh’s meeting, whispering that he’s brought the solution.

Back to Suji. She runs up and grabs the student whose backpack has Yoo-na’s sticker on it. Facing him, she says, “It’s you. You took my Yoo-na to the roof.”

We hear Do-han narrate that the son of Chief Prosecutor Yoon Seung-ro (Choi Moo-sung) got into trouble in a stroke of perfect timing. Prosecutor Oh enters Chief Yoon’s office while Do-han stands right outside. Moments before, Do-han had told Prosecutor Oh that Chief Yoon can’t resolve his son’s troubles, but that they can without raising suspicion. Plus, he adds, Prosecutor Oh doesn’t have the power to let go of Woo-sung, but Chief Yoon does. Give and take.

As Chief Yoon takes a seat for his meeting with Prosecutor Oh, Do-han bows deeply from the waist and slowly rises as the door to the office closes.

A quick flashback montage reveals that Do-han had orchestrated everything, and it all began with a phone call ordering Woo-sung to confess. He says to himself, “I’ll come by again, Chief Prosecutor Yoon Seong-ro.”

 
COMMENTS

Not a bad way to start at all. There’s a lot I like so far, and my curiosity is definitely piqued for the characters that have been featured. I immediately sympathize with Suji, and I’m rooting for her to nab the monster that hurt adorable little Yoo-na. Mere seconds in, I knew exactly the kind of guy Do-han is with his cheshire grin and superficial ways, and although he’s the type to elicit the sudden urge to throw a punch, there is something interesting about his inferiority complex despite the success he’s achieved. It’s not so easy to fake things even when you’ve technically made it.

The characters whose backstories we aren’t familiar with yet are the ones I’m dying to learn more about, especially Big Brother, er, Big Sister(?) Bomi, the tiny hermit with all the screens. I can’t wait to see Kim Seul-gi in what appears to be a darker role than her usual fare. Does Bomi suffer from agoraphobia? When was the last time she saw the sun? Who and/or what made her this way?

I think that’s the million dollar question for this series. What is the inciting incident that unites these seemingly disparate characters? We have a Catholic priest (welcome back, Shin Dong-wook!), a prosecutor, a hacker, a badass cop, and a recluse surveillance expert. If it’s loss or injustice that fuels their fire, in what form did they experience it? So far, we really only know what caused Suji to turn vigilante, and we’re still piecing that together.

There’s something that feels quite timely about Lookout. Given the uncertain times we live in, a tale of a motley crew of underdogs taking matters into their own hands because the system has failed them in one way or another isn’t a narrative that seems so out of place these days. They’re resisting the status quo and seeking the justice they deserve. I’m vaguely reminded of Anonymous, the loose collective of hackers that sometimes take on vigilante-type activities to make a political statement.

There’s some cool editing that I want to highlight. I like that we get visuals from the POV of the mobile device so we see not only the face of the user, but also what he/she is doing on the screen (i.e. the video chat screens, photo resizing and hashtagging on Instagram, desktop screens). And it’s clear from the get-go that this director sure knows how to film action, as evidenced by that opening car chase featuring fluid camera movements and transitions, in addition to the execution of Suji jumping out of a window like it’s no big deal (in what appears to be one long continuous shot) and chasing down the baddie.

As for the multiple chyrons to differentiate between the days, they were only slightly jarring and totally necessary, since Suji seems to wear the same outfit everyday. Anyway, with a pilot full of promise and chock-full of compelling characters, I’d say there’s sufficient reason to stay tuned!

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