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Criminal Minds: Episode 2

The cast alone is enough to recommend Criminal Minds, and I’m not disappointed. It’s a bit surprising that Moon Chae-won and Lee Jun-ki haven’t been paired until now, because their chemistry is so natural, it feels like they’ve done it before. And as we hurtle through the case this hour, you realize how refreshing it can be to just do things the old-fashioned way: with brains and heart, and a whole host of mind games.

 

EPISODE 2 RECAP

Profiling team leader Ki-hyung speculates on his suspect PARK JAE-MIN’s time in juvie, guessing from his slightness that he must have had a protector. He suggests a name: Ma Hyun-tae. Smirking, Jae-min tells him that in juvie one time, a kid tried to kill himself by slitting his wrist with a sharpened toothbrush.

He says that Ma Hyun-tae was the room leader, and he (Jae-min) was the second-in-command. They took the kid to the boiler room where they strung him from the ceiling and Ma told Jae-min to teach the kid a lesson with a steel pipe. “I just did as Ma Hyun-tae told me,” Jae-min says, “because the room leader’s word is law.” Ki-hyung asks if that means he was just a lackey, but Jae-min only offers another crafty smile.

Elsewhere, that same Ma Hyun-tae watches the news on the serial murders. Lying on the desk in front of him, we see his passport and an airport brochure. He calls the police to make a report, but freezes as a shadow stops menacingly at his door. Before he can make his report, he’s struck down.

Sun-woo arrives and finds Ma Hyun-tae dead with a knife embedded in his neck. She rushes out the back, gun in hand, but is immediately struck by the silver SUV. She bounces off it and lands hard on the ground, her gun sliding away.

The culprit gets out of the car, and picking up the gun, he aims it at her. But the sound of another siren sends him fleeing. It’s Hyun-joon, and he rushes over to Sun-woo in concern. Grimacing in pain from a shard sticking in her shoulder, she tells him to follow the culprit, and then unexpectedly joins him when he returns to his car.

Sun-woo calls in the murder to Ki-hyung, who tells Jae-min. Noting his lack of upset, Ki-hyung asks him who the murderer is. Jae-min flashes him a cynical grin and reminds him, “I told you this is just the start.”

Sirens blaring, Hyun-joon pursues the silver SUV, scattering pedestrians in their path and even two-wheeling through a particularly narrow street. Another car clips the SUV at an intersection, and is sent spinning into the path of a woman with a baby. Taking it in in a flash, Hyun-joon blocks the out-of-control vehicle with his own, saving the woman and her baby. But they’ve lost their culprit, and Hyun-joon punches the wheel in frustration.

Teammates Han and Min-young have also heard the news of Ma Hyun-tae’s murder and are still trying to work out Jae-min’s computer password (which will only give them five tries). Han bounds to his feet, thinking he’s figured out, but his guess is wrong. Two tries are left.

Hyun-joon watches Sun-woo trying—and failing—to pull the shard from her shoulder. She brushes off his concern, but he asks her to hold still. He gently cleans around the wound, and she braces as he pulls it out.

They return together to the murder scene. Sun-woo notes that there’s no sign that Ma Hyun-tae put up any resistance, and looking at his terror-stricken face, she thinks he was paralysed by fear. Ki-hyung arrives in time to suggest the possibility of psychological trauma. Hyun-joon clenches his jaw at Ki-hyung’s arrival, and then walks out altogether.

Ki-hyung speculates on Ma Hyun-tae’s last actions and agrees that the man appeared to be fleeing. He tells Sun-woo to start her investigation at the juvenile detention facility where Jae-min and Ma Hyun-tae were held, and to look there for the third person: “The true culprit, who used Park Jae-min to murder women, and went as far as to kill Ma Hyun-tae to silence him.”

It’s daylight by now, and Sun-woo takes over the wheel from Hyun-joon. Staring dully ahead, he brings up her earlier question about how he knows victim Na-young, and tells her that she’s the younger sister of his hoobae, the operative who was killed in the hospital bombing a year ago.

She looks at him in compassion, and turning back to the road, tells him that she used to be in the police, too. But hired to fill the female quota, she was never allowed in the field and just made coffee for two years straight. It made her more determined to succeed, and that determination brought her this far, she tells him.

“Na-young is alive,” she says firmly, “We can save her.” Hyun-joon says nothing, but something lightens in him and his lips quirk up the tiniest bit.

Min-young pets Jae-min’s cat, while Han rattles off stuff about her increased risk of death due to exposure to felines. He leaps back when the fluffball gets too close, and his hand lands on the keyboard… uh-oh, just one try left now! Staring at the cat, he’s struck by a brainwave: To a single man whose father abandoned him, Jae-min’s cat must be like his child.

He finds the name “Filius” (Latin for “son”) on the cat’s collar and keys it in. It works, connecting them to a live video feed of Na-young, blindfolded and bloody in the cage.

Min-young reports it, but Han frantically calls her back and shows her the countdown at the top of the screen: There are eight hours left on the clock.

Back at the interrogation room, Ki-hyung brings up Jae-min’s juvie story and calls it out as untrue, which finally wipes the smirk from Jae-min’s face. Leaning in, Ki-hyung says that he thinks that Jae-min was the kid who tried to kill himself. Seizing his hands, he pushes up a sleeve to reveal a telltale scar on the young man’s wrist. He suggests Jae-min start talking.

At the detention center, the director recalls Jae-min as a timid boy who was bullied, and reluctantly reveals an incident where a boy was found dead in the boiler room. Jae-min and Ma Hyun-tae were thought to be witnesses, but neither boy ever revealed anything, and the incident was hushed up, he says.

Jae-min recounts to Ki-hyung how he was strung up by the heels while the room leader and his second beat him beyond feeling. When they finally let him down, he thought it was over. “But… I was wrong,” he says, trembling. Ma Hyun-tae pulled down his trousers… Oh no, no, no.

Reliving the memory, Jae-min breaks down but Ki-hyung implacably tells him to continue. Someone came down then, Jae-min whispers. The man came up to him and offered to kill one of them for him. Battered and traumatized, Jae-min promised to do anything for him if he did, and picked Ma Hyun-tae first. But when Ma begged and pleaded for his life, he pointed at the other boy.

The man then killed the boy viciously with a pencil to the neck. Covered in the other boy’s gore, Jae-min had grimaced with savage satisfaction. Ki-hyung asks who that man was, but Jae-min can’t say it. But it’s okay even if he doesn’t, Ki-hyung says, because he’s already figured it out.

Ki-hyung tells Sun-woo to look for their culprit among the facility guards, since it has to be someone who knew the kids and had power over them. Nana sends them a list of the possible suspects, but none of them fit.

Stymied, Sun-woo and Hyun-joon leave the facility. They observe someone else going in and find out he’s a probation officer, and all the pieces fit together—probation officers have the same authority as guards, they realize.

“Someone connected to both Park Jae-min and Ma Hyun-tae, and who has OCD…” Sun-woo says, recalling the obsessive precision of Jae-min’s former probation officer: “Ahn Sang-chul.”

Elsewhere, a kid admits to his probation officer, Ahn Sang-chul, that he has thoughts of stabbing women, and anytime he gets the urge, he sets a fire instead. He pleads for help, and a sharkish grin spreads over Ahn’s face. Lowering his voice, Ahn says he ought to just kill the women.

“How about it? Shall I help you?” he asks the kid. Going to the window, Ahn sees the detectives in their car outside.

Tired of waiting, Hyun-joon wants to go in, but Sun-woo warns him not to be hasty since they have yet to locate Na-young. But when there’s no news on that front either, Hyun-joon decides to capture Ahn now. Just then, Ahn emerges and they follow his car.

After a bit, Hyun-joon notices his strangely conscientious driving, despite the absolutely empty roads. “Does that seem to you like someone on the way to commit murder?” he asks Sun-woo. She argues that his obsessive compulsiveness could make him a fastidious driver, but Hyun-joon points out that he passed a stop line.

Turning on their police sirens, they pull his car over, but the person Hyun-joon drags out… is the kid, dressed up in Ahn’s suit jacket. Ahn himself, meanwhile, makes a getaway in a different car. With Sun-woo’s gun in one hand, he hollers along with the music, exhilarated.

In her cage, Na-young uses the ridged bars to saw at her ropes, and they finally give. Han and Nana scrutinize the video footage to try to find out where she’s being held. They notice the rhythmic bobbing of the light fixture and are able to ascertain that she’s on water somewhere.

They report to Ki-hyung at HQ that she must be on a boat docked somewhere on the Han River, which is the only body of water they’d be able to transmit live video from, but they could only narrow the possibilities down to three locations. With only an hour left on the clock, Ki-hyung determines that they’ve got to make Jae-min talk no matter what.

Ki-hyung mobilizes everyone to make it look to Jae-min as if everything is focused on him, and orders the temperature lowered to impair his thinking. The team file into the interrogation room with several large boxes marked “Ahn Sang-chul” (but filled with miscellaneous papers) which Ki-hyung tells Jae-min is all his data on Ahn’s serial murder-spree.

Ki-hyung tells him that they’ve arrested Ahn, and that he’s already laying all the blame on Jae-min. Jae-min refuses to believe him, but Ki-hyung harshly points out that Ahn is just using him, even though Jae-min thinks of him as family.

Laying down a photo of child-Jae-min with his parents, which he found in his late father’s wallet, Ki-hyung says that this is his real family. He urges Jae-min to let them save Na-young so she can return to her own family. Clutching his photo, Jae-min weeps brokenly.

Freeing herself from her blindfold, Na-young finds the keys just out of reach of her cage. She throws herself against the bars and manages to dislodge the entire cage, landing close enough to grab the keys and free herself.

Watching from the control room, Nana breathes in relief, but cries out when Na-young is jerked off-camera by the chain around her neck. Hyun-joon and Sun-woo arrive to find nothing but an empty cage. Ki-hyung meets them there, and orders Sun-woo to stay behind because of her injury. The rest of them spread out to search.

On land, Ahn jerks Na-young along by the chain through woodland. She resists (yes, thank you!) and Ahn gets anxious about not making his kill-time. He drags her up a hill, but spotting a broken bottle, she feigns collapse. Coming down, he clucks soothingly at her like an animal, and she brings the broken glass down on his leg.

In cold anger, he smacks her hard and she tumbles downhill. She flees to a derelict building, but he recaptures her.

Guns aloft, Hyun-joon and Ki-hyung come face-to-face in the woods. With ten minutes left on the clock, Ki-hyung says that Ahn is the type who would risk his own life to carry out his kill. “Like the bomber that time?” Hyun-joon asks. But Ki-hyung is adamant that they can stop him.

He receives Nana’s report of an abandoned young offenders’ facility nearby, and tells Hyun-joon that Ahn used to work there on weekends, but it got shut down after an arson incident. He thinks something definitely happened to him there.

Ahn brings Na-young to what looks like a basement, all set up with murderous creature comforts, and tells her to wait just a bit longer until the clock strikes ten—the time that they first met. (Well thanks for ruining this for me, show!)

Hyun-joon and Ki-hyung make their stealthy way into the building, arriving at the murder cage in time to see Ahn jerk Na-young upright by her neck-chain. Gun raised, Ki-hyung shouts out at him to stop, taking Ahn by surprise. Ahn points his own gun at Na-young, but Ki-hyung asks if he even knows how to use it, psyching him out by mocking him for not even being able to use his man-bits.

Hidden out of Ahn’s sight, Hyun-joon steadies his aim. Ki-hyung continues needling Ahn about his impotence and being rejected by girls, until Ahn finally loses it and shoots him, catching him in the arm. He’s immediately shot by Hyun-joon and collapses.

Kicking the gun away from Ahn, Hyun-joon apprehends him, and then unchains Na-young. She screams at first, thinking she’s being attacked, but he cuts through her panic by telling her, “It’s oppa! Oppa!” He holds her as she sobs into his chest.

Holding his injured arm, Ki-hyung leaves quietly, and in voiceover, he narrates a quote from Joseph Conrad: “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”

Case closed, Min-young gives the NCI’s press conference on Ahn’s capture the next day, while Nana, Han and Sun-woo look on. Nana admires her handiwork with Min-young’s makeup, and gives Han a dirty look when he remarks that she overdoes her own. Sun-woo grins when he goes off on another academic tangent, calling it “the Lee Han effect.” The ladies leave him behind as go off to eat, and he belatedly runs to catch up.

Sun-woo meets with Chief Director Baek about recruiting new field agents and passes along Ki-hyung’s recommendation—for Hyun-joon. According to his file, he graduated at the top of his profiling class. Interesting. Chief Director Baek thinks so, too.

Sun-woo goes to see Hyun-joon at his police station. She gives him an NCI application along with Ki-hyung’s letter of recommendation and invites him to join the NCI. She asks about his profiler past and he repeats that he has no interest in that. Considering him for a moment, she says that just as she misunderstood him, it’s possible he has a misunderstanding about what happened a year ago. She leaves him to think about the invitation.

Hyun-joon visits his hoobae Sang-hyun’s grave. “Sang-hyun-ah, I came here to tell you something,” he thinks. “I’ve been blaming the NCI for doing this to you, but now I don’t know what I should do.”

Sang-hyun has one more visitor: the superior who overrode Ki-hyung to give the fatal “pass” order. They walk together, and Hyun-joon asks the older man who gave the final order that day. With a deep sigh, the superior admits it was him.

That night, Hyun-joon ponders the application. There’s another case file open on his desk, and he picks up a photo of a boy with a girl. A flashback shows the girl being found dead on a riverbank, and the boy gazing stricken from the other side, as the girl’s mother sobbed over her. Him and… who? Dated 2003, the case file is titled, “Nadeul River Teenage Girl Murder Investigation Report.”

Taking out the application form, he begins to fill it out. We see the wall behind him full of cuttings, notes and arrows, all radiating out from a single picture of the same girl.

At NCI headquarters, Sun-woo peruses the same file. Ki-hyung finds her alone in the office, and asks if she still has the same nightmare. Picking a photo from his notebook, he hands it to her, reminding her of her first case.

He says he has nightmares of the monsters they meet, too, and when he does, he looks at the children they saved. Though they can’t save everyone, “We do enough to hold off the nightmares.” She thinks back to the little girl she saved, and he tells her that if she does that, she’ll find that she can sleep at night.

The next morning, Hyun-joon reports for work at the NCI offices and leaves a trail of female distraction behind him. Nana seriously has no time for Han’s (un)helpful debunking of pheromone myths, and the look she gives him clearly says, “Silence, dork, or I will hurt you with your own brain.”

Min-young gives Chief Director Baek a report by phone on her way to the office, when her train stops unexpectedly. A train attendant and someone who appears to be a plainclothes detective come through, and, noting that Min-young is NCI, he confidentially tells her they’re searching for a murderer’s accomplice who they think is on this train.

But before the detective gets much further, one of the passengers attacks him. Wrestling the gun from him, the man shoots the detective dead. When the attendant rushes at him, he shoots him, too.

Sun-woo takes Hyun-joon to Chief Director Baek, who says they can have introductions later: Right now, they’ve got a case. Ki-hyung holds a meeting for a case of passengers being held hostage on a train. They watch the available security footage, and eyes widening, Ki-hyung stops the video. They all stare in growing shock at the image of the shooter looming threateningly over Min-young.

 
COMMENTS

I’m coming into this show without any foreknowledge of the American original, and I have a largely positive feeling. While there are noticeable technical weaknesses, I find them easy to overlook thanks to the ability and chemistry of the central cast, which even in such a short time, has a comfortable magnetism that makes them easy to root for. There’s a particular fun in ensemble dramas, and though I’ve seen some criticism of some of the character interpretations (or rather, an actor’s ability to interpret the original character), I’m happier insulating myself from any exposure to the original because I’m much more interested in watching them make the show their own.

I’m not sure yet whether the remake aspect will be a bad thing or a good thing, but I can see how comparisons will be at the forefront of your mind if you’re a fan of the source material. If the show were less well-known or loved, it would be a much lesser burden on the remake, and I hope—if only for Lee Jun-ki’s sake, considering his last drama—that the producers don’t make a ham of things. That said, with a lesser cast, the burden on the source material to carry it is far bigger, but I think it can be offset somewhat with actors of established charisma. With the likes of Sohn Hyun-joo, Lee Jun-ki, and Moon Chae-won centering the show, I’m much more interested in seeing how they own the characters.

I find it really interesting that our central trio are all outwardly stoic in a way that borders on outright harsh, but it’s a thin exterior that clothes a compassionate core. It disobeys the law of fiction that characters must exist in opposites: If one is harsh, the other must be gentle; if one is cerebral, the other must be intuitive, and so on. Moreover, all three are profilers (of varying levels), so there’s much more connecting them than separating, and that makes a surprisingly unusual dynamic.

I think Ki-hyung has shown the most complicated personality so far, and I rather enjoy his sheer implacability. Though we don’t know what he was like before, it feels like his year away burned off any niceties in his personality, leaving only hard-edged necessity. His priority is to get the job done with maximum efficiency and minimal excess, and if that means he has to use underhanded methods on the bad guys, he will. He’s not cold, he’s unyielding, and that’s an interesting difference. I thought at first that he was immersed in a pickle of regret and guilt for the year away, but his words to Sun-woo at the end—that they do enough to ward off their nightmares—suggest that he’s not necessarily unable to forgive himself. Rather than guilt, it seems that it’s a loss of confidence in his ability as a profiler that kept him from coming back.

I’m glad that we’ve got some solid writing on this show, even though the opening case was fairly straightforward. I did guess the probation officer was the culprit the second he appeared, but I’m happy to let it pass since this is only the first case and I’m sure the complexity will increase in the weeks to come. Despite giving me momentary flashbacks to Strong Woman Do Bong-soon with the women in cages, it wasn’t dragged out, and the pacing of the episode, and case as a whole, worked. I admit I found it unexpectedly violent, and I subscribe to the less-is-more school of thought when it comes to graphic depictions. For example, the moment I found really horrific this episode was Jae-min revealing his rape; he didn’t need to say it—the suggestion was bad enough, and it was much, much worse finishing that thought off by myself.

I had a lot of fun in the first episode when I realized there was something of a traditional (in-drama) gender-role reversal between Sun-woo and Hyun-joon: She was gruff and exacting, he was fierce and prickly, and it was pretty hilarious. (Because when you’re watching Lee Jun-ki and the word “spunky” comes to mind, that takes you by surprise!) I can’t say I don’t like their current trajectory, which at the very least promises a lot of time working together. It’s evident that both Hyun-joon and Sun-woo have some connection to the teenage girl’s murder, coupled with a lot of unresolved pain, and watching that unfold over the course of the show should definitely be worth it.

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