Park Man-Geun remains scary even once we know who he is.
I wasn’t sure if the writer could reveal Park Man Geun’s identity without ruining his mystique. But finding out that the villain has been easy-going Prosecutor Choi all along gives him a new mystique.
As some viewers have observed, Choi seemed the obvious candidate. He has been involved in the entire story, from the edges. He attended the Awkward Dinner Party many episodes ago, and we weren’t sure why.
But I had hoped he wasn’t on the dark side. Choi was Dong-Chi’s hyung, the guy at headquarters he looked up to. The guy he has turned to for advice throughout this series. Choi’s secret identity isn’t a total shock to us as viewers, because we expect betrayal at this point. But we can understand how shocked Koo Dong-Chi feels.
Even Chief Moon is taken off guard. Moon and Koo both remember conversations with Choi where he hoodwinked them completely, and where they gave away more than they learned. Chief Moon has less to regret than Koo. In so many of his conversations he refuses to say anything. But even he ended up telling Choi more than he probably should have. For instance, just after Moon’s conversation with Choi, Director Lee took the fall for Han Byul’s death, temporarily derailing the investigation.
The writing and editing keep the story strands held together relatively well in episode 20. The opening sequence cross-cuts back and forth between Kang Soo receiving Park Man-Geun’s photo from Jung Chang-Gi, and the office where Song Ah-Reum points out Park Man-Geun’s image to Dong-Chi and Yeol-Moo. Though we may have already suspected Choi could be Park Man-Geun, the scene conveys the shock of betrayal the main characters feel. Dong-Chi becomes physically ill at the news.
Song Ah-Reum is in bad shape, too. Recall that in recent weeks she was sexually assaulted, her boyfriend was murdered, she discovered said late boyfriend was once a well-known serial killer, she herself poisoned a man, turned herself into the police, went into hiding, was nearly murdered, and is now on the run from people who want to kill her. I wouldn’t look so good either. The fact that she looks genuinely freaked out is a counterweight to the stoicism of the main characters.
Park Man-Geun was the invisible bogeyman of recent episodes. His secret identity was part of his power, so does knowing his identity change anything?
If anything, knowing his identity makes everyone more conscious of the danger they’re in. They’re less confident now. Having a standard-issue “bad guy” to pin blame on would allow them to carry on and dispense justice. Having a bad guy in their midst means he’s been manipulating them all along.
Dong-Chi recalls the affable Prosecutor Choi told him some of the best rumors about Park Man-Geun: that he’s the secret son of the President of Korea, that he controls the Blue House, that he’s so rich he has all the large bills in the country in his safe. It’s ironic that Park Man-Geun is actually a junior prosecutor.
But what better way to use the law? Choi has been choosing his cases for years to influence people and hurt his enemies. And as a junior, he can do that without anyone above noticing. As mystery man, the higher-ups fear him and follow his orders, but as junior, he can get things done that the mystery man can’t.
Chief Moon is particularly irked that Choi is a junior prosecutor with less rank than himself. For him, that’s the final insult from Park Man-Geun. But Moon recognizes the genius of the strategy. Even the canny Moon completely overlooked Choi’s existence. Even though he worked with Choi in 1999, he forgot all about him.
“Among all the bad people, do you know who’s scariest of all?” Moon says to Dong-Chi. “It’s the bad person who’s so discreet that no one notices. The bad person who’s sincere.” Choi is like Keyser Söze in “The Usual Suspects,” the villain in plain sight, who appears like a well-meaning guy. The more frightening his reputation grows, the less likely you are to actually identify him. Because the scariest things don’t necessarily look scary.
As all this unfolds at the office, Kang Soo and Jung Chang-Gi are wheeled into the hospital, injured in the hit-and-run assassination attempt. Jung Chang-Gi is taken straight to surgery. Kang Soo is injured but will recover. During the trauma of the accident, a few of his 1999 memories came back. As the episode goes on, he continues to recall bits and pieces from that day at the factory.
One of the first things he remembers is Chief Moon closing the car trunk as Kang Soo lay inside it. Dong-Chi asks Moon about this memory and Moon explains. (Actually explains something! This is how annoyed he is about Prosecutor Choi.) He believed Lee had ordered the boy kidnapped, and just as he was taking Kang Soo from the trunk, he heard Lee and Oh coming. He quickly returned the boy and stalled for time with Lee and Oh while the kidnapper drove away.
Moon thought he’d given the kidnapper a chance to get away and save the boy, but in fact Prosecutor Choi was watching everything. Choi followed the kidnapper and threatened to kill him if he didn’t carry out orders. (He pulled off this threat very efficiently, talking on a cell phone with his back turned to the kidnapper so he couldn’t be clearly identified. This series could be an online self-study course on Threatening 101.)
Now that Moon knows Choi is Park Man Geun, he seems closer to joining Dong-Chi’s side. He asks Yoo to do some research on Prosecutor Choi’s cases. But it’s the first time in the series we’ve seen Moon really rattled. He pulls over his car as he’s driving home and checks for someone tailing him. His hands are shaking as he talks to Inspector Yoo.
In the hospital, where Kang Soo is confined the entire episode, the young man sits at Jung Chang-Gi’s bedside. He says that he’s trying not to hate Mr. Jung. He begs him to wake up.
Dong-Chi starts to piece together the new version of events from 1999, and with the help of flashback footage, the story starts to look relatively simple (or relatively less impossibly complicated?). He sits down with Yeol-Moo, Yoo Gwang-Mi and Prosecutor Lee, but Lee has a moment of intelligence.
I heard no one knows Park Man Geun’s identity, Lee says. After some worried thought, Lee bows out of the investigation. And he asks Yoo Gwang-Mi to come with him.
To his surprise, Dong-Chi doesn’t pressure him to stay. In fact, when Gwang-Mi says she wants to help, Dong-Chi tells her to talk it over with Lee first. Given how much Dong-Chi is putting on the line—he’s concerned for Yeol-Moo’s safety as well as his own—it’s impressive he doesn’t belittle Lee for his cowardice. At one point, I thought this series would culminate with everyone coming together as a team, but Lee remains true to his self-interest to the end. He’s not a particularly bad guy, just not a particularly good one either.
On their own, Dong-Chi and Yeol-Moo carry forward with the investigation. They still don’t have any conclusive evidence that Park Man-Geun killed Han Byul or ordered the killing.
The tie-pin, however, leads Dong-Chi back to Moon. Remember when Moon told Dong-Chi that someone who saw the murder had been holding onto the tie pin found on the scene in 1999? It was infuriating that Moon wouldn’t say more. Dong-Chi questions him now, suspecting that perhaps Moon wasn’t trying to protect himself, but Dong-Chi. Was Dong-Chi’s father the one who had the tie pin all these years? Did he keep it because he thought Dong-Chi murdered Baek Gum, or because he murdered Baek Gum?
But before we can confront Dong-Chi’s father, Prosecutor Choi, a.k.a. Park Man-Geun, pays a visit. He acts as affable as always, but it’s frightening when he tells Chief Moon, “You know how it is when I’m angry.” Choi questions whether Moon really intends to support Dong-Chi and defy Hwa Young. Moon, ever the drama queen, says no. As Dong-Chi looks stricken, Moon expands and says, “No, I’ve always supported him.” Aw, was that really a heart-warming moment from Chief Moon?