“Pride and Prejudice” episode 13 yields a few of the gut-wrenching emotional moments we’ve been dreading.
As Koo Dong-Chi spends his last night on the job putting together the puzzle pieces, he finally knows as much as we do: Moon Hee-Man and Jang Chang-Gi were at the hit-and-run accident that killed Kang Soo’s mother. Kang Soo was kidnapped to cover it up, and Han Byul died because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The original title of this series was “Lawless World,” a more fitting title than “Pride and Prejudice.” This show is dark, in tone and style as well as plot. The director (Kim Jin-Min) seems to be deliberately avoiding prettiness. K-dramas in recent years have standardized a glossy, colorful jewel box vision of Seoul as romance capital. But here, the muted colors and harsh lighting give us a different kind of Seoul, where everything is as washed out and bleak as a November sky—Seoul as a setting for tragedy. (Update: my brain failed me here: the setting is, of course, Seoul’s grittier neighbor, Incheon. Perhaps the show’s visual style reflects Incheon’s less glamorous image. I’d love to learn more about how Koreans perceive Incheon, because this is a subtlety that gets lost watching from 7000 miles away.)
Episode 13 gives everyone one or two tragic moments. It’s tough to watch characters we care about suffer like this, but they keep moving forward, hopefully towards healing—if they can stay alive long enough. Key developments:
- Moon Hee-Man asks Board Game Guy if he himself can take responsibility for killing Koo Dong-Chi. (Yes, this had me screaming at the screen. More analysis below.)
- Koo Dong-Chi confronts Jang Chang-Gi, who tells him about the 1999 hit-and-run. Dong-Chi, always thinking the best of his friends, had assumed Chief Moon was driving the car. He’s shocked to hear that Jang Chang-Gi caused the accident. The former attorney has been so remorseful that hasn’t practiced law since.
- Dong-Chi spends the night piecing together evidence. The next morning he wakes up Kang Soo and Yeol-Moo at the boarding house in a bad mood. But he’s reached a decision regarding his new job that starts today: he’s going to take vacation days. (He must have weeks saved up. Can you imagine Dong-Chi taking time for an actual vacation?)
- Yeol-Moo takes a day off, too, and together the two visit the factory where Han Byul died. The buildings are about to be torn down for redevelopment. They don’t expect to find anything, but this is their last chance to look at the scene—Yeol-Moo is seeing the place for the first time in 15 years. Decades of rubbish are piled up around the site and they find one of Han Byul’s shoes wrapped up in a trunk liner. Dong-Chi glimpses and chases off someone else who is snooping around as well—the kidnapper from 1999. This strikes me as the most unlikely coincidence in this series so far, the first time I’ve caught myself reflexively rolling my eyes. And I even suspended disbelief when all these tiny shoes started turning up. There better be a good explanation.
- Kang Soo has a nerve-wracking day at the office. Chief Moon discovers his file about Han Byul and offers to “help,” an offer Kang Soo accepts at face value. Park Soon-Bae stops by and seeing him flusters Kang Soo. Then when Kang Soo calls the records office to get the files on his 1999 case, he discovers that Dong-Chi already has them. This is his first hint that Dong-Chi is holding out on him. How did Dong-Chi know his real name before he did? Dong-Chi refuses to explain when Kang Soo asks him—trying to shield Kang Soo from the truth that his friend Jang Chang-Gi killed his mother.
- In the final sequence, Kang Soo, Yeol-Moo and Dong-Chi figure out the two kidnappings. The truth sinks in for Yeol-Moo and Kang Soo: Han Byul was killed in place of Kang Soo, simply because they resembled each other. Her friend Kang Soo is alive only because her brother is dead. The realization is painful. When Yeol-Moo leaves the office in tears, Kang Soo follows her. Left behind, Dong-Chi realizes that by pursuing this case, he’s caused pain to the people he cares about the most.
- The episode concludes with Chief Moon meeting up with a face from the past: the ax-faced fellow who kidnapped Han Byul and Kang Soo fifteen years ago. What’s he up to now?
There is no outside crime to solve in this episode, no police procedure, just the investigation into the past and a sense of how heavily it weighs on the characters. The episode also slowly magnifies our sense of dread for what comes next.
For several episodes Chief Moon has been eerily unfathomable, but in the opening scene of episode 13 we have the suggestion that someone even scarier is manipulating things. When Moon Hee-Man asks Board Game Guy how he plans to kill Koo Dong-Chi, the chief acts uncharacteristically intimidated. He immediately agrees to do whatever he’s asked in order to save his own life—even kill Dong-Chi.
It’s a weird, creepy scene. Moon only acts this way in scenes with Board Game Guy. Most of the time, Moon Hee-Man may be a jerk, but he isn’t a coward. In the last episode, we saw him dare Dong-Chi to investigate the 1999 hit-and-run, for example. His odd behavior suggests he’s putting on an act for Board Game Guy. I don’t think he’s as meek as he’s pretending. But he goes all out to convince Board Game Guy of his loyalty. It’s bizarre to see him formally kneel down—a dramatic gesture of sincerity and humility.
What could motivate this monumental egotist to act this way? The dialogue suggests that someone powerful is behind the order to kill Dong-Chi, and that Moon Hee-Man takes this shadowy figure very seriously. Though I don’t think Chief Moon is as desperate to save himself as he pretends, he does have a healthy sense of self-preservation. Something about the situation scares him enough that he wants Board Game Guy to think he’s a harmless yes-man.
I don’t think Chief Moon intends to kill Dong-Chi to further his career. He’s clever enough to advance his career without getting blood on his hands. Saying he’ll kill Dong-Chi presumably buys Dong-Chi some time while Moon can figure out the identity of the man who wants him dead. Moon’s own life is at stake if this person is willing to kill to hide the events of 1999. If Moon follows orders and kills Dong-Chi, he’s likely to end up dead at the hands of his allies too. Look at what happened to Jae-Shik in the last episode.
Later in episode 13, Chief Moon asks Park Soon-Bae who the mysterious head conspirator is. Park Soon-Bae won’t tell because of the danger. But the roundabout conversation gives hints. It’s implied that the Big Bad is a highly placed prosecutor, perhaps someone who Chief Moon failed to catch in his 1999 corruption investigation.
We’ve had the suggestion before now that Chief Moon was cherry-picking cases for his team, choosing cases connected to powerful individuals. But this episode gives the first concrete suggestion that someone cherry-picked the team members themselves. Moon Hee-Man comments on it himself, saying to Kang Soo, “Fate is a peculiar thing. Sometimes it seems like people have set it up this way on purpose, right?”
More than ever, I have the feeling he’s right: someone created this team in order to cause trouble. If you wanted to dig up the truth about 1999 in order to harm someone in the present, these are the people you would put together to do it.
It’s possible the writer simply wants us to believe this is entirely a coincidence. But it’s equally possible that someone took advantage of the fact that Dong-Chi and Yeol-Moo became prosecutors, by putting them in Chief Moon’s office and then recommending that Dong-Chi rent a room from Kang Soo’s grandmother. It would be poetic justice if someone put this team together to uncover Chief Moon’s secrets while at the same time Chief Moon used their cases to uncover his rivals’ secrets.
As for our central romance, Dong-Chi is already breaking down and finding it hard to act indifferent to Yeol-Moo. The visit to the factory brings back difficult memories and they take turns supporting each other. Their most interesting scene together is also one of those times when I have the feeling the subtitles are failing to convey the full meaning. Even watching two different versions of the subtitles doesn’t make it totally clear:
After Dong-Chi chases away the erstwhile kidnapper, Yeol-Moo says she’s never seen his face like that. “Like what?” he asks. “Afraid,” she answers. He admits that fifteen years ago he was “scared to death.”
They discuss the case for a couple minutes and then Yeol-Moo says she’d like this day to continue. Dong-Chi’s response could be aimed at her entire dilemma about being happy. “Yeol-Moo, just because you feel happy doesn’t mean the sadness goes away,” he says.
“I know,” she says, “but I still feel sorry.” Is she saying she can’t help feeling weighed down by guilt?
Dong-Chi replies, “Even if you feel sorry, you have to do what you have to do”—is he saying you have to keep moving forward anyway? He pulls her close. “Just for ten seconds,” he says, “Feel sorry for yourself for ten seconds.” As if to reassure her that she can go back to feeling guilty soon, he counts down from ten out loud while he holds her. Yeol-Moo looks up at him and for a moment, it looks as if they might kiss. She turns away, but only after looking at him for a few long seconds. Surely she’ll find a way to move forward soon, right?
Even though the director is avoiding glossy, stylish visuals, the factory scenes are beautiful in their own way. A fortuitous snowfall has dusted the machines and rubbish with white, highlighting the strange shapes of twisted metal. In a show that delights in shadows and backlighting, the soft light off the snow is a welcome change. Cutting back and forth between the office and the factory, the editing contrasts the melancholy, tender mood at the factory with the tension at the office where Chief Moon is planning his next moves.
Almost an entire episode passes with Chief Moon and Dong-Chi in these separate worlds. Only at the very end do they accidentally encounter each other at the office. In a scene without dialogue, Moon contemptuously pushes Dong-Chi out of the way with the folder containing Han Byul’s file, a kind of slow-motion slap. Make no mistake: if Chief Moon decides to keep Dong-Chi alive, it won’t be out of affection.