So Oh-joo's motivation for helping out Sang-pil is both a lot more complicated and a lot more simplistic than I was expecting. Like Moon-sook, Oh-joo is dismissing Sang-pil's potential as a threat. Which makes sense considering how easy it was to frame Sang-pil for murder. Why bother worrying about Sang-pil at all when Oh-joo has his own domestic problems to worry about? Not to mention, political problems in that people still tend to think of Oh-joo as being a thug?
Even Moon-sook is only a peripheral factor to Oh-joo's motivation, which puts them on a collision course in regards to passive-aggressive showboating. Really, the entire interpersonal dynamic between Oh-joo and Moon-sook has taken a turn for the delightfully weird. Up until now the assumption presented was that Oh-joo and Moon-sook were jockeying for power and money. In reality, they just want to be well-liked in spite of doing obviously evil things. The entire conceit is wholly ridiculous, yet oddly plausible.
The political commentary is also spot on. Oh-joo achieves popularity by turning on one of his underlings, implying that he is very much against corruption. Then in a later scene, we see him openly trying to poach talent from Moon-sook by promising that he always looks after his subordinates. There's also a definite satirical bend around Moon-sook, who is lauded for her qualifications...administering the ludicrously corrupt judicial system she is now promising to reform. The irony is palpable.
Less impressive is the story as it involves Sang-pil and Jae-i. The main thing they do is finally start spreading that photo around, mostly because the timing is proper. Elsewhere they're still relying almost entirely on Hyeon-joo for intelligence. It's only at the end of the episode that Sang-pil finally gets around to noticing that Hyeon-joo is not necessarily the most trustworthy source, even though Jae-i rather inexplicably treats her as such.
I can't help but feel like Hyeon-joo would inspire a lot more confidence if she had more of a cloak-and-dagger approach. Hyeon-joo is trying to keep her identity a secret from family. Hyeon-joo is also at risk of being murdered if Moon-sook ever catches wind of what's going on. So why does she just walk straight into the law firm without even bothering to cover her face? Jae-i similarly shows frustratingly little initiative. The scene where Sang-pil literally has to teach Jae-i to defend herself was just a tad embarrassing to watch.
Review by William Schwartz
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Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.
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