I stumbled across this show on a lazy Sunday afternoon on S-One channel, and was wondering how I could have missed a police thriller. (me? miss a thriller?) Then I realised it’s those itsy-bitsy-meenie TV movie shown once-off and that’s it. Generally, it’s ok and watchable for a one-time series (it’s 2eps, 1 story), and if you have nothing pressing to do.

Main cast: 

  • Ki Tae-young (in To the Beautiful You) as Detective Jang Joon-suk. Your typical proactive, detailed police officer. Has really good working vibes with Prosecutor Seung-joo, both of them kinda arrive at Eureka! moments at the same time.
  • Kim Min-seo (in Level 7 Civil Servant) as Prosecutor Seung-joo. Dogged, observant and empathetic, she is the embodiment of K-dramaland’s good policewoman. (her role here is much better than in Level 7)
  • Kim Mi-sook (in Empire of Gold) as Dr Kang Hee-kyung. Surgeon turned psychologist, a widow and mother to Hye-ri. She plots to shift the blame of her daughter’s supposed crime onto herself.
  • Han Yoo-yi (in Fashion King) as Eun Hye-ri. Dr Kang’s daughter, estranged from her mum and stays apart from her. Suffers from depression after her good friend committed suicide due to bullying in school.
  • Yun Je-wook (in Cheo-yong) as Ki-joon. Hye-ri’s classmate, and also boyfriend to her deceased good friend.
  • Philip Choi (cameoed in Let’s Eat) as Lee Gyo-raKi-joon and Hye-ri’s friend. But is a total jerk and bully through and through. He is the murdered victim in the show.

Plot synopsis

113aProsecutor Seung-joo and Detective Jang investigate a missing person case — classified as “missing person” cos there’s suspicion of murder, but the body in question is missing. What the CCTV reveals is Lee Gyo-ra entering Hye-ri’s apartment with beer and later their mutual friend, Ki-joon, also visits. But hours later, the CCTV only shows Ki-joon leaving in a hurry. Hye-ri and her mum (who came back from golfing) also leave the apartment later.

Further digging reveals that Hye-ri and her good girlfriend are victims of campus bullying, led by none other than their mutual “friend”, Gyo-ra. Gyo-ra and another male bully threatened both girls with bodily harm and directed them to strip and engage in sexual acts, while recording the entire process on phone. They later loaded the clip onto the school’s network. Both girls are labelled as “lesbians” thereon, and the bullying starts in earnest. Hye-ri’s friend is unable to take the pressure and she jumps from the school building one day, leaving Hye-ri devastated.

113fOn that fateful night, Gyo-ra invites himself to Hye-ri’s place with Ki-joon in tow, with the sole purpose of forcing Hye-ri to take drugs and later, date rape her. He also taunts Ki-joon (who is pretty much a coward) and says he knows Ki-joon likes Hye-ri’s deceased friend, juz too bad she is too stupid to jump off the building. He spikes Ki-joon’s drink (so that he won’t barge in to save Hye-ri later), but while struggling with Hye-ri, he accidentally knocks his head on the bed post and concussed on the floor. Hye-ri thinks she has killed Gyo-ra and injects herself with the drug. (to commit suicide? from shock?) Ki-joon hears some commotion in the room and stumbles in to find Gyo-ra bleeding on the floor. Remembering how he has insulted him and his memory of his girlfriend, he takes a bowling ball from the display cabinet and hammers Gyo-ra dead with it. After the act, he runs off in panic.

113eHye-ri’s mum, Dr Kang, visits Hye-ri and finds her in a semi-comatose state and in the same room with a very dead Gyo-ra. She picks up Gyo-ra’s phone and watches in horror as her daughter pleads for mercy while Gyo-ra fondles her and “persuades” her to try the drug. As she is unaware that Ki-joon was also present (and the true murderer), she leaps to the conclusion that Hye-ri has killed Gyo-ra by accident. To cover for her, Dr Kang takes up her golf club and videos herself whacking Gyo-ra “dead”. She then transports his body into her golf bag, cleans up the place, and together with Hye-rin, leaves the apartment. She later hides Gyo-ra’s body in the hospital’s morgue. To set up the case against herself and draw attention away from her daughter, she also feeds “clues” to Prosecutor Seung-joo and Detective Jang. She even claims she has killed her husband who was transported to hospital — with his mistress (who also happened to be Dr Kang’s best friend) — after a road accident.

Dr Kang is nearly persecuted for the murder which she didn’t commit, if not for Prosecutor Seung-joo’s keen observation. She notices a missing bowling ball by comparing pictures of the recent crime scene with another earlier one taken by Hye-ri. By tracing the history of Hye-ri, Gyo-ra, Ki-joon and the dead girl, Prosecutor Seung-joo is also able to find a motive for Ki-joon killing Gyo-ra. The last incriminating evidence is Ki-joon’s bag when he is filmed on CCTV leaving the apartment. It has a distinct bulge exactly in the shape of a bowling ball.

Review:

113dUnlike OCN’s police thriller, this TV movie produced by SBS is very mild on the gore. Rather than focusing on the gruesomeness of the crime, 113 is more of a study in human nature. This show is based on a novel with the same name, and thus, certain bits when transported to screen can be draggy and overly melodramatic.

While viewing the CCTV footage, I nearly screamed in frustration when Detective Jang and Prosecutor Seung-joo don’t seem to realise that the golf bag looks highly suspicious — it’s the exact height and size required to stuff a body in. It took the leads a better part of ep1 to figure it out. By then, I have nearly lost interest in the show. (i remembered fiddling with my phone and tuning out at the tail end of ep1, which is about mid-point of the story). I also don’t understand why the police cannot figure out that the 2 calls made from Gyo-ra’s phone AFTER the incident may be faked. Although the calls connected, NO one is on the line. (roll eyes) And how Prosecutor Seung-joo and Detective Jang happily assume that unlit cubicles in the morgue equate directly to having no bodies stored in them. (hello, since you are checking, can’t you check ALL of them?) And I especially dislike the ending court scene where Dr Kang and Hye-ri are basically screaming to the judge that “my mum/daughter is innocent and it’s me who dunnit”. And that lasted for a full minute or so. I am wondering why the judge hasn’t called on the police to pull them apart. It may work well in a book, but translate it on screen, the scene really made me grit my teeth. (and i immediately text kooriyuki to complain about it)

In the second ep (or second half) of the show, you will have realised Hye-ri is the murderess, and the show starts to shift its focus on the mother-daughter relationship — and how far a mother will go to protect her child. The mother-daughter (or father-son) dynamics is mirrored in Prosecutor Seung-joo and also Detective Jang’s relation with their single parent.

113cProsecutor Seung-joo has a mother who is helping out in a restaurant cum fish market (yunno those types of semi-restaurants owned by fish mongers in Korea?). She despises her mum and she sees her mum as irresponsible, a drunkard, and only calls on her to ask for more spending money. But in a short glimpse we have into Seung-joo mum’s thoughts, we see that she has in her own small way, tried to protect her daughter. After her husband’s death, there was a period of time where she wanted to die too. But seeing little Seung-joo happily playing took away the appeal of escaping through death, and she decided to bear with the pain and bring her daughter up single-handedly. Prosecutor Seung-joo realises at the end that although her mum is not like Dr Kang, who is smart, rich and has a stable job, at the very least she has also looked after Seung-joo’s interest, protected her to the best she can, and brought her up. (imo, i think Seung-joo mum, though lowly educated, is more successful than Dr Kang. She at least brought up a daughter who has no detrimental psychological complex like Hye-ri)

113bDetective Jang too, has an estranged relationship with HIS dad. In his case, the dad is a mob boss — someone probably very high on the Wanted list in the police force. And his only son is a detective. Detective Jang’s family is mentioned only twice in the show. Earlier on when a police colleague sneers that Detective Jang is always first at crime scenes “cos his family has a taste for bloodshed” and later in Detective Jang’s memory when he announced to his dad that he has applied for the police force. Unlike Prosecutor Seung-joo, Detective Jang doesn’t make peace with his family. (probably cos not enough screen time is devoted to him/ his dad)

In general, I think the show is hampered by time constraint. I feel that it is trying (and failing) to balance the thrill factor and the human-psyche study within the short 2h+ time frame. As a novel, it may work better — especially in the psychological study of a parent-child relationship. Which the show tries to develop, but can’t, because it also wants to give viewers the thrill that comes with watching crime movies. Ironically, the show also cannot generate enough excitement from the mystery, because it is hampered with trying to give us “in-depth” looks into Dr Kang’s maternal possessiveness and Hye-rin’s neurosis towards her mum.

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