Death fetish? Macabre Art? You decide in this ep of M.

Synopsis (Murder Announcement)

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A young lady speaks to us on a home video, she appears really scared as she recounts that if anyone is watching this video now, it’d mean that she has died. She claims to have made a police report 2 weeks back, but the police officers have pooh-poohed her case and not believed her. She tears up and starts crying as she pleads for someone to “save her”.

The M team and Police Comm Park are watching the same video with us. When it ends, Police Comm Park introduces the girl in the vid as Lee Ji-an. Ji-an has posted this video 3 days ago on her own blog. Her friends who saw it had immediately alerted the police. However, Ji-an had disappeared after shooting that video. Police Comm Park warns that this case muz be handled delicately, as 3 years ago, there was a similar case which left the police with a bad name. A young lady, Ji Yoong-chun, had then requested for police protection and was rejected. Few days later, she was murdered. The public shamed the police for being inefficient and uncaring — history which Police Comm doesn’t want repeated in this incident.

Seo-joon takes over and briefly goes through Ji-an’s profile: she is an aviation engineering student, and has plans to move to Germany for overseas studies. Her parents are both deceased, but had left her some inheritance for a fairly comfortable life. 2 weeks ago, she had made a police report claiming that someone had been stalking her. However, there was no follow-up from the police officers. After a week or so, the video appeared online, and Ji-an had disappeared subsequently.

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Dae-young pipes up that, normally, people who go missing for more than 3 days are dead — only to receive a warning glare from Police Comm Park. He backtracks and rambles the team will try their best to locate Ji-an, blahblah…but Seo-joon isn’t listening as she jots down the date when the video was shot. And Soo-hyun rises suddenly to play back and forward Ji-an’s video. He comments that throughout the video, Ji-an has never stopped to press the “Record” or “Stop” button. Soo-hyun wonders aloud whether if Ji-an had edited the video before posting it up, or she has been co-erced by someone else to shoot the video (i.e. the videographer isn’t Ji-an). He continues to add that throughout the video, Ji-an never left any clue as to who is intending to harm her.

Dae-young latches onto Soo-hyun’s train of thoughts and asks if Soo-hyun thinks the video is faked. But no, Soo-hyun says the fear in Ji-an’s eyes are real.

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At Ji-an’s house, the forensics team report that they can’t find any single prints or blood stains — the whole house has been wiped clean. Seo-joon appears with a box of stuff that Ji-an was planning to dump while packing for her overseas studies and will go through the box at M’s base to look for clues. Left alone in the house, Soo-hyun’s attention is captured by a small art studio. He walks in and sees 4 paintings on the walls — 2 of which are landscape outdoorsy painting, and the remaining 2 are rooms’ interiors.

One of the interior paintings catches Soo-hyun’s eyes — it is a bare 1-br apartment (?) with an unkempt bed, a white long sash tied to a window frame, and an electric heater. Ji-an had painted a sticker on the heater. Peering at it closely, Soo-hyun can vaguely make out a telephone number. He calls the number on a whim…it rings, and someone picks up.

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Dae-young, meanwhile, gets the unenviable job of going through stacks and stacks of CCTV footages taken from Ji-an’s neighbourhood. He notes that Ji-an used the same route home daily, and hardly met with anybody on the way. A cyclist catches Dae-young’s eyes, but he passed by Ji-an without stopping…until Dae-young spots the same cyclist always appearing around Ji-an. He was there when Ji-an left for school, and was there when Ji-an returned. However, after Ji-an disappeared, the cyclist disappeared too.

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And so, Dae-young acts on his instinct and decides to recce Ji-an’s estate. He traces Ji-an and cyclist’s paths on the last evening Ji-an was captured on CCTV into a small alley. Dae-young notes that both the street light and CCTV in the alley are broken and ill-maintained. Plus, the alley is quiet after dark. Dae-young has a hunch that Ji-an was likely kidnapped/ murdered in this alley.

We cut over to Soo-hyun, who is lounging by his car in a reaaaallly remote dustland (?) waiting for….Chinese takeout? (huh?) Turns out the number he called on Ji-an’s painting belongs to a Chinese eatery’s delivery hotline. And the delivery guy had remembered making a weird out-of-the-way delivery to the same area Soo-hyun is at. After the delivery guy leaves, a detective from the local police force arrives. He explains that this plot of land was initially planned for the development of an amusement park. However, the company went bust, and all that was actually “built” was the management office, which isn’t anything much but a rusting container.

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The detective opens the container’s door and voila, the interior is as Ji-an had painted. Down to the very last detail — including the white sash on the grilles. The police officer informs Soo-hyun that the manager, a Mr Yi Chang-shi, had committed suicide strangling himself on the same sash 6 months ago. His colleagues had found his body, but were not exactly surprised by his suicide. They claimed he wasn’t really in the right mind, and tend to mutter about “guarding a factory”. Soo-hyun shows Ji-an’s pic to the detective, but he doesn’t recognise her.

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Returning to M’s base, the guys prop up Ji-an’s pictures on the blackboard for discussion. (and maybe some Art appreciation?) Soo-hyun updates Dae-young on Chang-shi’s suicide, prompting Dae-young to ask what is the relevance of a suicide 6-months ago to Ji-an’s disappearance. Soo-hyun then points out that all the 4 pictures which Ji-an left behind appear to imply a death has occured. Other than the container office where Chang-shi strangled himself, the other picture of a room with an open balcony door in winter suggests someone had jumped from the balcony. The outdoor landscapes are also rather eerie — one of them shows a car covered with dead leaves, which Soo-hyun says may point to someone who has died in the car and whose body isn’t recovered until some time. The picture of the reservoir with a mysterious ripple in the middle may be caused by someone who has jumped into the water.

Assuming Soo-hyun’s interpretation is correct, Dae-young asks what has deciphering the paintings’ background got to do with their case. Soo-hyun replies that the paintings are obvious clues left by Ji-an, she has packed every personal belongings for her trip — except these paintings, which she has specifically hung on the wall as if to attract attention.

Seo-joon, who is upstairs going through the box Ji-an meant to throw out, is puzzled why her online and offline activities seem to cease 6 months ago. Ji-an’s last diary entry, her last blog post and last SNS (Facebook) feed were all dated 6 months back.

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Downstairs, Dae-young continues to stare at the pictures…and suddenly he leaps up and identifies the red building seen from the wintry balcony painting as an elementary school. He waves a quick goodbye to an irate Soo-hyun to locate that elementary school. (and Soo-hyun actually rolls his eyes at Dae-young’s habit of running off unexplained)

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Dae-young finds the elementary school in the painting and zooms in to the condo opposite it (where the angle of the painting should come from). He slowly tracks up flights of stairs (and cursing all the way for his stupidity in not taking the lift) before finally locating the exact spot where the painting might have been done. It’s from the 10th storey of the condo, and based on the location of the condo’s windows, the unit in question should be 1003. Dae-young starts pressing the door bell, and even issues a policey-warning that the occupant has committed a fire safety offence by piling garbage at the staircase entrance…but no one comes to the door. After some time, Dae-young finally realises there’s no one in the apartment. (sometimes, our sniffer dog police types are kinda dim) He finds the security guard, who explains that the unit has been left empty after its previous occupant (a Mr Kim Sung-tae) committed suicide — by jumping off the balcony. His sons were adopted by their uncle, since their mother (or Mrs Kim) had also passed away earlier. The security guard also claims that a girl has been looking for Sung-tae some time back — and identifies Ji-an when Dae-young shows him the pic.

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Left alone to complete his Art appreciation, Soo-hyun continues to stare at the paintings of the car and the reservoir. He goes through each with a lope, and notices a newspaper painted on the car’s dashboard. The date of the newspapers is on 27 Nov 2014. Doing a quick search, Soo-hyun finds a news article where a body of a man (Mr Kang Yoon-gyu) has been found in a white car. Soo-hyun retrieves the case file from the local police post, and the detective tells him that Yoon-gyu committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide from the charcoal he burnt in the car. Yoon-gyu was a divorcee and an alcoholic (the alcoholic part is a sad result of the divorce). As the location of the car was rather remote, the body wasn’t discovered until much later. Soo-hyun looks through the photos taken of the evidence gathered at the scene, and notices a box of acrylic paints. The detective also agrees that they find the box of paints odd, since Yoon-gyu doesn’t paint or draw. Plus, nobody came forward to claim the box of paints found on the crime scene. In addition, Soo-hyun notices that the newspaper article in Ji-an’s painting cannot be found in the list of the evidence collected at the crime scene. In other words, Ji-an purposely added in the newspaper article with the date to draw attention to Yoon-gyu’s suicide.

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We move to Police Comm Park’s office as he receives a call from a reporter, who warns him cryptically that he needs to “take shelter” before ending the call. Alarmed, Police Comm Park switches on the TV and news of Ji-an’s video and subsequent disappearance have made headlines. The newscastor says an “anonymous source” has leaked the video to the press. Angered, Police Comm Park calls Dae-young — who also happens to hear the same news on the radio channel…and chooses not to pick up Police Comm Park’s call. (heh, wise move)

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Returning to M’s base to re-group, the trio shares information between themselves. While Dae-young wonders aloud if Ji-an has a fetish for suicides, Soo-hyun points out the link between all the dead men in Ji-an’s 3 drawings — they all used to work at Do-yoon Industries. Including Ji-an’s dad, Mr Lee Jung-ho. Interestingly, Jung-ho died before the 3 guys — he collapsed one day in the factory due to heart seizure (which the pathologist claimed is stress induced). A few weeks prior to his death, Jung-ho had seen doctors for insomnia and sleep apnea, both also results of acute stress. Seo-joon points out that the date Chang-ji hung himself in the isolated container also coincides with the date Ji-an’s father, Jung-ho, died.

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We flashback to some time ago at Jung-ho’s funeral, where other than the few relatives, none of Jung-ho’s colleagues attended. Ji-an is disconsolate and angry that the “Factory Ahjusshis” whom her father was close with in life did not bother to turn up. She picked up Jung-ho’s phone and started calling them — all of them had switched off their mobiles. Ji-an happened to chance upon a message left by Yoon-gyu, who angrily accused Jung-ho for “killing Sung-tae hyung”.

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In the present, Dae-young visits Yoon-gyu’s widow to find out about the supposed feud between Jung-ho and his ex-colleagues/ friends. Yoon-gyu’s wife is juz as caustic — she reiterates that blame falls squarely on Jung-ho, claiming that he was the one who broke up her family, causing her to divorce with Yoon-gyu after he was retrenched and fell into financial woes. She even went on to say that the previous closeness and camaraderie the families shared were a waste of effort, no thanks to Jung-ho’s “betrayal”.

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Soo-hyun visits the Do-yoon Industries where all the men who died used to work in. Currently, Do-yoon Industries is having cashflow problems and suffering from the occassional union strikes. The workers who decide to talk to Soo-hyun show him old video footage of the massive strike led by Jung-ho earlier when Do-yoon Industries first announced its decision to retrench workers. Although Jung-ho wasn’t on the list to be axed, he rallied the workers against the company. Yoon-gyu later was caught out to be a spy working for the company’s directors, but before Sung-tae beat him to a pulp, Jung-ho had intervened and saved his life.

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However, 180 days into the strike, Jung-ho suddenly gave up. According to the interviewed workers, Jung-ho “went over” to the company’s side. The union was disbanded, when Do-yoon Industries sent in thugs (yes, thugs) to beat them up. Those involved were later sued for disrupting the factory’s daily operations by going on strike and made to pay heavy fines or jailed. Chang-shi was beaten so badly until he became a little “soft in the head”. Sung-tae was imprisoned and after he was released, he found out his wife had committed suicide cos she was hounded by creditors in his absence. Subsequently, Sang-tae also jumped to his death. Yoon-gyu too, couldn’t find employment after the episode and his family broke up. He became an alcoholic and eventually committed suicide. The workers also added that a few days into Jung-ho’s funeral, his daughter had came to the factory and demanded to know why Chang-shi, etc refused to come to pay their last respects. When the workers told Ji-an that her dad has betrayed them, she didn’t believe them and started screaming at them.

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Soo-hyun notices from the corner of his eye, an older worker who is silently listening to the conversation. He seems to have something to say in defense of Jung-ho, but chooses to remain silent.

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When Soo-hyun interviews Do-yoon Industries’ owner (with their corporate lawyer present), the arrogant twit blames the strikes on the workers, and implies that Do-yoon Industries has acted “fairly” and gave “ample” time for the dismissed workers to “clear out”. He claimed that the workers were like gangsters and caused all the ruckus plus the subsequent bad press on Do-yoon Industries.

Since the interview with Do-yoon Industries’ owner didn’t really go well, Soo-hyun returns to M’s base. Dae-young, who has been laying out the evidence collated, questions Ji-an’s motive for painting the 3 suicides of her father’s friends. And who died in the pic of a reservoir? The news on TV continues to show the mystery of Ji-an’s disappearance. The phrase “anonymous source” prompts Dae-young to suspect that Ji-an may be the one who leaked the video to the press. His suspicions are confirmed when Police Comm Park enters and tells them that a member of the public has spotted Ji-an well and alive at a bus terminal located near the TV station. He even provides the video of Ji-an sitting alone with a hoodie and cap, looking decidedly furtive.

Given this newest piece of evidence, Dae-young is adamant that Ji-an is related to the deaths of Chang-shi, Sang-tae and Yoon-gyu. He believes Ji-an could have been plotting revenge on them for her father’s death. Dae-young says he must locate Ji-an before she claims the fourth victim — the picture of the reservoir has yet to turn up any deaths, so it is likely there could be a next victim. Seo-joon also highlights that she has gone through the video file and someone has doctored the time stamp on the video before loading it online. Soo-hyun too, follows up on his team mates’ hunches and double checks with Dr Kang on the cause of death of the 3 men. However, Dr Kang confirms that all 3 are suicides. She adds though, that retrenched workers who are cut off suddenly by a company usually end up committing suicides, since the loss of a job and a livelihood have severe implications on other aspects of their lives.

Dae-young goes to the police station to retreive the files of the 3 guys who died and also their mobile phones to look for any connecting 4th person they may all know. Soo-hyun and Seo-joon do the same at M’s base. They all manage to find the same person — the senior worker who was sitting in a corner when Soo-hyun first visited the factory. (i think M never gave him a name…or maybe i missed it)

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So Soo-hyun revisits the factory to speak to the senior worker. The ahjusshi said Ji-an had also looked for him after her dad’s death and also after the deaths of Chang-shi, Sang-tae and Yoon-gyu. She had asked if their deaths had anything to do with her, and the ahjusshi had said no. He continues with Jung-ho’s backstory, and why he chose to “betray” the workers. But before we hear what the ahjusshi has to say, we cut to Seo-joon puzzling over the doctored date on Ji-an’s video. She has an eureka moment and flips through Ji-an diaries to the same date…

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…we flashback on that date that Ji-an highlighted (which is also part of the story the ahjusshi is telling Soo-hyun): Ji-an’s friend dragged her to her art school to show Ji-an’s works, which were very good, to the art teacher. The teacher praised Ji-an, and encouraged her to enrol in an Art College (which i think are usually kinda expensive, since they are not mainstream). Ji-an later called her dad, Jung-ho, who was at the moment sitting out the workers’ strike at the factory. Ji-an happily told him what her friend’s art teacher had recommended, and obliquely mentioned about wanting to enrol in an Art College. Jung-ho caught on to Ji-an’s hope that she wanted to be an artist, but when he ended the call, his face fell. The senior worker who had overheard the conversation advised him to give up the strike now, and since Jung-ho wasn’t on the retrenched list, he might still be forgiven by the company. The senior worker also said that Jung-ho was a single dad, and thus, his daughter should be the most important person in his life. The workers who were on strike here, they knew what they were in for, Jung-ho didn’t compel them to join in the strike, so he shouldn’t worry about them.

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Unfortunately, Do-yoon Industries used Jung-ho’s return as an arsenal to attack the workers’ morales. They eventually quit the strike and those who were stubborn, like Chang-shi, Sang-tae and Yoon-pyu, were beaten and thrown out. Jung-ho was aghast, and felt guilty for causing his friends to be hurt. He eventually collapsed and died.

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A few weeks after Jung-ho’s death, Ji-an sat sobbing in her little art studio at home, clutching her dad’s phone. She switched it on and suddenly received a flood of messages from Chang-shi, Sang-tae and Yoon-pyu — before their deaths. The 3 friends had learnt of Jung-ho’s reason for giving up the strike and also knew that he had tried to plead leniency for the remaining workers, but it hadn’t work. They apologised for wronging Jung-ho and Yoon-gyu also added that he had bought an expensive box of acrylic paints for Ji-an as atonement. When Ji-an saw these messages, she broke down and assumed that it is her fault that her dad and his friends died — all because she wanted to paint and be an artist. 😦

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When M trio learn of the latest developments, they assume that Ji-an had plotted to sensationalise her disappearance in order to bring public’s attention to Do-yoon Industries’ unfair dismissal policies. That is until they receive the latest CCTV footage from the bus terminal where Ji-an had been spotted. Dae-young immediately recognises the guy trailing after Ji-an as the cyclist who had been following her around the last 2 weeks. And Soo-hyun spots the triangular tattoo on the man’s wrist — and identifies him to be part of an international assassin group that hails from the Phillippines. (excuse me while i go rofl) The group is called “Triangle” cos of their habit to inform the hirers of their successful hits by messaging a triangle emblem to them. So now, it seems that there really IS someone after Ji-an’s life.

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Sensing an urgency, the trio split up to track down the assassin and Ji-an. Seo-joon informs Dae-young of the assassin’s entry at Gimpo Airport 2 weeks ago, and he dashes there to scan through the CCTV footages. He spots the assassin immediately, and notes that he gets into a car. Dae-young passes the license plate to Seo-joon to track and she returns immediately with information that it belongs to Mr Kim Kyung-chae, who owns a small trading company. Dae-young pays a visit to the Mr Kim, and roughs him up for information on the assassin.

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Seo-joon is also busy tracking down Ji-an’s last known location from the bus terminal, and Soo-hyun who is on the line (he is tasked to locate Ji-an) asks Seo-joon to look if there are familiar landmarks around the vicinity. And what should appear but Bi-rin Reservoir — the reservoir in Ji-an’s picture. Soo-hyun rushes there.

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Meanwhile, Ji-an sits alone facing the reservoir, listening to music on her earphones. She seems unaware that the someone has crept up behind her and is pointing a gun with a silencer towards her back.

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Soo-hyun finally reaches the reservoir and runs around to look for Ji-an. He finds her…or rather, a dead her. Ji-an has been shot in the heart. Soo-hyun hears a beep from Ji-an’s phone in her bag. He fishes it out…and looks at something in horror.

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Dae-young too, has reached the reservoir based on Mr Kim’s information. He apprehends the assassin after a short chase.

In the interrogation room, Dae-young questions the assassin for his hirer’s name. However, the assassin remains silent. Dae-young informs the assassin that he has traced Mr Kim’s shady company to be the same group who had hired the thugs to break up Do-yoon Industries workers’ strike. In Dae-young’s mind, he is already quite sure that the factory owner is behind Ji-an’s death.

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Seo-joon, who is going through Ji-an’s personal belongings brought in from the reservoir looks askance at the MP3 player Ji-an was holding before she was shot. The headphone wires are twisted, and one end has frayed — as though Ji-an has twisted and scraped it with her nails. Out of curiousity, Seo-joon switches on the MP3 and plugs in the earphones — only to find that the earphones are mulfunctioning. Which means that Ji-an should have heard someone approaching from behind.

As for Soo-hyun, he has kept Ji-an’s phone instead of submitting it to forensics. He switches it back on…and the last message which Ji-an received after her death was an image of a triangle. Ji-an had hired the assassin to kill her.

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The reason for Ji-an’s elaborate scheme is apparant when Soo-hyun looks up at the news billboard. Someone has traced Ji-an’s sensational disappearance (and her confirmed death today) plus the recent suicides to Do-yoon Industries. Although the Court ruled Do-yoon Industries as not culpable for poor HR management, speculations about the factory owner hiring thugs and assassins to do away with their ex-staff to prevent them blabbing have spread like wild fire on the internet and other media platforms.

The next day, Police Comm Park drops by to inform M trio that he will be filing Ji-an’s case as closed, and unresolved. Dae-young is super upset, as he feels that they need to capture the factory owner, whom he feels in his guts as being the culprit for Ji-an’s death. He also feels guilty for suspecting that Ji-an plotted the whole disappearance and the deaths of Chang-shi et.al earlier. However, Police Comm Park is adamant…and Soo-hyun also agrees to close the case. Dae-young stalks off in disgust. Seo-joon juz silently looks at Soo-hyun but doesn’t say anything.

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Alone, Soo-hyun visits the reservoir where Ji-an died, and throws her phone into the water, creating the exact same ripple which Ji-an had painted in her picture. He knows that the only way to make Ji-an’s death worth its while is to prevent the case from being solved and the truth made known.

We flashback to the short period when Ji-an had arrived at the reservoir to wait for the assassin. She looked out at the clearing and imagined happier times, when her father and the Factory Ahjusshis had camped there. The adults  were having fun teasing each other and goofing around, while she and the other kids played their own games. She broke down and apologised to the ghosts she saw, and blamed herself for destroying their happiness. We then see her sit down at the bench, and Ji-an clearly heard the assassin approach from behind. She was very alone and very scared and literally twisted her headphone wires into a pretzel, her fingernails even scraping out a piece of rubber casing. The gun fired, and everything went black.

Epilogue: A few hours later at M’s base, a sulking Dae-young channel surfs and lands on a news report where Lawyer Nam has backed down from running for the position of Chief of Justice. And the reason? Someone had sent a recording of him admitting to hiding a dead body and asking his client to give false statements. Dae-young thinks back to Soo-hyun’s “pen bomb” joke, and suspects that Soo-hyun may be the “anonymous source” who has sent the recording to the TV station. Out of curiousity, Dae-young searches for Soo-hyun’s FBI records, and sees news articles which report him as shooting 6 people dead, and another one where it says only 3 family members survived. Dae-young thinks back to the first case, where Soo-hyun had come up with the number 6, 3 and 1 after receiving a call from the kidnapper, thereby locating Jung-soo’s little sister. He wonders what is the significance of “1” to Soo-hyun…

Before returning to M’s base, Soo-hyun drops by Dr Kang and collects the bottle of amphetamines for “a friend”. Dr Kang warns Soo-hyun to relay to “his friend” that prolonged usage of amphetamines will lead to drug reliance and possible overdose. Soo-hyun smiles, pockets the pills and leaves. Dr Kang gazes at his back in worry.

When Soo-hyun returns to M base, he bumps into Seo-joon who is leaving to return home. She hesistantly asks if Soo-hyun has seen Ji-an’s mobile phone, and says that it has been switched on temporarily during her death. Soo-hyun remains silent, and Seo-joon gives a knowing smile and agrees that maybe the phone is lost. She leaves.

Review:

Oh dear, someone pls give poor Ji-an a hug and say it’s really not her fault at ALL for her dad’s death and the suicides of his friends. What started out as a slightly macabre story where a budding painter seems to have a liking to suicide cases turned out in the end to be such a sob story.

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Like the previous eps of M, the criminal ends up to be someone whom we empathise with, when earlier, we had looked on at their “works” in horror. Unlike some other OCN thrillers, so far, our baddies are not psychos or freaks who kill/ torment for for fun. Their reasons for terrorising the victims end up to be something which we can relate to, be it due to the loss of a loved one, or to bring down a corrupted system. And most of the times, they are horrified with what they have done too, humanising them effectively — like Ji-an staging her own death: her last moments are painful to watch.

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And although M doesn’t spotlight their characters as much as plot developments in the short 1h or so, it does weave in characteristics and ambiguities in Soo-hyun, Dae-young and Seo-joon. We learn little bits about them every ep, and how certain things annoy the hell out of them, but they still continue to work as an effective team. Like how Dae-young is prone to nagging and a little puffy bragging, which are kinda ignored by his other 2 members. And these little nuggets are balanced with some mysteries too. For examples, Dae-young appears to have some familial issues — does his wife crave a child, but he is only lukewarm towards the idea? And Soo-hyun — what’s with his amp popping habits? At the moment, Seo-joon remains the most vague out of the three, cos she is always not on screen (being stuck at M’s base means she hardly gets any action). However, that’s to change with ep7 — based on the preview, we will be seeing lot more of Seo-joon’s backstory.

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