Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Thanks for joining me for this group watch of Stranger!
Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:
1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. If you really need to talk about a spoiler, it is possible to use the new spoiler tags, but please know that spoilers are still visible (ie, not hidden) in the email notification that you receive, of the comment in question. We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.
2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
As you guys know, crime thrillers aren’t my usual preference when it comes to dramas, which is why I’ve managed to not watch Stranger up till now, even though everyone has such good things to say about it.
Just one episode in, I find myself very much intrigued, and I’m rather glad that you guys got me to watch this one, finally.
For a start, I’m most intrigued by our protagonist Shi Mok. I mean, that initial backstory immediately makes my heart go out to him. A partial lobotomy?!? Yikes. 😳 I’m stunned by how much pain he’d endured as a kid, not just from the partial lobotomy itself, but from the pain that led to it, and also, the devastating effects of the partial lobotomy, where he now can’t feel emotion – and still gets the splitting headaches from time to time, as our initial introduction to adult Shi Mok suggests.
At the same time, I’m fascinated by how sharp and efficient he is, at his work. He’s clearly brilliant and really quick-thinking as well, judging from the way he swings into action when he discovers CEO Park’s body. I feel like this is definitely one area where his lack of emotion might actually be an advantage, because at least in moments like these, when he needs to think and act quickly, there’s no emotion clouding his judgment.
There are occasions when I feel like Shi Mok kind of demonstrates a measure of empathy, like when he helps CEO Park’s mother pick up the containers of food and helps her carry the bag afterwards, or when he directs the paramedics to take care of CEO Park’s mother, when they arrive at the scene.
I wonder if at times like these, he actually feels a bit of empathy, or if this is basically a learned response that he’s taught himself. I’m leaning towards the learned response, because there are other times when he seems to completely ignore the basics of human decency – like when he promises that cab driver to give him his memory card back, and tells him that he’s only going to look at the contents for a moment, but then takes off with the memory card, without a second glance at the cab driver.
For these reasons, I’m fascinated by Shi Mok, and even though my sympathies are with him because of his partial lobotomy, I do wonder if this makes him a sociopath?
As for our other main character Yeo Jin, I like her, so far. I like that she’s capable and competent, even though she’s fairly new to the job. And, from the way that she unrelentingly pursues Kang Jin Seop, I feel like she’s got a tenacious, resilient sort of streak, and it’s clear that she’s quite the badass too. I like that. At the moment, though, I feel like that’s all I know about her, so I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.
So far, it seems that she’s not yet suspicious of her colleague Kim Soo Chan, whom we see behaving suspiciously, with the way he intercepts her when she says she’s going to see Shi Mok, and later, when she says she’s going to bring the blood sample to Forensics. I wonder if he’s working with the Deputy Chief Prosecutor and Prosecutor Seo, whom we’ve clearly seen to be dirty.
Even though it’s already implied that the Deputy Chief and Prosecutor Seo are corrupt types, it still felt rather shocking, to see the way Prosecutor Seo congratulates the Deputy Chief over CEO Park’s death, and how the Deputy Chief barely even tries to hide his corruption, at the end of the episode, when he talks with Shi Mok.
It feels like Shi Mok might be playing some kind of long game with them, seeing as how he allows Kang Jin Seop’s case to run its course in Prosecutor Young’s hands, even though he’d initially refused to hand the case over to her.
I’m actually really curious to know what Shi Mok was thinking, when he handed over the case to Prosecutor Young. In the scene where he talks her through the evidence, it seems like there’s a bit of skepticism about him, even as he points her to gaps in her understanding of the case and the related evidence.
Also, it feels like Shi Mok himself isn’t sure of what the charge should be, against Kang Jin Seop, and yet, he just hands everything over to Prosecutor Young, when she says that she is confident of taking care of it well. Did he truly believe her, or was that a strategic move on his part?
Also, what about Shi Mok’s reading of Kang Jin Seop, that he’d been sincerely confused, and that he’d been telling the truth, when he’d said that he didn’t know either the Deputy Chief or Prosecutor Seo. Does Shi Mok not trust his own ability to read Kang Jin Seop, then? Why hadn’t he followed up on his hunch, that Kang Jin Seop wasn’t the murderer?
I like Lee Joon Hyuk, but it’s quickly becoming a case of “love to hate him” in this show. Prosecutor Seo is proving to be such a wily, oily sort of character. He thinks nothing of buttering up the Deputy Chief and talking openly about their dirty dealings, and he also thinks nothing of sweet talking Prosecutor Young, so that he can mislead her into his more strategic, image-grooming ways – which also happen to be dishonest.
It blows my mind, really, that a senior prosecutor would coach a junior prosecutor on how to lie about evidence, so as to create the most dramatic impact for her career.
At the end of the episode, during Shi Mok’s conversation with the Deputy Chief, he talks about how, even though you can gouge out the rotten parts, the same gouged out spot gets rotten again and again.
It sounds like Shi Mok’s worked to get rid of corruption within the system for the past 8 years, but the corruption just keeps coming back, even though the faces change.
Does that mean that his decision to give Kang Jin Seop’s case to Prosecutor Young was a case of him picking his battles? Because he definitely knew the Deputy Chief was behind Prosecutor Young’s sudden promotion, and the case being conveniently assigned to her.
Orrr.. could Shi Mok be playing a long game, by setting up a double agent sort of situation? Like, let the Deputy Chief believe that he knows about the implications of the case on the Deputy Chief and covered it up – so that the Deputy Chief would trust him? If that’s the case, it feels like that strategy worked, since the Deputy Chief now says (rather condescendingly) that Shi Mok is trustworthy.
I suppose that’s why no one bothered to check the alternative exits to CEO Park’s house. If Shi Mok had really been looking for evidence on the real culprit, surely he would have done his due diligence to check other avenues via which the real culprit could have escaped, without going through the front gate?
I feel really sorry for Kang Jin Seop, who commits suicide to protest his innocence. That’s tragic. Based on how the information is shaping up, it looks like he’d been set up as this case’s scapegoat. After all, the blackbox recording places him as the last person to see CEO Park alive. He blames the prosecutors for framing him and making him out to be a murderer, and that’s a heavy statement indeed. He’s likely referring to Shi Mok and Prosecutor Young, since they are the two prosecutors who handled his case.
It’s a thought-provoking note on which to end this episode. It’s tragic that an innocent man died because of corruption. If Shi Mok really had let go of the case, knowing that Kang Jin Seop was being used as a scapegoat, wouldn’t that make him at least somewhat complicit in Kang Jin Seop’s death? I wonder how he feels about that – or if he’s capable of feeling anything about that.
Well. The plot thickens and it’s all getting very convoluted in a very promising fashion. I feel that I don’t quite know which way is up, anymore, but also, that it’s such an interesting sensation that I don’t even care.
This episode, things get murkier, as more and more questions are raised. Did Kang Jin Seop really intend to die? Or was it, as his wife says, just a scare tactic, to ruffle some prosecutor feathers? If Kang Jin Seop hadn’t intended to die, then.. how did he end up dying? Is there a hidden mystery behind his death? Did someone kill him, and make it look like a suicide? Perhaps after convincing him to write that suicide threat letter..?
This last hypothesis sounds quite plausible to me, particularly if Kang Jin Seob had assured his wife that he wouldn’t actually die. My gut says that someone high up and very dirty, had administered this from a distance. But, why, though? If Kang Jin Seob had served his time for the murder, wouldn’t that have kept people like the Deputy Chief very happy..? I suppose this means that there’s someone else in this game, who benefits from this outcome. I wonder who that might be, and whether we’ve met them yet.
And then there’s the question of exactly what was coincidence, and exactly what was staged, in the entire operation that was CEO Park’s murder.
Had the mastermind planned for the taxi to be in position, so that the taxi’s blackbox would record Kang Jin Seop entering CEO Park’s house? If the mastermind had planned it, it sounds pretty elaborate and almost impossible to pull off, considering that the irate would-be passenger had to flag down his taxi specifically, in order to get into an argument with him, in order to get him suspended..?
This episode, I like watching Shi Mok and Yeo Jin working together more, despite Shi Mok’s annoying habit of ignoring her, and her frustration around that. I do like how she doesn’t let him ignore her, and just keeps following him and asking questions, until he answers her. I really appreciate this tenacity of hers, and I also really appreciate how she’s annoyed by his behavior, but doesn’t take it personally. She’s level-headed enough to see that this isn’t about her per se, and also, that his analytical prowess is impressive and shouldn’t be ignored.
I kinda loved that she hunts him down to the courtroom, and basically demands that he tell her stuff, or she won’t tell him the important thing she’s found out. Shi Mok obviously prefers to work alone, but Yeo Jin’s got him working with her, albeit reluctantly, and I really do applaud her for getting him to cooperate. He’s so dismissive, otherwise.
To Shi Mok’s credit, he’s the one who volunteers the information to Yeo Jin, about Soo Chan acting weirdly about the forensic analysis results, and that’s the thing that sets Yeo Jin off to investigate for herself. And, it’s also Shi Mok who alerts Yeo Jin to the missing laptop from CEO Park’s house. So it’s not like Shi Mok’s completely selfish or anything. He just seems very.. aloof and lost in his own thoughts and his own world, a lot of the time.
While I like that Yeo Jin blows up the matter on Soo Chan hiding the DNA analysis results, and also, manages to get that laptop back, I can’t help feeling like she’s not being shrewd enough, in all of this.
I mean, the way she calls Shi Mok about the laptop, while sitting in the office where Soo Chan’s within earshot, feels too open. Plus, she even mutters to herself about it having to do with bribery. Surely Soo Chan hears all this? Unless she’s.. doing this on purpose, to provoke Soo Chan into doing something else, that might blow his cover..? I do wonder if she’s shrewd enough for that, though..
Speaking of not being shrewd enough, it feels like Prosecutor Young’s found herself in quite a bit of a pickle, thanks to trusting Prosecutor Seo too much. She’s ambitious, but she’s young and inexperienced, and she trusts his advice too blindly. It’s really thanks to him, isn’t it, that she’s in this current position of being worried for her own job – as well as even the life of her father, now that he’s being dragged into the rumor mill along with her. I feel like the possibility of Prosecutor Young becoming the sacrificial lamb is quite high.
I really liked the synergy of having both Shi Mok and Yeo Jin back at the crime scene together. I feel like they’re already complementing each other, in the way that they work and think, and I see great potential for this pair, if they could learn to work together.
For one thing, I like that when hashing out possibilities, the fact that they think about things from slightly different angles, makes the overall findings that much richer. In particular, I think Yeo Jin’s insight, that if Shi Mok had arrived on the crime scene a little earlier, that he could have been the one to discover CEO Park’s body and been framed for the murder, is very insightful. The idea that Shi Mok might have been the intended scapegoat, really changes how this entire thing lands, and I really do love that it’s Yeo Jin who thinks of it.
Another thing is, I like that Yeo Jin’s natural ability to empathize with others helps to complement Shi Mok, in that it helps to make up for his lack of ability in this area. When Shi Mok walks away abruptly from the taxi driver, it’s Yeo Jin who thinks to leave her name card with him. I’m pretty sure he’ll end up calling, at some point – and that would be thanks to Yeo Jin’s natural tendency to connect with people.
With the impending internal audit, I’m stunned to hear the Deputy Chief actually offer Shi Mok a promotion, while indicating that he’d like Prosecutor Seo to be the scapegoat. Woah. I hadn’t seen that coming, especially since up till now, it’s looked like the Deputy Chief and Prosecutor Seo have very much been in cahoots.
Is the Deputy Chief being genuine in his offer, or is this some kind of trap? And if he’s being genuine in his offer, it’s very telling, how his apparent close associate / co-conspirator is so easily thrown under the bus. I’d love to see what Prosecutor Seo thinks of this idea. 😏
And, what is Shi Mok thinking, with the way he’s appearing to agree to the Deputy Chief’s offer – if the Deputy Chief would offer him his own position in exchange? Without more information, this feels like some elaborate game of Dare; like, who’s going to chicken out first, and crumble?