Open Thread: Stranger Episodes 1 & 2

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! ❤️

My thoughts

Episode 1

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.

Episode 2

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?

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merij1
merij1
6 hours ago

I have the following lens adjustment to suggest:

Often in shows like this the fun is trying to solve the puzzle(s) before they are officially revealed, using whatever breadcrumbs the writers share along the way. I tend to be very good at this, which, btw, ends up being more about sensing the patterns in drama scriptwriting than actual crime solving.

For most crime or mystery-box shows it feels like a cat & mouse game between the writers-nim and veteran watchers of such drama, following a number of conventions, tropes and agreements about clues and understandings regarding which forms of misdirection are acceptable and which are looked down on as “cheating” on the part of the writers.

However I did not find this dynamic to be the case with either season of Stranger.

True, there are the usual promising explanations that end up being dead-ends, followed by new leads and theories and must be considered in turn. Leading eventually to a satisfying conclusion, where everything turns out to be internally consistent with the prior episodes. But it just didn’t feel like the writers’ point was for me to see if I could figure it out in advance. So if you go into this with that expectation, I fear you might be disappointed.

For me, the joy of the show lies in the character studies — how these individuals navigate the moral grey zone of their lives and how they relate with one another.

If there are worthy puzzles here, they’re more about motivation. Even when you reach solid conclusions about who-did-what, you’re still left to puzzle out the more important question of why they did it. Was it greed, was it fear, was it strategic game-playing, was it an impulsive mistake, was it love, was it a moral epiphany?

It’s all about the character studies!

Last edited 6 hours ago by merij1
eda harris
eda harris
6 hours ago
Reply to  merij1

thanks. sounds like a good suggestion. i will try not the chase after the mouse, but what if i am a cat? but i do get what you mean and will try to overcome my catlike tendencies.

merij1
merij1
5 hours ago
Reply to  eda harris

Ha. Cats gonna cat. And I probably exaggerated my point, but I do think it’s mostly true.

What follows is a bit of a tangent, but hey I’m ADD so I can’t help myself!  

I’m reminded of my experience reading The Buried Giant by the great Kazuo Ishiguro. Nominally it’s a fantasy novel with a huge mystery to be solved.

If you’re a regular reader of fantasy novels, you expect the author to delight you at the end with a mind-blowing resolution of the mystery. But even though few of the characters in The Buried Giant are who they seem to be at first, and even though there are indeed extraordinary and consistent explanations for all that has occurred, the author goes out of his way to make his reveals as un-dramatic as possible. You drift through the first 3/4s of the book building your own theories, expecting an epic climax where the protagonist experiences an earth-shattering epiphany.

But then, with virtually no build-up, reveals are simply stated by other characters, as if to say “Of course this is the explanation; you knew it all along.” And from the protagonist’s subdued reaction, you realize he had indeed already figured it out a while back, if only at a subconscious level. All this is consistent with the theme of the novel, which turns out to an allegory for modern times and how we choose not to see certain things clearly.  

In short, solving the mechanics of the mystery was never the point Ishiguro set up for us in his novel. The point was that people behave in certain ways with certain consequences.

eda harris
eda harris
4 hours ago
Reply to  merij1

no need to help yourself – it’s all good. as for me, i must admit, i am not into crimes, and i know almost nothing of the asian culture, except for china towns and chinese food, which i love. in my graduate school i had a chinese girlfriend and learn some chinese cooking from her, but we never went beyond that. i stumbled totally by accident during the brutal pandemician boredom on the drama “the princess liweiyoung”, and that is how i discovered the world of asian dramas, which completely took over my world. in terms of literature, again no knowledge of anything asian, i am a girl of the classics mostly, dostoyevsky, balzac, stendhal, stephan zveig, erich maria remark, tolstoy, chekhov…a lot of poetry… you get the idea. i am now into the book “the earth is the lord’s” by taylor caldwell and i chose it because it is about far east during the middle ages and genghis khan. fascinating book and the writing itself is like pure unadulterated poetry. i chose it because it’s t about all these mongolian tribes but also some about china at that time, which is close to my interest now.

eda harris
eda harris
3 hours ago
Reply to  eda harris

actually, i just recently watched the movie “falling flowers” by huo jianqi about the chinese writer xiao hong and got interested in her work. do you know of any good translations of her work in english? by the way, the movie is amazing

merij1
merij1
2 hours ago
Reply to  eda harris

I’m not familiar with her work. But I’m adding her to the list!

j3ffc
j3ffc
2 hours ago
Reply to  merij1

Great comment, merij1! The Buried Giant is a really fantastic book and makes your point beautifully. I thought it’s setting in (fictional) medieval times lent a great deal to the humanity of the story as well as its delivery.

Ele Nash
Ele Nash
3 hours ago
Reply to  merij1

Brilliant comment, ! I totally agree – and my memory concurs, as the only things I can really remember about the show are the great characters and acting, rather than any vital clues or plot twists as such. My son has ADD too and I love a good tangent 😉

eda harris
eda harris
1 day ago

i am not a fan of crime/police dramas/movies, so have nothing to compare with. but i embark on this journey. so first of all i had to rewatch these 2 episodes a few times just to be able to stich the korean names to the characters(i have a truly difficult time with this issue, even when the people address each other, the spelling in the subtitles does not seem to correspond to what i hear. what’s with that, can somebody explain?
i have to agree with natalia, the first two episodes ok, but not above or beyond. at least it does not twist my emotions in pretzels and occupy my brain 24/7, so that’s good for now.
we see a kid, his brain is overdeveloped, can it be a genius in progress? but he’s suffering, so something must be done. partial lobotomy. so now he has a mutilated genius brain and less pain. ok, i can live with that. he lost his emotions in the process, that’s sad for a human, (he’s now kind of a robot or autistic) but perfect for a prosecutor – he does not react and nobody can read him. in addition his comprehension, his perception is way above other prosecutors or policemen. too bad for those “others” but i have already great hopes for him.
from the start, all kind of suspicions jump into my mind (i do not pretend to be a prosecutor or detective, but can’t help it). the first suspicion: si-mok walks with the old lady to her house, she comments that the door is open. why? it seems it was supposed to be closed, especially that they are trying to avoid creditors. next they see the bloody body on the floor, and si-mok locks out the old lady in the rudest way possible, is he that damaged? after all mom just saw her son and is in shock, but does not yet know if he’s still alive. couldn’t he deal with it a bit gentler? (this damn mutilated brain).then the suspicions start to pile on, si-mok has a flash back, a man (later we learn it’s mr.park) jumps into his car and says “your lives are in my hands” and tells si-mok to deliver the message to deputy chief prosecutor LCJ – ” i will never die alone”. that sounds like a threat, deadly threat. from that point on everything escalates, suspicions pile on: broken tv, the cable tv tech, call to the police and the first encounter with them – but si-mok hardly hears them or listens to them, he’s in his own world. and here appears han yeo-jin, the badass lieutenant yet very sensitive to other people, unlike si-mok, a case of yin/yang? i must admit my immediate affection for this character, her facial features from the nose up with her “loving innocent puppy gaze’ look very similar to those of the actor wang kai, and i just finished the “the disguiser” where wang kai is brilliant and i still have him in my heart, so her resemblance to him gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, kind of a shot of vodka on a cold snowy day going down your throat into your belly (my memories from long ago).
as the episodes roll on, the suspicions list grows: dong-jae with his always bulging eyes and his boss the LCJ (smart, calculating, always a step ahead of others)- rings the bell of corruption and even murder, su-chan kim – stinks like a skunk from a mile, i call him “skunk”, falsified the result of the blood sample and hid mr. park’s computer (he seems to be in cahoots with somebody higher up – but who?). as the convicted killer hangs himself to prove his innocence, everything explodes and it looks that si-mok was framed. uo, uo, how is he going to get out of it? now the bad guys can get rid of him and resolve their problem. but LCJ is too smart to take this rout, where will it go from here?

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
14 hours ago
Reply to  eda harris

Great comments! I can help a bit with your wondering why what is said doesn’t match the name in the subtitles, often characters refer to other characters with their title like “Prosecutor Hwang” or “CEO Park” but the English subtitles might give the first name instead like Si Mok or Park Soon Jun. Or someone might address an older lady with “Omonim” which is a term of respect for any elderly lady but subtitles might say Mdm Park or something like that. I don’t actually know Korean, just little bits that I’ve picked up from watching K dramas haha.

eda harris
eda harris
7 hours ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

o, that’s what it is. thanks, it helps. but in general, the subtitles many times do not make sense at all. for the amount of money they spend on these productions, can’t they get some decent translators?

eda harris
eda harris
6 hours ago
Reply to  kfangurl

that is sad. so much is lost in losing the nuances. i wish somebody here who speaks korean, chinese would fill in the important ones, although many times even good translations are not able to provide that special meaning that is known only to a person who lives with that particular language.

eda harris
eda harris
6 hours ago
Reply to  kfangurl

thanks for that. anything helps.

Ele Nash
Ele Nash
1 day ago

Oh, I thought I’d be able to read your review and it would all come flooding back so I could then comment intelligently… Unfortunately, the plot shenanigans are kind of scant in my memory (possibly lack of sleep due to a new baby 😴 or just an appalling memory – I literally watched this show earlier this year but you’d think it was ten years ago 🙄) so I feel like my comments are going to be a bit on the facile side – which perhaps they always are 😆

Anyho, what I do remember very well are the characters and how much I loved them and rooted for them. Who to trust? Even some of the shadier looking I couldn’t help but be a little charmed by – hello there, Prosecutor Seo 😍 and I always have inexplicable affection for anything Yoo Jae-Myung is in ♥ Ah, there’s such great acting in this show!

As for the whole lobotomy thing, as with so many kdrama characters used and medically abused this way, I just wish they’d make them autistic and be done with it. He can be all kinds of different and perceived to be different but still have all the emotions and empathy (like autistic people, he totally does have empathy), just not the facial expression and social niceties all you neurotypicals love 😅 To me, Shi-Mok is autistic through-and-through and the whole brain surgery schtik is essentially an unnecessary melodramatic device. But that’s just my opinion. It certainly doesn’t matter in the sense it doesn’t spoil the show or Shi-Mok’s great, incorruptible heart.

Side note, Wikipedia says this: “The entire series was written by Lee Soo-yeon who was inspired by the Korean adage “We cannot rule those who want nothing” to create the character of Si-mok”. I think this sums up the tensions at play incredibly well. Shi-Mok wants nothing, so how are those in power ever going to be able to manipulate him?

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
1 day ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Thanks for the insight, indeed I found that aspect of Si Mok – how the higher powers are unable to figure him out or manipulate him cos he isn’t wired like others – very intriguing. Agree he displays traits of autism, some do display issues with with sensory overload. I heard a BBC interview with autistic women who had learned to “pass” as neurotypical very well, knowing how to be sociable and act nice, but it was tiring and taxing so as they became more confident in their autistic identity they showed more their tics or stimming and saying no to acting nice. There are much stronger norms for women, including autistic women, to be sociable and act nice compared to men. Who can be rude but as long as they are good at their job or powerful people tolerate quirks or rude behaviour.

Ele Nash
Ele Nash
1 day ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Yes, I can vouch that masking autism is hugely tiring, entirely for everyone else’s benefit but to your own detriment, and the leading reason women in particular are so under-recognised as autistic.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
1 day ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Thank you for sharing your experience, and do let us know how we can be more aware and helpful to autistic individuals in our midst without being annoying about it!

And oh wowie congratulations on your new baby!!! Tiring days ahead but filled with joy along with the exhaustion! I have two young ones myself!

Ele Nash
Ele Nash
1 day ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Aw, thank you kfangurl and @ElainePhua 🥰

The reason I love this blog is because it’s so inclusive! And one of the reasons I really slurp up kdrama and cdrama and anime is because I think they seem to incidentally include characters I feel are likely autistic, but often without fanfare or comment. They just are and they’re on the whole not made out to be ‘lesser than’ or excluded for all their apparent stilted social skills.

Although having said that, kdrama especially does try to ‘reason’ characters out, by making them have other medical issues – like Shi-Mok in this show, or Jang Hyuk’s character in A Beautiful Mind, or both Gong Hyo-jin and and Jo In-sung’s characters in It’s Okay, That’s Love. But even so, I still really warm to those characters and dramas that have them 😍

P.S The baby is my grandson! And yes, I am way, way too young to be a granny… 😆

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 day ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

@Ele: Granny = Best job in the World! Congrats!

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
18 hours ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Haha, congratulations all the same!

j3ffc
j3ffc
2 hours ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Congrats indeed! People used to think I was too young to be a grandfather, but they don’t anymore …. 🙄

MC
MC
16 hours ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Ah, congrats on the grand baby! I thought it was your baby too initially till you clarified. And I love what you said about autism. Really reminds me to be more sensitive to peoples needs and accepting of people because sometimes they struggle with things you can’t see on the surface. ♥️

Timescout
2 days ago

Stranger, the show with the motto “everyone lies, no-one is to be trusted”. I’d say that’s quite evident from the get go.

First off, anyone expecting some kind of traditional crime show or thriller will be disapointed as this ain’t it. Stranger is mostly about corruption with social commentary weaved in and crime solving on top. Corruption etc as a topic tends to put me to sleep but oddly enough Stranger never has. I found it riveting at my first watch and I still think it’s quite intriguing. It’s been a while since my last re-watch and I noticed that quite a few bits and pieces have faded from memory, so this is almost like watching a new-ish show. 🙂

I love Yeo Jin and I enjoy the enigma that Shi Mok is in the beginning. They are going to make a great seluthing pair as their investigative styles and personalities complement each other. That’s all I will say about that at this point. 😀 The cast overall is so good! The whole drama is crammed with pretty awesome actors.

Kdrama medicine… yeah. I guess writer-nim could have found another way to explain Shi Mok’s personality but to tell the truth, the “medically bogus lobotomy thingy” never bothered me. I decided that in this drama world there is such a condition that can be remedied with this medical procedure and getting hung up on that would be an exercise in futility. Over the years I’ve learned to ignore most of kdrama medicine as long as it doesn’t render the whole plot invalid. And while we are on the subject, something I noticed this time around. In the narration about Shi Mok’s operation in the begining of ep 1 they said that “as a post surgical after effect he may not feel any emotions at all”. Note – may, not definitely will, as in ‘it’s written in stone for sure’. I’ve always thought that Shi Mok isn’t totally without feelings. He just needs the right triggers.

I’m enjoying this re-watch a lot so far and I’m already couple of episodes ahead, ha. Gotta learn to pace myslef.

Silly Merricat
Silly Merricat
1 day ago
Reply to  Timescout

This is my second time through the show and I’m with you on board the Si-mok has some emotions (limited as they are) under the surface. It makes him so very interesting.

Jonan23
Jonan23
2 days ago

The main hook for me so far is Simok himself and I am really digging the performance by Cho Seung-wo. I love how fact based and no nonsense he feels never giving weight to emotion no matter how convincing or emotional the person seems.

Silly Merricat
Silly Merricat
1 day ago
Reply to  Jonan23

As much as I love my girl Bae Doona in this, I think Cho Seung Woo’s performance really makes the show. With a lesser skilled actor Si-mok could’ve easily ended up being a very wooden character in the hands of a lesser actor, especially with the limited emotion thing he has going on. Instead, he’s so interesting with all kinds of micro expressions, especially when he’s baffled by other people’s responses or trying to puzzle things out.

Natalia
Natalia
2 days ago

I am a big fan of crime thrillers, generally speaking. But, I have to be honest and admit that I found those two first episodes of “Stranger” a little bit boring. The thing is that I find the male lead intriguing (minus the lobotomy part which feels a little too much like medical bogus on the part of the scriptwriter) and I really like the female lead, but I am not particularly intrigued by everything else that happens. It feels at this point that the show might be less crime and more politics/corruption drama, but I will stick around and watch!

Shahz
Shahz
2 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

Natalia ,you have hit the nail on the head with your assessment I really enjoy Crime thrillers as well and I enjoyed this BUT the show’s core is political machinations of law, order and big business rather than crime I was fascinated by those dynamics but appreciate others wouldn’t be.

j3ffc
j3ffc
2 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

The partial lobotomy bit is so medically bogus that I’m kinda surprised that they didn’t use it in “Kill Me Heal Me”.

I suspect that they resort to this nonsense because if the character just had this personality because, well, just because that was his personality, the writer might have felt that the audience would negatively judge him, blame him, for being a bad person. But by introducing a “medical” explanation, some might forgive him for being this way because it’s not really his “fault”.

Natalia
Natalia
2 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

, I won’t lie, “Kill Me Heal Me” did come to my mind too!
I would have found it so much acceptable if there was a backstory like he had to fend for himself since his childhood and grew up to be a very closed off kind of person… Anyway, I still like him, more or less!

pickleddragon
pickleddragon
2 days ago

I’m just here to say how delighted I am that you picked this for your group watch. As an always and forever fan of Stranger, I’ve watched and rewatched this a few times already, but I don’t want to ruin your experience with my overenthusiasm.

However, I’ll say this: your observation that “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.” captures a lot more of the story than you might think it does right now!

This is scriptwriter Lee Soo-yeon’s signature style. She unpacks the aspects of systemic corruption in a manner that universalises it. The basically keeps a sinusoidal wave going – working its way through disappointment and exhilaration, failure and retribution, among other things. Will the wave ever stop? Or does it continue endlessly? Those are questions you keep asking yourself. I’m fangirling here, but IMO, this is terrific scriptwriting, and contains more deeper social commentary than the common or garden variety of a buddy cop / hyper intelligent ML detective drama that many regard it to be. 

Kim
Kim
2 days ago

I have had this one on my list for a while, the first time I attempted to watch it I only got through the first 7 episodes. That was over 2 years ago so I’m glad to be watching it(again sort of). Enjoying it so far. I won’t spoil anything but what I remember is that I really liked the interaction between the ML and FL , grew to hate the corrupted people and since I already love crime dramas it was definitely right up my alley, but I got distracted and never went back. Looking forward to finishing it this time.
I hope everyone sticks around for the whole thing.

Sara
2 days ago

I don’t have much to say except that I’m enjoying this just as much as my first watch. So much easier to understand what’s going on and seeing Shi-mok and Yeo-jin again just makes me so happy. That’s all!

Trent
2 days ago

So, yeah, I’m enjoying this already…especially seeing all this really high-caliber acting talent lean into their roles and really low-key demonstrate their chops already. I already feel like this role suits Cho Seung-woo a lot better than Han Tae-seul in Sisyphus. And Bae Doona, of course top notch. And I’d forgotten (or hadn’t realized) that our Shin Hye-sun was in this, an early chance for her to shine before Still 17 and Mr. Queen.

Love every little hint and indication that our lead characters are starting to reluctantly (on his part, at least) form an alliance…I love buddy investigation type shows, where partners team and complement each others’ strengths. Maybe that’s where we’re headed here? Maybe the dynamic duo will form their alliance a little more smoothly and easily than our bros in Beyond Evil?

In general I am not particularly susceptible to gimmicky hooks like “oh the ML had a partial lobotomy so he doesn’t feel emotion,” because really, what does that even mean? Just show him as a very reserved, analytical type with an inscrutable inner life, it’s fine…no need for a fancy quasi-explanation that doesn’t really explain. But anyway, I feel like his “condition,” however you explain it, did really manifest at the beginning of ep. 2 when he went straight at the distraught, bereaved widow, and kept pushing at her to come clean. That was…definitely something.

One last minor point. I feel like the prostitute who visited the Deputy Chief’s hotel room and then subsequently got swept up in prosecutor Seo’s grand sweep is going to play some sort of part coming up? Or was that just a fillip to demonstrate corruption? I feel like it wouldn’t have had that much screen time and emphasis if it wasn’t going to lead to something further…

manukajoe
manukajoe
2 days ago

Hey back to it again!

Hm so here’s another show about a super intelligent but socially awkward cop. And so far I prefer the cop characters in other similar shows like The Victim’s Game and Criminal Minds (old Vincent D’Onofrio show).
Ep 1 Production values are superb. Eh I don’t really know what is going on. Official corruption I get that.
Ep 2 Why do they have this intense music already, nothing dramatic is happening?
Is this a very standard police thriller? The two main characters seemed to get chummy very quickly. So far I am not hooked. I like the FL a lot though, I like that she is not the classic beauty that most FLs are.
Well, not very much to say so far.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
2 days ago

Morning! Looks like I’m the first to comment! This is my first time watching and I have mixed feelings. I feel episode 1 was deliberately heightened to up dramatic tension with the super quick court case and then the suicide by the wronged suspect. Doesn’t reflect well on Shi Mok who is supposed to be smart and competent. Yes his quick thinking and resourcefulness led them to quickly identify and arrest a prime suspect before he went to ground. But he also trampled all over a crime scene and didn’t call it in, and pursued the suspect himself without backup (FL just tagged along uninvited). What about integrity of evidence and proper jurisdiction and all that? And he didn’t appear to seriously consider the alternative hypothesis that Kang was telling the truth by investigating for other suspects. Indeed I did wonder if he was being careful not to get fired else he can’t play the long game to investigate corruption higher up.

Perhaps because I’ve watched more crime dramas, poor handling of evidence irks me more? Haha. Also corruption again? It seems to be a pervasive theme in Korean dramas. And another unfeeling investigator in the vein of Sherlock, although it first came out in 2017 so prior to the rash of antisocial personality disorder dramas like It’s OK to Not Be OK and Flower of Evil.

But I’m willing to give it a chance to distinguish itself from the pack! Since it got so many praises I’m sure it will become more complex and layered. I particularly like our FL, she is frank, empathetic and competent without being either girly or tough cop. I like that she gets into the action with gusto, jumping down from the second storey to pursue a suspect but without unnecessary kung-fu flair.

manukajoe
manukajoe
2 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Snap!

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
2 days ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Haha! Oh BTW I just recalled that Shi Mok did report the crime to the police at the house itself but then took off with no explanation to pursue the suspect.