Open Thread: Signal Episodes 5 & 6

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! The connection between Hae Young and Jae Han is becoming more pivotal to our story than ever, which is why I thought this would be the perfect screenshot to headline our post today.

SOME IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS, before we begin:

1. We will be adopting a ZERO SPOILER POLICY for this Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point.

We don’t want to spoil anyone’s watch experience with spoilers. The spoiler tags don’t work in email notifications, therefore, please take note that WE WILL NOT BE USING SPOILER TAGS FOR THIS OPEN THREAD. ANY AND ALL SPOILERS WILL BE REDACTED to protect first-time viewers in our midst (although, I’d appreciate it if you would save me the trouble of having to redact spoilers, heh 😅).

This includes, but is not limited to, how characters &/or relationships develop, later in the show.

We need to protect the innocent! 😉

2. HOWEVER!! If you’d like to discuss spoilers from a rewatcher’s point of view, I’ve created a SPOILER ZONE for you, where you can discuss all the spoilers you’d like, without the need for spoiler warnings. You can find it here!

Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️

My thoughts

Episode 5

I’ve heard so much about how good this show is, but y’know, no one told me about how heartbreaking it is. There’s so much heartbreak that our characters go through, in the course of our story – and I’m only just 5 episodes in. Ack. 😭

It’s so poignant to realize that Soo Hyun’s been searching for Jae Han all these years. How awful it must be, to receive a call each time Forensics gets skeletal remains.

I imagine that part of her must want it to be Jae Han, because it would at least provide some kind of closure, if he’s found, and perhaps, also provide clues to his death.

At the same time, I imagine that the rest of her must not want it to be Jae Han, because it would only confirm the worst, that he’s longer of this world. I’d guess that at least part of Soo Hyun hopes that somehow, somewhere, Jae Han is alive.

That flashback to when Soo Hyun had been a perky eager-beaver of a young officer, is so trippy to witness. Soo Hyun’s definitely changed a lot over the years.

From being ultra girly and quite delicate, she’s become hard-nosed and shrewd, and at least some of that, must come from Jae Han’s initial remarks to her, “Once you put on that uniform, there is no such thing as a man or woman. Are you going to go after criminals caring whether they are men or women?”

That must be where her earlier words to Hae Young had come from, when she’d remarked that if she were picky about confronting male or female suspects, she should just hand in her badge. It certainly looks like Jae Han’s left an indelible mark on her life, that likely goes beyond what looks like her romantic feelings for him.

It’s bad enough that Jae Han’s officially missing, but it’s even worse, to get that indication from Show, that there had been foul play involved. From the looks of it, Jae Han’s murder has been couched as a disappearance, and a pretty intricate cover-up has been erected, to prevent prying eyes from finding out the truth of the matter.

Gah. That’s awful, that Superintendent Kim and Team Leader Ahn appear to have been involved in Jae Han’s disappearance. Of course, this just begs the question of whether they were actively involved in getting Jae Han to disappear, or if they’d only been involved in the cover-up, and there are bigger and badder fish that are responsible for Jae Han’s death.

Now that the dust has settled from the solving of the Gyeonggi Nambu serial murders, Soo Hyun’s starting to turn her questioning eye on Hae Young, and the uncanny way in which he’d come upon the skeletal remains of Seo Hyung Joon, and I’m actually really keen for Hae Young to tell Soo Hyun about the magic walkie-talkie transmissions.

For one thing, I think it’d be helpful for Hae Young to have someone to work with, in the present, and for another, I think it would be a huge gift to Soo Hyun, to have even these fleeting connections with Jae Han from the past.

On that note, however, this episode is extremely thought-provoking, in terms of the effects that these transmissions have. As Jae Han makes changes in the past based on his conversations with Hae Young, the course of the future changes – and so far, it’s resulted in more deaths, instead of fewer.

That’s a heavy burden to carry, and I can only imagine the kind of guilt that’s starting to gnaw away at both Jae Han and Hae Young.

The entire unfolding of the story with Oh Kyung Tae is so heartbreaking, truly.

From the happy, laidback expression that Oh Kyung Tae wears when he sees Jae Han, which indicate what an amiable relationship they’ve had, we quite quickly go to tragedy and death, and it looks like it’s all because Jae Han had prompted Jae Han to check the surrounding of the burgled houses, instead of just the interior of the houses themselves.

We’re not told the specifics of how everything went wrong, but this really does appear to be a case of a little knowledge being a very dangerous thing.

Gah. It seems rather too far-fetched, that Oh Kyung Tae could have been indicted for circumstantial evidence such as fingerprints on a mailbox, but then again, we’ve seen that the system has a good number of dirty cops in them, and there are likely dirty prosecutors and judges to go with, as well.

I can believe that if they were determined to nab Oh Kyung Tae for the burglaries, they would’ve made it work, with just that circumstantial evidence.

How very awful, that Oh Kyung Tae’s arrest inadvertently leads to his daughter’s death, because of the bridge collapse. We’re not told the full story of why she’d been on that bus because of his arrest, but it’s clear enough, that if it hadn’t been for Oh Kyung Tae’s arrest, she would not have been on that bus, and therefore would not have died. Gah. How very tragic indeed.

It’s no wonder Oh Kyung Tae looks so jaded, and so dead on the inside, upon his release from prison. And it definitely looks like this abduction, with what looks like an intention to kill, has something to do with the death of his daughter.

We don’t know if or how this family had been involved that fateful day of the bridge collapse, but we do know that the kidnapped woman had been there that night, and that she’d been a teenager at the time. Perhaps this woman was supposed to have been in Eun Ji’s place somehow, and now Oh Kyung Tae’s come back to make it happen?

I have no idea how Hae Young could do anything to make things better, since, in the past, Eun Ji’s already died, and Oh Kyung Tae’s already been sentenced to prison. But, I am glad that he’s turning his attention to the case, and working to figure things out.

I don’t fully get Soo Hyun’s reaction, when Hae Young tries to speak up about Oh Kyung Tae and how he’s deviated from his usual M.O. Instead of backing him up, she kicks him repeatedly to silence him – but then, she tells him that he should have worked harder to convince Superintendent Kim and Team Leader Ahn, and that if he keeps acting this way, nobody will believe him.

I have to confess, this is not landing naturally for me. If she’d felt that Hae Young should have done better at convincing Kim and Ahn, then why did she kick him repeatedly, to get him to stop talking..?

I get that there’s a deeper issue here, which is that she perceives that Hae Young doesn’t identify himself as one of the police; that in his mind, the police are all a bunch of “they” and not “us.”

I do think she has a point, though I’d also add that a large part of the reason for Hae Young’s mental segregation, is because the rest of the officers don’t accept him as one of them either. I’d say it cuts both ways.

I’m also trying to rationalize that Soo Hyun herself might not know what to make of Hae Young’s statements either, and that could be why she says all those things to him, which land as weirdly unnatural to my ears, after what had gone down during the meeting.

What a terribly heartbreaking conversation between Jae Han and Hae Young, as we round off the episode.

The way Jae Han chokes out his words between sobs is enough to make my heart bleed, but there’s also what he says, that it’s all his fault, that is just so, so tragic and painful. At this point, I feel like Jae Han’s the one who most needs saving, via these transmissions, arguably even more than these cold case victims (especially since each intervention only seems to make the situation worse).

Can we just concentrate on saving Jae Han from now on, pretty please? 🥺

Episode 6

Guh. This was an utter emotional rollercoaster of an episode.

I don’t know; with so many people loving this show so much, I suppose I should have guessed that this is a drama that really gets you in the heart. But somehow, it hadn’t occurred to me. I’d assumed that this was just really smartly written, and that’s why people love it.

And I guess that’s why my heart feels kinda breathless right now, after having unwittingly boarding this rollercoaster of an episode. Gurgle.

The entire sequence of events leading up to Eun Ji’s death in the explosion is just so sad to watch, really.

Eun Ji being so heartbroken at her dad’s arrest; Oh Kyung Tae trying to put up a cheerful, assuring front for his daughter; Oh Kyung Tae looking so mournful and gutted at the sight of Eun Ji crying on the bus; Oh Kyung Tae screaming in helpless anguish as he watches the bus explode with Eun Ji in it, his wrist still handcuffed to the car.

Ack. It’s too much, really. 😭💔

What a traumatic thing for any parent to experience, honestly. And it’s a hundred times more tragic, when we know that Oh Kyung Tae didn’t do it and therefore didn’t deserve to be arrested in the first place. So much tragedy and heartache for one man to go through, all because he’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time. 😭😭

Because of everything Oh Kyung Tae’s gone through, and because of his unstable state of mind thereafter, I can understand why he would target Shin Dong Hoon. To his eyes, if it hadn’t been for Shin Dong Hoon’s interference, Eun Ji could have been saved.

How tragic, really, that Oh Kyung Tae spent 20 years in prison, and spent all that time hatching and refining his plan to kill Shin Dong Hoon, after making him experience what it’s like to look on helplessly, as his daughter’s dying. Gah. That must have eaten up Oh Kyung Tae on the inside, so much.

It’s no wonder he looks so worn out and hollow, in 2015 (really excellent performance by Jung Suk Yong, by the way).

It’s such a tragedy that Soo Hyun dies in that explosion – and just as it had started to look like she was finally vibing on the same wavelength as Hae Young too, and starting to trust his profiling analysis more.

However, because we are not even halfway through our story, and because Jae Han still has the chance to get Oh Kyung Tae out of prison by getting the real culprit arrested, I’m holding out hope that we’ll see Soo Hyun magically resurrected relatively soon.

Still, this doesn’t quite take away the sting of the loss for Hae Young, since he has no idea whether Jae Han will be successful.

And, I appreciate how that sting doesn’t only have to do with the fact that Hae Young feels personally responsible for her death; it also has to do with Hae Young genuinely appreciating Soo Hyun’s person, as he thinks back on the various things she’s said to him, in the time they worked together.

I think that’s an important nuance, because it feels like this is the first time Hae Young’s come to fully realize that he does like and respect Soo Hyun, despite their differences.

Jae Han feels personally responsible for Eun Ji’s death, while Hae Young feels personally responsible for Soo Hyun’s death. Both of their heartbreak is so dang palpable, honestly. 😭💔

And now, both of them are deeply and personally invested in wanting to set things right as much as possible. That shifting of gears, where the stakes start to feel so much more personal, is, I think, the thing that will take our story to the next level.

Now, it’s not just about solving a case and catching a criminal. Now, it’s about saving the people who are known and dear to them, to the greatest extent that they can be saved.

I really, really like how they are now actively combining their efforts, to find evidence against Han Se Gyu, their main suspect.

And I especially liked that beat, where Jae Han tells Hae Young that Oh Kyung Tae refuses to see him, and Hae Young answers that in that case, he’ll take on the task of talking to Oh Kyung Tae.

I love that. That’s teamwork across timelines, and the fact that that’s even possible, gives me a distinct thrill.

I don’t know what Jae Han has in mind, with the latest clue that he’s picked up, that Han Se Gyu’s car isn’t the color it was supposed to be, but I’m rooting so, so hard, for him to succeed. 🥺

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Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago

@KFG – I’m with you in not anticipating the emotional intensity of the show. It’s one thing to feel a detached anxiousness to try to stop a serial killer of people we don’t know, and quite another, to feel the race against time and circumstances to change and/or save the lives of people close to our characters. Never mind, to witness the character’s pain. I needed to turn off the sound, or FF, a couple of times, these two episodes, to manage the intensity.

The whole concept of how Show handles time is quite interesting. For one, I really like how 1980s-1990s scenes are done in elongated grainy frames, and how the ST is of the earlier era. It helps me stay grounded in where we are in the story, which can sometimes get complicated.

I also keep thinking of what Jae Han said on the walkie talkie in 2000 in ep 2, as he bleeds in the woods. He says this will be his last transmission, but “The radio call will start again. Then you will have to persuade me. 1989’s Lee Jae Han. The past can be changed. Never give up!” So we know that the past can change the present (we’ve seen it happen already, for good and for bad), but we haven’t yet seen how the past can be changed. And the fact that 2000 Jae Han can tell Hae Young this, means he’s conscious of being in a time loop (for lack of a better word, right now), but Hae Young is not conscious of it…yet? I’m very curious about what we’ll see in coming episodes, to get us to this circumstance.

It makes me wonder just how much of our story can be unwound – will we meet Jae Han in present day? Will Hae Young’s brother’s name be cleared, so he never commits suicide? Can Won Kyung be saved? Will Eun Ji be spared? Show does not strike me as one that will restore every wrong and mend every sorrow (though I must believe that Soo Hyun will return to us!) But, hey, I can go for the gold in my happiness aspirations.

manukajoe
manukajoe
2 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

I am wondering whether Jae Han and Soo Hyun will be together at the end. Maybe that would be too fluffy?

It’s cool that the writers incorporate so many elements and questions, it gives a lot of latitude for development and keeps us guessing. Will this happens, will that happen, what about this, etc… lots of balls in the air, so to speak.

Last edited 2 months ago by manukajoe
Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago
Reply to  manukajoe

– It’s hard not to root for Jae Han appearing in the present! I’m not completely sure, though, what Jae Han and Soo Hyun’s relationship was, other than we know – or believe – she had/has romantic feelings for him. Their very brief interaction in 2000, (ep 1 0r 2?) was pretty cryptic, if I remember correctly, but…🤷🏼‍♀️

💯 about how many unanswered questions and half-way presented ideas there are to develop. I bet we’re guessing until the end.

J3ffc
J3ffc
2 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

I thought the look of the 80’s scenes were due to my failing eyesight 😆. Actually, it occurred to me that part of the reason for elongating the scenes might be to make characters who appear in both time zones (especially Soo Hyun) look thinner and younger.

Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago
Reply to  J3ffc

– 😆 And, yes, the elongated and blurry shots makes everyone look more svelte and youthful. Where can I get some of that? 🤣

j3ffc
j3ffc
2 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

Why, in Dramaland, of course!!

Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago
Reply to  j3ffc

🤣😂

beez
2 months ago
Reply to  Leslie

@Leslie – Do you speak Korean? If not, then do you need to mute the sound just from the intensity of the actors’ voices or is it the dramatic music?

If you fast forward, what if you miss vital clues?

I’m trying so hard to get caught up so I can join you guys in the discussions.

Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@beez – No Korean, alas. I mute the sound because of the sound of actors’ voices and the dramatic music. I forward/hop in 10 sec intervals, so I don’t believe I miss vital clues, but if something doesn’t make sense when I resume normal viewing, I go back to watch.

The intensity is only in a handful of scenes. I don’t think of the drama, overall, as highly intense, just more intense than I thought when I started it. Hope that helps. I’m really enjoying it. Good luck with the catch up!

j3ffc
j3ffc
2 months ago

Impressed with both the writing and execution of the show so far. I think it took them about 90 seconds of screen time to get us to unconditionally love Eun Ji, whose death was so tragic not only given her promise and worth as a person but also because she represented a bond between Oh Kyung Tae and Jae Han.

Like , I also like that the cases are changing; it keep things a-zipping along. Also, the fact that when one thing in the past changes, it sets off a chain of events, making it that much harder to know how to intervene. When a butterfly in Seoul flaps its wings…

Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago
Reply to  j3ffc

– I felt the very same way about Eun Ji in her short time in our story. I couldn’t/can’t believe she shown so bright so quickly, then left the screen so abruptly. 😢 Truly well done, if heart-achey.

Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago

I’ve fallen behind on this show, but will come back with some thoughts, when I catch up!

manukajoe
manukajoe
2 months ago

Hi all! Really loving this show, and already watched 7/8. Yeah some of it is hard to watch, and some of it a little difficult to believe, but overall is tightly and fascinatingly written eh?

I really like that this show has a lot of different cases, compared with Stranger for example. It gives it a lot more momentum and payback. I guess I was expecting one long arc, and maybe it is, but other smaller arcs along the way is very cool.

Episode 6 was pretty ballsy to kill off a lead character. That’s very shocking. Of course we know that the past can change the present, but even so…

Leslie
Leslie
2 months ago
Reply to  manukajoe

– I, too, like the variety of cases, and their pacing. And how they meaningfully feed into the long arc of the story – some really good writing there.