Open Thread: Signal Episodes 11 & 12

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! I had to have this scene headline our post today, because it’s such a pivotal moment for Soo Hyun and Hae Young, as they express their trust in each other. 🥰

SOME IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS, before we begin:

ZERO SPOILER POLICY

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! 😉

SPOILER ZONE

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 11

We are starting to close in on our tail end of our story, and therefore I guess it makes sense that the cases are now in Extremely Personal territory, in relation to both Soo Hyun and Hae Young – and Jae Han too, come to think of it.

I have to admit, I felt a little thrown by how we see Soo Hyun’s old self show through, as she steps into Killer Dude’s house.

It’s very well played by Kim Hye Soo, don’t get me wrong. I guess I’d assumed that she’d left her old self sufficiently behind, that even in a situation like this, we’d see more of her hard-nosed cop self.

Which is a great way to humanize her, honestly. This way, we get to see that deep down, Soo Hyun’s still got some of that fear, fragility and vulnerability that used to characterize her, as a young cop.

Her run-in with Killer Dude really has left some indelible scars in her, and this very confronting experience, of re-entering the place where she’d once been abducted, definitely would be the kind of thing to draw all of that up to the surface.

Of course, while all this is going on, I’m mentally screaming at her to stop, and not attempt to do this on her own, without back-up.

But, I think that in Soo Hyun’s mind, this is one demon that she needs to face on her own, in order to conquer it, once and for all.

I was glad that it’s Hae Young who finds her first, because they have a personal connection, and I felt that if she heard Hae Young’s voice, it might shake her out of her state of almost-panic.

Which is why I found it a little disconcerting, that Soo Hyun’s so deeply immersed in her memories, and the confronting of those memories, that she doesn’t even hear him. Gah. It makes me feel that Soo Hyun still really needs to heal from all that she’s gone through.

It’s really quite gratifying, though, to see Soo Hyun stop Killer Dude’s suicide, then say his iconic line back to him, that this time, she’ll be the one to help him. Gosh, that’s quite perfect, really. In this moment, it feels like Soo Hyun’s reclaiming the innocence and confidence that he’d stolen from her.

That said, I do like Hae Young’s take on it all; that if someone had stepped in to help, perhaps everyone could have been saved – including Killer Dude himself.

That’s a really compassionate way of looking at it, and it’s so true, that Killer Dude had been a victim of deep and extensive abuse himself, which had messed him up for life.

What’s even better than our cold case team nabbing Killer Dude in the present, though, is Jae Han going on to nab him in the past, because Hae Young makes that request of him to not give up. That’s so great, honestly.

I love that all those other victims get saved as a result, and I also love the idea that Hae Young’s words have such a huge impact, not only on Jae Han himself, but also, on the reality that Jae Han helps to create.

On a side note, I have to say I felt quite amused at seeing young Soo Hyun display her hard-nosed fierce tendencies at work – because she’s frustrated in love. Tee hee. I found that very cute. It’s a little dissonant, to see otherwise girly-girl Soo Hyun, let out her inner badass.

I guess that’s how she discovered her ability to be fierce and no-nonsense? And then as time went by, it just became her general modus operandi?

On a related tangent, I also wanted to say that Soo Hyun’s changed so much over the years, that it must have been a huge blow to Mom, to have her girly-girl pink-favoring daughter turn into a hard-nosed, no-nonsense detective before her very eyes.

In the present, that wistfulness still shows up on occasion – like this episode, where she dresses Soo Hyun up for her blind date, in all pink.

Muahaha. Hae Young’s startled reaction at seeing her like this, was pretty great.

The other thing that was almost great, is how Soo Hyun demands that Hae Young tell her the truth about why he’s digging into Jae Han – and he almost seems to consider the possibility. Ahhh. WHEN WILL HE TELL HERRR???

This episode, we move on to Hae Young’s brother’s case in Injoo, and I can’t help but have my heart in my throat, when Hae Young makes that request of Jae Han, to please find out the truth behind the case.

You can feel just how much this means to Hae Young. It feels like he almost doesn’t dare to hope, that Jae Han will be able to uncover the truth, and perhaps clear Hyung’s name.

Kim Bum Joo’s definitely going down to Injoo to cover up the case, rather than solve it. And he’s definitely going to have his guard up, against Jae Han, which makes me wonder whether Jae Han will be able to uncover anything useful.

How trippy, though, that the only reason Jae Han had made that swap, to get himself down to Injoo, was because Hae Young had asked him to uncover the truth behind the case.

Isn’t that so circular? Hae Young sees the case listed in Jae Han’s notebook, and that’s why he asks Jae Han about it. BUT, the only reason the case is even on Jae Han’s radar, and the only reason Jae Han gets himself involved in the case, is because Hae Young mentioned it. TRIPPYYY.

The thing that Show reveals about Team Leader Ahn is so sudden and out of left field, that I had to rewatch the scene, to make sure that I didn’t take a flash nap without realizing it, and miss a chunk of story.

But no, it turns out it really is just a sudden reveal, that Team Leader Ahn’s daughter has been in hospital for a long time, and now, isn’t doing well, and doesn’t have much time left.

I take this to mean that Team Leader Ahn had turned to the dark side, in order to finance his daughter’s hospital bills.

Ahhh. No wonder he’s been looking conflicted at points, during our story. He’s not a bad guy at heart; he just decided to do bad things, in order to pay for his daughter’s hospital bills.

It says a lot, that he’d choose to set things right, practically the very minute he realizes that he doesn’t need the money for hospital bills anymore.

On hindsight, I wonder if this actually is a conscious decision to die with his daughter, since he realizes that the dirty cops that he works for, won’t let him off for, 1, trying to leave them, and 2, trying to unveil the dirty truth.

He likely knew, didn’t he, that throwing in his resignation like that, and reaching out to Hae Young, would put his life in danger?

As Hyung reaches out to Jae Han with a clue in the past, Hae Young finds Team Leader Ahn stabbed and in critical condition, in the present.

Gah. Will anything come out of these efforts, to point our investigators, towards the truth?

*Bites nails*

Episode 12

Woof. What an intense episode this worked out to be.

First of all, I hadn’t expected that Team Leader Ahn had actually heard Jae Han’s voice over the magical walkie-talkie, while it had been in his possession. Knowing what we now know, that he’d killed Jae Han himself, I can understand why that would have spooked him so much.

It makes perfect sense, that he’d be in shock, and it makes sense, that the first thing he’d do, is check on the place where he’d hidden Jae Han’s body.

And it also makes sense, that this would jog Team Leader Ahn’s conscience in a big way, given that he’d never wanted to kill Jae Han in the first place, and had regretted it deeply, over the years.

The way guilt works, I’m pretty sure that Team Leader Ahn’s conscience would have borne down heavily on him in increasing measure, over the years. I can absolutely believe that hearing Jae Han’s voice, in the context of that, would actually galvanize him into doing something about it, finally.

How tragic that it gets him killed, before he can really do anything concrete. My suspicious eye is heavily on Kim Bum Joo, since he’s got the most to gain from getting Team Leader Ahn out of the picture.

How sneaky of Kim Bum Joo, then, to turn the suspicion on Hae Young instead. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at how he puts on this whole show of being righteously angry at Hae Young, for not being a good enough officer, in not picking up on any clues on Team Leader Ahn’s killer, and then promptly making Hae Young a suspect in the case.

That’s basically committing the crime with one hand, and then using your other hand to point at someone else as the prime suspect – while shouting at the top of your lungs, that everyone HAD BETTER track down the killer, OR ELSE, at the same time. UGH.🙄

It’s a pretty good distraction tactic, though. I’ll give him that.

I’m really glad that in all of this, Hae Young feels able to trust Soo Hyun, and that Soo Hyun believes Hae Young unreservedly, that he’s not the culprit. I do love that beat, where Soo Hyun tells him so quietly, yet with so much conviction, that she trusts him.

And it honestly makes my heart wobble, when Hae Young tells Soo Hyun, that she’s the only person in the entire police force whom he trusts. Ahhh. I love the mutual trust and the solidarity.

I’m glad that Hae Young tells Soo Hyun that piece of information, that Team Leader Ahn had said with his dying breath, that he’d personally killed Jae Han. It’s awful and shocking news, to be sure, but I feel that Soo Hyun deserves to know.

Plus, I just want as few secrets between Soo Hyun and Hae Young as possible, even though he still hasn’t told her about the magic walkie-talkie.

Meanwhile, I can’t help getting stars in my eyes, at the way Jae Han doggedly investigates the Injoo case, in the past timeline.

He’s got so much stacked against him, and yet, he manages to find out so much, on his own.

In particular, I love that beat, where he instinctively works to profile the person who had left the message on the school’s online bulletin board. That feels like something he’s picked up from Hae Young, while working with him on cases. That thought gives me a thrill, honestly.

I also love how he gets to the suspect’s house and hops in the car, just as Ahn is about to drive the boy away, out of Injoo – which basically forces Ahn to change course, and drive to the police station instead.

I know that Jae Han gets foiled anyway, when the boy gets taken away by his father, but hey, ya gotta admit that that was a pretty great moment for Jae Han, eh? I love how quick-thinking and quick-acting he is.

And I also loved how gentle and understanding he comes across, while in the interrogation room, with the boy. If he hadn’t been interrupted, I’m pretty sure he would’ve gotten the boy to say more.

What a horrible story it turns out to be, that all these elite boys with influential parents, end up pinning all the blame on Hyung, under Kim Bum Joo’s advisement, no less. That is the most horrible, cruel thing.

Kim Bum Joo had CHOSEN Hyung, as a scapegoat, because he was poor and powerless, so that the other boys would get off with lighter sentences. It’s so awful that it makes me want to gag. 🤮

What a tragedy that became, not only for Hyung, but also, for Hae Young and their entire family. So many lives destroyed – an entire family destroyed – for the convenience of the rich and powerful. Ack. 💔

And, that beat, where Jae Han confronts his friend Jung Je, and Jung Je cracks, and tells Jae Han that he’d needed the money for his family, and that someone else would have taken the money, if he hadn’t, rings so poignantly, in my ears.

I mean, he’s not wrong, that if he had declined, someone else would have taken the money, to rig the case. That’s how systemic the corruption is. One person saying no, doesn’t actually make the corruption stop.

I’m so glad that Soo Hyun insists so quietly and gently, on hearing Hae Young’s story, and I’m so relieved that Hae Young shares this story with her.

It forms such an important context for what he’s doing, and what he’s about. And, it feels so important that Soo Hyun know this, if they are indeed going to work together, to bring the truth to light.

As we close out the episode, it feels like quite the breakthrough, that Hae Young realizes that Kim Sung Bum’s car had been at the scene of the crime, when Team Leader Ahn had been killed.

That search of Kim Sung Bum’s abandoned building, leading Hae Young to recall Team Leader Ahn’s cryptic words about the staircase, thereby leading Hae Young and Soo Hyun to actually find Jae Han’s remains, buried underneath that staircase, is altogether quite chilling.

It must be so surreal to Soo Hyun, to finally find Jae Han, after searching for him for so many years. And yet, what a horrible closure this provides: that Jae Han had been killed by Team Leader Ahn years ago, and had been hidden away, buried in the grounds of an abandoned building.

Gah. It’s heartbreaking, honestly. 😭

Now that we’ve actually found Jae Han’s remains, I suddenly have this strong NEED, for Hae Young and Soo Hyun to prevent this from happening in the first place.

PLEASE save Jae Han, by changing the past, Show. I will honestly be heartbroken if you don’t. 💔🥺

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Kim
Kim
1 month ago

So it seems that after solving the case of the latest serial killer, they have only 2 cases left. We started on dealing with Lieutenant Park’s brother and also Jae Han’s murder/disappearance and subsequent framing. I hope they can wrap both up well in the last episodes. I really want happiness for Hae Young and Soo Hyun.

manukajoe
manukajoe
1 month ago

Ep 11

The case disappeared! And now Hae-young wants the rape case to disappear too, and his brother to be saved.

I guess one of the boys in the case is the son of the captain or the congressman. Maybe they framed Hae-young’s brother to take the fall for him.

Ep 12

The transition to Kim Beom Joo’s safe house and finding Jae-han’s body was very sudden. How did that happen?

Leslie
Leslie
1 month ago
Reply to  manukajoe

– re Ep 12, Hae Young applied his profiler abilities to figure out that, Kim Sung Bum would likely keep evidence of his crimes as leverage against the even-higher-ups who are pulling the strings (big biz, politicians, etc.) AND that Kim would keep this evidence in a remote spot. Then, Hae Young, quick as could be, researched other properties that Kim Sung Bum owned, found the home left to Kim by his mother (conveniently in 2000.) Hae Young and Soo Hyun hared off, again, quick as could be, to look around said old family home, for evidence of crimes.

Fortuitously, upon spying cement stairs at the home, Hae Young, remembered Ahn Chi Soo’s dying words that, after hearing Jae Han’s voice on the walkie, he had “checked under the cement steps” to make sure that something (or someone) was still there. Hae Young and Soo Hyun commenced to dig under the steps, and … you know what happens next. Justice has become impatient, it seems! 😉

manukajoe
manukajoe
1 month ago
Reply to  Leslie

Yeh I know it just seemed very sudden and out of nowhere.

Leslie
Leslie
1 month ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Heh! 😆 I guess with just 4 episodes to go, they need to move the plot along.

Leslie
Leslie
1 month ago

Kim Sung Bum is one of the most despicable characters I’ve encountered in kdrama land. Kudos to Jang Hyun Sung for never missing a beat to deepen my antipathy towards him. Throughout both episodes, I silently yelled at my screen over the venal injustices he perpetrated on so many people.

S. Korean dramas often deal with the systemic corruption of public institutions, but somehow this one hits especially hard with Hae Young, and his beloved hyung’s, personal story. Who could do that to a defenseless young man?? What monster?? As much as I hope Jae Han is saved, I equally hope that Sun Woo gets a new chance at life. (Though, I’m reluctantly resigned to the fact that the latter is unlikely. For one thing, wasn’t Sun Woo’s case the whole impetus behind Hae Young becoming a profiler? If he never becomes a profiler, then… where would this story begin?)

Ok, now I’m convinced that Soo Hyun had romantic feelings for Jae Han. 😉

This show could not be more of a contrast to our other Group Watch, Healer, if it tried. Gritty, dark, dramatic, cerebral, a romance so muted as to be mere wisps of smoke in the background. (I guess there is an overlap in the corruption storylines.)

It is different, as well, from some of the shows currently swooned over on Patreon – Twenty Five, Twenty One, A Business Proposal, Reset, Forecasting Love and Weather. Love them all, but, boy, do I like this Korean crime genre, as well. (Beyond Evil was one of my favorites in 2021.)

For as fairytale-like as some of our beloved kdramas can be, when kdramaland turns it’s gaze on societal ills, it can be unflinchingly brutal in its cultural observations. Yet, in both cases, it brings a heart to story-telling, that feels quintessentially Korean. A little sentimental, maybe, but always underscoring the deepness and value of human connections.

j3ffc
j3ffc
2 months ago

It does indeed seem that the stakes are heightening as we move into The Big Case (sort of like Buffy’s Big Bad) – I presume that this will brings us full circle in the final quarter of the show. We’ve had foreshadowing of these events from Ep 1 and, as kfangurl apt points out, it’s all personal from this point onward.

I agreed that Soo Hyun’s PTSD re-emerging when she went into the house was heartbreaking but also humanizing. This is a mini-theme, with Jae Han pointing out that everybody gets scared – and that it’s right to feel that way.

Jung Hae-kyun has been so good in this. I had a distinct feeling even before this week’s reveals that there was more to him that met the eye, as now confirmed, and it’s been a terrific, subtle, supporting performance.

Leslie
Leslie
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

– I agree that Jung Hae Hyun is great in this show. From the start, he has not made Ahn Chi Soo a black or white character – hard to do when Ahn is soon shown to be on the side of Big Bad. He kind of parallels the gang member Lee Dong Jin, in that he’s clearly done something heinous, but at least he knows what was right and wrong, and has a conscience (eventually.)