I am forcing myself (forcing myself!) to stop and write up my thoughts before diving into the windup to the (sure to be) stunning conclusion. So if I’m a little incoherent and bumbling in this post, please understand.
Spoilers through episode 14 below…
I won’t pretend I have a hope in hell of knowing what’s going on for reals right now. There are plots within plots and, like Shi-hyun, we don’t have the full picture yet. But to give it a try…
Near as I can figure it, there are two criminal operations: supply and distribution. Scale had been the head of distribution, but it’s supply (and Busan) who are the real bosses. Our Shi-hyun pulled a coup on Scale in an effort to get close to Busan. But Busan was unhappy because of lack of permission for said coup (which makes sense on the one hand, but on the other: how could he find you to ask, Mr. Crazy McCrazy?). So now Shi-hyun and gang are trying to take the entire cake and become both distribution and supply. (Yay, Shi-hyun’s gang!)
And that’s one surface. Since he’s an undercover cop, Shi-hyun’s real mission was to identify the gangster boss, Busan, and insinuate himself into the supply circle. So all his machinations were really his attempt to get in with Busan. Which didn’t work, obviously and now he’s going with plan B. I’m not quite sure what plan B is… but that’s what Shi-hyun’s doing.
But that’s another surface. Underneath that is the cop who’s running him, Chief Min — whose high enough in the force to have a some pull, but still has higher-ups he’s reporting to. I have a very, very strong suspicion (that the show has been feeding with larger and larger hints) that he’s dirty. His interest in Busan may well be for a coup of his own.
(Even if he’s not dirty, I don’t like him anymore. He’s mean to Shi-hyun, pushing him with carefully placed emotional triggers of guilt and anger. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Chief Min had Kyung-mi killed just to tighten his control over Shi-hyun.)
Going even deeper, I’m starting to think Hyung-min’s daddy (head of the Prosector’s Office — so a very big cheese indeed) is dirty, too. That maybe Busan is just the face of the government men who actually run (and profit from) the illegal drug business. Which, if true… damn. I mean, in The Godfather the Corleone’s had maybe a pet judge or congressman or two, but they weren’t the actual government. If the big bosses are actually political bosses, too… How do you beat that?
So that’s the board game as I see it at the moment. Shi-hyun has just had his world rocked (again!) and I have no idea how, or if, his motivations will shift. But at least his little gang of three has reconciled. (And it only took a few murder attempts!) Shi-hyun’s circle is so tiny and they’re about to face some massive stuff. It’s better that they get along. (Plus, I like them both. Soo is awesome and I’ve decided his favorite color is loud, and he’ll be whatever kind of tree Shi-hyun needs. As long as it looks good.)
I am still trying to figure out Safari. (Choi Moo-sung is killing it in this role.) I have a hard time not liking him so I’d really, really like for him to be on Shi-hyun’s side in the end. I just… I don’t know. (Also… Is everyone a cop?!?) He hasn’t killed Shi-hyun which is a hopeful sign. On the other hand, Shi-hyun is really hard to kill. So I’m just waiting and watching (and hoping but also bracing myself).
And then there’s Hyung-min. He’s most definitely a good guy, but he’s got all the wrong ideas about Shi-hyun and I’m not sure if he’d be able to pause for thought if Shi-hyun tried to explain things. He’s a fascinating mirror for Shi-hyun: the poor little privileged kid from the cold family, all the advantages but no love versus the orphaned street kid with the tightly knit found family. Hyung-min is heat and emotion to Shi-hyun’s cool calculation. But he’s not stupid. That’s my one hope — that he’ll not want to pause for thought, but the thoughts will come and he’ll have to pause anyway. (And then he and Shi-hyun will unite and take over everything?)
The other way the two men are opposites is the way they deal with people. Hyung-min seems approachable — but he’s totally cut off and likes it that way. (Soo-min’s cellphone tag for him, “The Great Wall,” is neatly apt.) Whereas Shi-hyun seems completely unapproachable, yet he’s got the imprinting instincts of a baby duck. When he connects with someone, he’s connected, totally and completely and it’ll take some real effort to pull him off. (Chief Min seems to be putting in the effort — grrr on him.)
Which leads me to Soo-min and my possibly unpopular opinion (?) — I like her! I love that she’s a scrapper and even with the patchiest of training she scrambles and fights and doesn’t go down easy. And I love how she and Shi-hyun seem to just get each other, in a way neither are completely used to. I love that when he kissed her, she closed her eyes…
…and then she kissed him back.
(And then they had sex! Which is beyond shocking in a k-drama. The power of cable?)
I think Soo-min and Shi-hyun recognize each other’s loneliness but also each other’s imprinting instincts — that need to make family where ever they can find it. Their need pings off each other. And honestly, I think that’s part of the reason Hyung-min is doing such a crappy job running Soo-min. He doesn’t fully get that need. (His family life sucked — but he wasn’t abandoned.)
I don’t think Hyung-min is meaning to do bad by Soo-min. But he doesn’t quite get her and she makes him uncomfortable so he follows his instinct and holds her at arms length, even when she’s desperate for some kind of positive reinforcement. (To his credit, I think part of the reason Hyung-min’s pushed Soo-min away is because he was tempted to take what she was offering. But for comfort, not love, and he didn’t want to hurt her.) But it does mean she’s finding that positive reinforcement with the other side.
An aside: I did have to laugh at Soo-min’s outfit choice for her zoo-errand. It screamed, “drug dealer,” so loudly it actually went all the way around into “couldn’t possibly be because it’s just too obvious.” And her heels! Her ridiculously high heels! (Though — girl does know how to run in them. There is that.)
But it didn’t detract from the character for me. In-show I could see her wanting to look as tough and badass as possible. Out-of-show, since Shi-hyun turned up in practically the same getup (minus the heels — though feel free to picture it) it was apparently their couple-outfit.
And that’s it! I’m free to dive back in! See you when it’s done!