After two successful romantic comedies in the newly minted Fri-Sat 8:40pm time slot, tvN has decided to try something different with a serial killer murder-mystery. Although I hope that there is indeed a mystery because unless it’s a red herring, we’ve already been given the identities of the two serial killers. Dear Lord, let this be a red herring.
But first things first: What is Gap Dong about?
In the mid-90s, there was a series of murders within a twelve-kilometer radius in the city of Iltan. All the victims were female and they’d been raped, tied and gagged. Here’s how the main cast are connected to the case:
Yang Chul Gon (Sung Dong Il) was the lead detective on the case. In his infinite wisdom, he pins the murder on an intellectually challenged man called Ha Il Sik. He brutally interrogates the man to get him to confess but he pleads his innocence. He then tries to force him to provide a jacket that he’s convinced contains evidence linking him to the murder but before he can get it, his young son burns it. He later on coerces him to confess by promising to send his son to college however, the poor man commits suicide before he can be locked up. He’s also known as “Scary Tiger”.
Ha Moo Yeom (Yoon Sang Hyun) is that man’s son. Given his father’s connection, he’s been obsessed with Gap Dong since his childhood and even went to the 9th crime scene after the murder. After the statute of limitations expires, he decides to let go of his obsession with Gap Dong. He’s now cop. The kind of cop who’s lenient with petty thieves and lets them run off with stolen cash. He’s also known as “Mad Monk” and from what I gather, he really was a monk (or studied to be one). He insists that his father is innocent but I think part of his obsession stems from his need to prove it so that he can fully believe it himself.
Oh Maria (Kim Min Jung) is a doctor working in the prison psych ward. When Yang Chul Gon first sees her, he calls her Mother Theresa because she’s prone to doing things like washing inmates’ feet. But there’s another side to her… the side that wears a red wig and sexy clothes after hours. And oh, her birth name is Kim Jae Hee. Kim Jae Hee is the little girl who witnessed the 9th murder. She and another girl had both been captured by Gap Dong but her life was spared due to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Ryu Tae Oh (Lee Joon) is one of Maria’s patients and his illness appears to be psychopathy. We have no idea why he was put there in the first place but he’s a highly intelligent individual who hero worships Gap Dong and supposedly recognizes him in the psych ward. He’s freed and becomes a barista. And in his spare time, seems to be Gap Dong’s copycat.
Ma Ji Wool (Kim Ji Won) is a high school webtoon artist. All we know about her so far is that she’s a talented girl with a big crush on Moo Yeom. And her webtoon bares some resemblance to the serial killings.
Finally, we have a very suspicious, meek inmate who’s bullied by his peers. The drama is trying to make us believe that he might be Gap Dong because whenever there’s some test to find him, he does everything in his power to escape. Let’s call him Suspicious Guy.
The story begins with the 9th murder. Detective Han Sang Hoon (Kang Nam Kil) is investigating at the crime scene. A dazed Kim Jae Hee is in her crying mother’s arms when Det. Yang shows up. A young Moo Yeom runs over to the scene and is taunted by Yang who wonders if the smell of blood attracted him. In other words, this guy is a dick. And it’s clear that these two are not friends. With nunchuks in his hand, the boy promises to catch Gap Dong. Yang laughs in his face. A monster’s son wants to catch a monster? Bwahahahaha… not.
Seventeen years later, Det. Han is now a college professor teaching his students about Gap Dong. Det. Yang gets a promotion but instead of doing something fun like working in the Blue House, he chooses to return to Iltan to close the Gap Dong case. Moo Yeom is now a cop who lets petty criminals go with some of their loot. His excuse is that it’s a necessary evil that keeps the unemployment rate low and stimulates the economy. But can I say that I want to slap him? It’s one thing to let the young kid go and quite another to let him keep the stolen money.
Moo Yeom is told to go to the psych ward of a jail to check out some graffiti. It says: “I am the real Gap Dong.” Which can’t be welcome to a man who’s vowed to forget about the sick bastard. He informs his new chief, Yang, of this discovery and spitefully says it’s nothing serious and probably his welcome gift to the town he’d terrorized by accusing everyone of being Gap Dong. Yang assigns him to find the prankster. It’s on his second trip to the ward that he first sees Oh Maria who’s washing the inmates’ feet.
He approaches her by asking to get his feet washed too and tells her that she’s going too far with her “kindness” especially as most of the inmates are probably thinking very lewd thoughts about her. Plus, I’m guessing he’s attracted to her which is why he later bothers her with a consultation. He lies on the exam table and tells her all about a case he’s been obsessed with and had to move past because the statute of limitations ran out. However, now, he’s worried that the man might want to pick up from where he left off. To his surprise, she immediately guesses that he’s talking about Gap Dong and what’s even more surprising is that she has in depth knowledge of the case. She also tells him that it’s obvious that he never really forgot about it.
In an effort to catch the prankster, all the inmates are told to spray paint the message but Suspicious Guy manages to get out of completing it by spraying some paint into his eyes. I don’t know much about handwriting analysis but does he really need to complete the sentence to provide enough of a sample?
When that fails, Dick Yang orders that all the inmates’ DNA be compared with Gap Dong’s. As usual, Suspicious Guy is suspicious but he need not worry because our Dick has a hidden agenda. He’s using this to get Moo Yeom’s DNA tested so that he can link his father to the crime. And he gets a kiss-ass who dislikes him to steal it.
Moo Yeom catches the kiss-ass when he shows up to the lab with the hair he’d stolen from his shaver. An angry Moo Yeom confronts Dick Yang who tells him that even if it isn’t a match, his father will not be exonerated because there could have been two or more Gap Dongs. Gosh.
He tells him to voluntarily give up his DNA for testing and Moo Yeom responds with a challenge: If his father is proven guilty, he’ll give him his arm but if he’s innocent, the chief will have to give up a finger.
The higher ups intervene and refuse to let Moo Yeom’s DNA be tested but in addition, also stop testing the inmates. This is what people around my way call throwing out the baby with the bathwater. In the meantime, Tae Oh, who has an evil glint in his eye, is released.
Chief Yang has got Moo Yeom crazy and he desperately needs to let out some steam. He gets word that a psycho is indiscriminately stabbing people at the mall. Oh Maria – in a wig and sexy clothes – happens to pass by. Backed into a corner, the stabber grabs a schoolgirl and takes her to the edge of a roof. Moo Yeom joins him and tries to talk him off. The psycho holds the knife against the girl’s neck and threatens to kill her if Moo Yeom comes any closer. Mad Monk offers his life in exchange and the man grabs the opportunity and tells him to jump. As we wonder how the hell he’s going to get out of it, the doctor shows up.
She calls the criminal a pathetic guy who preys on innocent girls. Because this is a drama, his ego is so bruised that he lets go of the girl to face her instead. And because this is a drama, instead of Moo Yeom jumping at the chance to pull the girl away to safety, he just watches the guy from the edge of the roof. The tense confrontation between the criminal and doctor continue and she dares him to come down and have sex with her so that she can show him how much of a loser he really is. Incensed, he gets off the ledge and Moo Yeom tackles him.
The guy is arrested and when it looks like all has ended well, Mad Monk collapses from a stab wound.
The next episode begins with Tae Oh getting a job. The shop owner holds his resume but all she sees is his pretty face so she hires him on the spot. Apparently, having a good feeling about someone is more accurate than a background check.
We then get a shower scene… but unfortunately for us, it’s not the gratuitous, hunky, male shower scene we get in every Song Seung Heon drama. Here, it’s Oh Maria washing away Moo Yeom’s blood as she tries to wash away her demons. The demons that haunt her every time she remembers that the only thing that saved her from rape and death was a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Poor thing.
We then see Tae Oh marking targets as he hands out fliers for his coffee shop. He’s interested in women carrying cake boxes but has a hard time finding one alone.
Meanwhile, Moo Yeom lies in a hospital bed thinking of Maria’s different personalities. Then he calls her to ask how she will take responsibility for his current state. Is this how monks hit on women because Bro, shouldn’t you be thanking her? After all, she got that fool off the ledge – not you.
Maria and Moo Yeom agree to meet up but Tae Oh approaches her for a session claiming that things are so hard that he wants to go back to the psych ward.
We then see a woman walking by herself on a lonely, deserted road carrying a cake box. She tries to get a cab but they claim her location isn’t in their service area. I just want to know how and why she was there at that time in the first place. A cyclist passes by her then attacks her. Her wrists are tied with the ribbon from the cake box and her pleas for mercy fall on deaf ears.
The next morning, Moo Yeom’s partner calls him to the crime scene. He throws a coat on his hospital clothes and rushes over. To cut a long story short, the crime in staged exactly like Gap Dong’s first murder.
It’s Christmas Eve, her wrists are tied with an intricate knot, a sock has been stuffed in her mouth, there’s a cake box… everything is exactly like the first murder. All that’s left is to verify sexual assault. Moo Yeom needs to see the crime scene and verify it with his own eyes but Dick Yang orders them not to let him past the yellow tape.
Back in the psych ward, a blindfolded Maria plays a game with the inmates where she goes around looking for hands she likes. It turns out that she didn’t see Gap Dong’s face and only recalls how his hands felt so she’s trying to find him that way. It’s a close call for Suspicious Dude who manages to keep her from feeling his palms. As in, he literally says it’s a close call under this breath so I hope there’s a twist here. Please, let there be some other explanation for his behavior.
We get to see Tae Pyscho dancing in his huge apartment. If he didn’t earn that money himself, it means that he comes from wealth.
At the temple he often goes to, Moo Yeom unlocks a box he hasn’t opened in a long time where he stores all the information he’d gathered on Gap Dong. He’s got police records and knows intimate details of all the crimes. Gap Dong’s return has given him a reason to live and he wants to immediately get back to work to catch the mofo but Dick Yang orders him to remain on sick leave for the duration of the investigation. Does that make sense? What if it takes six months?
Moo Yeom pays a visit to Prof. Han who’s fishing. While Dick Yang was sure his father was the serial killer, Han felt otherwise as he thought he was incapable of tying such a complicated knot. Han comes off as some sort of mentor to Mad Monk and upon hearing of the reemergence of Gap Dong, he wonders if it could be a copycat.
Moo Yeom goes to forensics to get the autopsy report and beg Dick Yang to let him help catch Gap Dong. He refuses, saying that he can only get back to work on petty crimes. He wants him nowhere near the case and orders him out of the autopsy room. Moo Yeom’s evidence book falls and after Dick Yang sees it, he accuses him of being the new Gap Dong. Gosh. This guy is so annoying! Why is he so fixated on him and his father being evil? Did it come to him in a dream? The autopsy report reveals how the crime differs from the case in 1993 – there is no rape. Somehow, this leads Dick Yang into thinking that Moo Yeom is carrying on his father’s legacy.
This new information causes Moo Yeon to rush over to the site of the second crime. It’s a bus stop.
A young woman transporting bushels of straw stops at a bus stop to wait for an old couple to cross the street. She sees Tae Psycho leaning on his bike with his arm in a sling, struggling and wringing in pain. She drives past him till her conscience calls and she reverses her car. Sweetie, in this day and age where no good deed goes unpunished, the most you should do is offer to call 119 or AAA if his cellphone battery is dead.
Being a good Samaritan, she gives him a ride home and when she tries to get a little personal with him, he asks about her bag. What do you do when a cute guy asks about your bag? You take him home! Or to your workshop in the middle of nowhere so that you can show off all the things you’ve woven, it seems. And make coffee so that you can have a cute chat. Uhm, doesn’t the guy have somewhere else to be? Lady, aren’t you supposed to be going back to get more straw? Anyway, while she’s probably thinking that fate must have brought this hottie to her, he asks if she wants to play a game.
He then takes off his sling, indicating that his arm is fine. Instead of finding this very suspicious, she’s happy that his arm is suddenly feeling better (is she okay at all?). He holds the bandage and asks if she wants to use it as a blindfold. This is when she starts to sense that something might not be right. Then he asks if she wants to be the zombie or the person who hides. Instead of running the hell away, she picks the latter. He feels a bit regretful because it would have been much easier if she’d chosen zombie. Uhm, whatever. Girl, you’d better grab that mug of hot coffee and pour it on his face.
Meanwhile, Maria sneaks into Prof. Han’s office to get the Gap Dong files. She takes photos of the second crime, gets on a bus and heads to the bus stop in question.
Moo Yeom arrives at the bus stop and finds Tae Psycho’s bike. His cellphone battery is dead so he uses a conveniently located payphone to call the station and report the suspicious bike.
We also learn that Ji Wool’s webtoon is about serial killing and that the hero is based on Mad Monk. I bet she’s soon going to wish she’d written a shoujo romance.
Tae Psycho returns to the bus stop and sees Moo Yeom on the phone. He conks him on the head with his helmet and brushes straw off his body on his. End of episode.
The moral of the story: Beware of handsome guys.
So far so good. I’m used to dramas derailing so I’m not keeping my hopes up high for now. The acting is pretty convincing and the story is interesting. I just hope we get tons of twists and turns because right now it looks like the cops already have a road map of the crimes and will be racing against the clock to stop them.
One interesting thing is that Dick Yang makes a passing comment that he’s suffered a lot and his son is sick too. What if this ‘sick’ son is Gap Dong’s copycat? He might have access to the files through his father and be obsessed with the case because it was the one thing his father couldn’t crack. And wouldn’t that be poetic? After spending years calling this poor kid a monster’s son, it turns out that his son is a real monster?
And speaking of monsters, I don’t think Tae Oh is the kind of sicko who’s driven by the need to kill. It seems to me that it’s just a sick game he enjoys playing out of boredom and the need to feel powerful and invincible. The fact that he’s going to get the world scared and have everyone running helter skelter is more important to him than the actual kills.
Acting-wise, I think they are all doing a good job although Dick Yang and Tae Oh’s characters have the greatest impact right now. But I think it also has a lot to do with the writing. Tae Oh is a psychopath while Dick Yang is just so freaking annoying. Ugh.
As for romance, it looks like we might be getting some and I don’t mind that one bit. As long as it’s well done, I’m here for it. I think that Moo Yeom and Oh Maria can exhibit nice chemistry if explored properly.
Anyway, these were two solid episodes that have got me looking forward to more.