Welcome to Jeongguk High, the home of JTBC’s newest youth mystery thriller Solomon’s Perjury, and the home of many suspicious people who have already piqued my interest. Right off the bat, we lose one student and get zero answers. And with that, we’re left with nothing but the urgent need for justice. Thankfully, I think we have a good batch of characters just as desperate — and just as determined — to get some answers.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
We jump right into the middle of a trial run by the students of a high school. One of the female students stands as prosecutor and calls a boy to the stand, indicting him for the murder of their classmate, Lee So-woo. A student acting as an attorney objects to her claim, saying the defendant had no reason to harm the victim.
The prosecutor questions another student, urging him to confirm the defendant’s whereabouts on the night of the murder. Cracking under pressure, the student shouts, “The alibi is fake! They told me to say that I was with him, and to shut up and do as they say!” The entire room breaks into gasps and murmurs as the defendant angrily jumps forward to attack the witness, requiring several students to hold him back.
The prosecutor looks on in bewilderment as the witness runs out of the “courtroom.”
Two months earlier.
A solemn-looking boy, who we’ll come to know as LEE SO-WOO (Seo Young-joo), sits back and watches as his classmates complete a test. His eyes land on one girl in particular, GO SEO-YEON (Kim Hyun-soo), who is the same girl we’d seen as prosecutor in the opening. While hard at work, her hand cramps up, and she quickly bandages it up. Feeling someone watching her, she turns back and meets So-woo’s gaze. He smirks at her, amused, but when she doesn’t smile back, he just gets up and walks right out.
While on break, there’s a loud crash, and all the students rush towards the commotion. Seo-yeon follows everyone to the classroom, where a bloodied So-woo is thrown across the room by the defendant we’d seen earlier, CHOI WOO-HYUK (Baek Chul-min).
So-woo tries to defend himself and keep Woo-hyuk back, but Woo-hyuk clearly has something against him and beats him to a pulp. When Woo-hyuk gets So-woo in a chokehold, So-woo glances up and notices everyone watching from the windows, including a horrified Seo-yeon.
Two teachers finally rush over and pull Woo-hyuk off. “I’m going to kill that bastard!” Woo-hyuk yells as he’s dragged out. Now on the floor, So-woo struggles to catch his breath, his eyes again finding Seo-yeon’s.
So-woo is then taken to the office, where he’s met with the department head of the school’s foundation, HAN KYUNG-MOON (Jo Jae-hyun).
Kyung-moon asks why So-woo got mixed up in all of this, and with Choi Woo-hyuk of all people. He adds that since Woo-hyuk’s father is the head of the school violence prevention committee, he’s more than likely to do whatever he can to get So-woo punished. Kyung-moon says it’ll be hard for him to help So-woo in this situation.
So-woo finally looks Kyung-moon in the eye. “Ajusshi,” he says, “I see it all. I see everything going on in your mind.” Kyung-moon says that if he knows, So-woo should stop here and think about his parents. Kyung-moon also explains that the offer to transfer So-woo to another school is still available – today’s fight will go away, so long as So-woo keeps his mouth shut about “that incident.” So-woo boldly states that while files in a computer can be erased, the memories in a person’s mind can’t. Therefore, transferring him won’t change anything.
He stands up to leave, which is when Kyung-moon asks, “Does Ji-hoon know too?” That makes So-woo stop in his tracks, but he regains his composure and stalks off. Ooh, color me intrigued.
Back in class, Seo-yeon and her two friends wonder why the quiet So-woo would get into a fight. Either way, they figure it’s over for him since the last person who messed with Woo-hyuk had to leave the school. Behind them, a girl fidgets in her seat as she overhears their conversation.
The teacher arrives and asks if anyone witnessed the fight, though no one raises a hand. She calls Seo-yeon to the teachers’ office to pick up the class’ homework (since she’s class president and first ranked) and tries to ask about the fight again, hoping to find someone who can testify. Seo-yeon seems conflicted, but she claims to have seen nothing. She turns to leave and walks right into So-woo, who looks mightily disappointed.
“You’re just like the rest of them,” So-woo says. He moves past her, leaving her shaken.
After reading some snarky comments posted online by her classmates, Seo-yeon comes to a decision and starts writing a witness statement. But to her dismay, she discovers that the violence prevention committee has decided to meet today, instead of taking the time to investigate.
Once the committee gathers, the school’s vice principal commences the meeting. He declares that So-woo was the assailant and that Woo-hyuk was the victim (ugh), which gets a surprised reaction from the two teachers who’d broken up the fight. The vice principal calls So-woo in, but there’s no one outside.
So-woo makes his way to the classroom to clean out his locker, earning the attention of the entire class. He sees Seo-yeon watching him, but he leaves the room without a word. Everyone heads for the windows to catch So-woo leaving just as the vice principal informs Kyung-moon that So-woo ditched the meeting and claimed his belongings.
So-woo turns to take one last look at the school, and at his classmates gawking from above. Tired of it all, So-woo raises both arms and flips the entire school off. He looks directly at Kyung-moon as he backs away and walks off.
Two weeks later, December 26th.
We meet BAE JOON-YOUNG (Seo Ji-hoon) as he sits in his room, listening to his parents fight first thing in the morning. After a while, he sighs and takes off to school early. When he arrives, he notices a boy watching him from afar – the boy who’d acted as the defense attorney in the opening, HAN JI-HOON (Jang Dong-yeon). Ji-hoon walks away wordlessly with tears in his eyes only we might be able to see, so Joon-young doesn’t think much of it.
As Joon-young heads for the entrance, he notices something sticking out from a patch of weeds, buried in the snow. He reaches out to touch it, only to recoil when he realizes it’s a hand.
Joon-young hesitantly brushes the snow off the face, immediately recognizing it: “Lee So-woo?”
Joon-young stumbles back and falls to the ground. Seo-yeon arrives right then and calls out to Joon-young with worry, stopping short when she notices what he’s looking at.
The police show up soon after, investigating the school’s roof, where they assume So-woo jumped from. In the teachers’ office, it’s complete chaos as teachers receives calls from frightened parents and eager reporters. In the back, the principal screams at the security man for being incompetent enough to miss a student entering the building.
Meanwhile, the students go around trying to figure out who it was that died. They notice that there are four people missing: Woo-hyuk, Joon-young, Seo-yeon, and So-woo. But they figure the deceased couldn’t possibly be from their class.
The school board gathers to discuss what actions they will take following So-woo’s death. Kyung-moon is fully prepared and presents examples from similar incidents at different schools, suggesting they handle this as quickly and cleanly as possible. As for the media, he thinks the news won’t get too much attention since it’s a suicide, especially since So-woo had shown certain signs of depression. However, Kyung-moon does ask for any unofficial files on So-woo to be discarded.
The detective in charge of So-woo’s case meets with Seo-yeon and Joon-young to get more information. Poor Joon-young can barely speak as he explains how he discovered the body. Detective OH JOO-HYUN (Shim Yi-young) asks if So-woo had acted particularly strange before his death, and Seo-yeon starts to speak up before faltering. Seo-yeon’s dad, also a detective, suggests they stop here.
As the detectives leave, Detective Oh voices how strange the suicide is, considering how So-woo always stayed out of trouble before the classroom fight. And now the school is telling the police to hurry up and close the case so the kids can focus on their studies.
Seo-yeon and Joon-young make it back to class just as the homeroom teacher has to deliver the terrible news. The teacher gets choked up, but as all heads turn towards So-woo’s empty desk, it becomes clear that they know what happened.
After school, Seo-yeon finds Joon-young standing in front of the crime scene. As she walks up to him, he quietly asks, “Where do you think people go when they die? What would it feel like to die?” Seo-yeon doesn’t understand what he’s trying to say, so he elaborates that So-woo had looked peaceful.
The dark look on Joon-young’s face alarms Seo-yeon, but before she can answer, her mom approaches them. Mom obviously knows Joon-young, and she offers to drive him home, but he insists on going alone.
At home, Seo-yeon assures her parents that she’s fine, and she’s even able to smile in front of her younger sisters. However, once she’s alone in her room to look at her unread witness statement, she allows herself to cry.
Later, she looks at more online comments, most of them trying to justify what happened to So-woo. “Why does everyone think it was suicide?” one person comments, reminding everyone that Woo-hyuk nearly killed So-woo two weeks ago. Seo-yeon’s eyes widen as she considers this.
One of the students runs out to meet her classmate – the girl who had looked nervous while eavesdropping on Seo-yeon and her friends. The girl turns to her classmate, looking even more scared as she blurts out, “Lee So-woo didn’t commit suicide. I saw it. He didn’t commit suicide.”
At the police station, Detective Oh gets a tip about the school’s online page and the comments mentioning Woo-hyuk. A colleague reveals that Woo-hyuk is known for getting into trouble, and that he’s actually at the station right now for speeding.
Detective Oh brings Woo-hyuk in for questioning, but it seems futile – he dismisses some questions and makes jokes about the others. He rudely answers a call from his dad and throws Detective Oh under the bus by saying he was accused of So-woo’s death.
The next thing we know, Woo-hyuk’s dad is storming into the station with Kyung-moon to berate Detective Oh for messing with his family. Woo-hyuk and his dad take their leave, but Kyung-man stays behind to warn Detective Oh that she needs to close this case. He brings up the fact that she interrogated Woo-hyuk illegally and that she could be indicted for it, so he suggests she end things quickly.
Woo-hyuk returns to school, which, of course, gets people talking. A teacher hears Seo-yeon’s friends talking about the online comments and scolds them for spouting nonsense. Seo-yeon looks up and asks, “Is it really true that Lee So-woo committed suicide?” Instead of giving her a real answer, the teacher tells Seo-yeon to spend her time studying.
Joon-young picks up depression medication for his mom and tries to leave it in the living room as quietly as possible. As he retreats, he jumps at the sound of his mom’s voice. He immediately apologizes for making noise, and Mom tells him to drop the attitude. Uh, what attitude?
Joon-young and his parents go out for dinner, and the conversation turns sour when his dad brings up the incident at school. Mom gets upset that Joon-young didn’t tell her about this, but every time Joon-young tries to defend himself, Mom only gets madder. A disgusted look on her face, she blames Joon-young for her poor health. “I should just die,” she seethes.
Mom starts having difficulty breathing, and Dad gets up to take her to the hospital. “I’m sorry,” Joon-young says. “I did wrong.” Mom gives him another dirty look before she and Dad leave him alone. Once they’re gone, Joon-young swipes his tears away and takes a picture of the food on the table. He posts the picture online, with a tagline saying he’s out with the family and that it’s a happy day. Aw.
Joon-young gets up to leave, stopping when the doors to the next room open to reveal Seo-yeon and her friends. He glances back to his room, realizing they must’ve heard everything. “Do you get it now?” he says directly at Seo-yeon, “Why I said that before?”
The next day, the school holds So-woo’s memorial service. As a student gives a farewell speech, Seo-yeon sees Joon-young get up and quietly sneak off.
The school orchestra is up next, with Han Ji-hoon there as one of the cellists. As Ji-hoon gets ready to play, his eyes scan the crowd and find So-woo’s sobbing parents, along with So-woo’s photograph. Seeing So-woo’s face triggers several flashbacks: Ji-hoon and So-woo goofing off together, studying together, and smiling together.
Ji-hoon’s hand shakes as he recalls these memories, and he accidentally drops his bow. The sound breaks him out of the trance, and he scrambles for the bow to start playing part of the Dies Irae sequence of Mozart’s Requiem.
Seo-yeon texts Joon-young, asking if something’s wrong, but gets no answer. She sneaks out as well so she can call him. When he doesn’t answer that either, her mind drifts to Joon-young’s words about death. She finally gets a reply from Joon-young: a picture of a building with the word “goodbye.” Seo-yeon panics and runs out of the school.
Joon-young walks toward the edge of the roof and climbs up, looking at the city below. Images of So-woo’s body flash through his head as he fights back tears.
Seo-yeon sends Joon-young a string of texts as she waits for the elevator, but when he still doesn’t answer, she rushes toward the stairs instead. She finally makes it to the roof to find Joon-young sitting by the edge — still alive, thank goodness.
Seo-yeon breaks into tears, calling him stupid. She can’t believe he would even think to do something like this — no matter what Joon-young thought, So-woo’s death was scary and sad. Seo-yeon: “What am I supposed to do if something happens to you too?!”
Joon-young looks away as Seo-yeon continues, saying that he may think life is hard now and that it may never get easier, but he’s wrong. She says that he can’t know how he’ll do on a test just by looking at the first few questions. He doesn’t know what grade he’ll get in life yet, so she asks him why he should have to die.
Her words hit Joon-young hard. He buries his head in his arms, releasing all the tears he’d been holding back. Seo-yeon kneels beside him and puts a comforting hand on his arm. “Bae Joon-young, not wanting to live doesn’t mean you should end things,” she says. “Just believe that it’ll get better. That it’s okay. It’ll be okay.”
Seo-yeon trails Joon-young like a guard pup as they walk home, and when he tries to get rid of her, she stops him and reiterates that they shouldn’t harbor any negative thoughts. And from now on, she wants them to go to school together, eat lunch near each other, and at least say goodbye before going home. She also wants him to text her during the weekends, prompting him to reassure her he won’t do anything stupid.
“I’m saying let’s be friends,” Seo-yeon cuts in. “If you don’t want to, that’s fine.” She walks off, leaving the guy perplexed.
Ji-hoon comes home and greets his father: Han Kyung-moon. As they eat dinner, Kyung-moon casually brings up sending Ji-hoon to America. Ji-hoon says it’s okay, so his dad then suggests Europe or Hong Kong.
Ji-hoon looks up from his dinner and firmly says that he’s not going anywhere. He excuses himself, feigning a stomachache.
Seo-yeon’s family briefly celebrate the New Year before dispersing to go to bed. Seo-yeon stays behind and folds her hands in prayer. She wishes for perfect test scores and then pauses. “And please let Lee So-woo be happy, wherever he is,” she says.
The next morning, the school’s security guard prepares to leave with his belongings. He notices a letter stuck to the principal’s door and takes it out of curiosity.
Back at Seo-yeon’s house, someone keeps ringing the doorbell, though no one shows up on the monitor. Her mom waves it off as some kids playing around, but Seo-yeon steps out to make sure. Outside, she finds a letter addressed to her. She opens it, shocked to read what she’s been scared of this entire time: “Lee So-woo of Jeongguk High School did not commit suicide.”
We flash back to the night of the incident. The girl who had claimed So-woo hadn’t committed suicide to her friend had been on the roof that night, and she witnessed the whole thing. Choi Woo-hyuk and his group had ganged up on So-woo and sent him over the edge to his death.
I like this. Despite knowing step by step what would happen in the premiere (the promotions pretty much had it all laid out in front of us), I thought each step provided just enough emotional payoff to already make me care. I was especially surprised with how much I cared when we lost Lee So-woo so early on. We didn’t get much time to get to know him, but he had this aura around him that made me concerned for him. Clearly, he was just a kid trying to get by in high school without really being noticed, but something happened to ruin all of that for him. And his reactions to the people around him — particularly Kyung-moon — have me dying to know what that something is. What did So-woo see or hear? Why is Kyung-moon trying to cover it up? Why was So-woo caught off guard when Kyung-moon brought up Ji-hoon?
I think the question we’re all wondering, however, is what this bully Woo-hyuk had against So-woo. Woo-hyuk seems like that typical rich boy character who believes he can do whatever the hell he wants, but I’m intrigued by how he acted during the classroom fight. He looked genuinely angry at So-woo — but why? There are already so many secrets kept within this show, and since I’m itching to unravel the secrets of every one of these characters, I guess Solomon’s Perjury is doing something right.
It was definitely the right choice to give the main spotlight to heroine Go Seo-yeon. She seems like the thoughtful observer who prefers standing in the back of the room, wanting so badly to care for those who are hurting, but unsure how exactly to help them. I could feel the frustration she had with herself right before So-woo died, right when he had told her she was the same as everyone else. It was such a hurtful statement because I can already tell that Seo-yeon isn’t like the others. She may have appeared somewhat closed off in the beginning, but I think she has it in her to become a great leader. Her heartfelt moment with Joon-young proved that for me, and I hope it proved something for her. Nearly losing another one of her classmates had to have scared her something awful, but I’m glad we got that scene because now we know she’s capable of taking action. There’s no way she can turn away from So-woo’s case now. And for such a young age, I think Kim Hyun-soo is great so far in embodying this silent yet righteous heroine, and I’m glad we finally get to see her carry a show.
What I like the most about the show so far, though, is the stark realism. Though So-woo’s death was the biggest moment of the episode, it was the reactions that followed that made this episode so gripping. Kids will be kids, and when trouble rears its ugly head, those kids will more than likely try to stay out of it. It’s a sad truth to swallow, but as we saw with Seo-yeon, even those with a good sense of justice struggle to find the courage to speak up. Which is why I’m looking forward to seeing Seo-yeon and her classmates realize that in this case, they’re the only ones who can speak up. The court scene in the beginning was a short one, but it’s got me excited to see these high schoolers take this matter into their own hands.