Just two episodes and there’s so much to like already, although they’re not at all the things I came looking for. (I’ll say what we’re all thinking: White Christmas.) But Solomon’s Perjury takes a slightly different approach and goes more for an investigative bent, and I’m pretty excited at how the titular perjury is being set up. There are plenty of mysteries to unravel, and my guess is that we’ll have to pass through a legion of lies before we get to the precious truth. And that is exactly what I’m here for. Bring on the perjury, Solomon, I’m ready.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Friends PARK CHO-RONG and LEE JOO-RI (the nervous eavesdropper from last episode) ride the bus together, with Cho-rong seeking reassurance from Joo-ri that they’re doing the right thing. Ah, they’re the mystery letter-droppers, and run off after ringing Seo-yeon’s doorbell twice. Seo-yeon comes out and finds the note addressed to her and headed, “Letter of accusation”.
Lee So-woo was murdered by Choi Woo-hyuk, she reads with shock. Her mom comes out, and Seo-yeon shows her the letter, which makes Mom bundle Seo-yeon inside. Spying from around a corner, Joo-ri and Cho-rong breathe in relief.
Inside, Seo-yeon’s parents wonder if the letter got left because Dad is a detective. Seo-yeon says that someone posted the same accusation on the school’s online page as she wonders if they can track the IP, but Dad tells her sternly not to do anything—he’ll take care of it.
In her room, Seo-yeon reads a comment suggesting Woo-hyuk’s guilt. She recalls the letter which said that Woo-hyuk had pushed So-woo, adding, “I witnessed this scene clearly.” Seo-yeon wonders why it was sent to her.
Seo-yeon’s dad meets the principal and shows him the letter. He says he heard there were already rumors about it online, but the principal and his lackeys play it off as kids blowing off steam. Dad looks extremely skeptical, and is soon joined by Detective Oh. They inform the principal that they must now treat this as a murder investigation due to the new allegations, and the principal folds.
At home, Seo-yeon finds out that her class will be undergoing individual counseling and guesses that it’s a way to question the students. Dad asks her whether Woo-hyuk had any enemies. “Too many,” Seo-yeon says, adding that he’s known as “the tyrant” at school. She worries that the letter being sent only to her must mean the sender is counting on her to reveal the truth. Dad reassures her that the police will take care of it.
In a newsroom, reporter PARK HYUN-MIN (Heo Jung-do) receives an anonymous tip: a torn-up and taped-back-together copy of the same letter of accusation that Seo-yeon got, along with a handwritten note.
The next day, Seo-yeon rushes out for school, almost missing Young-joon waiting at her gate. Awww, I love you so much already! She breaks into a grin to see him, and her teasing makes him all adorably off-balance. He walks off alone, and Seo-yeon calls out that she was joking. She stalks off ahead of him, leaving Young-joon to scurry after her. This is so cute.
The kids have been called into school for the individual counseling. When Cho-rong is called, Joo-ri grips her arm and makes sure she knows what to say. She starts when the other students speculate that the adults are potentially seeking a culprit from among them.
The counselor is Detective Oh. Cho-rong chats with the detective with easy candor as they exchange restaurant tips. Detective Oh asks Cho-rong who she tends to eat with, and Cho-rong tells her about Joo-ri, who she describes as extraordinarily insightful and a wonderful friend.
Joo-ri anxiously waits to catch Cho-rong after her session and wants to know everything that happened. She’s dismayed that Cho-rong met a detective, and yells when Cho-rong can’t say if it’s the same detective who was on So-woo’s case.
In her turn, Joo-ri surprises the detective by describing So-woo’s death as an “unnatural case,” adding that she heard there was no suicide note. Detective Oh’s expression becomes carefully fixed and she asks what would make it natural: If he fell off by accident… or if someone pushed him? Joo-ri glibly replies she never thought of such a thing, but her eyes gleam as she asks the detective what she thinks.
Detective Oh has one last question for Joo-ri: Does she know who So-woo was close to and who he fought with? A little too quickly, Joo-ri blurts that she doesn’t know anything at all. Girl, she’s been onto you since you opened your mouth, at least lie convincingly!
On their way home, Joo-ri and Cho-rong cross paths with Woo-hyuk and his minions torturing some other kid. They quickly turn heel, but the minions come after them. Joo-ri spins angrily towards them, staring at Woo-hyuk with fire in her eyes as he stares back. There’s definitely something there. But what?
Woo-hyuk tips out her satchel and smacks her in the face with it, cutting her in the process. Before he leaves, he spits on her things, sneering that something smells. A hand holds out a handkerchief for Joo-ri, and she looks up to see Reporter Park, who drops down to help Cho-rong pick everything up. He introduces himself by giving Joo-ri his business card.
Seo-yeon drops into the counseling room with coffee, but finds it empty. She glances at the detective’s notes, which highlight Joo-ri and Cho-rong. When Detective Oh returns, they chat warmly, although Oh checks with Seo-yeon that she didn’t take a peek at her notes. Seo-yeon laughs in denial before leaving.
Mulling over what she read, Seo-yeon calls Cho-rong. She meets both girls under the pretext of returning a book to Cho-rong, and they get to chatting like old friends. In answer to her question, Cho-rong tells her about what she did for Christmas.
But when she asks Joo-ri, Joo-ri practically spits at Seo-yeon. They don’t even talk to each other, Joo-ri points out, so why is she so interested in how they spent Christmas? Joo-ri sneers at Seo-yeon that school is all there is to her. Seo-yeon starts to say something to about “that incident,” but Joo-ri screams at her to shut up. Ready to leave, Joo-ri screams at Cho-rong to leave too.
Outside the shop, a panicked Joo-ri is sure Seo-yeon is onto them. Wanting to strike first, she calls Reporter Park and agrees to an anonymized interview the next day.
Reporter Park’s busy following Woo-hyuk’s dad. He asks him what he thinks about the allegations against his son. Dad drives off at first, but doubles back. Grabbing the reporter by the lapels, Dad says, “This is what I think: So what?” He threatens him if he shows up again and flings him to the ground. After Dad’s gone, Reporter Park checks that his colleague got it all on film.
Meanwhile, Kyung-moon finally hears about the allegations. Angry, he tells the principal that the only way to minimize the damage now would be to consent to an interview, but he still rings an unnamed sunbae immediately afterwards.
Seo-yeon has ramyun with her two friends—chestnut-haired LEE YOO-JIN and shorter-haired KIM SOO-HEE—and asks them about Joo-ri and Cho-rong. They tell her about the time that bully Woo-hyuk spat on Joo-ri and victimized her on social media. Seo-yeon hadn’t known about it because she was busy in her advanced classes. Yoo-jin lightens up the mood ogling the photo she took of cellist Ji-hoon, complaining that nobody can find out much about him on social media because he keeps himself so private.
Reporter Park arrives at the school. The principal offers him unrestricted access to staff and students as well as Woo-hyuk’s records, which causes Park to remark wryly that they seem prepared for this. He asks to interview the principal first, and opens by asking why he threw away the letter of accusation.
He shows them the taped-together letter along with the note, which explains how it was sent to the principal first, but the school and the police both covered the murder up in a conspiracy of silence. Shocked, the principal denies ever seeing the letter. A predictable response, Reporter Park tuts.
From a window, Seo-yeon looks out to the place So-woo’s body was found. She scrolls through all the unread messages she’s sent to someone saved as “Jeongguk Sentinel,” and taps out a new message.
Outside in the rain, Ji-hoon is contemplating the same spot when his phone pings. It’s a message from Seo-yeon: “Why did Lee So-woo die?” she asks. I want to know, too, Ji-hoon thinks. (Is Ji-hoon the Sentinel?)
At the police station, Seo-yeon’s dad and Detective Oh discuss Reporter Park’s broadcast, which is due to air later that night. Detective Oh says that reporter is famously stubborn, and the Jeongguk Foundation failed to block it. They don’t know what kind of fallout to expect, but Dad tells Oh to steel herself.
Kyung-moon is also about to watch the report, but switches it off when son Ji-hoon returns home. He suggests a variety of activities (to keep him from the TV, presumably), but Ji-hoon turns it all down, and Dad’s makes a last-ditch effort by telling him to turn in early.
But in his room, Ji-hoon turns on the TV instead, where Reporter Park asks what really happened to So-woo and why his case was wrapped up so quickly. Seo-yeon and her family also tune in and when Park reveals the accusation of murder, and soon, her phone starts pinging with shocked messages from her classmates.
In a pool hall, Woo-hyuk watches the segment about himself, which reports accounts of his violence against So-woo. Elsewhere, the principal cringes at his own damning interview and the allegation that he tore up the letter of accusation.
Park goes on to read the letter on air. At home, Joo-ri watches with satisfaction, echoing him word for word what she wrote: that she witnessed Woo-hyuk pushing So-woo to his death. Her riotous laughing is cut short by Cho-rong calling her outside.
Cho-rong is distraught over the situation spiraling like this, and says she heard that the principal and Detective Oh could get fired. She wants to go to the police and testify properly, but Joo-ri tells her harshly that she didn’t do anything wrong. Cho-rong disagrees, pointing out that their action created victims. Joo-ri shouts that if Woo-hyuk finds out it was her, he’ll come after her, too.
“If that happens, I’ll protect you,” Cho-rong says, pleading with her. Crying, she says she’ll testify alone then, and Joo-ri screams at her, calling her fat and foolish. “You know something? I never thought of a fool like you as my friend. Even if you died right in front of me, I wouldn’t shed a single tear,” Joo-ri sneers. Brought to fresh tears, Cho-rong pushes her and runs away, sobbing.
As she crosses the empty street, a truck of doom barrels out of nowhere and runs her over. Joo-ri witnesses it, but runs away. Ah, Cho-rong. You were too nice to live.
Woo-hyuk returns to school the next day to find everyone gossiping about him. As soon as he appears, everyone starts taking pictures, which makes him angry. His friend drags him away before things can get ugly.
The vice principal takes a battering in a parents’ meeting as they demand answers. They ask why the school is protecting Woo-hyuk, and why the principal’s not there. So-yeon’s dad steps up to calm the situation, telling them he’s also a parent here. Taking questions, the detectives say they found no evidence of foul play at the time, and so they ruled it as suicide. They reveal that the same accusation letter had also come to the police, and the reinvestigation had already begun before it hit the media.
Seo-yeon’s two friends rush to their classroom to tell her about Cho-rong’s accident, and that she’s now in a coma. Seo-yeon hunts Joo-ri down in the school infirmary and accuses her of being the letter-writer. Joo-ri denies it, saying it was all Cho-rong, but Seo-yeon calls her cowardly for blaming her comatose friend.
Joo-ri turns it back on her, calling her a coward for only speaking up after the broadcast—does she know how scared Cho-rong was? Telling it theatrically, she says Cho-rong threw herself at the truck on purpose. “Don’t lie,” Seo-yeon says shakily. “Hypocrite. That’s what Cho-rong called you,” replies Joo-ri, breaking into insane giggling. Seo-yeon backs away.
Choking back tears, Seo-yeon tears out of the building and past Young-joon, who tries to talk to her. He figures that something is up when she tells him not to follow, so of course he does. Images flash across the screen as Seo-yeon imagines Joo-ri pushing Cho-rong in front of the truck. Going further back, we see Young-joon poised to jump off the building, the torn-up letter, So-woo pushed from the rooftop, his body in the snow. Seo-yeon drops to a crouch, sobbing, much to Young-joon’s concern.
She tells him to go away, and then asks him to shield her. He peels off his coat immediately, hiding her from passing onlookers.
In the classroom, KIM MIN-SEOK (the judge from the trial) gripes at a girl for not putting her phone on silent, but then his phone pings, too. The room fills with the sound of their phones as everyone gets the same message: “Blue paper covered in dust is [still] blue. No matter how much dust there is, its color won’t change.” It’s from Ji-hoon (currently on the rooftop), writing as the Sentinel.
Out on the field, Young-joon reads it, too. “The Jeongguk Sentinel… has returned,” he says, glancing at Seo-yeon.
In the classroom, the kids somehow figure that it means the Sentinel’s got himself a girl. Unable to stand their sacrilegious interpretation, Min-seok points out that it’s a closing line from a poem, and that it means a person’s essence doesn’t change no matter the situation. The class clown mimics him behind his back, ha.
Seo-yeon’s friends are shocked to learn that she went home early, and end up at her bedside at home. But Seo-yeon is animated by the Sentinel’s return. Soo-hee grumbles about his irritatingly vague message, but Yoo-jin defends him, rattling off his good deeds. She says he found her wallet, dispelled a bad rumor, and revealed a cheating incident, among other things.
According to Soo-hee, about eighty percent of the class thinks the Sentinel will save the day, while the rest are cynical, guessing that the Sentinel is just another powerless student. Nobody knows his real identity, but Seo-yeon’s eyes shine talking about him. Her friends tease her for it, convinced she’s nursing a crush, which Seo-yeon hotly denies.
Reporter Park gets called into his boss’s office, where he also finds a smug-looking Kyung-moon (who heads the Jeongguk Foundation legal division). His boss tells him to hand his informants over to Kyung-moon, who explains that he just wants to find the truth so that they can bring the culprits to account.
The reporter tells him that he’s not fooled so easily, and he especially dislikes people who go over his head to interfere with him. He heads out, but pauses to look back at Kyung-moon, who says in a threatening tone that Park’s headed for trouble.
Masked and gowned, Joo-ri visits Cho-rong in the hospital. “I’m sorry, Cho-rong-ah, I’m truly sorry,” she says, crying at her bedside, “But can you just not wake up?” Well, that was not what I thought she’d say next. “You have to die for me to live. Please save me,” she pleads, sobbing.
A group of girls confront Joo-ri back at school, accusing her of lying about Cho-rong writing the letter by herself. She turns away, but the ringleader drags her back and the girls surround her, taunting and pushing. She keens in distress and collapses to her knees. Seo-yeon rounds the corner and runs to her side as she sees Joo-ri suddenly choking and clutching her throat.
Back in the classroom, Seo-yeon stares at So-woo’s and Cho-rong’s empty desks. Even their usual homeroom teacher is off. The dean is there instead, and tells them to focus on their studies since they’re about to become seniors. Seo-yeon asks about Joo-ri, and the dean says she’s taking time off, too.
A couple of boys joke about how school’s become a game of survival. Seo-yeon slams her locker door to silence them,and turns away to be met by a banana milk, held out by Young-joon. They sit on some steps outside, and Seo-yeon tells him to wipe out any memory of her crying.
“It was you who received the letter of accusation, wasn’t it?” Young-joon asks. She’s surprised he knows. He tells her that he heard from his dad after the parents’ meeting, and knew immediately that it was her.
She denies having a hard time, but Young-joon describes how everything fell apart around her even though she did nothing wrong, and how he felt unable to breathe. “I thought you must have felt like that, too,” he says.
“Are we really not to blame?” she asks.
Reporter Park catches up to Seo-yeon on her way home. They relocate to a bench to talk, and he tells her that he’s doing a follow-up investigation at her school. She doesn’t like it, pointing out what happened to Cho-rong and Joo-ri. She’s angry at his lack of guilt. He argues that he didn’t cause their situations and asks her to explain her reasoning. He guesses that rumors must be going round about Cho-rong, Joo-ri, and Woo-hyuk. “But don’t believe in rumors,” he tells her, “Or you’ll miss the crucial reality.”
She asks what that crucial reality is. “Why did Lee So-woo die?” he answers, saying that his whole report was addressing that question. He says he plans to look into the mysterious Jeongguk Sentinel next, but she tells him to can his interest. She calls him out on being as self-serving as everyone else—the school, police, the press.
He doesn’t disagree, but points out that kids like them can’t accomplish anything without adults. Disagreeing, she says they can do the same things as the adults. “You said you’re trying to discover the truth? We can do it, too. It’s enough if we can discover why Lee So-woo died,” she tells him, eyes hard.
I like how strong the character setup is this early in the game, but that’s the joy of a short episode count. Look at how lived-in So-woo’s character was within a mere forty-five minutes, or how much Seo-yeon has developed over just two episodes. Seo-yeon is an observer character, but she’s moved from the figurative back of the room to the front. On paper, she’s bland enough: well-adjusted in a stable family, has healthy relationships with her parents and her sisters, is popular with her friends, does well at school. It’s really evident that she hasn’t been through the harsh and defining experiences someone like Young-joon has.
However, she’s not naïve even if she’s optimistic, and she’s not foolish because she’s inexperienced. I love how Reporter Park has brought her to a tipping point by effectively teaching her how to critically judge the situation and ask the right questions. And he’s saying it to the right person, because her mind’s been ticking fiercely away for the last two episodes, with these last moments crystallizing to her what must be done. Which is first, to take matters into their own hands, and second, to answer the crucial question of why So-woo died. (Which is actually the very question she asks of the Sentinel earlier in the episode.)
Joo-ri’s an interesting one, though, by which I mean that she’s hateful, but also pitiful. She seems like she’s no stranger to bullying, and perhaps took refuge from it by using Cho-rong as a shield. And maybe she just generally used her to feel better about herself. She’s mean and crafty at the same time as being cowardly and weak, which is quite the complicated mix. I wonder what her story with Woo-hyuk is. I didn’t believe her from the start, that she saw Woo-hyuk push So-woo. She may have seen who pushed him for real, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t Woo-hyuk, and that she’s just framing him for her own reasons. I’m ready to play with the theory that it was Ji-hoon, because I don’t trust him, either. He already knew where So-woo had fallen even before Young-joon found him, which is suspicious at best, even if his sorrow over So-woo seems genuine. He definitely knows something, but the question is, what?
I was surprised that what I liked most in these opening episodes is how heartfelt the friendships are. Seo-yoon’s offer of friendship to Young-joon and his tentative acceptance was just adorable. Neither of them apologize for their respective situations: It is what it is. There’s a pragmatism and frankness to the two of them in their interactions that I really, really like. We’ve seen maybe five minutes of it, but I love them together already. Young-joon is that kid who needs just one friend—just one—and he’ll be okay. That they’re initially connected as two people who find a dead body, and then go on to adopt each other as friends… I find that really meaningful for the way it speaks to how friendship can grow out of tragedy and sorrow; though So-woo is dead, life goes on for the living, and that’s not callous. Mundane concerns take over, you forget. There’s a sense of everyday realism in that that makes it feel grounded, despite the cruel and unusual events surrounding them.