“Are monsters born or made?” It’s the eternal question, but the more pressing question for our Golden Time Team’s last adventure is how does one capture a monster without getting killed in the process. There’s no easy answer, and it’s a battle to the finish as Kwon-joo and Jin-hyuk go from being the hunted to becoming the hunters as they finally get their long-awaited closure — and possibly revenge — for the brutal deaths of their loved ones.
The Final Chapter
Jin-hyuk and Kwon-joo find the fresh blood stains leading from the driveway into the house, which means they know Tae-gu is inside with one of his victims. That victim happens to be a scared and bloody Dae-shik who kneels in the middle of Tae-gu’s murder basement as Tae-gu looks over his instruments of murder. With smile and a crackle in his jaw, he asks Dae-shik how he’d like to die.
Thanks to the information Hyun-ho gave her, Kwon-joo is able to figure out that twenty-five years ago, Tae-gu’s mother saw her husband kill someone and she ran (barefoot!) to the local police station to report it, but CEO Mo said she was just reacting poorly to sleeping pills and covered it all up. But a few days later the body of a businessman was found in the lake.
It was declared an accidental death, but it’s no coincidence that the body belonged to someone that stood in the way of CEO Mo merging with another bus company, and thus potentially preventing him from controlling the largest transportation company in the country.
Kwon-joo believes that Tae-gu must have witnessed that murder, and a flashback reveals that she’s correct. Young Tae-gu heard noises coming from the basement and went down to explore. His father and.. is that Sang-tae’s father? …were there beating a man who was tied to a chair. CEO Mo mostly watched, but in his irritation due to a bus line being stolen from him, he slaps the knife he’s holding against the other man. When the other man curses CEO Mo, declaring that his children will suffer from CEO Mo’s greed, CEO Mo angrily flails and kicks at the man — accidentally stabbing him in the throat.
Tae-gu’s mother calls down the stairs, asking where Tae-gu went, but the young boy stares in shock at his father and the man he just killed. His mother tries to cover his eyes, but Tae-gu can’t stop looking. Kwon-joo believes this incident marked Tae-gu’s turning point to murderous psychopath. Jin-hyuk is bitterly amused to realize that CEO Mo must have felt guilty all these years for what Tae-gu saw, and therefore spent his life trying to clean up after his son’s evil deeds by way of recompense.
The adult Tae-gu grabs one of his many kettlebell options and calmly advances towards the terrified Dae-shik who tries to crawl away from him. Tae-gu tells him that secrets should remain secrets — the truth can be really exhausting. He crouches down and drops the kettlebell on the floor, asking if Dae-shik knows when a human is a complete.
Pulling a knife from his pocket, Tae-gu slices the palm of his hand, answering his own question: “Through pain.” Picking up the kettlebell again, he swings it against Dae-shik’s head. Noooooooo!
Jin-hyuk cuts the wire of the electronic security lock on the front door, and he and Kwon-joo cautiously enter the darkened house with their guns and flashlights raised. But as they look around and gradually turn on the lights, there’s no sign that anyone is there.
As Dae-shik’s body writhes due to shock and pain, Tae-gu searches through his pockets, finding the key card he’d been looking for. Dae-shik manages to ask Tae-gu if he killed all his victims in this room, angrily adding that Tae-gu will spend eternity in hell for his crimes. Tae-gu responds by picking up the kettlebell and swinging it down on Dae-shik’s head a couple of times. Double noooooooooooo!
Tae-gu seems almost disappointed when Dae-shik is no longer responsive, and, exhausted, he staggers back towards the kettlebell table. Movement on the security feed catches his eye, and he realizes in surprise that Jin-hyuk and Kwon-joo are inside the house. Instead of being worried that they’ve found him, he laughs in delight.
Jin-hyuk’s convinced that Tae-gu is only playing with them, no doubt watching them from somewhere close by. He’s not wrong, because with a few taps on his keyboard from his murder room, Tae-gu shuts off the lights to the house and also blocks any cell phone reception. That means the detectives can’t call or radio for back-up. He also electronically locks the doors — there’s no way out.
Cackling to himself as he watches them on his security feed, Tae-gu presses another button. A scream can be heard from somewhere in the house, and Kwon-joo and Jin-hyuk hurry to the direction it’s coming from, but Kwon-joo thinks it sounds a little strange.
As they cautiously enter a bathroom, there’s a body in the bathtub, covered in a sheet. Kwon-joo worriedly calls out as Jin-hyuk reaches to remove the sheet, no doubt concerned that he’ll see Dae-shik’s body under there. But it’s actually the plastic-wrapped body of Gyu-ah. I guess she’s been upgraded from the closet. Kwon-joo finds a recording playing screams from horror movies, which explains why they sounded odd to her. Jin-hyuk angrily points out that Tae-gu keeps purposefully toying with them.
Kwon-joo hears the scrape of a kettlebell on concrete and realizes that it’s coming from somewhere below the house. Repetitive banging sounds help her isolate where it’s coming from, and with Jin-hyuk’s help, they find the secret door leading down to the basement.
Their guns drawn, they follow a trail of blood leading to the murder room. Jin-hyuk is the first to enter the room, and you know something is suspicious because the door is wide open. Jin-hyuk hurries forward when he sees Dae-shik’s body in the middle of the room, but Kwon-joo screams that it’s a trap.
Too late, though, as Tae-gu suddenly emerges from his hiding spot and uses the butt of his rifle to slam it against the back of Kwon-joo’s neck, sending her to the floor. He kicks her fallen gun away from her as he aims the rifle at Jin-hyuk.
Jin-hyuk aims his gun at Tae-gu, ordering him to drop the rifle, but Tae-gu switches him aim back-and-forth between Jin-hyuk and the unarmed Kwon-joo as he asks if Kwon-joo got the gift he left her. He thought she would appreciate it. Yeah, because what woman doesn’t want a box of hair from murder victims.
She spits out that he’s totally crazy, but he continues to babble that both she and he are special — they’re different from other people. But Kwon-joo refuses to accept it, telling him he’s not the superior being he seems to think he is. The only reason he’s still alive and free is because of his father, but soon he’ll get the judgement he deserves.
Annoyed by her response, he mutters that he’ll change up the order (of killing them, I presume) and aims for Jin-hyuk, who dives and rolls as he fires back on Tae-gu. He should probably stick to kettlebells, because despite a few attempts, his shots miss their mark. But Jin-hyuk manages to graze Tae-gu in the arm, knocking him off balance. Jin-hyuk pursues Tae-gu when he runs upstairs, and they have a shoot-out as they run through the house.
Kwon-joo runs to check on Dae-shik, and even though he’s still unconscious, his body is still shaking in shock, so at least he’s still alive. Kwon-joo then hurries over to the security feed and turns off the jammer so she can call for backup and an ambulance.
Tae-gu hides around a corner as he reloads his rifle, and Jin-hyuk demands to know if this house is Tae-gu’s murder playground. Jin-hyuk warns him that he’ll die by his hands today as recompense for killing his wife, but Tae-gu just laughs as he points outs out that Dae-shik is the one who’s been covering it all up for the past three years.
Gritting his teeth, Jin-hyuk tells Tae-gu to never defile Dae-shik’s name by uttering it with that vile mouth of his. Yeah! Stepping around the corner, both men continue shooting at each other, and Tae-gu makes his way out of the house as Jin-hyuk tries to follow him through the maze of hallways.
Once outside, they stand-off against each other, their fingers on on their respective triggers. Tae-gu taunts Jin-hyuk, telling him that they’re not so different — they both are evil by natures. Jin-hyuk tells him to stop babbling and just fire already. Or is Tae-gu actually scared for once?
Police backup has finally arrived, and the Violent Crimes Detectives along with the local police surround Tae-gu, all of them pointing their guns at him. Tae-gu slowly lowers the rifle, but Jin-hyuk orders him to keep it raised and he shoots at Tae-gu’s feet, sending the cops scattering back a few steps.
With a smile, Tae-gu silently lowers his weapon and allows the cops to arrest him. Furious, Jin-hyuk continues to point his gun at him, and as Chief Jang cautiously approaches to get Jin-hyuk to lower his gun, Jin-hyuk says that he’ll give up his badge if it means getting to kill that bastard. But Chief Jang manages to get him to put away the gun, and Jin-hyuk watches helplessly as Tae-gu grins while he’s led away. Tae-gu knows this isn’t the end for him.
Dae-shik is strapped to a gurney and carefully put into an ambulance, which I’m taking as a good sign since it’s not a body bag. He has severe injuries to his skull, though, and he’ll be immediately taken to a hospital for neurosurgery.
The news is already reporting about the murder house, and CEO Mo goes into full damage control as he calls in favors of one of the directors of a hospital. He also calls Commissioner Bae. But between this and the bus incident, trying to cover up for CEO Mo isn’t looking as easy — or as rewarding — as it used to be. Commissioner Bae realizes that all his efforts to climb to the top have now been toppled in a split second.
Tae-gu is also being transported to the hospital, thanks to Jin-hyuk’s bullets grazing him. He’s handcuffed to the gurney, but he can’t stop laughing to himself. He’s escorted by a couple of cops, but the paramedic seems to be in CEO Mo’s pocket because as he tends to Tae-gu’s wounds, he manages to convince the cops to reroute to the closest hospital — with the director that owes CEO Mo a favor — since Tae-gu had a seizure. Jin-hyuk’s convinced it’s all a ruse as he follows Tae-gu’s ambulance.
The cops from the ambulance wait outside the emergency room as the doctor attends to Tae-gu. He injects Tae-gu with something that causes temporary suspended animation, making it look like he’s dead. He also stuffs into Tae-gu’s mouth a cotton ball soaked with something that will make it smell like Tae-gu killed himself by cyanide poisoning. That’s straight-up Hollywood spy movie nonsense, but whatever works to help him escape, I guess.
They confirm that Tae-gu’s unresponsive and that there’s evidence of potassium cyanide, and the doctor says that they need to move him to the morgue right away. Jin-hyuk finds that super suspicious, and has Hyun-ho and Eun-soo look into the doctor’s background, which reveal that he’s connected to Sungwun Express.
Kwon-joo listens carefully, and can hear the sound of a stretcher being moved to an elevator which is going down to the parking lot. They race down the stairs, and as they do so, Tae-gu regains consciousness as the doctors assist him into the waiting car. Jin-hyuk and Kwon-joo arrive a moment too late.
Tae-gu gradually regains control of his body again, and looks over the Japanese passport and ticket on a passenger ship to Japan that his father’s given him. CEO Mo wants his son to hide out overseas until everything settles down, but Tae-gu throws a tantrum, insisting that he doesn’t want help to run away. He screams for Kwon-joo and Jin-hyuk.
Hyun-ho’s already figured out that CEO Mo must have purchased a ticket to Japan for Tae-gu who will be using a fake passport, and so Jin-hyuk, Kwon-joo, and the Violent Crimes Unit all head to the harbor where Tae-gu is supposed to board his ship.
CEO Mo’s called in Prosecutor Park to help clean up Tae-gu’s mess. He promises Prosector Park anything he wants — money is no object when it comes to saving his son. But Prosecutor Park says things aren’t looking good right now, and it’d be better if CEO Mo turns himself in. CEO Mo desperately spins a story about making it look like Tae-gu died, asking Prosecutor Park for help in creating the necessary documents. Whoa, buddy, you’ve already fake-killed your son once tonight, let’s not try for the Worst-Dad-of-the-Year by doing it again. Prosecutor Park can see the writing on the wall, and decides to bail out of the Sungwun Express sinking ship.
The sun is already rising by the time the detectives reach the harbor. Tae-gu’s car gets blocked in, so he and his assistant make a run for it, weaving through the stacks of containers until they start running along the train tracks. The detectives lose sight of them, but Kwon-joo can hear the distinct sound of someone running on gravel, which gives them Tae-gu’s general direction and they sprint to chase after him.
Tae-gu and his assistant hide on a fishing boat, and it’s probably not a good idea to turn your back on a desperate psychopath, especially when there are so many many potential murder weapons around, because he picks up a metal pipe and beats his assistant to death before dropping him into the harbor.
The sound of the splash alerts Kwon-joo of Tae-gu’s location, and she radios the other detectives who all hurry to the water’s edge. They arrive just in time to see a body disappear beneath the surface and Jin-hyuk dives in to try and identify the body, but it’s too hard to see. When the harbor police finally retrieve the body, they confirm that it’s not Tae-gu.
As the Violent Crimes Unit detectives race off to arrest CEO Mo now that they have their warrant, Kwon-joo holds an interview with one of the news stations, telling everyone that Tae-gu is the one who was responsible for the murders three years ago. She confirms that Tae-gu is a psychopath, but not all psychopaths become murderers.
Even though Tae-gu was born with a psychopathic mentality, he didn’t become dangerous until he saw his father kill someone. Tae-gu watches the interview on a TV through a shop window, and his reaction makes me worried for Kwon-joo’s near future.
She returns to her apartment, but as she starts to unlock the door, Tae-gu appears from around the corner where he’s been waiting for her. He brandishes the knife he’s been holding and rushes toward her.
CEO Mo drowns his sorrows in alcohol as the news station gives a special report on Sungwun Express’s corruption. He blames himself for what Tae-gu has become, having helped raise him to become the monster that he is. He decides that his death might be able to pay for Tae-gu’s sins. Retrieving a gun from his desk drawer, he raises it to his temple.
The Violent Crimes detectives rush in at that moment to arrest him, but before Chief Jang can finish saying “You’re under arrest,” CEO Mo pulls the trigger and blows his brains out.
Tae-gu and Kwon-joo have somehow made it to the roof, and Tae-gu continues to advance on her as she crawls away from him. Tae-gu asks if she came back to this place to find him, and wonders if she knows how many times he let her get away. But she tells him that he has no authority to judge and punish others.
Furious, he pins her to the ground, letting her know that she’s gone too far now, and it’s her turn to be punished. She tells him how desperate she’d been to hunt him down and punish him for what he’d done. But now she sees how pitiful his life is, having stayed by his father who helped turn him into a monster.
She admits that she wanted to become like him, to tear him to pieces for what he did to her father. But someone once told her the police are there to catch the bad guys, so she’s choosing the legal path for justice. She adds that in his next life, instead of choosing to be a monster, he should choose to stay close to those who love him — that’s the way he’ll be saved.
Tae-gu’s had enough of her chatter as he raises his knife. But he stops when he sees her laugh. The reason for her smile becomes clear when Jin-hyuk appears and shoots Tae-gu in the leg, causing him to roll away from Kwon-joo. Turns out she’d purposefully used the interview to lure Tae-gu out, knowing he’d be waiting for her at her place.
Struggling to his feet on his one good leg, Tae-gu laughs as he greets Jin-hyuk — who immediately shoots him in the other leg. Tae-gu just doesn’t know when to quit, and he gloats to Jin-hyuk that his favorite thing about killing Ji-hye was hearing the sound of her skull smashing.
Jin-hyuk just shoots him in the arm. Propping himself up on the only good limb he has left, Tae-gu continues to taunt Jin-hyuk until Jin-hyuk shoots him in other arm, which forces Tae-gu to sprawl helplessly out on the roof. As twisted as ever, Tae-gu is pleased by Jin-hyuk’s reaction, pointing out the law is useless when it comes to justice, so Jin-hyuk should of course matters into his own hands.
When Jin-hyuk presses his gun against Tae-gu’s head, aiming right between the eyes, Tae-gu looks almost euphoric as he tells Jin-hyuk to shoot. Kwon-joo pleads with Jin-hyuk not to do it, but Jin-hyuk pulls the trigger and… click. The gun is empty.
Taking Tae-gu’s knife instead, Jin-hyuk presses the blade against Tae-gu’s neck. He asks if that’s what Tae-gu wants, and then apologizes that he can’t live up to expectations. He admits that he’s dreamed for the past three years of how he’d kill Tae-gu with his bare hands, but he’s now realized that it’d be better to leave him in a place where Tae-gu won’t be able to torture or kill anyone ever again.
Tae-gu starts to look angry and distressed, and Jin-hyuk gently caresses his hair, pleased that he’s finally getting the reaction he wanted. He tells Tae-gu that he hopes he thinks of him every day for the rest of his life. To Kwon-joo’s relief, Jin-hyuk sets aside the knife and officially arrests Tae-gu.
That night, Jin-hyuk visits his son in the hospital. Dong-woo is sound asleep, but Jin-hyuk tells him he’s finally fulfilled his promise. He then rests his head on the pillow next to his son, and I hope he finally gets the rest that’s been denied him for the past three years.
In the morning, Jin-hyuk and Kwon-joo visit their respective family memorial plaques. As he stares at the photo of his late wife, Jin-hyuk apologizes that it’s taken him so long to visit her. He promises that he’s now going to focus on looking forward and not obsessing about the past. With tears in his eyes, he tells his wife that she’s now free to rest in peace.
Kwon-joo rubs the the dust away from the photo of her and father, telling him she hopes he can rest well. She adds that even though she knows he was worried about her ability to hear sounds no one else could, she was able to use that ability to catch his killer.
Both Kwon-joo and Jin-hyuk visit Dae-shik in the hospital. Despite the neurosurgery, he’s still unconscious, although the doctor says that it’s a good sign that he no longer needs life support and can now breath on his own. One of his finger twitches, which I’m going to take as a good sign, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll fully regain consciousness.
Jin-hyuk silently wills Dae-shik to wake up so they can get back to work. He wants his talkative partner back. Aw, it’s just nice to know that Jin-hyuk forgives him.
Tae-gu is at a mental hospital, and apparently drugged out of his mind in order to keep his violent tendencies at bay. The doctor sees the drool marks on Tae-gu’s hospital pajamas and tells the orderly to clean him up after he makes sure Tae-gu takes his medication.
The orderly rolls Tae-gu’s wheelchair down the hallway and into a large, dark abandoned room where the wheelchair perfectly stops in the middle of one of the spot lights. Tae-gu flinches at the weird inhuman sounds around him, his jaw crackling as he nervously looks around at the shadows. Slowly advancing towards him like zombies are other patients of the mental hospital, and the doctor steps forward and stares at him.
With a nod, the doctor silently orders the other patients to attack. Like a pack of wild hyenas, they stab and brutalize Tae-gu’s body as he screams out in pain. The doctor advances with a meat tenderizer in his hand. Tae-gu, bloody and gasping in pain, watches in terror as the doctor raises it above his head, swinging it down to smash against Tae-gu’s skull.
In a voice-over, Kwon-joo tells us that she found out later Tae-gu was killed by another patient at the mental hospital. Also, most of the officials at the police station were replaced, and Commissioner Bae was prosecuted for accepting bribes.
The Golden Time Team is reinstated as a permanent team, and Kwon-joo finally feels like her ability to hear could really be used to help save people. Even though saving people in such a short time period can be stressful, and mistakes can be made, she wants to strive for a world without crime.
Eun-soo receives a call that a man with a knife is terrorizing people on the subway. Settling at her desk, Kwon-joo dispatches a response team as she declares the start of the Golden Time.
This show hasn’t been perfect. There have been plot holes galore and a severe lack of characterization. It feels like the writer had a good concept but could have used a few more editorial passes to tighten up the script. The saving grace has been the atmospheric directorial style (bless this lighting director!) and the stellar cast. I do wish we could have seen more from Yesung and especially Son Eun-seo, and if it weren’t for his incredible performance in the last episode, I’d also be wondering about the waste of Baek Sung-hyun.
However, Lee Ha-na and Jang Hyuk were brilliant (as to be expected), and Kim Jae-wook definitely deserves recognition for bringing a crazed killer to life in such a way that felt real and not simply a two-dimensional mustache-twirling villain. I hope this show gets him more recognition and respect, and definitely more roles in the future (or, at least, ones that don’t require me to wait another three years for a new project from him).
Despite the constant “fridge logic” and the “wait, what, how did we get here?” moments (because seriously, how did Tae-gu and Kwon-joo end up on the roof?), the show has remained riveting from start to finish. I was worried that the finale wouldn’t live up to my expectations until I realized I didn’t have any expectations other than it would be a nerve-wracking hour where I wouldn’t be sure of who would survive until the end. And the episode did more than deliver, as it hurtled from place to place while we watched Tae-gu spiral more and more out of control. The trademark suspense and brutality were all there, and so, in that sense, I am satisfied with the ending, especially since our heroes all managed to survive to hopefully lead a happier life. (Because Dae-shik is gonna eventually wake up from his coma, right? Right?)
I’ll admit, however, I’m still a little confused about Tae-gu’s ending. Am I supposed to take the action at face-value? Is this doctor gearing up to be a new psychopathic villain we should be worried about (or anticipating in the hopes of another season)? I can only imagine the ethical quagmire of using your own patients to help kill another person. Or is it the wild concoctions of Tae-gu’s addled brain, now forced to live with the consequences of his actions without anything to distract him. Is he projecting the screams of his victims and his own bloodthirsty tendencies onto the patients and the doctor? Is this what Jin-hyuk meant by making sure he lived each day thinking about what he’s done?
Because it was odd that the filming turned to black and white during that segment, and that the doctor never spoke as he killed Tae-gu in a manner eerily similar to all the ways Tae-gu has killed before. I almost wish Kwon-joo didn’t tell us he was killed in the mental hospital just so there could be more vagueness regarding Tae-gu’s end (and possibly spark an endless debate on whether mental torture is worse than physical). Also, I’m a little annoyed that I never got a satisfactory answer about Tae-gu’s crackling jaw. It seems to come out when he’s stressed or excited, and the orderly at the end said that there’s no physical reason for it. Yet he didn’t have it for most of the middle episodes, with no clear explanation as to why. So frustrating.
Despite my quibbles, I did really enjoy this finale and the show overall. Once you decide to just accept the crazy logic of the show, it’s the perfect kind of drama to sit-back and enjoy (even if I sometimes watched from behind my fingers). I’m willing to overlook imperfections provided a drama manages to remain compelling the entire way through, and this show definitely did that and then some. I’m thankful for the time I got to spend with these characters and the many ways they’ve tried to save their community, although I’ll never look at a kettlebell the same way again.