Signal: Episode 3

Korean Drama Recaps | January 31, 2016 | 359 viewed

Director: Kim Won-Suk
Writer: Kim Eun-Hee
Genre: Crime, thriller
Release Date: January 22 - March 12, 2016
Runtime: Fri & Sat 20:30
Episodes: 3/16
Starring: Lee Je Hoon (Park Hae Young), Kim Hye Soo (Cha Soo Hyun), Jo Jin Woong (Lee Jae Han), Jang Hyun Sung ( Kim Bum Joo), Jung Hae Kyun (Ahn Chi Soo), Kim Won Hae (Kim Gye Chul), Jung Han Bi (Oh Yoon Seo), Lee Yoo Joon (Jung Hun Gi), Kim Min Gyu (Hwang Ui Kyung)
Release Date: 01st February, 2016
Signal: Episode 3
Signal: Episode 3
I’m sure that when the cold case squad was tasked to take on the South Gyeonggi serial murders, none of them anticipated the possibility that any more lives could be at stake. But that’s the name of the game when you’ve got two detectives running on parallel timelines, both trying to prevent the deaths of any more innocents.
However, our characters soon learn that no matter how noble their intentions may be, their meddling can also lead to some serious consequences. Or will they have enough time to change the past and create a better future?
Name: Jang Bum-joon – “회상 (Reminiscence)” from the OST
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Hae-young literally shakes in his boots, dumbfounded by the changes to the crime scene photos and whiteboard. If that wasn’t eerie enough, then get this: neither Heon-ki nor Soo-hyun can support his claim that Lee Mi-sun was the eighth victim—to them, she survived the attack.
Similarly in 1989, Jae-han is able to defend himself from the perpetrator thanks to the victim’s muffled screams. He gives chase down the streets, then pounces on the guy to cuff him.
Back in 2015, Hae-young tracks down the senior detective whom we saw Jae-han meet with in Episode 2. All he wants to know if it’s true that Lee indeed survived, but he gives pause when the former detective blames Jae-han and “that nonsensical radio transmission” for everything that went wrong in that case.
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He later mulls over the first transmission he ever had with Jae-han, hanging on to the 2000 Jae-han’s dying words to persuade his younger self. Nothing about this situation makes sense to him, but then the radio comes alive again. 11:23—right on schedule.
It’s Jae-han in 1989, fresh off of handing off the attacker to the police. He reports that the perp in his custody, thanks to Hae-young’s intel. But how did Hae-young know about the impending attack anyway?
Hae-young can hardly believe his ears, wondering if he’s on the receiving end of some elaborate prank. When he demands to know where Jae-han is, he’s told that Jae-han has just dropped off suspect Choi Young-shin—a name listed on the whiteboard.
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“So… you’re really in 1989?” Hae-young asks incredulously. Now Jae-han thinks that Hae-young’s pulling his leg, but then he’s told that if he’s really in 1989, Suspect Choi will die.
“He’s not the killer!” Hae-young hollers. And while the police are busy interrogating him, the true murderer will claim his next victim. So if Jae-han is truly in 1989, then he can stop it from happening.
We can see that everything Hae-young is spouting is true, as a shadow ambushes a woman unawares. Unfortunately for Jae-han, the connection terminates before he can get any more information.
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Jae-han rushes into the precinct where the seizure that’s supposed to kill Suspect Choi begins. Over in 2015, Hae-young stares at the whiteboard, then back at the clock, waiting on edge for the information listed there to change once more.
But it’s too late—Suspect Choi is dead and now another life has been taken: Hwang Min-joo. Which means there is no change to update no matter how long Hae-young waits. Hae-young slumps in defeat.
Hae-young checks the newspaper archives, which only confirm the above deaths. Another headline cites Jae-han’s bravery in saving a life, and the photo allows Hae-young to put a face to the name he’s heard. It dawns on him that it’s all true.
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His next stop is to visit Lee Mi-sun’s husband, only to discover that Soo-hyun is already there. Her questions are unwelcome to the point that the husband chucks water at her in retaliation. He barks that although his wife may have been the only surviving victim in the case, she had recalled nothing regarding the attack.
Not only that, the police’s constant pestering was what drove her to her untimely death, he claims. Soo-hyun bows out of the store with an apology.
She doesn’t accept Hae-young’s handkerchief, telling him that being brushed off as cops is nothing compared to the pain felt by the victim’s families.
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They stop when Lee Mi-sun’s daughter calls out to sit down with them, apologizing for her father’s emotional response. She’s brought a few of her mother’s belongings which includes a family photo. She was told that her mother was pregnant with her at the time of the attack, and if that detective wasn’t there at the right place at the right time, she would’ve never been born.
Her mother never got to meet the detective who saved her life, so she taught her daughter to treat any police officer with respect. Hae-young sits in silence, slowly sinking in the impact of his and Jae-han’s intervention on this young woman’s life.
Once they’re alone, Soo-hyun asks why Hae-young’s here in the first place. He tries to formulate his words before spitting out: “What do you think it would be like if you received a transmission from the past?”
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He quickly drops the subject when Soo-hyun looks at him dubiously, and starts to walk away when Soo-hyun answers, “I would ask that person to protect someone precious to me.”
“What if everything gets mucked up?” Hae-young continues. She replies, “Isn’t it better to try even if things do get mucked up?”
While Soo-hyun reflects on her earlier words at her desk, Hae-young looks solemnly at the walkie-talkie at home. He realizes that while he may not fully understand what’s going on, he can use this two-way communication to save lives and catch the serial killer.
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He starts a personal whiteboard listing the “Before” and “After” differences between the last few victims of the South Gyeonggi serial murders. He notes how one fewer persons may have died, but the total number victims are the same. Furthermore the last two murders took place in less secluded areas and on dates earlier than before.
It occurs to Hae-young that something must’ve happened the night Lee Mi-sun was saved for the murderer to have suddenly changed his hunting patterns. More importantly, he’s the only one who’s caught on to the change, so he has to be the one to figure it all out before another person dies.
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Meanwhile, Jae-han is reprimanded for losing the true killer on foot. His defense that he thought he was chasing the right man falls on deaf ears, and he’s ultimately told to turn in his badge and radio. Uh oh, how will he get in touch with Hae-young?
He barges through the precinct to find a Park Hae-young; needless to say he doesn’t find his man (and mistakenly wallops another detective with a judo flip) and runs out before he’s yelled at again.
We see him lingering outside the Youngsan district office to peek a glance at a pretty lady. He freezes when he thinks he’s been seen, but then frowns when she appears to be gone. So when she reappears from behind him, Jae-han makes a run for it. HA, it’s so cute.
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Even if Jae-han doesn’t know it himself, the young woman seems to also be interested in him. She nearly takes something out of her pocket before changing her mind at the last second. He does, however, leave her with a taser to protect herself from all the bad men out there before adorably running away again.
Trying to catch his breath, Jae-han swears to himself that he’ll put the serial killer behind bars and muster up the courage to ask her out on a date. Aw.
In the present, Soo-hyun notes that while there are plenty of differences between the murder victims, they did share one commonality: all the women were murdered after taking the bus home. When she’s told that bus was the typical method of transportation back then, Soo-hyun brings up a map that indicates the crime scene locations along a bus route that still exists today.
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Moreover, the eighth victim Hwang Min-joo worked for that bus company. That gets the gears in Hae-young’s head turning whilst Detective Kim thinks that the bus route correlation is a farfetched one.
But then Hae-young says that the aforementioned bus route also cuts across the train tracks where Lee Mi-sun was attacked.
In 1989, Jae-han retraces his steps from that night, trying to figure out where he lost the serial killer. It brings him back to the bus stop where he thought he nabbed the right guy, and that’s when Jae-han registers the bus… which also pulled away from him moments before he turned that last corner that night.
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In the present, Hae-young explains the timeline to his team: After the killer failed in murdering Lee Mi-sun, he hopped on a bus and got off at a further stop on that route to kill Hwang Min-joo. He then killed again two days later.
While most serial killers space out the dates between their crimes to reduce suspicion, Hae-young believes that there was a reason behind this sudden change in pattern. The only place that he had any chance of escape was through the narrow residential streets that opened up to the bus stop.
We see that’s exactly what happened, as the bus pulls away from Jae-han arresting the wrong man. Hae-young believes that the killer’s eighth and ninth victims weren’t calculated acts—on the contrary, he hurried to silence the women who saw his face.
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What the cold case squad (and Jae-han) doesn’t know is that Jae-han’s crush was riding on that very bus. Detective Kim interrupts just then, asking if they spoke with Jae-han before he did. He remembers how Jae-han was spouting nonsense about how the killer was on the bus and that’s why Hwang Min-joo died.
We see a what could be a young Detective Kim (?) and Jae-han approach the bus driver who had discovered Hwang’s body that night. He had worked in tandem with the victim, who took the last bus home, and when Jae-han asks if he remembers a young man in black getting on the last stop, the driver claims that no one got on.
Not too far away, one of Hwang Min-joo’s co-workers looks back, confused. Jae-han is even more perplexed, and the detective says that if the perp had gotten on the bus, then the bus driver would’ve been the first one on his hit list.
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Detective Kim says he followed up on that driver, who still firmly claims that he didn’t see anyone that night. He tried tracking down that co-worker too, but no one was home.
Citing that it’s a cold case squad’s job to follow up on anything the previous investigation might’ve missed, Soo-hyun immediately packs up and heads out with Hae-young.
In the car, Hae-young wonders what the killer must be doing now—committing murder would be such a strong temptation for him to cease doing it altogether. He’d never been subject to an investigation either, and there are plenty of rumors about where he might be now—either dead, locked up for a different crime, or left the country.
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“But what if… just if… he’s still in our midst?” Hae-young wonders. It’s probably someone who people never suspected to be a murderer, he says. As they pull up to a residential street, we see someone in a dark hoodie and hat slip away.
As expected, no one answers the door when Soo-hyun and Hae-young come knocking. Noticing the mess inside, Soo-hyun opens the unlocked door and enters… stopping short when she sees the bound feet and hands in the bedroom. Oh shit.
Hae-young jumps back, startled, but he instantly recognizes the signature knots. “It’s him,” he breathes.
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Section Chief Ahn checks in with Soo-hyun, who is unable to confirm whether this murder is linked to the other South Gyeonggi murders. He tells her to call in her team who are busy analyzing the crime scene, and leave the case to the Gyeonggi police officers.
So whereas Detective Kim is excited to see his hoobaes, Hae-young isn’t so thrilled by the other team taking over. He tells the other cops to get lost, refusing to let someone else take credit for all their hard work.
He even goes so far to say that he and his team are doing all this grunt work because the cops couldn’t nab the killer in the first place. Ooh, them be fightin’ words.
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He and the other cop come close to throwing punches when he’s told that this murder is the cold case squad’s fault for digging into such an old case. Soo-hyun breaks it up and hands over the case to the other team, much to Hae-young and Detective Kim’s surprise.
She calls her team back in, and she won’t take no for an answer. Hae-young points out that the other squad leader wasn’t all wrong—their team is partly responsible for this murder to take place.
That’s why they should continue with the case, Hae-young argues. To that, Soo-hyun reminds him that he mustn’t let emotions cloud his judgment in this line of work. But Hae-young blames himself for the woman’s death: “If it weren’t for that radio transmission…”
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That grabs Soo-hyun’s attention, and Hae-young swears that he’ll put everything back in its rightful place in so long as he has a chance to do so. He sits in his car, waiting for it to be 11:23 again so he can talk to Jae-han.
Currently, Jae-han is under suspicion of colluding with the serial killer. He’s placed in lockup and is separated from his radio when Hae-young tries to contact him.
He yells emphatically when Hae-young transmits that someone else has died because of their meddling. Jae-han gets worked up when he’s told that there’s still something he can do about it in 1989 (“There he goes again!”) and tells a practically empty room that they should arrest the crazy man on the radio claiming that he’s in 2015.
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Hae-young quickly relays that the serial killer is still at large and that Jae-han still has time to save the ninth victim. Her name is Kim Won-kyung, an office worker, and she’ll die on November 7, 1989 at 9:30 PM.
That’s Jae-han’s crush, as we see her arrive home before the killer in the shadows can attack. Hae-young pleads with him to catch the murderer; he might not know what good these transmissions will do but he firmly believes that the past can still change—they can catch the killer and save a life.
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With that, the transmission ends and Jae-han furiously shakes the bars. His shouts aren’t responded to until much later, when Jae-han claims that someone else will die tonight. Again, no one listens.
Hae-young wakes in front of the whiteboard the following morning. He’s disappointed to see that nothing’s changed. Soo-hyun, however, isn’t so disheartened: the Gyeonggi police is having trouble with this murder, which puts them at an advantage.
When Hae-young points out that she’s the one who called them all off, Soo-hyun counters that she pulled them off of the crime scene, not the investigation itself. They’re still in charge of cracking the South Gyeonggi serial murders case, and all they have to do is be the first ones to catch the killer.
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She’s gotten the inside scoop from forensics saying that unlike the previous victims, this woman was tied up post-mortem. Hae-young wonders if that means it’s not the same killer yet.
Soo-hyun says they can safely assume that whoever it is, it’s someone related to the South Gyeonggi murders. Hae-young realizes that it must be the signature knot because while the public knew about said knot, no pictures were ever released. (Psst, Gapdong, is that you?)
So if they can identify this murderer, they have a shot at finding the original killer. Heon-ki has something that could help: a broken glass cup found beneath the victim’s body.
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While Heon-ki runs off to the lab, Detective Kim realizes that there was a moving camera in the neighborhood where the crime scene took place. On their way to the crime scenes, he had noticed the black boxes on the delivery trucks driving around. He’ll make sure to get that footage before the Gyeonggi team does.
As for Soo-hyun and Hae-young, they decide to start from the beginning. Looking at the floorplans, Hae-young says there was no sign of forced entry and no signs of struggle either. That means the perpetrator had to be someone the victim knew and the motive to bury evidence.
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Soo-hyun can’t shake off the notion that it might be the bus driver, but Hae-young shuts that theory down—many profilers might have a difference in opinion about the serial killer, but they all agree that he was a man in his early 20s, 23 years old at most, who never had a romantic relationship.
Moreover, the bus driver was on duty that night, which eliminates him as a possibility. Detective Kim calls to say that he grabbed the black box just before the other team arrived, and Soo-hyun and Hae-young decide to divide and conquer to find out what the bus driver knows.
Hae-young spares one last look at the whiteboard, which remains unchanged.
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Kim Won-kyung works late that evening, while Jae-han fakes an illness to create an opportunity to bust out. By the time he grabs his radio and rushes out, it’s a little past 8 PM.
He tries seeing if she’s at home, only to learn that she’s still in the office. He wanders the streets calling out her name, Hae-young’s warning echoing in his ears.
Current time: 8:40 PM.
Signal: Episode 3
Still awesome. I do love the cliffhangers that we’ve gotten so far in Signal even if this one isn’t as in-your-face jaw dropping like last week’s. Cutting off less than an hour before the ninth victim dies certainly opens up the show to a lot of questions, and successfully has me hanging by the edge of my seat. And though a part of me hopes that Hae-young and Jae-han get to rewrite history for the better this time, the other wonders what sort of unforeseen consequences come from doing so. How much of their present involvement now aligns or breaks away from any other past Hae-youngs and Jae-hans? Do your brains hurt yet?
What I like most is how we’re seeing the team effort come into play for the first time this week, though for Jae-han, his involvement to catch the killer is deeply personal right now. This is the part of the premise that intrigued me most, to see how two cops from two time periods would work together with a common goal towards an unknowable future. I do like that Hae-young caught on to how he always talks to Jae-han at the same time every night, and has now proceeded to relay as much information within his allotted time.
He’s a smart fella, but he’s also a deeply emotional one, ready to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong if he believes it’s of his own making. It’s his heart-first-brain-second attitude that Soo-hyun cautioned him of, because in their line of work, an emotional response could easily endanger someone’s life. He might be too late in saving the other bus girl’s life, but he knows that Jae-han still has a chance to make a difference in the past to preserve Hae-young’s present. Well, that’s the noble intention they currently operate under, but what happens if they try to save a life that alters Hae-young’s present?
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What I find interesting is that Hae-young is the only person in 2015 who recognizes the changes. I almost hoped that Soo-hyun would catch on too, but for now it makes sense for Hae-young to try and operate alone, and hone in on how he can use the connection to Jae-han to his advantage. I do hope that Soo-hyun will buy into these absurd-sounding claims to the past and become part of a trio that faces crime together.
Speaking of which, I can’t help but admit that the possibility of a copycat triggered terrifying flashbacks of Gapdong. Although the jury’s still out on that plot point, I am carefully open to how Signal might play with that storyline if they choose to use it. The writing has been thoughtful and intricate so far, so I’m always curious as to where the story will go. As for the team, it’s great to see Heon-ki and Detective Kim stepping up to the plate this hour, offering their knowledge and skillset to the team. Here’s to one small step for the cold case squad, and one giant leap for Signal.
Signal: Episode 3

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