The Village: Achiara's Secret: Episode 2
Korean Drama Reactions & Reviews | October 9, 2015 | 452 viewed
Director: Lee Yong-Seok
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Release Date: Octorber 09th, 2015
We settle into the mystery and the town, as we get a deeper look at our characters and what drives them, as well as the secrets they’re all harboring. And yeah, there are a lot of secrets in every corner of the village, bolstered by warring agendas that keep everyone firmly in the Suspicious and Shifty category. The show does answer a few questions for us right off the bat—but not without raising more, of course. It’s a whole Pandora’s box of buried truths (literally, in some cases), and our heroine is just getting started.
Name: Yoo Seung Eun – Nothing
EPISODE 2: “Children”
Middle-schooler Yoo-na paints in her room at night, and receives a text from a boy telling her merely, “Tonight, midnight, Achiara.” She texts back an okay, and then her brother Ki-hyun drops by to chat, complimenting her art and smiling like a doting oppa.
Ki-hyun notes that she’s gotten some attitude now that she’s older, while Yoo-na asks whether he’s truly nice, or just acting it: “When you’re the only one being nice when everyone else isn’t, it’s awkward.” I’ll say. He teases that her adolescence disease has gotten worse, and she quips, “But my senses have gotten more sensitive. I can see things I didn’t see before.”
She says it lightly, but that makes Ki-hyun’s face fall, and suddenly the mood turns ominous. She wasn’t talking about artistic senses, was she?
In the parents’ room, Assemblyman Seo asks Ji-sook about her brother—the man who used to run his steel company, whom he transferred to China to so Ki-hyun could take over. Ji-sook stiffens and deflects the question, saying that he must be doing fine, according to her sister.
As the house quiets down for the night, Yoo-na sneaks out and bikes into town.
A short time later, she shows up at So-yoon’s door, and between then and now she’s gotten dirty and scraped up. She collapses in the doorway after saying Hye-jin’s name (aka the missing art teacher).
Her family rushes to the hospital, where So-yoon sits with her. So-yoon doesn’t know anything about the situation, though she tells Ki-hyun that she recalls Yoo-na mentioning Teacher Hye-jin. Judging from Ki-hyun’s face, he recognizes the name despite saying he doesn’t know anything.
He also seems to recognize the building as he drops So-yoon off, and tells her that he and Yoo-na have different mothers—just to get it out there, in case she’s curious about Ji-sook being so young. He adds that their family is a bit out of the ordinary, so Yoo-na may have some difficulties, and asks So-yoon to look after her. She calls him a good brother.
Across town, Yoo-na’s friend BA-WOO returns home injured and traumatized. It seems that he may be mentally slow, but tonight his behavior is extra severe and he refuses to say what happened. When his father insists he speak up, Ba-woo head-butts him hard and wriggles away.
In the morning, eager beaver Officer Woo-jae is still at it, trying to figure out the case of the Rainy Wednesday killings. He notes that family members will often insist a person is missing, but the police often frame that as a runaway instead. He perks up when he receives the call that a student has been attacked, and heads to the hospital to speak with Yoo-na.
She relates what happened last night, having seen a car parked at the roadside as she was riding her bike. Woo-jae asks why she was out at 1 a.m., and Ji-sook jumps in to say she was going to the PC-bang; the girl was so addicted to her computer that they got rid of them at home, leading her to sneak out at night.
Yoo-na describes being grabbed from behind, and fighting back wildly to free herself as her attacker tried to drag her under the bridge. She managed to get away, and ran without thinking until getting to So-yoon’s home.
It’s interesting how Yoo-na is likely making up this story, and her mother looks like she’s aware of this but doesn’t contradict the story. And when Yoo-na blatantly lies that she went to So-yoon’s place because they’re friendly, not even So-yoon calls her out on it. Woo-jae takes the story at face value, not finding anything suspicious.
So-yoon waits until she’s alone with Woo-jae to question whether he really believes Yoo-na’s story. He hasn’t even thought to question its veracity, but then he’s called away and So-yoon doesn’t elaborate.
Assemblyman Seo snaps at Woo-jae to do his job and catch the bad guy, so he and his sunbae, Sergeant Han, head to the bridge where Yoo-na was attacked. Sergeant Han scoffs again at Woo-jae’s theories, telling him to go to America if he’s so keen on serial killers. Still, you can’t laugh at Woo-jae too much for thinking it can’t be a coincidence that the Rainy Wednesday Killer is afoot at the same time a body is discovered.
Sergeant Han is skeptical of Yoo-na’s accounting, however, as he notes that this doesn’t look like a crime scene, and there are no signs of the struggle she described. He tells Woo-jae to look at all the CCTV footage in the area.
At school, So-yoon asks creepy art teacher Gun-woo about this Teacher Hye-jin, and learns that she used to teach at an art academy in town. Today he’s friendly and helpful; am I going to have to stop calling him creepy? But even the fact that he’s being nice makes me think he’s creepy…
Worried about Ba-woo’s behavior, his father goes to pharmacist Joo-hee for help. She finds Ba-woo huddled at home, ripping pages out of books, and asks what happened last night. She guesses that he was with Yoo-na and asks about it, but he ignores that and asks if Teacher Hye-jin is dead, and why.
Joo-hee has no answer. When his dad asks about his current condition, she suggests switching up his autism medication.
Yoo-na and Ji-sook arrive home, where crabby Grandma wastes no time scorning Ji-sook for not noticing that her daughter was sneaking out. Ji-sook hangs her head and apologizes repeatedly, but Yoo-na hates seeing her mother berated and talks back to Grandma, pointing out that she was the one who snored through everything while Yoo-na accidentally made too much noise outside her door. She must have been exhausted after all that time she spent abusing Mom.
But Ji-sook can’t have her daughter making things worse, even if it’s to speak up for her, and she smacks Yoo-na for her rudeness. Grandma just huffs that both mother and daughter lack class. Ji-sook asks her daughter to stop making things difficult for her.
Pharmacist Joo-hee thinks of Ba-woo asking about Hye-jin, and flashes back to a curious conversation she’d had with her. Hye-jin had mentioned “if something were to happen to me,” but Joo-hee hadn’t thought too much of it since she it was just casual talk, framed as a rhetorical question. Hye-jin added that the children would figure it out because she’d made a time capsule with them, and hidden “a huge secret” inside. It seemed like a joke then, but now Joo-hee mulls it over seriously.
That evening, Assemblyman Seo tells Ji-sook to return their daughter’s computer, since spending all night on it is better than her wandering around and getting hurt. When Ji-sook mentions Yoo-na needing to study, he says she’s not much of a brain, but is pretty enough to marry well—like her mother. Well, that’s charming.
Then Ji-sook asks if the corpse was identified, and Assemblyman Seo gets snappish about not knowing anything.
So-yoon asks her landlord about the previous tenant, and he has to look it up because he’s new himself. He sees that the lease automatically expired a few months after the tenant stopped paying rent, but doesn’t find that unusual—with an increase in semi-transients and foreigners moving through the region, it’s becoming more common to have tenants skip out on rent. He confirms that Kim Hye-jin was the last tenant before her.
New character alert: Pretty teenager GA-YOUNG (Lee Yeol-eum) tries to slip out of the house, but gets caught by her eagle-eyed mother. Ga-young insists she has a birthday party to get to, but Mom would dearly love for her to stop hanging around her friends and sneaking home late at night. She cites Yoo-na’s recent attack as reason to stay home, but Ga-young snaps that Yoo-na’s a psycho who made up the story for attention.
Mom runs a restaurant downstairs, and So-yoon stops by to buy food from her. Mom is happy to help out the new teacher and offers a discount, inviting her to drop by anytime.
Ga-young gets sent to her room, where she studies an old photograph of what I presume are her parents.
At the station, Woo-jae and Sergeant Han review the CCTV footage and see that Yoo-na lied about her story—the camera shows her running past the car, not attacked from behind. She must have lied to hide something from her parents.
At school, So-yoon pulls Yoo-na aside to give her an assignment, and to ask why she came to her apartment the other night. Yoo-na lies that she went for help, but So-yoon guesses it’s because she was looking for Hye-jin, and figures that they were quite friendly. She tells Yoo-na to come to her if she wants to talk, only to have Yoo-na spit out that there’s a difference between being friendly and just acting friendly. She calls her a hypocrite for good measure and storms out.
Yoo-na goes to the roof with a pack of cigarettes, which is where Ga-young and her mean girl posse corner her. Ga-young bullies her for making up fake stories about an attack—she knows it’s a lie because she saw her that night, with her “idiot” of a friend.
In flashback, we see Yoo-na and Ba-woo heading up the wooded path to the taped-off area where the body was discovered. Ga-young wonders what they were doing there, just as Gun-woo steps in to break up the scene. He cuts through the teenage bullshit and assesses the situation pretty accurately, pegging Ga-young for cutting class and threatening an underclassman.
Gun-woo sends Yoo-na away as a first-time offender, and warns the mean girls that the next time he catches them, they’ll be disciplined according to the rules.
Ji-sook works on her glass art in her studio, where she’s surprised by an unexpected visitor. It’s pharmacist Joo-hee, who happens to also be Ji-sook’s younger sister, and she settles in with the usual pleasantries before getting to the point about Yoo-na’s incident and the possible connection to Hye-jin.
Their words start out pleasant but there’s a distinct undercurrent of tension here—you know, rather than point that out every time, I think it’s safe to say that every exchange in this drama is going to have an undercurrent of tension or animosity.
As usual, Ji-sook stiffens at the name Hye-jin and tries to shut down the conversation, saying it has nothing to do with her, and that there’s no way the body is Hye-jin. Joo-hee presses, saying that Hye-jin had buried a time capsule to be opened in ten years, and the children may have gone to find it.
As their tone gets more heated, Ki-hyun arrives at the studio and his face darkens at the sounds of discord. He purposely drops a glass vase to break up the moment, and pretends to be sorry for the accident.
He’s here to bring Ji-sook to the police, who have requested a meeting with Yoo-na’s parents in light of the CCTV footage. Sergeant Han and Woo-jae try to explain how Yoo-na lied about the attack, but it’s a delicate matter, and their boss bends over backwards to not offend the assemblyman.
Surprisingly, Assemblyman Seo chuckles that it’s a good thing, because it means nothing happened to Yoo-na, and there’s no crazy attacker on the loose. And that Achiara remains a crime-less, peaceful village. He laughs it off like a childhood prank, sighing that it’s tough raising a teenager. He instructs the police to stop investigating and close the case.
It’s all for show, of course, since he mutters at his wife to do a better job watching their kid and heads off in a snit.
Ga-young happens to be walking by as the family exits the station, and takes it in curiously.
Woo-jae updates So-yoon, figuring she should know since she’s Yoo-na’s teacher. So-yoon asks where all that dirt came from if she wasn’t attacked, and Woo-jae writes it off as a brief fall in the dirt.
Assemblyman Seo has drinks with the police chief, who informs him that it’s looking unlikely that the corpse was part of the serial killings. Assemblyman Seo is pleased to hear it, and pressures the man into ruling the death an accident—a sad but ordinary case of a hiker falling in the woods. The police chief protests at outright lying, but the assemblyman grabs his lapel and growls that it’s not lying, and that they can’t have their tourist resort plans dying now—it would be death for them too. At least this time, I’m pretty sure he’s being figurative. Mostly.
Yoo-na paints in her room, but when her mother drops by, she hides the painting of Hye-jin in the woods with a safe, boring still life instead. Ji-sook prods Yoo-na for an explanation of where she went that night, promising not to get angry, and asks if she met Ba-woo and went into the forest.
Yoo-na lies that she didn’t, but when her mother presses, she blurts, “I saw Teacher Hye-jin!”
Flashback. Yoo-na and Ba-woo are dirt-streaked but safe as they head down from the forest, and part ways. Yoo-na rides her bike down the road, and stops suddenly in front of the car—but it’s not the car she sees. It’s Hye-jin, dressed in white, walking away. Eek! Creepy.
Hye-jin’s barefoot and pale-faced, with blood-red lips, and walks down the road. Yoo-na follows, unable to catch up. Hye-jin turns back to look at her, then continues around the bend and up the staircase to her old home.
Yoo-na follows her up, all the way to her hallway, which is when So-yoon opens the door. Oh god. I hope for So-yoon’s sake she never hears how the ghost of her former tenant likes returning home.
In bed that night, So-yoon has a fitful sleep, a children’s song ringing in her ears. She’s reliving the childhood car crash, and jerks awake in a cold sweat.
The next day, she takes the newspaper clipping of the old accident to the police station and asks to see the old accident report. Perhaps it’ll give her more information and lead her to any relatives she may have. The officer knows she’s going on very little, but So-yoon is so pleading that he agrees to at least try looking into it, though he warns her not to get her hopes up.
Initial DNA testing turns up zero database matches with the corpse, which means they’ll have to go to the public in requesting information. Woo-jae is shocked to hear that the death has been ruled an accident, which has already been released in the news outlets.
He decides this is a clear attempt to interfere with the investigation, since he’s convinced there’s more behind it. He runs into So-yoon outside the station and shows her the flyer asking for investigation tips, scoffing that it’s not much at all. But to my eye, the decayed white dress, shoes, and bracelet do seem rather familiar… And it seems to rattle So-yoon as well.
Ji-sook requests to meet with So-yoon, taking care to choose an out-of-the way restaurant so as to avoid prying eyes. She explains that when Yoo-na was 5, a middle school boy disappeared and sent the town into turmoil. Yoo-na went around saying strange things, asking why that oppa went swimming in his clothes. The boy’s corpse was then discovered in the lake, fully clothed. Ji-sook calls it “the ability to see death” and says Yoo-na had a few more incidents like it, but thankfully, it stopped sometime in grade school.
“Even so, she was treated as a strange, unsettling, disliked child,” she says. The prejudice never went away, “and she grew up fitting into that prejudice.”
So-yoon starts to assure Ji-sook that she’ll pay particular attention to Yoo-na, but Ji-sook tells her despairingly that it’s started again. She says nobody can know this time, and came to So-yoon to request what she can’t of anybody else in the village: “Please listen to Yoo-na. And please stop her from talking.”
So-yoon asks what the latest vision was, and Ji-sook says it’s the art teacher: “She says that woman died.”
Woo-jae is now more convinced than ever that there’s more to this corpse than others believe, arguing that this should be a national concern. Sergeant Han says that while it’s possible the death was a murder, it’s definitely not part of the serial killings, because it didn’t have one of the signature marks that the other bodies did. But he refuses to tell Woo-jae what that is, partly because it’s classified, and partly because he enjoys seeing Woo-jae squirm in curiosity.
Enter a suspicious newcomer dressed all in black, who pauses to read the public notice about the corpse identification. From the sinister music that plays, I’m guessing we should remember that face.
Ga-young spots Yoo-na reading one of the flyers and joins her to continue their talk. She says she suffered grave setbacks because of Yoo-na’s lie (…in that she couldn’t go to a party), and tells Yoo-na to make it up to her by getting her a job at her father’s company. Yoo-na says she can’t, so Ga-young dangles a carrot: She knows who killed that woman, and can tell Yoo-na if she gets her that job.
Yoo-na protests that she’s lying, but Ga-young says she was there to see Yoo-na and her friend at the site of the corpse: “I was there because of that culprit.” Well, that’s tantalizing. She tells Yoo-na to think it over.
So-yoon redecorates her apartment, replacing Hye-jin’s decorations with fresh ones. She pauses to consider the painting of a mother and infant.
That night, Ga-young walks along in the rain, on her way to meet friends. A car starts rolling slowly along next to her, and stops when she stops. She gets increasingly nervous and slowly turns toward the car as the window rolls down…
Then breathes a sigh of relief to recognize the driver. She gets into the car and teases that this has serial killer mood written all over it, relaxing into the seat.
So-yoon accidentally drops a picture frame, and as she’s clearing away the broken glass, she sweeps up a necklace that had fallen under the end table. Recognition flashes through her—it’s one of the matching necklaces she and her unni had been wearing in the car right before the accident.
In the car, the driver slowly puts a hand on Ga-young’s leg. She looks up at him, going from relaxed to tense.
So-yoon compares the necklace to the one in the family photo. Each one is half of a heart, and this one was her sister’s.
I wasn’t expecting the show to tell us definitively that Hye-jin is dead and likely the corpse, at least not so early in the game, since there’s been such a fuss about identifying the body. Perhaps it’s a good move to let us in on the truth, because the clues were really only pointing in her direction, and it would have been too obvious to keep us guessing when it seemed so straightforward.
Identifying the corpse as Hye-jin will still be a task for the police, who have no leads, but now that we know, I’m curious to see what direction the plot takes us. I suppose the first question is the why of it all, and what this will mean for this world. With the discovery of the necklace, we have a good chance that Hye-jin may be So-yoon’s sister, which raises a fresh mystery of why both girls were proclaimed dead when they both lived, and how they grew up not knowing each other.
There’s also the hints of So-yoon having some sort of supernatural skills, in that she sees the corpse-hand beckoning to her. That could perhaps be explained as stress-induced hallucinations, or maybe she’s so tightly wound she’s imagining things, but in a world where people can see ghosts, I have to presume there’s a greater connection at play.
I do wonder whether revealing Hye-jin as a ghost removes some of the suspense, since I find the jumpiest, most eerie moments to be the ones where the show lets my imagination fill in the blanks (and my imagination, damn her, is pretty active). Then again, we do have a serial killer still on the loose to keep us on edge. (I find it kind of hilarious how Woo-jae is the onnnnnly one in this entire show who thinks it makes sense for the dead body to be connected to the serial killer, and how the show is treating him like he’s the silly one for jumping to absurd conclusions when everyone else seems to be missing some obvious connect-the-dots skills. Yes, some are willfully turning a blind eye because they’re under the assemblyman’s thumb, but I just want Woo-jae to get out there and show them all how obtuse they’re being.)
So while the mystery part of the show isn’t quite as mysterious as I’d like it to be, I do find the characters well-drawn and interesting, and like that each one has their own agenda going on. It’s no fun when a drama paints a conflict in binary terms, putting all its characters on a good side or a bad side, because there’s so much room for character development and complexity when everyone’s at odds with each other, protecting themselves and stepping on each other’s toes. I just hope the big secrets shake out to be as shocking as the buildup, to make all the nail-biting worth it.
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