Stranger Season 2 (2020) Episodes 13 and 14 "Politics as Usual"

Seo Dong-jae, I think, should thank God every day for the rest of his life that it was Si-mok and Yeo-jin that was on his case... with machine-like doggedness (I might add) despite every attempt to hinder the resolution of his kidnapping on several fronts. I eagerly await the look on his face when he realises who was instrumental in getting him out of the bushland area. It's true that some of the obstacles sent them on several wild geese hunts in that regard but the pursuit of those lines of inquiry eg. Segok station suicide did yield other pertinent facts highlighting why the law and order system is in dire need of reform.

Politics undoubtedly created many of the obstacles for the protagonists but it was political wrangling that helped clear the way for the Dong-jae kidnapping to attain its final result. That was particularly exemplified in the incident of pulling rank and seniority. So it seems that justice... as has been harped on all throughout the show... has been relegated to side-taking. On some level no one seemed to care about the rights of the individual who was abducted except that if the incident could potentially open up the proverbial can of worms. Seo Dong-jae, the man, the father, the husband and even the prosecutor did not have value beyond his role in the politicking on both sides. Dong-jae wasn't well-liked to put it mildly beyond any kind of political mileage. The desultory chatter of the cops regarding his disappearance highlighted that clearly enough. In blunt English, he was a nuisance. His reputation of being something of a weasel, brown-noser and political animal preceded him But I'm sure it's no accident that the show chose him as the victim here. Despite all that he is and what he represents, he is still a human being whose life has value, if for no one else but for his family. Perhaps we are meant to be stunned or at the very least struck by the cynicism that his kidnapping has brought out of the woodwork. The writer has successfully tied that to the prosecutor-police reformation council in the opportunistic strategies that are deployed here. It's not quantum physics, but it clearly suited one side (the prosecution) to fake evidence to finger a cop for Dong-jae's disappearance. The logic is to undermine their integrity and the currency of their claims. If that was all it was, perhaps no one would mind so much but the wasted resources spent to chase up that rabbit trail could have been the difference between life and death.

There are grave moral implications to playing politics. I don't think that's news to most. But when one is fixated on a particular agenda, one misses crucial details despite the fact that they're staring one in the face. For instance the show highlights that both Choi Bit and Yeo-jin were told by the father of one of the boys who drowned about the new hugely expensive pair of trainers. That boy could never have afforded them. However, he assured his father that he would have to find a part-time job to pay for it. The implications of that was lost on both even as they heard those words fall out of the man's lips. For me that incident showed that the evidence was there to invite suspicion early on but what the two of them were interested in at the time was how they could use any information during the interviews for political purposes. This shows that biases can cloud the way key information can be viewed. An experienced police officer like Choi Bit missed it because she was listening for something she could use against the prosecutors. She wasn't interested in the case for the dead boys although ironically if she had put her focus on that, she would have found the the ammunition she needed against the prosecutors for being shoddy investigators. On top of that she and Woo Tae-ha wouldn't have had to manoeuvre madly regarding the mysterious death of Park Gwang-su. But there's no doubt that that particular closet and all its skeletons are long overdue for an airing.

Bullying seems to be a common thread in the Segok and Tongyeong cases as well as the case that Dong-jae was involved in before he went MIA. I posed the question why Kim Hu-jeong involved in the Tongyeong drownings allowed himself to be bullied to breaking point but when I saw his interactions with his father, the light bulb came on. His father seemed to be a hard task master, a domineering figure and despite having been schooled in legal matters his entire adult life, he is just as happy as anyone else to circumvent the law when it suited him. In other words... he comes across as a bully too. The consequences of bullying in both cases is simply that lives are destroyed. Not just the victims' lives but the bullies also. And it's true and I've done the research, that as a whole kids don't tell the adults in their lives when they're being bullied.

It should also be said that bullying as a broader idea is about "might is right" and that is applicable right across society not just schools. I note too that Dad circumvented due process by calling on his judge friend (an authority figure) to complain about Si-mok. In order to counter that offensive, Tae-ha gets Sa-hyun to call a more senior judge he knows to throw his weight around. It begs the question of having processes in place if individuals end up gaming the system.

The writer is rather good on the moral universe in which all of this takes place and she's very thoughtful about the long-term social ramifications of this behind-the-scenes politicking as she was in the first season. In a real enough way, I'm of the opinion that the thinking behind this season's storyline is far more sophisticated than the previous. She certainly spends more time extrapolating the internal corruption without recourse to external forces. The Hanjos and the Park Moo-jungs of this world aren't the biggest problem. The biggest problem here is the lack of virtue demonstrated by individuals which use the system for personal gain. Justice is about the pursuit of facts and the truth to ensure individual rights but politics sees competing agendas taking sides while twisting the facts to suit the side's interests. It might be a bit old-fashioned to talk about virtue but as is seen here, it's a conversation that is desperately needed.

On hindsight I think the show was doing something quite novel in terms of revisiting the 3 original but disparate cases as they relate to retracing Dong-jae's steps and for the investigators to see which one has any bearing to his abduction. He's the catalyst like the White Rabbit in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Our leads while fending off all kinds of obstacles and inexplicable red-herrings inadvertently reveal deep systemic corruption that plagues the criminal justice system. Both sides of this criminal justice fence, equally culpable, are busy trying to deal with perceived external threats to the detriment of what's going on within its jurisdiction.