One of the drama's main strengths is the way it portrays different group dynamics. Those among the male leads, the camaraderie of Team 2, Eun-hye's newfound family, the senior officers of West Incheon Police, the women and even the Yoo brothers. This was clearest in the most recent episode which could easily have been entitled "Family". Even while it purports to be a crime show, the show explores families of varying stripes... both biological as well as those formed through necessity in the fiery crucible of hardship and suffering.
For passionate truth-seekers it's a lonely world out there. For them it is a moral wilderness particularly if one is swimming against the tide. But for common causes, lonely truth seekers eventually find their way to each other especially if they stand out as a rare breed of individuals. Reluctant partnerships are formed which may lead to friendships which in turn may lead to the development of a substitute families built on trust from surviving one trial after another together. It seems to be the contention of the drama that these types of families are built in large part by circumstance and shared ideals. Biology is a non-entity.
I've enjoyed the exchanges between Yoon Sang-min and Jin Seo-kyung signalling their collaboration in the last two episodes. I'm not generally a cheerleader for girl power but in desperate times when men and women wrestle with their consciences while coming up against roadblocks over and over again, it is heartening that two people with common goals can find allies where they may. Yoon Sang-min inhabits a solitary existence. In her case collegiality, much less friendship, is a rare find. She finds in Jin Seo-kyung a moral kindred spirit underneath the self-deprecating banter. The two women shake hands, share their goals and discuss luxury handbags. Both claim to buy luxury handbags but can't bear to use them. Once in a while they take theirs out of storage to admire. It's a metaphor for the current case... one of those rare cases that reminds them of why is it that they do what they do. They are realistic enough to know that bringing resolution to the case won't change the world but it is something that will be personally satisfying and may go some way in appeasing troublesome consciences.
Oh Ji-hyuk and his cousin Oh Jang-tae are polar opposites personality wise and are on opposite sides of the law. The latter's a sleazy possibly psychopathic millionaire playboy who's certainly committed murder and capable of much violence. His wealth allows him to indulge without consequences. Although they are biologically related, share the same surname, they have nothing else in common. Then there's still the unsolved mystery of Ji-hyuk's father's death. Is Jang-tae or God forbid, the late uncle involved in that sordid event? There seems to be some implication that it's in-house. A shared environment certainly did not see them both walking the same trajectory or keeping common cause.
Yoo Jeong-seok (editor-in-chief of Jeonghan Daily) and Yoo Jeong-ryeol (Minister of Justice) are two high achieving brothers who enjoy worldly success. with a dark family secret that's only recently come to light. Their relationship with Oh Jang-tae is purely transactional. "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours." He knows some of their dirty secrets going back to the previous generation and they promise to keep him out of jail. There's no trust and certainly no loyalty in that dynamic. It's purely expedient. However as the police does more digging into the Lee Dae-chul case, whatever complacency that either side were labouring under before is now shaken with new revelations. As far as the brothers are concerned, their loyalty to each other appears steadfast despite the ominous day of reckoning in the horizon that threatens to destroy everything they've worked hard for. What impresses me about them is how far they have been willing to go for each other.
Eun-hee, sister of Do-chang is turning over into a new leaf. She's finally (thank God) made the decision to quit drinking because of her son, Jae-woong. It's finally sunk in that she can't keep going the way she has if she wants to have a relationship with Jae-woong who is also missing his mother. After his uncle's pep talk, Jae-woong decides to take up judo following his mother's footsteps. She's ecstatic and finds a certain comfort that her son hasn't forgotten her. Eun-hye who now lives with the Kangs, becomes the intermediary between Eun-hee and her son because she has lost custodial rights. The empathy that builds up between them is heartwarming. Later the two women who have become closer gang up on Do-chang as only families know how and he is profoundly moved by this new development. With Eun-hee's acceptance of her, the once orphaned Eun-hye now has a family to call her own.
Team 2 continues to go from strength to strength. In an earlier episode after Ji-hyuk's stabbing and subsequent hospitalization, Do-chang tells them that Ji-hyuk has no family to care for him at that time. But young Dong-wook pipes up and says, "Who says he has no family? We are his family." As proof of this, when Seo-kyung comes to visit Jin-hyuk, Dong-wook having to leave on an errand, is sufficiently attentive to give her instructions on helping him with his ablutions much to the embarrassment of both. When the men goes body hunting in the forest, all that turns up after some digging are fully grown ginseng. Consequently they give up on the body search and start digging for ginseng instead. The scene that has them all sitting in the station ogling over the newspaper headlines is a heartwarming one. They're revelling in a rare moment of success and celebrating a minor victory. Team Leader Woo looks on like a grumpy but wise dad, quickly attempts to clamp down on what could potentially become a case of premature hubris.
The banter between Do-chang and Ji-hyuk could possibly be my most favourite thing in the drama. I am especially partial to the backhanded compliments, sympathy and the wry humour. There's so much affection and respect between the men belying the barbed personal comments and the jibes. As Do-chang gradually hears Ji-hyuk's story and begins to understand where that drive to uncover the truth comes from, their easy, good-natured bickering is imbued with a understated admiration. It's more than a partnership, they've become brothers-in-arms.