There are dramas that grab you by the gut the moment they begin and never let go—- JTBC’s Heartless City has joined those drama ranks. For, the motivations and forces of our characters steadily comes into view but with each new adjustment, comes another angle that needs further clarity. This is a story, so tightly wound that the knots are never ending and the just when you hope to have found the end, it’s the start of a new beginning. Unfortunately, new beginnings don’t guarantee happier resolutions.
Third City Sweep
Down by the river, the Deputy Commissioner and Safari have an insinuated chat— catch the Doctor or die. Eun-soo is up against the wall, but her nomination is in sight, so it’s a slap from the DC that ends Hyung-min’s physical restraint. The DC is livid, and questions Hyung-min’s abilities but Hyung-min sticks to his guns. But, with no evidence, the DC threatens Unit shut down.
Right on cue, Kyung-mi shows up as “Decoy” Eun-soo and reminds Hyung-min she’s police too. And whether this is all a feint or not, the Doctor will uncover the real Don. The Unit and task force, head out to the meeting place, while Hyung-min hands Kyung-mi a GPS tracker, disclosed as a tube of lip-stick that with a turn becomes a listening device. With this, he’ll always find her.
Emo gives the goods the “OK” and contacts Tooth, who wants to set up a meet but she isn’t keen. This gives Tooth pause, but Safari remains in the director’s chair, certain, no one’s gone off script— “The Doctor’s Son will show to save his Emo.” And sure enough, the Doctor gets a call detailing Emo’s movements.
The Unit is staked and Kyung-mi readies to leave but Hyung-min puppy pleads— “You don’t have to do this. More than catching any of these guys, you important to me.” With a kiss and a smile she makes plans for a dinner after the case, but before she walks in, she turns to face him one last time and smiles broadly. In the club, Kyung-mi pins on her red rose signal and touches up her makeup, rehearsing Hyung-min’s words; turn on the device. She bumps into her contact, who whisks her in another room, she flips on the recorder but moments later, the signal fails and Hyung-min dashes in to find her.
Safari has Tooth to dial Meth for rehearsal but he’s not answering , now unwilling to play his part. Meth wants the product but Kyung-mi won’t lift unless it’s the Doctor’s Son. Meth shares, their both bait but by doing this, she lives. This rattles Kyung-mi a bit but when he tries to locate the drugs (her purse), tightens her grip. Just outside, Hyung-min and Detective Maknae Shin have two goons to distract, until Maknae identifies himself, shoots, and misses.
On the run, Meth suspects Kyung-mi but she holds her own and shows him the sample. Then they tear off through the parking garage, Hyung-min fast behind tracking GPS coordinates. Meth’s decided to take the goods and relocate, when his driver leaves them stranded in an intersection, just in time to get hammered by an oncoming truck. The GPS leads Hyung-min to the crash site, but only broken glass and a split lipstick tube remain. Hyung-min calls her but it rings in Safari’s lap, who later deposits Kyung-mi in a backroom and charges a freshly beaten Meth lookout. Emo picks the spot and time and Safari hands Meth’s driver a new job and a briefcase, with promises of Meth’s position, if he succeeds.
The Doctor is home alone, when gets the Flora Hotel location. He heads out, but his car is block by a barely breathing Soo, demanding details on his girlfriend’s demise. Too bad Doctor isn’t interested in a heart to heart and tells him to rest. Soo is certain this deal’s rotten and wonders if he’s only taking the risk for Emo. And with a memory, Soo could be right, for since he was little she’s had his back, never thinking twice. Once when he was accused of stealing Emo, not only stood up for him but paid the debt. Even when it was found he was guilty, Emo understood he only had paying her debt in mind. To which a touched Emo teased— “Doctor, I want you to grow soon. So, I can love you.”
Safari sends a text from Kyung-mi’s phone to assure Hyung-min’s presence at Flora Hotel, while Emo makes way to the specified room. Seconds later, the Doctor gets a text with a floor and room number. He surmises Safari is a voyeur mastermind and though not visible, but he in wait, outside. Safari’s New Meth, makes the drop but Emo wants Tooth. New Meth, however, wants to make a little more than Emo’s money, and throws her on the couch, straddles her and slips off his shirt.
Outside, Safari lurks and when he spies the Doctor leaving, speeds up to take him out but the Doctor rolls out of the way. Behind him, the Unit files out and Safari sneaks away, as the Doctor pulls Tooth from his car and slips in next to Eun Soo. The Unit bursts in catching Emo, atop New Guy, smacking him with her shoe. The Doctor and Safari play fast and furious, until the Doctor’s intercepted and swerved to a stop. Suddenly, Eun-soo, slides over, stabs him. They tussle and he knocks her out.
At work, Soo-min studies, when a man walks in to hold up the store. The Doctor needs some first-aid and glances at the scene nonplussed, ready to pay.When Robber huffs at his indifference, the Doctor grabs the gun and the guy bolts. Spotting blood, Soo-min hands hi some leftover band-aids but when he buckles over in pain outside, she runs to help him but instead of a “Thank You,” gives her a knife (to her throat) and a pearl (of wisdom)— “You shouldn’t come in from the side like that… without permission.”
On a bridge, the Doctor undergoes self treatment, then he and Soo make way to the hospital to shake down Eun-soo.
Detectives Yang and Kim are getting nowhere with New Meth, until Hyung-min steps in and shoots him. Meanwhile Soo, the Doctor and Eun-soo are on the move as Meth relocates Kyung-mi. But she breaks away, only to be sandwiched between Team Doctor and Team Meth. Kyung-mi finds a place to hide, then decides to tail Meth, as he attempts a getaway. But he’s seen her as well and presses a gun to her head. The Doctor appears and Meth barters for leverage (Kyung-mi) but the Doctor isn’t interested.
While Meth is distracted Kyung-mi elbows free, leaving Meth open for some Doctor-ing. However, she gets hold of the gun, she identifies herself and surprises the Doctor. He inches into the light and her face drops—- “Shi-hyun, what are you doing here?”
Ripgal: Episode 3 was so much awesomesauce, don’t you think so Unni? I love that it notched up the stakes, took us to different places, and made us re-think about our characters, their motivations, reasoning and judgments. Nothing is truly clear now that things and people that our characters care for are at stake.
Unnichan: Yes. Our characters are shifting in ways I think we knew they would, under familiar circumstances but their motives are the key to this series, I think.
Ripgal: Did your heart skip a beat? Fear for the worst when Meth Kim’s car was hit? I almost thought she’d die right there in the car! It’s a bit silly and kind of ridiculous because with that kind of impact as projected, no one could have survived lol. But you gotta give it to director for the intended effect, because we would know from here that Kyung-mi is to be the sacrificial product of it all, and would eventually lead to Hyung-min’s vindictive revenge later on. I knew it the moment the camera panned at her bleeding legs, I knew it!
Unnichan: Fear is becoming my best friend in this drama. I am seriously on pins and thumb tacks constantly. Mostly because know some things have to play out rationally, but they don’t have to occur the way it’s more conducive to our mores, therefore, it’s a battle within to keep it together. We’ve had two major accidents in 3 episodes and everyone walked away barely scathed. I’m not sure it’s completely unrealistic but it’s played well. Kyung-mi was unconscious for a couple hours, so that works. It’s just the fact she was up and running so soon… It’s adrenaline. Let’s blame adrenaline.
Ripgal: Okay! Adrenaline it is!
Unnichan: The last scene between Kyung-mi and Hyung-min in the car that made me shift my thinking concerning Hyung-min. For, if he feels the tension in the air, the way, I did, perhaps he never meant to come off as a chauvinist at all. I know we’ve said neither character does well with expressing their thoughts and feelings well, but in this episode, it was different, like for the first time, I could see what Hyung-min was getting at. Like it wasn’t all about being a cop or being in love but more that he felt the foreboding, that thick cloud over her, over them both. He knew this day would come… and there’d be no turning back.
Ripgal: Never doubted Hyung-min’s love and concern for Kyung-mi, just look at the man’s eyes when he looks at her, the longing and yearning to protect her, you can’t have it better than that. Him being dominant is one thing; I don’t think it takes away how much he cares for her. I totally understood where he came from i.e. in wanting to protect her, but just didn’t really agree with the approach.
Ripgal: They both knew and understood perfectly the risk and danger encompassing their job, and particularly their mission to capture the Doctor. The scene of them looking at each other for the very last time, it’s no other than a purposely crafted scene to make us understand how much they love each other, and how things may just end there and then for them. Endearing but utterly sad. But you know what, at least, the very least, they shared the same aim, until the very end.
Unnichan: I can’t say I understood anything new. I was convinced with their first meeting, the rooftop back hugs, sharing intimacies. That scene didn’t solidify much for me besides exposition. It just gave me a sense that Hyung-min perhaps had more insight than I gave him credit for, though I will say, I like the beat after, once she’s out the car and she glances back? She smiles, then her face drops toward the camera. Then she puts on her game face? Yeah that worked. It gave us a sense that she was well aware of the danger ahead and wasn’t taking this moment lightly, but that she definitely took her job seriously, which we knew, but was wonderful all the same. [Thank you, Go Na-eun].
Ripgal: Another brilliant scene, when Kyung-mi escapes into the vastness, and finds herself trapped between Shi-hyun and Meth Kim’s gang of bros. What an exhilarating scene to muse over. The camera pans in from both Shi-hyun and Meth Kim’s directions, and zeroes in on Kyung-mi, how slick and cool is that. Not to mention Shi-hyun’s cool-ish command to strike Meth Kim, the sound of his, ahhhh, I think I cannot be saved from this man’s hotness.
Unnichan: Almost everything this man does is sexy. It was that simple, “Go,” right? No words. Yea, he’s totally in control. I think that’s what makes him so magnetic. He always seems to have it together. His brain is coursing but he’s composed.
Ripgal: Right, you took the right words out of my mouth! Composed and always on top of his game.
Unnichan: Let’s go ahead and get all the cop stuff out of the way… Hyung-min and the shooting… *raises hand* I’ll be the first to admit, I actually found it kinda funny. I mean people want this man to be a prosecutor! Pfft! Yeah, right. Like I said, this man is meant to be a cop; it’s just his intelligence that makes you feel he should aspire for more, but the brawn, the ego? That swallows him and keeps him, fit for what he’s doing.
Ripgal: Well, being a cop ain’t easy it seems. There are boundaries that cannot be crossed and yet they have to be crossed in order for things to be done. Like what was done to fake Eun Soo earlier, Hyung-min crosses the line so much further this time. I think that’s what’s so fascinating about the portrayal of the cops, gangsters or any human/character in this drama, that when pushed to the brink of frustration, one can slip and go off-track so easily. Not that I condone misuse of violence or abuse of power, but when Hyung-min fired that shot, I felt hella great! *in sadistic mode* lol
Unnichan: Heh. I’m evil. And apparently, so are you! I wasn’t surprised. Especially since this is more than just the case, it’s Kyung-mi. He crossed a line but I try to think, would I have done it? Did I want to? If I affirm either, I can’t blame him. It’s just like Eun-soo, he’s shouldn’t have but he did, so let’s keep it moving. However, I have a sneaky suspicion he’ll cross a line that neither of us can accept, if he continues to escalate.
Ripgal: We’re living in a heartless city babe, gotta show some of our guns too hehe! And I agree with your suspicions on Hyung-min. He can be quite unbridled when it comes to his emotions, don’t know how far he’ll go, but definitely at great length to pin the Doctor down.
Unnichan: There were two shining buffoon moments in this episode: Detective Shin and Meth Kim. Regarding little Maknae… how did he become an officer? No, how is he a DETECTIVE? Is there no foresight training in their academy? Who acts before, their commanding officer, especially when there’s no reason, not to trust him? We’ve seen his incompetence before but this time he deserves reprimanding. [Though we don’t really have time for that.]
Ripgal: Yeah! His fault, I am so pissed! Brain must have gone haywire in that split of a second. He must be the MOLE, he must be!
Unnichan: You think? So you’re saying he can’t just be dumb? I don’t know… he and Meth just seem like idiots. And then there’s that honor among thieves again, when will Meth learn? You’d think at his age, in this game, he’d been more cognizant of what betraying Safari means. There’s no getting away, stealing his stash or his money. I get his plight but I don’t care. And oddly this has little to do with Soo and everything to do with his position in this hierarchy.
Ripgal: I have no time and patience to deal with Meth Kim. Not at all a concern of mine because the Doctor will burn and end him one day. He will get it.
Ripgal: But can I say, I love Safari Moon? I know he is the ultimate baddie here but I can’t help but love the valiant and tactical attacks he uses against the Doctor and Meth Kim. You notice he doesn’t make a presence, or even shows his face during major confrontations? All he does, he sits behind a veil, orchestrates the job, and enjoys the fruit at the end. He sees through a lot of things, has vast connections and uses them against his enemies so seamlessly without a scratch. He’s one damn snake even scale-ier than the once feared Scale. I like him. A lot.
Unnichan: Oh yes, he’s the Wizard, but like the Wizard, is he a mastermind or coward? I’m not sure what I think at the moment. His plan is perfection [on the surface] and I truly don’t discredit that, but there are some moves he made this episode that gave me cause to think that perhaps, he’s not wily, or wise, but more that those traits aren’t what moves him to act. He’s trying to get rid of Doctor any way he can and I’m still wondering why—if that’s really his main goal. If he’d hit him, he’d have been fine but I think it comes down to that complicated stuff you’ve been talking about. *sigh*
Ripgal: Hmm, I’m curious too. The flashbacks gave me so much feels, we know they had precious times and happy memories together, what could possibly turn them against each other? Betrayal? Jealousy?
Ripgal: And don’t you think this episode again proves how crafty our Doctor is Unni? That’s why the flashbacks mean something to him, and to us. He uses his knowledge of his Uncle Moon to the best of his advantage, and maneuvers himself around situations to avoid being put into the limelight. If only his plan wasn’t botched by Moon himself, if only. I would have loved to see him succeed in rescuing Emo and getting back at Moon big and good.
Unnichan: The flashbacks, have taken on a life of their own, in many ways. Not that I want to move there, no, but they tell us what we need to know, while helping us better understand our characters current movements. Not everything, mind you but enough. Enough for that instant. Shi-hyun is this character we want to win, but I’m not certain he should. All I know is, Safari, for some reason, shouldn’t. Ever. Not just because I’m Team Doctor, but because, no matter how intricate and interesting his plan, Safari isn’t right. Like I said before, he’s slimy and filthy. Malefic.
Ripgal: Luckily we’re granted with an exciting and thrilling car chase after the scene. Where would a gangster drama be without a grandiose car chasing scene? But the great thing about that scene is that it showcased how much and how far Shi-hyun was willing to go to get back at Moon. Revenge or whatever, I love it! When you mentioned about the beef they have against each other in Ep 2, this scene reinforced that wholly.
Unnichan: But I loved the flashback in this episode. This drama does well with the pieces of past they give us. I believe a flashback is supposed to tell us more about a person but not hem in excuses. They should work to show us truth from a perspective and give the viewer an opportunity to choose. We get that. For with Emo and Shi-hyun, we get a dose of the why he cares but not that he should or better.
Ripgal: Agreed. The flashbacks were done and meshed perfectly into the episode. I get you, about choice and opportunity to choose on what to interpret, but to me, it’s all the nice memorable and pretty things shared by this group of people. Am I being too optimistic here?
Unnichan: A little. I don’t take it that way. The flashbacks create a basis for their relationship and show us more about how individuals acted in the past, along with how it was interpreted. And though they “seem” happy, I’m not at all attached to that idea. Like Soo’s insinuation about Emo. He doesn’t trust her. I don’t trust her. She isn’t trustworthy. But the Doctor doesn’t act that way . That’s based on her relationship to Shi-hyun. He owes her, in his own way, I guess. She was good to him. She’s relatively loyal and loves him. He loves her. But loyalty and especially love, don’t keep you breathing in their world; it gets you dead.
Ripgal: I don’t think we’re supposed to trust anyone in the drama, even our beloved Doctor. Hehe. Soo’s doubt and distrust in Emo is understandable and totally acceptable, given the circumstances. But as a viewer who has seen her past with Shi-hyun through the flashbacks (i.e. how much they’ve been through together since young), I still am unable to disregard a gut feeling, that she might be doing everything just to protect Shi-hyun. It’s not the kind of magnanimous gesture I’m talking about, the all-out righteous kind, but more of a I’ll-do-anything-kind, who cares about the means kind of act, just to make sure Shi-hyun’s safe and sound. Sacrificial or not, we’ll see.
Unnichan: Oh there’s no doubt that most of her actions are to “protect” Shi-hyun. My problem is, she isn’t smart enough to do so. Therefore, she can’t. This is where their past, creates a problem for their present and certainly, their future. Just like Doctor uses his memories of Safari to maneuver through the present, he should do the same in relation to Emo, but instead, acts as though, he dwells on the happy and not the reality. And I say “acts” because I don’t believe this is necessarily the case, I believe it’s more of an “in spite of” deal.
Ripgal: Oh chinggu, we love our Doctor so much. He should just trust us to kill all his enemies for him LOL but yeah, I understand where you’re coming from. But that’s what’s making this drama so deliciously delicate and dark at the same time. The play of emotions and feelings, which are not entirely based on what’s right or wrong, instead on what is moral or ethical. I don’t think Shi-hyun’s doing what he’s doing, going all out for Emo just because he thinks he owes her, or just because he loves her. It’s a family kind of thing, in that she probably is the only family he’s got close to heart, someone he treasures deep down inside. I’m not saying she’s all good or anything, or that she won’t do anything or otherwise to forego the deeply forged connection that they have in future, but what he’s doing right now, I feel he’s doing that, somewhat coming from the bottom of his heart. Genuinely.
Unnichan: I suppose. But I don’t believe genuineness is the issue here, though I agree, everything we’ve seen the Doctor do, for those in his camp, is what he instinctively perceives as the right thing. However, I’m a little hard core in this area, in that, there’s a way to go about things, rightly, without basing your actions on the other person. I feel that for them, they’re all individuals and they choose their lot. The only person to truly trust is yourself. And that includes the people that raise you, the person you call friend or the people you love. Doesn’t mean there isn’t love or a semblance of trust, but nothing unreservedly. Therefore, there’s no amount of memories that will discount the Emo I see and interpret today.
Unnichan: However, I do get her infatuation. Little Shi-hyun was amazing and has always been a pensive guy. Perhaps, the best man at eleven, she’s even known. So, I totally get Emo’s sentiments, “You need to grow up, so I can love you.” Plus, no matter how much I distrust her (in relation to Doctor), she’s a hard pill and was pretty bomb this episode with Safari’s New Meth altercation.
Ripgal: Flirtatious Emo! She totally foresaw that he’d grow up into a Jung Kyung-ho! Lol. And yea, Emo has plenty of guts and is a ball of steel and fire on her own. She’s been in the business for years probably even way before Shi-hyun was born, I’m not surprised she’s got it all to fend herself from the disgusting and lustful. But gotta say I almost laughed out loud at her “defensive spanking” scene. Didn’t need Shi-hyun to save her at all, way to go Emo!
Unnichan: One thing I’ve been thinking is how irritating it must be as a woman in this world. Men lusting at you at every turn, trying to make or take you as theirs. I suppose it’s expected— “the objectifying of women” but none the less repugnant. Therefore it’s great that Emo has the background she has and knows real danger (in that area) when she sees it. For the most part she’s dismissive, and I love that as well, for most men will let it go, but like this ep, not all get the hint.
Unnichan: Ok, so what do you think about the whole Hye-soo thing? Personally, I say, Meth killed her, there’s nothing to discuss. Sure, Doctor left her but what else could he do? Therefore, I’m not sure I quite understand why he didn’t answer. Is it because he doesn’t know? Blames himself? Finds it unimportant?
Ripgal: I sensed guilt in Shi-hyun? It’s a very subtle reaction on his part, but somewhat obvious for me that he’d felt a bit uneasy or sorry (?) that he’d not made an effort to at least ensure her safety.
Unnichan: I agree that guilt is there. And I’m sure anyone would feel the same to a degree. A small one, but it’s there.
Ripgal: I don’t know who’d killed Hye-soo and don’t think we’ll ever find out and don’t think it matters. But it’s a very good minute detail put into the drama by the writer IMO. To test the waters of friendship between the two men. There is a very fine line between killing someone and letting someone die, when put to debate, it’s a can of worms there. I believe this seemingly irrelevant scene may come back to haunt Shi-hyun one day, or possibly drift him further away from his most trusted aide Soo. I hope not, but it will happen, I’m sure.
Unnichan: In some cases, some could pose the chicken and egg scenario, but for me, Soo asked who killed her? The answer is Meth. Are there other factors, sure but again, like you said, it’s irrelevant. Like most things, it’s not the “truth” that matters, it’s your truth or how you choose to interpret said “truth.” I also think it could test their bond but I have a feeling, this is a moot issue that will be used as an excuse for another.
Rigal: One of my favoritest scenes of Ep 3, Shi-hyun and Soo’s scenes together, from the part of him tending his own wound to the hospital scene. I’ve never seen a sexier sequence of scenes in a drama!
Unnichan: That was one of my favorite camera moments this episode; when the boys arrive at the hospital. Just their shoes treading off the elevator. Their ode to Reservoir Dogs– I like winks like that. Also stab wound or no, the Doctor has that head tilt of nonchalance.
Ripgal: I’m gonna say it again, and probably a few more thousand times in future, the way Shi-hyun demanded answers from the fake Eun Soo in the hospital, f—ing sexy! Get me a fan! Don’t you love it when Shi-hyun goes back to calm collected and asserts himself on others? I love it! I love it! I love it! You sense he’s trying to contain and hide the pain of his injury, but the confidence isn’t lost, and he knows he’s gonna get what he wants. And that majestic scene of him beating up Eun-soo, after he’s stabbed, in the car? WOAH! This man doesn’t give a damn! And we still love him. The irony.
Unnichan: Um, yea, it’s love. Not sure it’s irony though. There are things in life, it’s appropriate to be rigid and “all in” for, and the Doctor appears to live his life that way. It’s sexy and admirable because we want even, a modicum of that expressed in our own lives. Therefore, we respect it when we see it. But my favorite was, in the car, mending his wound. There was something deliberately rugged and loner about it. When it comes to Doctor, he always reminds me of a lone wolf.
Ripgal: Soo-Min also gets time to shine, and I’m glad she got her time good enough in this episode. Now I know why drama had to set their first encounter at a grocery store, to pave way for a second important encounter that is! I loved their second encounter to bits, the way everything unfolded, with him saving her from the burglar, and with her coming to his aid. Loved how he appeared uninterested and even gave her a lesson. Such a cool man (okay did I say I love him again?!). They say it’s easy to fall for a bad guy, now I know how easy.
Unnichan: Ahaha! Bad men. I love ’em! Truly. They change the way we take in the world. I knew that store scene was significant and I think it will become, even more so later. For Soo-min, that is. In the Doctor’s case, it’s a layering effect, you know. Their first meeting was distraction and disinterest, the second danger and dismissal— now he’s already thinking of her. The band aid? Did we get a twinge of touched/cute Doctor? Then, when he sneaked a peek at Soo, to make sure he didn’t see him smile? Adorable. And yea, absolutely loved what he said to her. He added the “without permission” like a promise— because she’s a girl. I can’t wait till the doomed and dangerous romance begins…. Bwahahahaha *rubs hands together*
Ripgal: Adorable Doctor all the way, but no, I don’t want him to think about her… yet! I don’t want to say I’m jealous that he’s thinking of another girl, but I am. Hmmpphhhh.. At least I got to see his bare body before her, and that tattoo!
Unnichan: Pfft! Jealousy? So soon? Naw. But I do love tattoos (on men). Not lots and lots but I find them to be mysterious. They tell stories, I think. ‘Cause they’re like scars but purposeful, stamping time on the one thing we carry around all our lives. But why oh why did JTBC blur it?
Ripgal: Jung Kyung-ho spent about 10 hours on that freaking art and they just had to blur it! Can’t we enjoy some pure art form drama?!! ;( I can only hope when it goes out of Korea, we get to see his 10-hour product. But isn’t it funny that all gangsters/mafia automatically have to have tattoos? Have to admit they’re sexy and mysterious, but maybe a more creative one next time. Not all dragons or tigers. LOL.
Unnichan: I’ve definitely seen birds. But how creative can you get, it’s either lions, tigers, or bears in this world you know? Snakes, eagles, cats and mythical creatures are all we have to work with. I mean who’s gonna put a donkey on their back? But I could see a harpy, though that opens an entirely different Pandora… Plus with a name like Safari, you need a dragon to add some clout.
Ripgal: Whatever. Safari can have flowers all over him, he loves ‘em. Seen his flower print jackets?