It looks like the more you think you know, the less you actually know. Also, people die in this show in the most mundane fashion, but I guess that’s to be expected when you have a pandemic on your hands.
(Note: The video is horrendous quality, and I hate taking screenshots that look blurry. Does anyone know where high quality raws are? Ones that I don’t have to download?)
Eo reveals to Kang that multiple people were infected by the virus, and hangs up the phone. Eo goes to a cell phone store and buys a ghost phone, probably to make more cryptic calls to government officials. A sales clerk, Su-jin, in a drugstore is contacted by Eo, who seems to be some sort of ex-lover from two years prior. He tells her to come meet him privately, and asks if she is aware the deaths of Jeong-wan and Chang-sik. She says that she is knowledgable about Jeong-wan but is shocked to hear about the latter’s death, and he tells her that he’s the carrier of the disease, and that the Munyangho (the boat) sank because of him, like how he’s the cause of the other’s deaths. Su-jin tells him to go to the hospital to get treatment, but Eo doesn’t want to be trapped in a prison like a test subject–just as he had been on the Munyangho. Su-jin understands Eo’s plight, and our to love she wants to follow Gi-yeong. He refuses, and limps away.
In yet another mysterious apartment, we find out that Dr. Sohn (of the clinic) is also infected via a text to one of his friends. The CDC also finds out about this information and goes to track Sohn down. Sohn, as a scholar of medicine, adamantly tries self-treatment for the virus, which the CDC doesn’t approve of. At his apartment, Kang and the rest of the crew ask Sohn to submit himself to them before they are left no choice but to break in. Sohn still resists, and Kang immediately instructs the team to bring back the doctor forcibly. As they are entering, we see Sohn taking blood samples and studying the virus.
The team arrive at the door to Sohn’s home and puts some sort of gas into the apartment. Sohn suddenly ambushes them and tries to run off, but Kang pins the man down at risk of his own infection. They put the doctor on a stretcher and carry him off to the ambulance, while Lee “disinfects” Kang after his encounter with Sohn. Kang remarks that Lee shouldn’t break protocol and cry at the scene of an incident, while she remarks back that he had broken protocol first. She adds that once a person is infected, he’s no longer a friend, a comrade. He is instead an infected body, a shell of a being, and they must treat such people in that fashion, like a stranger. Kang replies, “Are you a stranger? I didn’t know that,” leaving Lee speechless.
At the CDC/NIH, we meet Director and Professor Yoon in a conference room. They discuss something relating to “longest experiments” and the relationship between Sohn and the Professor as research scientists. Director asks whether Sohn had planned to come up with a cure on his own, and the Professor says that he probably just wanted to understand the virus that had taken over his body. The Director notes that Sohn had exceptionally meticulous research methods, and Yoon agrees. The two are then interrupted by another CDC member who takes them to see Sohn in bed.
Yoon assures Sohn that his family is okay, and shows the results of his experimentation. The much weaker Sohn simply shakes his head and confesses to Yoon that he did not want to save himself. For the first time in his life, he did not want to partake in developing treatments and improving medical diagnosis. His subconscious desire was to spread the virus, a compulsion he could not seem to understand but felt very strongly about. Yun is shocked by this revelation and tells the Director that Sohn’s words presented him an ominous foreboding–Sohn was suffering from psychological stress in addition to rotting away by pulmonary hemorrhage and cerebral dysfunction. Yun is absolutely shocked by the power of this virus, and says that it reminds him of the SARS outbreak. The Director (I thought her name was Park, but I’m not so sure anymore…) interjects that the SARS infection was quickly put under control, and that they can do the same thing with this one.
Yoon retorts that her optimism is unrealistic, but agrees to help her with the viral research, after adding that the potential of an epidemic is high with this particular virus. The rest of the CDC heads gather in their regular conference room to discuss bringing Professor Choi Chu-seol (?) onto the research team to run the trials on finding a vaccine. Director wants to bring Professor Yoon to do it, but the others ignore her request.
Somewhere else two guys are talking about something involving data files, and one of the guys admits to losing about 2 minutes of it, to the annoyance of his supervisor, the other guy.
We cut to Kang(?) (I can’t really tell people apart when they’re all wearing the same white suit) putting some vials into the fridge and some researchers running mice experiments. Suddenly one of them goes to check something out on some machine, and some creepy music comes on. (Lemme guess, something’s wrong.)
We see Professor Yoon visiting another, much older college faculty member, to discuss the virus. Yoon tells the man about the virus, to which the latter remarks that Yoon sounds like he’s about to go to war. Yoon gestures in acknowledgement that it very much is like going to war, and asks the other professor for his help in fighting it.
We cut to more researchers, including Lee, though this time they’re in a mobile research facility. Basically, they’re going about Seoul to find people that they need to quarantine. The first place they stop at is home of Lee Ji-haeng, where Na-hyeon sees Lee Ji-haeng’s wife and son, who are terrified when they see her. All of the family members, including the young boy, are taken by the CDC o be quarantined.
There’s a quick time jump to the CDC’s quarantine facility where the young boy is found to be dead. Lee and one other research member reacts very badly to the child’s death, and another guy stops them from trying to touch the deceased child.
At a formal meeting (unlike the many other informal meetings we’ve seen), the CDC heads are reporting on how the research is currently going and on any new developments to categorize the virus–in particular, its connection to the influenza virus. The Director mentions that there isn’t a formal name yet for the virus, and she says researchers are using “moon virus,” and suggests sticking to “M-virus” and M1 or M2 as code words.
We return back to the research facility where someone is looking at a petri dish–I’m assuming it’s Professor Yoon. We then seen Yoon and the Director just about to leave the building, and she chides him for working overtime. They make small talk about paint in a college, but it’s really just a cover, since Sohn is awkwardly trying to send Yoon off to America since the other directors want to bring Professor Choi from the North Pole (I’m being serious, that’s what the subs said). Yoon laughs it off and gets out of Sohn’s car.
We finally see Kang again in the Team 1 headquarters reading notes late at night. In front of the room’s computers we see Lee, Park, and Kim dosing off, but as romance trumps all in K-drama, Kang only brings Lee a blanket, after which she immediately gets up. Kang asks her to sleep, but she doesn’t want to. Lee brings up the young kid who died, and she asks Kang not to be too hard on himself about the child’s death. He says he’s only upset that he couldn’t prevent the spread of the disease to the child in the first place, and wonders if he could have saved him.
Lee asks what had propelled Kang to leave the police/military forces for the CDC, and we see a flashback of Kang as a sniper. He tells Na-hyeon that seeing the power of the virus is what caused him to switch careers. He had known a soldier that was infected with a virus, and his mission was to shoot an infected guy. When Kang had the chance to shoot, he didn’t and because of that, eight others were infected by the virus from that rogue soldier. It was then that he realized the power of the virus and how it was scarier than any weapon in existence. Weapons only kill one at a time, but viruses can wipe out humanity in silence. Kang mentions that he wished he had stopped the guy, but he also knows how the carrier must feel–as though he was strapped with grenades for eternity.
We see Eo calling his mom from behind a wall, just so he can feel close to her without compromising himself. He quickly hangs up the phone as soon as he sees a van pull up, which I assume to be some sort of CDC or related agency’s vehicle. We then find him in a bank trying to withdraw all of his money, a total of 32 million Won.
There’s yet another formal meeting at the CDC, this time including Yoon and Team 1, where they’re discussing the incident involving the sunken ship (the presentation by Police Investigator Cha). Evidently, by the time any aid arrived to the boat, half of it was already sunk. While watching the video footage from the incident, Kang remarks that the whole event feels strange–there are no sailors in sight. He speculates that the whole crew was probably infected rapidly by the virus (in such a small space) and asks what the company that owned the boat said.
They watch the footage again, focusing on the single escapee. It’s then when news of Eo Gi-yeong’s huge withdrawal reaches the CDC, and they start preparing to arrest Eo.
I’m a huge fan of this show’s tone and pacing. There isn’t much going on that would excite most viewers, but there is certainly a lot of world building and character development starting to come together. Reveals occur really rapidly (but nonchalantly), and I’m surprised that in Episode 2 we’ve already found out what happened to Kang that hardened him into CDC work, because something like that usually takes at least 4-5 episodes in other dramas. Tensions are building left and right in subtle ways, and I like that End of the World isn’t trying to create one big bad guy for everyone to take down a la Bloody Monday.
The one thing I’m not a fan of speeding up so fast is the “romantic” interactions between Na-hyeon and Ju-hyun, which is totally forced. Honestly, I don’t see the attraction at all, and it totally throws a wrench in the workplace atmosphere. Yes, this show isn’t going to make the relationship a major annoyance factor; however, just knowing it’s there is like having an itch you can’t scratch.
My favorite character right now is totally Eo Gi-yeong. He has such a fascinating storyline, and trying to understand feelings about being a carrier and trying to pry out his motivations is really 90% of the momentum for this show right now. A lot of the CDC stuff gets a bit dull, though I’m enjoying the fact that they’re not afraid to get into the politics and moral issues that pertain to dealing with an epidemic. Who do you save? Who do you leave behind? Should you imprison carriers for doing nothing but existing? What kind of stress hangs over the head of people who know the end may be neigh?
Those are questions that are important to address in a show like The End of the World, because it is its modus operandi. Sure there are mysteries to be solved, but what resonates with viewers are the moments that reveal humanity and its struggles to survive. We see the young boy stripped of a chance to live, and we care–simply because we’re human and understand that–and in turn we understand Lee and Kang’s resentment and sadness.
I guess that’s the hallmark of The End of the World: it can say so much without saying anything at all.