K-Drama Review: ‘She Knows Everything’: Mystery in the Land of Desire

Edited by Seo Hae Lan
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Warning: this article contains spoilers.

She Knows Everything begins when a woman is killed in an old apartment located in the high-priced land in Gangnam, Seoul. The drama’s introduction, “a mystery drama that tracks down suspects surrounding the mysterious death in an apartment complex which is about to go under reconstruction,” stands out. If I may say the conclusion first, in the end, it doesn’t matter who the culprit is or what conflicts exist among the residents. This is because the drama talks about the more essential “desire” of people.

Credit: MBC

The first and the second episode describe the overall atmosphere of the apartment complex and the story of Yang Soo Jin, the victim. Soo Jin’s life hit a rough patch when her mother, Myung Hwa, falls into a vegetative state three years ago after getting involved in a hit-and-run accident. She used to teach music as a part-time teacher at a nearby school and worked as a model for a shopping mall run by a friend. She was eight weeks pregnant at the time of her death, and the child’s father is unknown. Residents are saddened by Soo Jin’s death, but fear that such an incident might disrupt the reconstruction project. That’s why they said, “Please get rid of the body quickly,” or “Can you please finish the investigation asap?,” to In Ho Chul, a veteran detective called to the scene.

As the investigation proceeds, Seo Tae Hwa, a resident on the 10th floor and a troublemaker in the neighborhood, is named the prime suspect. The main reason is that he had a crush on Soo Jin, who he grew up together like a sibling, and acted violently against her recently. But to catch Tae Hwa, Ho Chul has to go through Lee Goong Bok, also called “Miss Lee,” who raised Tae Hwa for 15 years. Goong Bok, a real estate agent and a person with many connections in the neighborhood, does whatever it takes to protect Tae Hwa. Tae Hwa, on the other hand, believes that Lee Myung Won, a resident of the seventh floor, killed Soo Jin, and uses violence to show his anger, even destroying Myung Won’s car. Myung Won is the son-in-law of the CEO of Byung Woon Construction, the company after the reconstruction project, and is under stress as things are not going as planned.

So far, it seems like a typical “Who Done It?” where investigators dig into complex human relationships and find murderers. However, at the end of the second episode, Myung Won and Ho Chul met, and the mood of the drama quickly shifts. As soon as Myung Won asks Ho Chul, “Hyung (meaning brother), please save me,” the fact that the two are siblings is revealed, and at that moment, the drama starts to explore how far a person can go to protect his or her loved ones. The third and fourth episodes are centered on a fierce battle between Ho Chul, who tries to frame Tae Hwa by any means as the culprit to save Myung Won, and Goong Bok, who tries to reveal the truth and protect Tae Hwa.

Soo Jin’s death was the worst consequence of many people’s desires. Soo Jin approached Myung Won to dig into the truth of her mother’s hit-and-run accident, but unintentionally fell in love with him. Goong Bok tried to stop Soo Jin from recklessly rushing into the conglomerate family, while Tae Hwa was distressed by the fact that Soo Jin loved someone else. Yoo Ra, Myung Won’s wife and the real culprit of the hit-and-run accident, was frustrated by the fact that both her father’s wealth and her husband’s love were not entirely hers. The desire to know the truth, the desire to protect what they have, the desire to save their loved ones, the realization and anger that came from learning that she has nothing even when she has everything, came to a devastating end with the death of one person that night.

She Knows Everything comes to an end as those who became monsters after being driven by their desires leave the apartment that made them so. Goong Bok, who devoted her life to Tae Hwa, and Ho Chul, who now became a corrupt police officer, realize that their desires projected on either a person or an object, and throw everything away without hesitation. René Magritte’s famous quote that opened every episode, “There’s only one moon in the universe, but people see their own moon,” probably means that no matter how hard I try to make the moon I see as the truth, I can’t ruin the truth that already exists.

Credit: MBC

Because the drama is expressed in compressed conversations and actions of numerous characters’ personalities and relationships, we can quickly pick up these characters and the incidents. The twist that shows up in the middle of the story and the continued tension between Goong Bok and Ho Chul is quite impressive. It is also good to see Kang Sung Yun (Goong Bok) and Jo Han Sun (Ho Chul) perform charismatic performances as the main characters. What stands out the most is directing, which shows the answer in overcoming the short running time as a four-part series and a limited budget. Good editing maintained the rhythm of mystery dramas, and screen composition was efficient in both delivering information and aesthetic aspects. In particular, seeing the lighting used differently depending on the space, you can tell the signs of the director’s struggle to give diverse characteristics to uniform areas such as apartments and commercial buildings.

Verdict: An appropriate combination of exciting mystery and criticism of reality. The fact that it’s short makes the drama more interesting. (5.5/10)

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