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Stranger 2: Episodes 15-16 Review

It’s a tense and emotional finale week, as everything finally comes together, and Shi-mok and Yeo-jin are forced to directly face the ugliness they’ve uncovered–and which has been hidden close by all this time. They have to decide once again what they’re willing to lose in their endless fight against the slow, hungry rot of self-interest. As usual, this team manages to both completely surprise us and give us the most natural and perfect conclusion to the story. Don’t ask us why or how, we’re still reeling and barely able to string our thoughts together. What can we do except laud this perfect second season of a flawless show, and pray hard for another one? And make a collage of Shi-mok and Yeo-jin smiling, perhaps. For mental health reasons.

Thank you to our wonderful guests Yunah and Lee Tennant for joining us every week to squee intelligently over this show! We had great fun ❤️

listen as you read 🥰

Saya: Everyone okay? 😭

Anisa: I don’t want to say goodbye. I’m not ready. 😭

Yunah: Forest of Secrets 2. The (sole) gift of 2020. Now what? Seriously though, now what? What else is there to look forward to in this dumpster-fire of a year? Shi-mok beaming made me hopeful! Cleared my skin! And for a second, I believed in the possibility of good triumphing over evil. Who’da thought? Seriously though, that was perfection. Another Lee Soo-yeon masterpiece. At this point, if networks aren’t throwing money at her, they’re doing something wrong.

Lee: That was perfect. My heart is full. I’m all the emojis. And you know I’m not an emoji person. Or an emotion person. I’m usually like Shi-mok looking confused at dancing emoticons. But I’m just 😭😭😭😭 but in a happy and fulfilled way. You know?

Saya: Emojis were the only language I was capable of communicating in for the last hour. Sorry, one emoji. And for the first time, let me say: thank you for your beautiful translation, Netflix and specifically Ju-young Park. And hearing that final voiceover—in Yoo Jae-myung’s incredibly distinctive voice—was just…what a great closer. Like, truly beautiful. In its sentiment and in how it was rendered in translation.

Anisa: It was superlative in every way. Season 1 ended with Shi-mok pointing out the problems with the way Lee Chang-joon left things, but he’s really served as a collective conscience this season. It was a perfect choice to have his words close out Episode 16. And you’re right, this week’s translations were very good. Not sure how I can be both completely satisfied with that conclusion and totally gutted that we don’t get any more, but here we are.

Lee: If a show can end perfectly but leave you wanting more then it’s done its job. The story is told but life goes on. Like Season 1, there’s no neat bow or blazing victory. But there’s enough good that Yeo-jin and Shi-mok can smile.

Yunah: Life goes on, indeed.

Lee: But as for Seo Dong-jae—I can’t believe they’re leaving me with this uncertainty. Will he do the right thing or Hanjo’s bidding? And I hate it but it’s also genius. Because these choices don’t stop here. They keep going.

Yunah: If that uncertainty means a Season 3 is happening, I’m a happy camper 🙂

Saya: I feel (a little) cheated that we had so little of him, but how classically Dong-jae to go out with a bang! I thought it was great.

Anisa: I definitely agree, and let’s talk more about the finale at the end, but can we go through these episodes in a bit more detail today, since it’s our last time? *sob*

Lee: Yes, please! Because there is just so much in here to unpack.

Yunah: I don’t know if it was just me, but Shi-mok’s eyes spoke volumes in these last few episodes. When he was confronting Chief Woo, I could’ve sworn I saw a twinkle of “Let’s see you try and get out of this one!” and whenever he was with Yeo-jin, I saw how concerned he was for her. But not just Jo Seung-woo…everyone’s performances were just *chef’s kiss.*

Lee: I can’t decide on which scene in this finale I found most powerful. But if I was forced to choose just one it would be the scene between Han Yeo-jin and Choi Bit.

Saya: Looking at my notes here, and they say, “Aahh you broke Yeo-jin, Chief Choi!”

Lee: Everything about that scene resonated with me. Not just Yeo-jin’s disillusionment but her disappointment. Disappointment in herself as much as in Choi Bit. But also her comment about how this was driven by Choi Bit’s feelings of inadequacy—she didn’t believe she could get promoted on her own merits and had to leverage this opportunity. And now she’s stuck with the constant nagging feeling she doesn’t deserve it. And this dovetails nicely with the Lee Yeon-jae arc over at Hanjo. Succeeding as a woman doesn’t just mean constantly having to prove you’re as competent, it can mean proving you’re as Machiavellian. Whatever you do, you can’t appear soft.

Anisa: That scene was so hard to watch. The sorrow on Yeo-jin’s face as she asked why she was forced to bring down the one person she’s respected the most during her career—and it holds all the weight of the spoken and unspoken ways we’ve seen her rooting for Choi Bit to be the woman Yeo-jin’s always believed she is. And how that grew painful as Choi as she began to seem increasingly shady.

Saya: I can’t pick an ultimate favourite because these whole two episodes are one long favourite scene to me, but I absolutely agree about how powerful that scene was between Yeo-jin and Choi Bit. I also really felt it with Shi-mok when he meets Choi, and he tells her it’s not her conscience he’s putting his trust in, but Yeo-jin’s judgement. And there’s a part of me that’s deeply pleased by the fact that people around him can see just how important Yeo-jin is to him. Even though Chief Woo uses it against him, knowing it’s maybe the single piece of leverage he can ever have against Shi-mok, I loved the element of acknowledgement. I want the whole world to acknowledge that these two are a perfect match, always and forever. 😭

Yunah: Shi-mok looking out for Yeo-jin until the very end. I teared up during Choi Bit’s exit as she stared at Yeo-jin for a long, emotional beat.

Lee: But also, how much respect does Shi-mok have for her that he doesn’t consider saving her or rescuing her? And this is about more than them as friends and partners, it’s about how you can’t let those personal relationships interfere with your job when your job is justice. And both of these people walk their talk—even if Yeo-jin dabbled with following Choi Bit’s lead. Shi-mok knows this and so he never once pauses to consider compromising for her sake.

Anisa: It’s such a perfect partnership. It’s ironic, because Woo uses those exact words to describe his relationship with Choi when he accuses her of selling him out (and she rightfully calls BS). But the real flawless comradeship is between the two who don’t bother with labels—they simply spend each moment trusting each other down to the ground, working in tandem without trying to claim credit. Although as you said, Saya, it’s obvious to everyone. As Sa-hyun reflects, if everyone worked the way Shi-mok and Yeo-jin do together, there’d be no need for reform.

Lee: “If only the police and prosecution worked together like you do,” he says and then pauses to remember the time that collusion went horribly wrong. This show has done a masterful job of contrasting the two partnerships. Choi Bit and Woo Tae-ha really were the dark mirror.

Yunah: We mentioned this previously about how well this show reinforces its themes, and that was especially true in the conversation between Yeon-jae and Chief Prosecutor Kang. Naturally, Yeon-jae wouldn’t be able to fathom that one person (read: bad apple) could spoil the bunch. With her wealth and influence, it’s easy to eliminate the person causing trouble, but Kang reminds her that even corporations consist of people, and even one person can cause a ripple.

Saya: On the flipside of that is Chief Woo and that weird conversation he has with Sa-hyun—he kept saying “someone” in a way I genuinely thought there was some other, higher-up person orchestrating it all, but then you realise, nope, it’s all him, and that is how he distances himself from his actions. He sanitises the thing and diffuses his own responsibility by reframing it as “something anyone would do”. And you can see that he has literally convinced himself of his own rightness.