Episode 3 of The Devil Punisher launches with Meng Hsin-Yu bringing food to Mrs Chou to pass along to orphan Ping. Mrs Chou explains that she’s afraid to see Ping who’s either crazy or seeing ghosts and wants to stay out of it.
Meng Hsin-Yu buys a gift for Chung Kuei/Cheng-nan, hoping she can sweet talk him into helping Ping, particularly if there’s a ghost involved. At the bakery, he tries to stay cool until she flutters her eyelashes at him. He realizes she’s up to something but agrees to help her irresistible self anyway.
As they walk, he grumbles under his breath that she doesn’t recognize him. But when she proposes dinner as a thank you, he’s pleased that there’s a date on offer.
At Ping’s house, they see his father’s ghost and try to understand the situation. Hsin-Yu explains they’re there to help, but Ping’s father disappears and Ping shoves them out the door. Hsin-Yu blames Chung for scaring them with his stern demeanor. Who, me?
Hsin-Yu decides to ask her ghost friends for help, which insults Chung. He considers taking off but, in the end, can’t walk away and follows her to the park. He watches over her as she waits for her gang and eventually falls asleep. Chung is well aware that the ghosts have already been captured but shows his big bad shadow self just in case there are any stragglers.
Meng Hsin-Yu wakes to a coat blanket and hot coffee. After blaming Chung for scaring her friends away, she prepares to run off to work. Chung says he’ll walk her, putting her hand in his coat pocket to keep it warm. He’s got all the moves, hasn’t he?
As a quick aside and useful public service announcement, Lord Cheng-Huang gives a lesson in dating technique in the Human Realm, covering (and taking credit for) all of Chung’s tactics.
On the way to work, Hsin-Yu stops to speak to her flower, Hsiao-Hua. It appears to be scared of Chung. He uses it as an opportunity to get close to her, but she escapes. Chung addresses the flower demon but says he’ll spare it because its friends with Hsin-Yu. She spots Ping on the way to work, but he avoids her.
Hsin-Yu arrives at the cafe and finds En-Hsi and then Ouyang Kai there. He asks for them to help get his girlfriend back since he’s sure they were involved with the breakup; he just can’t work out how. They quickly agree even if they’re not sure how to help.
Hsin-Yu’s boss Professor Lu, appears to sample the new coffee blend. He not-so-subtly indicates he’s got a thing for Hsin-Yu. She’s having quite a day of random romance. He walks the girls home and straightforwardly confesses to Hsin-Yu, but she doesn’t reply.
That same evening, she heads to Ping’s house with food to find him with his ghost dad, Mr Hong. Ping tells her not to come back, particularly with Chung.
At the bakery, Chung is helping Mrs Wu. Hsin-Yu returns his coat and he takes her to his hangout for dinner. When he asks about Ping, she asks for his help. Then, relieved of her burden, gets a little squiffy. They do the drunken-falling-over, he-catches-her-just-in-time thing, then he carries her home. Not even a piggy-back – full carry.
He tucks her in on the couch, covering her with one of his multiple sweaters. He considers kissing her but then she mumbles about the love confession she’d received earlier, putting him off.
As he exits, magicking up a new sweater as he walks, Lord Cheng-Huang approaches asking if any of his dating techniques worked. Chung asks whether she’d fall for someone else instead, only to be laughed at. Who would steal the Ghost King’s girl? Cheng-Huang suggests he help Ping’s Dad, Hong Cheng-Yu, to impress Lady Meng/Hsin-Yu.
So, Chung visits Ping’s house and talks to Mr Hong. He considers helping rather than simply capturing him and asks to hear his story.
At home, Hsin-Yu wakes to find herself sleeping under Chung’s sweater. En-Hsi is also on the couch and neither recall how they got there. En-Hsi heads out to pick up breakfast and hits the ATM to finally cover her tuition bill. Her mother is lingering outside the house, hoping for cash.
Once inside, she asks Hsin-Yu to give her the rent early, saying that the landlord has requested it. But back outside, En-Hsi hands an envelope over to her mother, asking if she’s gambling again.
Ouyang Kai spots the exchange and later overhears En-Hsi is late with her tuition. He follows her asking when they’ll get his girlfriend back. She tells him off but he offers to help with tuition. She says they can’t be friends if he interferes, and he’s stupidly happy to be called a friend. Meanwhile, Professor Lu tells the same administrator that he’ll take responsibility for En-Hsi.
At the café, Hsin-Yu blabbers on about her day but En-Hsi isn’t listening. To engage her, she asks for a tarot reading, choosing cards just as Professor Lu walks in. En-Hsi tries to get Hsin-Yu to reselect, but Lu notes the first card means a trial arranged by God. He hires En-Hsi, to her delight, to do tarot readings at the café.
After work, Hsin-Yu stops at Ping’s house. En-Hsi follows but Hsin-Yu sends her on an errand so she can speak to Mr Hong. She tells him that Ping’s condition isn’t good, because he can’t go on his way. Mr Hong confirms that Chung will help him.
The next day at the café, they chat about ghosts and En-Hsi says she doesn’t believe in them. Professor Lu mentions an experiment determining whether the human spirit leaves a body upon death, but there were flaws in the experiment. He concludes that believers believe and notes that even ghosts are scared of something – the god, Ghost King Chung Kuei.
En-Hsi chimes in that the Ghost King is very ugly as per childhood stories. Hsin-Yu can’t recall any stories and is momentarily lost in thought. Professor Lu abruptly jumps in and asks if she’d like to go to the movies with him the following day. Hsin-Yu says she has something else to do, surprising En-Hsi.
At home, En-Hsi questions Hsin-Yu about declining the date. It seems like she didn’t perceive it as such. En-Hsi decides to follow her close-lipped friend the following day to see what could be more important than a date.
In an office, Chung is checking information by computer but Cheng-Huang reminds him that he can’t interfere with the human world personally and suggests getting a human to do the leg work.
As En-Hsi follows Hsin-Yu, Ouyang Kai shows up wanting to add her on LINE (a communication app similar to WhatsApp). He notes he’s paid her tuition, but she’s less than pleased, not wanting to owe a debt. Meanwhile, her mother happens to be lurking and overhears the exchange, counting currency in her head.
Hsin-Yu finds Chung and he uses his power to replay what happened to Mr Hong. They realize that Ping hasn’t received his father’s insurance compensation.
He catches her hand to go off and check sources but En-Hsi turns up, saying that Hsin-Yu can’t reject a professor for a bakery trainee. Chung grabs Hsin-Yu’s hand again and successfully drags her away. En-Hsi sends Ouyang Kai to follow them.
At the office where Mr Hong worked, his boss claims to have followed procedure and refuses to provide any information. Chung starts to question him but Ouyang Kai jumps in asking about employee insurance and is surprisingly savvy, making the manager nervous. They all get thrown out of the office.
Outside, they continue to discuss the case and Hsin-Yu asks Chung to check the past. Ouyang Kai’s interest is piqued but Chung is surprisingly calm that his cover’s been exposed to another human. He uses his power to turn back time for the three of them as the episode ends.
Chung Kuei’s proverb: Behind all injustices are grievances waiting to be uncovered.
The Episode Review
In this episode, we learn that Chung Kuei seems to break bigger and bigger rules to please Meng Hsin-Yu. We met the Underworld Queen in Episode 1, who has her standards. What are the chances that she’ll be showing up soon to get a handle on things? We’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, Episode 3 and I’m still not exactly clear on what Chung does. It seems like there are options for spirits and maybe Chung’s day job is to police the aggrieved of the lot. But with Hsin-Yu, he’s helping them go – voluntarily it seems – perhaps to a more pleasant place.
Romance-wise, they’re packing in a lot of classic devices to bring Hsin-Yu and Chung together. She seems to be innocently falling for it, but is oblivious sometimes too. It appears that her main objective is to help ghosts in need, tapping Chung’s abilities to assist. (He doesn’t know what he’s in for, as he keeps saying it’s the last time.)
Although we’ve seen these dating techniques in countless other dramas, somehow, they seem a bit – I’m not even sure what – maybe lacking emotion? Connection? Such tactics have a place in high context cultures like Taiwan, showing his interest in her and her opportunity to fall for him, but… am I just impatient here? Perhaps it’s because I’m simultaneously watching Lost Romance (Viki), which is on a whole other level.
Individually, I like these characters and the set up, but somehow the romance piece isn’t quite clicking yet. And maybe that’s the point – it’s too soon in the series and their relationship. Same with Professor Lu – that guy leapt way too soon. In terms of story trajectory, we’re only on Episode 3 of 20, so in Asian drama world we’ve got plenty of time.
Meanwhile, with Ouyang Kai getting in on the ghost rehab act, things should be getting a whole lot sillier. Good idea. Chung Kuei, a serious man with a serious job, could use a bit more comic relief. Saying that, I do appreciate his relationship inexperience moments, reminding me ever-so-slightly of the number-one-in-all-things-except-romance Daoming Si of Meteor Garden (Netflix).
With that idea in mind, I’m tucked back in my box awaiting the fireworks.
Edit – 07/01/21: Thanks for your patience. We’ve now matched The Devil Punisher character names to the translations on Netflix. Apologies for any confusion caused whilst completing this process!