Episode 1 of Mouse begins with a young boy called Jae-Hoon feeding a mouse to a black snake. While the other kids in class flinch and run away, Jae-Hoon watches, unblinking, as it all takes place.
We then cut back 10 years ago as a blizzard rages outside. Snow swirls as a woman is dropped off by a payphone by the side of the road. She phones through to her family and informs them she’s heading straight home.
Only, after hanging up she hears a child asking for help by the side of the road. Weeping, they point to a car that has crashed by the side of the road. Only, when she goes to check if they need help, she’s grabbed from behind and slammed into the car. It seems it was all a big ploy. The child however, cowers.
A week passes and a headless corpse washes up on shore. Dubbed the “Head Hunter” by the news, this killer has been on the run for the last year and has claimed 18 victims so far. With the public riled up and scared, the President calls for police reform.
With the country on high alert, a beloved university teacher called Professor Daniel Lee discusses serial killers in class. In particular, he mentions a gene that allows them to conduct a psychopath DNA test. In essence, they can see whether someone is a serial killer before they actually commit any crimes.]
Lee receives an urgent call though, arriving at the National Assembly to discuss this very same psychopath test. The government are torn between whether to pass this bill or not, eventually splitting the group down the middle. Eventually the final vote is against this bill being enacted.
On the back of this, Daniel Lee arrives for dinner at his friend Han Seo-Joon’s house. He greets Seo-Joon’s pregnant wife, Ji-Eun, and admits that he hasn’t found his little brother yet. As they sit and eat, Daniel Lee comments on what a beautiful home they have.
When Ji-Eun heads off to rest, Seo-Joon talks to Daniel about what happened 7 years prior. Something happened regarding a woman called Jennifer but right now it’s not initially clear what.
Interspersed around this story line is another of a family in a camper van with “Byzantine Wedding” scrawled on the front. They’re looking for a camp site and eventually receive instructions to get there.
Unfortunately the heavy snowfall has caused issues with the camp site and it’s been abandoned. Well, the two kids, Mu-Won and Mu-Chi, have fun outside playing before eating some sweet potatoes by the fire. The parents however, head off and are approached by a masked killer.
Their Mother manages to get away, at least with enough time for the kids to hide under the bed inside the van, while she sacrifices herself to save them. Mu-Chi watches in horror from the van as his Mother is killed.
His brother locks the kid in the suitcase and hides himself in the same hidden compartment. It’s no good, and this killer beats the child down. Thankfully they’re both saved at the last second by police officers arriving on the scene.
Officer Park Du-Seok scrambles to the scene to check on Mu-Chi. He’s in a bad state at the station, cowering and in shock. He pleads with the child for help in recognizing his face as Mu-Chi suddenly sees a picture and screams in horror.
Police, led by Du-Seok, show up at Seo-Joon’s house with a search warrant. Apparently the kid has labelled him as the Head Hunter and given due cause to investigate. Of course, one shocked statement from a child isn’t exactly enough to arrest him, but Seo-Joon implores Ji-Eun to phone their lawyer. As she heads inside, she rings through to Mr Hwang and asks for help.
The search brings up no clues. That is, until Mu-Chi appears and slashes at Seo-Joon from the car. They knock over the snowman, which happens to hold a black bag inside. Seo-Joon is found out to be the Head Hunter.
The news confirms as much, with bodies found in the greenhouse afterwards. Despite claiming he didn’t make the snowmen, Ji-Eun knows the truth and even snaps photos of him in the act. She arrives at the prosecutor’s office as the truth now comes out and reveals that he is, in fact, the killer.
Daniel Lee shows at the police station next and confronts his old friend. He admits some damning home truths, including how he promised Jennifer (whom he killed) not to hurt Daniel Lee. He’s obviously distraught, but so too is Ji-Eun who realizes she never really knew her husband.
She finds Daniel and has a gene test done. It’s not good news. She wants to abort the baby but it’s too late, she’s too far along. On top of that, Seo-Joon receives his verdict and he’s getting the death sentence.
Five years pass and Seo-Joon is still alive. Checking the newspaper, he sees a story in the paper regarding Daniel Lee returning to Korea. Speaking of which, we cut across to Daniel, who opens the box and finds a mouse inside, scurrying away. It’s clearly a signal of intent from Seo-Joon.
We then cut across to that same young boy in a yellow coat, Jae-Hoon, who drops that mouse into the snake tank we saw at the start of the episode.
Fast forward another 5 years and this same child kills a rabbit outside, intent on checking whether it was pregnant or just gained weight. The other kids at school are clearly scared of Jae-Hoon, cowering as he passes in the hallway. His IQ is over 160 so he’s certainly bright but he also has psychopathic tendencies. Jae-Hoon’s father strikes his child when he finds out what he’s done, calling out the child and berating him for being so humiliating.
Back home, Jae-Hoon takes things a step too far. Not only does he poison the fish with ammonia, he also takes the family dog, Choco. When Jae-Hoon’s father returns, he learns what’s happened and races off, finding his dog dead in the lake. His father snaps, beating Jae-Hoon down when they return home.
Beaten and bruised, he takes his brother Jae-Min down to an open grave and pushes him in. Jae-Hoon’s Mother shows up and chokes him out, telling the child he never should have been born and that he’s a monster.
In retaliation, Jae-Hoon kills his family. We only see snippets of it but his siblings cowering in the wardrobe while a bloodied knife is pulled out their Father’s chest seems to hint as much.
We then jump forward again, 15 years this time which catches us up to the present day. Jae-Hoon is an outright serial killer, presumably still on the loose, as the police begin to widen their investigation and look into another string of murders.
The Episode Review
Good grief that was dark. It’s always difficult to stand out in the crime drama field and here there’s a lot of time jumps to dissect through that could put some people off.
Both sides of the globe play host to a plethora of different titles in this genre every year and it’s always difficult to stand out or do something slightly different from the norm. Even last year, Flower Of Evil managed to turn the whole serial killer idea upside down to deliver one of the smartest written k dramas of the year.
This time around, tvN come roaring out the gates with a pilot episode that certainly doesn’t hold back. There’s some incredibly dark and dramatic moments here, with the serial murders in particular shown in a pretty horrific way.
Of course, it’s all done tastefully so it’s certainly not like the later Saw sequels that were gory for gore-sake. Everything here links nicely together, although there are a lot of time jumps to get your head around.
Despite that though, Mouse delivers some solid symbology through its use of mice and snakes, while showing exactly how someone so ordinary and seemingly normal (ala Ted Bundy) can turn out to be a serial killer.
I don’t know about you guys but when Seo-Joon was being investigated, I genuinely wasn’t sure whether he was really a killer or not. That sudden switch though at the police station really shows that you can never be sure.
Well written, intense and incredibly dark, Mouse gets off to a very impressive start here.
|Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!