Dr. Brain, Apple TV+’s new series from visionary genre specialist Kim Jee-Woon, drives headlong toward answers, both disappointing and cathartic, in the second-to-last episode of the exciting first season.
Can brain-syncing scientist Sewon stop the far-reaching forces at work to destroy him before they succeed? Can Hong redeem himself after causing so much chaos and hurt? Apple TV+’s first South Korean series is poised for a strong close.
Dr. Brain recap: Season 1, episode 5
In this week’s episode, Sewon Koh’s (played Sun-kyun Lee) clue-hunting has brought him to a mysterious clinic. The doctor who treated his son Doyoon (Jeong Si-on) before his “death” is lying to him and hiding things. Sewon saw she had something to do with his son’s disappearance, thanks to his extra-sensory perception from all the brain syncs (his experimental method of communing with the subconscious minds of the dead).
However, he doesn’t realize just how high up this goes until he finds a picture Dr. Hyun had hidden in her desk. The doctor who first treated Sewon as a child, Dr. Myung, is standing with her graduating class. It seems like he wanted to know if whatever gifts Sewon possessed had been passed down to Doyoon. Sewon escapes security by the skin of his teeth. Indeed, the doctor grabs a pair of scissors to try and stab him!
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Choi (Seo Ji-hye) has located Namil Hong (Jae-won Lee), the missing researcher who helped Sewon sync with his first dead body, at a monastery/spa retreat type place. But so have the bad guys. A very thrilling little shootout/knife fight occurs, leaving Choi’s deputy dead and Hong scared out of his mind.
The truth is becoming clearer
Everyone involved is getting uncomfortably close to the truth. Namil tells Choi about being hired at the clinic where Hyun worked. He thought it was the opportunity of a lifetime until he realized they were experimenting on orphans and homeless folks and people like Sewon, whose families could not interfere with the research. If they killed someone or wiped the memories of a subject, no matter.
Sewon visits Dr. Myung, who took him under his wing after his mother died. He taunts Sewon about his robotic emotional inner life, shed since he discovered Doyoon may yet be alive. He tells his side of the story to Sewon as Namil Hong tells his side to Choi — a deft bit of cross-cutting from director Kim Jee-Woon and editors Yang Jin-mo and Han Mi-yeon.
It turns out Hong was planted in Sewon’s lab to keep tabs on him as he worked. He was the one who told Myung that Junki Lim (Kim Ju-hun) hired Kangmu (Park Hee-soon) to investigate Sewon after his wife Jaeyi (Yoo-Young Lee) died and was thus responsible for both of their deaths. Myung had them all killed. He couldn’t face going to the police because he thought he’d be held responsible. Hong tried in his own way to help wrap up the case by bringing Sewon to Kangmu’s corpse so he could brain sync with him and learn the truth of his murder.
Hong and Choi head to a debt-collection agency that works with the clinic and find the suspect who’s been killing people on Myung’s behalf all season, but he gives them the slip yet again. Myung also tries to kill him but fails, which means Sewon won’t be the only one chasing the old man.
Just when you think you know a thing or two you die
Myung’s motivations are pure ’50s sci-fi. He wants to be able to implant old brains into new bodies. (You’ll also recognize this more recently from the likes of Get Out or The Skeleton Key, but it’s as old as sci-fi itself.) This is especially important to Myung, because he’s on death’s door himself. He can barely get out his evil monologue without needing a hit off his oxygen tank. Myung’s secretary knocks Sewon out with a syringe of something potent before he can get answers from the old man.
He wakes up alone in his apartment without much of a clue as to what to do now and no idea where Myung is holding Doyoon … but maybe Jaeyi does. Kangmu appears to Sewon to give him the inspiration to sync with his wife, an unstable process that’s going to require a second hand. He’s not in the mood to forgive Namil Hong, but he’s the only one qualified to help him now, so he calls him up anyway. The two have to work together if they have any hope of rescuing Doyoon. Of course, neither man considers the possibility that after all this time, Jaeyi won’t be all that excited to see her estranged husband in her unconscious.
Watch Dr. Brain on Apple TV+
New episodes of Dr. Brain arrive Fridays on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On The Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.