Netflix loves its “parts,” a way of sticking to its binge model without giving the goods away all in one go. This leads to “Part 1” of Money Heist: Korea only consisting of only six (albeit pretty long) episodes, with the second half of season one coming later this year. This is very different from the La Casa de Papel success story, which began as a story of failure. The show was famously canceled by Spanish TV channel Antena 3 after two seasons due to declining ratings before being bought by Netflix for $2 to become one of the most popular Netflix series of all time. The show found an organic audience on Netflix with little to no marketing, but it’s worth noting that there were 13 episodes in Netflix’s “Part 1.” This isn’t the case with Money Heist: Korea, which is hoping to hook a global audience with this initial six-part intro before going on hiatus. Because of this, “Episode 5” is the ramping-up of tension before the makeshift part-ender of “Episode 6.” It is an unraveling not just of the Professor’s handle on the heist but also of the task force’s focus, as factors inside and outside of the Mint spiral out of control, all under the political pressure cooker that is the upcoming North-South Korea summit.
We’re initially reminded of this factor not through a news report or an angry phone call to the task force (though these do come) but by Woo-jin’s custody battle in court. Woo-jin is “fighting a war on two fronts,” Tokyo tells us as narrator. She fights to secure custody of her child in the face of an abusive husband with much political power to wield. If the hovering journalists are to be believed, he is planning on announcing his candidacy for the presidency of a unified Korea, and it’s all set to take place at the upcoming summit. For him, the custody case is less a threat to his political career and more another opportunity to campaign. The way he kidnapped his daughter in the previous episode implies that he cares for her, but not enough to take responsibility for his actions. Instead, he hides behind the power the patriarchy grants him, insisting to the press that Woo-jin has made up vicious lies to punish him for his failures as a husband.
It’s enough to make Woo-jin’s colleagues doubt her legitimacy in the workplace, an example of how easily misogyny works, seeping into the cracks that are socialized into all of us under patriarchy. It doesn’t help that the North Korean Ministry of Social Security is (rightfully) suspicious that there is a spy in the task force. While Woo-jin may not be a spy — and, yes, I noted Captain Cha’s token defense of his colleague — the Professor has used her for information. However, she’s good enough at her job that Woo-jin is right on the Professor’s tail (even with the listening device Rio has planted on Captain Cha). By the episode’s end, they are mid–car chase after the Professor had to scramble to dispose of a car riddled with the team’s DNA.
Meanwhile, Captain Cha’s man on the inside, Park Chul-woo, is not wasting any time in his mission to identify and kill the Professor. He lets Young-min convince him to torture Denver into revealing who the Professor is. As is the case with torture, it doesn’t work and leaves Chul-woo incorrectly thinking Tokyo is the Professor. It works for Young-min, however, whose real goal is to violently punish Denver for the relationship Young-min believes he has developed with Mi-seon. Young-min revels in using his power to hurt Denver and reasserting his dominance. A confused Mi-seon is not impressed, however. After agreeing to write a note to Denver to lure him to a storage room, she goes to stop Young-min. She cares about Denver and values his life as a human being, going so far as to raise a gun at Young-min to stop him. We never see if she would pull the trigger, as Denver manages to take Young-min out himself, despite being injured and tied up.
Despite the injuries, Denver is still in better shape than Berlin, who we learn has a terminal illness. (In La Casa de Papel, it was Helmer’s myopathy.) But that’s not going to keep Berlin down. He manages to take Rio despite his symptoms, which have been exacerbated without access to his medication, and becomes another loose canon in the chaos. Chul-woo is going after Tokyo and isn’t against terrifying the already terrified hostages to do it. He activates the fire alarm and hunts Tokyo down. He has our narrator in his crosshairs and is ready to take the shot … until a bloodied Denver stumbles into the room to warn Tokyo, making it clear to Chul-woo that she is not the Professor. A shot rings out, and Chul-woo relays the new information to Captain Cha: “The Professor is not inside the Mint.”
• I get where Narrator Tokyo is going with the voice-over that Woo-jin’s husband “was not a typical abuser but a cunning politician.” Still, it falls a bit flat given how often cunning politicians tend to abuse their power.
• Woo-jin’s custody battle is even more complicated because her mother is her chief witness to her abuse. And her mother has dementia. It’s heartbreaking to see Woo-jin’s mom tell her daughter that she can hold off on going to the doctor until after the hearing, and just as heartbreaking to see Woo-jin agree, forced to put her daughter’s well-being over her mother’s. No one should have to make this kind of choice. The system sucks.
• The Professor is not being honest with Woo-jin, but she has started to become vulnerable with him, opening up about her complicated life. “Among the seeds that grew inside the Professor’s heart was guilt,” Narrator Tokyo tells us. Um, yeah. It probably should.
• Didn’t Rio go to medical school? I feel like he should recognize that Berlin is not okay.
• Anne continues to be the smartest hostage, even though she’s just a kid.