Netflix latest is another incredible Korean horror series to keep us busy during these cold nights. Even though Squid Games is still in the top ten, it has begun to slip, and Hellbound is poised to take its place. The six-episode series Hellbound is a thought-provoking story of what happens when Hell comes for its crispy pound of flesh. Similar to The Leftovers, this is a story about what the world looks like in the face of uncertainty. Who steps into society to control the masses and who capitalizes on the tragedies?
Hellbound is particularly important now as we begin an inevitable COVID surge. In a consumer-driven world that seeks experiences and possessions to stave off the horror of death and what happens after. It isn’t just about the Dementer style lumbering Hell beasts that come for those marked for the firey place. It’s about how they got there and what happens to those left behind.
If you saw Train to Busan, you know the kind of rollercoaster you are in for. It was so impactful because it was equal parts scary and heartfelt. There was emotional weight to the characters that translated into a more horrifying viewing experience. We were invested in the plight of that young father and his daughter. Similarly, we are all in for the characters left in the unyielding world of Hellbound, which is entirely too easy to imagine. The ending of season 1 left a lot of questions and one major cliffhanger for Hellbound Season 2. Here’s everything you need to know.
What does Park Jungja’s return mean for Season 2 of Hellbound?
The mother of two who was condemned and burned to a crisp in the first public execution four years earlier starts reconstituting. Her skeleton is on display at The New Truth museum and church. She returns fully formed and is very much alive when the episode ends. The last three episodes that jump four years in the future mean that Park Jungja has been somewhere for four years. Was she in Hell or somewhere else entirely, and why is she back?
The other even more intriguing question is are the other demonstration victims alive as well? This could mean there are tons of people who have returned from the dead with the potential answers to life’s biggest questions. It could mean the return of Chairman Jung Jinsu and Dongwook. Did everyone or anyone go the Hell or did some people go to Heaven? Lastly was the sacrifice that Toughie’s parents made the catalyst for this change? If so it could mean that not only is it possible to survive your demonstration but the world could literally save itself by acts of grace. That is a world I could get behind.
What happens to Chairman Jung Jinsu?
Chairman Jung Jinsu is not a great person. Although he is the leader of The New Truth, he is no one’s savior. In the third episode of Hellbound, it is revealed he was marked for Hell twenty years prior. Since that moment, he has sought meaning in his abandonment and his marking. He believes that if people learn the decreed are not necessarily sinners but could be anyone, the world will descend into chaos. In a Machiavellian twist, he has Heejung, the Detective’s daughter, help him kill the man who murdered her mother. The relentless fear of waiting for a death day destroyed him and created the human monster he now is. At the end of episode 3, he is beaten, burned, and presumably taken to Hell. His void left room for the new leader Chairman Kim Jeongchil to take over.
What does the decree of the newborn mean for The New Truth and what we know about the Hell beasts?
One of the most heartbreaking plot points is the marking of Bae Young-jae’s newborn baby. While still in the hospital, the child was decreed bound for Hell. The absolute anguish these poor parents feel is heartbreaking. At the end of Hellbound Season 1, Young-jae and his wife along with Minn Hye-jin band together to fight off the beasts. They succeed for a moment but eventually it is obvious they can’t win, so in a last ditch effort to save Toughie, the parent band toegterh to shield their child from the beasts Hellfire.
It works and the baby is revealed to be safe and sound between her parents who were killed. All of this is being recorded and broadcast live as well which means everything the public thought they knew has changed. Now that someone has survived the demonstration, it raises all kinds of questions about who is making decisions and why.
The New Truth and the offshoot Arrowhead Cult are easily the scariest things about Hellbound. Sure the massive King Kong smoke monsters are deadly, but the cult of homicidal personality is even more frightening. None are scarier than Dongwook who is a true zealot. The maniachal lunatic needed purpose for his life and death and because he had such a rigid morality when a decree came for him it rtrocked his world. He believed himself to be a messiah and decided to pretend the infants demonstration was staged and his was the only true event that day. This would let The New Truth know where to find the baby and it would give his death meaning. The others were able to fight him off though and before he could hurt anyone the beasts came for him.
The bigger question of who is actually standing in judgment is all that remained. The monsters who are there to mete out their judgment or the social media mob hellbent on retribution? The fact that these people don’t understand the condemnation they are slinging might very well put them next in line for Hell is lost on the largely ignorant masses. For Dongwook he paid the ultimate price to be a martyr while Toughie’s parents paid a steep price but saved their child and allowed the world to know what they had been told was fact was false.
Deacon Yuji who was still smarting from Chairman Jeongchil reprimand earlier and angry that everything was falling apart attacked an older man in front of the crowd. Even though violence had become rather common place, this was the tipping point and everyone looked on in horror. A policeman in the crowd arrests him as Hye-jin limps off with Toughie. She disappears with the assistance of the crowd and a kindly cab driver who claims he doesn’t care much about God but thinks humans should handle their own business.
What are the decrees and the demonstrations?
In Hellbound, a large bodyless head comes to people and tells them the exact date and time that the Hellbeasts will come to take them to Hell. It further says they are bound for Hell. There is no way to avoid your fate, even suicide. If a person dies before their Hell date, they are brought back from the dead to face the beasts. Everyone believes the decreed are chosen because they have sinned and refused to repent and admit their sin. In Hellbound Episode 4, a newborn child gets tapped for Hell, which questions all of that.
We also know Park Jungja did not commit any horrible sin. Despite the puritanical outrage that two separate men fathered her children, she was not a terrible person. In fact, it appears the decreed might be completely random. This is a significant problem for the two groups who need a reason to continue controlling society. If our fates are left to chance, then society would disintegrate.
One of the biggest questions that need to be answered in Hellbound Season 2 is why those bound for Hell are chosen. Is it random, or is there a higher power or order involved that we don’t know of yet? The only thing we know for sure is, it is possible to avoid death because the baby was saved from the beasts by her parent’s sacrifice, and being bound to Hell is not necessarily a death sentence. With
What is Sodo?
Sodo is a counter organization started and run by Minn Hye-jin and a sociology Professor. She is a lawyer who was initially working for Park Jungja. She was beaten and left for dead by Arrowhead at the end of Episode 3. However, she did not die and instead formed a group to help those marked avoid a public spectacle. When she was working to defend Park Jungja, she worked for Sodo Law Firm. This is where the name comes from. When society found out about those bound for Hell, The New Truth condemned both the person and their families. Shame, violence, and persecution followed for everyone associated with the decreed. Minn Hye-jin wanted to give them dignity even if she could not stop them from being destroyed by the beasts.
Those who publicly receive condemnation are easy to find, and Sodo needs to get there before The New Truth. If they receive their decree privately, Sodo uses data mining and back doors to predict behavior. They have found a pattern for those who recently got condemned and try to track those individuals down. The New Truth knows about Sodo after seeing a card for Sodo Laundry in the hotel room of a condemned man they found. Before his Hell time, he tells them everything he knows about the organization.
Sodo wants to broadcast Bae Young-jae’s infant’s demonstration to prove to the world that the decreed aren’t just for sinners. Anyone can be bound to Hell, and it would break the stranglehold The New Truth has on everyone. He is understandably angry and says they are no better than the church. Professor Gong calms him down and explains why this is so personal to him as well. The men bond over their shared grief over their children. The Professor’s child is dead, but Bae Young-jae’s is still living and could do some good in the world. The Professor is taken and killed in Episode 5. Minn Hye-jin is almost captured as well, but she learned to defend herself in the last four years, and she escapes.
What are The New Truth and Arrowhead?
The New Truth and Arrowhead are both groups that sprang from the arrival of the Hellbeasts and the first decrees. The New Truth was established by Chairman Jung Jinsu and acts as an organized church. The leader after Chairman Jung Jinsu’s death is now Chairman Kim Jeongchil. The church’s purpose is to educate the public on God, his justice, and the importance of doing good and avoiding sin. They use the public decrees and execution by Hellbeast as a way to terrify their followers into submission. Fear is a big motivator and as terror grows among the masses, so do their numbers. They believe the decreed are sinners, and the beasts are angels sent to take the marked to Hell.
To some degree, the press and the police are all controlled by The New Truth. The religious group has become so vast and powerful; a free press is obsolete. Every nuanced detail of what is shown is controlled by the church and their Deacons, who use intimidation to bully everyone into submission.
The Arrowhead Cult sprang from The New Truth and is a highly unorganized mob of internet trolls, Reddit researchers, and conspiracy hackers. They also believe the decreed are sinners, but they don’t care about preventing the world from becoming Hell on Earth. They are less concerned with peace and more concerned with bloodlust. Although they pretend to do violent acts to help perpetuate the word of God, they are a dangerous group emboldened by their numbers and their perceived righteousness. They have no boundaries and no qualms about destroying property, maiming victims, or killing people. Their leader is the dayglow makeup lover Skull Face.
What are the monsters in Hellbound?
The giant shadow monsters who come to beat those who have been decreed are giant ape like creatures seemingly made of black smoke. The are strong, fast, project intense blue fire, and leap in and out of a portal. We have no idea where this portal goes and it does bare exploring the idea that these are aliens or other interdiminsional beings who only use God as a cover for their experiment.
In the end, it doesn’t matter who is ordering the beasts to take people to Hell. The real evil is humanity who revels in control, fear, hate, and violence. Religious fanaticism is often used to justify all kinds of abhorrent behavior and Hellbound seems to be making the statement that this should be railed against. Hellbound could easily be our current COVID-warring world taken to the next plausible level in a world gone mad. This isn’t an extreme but an inevitability if fear is allowed to win.
Hellbound could easily be a mess of jumbled characters and storylines but instead feels like a real-world view of unfolding horrors. Shifting from person to person and perspective to perspective, each is unique in their approach to the tragedies. For all the supernatural elements, this is social horror at its best. The Hellbeasts are just vehicles in which to explore the true monsters, man. Hellbound is streaming on Netflix now.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.