The Cost of Loneliness in ‘Somebody’

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Somebody (2022) - But Why Tho (1)

This article features heavy spoilers from Somebody (2022).

Despite having access to people 24/7, our society is plagued by loneliness. The need to facilitate a genuine connection with somebody, anybody really, prior to the emergence of COVID-19 was already a driving need for many. The pandemic only further exasperated that desperate desire to connect, and in Somebody (2022), the latest psychological thriller on Netflix, we see how easily that desperation and desire to connect can evolve into something destructive.

Somebody (2022) follows Kim Sum (Kang Hae-Lim), an autistic software developer whose social AI technology has been used to create the “Somebody” dating app. Originally, the AI program she developed was created because of her needing someone in her life who understood her. It can be said that the seed of its creation was due to loneliness. In her case, this loneliness she experiences is facilitated by her neurodivergence via her ability to connect with others, violent bursts of behavior not easily attributed to autism, and how others react to her behaviors.

Creating a program that can pick up on the emotions of the person they’re engaging with while also keeping a record of everything the person does enables the AI program to fine-tune its algorithm to maximize the success rates of matching potential couples in the “Somebody” app. However, programs cannot deceive unlike humans. This is something that Sum likely did not put together while developing the programming. As we discover in the series, the algorithm ends up being exploited by serial killer, Seung Yun-O (Kim Young-kwang).

Yun-O taps into the vulnerability of the people seeking a connection online. With a sea of lonely people out there, he has plenty to choose from. Sum herself isn’t exempt from his widely cast net. His charm and ease, the seeming respect towards her boundaries regarding sex within the first episode, and even more concerningly talking her through euthanizing a cat, all come together to plant the seed of hope and interest for her. This clouds her intentions to turn in Yun-O. Here is someone that, perhaps, can understand her without being programmed to do so. But after that encounter, Yun-O ignores her.

The need for people to understand us is relatable. In our loneliness, finding that one special person can be the thing that draws us out of our caves. But sometimes the pursuit of filling that void can lead us to forget things like safety. We see this when we observe Yun-O’s interactions with Detective Yeong Gi-Eun (Kim Soo-Yeon).

Gi-Eun became disabled after an accident. She’s self-sufficient, still maintaining a job, a home, and driving herself places. Despite these things, she experiences ableism, and this ableism mostly impacts her romantic life. She wants to be loved. She wants to have sex. She wants to find someone to connect with. In comes Yun-O who, to be quite honest, is red flag central in his interactions with Gi-Eun. But when we want to be seen, to be connected, to feel alone no longer, the red flags aren’t easily observed.

First, he invites her out to an incredibly secluded nature area. When she shows up, she then learns that he isn’t disabled. He lied. For viewers, the power imbalance is established from then out and, unfortunately, she doesn’t catch on fast enough. His charm kicks in and keeps those rose-colored glasses firmly planted over her eyes. There is hope. He came out here to see her. He is still nice.

Somebody (2022) - But Why Tho (1)

Until he abandons her and trashes her chair.

It is here the audience’s and Gi-Eun’s thoughts sync. The reality of the situation has crumbled down on her. She could die out in the middle of nowhere, and no one would find her for days, weeks, or months. Fortunately, she survives, but this incident serves as one of many examples of Somebody (2022) delivering a cautionary tale. For Sum, the loneliness still aches. But when Yun-O finally responds to her messages, the spark of joy returns. But with Yun-O, his intentions can’t be trusted. While talking to her under his account, Sum has also started talking to another user that identifies as autistic. She guides this seemingly younger person and finds herself in a bit of a mentor position to this account. Wanting to help this person who reminds her of herself, she offers to meet them to drop off a book.

What ensues is another dangerous scenario, one in which, as an autistic person, I found myself relating to. At least in terms of taking conversations at face value. Sum has been lured out to this secluded location under false pretenses. The four men who are waiting for her there have also been lured out under false pretenses. The puppet master here is Yun-O, who seeks to prove to himself that Sum is capable of murder and, therefore, would be the perfect partner by his side.

Yun-O knows Sum wants to find someone who understands her. He’s gleaned this from conversations and takes advantage of this knowledge to place her in these dangerous situations. Her actual well-being isn’t essential here. Sum is a consolation prize at best. A rat he experiments with in a labyrinth maze at worst. Something to ease his boredom when he doesn’t want to be alone.

This does drive Sum into Yun-O’s arms, and they soon start dating. While her friends suspect Sum’s new boyfriend is a killer, there’s denial. Despite all evidence that we had seen her collect quite rapidly in the first episode, Sum can’t fathom him truly being the killer. That is until he destroys her first friend – the original “Somebody” program. It is around this time that Sum finds out that Yun-O orchestrated the attack against her, which serves as the slow-burn wake-up call she needed. Yes, he understands her. Probably more so than she’d care to admit, but he does not have the best intentions for her.

The building tragedy of Somebody (2022) culminates in Sum taking it upon herself, partially on behalf of Spectrum, to disappear Yun-O. Her boss, Samantha, as well as other Spectrum employees are aware that she has successfully located and gotten under Yun-O’s skin. It is when he decides to take them both away to a house he has built for them to live in until they die that she enacts her plan. When he reaches the house, she tricks him using an AI video recording of her. It distracts him long enough for her to kill him.

Somebody - But Why Tho (1)

Yun-O, slowly bleeding out, uses his final breaths to try talking to the AI Sum. He thinks of her and only her, not realizing that he’s not even talking to a person. Connection, the one thing we all naturally crave is what he reaches for in those final moments. His loneliness, while better hidden, was filled when he met Sum. But even he himself admits prior to this moment what they both might have been like if they had met sooner. Would he have ever gone down his dark path? Would he have corrupted her? Caused her to shed blood? Not once, twice, but thrice? We can only guess on the what-ifs.

Killing Yun-O was like a cleanse. Yun-O and Sum became codependent on each other, but it wasn’t healthy. He was no good and her need to find someone that understood her was twisted into something dark. In that tragic act of ending his life, she can break free. In the end, as we see in the last moments of the final episode, Sum moves on. While we may never know the extent of his influence on her beyond the final episode, we do see her connect with her colleagues. We see her smile. It is meant to reassure, but instead chills when we realize what all has led up to that point.

Somebody (2022) is a series that features many themes, but the underlying cautionary tale I see is one that reminds us the cost of loneliness if we allow it to blind us. We see this most prominently in Sum’s and Gi-Eun’s interactions with Yun-O. We see how it can be exploited, how it can be used to harm us, and what happens if we choose wrong in pursuit of the one who understands us. If we are not too careful, tragedy is not too far along.

Somebody (2022) is available now exclusively on Netflix.

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