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Alice (2020) Episodes 7-8: Teasing Tropes or Taboos?
To be honest I'm not entirely certain where the show is going with some of the character threads. Admittedly unpredictability is one of the attractions of this highly ambitious drama. One is never quite sure where the show is taking the audience on this rollercoaster ride. I must confess I'm not a fan of the show's flirtations with Oedipal taboos. I use the word "flirtation" because at this point at time that's all it seems to be. It's clear the show is playing monkey with audience expectations with regard to possible lovelines. ("Are they? Aren't they?" The manipulation of camera angles and the emotional OST plus some of Tae-yi's more pointed questions about Jin-gyeom's feelings for her lend weight to this perspective to some degree.
My own view on Jin-gyeom's dynamic with 2020 Tae-yi is due to her striking resemblance to his mother and the perpetual question that preoccupies him as to whether she is his mother. Based on what we've seen so far, I am also of the opinion that she is his mother's younger self because the mechanics of the temporal device here is not thoroughly explained... at least not to my satisfaction... because of the inconsistencies. But then the whole idea of time travel is problematic whichever way one looks at it. Who knows perhaps in some other parallel universes Jin-gyeom's relationship with Tae-yi is not familial. My problem with that proposition of course is that Jin-gyeom is Future Tae-yi's son with Min-hyuk. So if he's in a romantic relationship with some other Tae-yi somewhere out there, who's son is he? I don't know about anyone else but this throws up another layer of complexity that is begging for answers I'm not sure that the show will be offering. But none of us can be certain about much when there are still 8 episodes to go.
The other thing that troubles me is that Mother-Future Tae-yi and younger Tae-yi both co-existed in the same timeline so it seems that they're two separate selves. But then from time to time younger Tae-yi seems to have vestiges of Mother Tae-yi's memories. Are these sorts of inconsistencies going to be explained later on?
Jin-gyeom... as far as one is able to read him... is largely fascinated with present Tae-yi because of the guilt that weighs on him for failing to protect his mother not once but twice. Whether or not he can ascertain her identity, many odd, inexplicable and even dangerous occurrences have brought them together His seeming attachment to her, I believe is about that and a long-felt regret for not having been a more attentive son to his mother while she was around. The early sequences of Episode 8 point to that. Do-yeon's timely/untimely intrusion into the safe house suggests that the show teases out the time honored cohabitation trope and then pulls back. It established early on that Jin-gyeom doesn't have strong connections with many people. Mother Tae-yi was one, Do-yeon is another, Ahjussi and his wife make up the rest of this select group. It took years for them to build the bonds they now share. Even now he still has trouble identifying his emotions and yet there's no doubt he cares for these people more than others. So it's a stretch, to my way of thinking, that he would fall for in love with present day immature Tae-yi with all her unique quirks just because she looks like his mum. Even the ambiguity that surrounds his accommodation of her whims and demands seems to be associated with his memories of Mother Tae-yi.
It's not (just) about the ick factor that I object to a possible romance between Jin-gyeom and 2020 Tae-yi but the internal inconsistencies it creates within the storyline. Okay he hugged her and cried like a baby when he first saw present-day Tae-yi but only because she is a dead ringer for his mother -- the only person in his life he ever wept bitterly for.
Then of course there's the problem of Min-hyuk who's been conducting time travel tourism in Jin-gyeom's timeline. The same Jin-gyeom who is a progeny of his beloved Tae-yi. Jin-gyeom is their offspring and they're interacting. If indeed Min-hyuk is supposedly operating in a parallel universe why does the case file for Lee Se-hoon have his mug shot in it. Is this a fixed event that occurs in every universe? How does this work? Then there's Mother Tae-yi's time card which he took back and is now being looked over by the Alice crowd.
If there's anyone I root for, it's Min-hyuk. He seems to be much better fleshed out character than first meets the eye and then there's Kwak Si-yang's thoughtful performance. For someone who is supposed to be in charge of such a groundbreaking enterprise, he knows so very little. Despite the bluster he still hasn't moved on and he doesn't even know that he's a dad. He cared much more for her than the early episodes indicated. But he soldiered on nonetheless. And really that's it... he is a soldier in a cause who paid the price for it because he believed that what he was doing was a good thing. He hasn't read the forbidden book so he doesn't know that the time travel project that he's a part of is a pandora's box.
In Train (2020) at least it was clear to me that the universes were two distinct locations with very different outcomes for just about every single character. The point from which the differentiation occurred was at least defined. There was an event that caused the branching-off that leads to different consequences.
Here my problem with the multiverse theory is about returning to the point of origin. How is that achieved? If there are that many alternate/parallel universes out there that results from all the time travelling that goes on, how does anyone get back to the moment that started it all? It's one thing to create an alternate timeline (as posited by Seok O-won) but it's another thing to leave it and then return to it. If there are so many of them, how do the time travellers know which one to go back to? Does the wormhole principle here work like that of the Stargate franchise?
I need explanations!
As I said last week, I'm not seeing parallel universes here in the same ways as it occurred in Train but an accumulation of paradoxes in the form of causal loops. We have future selves meeting past selves; future selves going back to the past and then having progeny in the past.
My mind is undeniably boggled. I do wonder if the multiverse thesis is just a red-herring or a mistaken assumption on the part of some which is why time travel becomes a complete trainwreck and future Tae-yi co-opts O-won to put a kibosh in the entire project.