Hi Bye Mama (2020) Thoughts about Episodes 1-5
There's certainly a lot to like about this drama. The cast, the dominant narrative, the production values and aspects of the world building. The visual storytelling is certainly exquisite. It's wonderful the way the showrunners piece together the past and the present so seamlessly with the use of changing colour palette. It's gorgeous. No doubt a testament to the continued advancements in SK production techniques.
To be honest, when it comes down to the nitty gritty in plot I don't know how I really feel about this drama. I know I want to like it but there are aspects of it that don't sit well with me. While it's nice to look at and the acting is stellar on every front, I have mixed feelings about how the subject matter is handled. Frankly... and I'm sorry about comparing everything to Chocolate... I think Chocolate did it a smidge better albeit coming from a different angle. Possibly because tonally it was much more consistent. The underlying message in both seems to me to be essentially the same... life is too short to have regrets or hold grudges. Prioritize your loved ones. Put your house in order, resolve all unfinished business before it's too late. Because one never knows when the end is nigh. Learn to grieve. Learn to move on. It's certainly a message worth repeating because we humans are terrible at dealing with death and loss.
The problem for me first of all is the reason why Yu-ri has been given 49 days to "find her place". The show insists on making the endgame to this a big mystery to YR... at least so far. (Although I'm not sure it is really all that much of a mystery) As a result everything feels to me to be in limbo while YR is groping around aimlessly running away from fellow ghosties who have a ton of unresolved emotional baggage. I really feel for Gang-hwa because he is still absolutely in love with Yu-ri. He's never moved on emotionally. Sure, he remarried probably for Seo Woo's sake but for the past 5 years he's been waiting for YR to come back to life. That's how it feels like to me. And he's utterly terrified of losing her again. Hence we have this artificial love triangle at play because YR thinks that she's interrupting a happy newly formed married when absolutely everyone is wallowing in misery in some form another. Maybe she's been so focused on SW these past few years that she hasn't noticed GH or Min-jeong's anguish in what seems to be a loveless union. The facade of playing happy families hasn't helped GH move on much. He soldiered on for Seo Woo's sake but he has done nothing for himself. Prior to her resurfacing, he hadn't stopped grieving. In fact, we discover that he attempted suicide at least once but was forced by his stoic MIL to pull himself together and get his act together.
I'm not sure if this is deliberate on the part of the showrunners but making the endgame a mystery is double-edged sword. YR thinks she's just here for a short time to sort out things with SW. It doesn't seem to occur to her that SW isn't the only one struggling. The problem too is that her presence is giving GH hope. But she doesn't necessarily want to give him false hope so she's keeping her distance. When I look at him and his reactions I see a man who desperately wants the love of his life back where she belongs. He wants to hug her and kiss her like the way she embraces their daughter. Unfortunately he can't because everyone is being considerate and inconsiderate of Min-jeong. Poor woman has been playing second fiddle to YR right from the start. A substitute mother for SW but never the wife and certainly not the lover.
I also don't particularly like the fact that YR is keeping vital information from her loved ones. That's the part I'm most uneasy and frustrated about. It's a strategy on the part of the show to create a push and pull that doesn't really need to be there. That's in part why the subplot comes across as being fillery rather than integral. I don't understand why YR is wasting so much time complaining about the other ghosts when she could be spending more time with the people she loves. Except that she spends several episodes dodging them.
Can I say how much I adore Lee Kyu Hyung in this? I love seeing him in a completely different context from Prison Playbook and Life. He can always be relied upon to bring his A game to each project and it's fantastic to see his star rising because he is genuine acting powerhouse. There are traits of those other characters that he has brought to this role but he is also clearly differentiating Gang-hwa from his previous outings, playing out his emotions as a grieving husband and father. My only complaint with regards to him is that we don't see enough of him.
My guess is that since everyone related to YR is weighed down in perpetual grief that they're gunning for a happy ending. I can't be sure of course.
But it feels like they're setting up a scenario whereby they can justify a reunion where YR returns to GH, SW and the rest of the extended family. A kind of back-to-front It's A Wonderful Life scenario. On top of that the unhappy MJ has already initiated the paperwork for an imminent divorce long before YR returned.
Frankly I don't feel that the Ghost World subplot integrates well with the main one. For all we know it could be another drama entirely. For one reason or another I'm not interested in what happens to these ghosts especially when they're largely used as comic relief presently. The set-up was good but the integration not so much. Now that YR has returned to the land of the living interacting with people from her former life, the divide seems more conspicuous. That said the arc featuring the childcare kid ghost worked because that had direct connection with her family issues.