For the first time in the run of this season, I am somewhat concerned about how the rest of this season will play out. With 2 episodes to go and so many different threads seemingly still in search of a neat bow resolution (and new ones emerging), it’s a veritable juggling act that has no end in sight. That’s to say, I’m bracing myself for the eventuality that no wedding bells will be heard in the season finale. Boo, hiss, sob.
After more than a year, Gyeo-ul finally decides that it’s time to let the cat out of the bag and tell all to Jeong-won. It might seem like a long time but for busy people who are desperately trying to maintain some semblance of sanity/normality with work encroaching on every other aspect of life, time must whizz by. It comes as no real surprise then to an audience that has been speculating for weeks over the possibility of domestic violence being a routine affair at the Jang household. Despite all of that I found myself bristling at the graphic description of what transpired. What’s also of interest here isn’t just the short-term consequences — the mother bearing the brunt of her husband’s brutality and he landing in jail for his efforts — but also the long-term ramifications for both Gyeo-ul and brother, Ga-eul. It is a tragedy that doesn’t end with the imprisonment of the perpetrator but has implications for the future of the siblings who couldn’t wait to get out of the house once they reached a certain age. In such a complex situation, there’s plenty of guilt to go around. Guilt that they didn’t act more quickly. Guilt that they ignored the signs and the hints. Guilt that they haven’t done more for their mother. Guilt expressed by the mother that she’s disrupting her children’s lives and is a burden to them. Guilt that they can’t do more for each other. It’s a nightmare that keeps on giving. My own view is that Gyeo-ul finally confided in Jeong-won for two main reasons. One has to do with the cancellation of Ga-eul’s impending nuptials and the other has to do with the realisation that she really has to provide an explanation as to why they will have to spend less time together. There comes a point where half truths and concealment of key facts are just a form of postponement or procrastination that bring their own unpleasant consequences. That was exemplified by the reaction of Ga-eul’s fiancee and almost in-laws. Fortunately for Gyeo-ul, Jeong-won takes a broader and much more gracious view of things.
The issue of adult children and their ageing parents thus far has been explored in greater depth this season. It would be the case that people in their 40s would be right in the thick of trying to deal with their own problems while navigating the rough waters of parental needs. With Jeong-won and Song-hwa, these were largely about health issues that saw early detection and were resolved speedily with accepted treatment protocols. But it’s not always that case that issues arising between parents are children can so easily come to a happy or even satisfactory conclusion.
Jong-su has another disagreement with his oldest son who seems to be, from Jong-su’s perspective, badgering him for money to be used as capital for a clinic he’s hoping to set-up with another party. The result is a generational, socio-cultural conflict at play here. His son, due to his overseas stint and being geographically distant, has become emotionally distant and more pragmatic in his thinking while Jong-su schooled in the old ways is perhaps insulted by the audacity of his offspring to demand his share of the inheritance be made available before death. There appears to be a sense of entitlement on the part of the son who seems quite frankly, tactless. He could have, to my mind, asked for a loan instead but that the fact that he didn’t is the telling part.
The other parent that warrants attention is of course Seok-hyeong’s mother, Young-hye. While I don’t think she’s a terrible human being and I’m sympathetic she hasn’t had the best life despite enjoying the trappings of wealth, she is still, in my opinion her own worst enemy and perhaps even her son’s. No one has to be a terrible human being to undermine another person’s flourishing. They only have to lack complete self-awareness and/or be completely self-oriented. Like Rosa and Jong-su, she needs to cultivate other interests, and not put all of her eggs into the “children” basket for her own long-term wellbeing. It’s possibly a radical shift in thinking for a woman whose world is rapidly changing. As a parallel to that, we have Min-ha’s parents who are renovating their guesthouse to keep up with younger, more contemporary tastes in order that their business continues to be a viable concern.
The latest liver transplant donor story is a moving yet humorous tale about lifelong friendship which is equally reflected all throughout the episode in the antics of the Five which provided plenty of laugh out loud moments. Ordering drive-through was one I enjoyed, Seok-hyeong and Jun-wan fighting over the remote control was another. I think about what Ik-jun said in a previous episode when someone… I think it was Jae-hak… asked him if the Five of them were meeting again that evening. Ik-jun’s response was “We don’t love each other that much.” Yes, even though the friendship among the five provides a strong emotional core to the storytelling, it isn’t the sum total of theirs or the show’s existence. Just as there’s more to life than romance, there’s more to life than friendship. Though he has friends to fall back on in times of need, Jun-wan senses something’s missing in his life. That’s why he tells Jae-hak in all frankness that he’s envious of the relationship the latter has with his wife.
What’s also worth noting about the discovery of Jae-hak’s wife pregnancy is not so much that she’s finally able to conceive but that despite Jae-hak saying that they have the best kind of marriage without kids, the longing for children never left her. They’d resigned themselves to never having kids and now that they’ve been given the chance, she’s leapt to it with both arms wide open. Even to the point of risking her own life to ensure that the pregnancy goes full term unhindered. While I wouldn’t say that the breast cancer aspect is unimportant, it’s ultimately part of an unspoken test which revealed the true nature of her heart’s desire. Jae-hak had assumed that she was completely fine with the status quo, but in reality she wasn’t. I doubt either of them were but they did their best like many to move on from their disappointment and tried to look on the bright side. What was once elusive is now within their grasp — the opportunity to be parents that might come with a price tag.
Life, with all its highs and lows, is the sum of of its kaleidoscopic parts.
I thought the emphasis on Jeong-won’s incredible (and perhaps terrifying) administrative skills to be in keeping with his trajectory in taking on hospital leadership in some capacity. It’s too early to say definitively that it’s where he’s headed but it’s a good bet that somewhere down the track there’s a possibility of him taking the reins of a hospital somewhere even if it doesn’t end up being Yulje. Further on Jeong-won, the other half mentioned how impressed he was that Jeong-won patiently listened to Gyeo-ul without interruption until she was ready to hear what he had to say in response. For me too, I loved how he communicated his own understanding of the situation as well as his own expectations regarding their relationship without placing undue pressure. I appreciated the balance there. Her spending more time with her mother doesn’t spell the end of their dynamic but it will take a different form temporarily.
The progress between the bear couple is definitely heartening. It was somewhat amusing to see Min-ha angsting over her “last chance” to ask Seok-hyeong out when he finally makes his move. As I had suspected he would. Of course he’d been calling her by her personal name for a while now so it’s no leap of logic and he’s even met her parents unbeknownst to all concerned. Our boy seems ready to move ahead and even stand up to Mother Dear. I am sorry for Seok-hyeong’s mother but a change is in the wind… and for the better. And as it used to be said, a change is as good as a holiday.
On the bidulgi front, I must confess to being surprised to Ik-sun initiating a meeting with Jun-wan at the steak house in front of the hospital and apologized so nicely. What does it all mean? For me it feels like she’s reaching out and showing remorse for a situation that she created. She also seemed to be saying that she hadn’t moved on but it was okay if Jun-wan had moved on because it’s her burden (and regret) to bear. Jun-wan however seemed to be claiming ownership of the situation as well because he hasn’t moved on and hasn’t forgotten what they shared together. I have little doubt it’s a signal that he wants to rekindle things with her.
As I observed at the start of this piece, it’s hard to see how the season’s going to end. I can’t imagine that what needs to be done can be done even in 2 monsterish episodes so it might be that they are really going to leave the door open for a third season. Personally I don’t mind. As long as they can maintain this kind of quality all throughout, I’ll be there… with bells on.
Apologies for the late post. It’s been such a mad exhausting week. I was empanelled for 2 1/2 days as a juror. Which was a great experience by the way but it meant that my entire week was thrown into disarray.