It's Okay not to be Okay (2020) Episode 13

As always the show doesn't disappoint. Grim as it may seem, it stays true to its vision.
The abyss remains the abyss for now. Gang-tae must continue to look into it and deal with all its horrors. But it's burden he has to share. It isn't his to bear on his own because the past that involves the three of them is the legacy of their parents that they have to denounce and conquer together. Ko Dae-hwan's death bed confession certainly fingered Do Hui-jae as the culprit for the death of Gang-tae's mother. At least Do Hui-jae made no attempt to deny her role in it. There are no easy exits out of the desolation apparently. The protagonists are compelled to stare into the abyss and navigate their way out. Gang-tae hoped and believed that he would be able to keep the secrets of the past to himself in order that all 3 of them could make a new start as a new entity. However, the past continues to haunt them unexpectedly. Someone who has detailed knowledge of what happened is determined to rake up the past and expose it. To what end? Why can't they let sleeping dogs lie? At this point in time we are led to believe that it's the head nurse who plastered the image of the butterfly on the wall which would beg the question as to her agenda in this entire sinister affair. The end of the episode sees her speeding off all made up with her hair down, dressed to the nines with the same butterfly brooch that Do Hui-jae often wore. This throws up new questions. What is her relationship to the Ko family? Whoever it was that painted the crude butterfly on Sang-tae's mural seems to be an agent of chaos determined that Mun-yeong and/or the Moon brothers remain in the wilderness a while longer even when they're doing their best to find their way out of it.


My own view from the beginning was that Do Hui-jae was attempting to fashion Mun-yeong after her own image. Perhaps the famed mystery writer had been diagnosed with psychopathy at some point and was adamant that her daughter follow in her footsteps by taking every step to make her life a misery. Genetics be damned. Of course it's a very extreme example but there's a lesson there for parents everywhere: Children aren't a blank slate for parents to exploit and reimagine after themselves. Of course it would be easier for parents if their children did everything they wanted and turned out exactly the way they wanted. Mental clones falling off the family assembly line. That seemed to be the case for the mania patient Kwon Gi-do. He didn't fit the family mould and couldn't, so he rebelled to his detriment.
It is worth mentioning that Mun-yeong became a writer too but not of (adult) crime fiction but of children's books. Although the mother's influence on the daughter was palpable, the daughter resisted and held on to a piece of her childhood that she remembers with fondness. The one time her father read Sleeping Beauty to her and called her a princess. It was the one time she felt loved and had a sense of belonging. Mun-yeong clung on to that memory like it was her lifeline to some semblance of sanity and it came through in her books which were a cry for help all these years. She was Sleeping Beauty who was waiting to be rescued. She was never an empty can but she was forced to be an empty can to be filled by her psychopathic mother. Except that she managed to salvage a sense of self and is now waking up to the possibilities of belonging to a loving family.

This is in large part a show about people naturally gravitating towards families and forming their own families when the ones that birthed them fall short. It may be true (I haven't done the research admittedly) that mental health issues that plague our communities are predominantly (although not always) the result of dysfunctioning families. Child abuse reared its ugly head again today when the spotlight fell on the normally acerbic Yu Seon-hae reverting to her eight-year-old self. She suffers from dissociative personality disorder and her father shows up to cajole her into donating her liver. It seems rather galling (no pun intended) on some level that he would do this after abandoning her. Of course she doesn't want to as she suffered horrible abuse under her mother's hand and her father stood by and watched. In the end she was sold to a shaman because it was believed she was possessed by spirits.

Yu Seon-hae's story is meant to parallel that of Mun-yeong's. Two dads who stood by and did nothing. They failed to protect their daughters from their mothers' destructive influence. The thesis for this comparison is that those who stand by and do nothing while tragedy unfolds is worse than the one who inflicts the pain first-hand. The implication being that cowardice or indifference are among the worst of all sins because turning a blind eye gives oxygen and credibility to immorality. They are more culpable in that they remove all sense of hope for the vulnerable. In a world where bad things are a reality, the only hope for the victim is to experience justice. But it's doubly cruel to deny the victim their grievance their right to justice.

I don't want the show to take the easy route. It shouldn't because it would completely undermine its own messaging. Life is filled with tragedy. There is real evil in the world no matter what words we use to name it. Human beings do terrible, irreversible things to each other that have long-term ramifications, that do permanent damage. I don't want Do Hui-jae to turn out to be misunderstood especially after the fact that Ko Dae-hwan confessed to killing her in response to her cavalier behaviour about Gang-tae's mother's death. As far as the past is concerned there should be no deus ex machina. Because that would be consistent with the rest of the show. It would tie in with every other patient's individual arc. Ko Dae-hwan got no "last minute" reprieve even if his actions could be interpreted as being protective of his daughter. Mun-yeong didn't go to see him. He didn't ask for forgiveness and she didn't give him any. Perhaps his guilt was somewhat assuage in his confession. Still it's a bleak, existential universe where individuals wrestle their way through thorns and thistles to eke out a bit of meaning for themselves. There's no certainty that complete healing will be found by everyone before they "shuffle off their mortal coil". It would be cheating if Do Hui-jae was really a nice lady who was unfairly demonized by her husband and her daughter especially after the world-building that's taken place. It is possible that Park Heng-ja, the head nurse found her. It is possible she is impersonating Park Heng-ja. She could be a relative. Whatever the case maybe... I'm not especially concerned about that... the key thing is that Mun-yeong sees her as a haunting, painful, malevolent force.

Fairytales may have their happily-ever-after endings but before that can happen evil must be fought and overcome. From within and without. That's often forgotten. Happiness in this universe doesn't come without the battle scars to show for it. Dragons and deadly butterflies must be slain first. Gang-tae has begun to understand that. Happiness doesn't get served up on a silver platter and families don't just happen... they need to be made and protected.