THE SHORT VERDICT:
Measured, quiet and thoughtful, I really liked this show, for the most part. I enjoyed the deliberate, considered vibe of the writing and the overall handling, and the small town setting feels refreshing and different. For a good stretch, watching this show feels like a nice dose of therapy, away from the roar of current affairs and world events.
However, I struggled quite significantly from episode 13 onwards, with certain plot developments making me legit angry with Show. BUT, Show manages to turn things around just enough in its final steps, to end on a sufficiently positive and uplifting note.
I wanted Show to be better, especially given its strong start, but I suppose it could’ve been worse. For the record, I really enjoyed Seo Kang Joon in this.
THE LONG VERDICT:
I went into this drama knowing that it wasn’t for everyone; this one was reputed to be slow and thoughtful, and not everyone enjoys slow and thoughtful, after all.
But, I believed that it was for me. I liked it right away, or at least, I was intrigued right away, and Show grew steadily on me. It was as thoughtful, beautiful, and excruciating as its fans had said, and I enjoyed the gentle teasing out of the various characters and what makes them tick, as well as the gradual forming of relationship bonds. However, like I’ve already mentioned, Show made some decisions in its late stretch that didn’t work for me. Not only was I mad at Show, I was also mad at our female lead character Hae Won (Park Min Young) – but, more about that later.
At the same time, I also wanted to say that that’s not uniformly the case for everyone, and that there are many fans of this show who don’t feel the same way I did. So, just because I became disgruntled with Show doesn’t mean that you will too. Also, despite my grumbles about Show’s late stretch, I do still find it a reasonably solid watch overall. That’s not bad?
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, if you’d like to listen to Show’s very pleasant OST, as you read the review.
I really enjoyed the OST in this show; so many of the tracks have a heartfelt, wistful quality about them, which I thought was perfect for Show’ general vibe. I also felt that the OST managed to lift the watch, making quiet scenes feel almost ethereal, and amplifying feels that would’ve otherwise felt muted.
Show is slow, there’s no doubt about it. It’s more people-centered than plot-driven, so it helps if you put aside any need for strong plot movement, and enjoy the unfolding of characters and relationships. When Show is at its best, it’s engaging, calming and warm, and feels like a welcoming safe haven.
Not all our characters are likable, and all of our characters are flawed &/or hurt in some way. It’s probably also helpful to know that, in keeping with real life, our characters don’t manage huge leaps forward in their healing journeys. Progress is usually made in small, baby steps, rather than in big, significant strides. And, they also sometimes experience setbacks, amid making those baby steps. If you’re not in a patient frame of mind, this would likely be hard to watch.
Regardless of whether Show upsets you the way it upset me, I’d say that it’s important to know that every episode ends with an epilogue.
More often than not, the episode epilogues add a whole new layer of flavor and meaning to the episode itself. I tried to imagine what it would be like, it we didn’t have the blog post epilogues in this show – like when someone who’s watching the show doesn’t know there’re there, and misses them – and I realize that the epilogues make a world of difference.
I personally really like the epilogues and looked forward to them at the end of every episode. They’re always thoughtful, and reminded me of the epilogues in Romance Is A Bonus Book.
I also wonder whether there is an over-reliance on the epilogues. They’re a nice way to turn things on their heads in an efficient few seconds, but it alienates the viewer who doesn’t know to watch them.
..But that’s why I’m here to let you know that you should stick around for them. Always.
In episode 7, Eun Seob’s (Seo Kang Joon) oddly frozen reaction to Hae Won’s confession that she likes him, and the continued act of pushing her away, while looking like a deer in headlights, is left to us to interpret, without much to go on, and the episode feels like we’re frozen in time, with nothing much happening. It’s only when we see Eun Seob’s blog post entry at the end of the episode, that I feel like a sense of closure and balance, and coherence, is brought to the episode.
“Irene told me, “I like you.” I froze in that spot and couldn’t say anything. Is this what you call a time that feels like an eternity? With those words from her mouth, the whole universe, including me, came to a stop. I barely pulled myself together, but all I could say was “Okay.” What on earth have I done? It’s such a bitter night.”
When I read that, my heart goes out to him, as I feel his angst over botching his reaction to Irene’s confession. But without reading that, I only am able to conjecture, while I wonder what he’s really thinking. World. Of. Difference.
STUFF I LIKED
General tone and vibe
I really liked that our drama world feels so measured, and quiet, like a completely removed world, from the busy bustle that many of us are so used to, in the city. This feels like an escape from the buzz, where you can get away to a place quiet enough, that you can hear yourself breathe, and finally hear your own thoughts that you’ve been struggling to make out in the midst of the noise.
All the little sounds of life are amplified in this world; the slurping sound of Eun Seob sipping his coffee; the sound of the turning of a page; the quiet thump of footsteps. It’s as if all the little sounds of life that we tend to overlook because they get lost in all the noise, finally have space to be heard. It’s all very pretty and atmospheric, and I liked that a lot.
I also enjoyed the the inclusion of quotes from books, via our resident book club (more on that later). This lyrical touch reminded me of both A Poem A Day and Romance is a Bonus Book, in a very positive way.
Seo Kang Joon as Eun Seob
I must say, I grew to really enjoy Seo Kang Joon as Eun Seob.
Eun Seob is reticent, private and, to some extent, socially awkward, and yet, once Show starts peeling away some of his layers, it’s easy to see how compassionate, generous and caring he is, despite the emotional wounds that he’s clearly still struggling with.
Show reveals Eun Seob’s backstory a little late, but that didn’t stop me from feeling his struggles and his pain, and rooting for him to overcome his demons.
The thing that strikes me most about Eun Seob, is how he positions himself as a healer of others, despite his own lack of healing. He is, in essence, a wounded healer, and that generosity and empathy for others just gets me right the heart. He pours out so much of himself for everyone else, that it hurt my heart to see it.
Though Eun Seob’s healing and growth process is slow, I was still gratified to witness it. And Seo Kang Joon does a lovely job injecting glimpses of personality and pathos through Eun Seob’s smilingly stoic armor.
E1. At first, Eun Seob appears to be quietly nonchalant around Hae Won. When she ends up in his bookstore to take shelter from the rain, he seems so calm and collected, like he’s almost indifferent to her presence; he only gets up periodically to pass her something to make her more comfortable, but otherwise busies himself with his own book. But, it turns out that he’s such a smitten dork underneath it all. He’s paralyzed in her presence, and all that cool and calm turns out to be a quickly disintegrating illusion, as he fumbles for words. It’s so dorky and secondhand embarrassing and endearing. He’s so dorky and endearing.
E2. I love Eun Seob’s blog entries. They’re reflective and expressive, and give us a little more insight into Eun Seob’s heart and mind, articulated in his voice. I really like that. I think it’s very endearing that he has a blog where he shares his most embarrassing, awkward thoughts.
E3. Eun Seob saying that maybe Aunt (Moon Jeong Hee) is one of those people who never tells anyone else about her loneliness and instead embraces that loneliness like retreating to a cabin.. It sounds like he’s speaking from experience. He’s also talking about himself, isn’t he?
E3. This epilogue, Eun Seob talking about Hae Won staying under the same room with him, in a tone of distinct wonder, is just so earnest and endearing.
E4. When Hae Won asks why Eun Seob is able to go up to the woods even though it’s dangerous, his answer – again, with the same metaphor of loneliness in mind – feels haunting; “I know it like the back of my hand.” I don’t even know why Eun Seob is as lonely as he is, or what he’s suffered, and already, this feels so poignant.
E4. Aw, haha I love the epilogue today. Eun Seob musing about whether Hae Won chooses to read the books that other book club members have shared because she’s curious to know more about the people who chose to read those books, and then wondering what book he should choose. The accompanying still of Eun Seob is adorably dorky, and I find the whole thing just perfect.
E5. When Eun Seob perceives that their conversation has put Hae Won in a bad mood, he suggests doing something to make her feel better, and they watch a retro movie together. It strikes me that Hae Won enjoys it and smiles, but Eun Seob is more focused on her than the movie. He appears pensive still; I feel like he’s in the wounded healer space again, where he’s pensive, but he’ll help her feel better. This thought tugs at my heartstrings.
E5. I love the epilogue blog posting. Eun Seob sounds so earnest as he recounts how Irene brought home camellias, and tells him about her family from time to time, and how he feels like they’re getting closer. And, squee! He hopes to tell her that for him, his first love isn’t in the past perfect. Aw.
E8. It seems that Eun Seob struggles to be himself, and perhaps he’s spent so much time being the good son and good brother that he feels he ought to be, for the family that’s embraced him and taken him in, that he’s lost sight of who he might be, if he weren’t trying so hard to live up to his own expectations of himself.
E9. I feel so sorry for Eun Seob. When that fight erupts between Dad (Kang Shin Il) and Dad’s angry friend, the words that he hears are so hurtful; he’s referred to as not his father’s son, a street urchin. And despite the hurt that he must feel, when Mom (Nam Gi Ae) asks him not to say anything, he says he won’t, with a gentle smile, as if it’s the most expected thing in the world.
He swallows his feelings and re-absorbs them, out of consideration for other people, and he does it without questioning, as if he thinks that he’s less than, and therefore doesn’t deserve to feel things if other people don’t want him to. It’s heartbreaking, and even more so, that his parents initiated this unfortunate conversation, out of a desire to keep him safe.
E9. Eun Seob’s voiceover about his childhood, combined with the flashback of him as a child living in the mountains with his dad, is so poignant and sad. His happiness was unbridled and carefree, and Dad really looked so happy to be living with him. For Eun Seob to then become suspicious of every happiness, because of how it might be abruptly lost, is so sad.
Mom and Dad taking Eun Seob in, and caring for him, and showering him with love and kindness, is so sweet, and yet, it’s so sad that Eun Seob just can’t relax into that happiness that they’re offering him, because he’s afraid he’ll lose it too.
Eun Seob and Hae Won
You might’ve gotten the sense by now, that between Eun Seob and Hae Won, my heart lies more with Eun Seob. I found him the more likable character, and I basically rooted for this relationship, because of how much it means to Eun Seob, rather than because I feel like they are perfect for each other.
I struggled to warm to Hae Won (more on that later), but I liked the effect that spending time with Eun Seob has on her. To my eyes, she becomes more likable more in association with Eun Seob, rather than on her own merit. But the end effect is reasonably similar; I found myself enjoying their OTP scenes quite a bit, even though by all accounts, the progress of this OTP leans heavily on the slow end of the scale.
I believe it was Jesse (have you checked out his very cool guest post about onscreen chemistry?) who referred to the development of the OTP relationship as feeling like two left feet wading through mud, in one of the conversations on the blog. I agree that yes, at points, it does feel like Hae Won and Eun Seob are wading through mud, but in this case, because I felt like it makes sense in the context of their characters and the situation, for the most part, I didn’t mind exercising some patience, as I watched them engage in struggle that feels necessary for personal healing, growth and progress.
Granted, I was a lot less pleased with how Show chooses to handle things in the last few episodes, and that does impact the OTP as well, but I’ll talk about that later.
E1. I find it cute and dorky that Eun Seob’s given Hae Won a code name in his diary. That way, he can write about “Irene” without revealing her identity, and I find it oddly sweet and intimate, that he has his own secret pet name for her.
E2. Eun Seob is indeed awkward around Hae Won sometimes, particularly when the topic of feelings comes up. How mortifying, that he blurted out all that stuff about having liked her in the past perfect tense, when all she’d meant to do was ask him if she could borrow a book. Eep.
At other times, though, when Eun Seob isn’t tripping himself up with overthinking, and is just being himself, he seems really comfortable with Hae Won. I like that they’re hanging out and becoming closer, and having conversations.
E2. In spite of his ungainly awkward gaffes around Hae Won, Eun Seob can be really sweet. I feel like he’s sweetest when he shows that he’s considerate of her. In spite of his own embarrassment, he comes out with a torch so that he can light her way back home, saying only that it gets dark at night. That’s thoughtful and sweet.
And there’s the way he bends over backwards to allow her to work at the bookstore, when he’d actually been looking for someone to supervise the skating rink. And he’s a cute sleepy drunk too, who mumbles about how he’s glad that Irene’s there. I can see why Hae Won checked herself in the mirror before heading out to work, and took the trouble to put on makeup, while she was at it. And, she showed up early to work too; she’s just that happy to spend another day with Eun Seob. Aw.
E3. I hadn’t been expecting cohabiting hijinks, but I can’t say no, now that Show’s serving it up. It’s quite cute how Eun Seob practically falls over himself to find a way to convince Hae Won to stay at his place instead of going back to Seoul, at least until they can get a plumber to come fix her house. And in the short space of time that we see them live together this episode, I already feel like they’re growing a little closer and a little more comfortable with each other.
Eun Seob is as thoughtful as always, anticipating Hae Won’s need for a hairdryer, and putting one out for her, even before she can ask him for it. And Hae Won feels his absence so keenly, when he disappears into the mountain, that she ups and charges into the mountain on her own even though it makes her nervous, because she’s buoyed by the assurance that he’s there.
Hae Won clinging to Eun Seob, crying, is mostly fueled by her scary experience of being in the mountains by herself, but I think it also expresses how she’s come to rely on Eun Seob, in the short time that they’ve been neighbors and housemates. In this place, she feels all alone, but for his presence, and this is amplified many times over, in the dark mountains.
E4. The fact that Hae Won volunteers the information to Eun Seob, about how she’d felt scared that her mom wouldn’t come home, when she’d been left alone at home as a child, is pretty huge. She’s telling him that she’d felt the same feeling, when she couldn’t find him. She’s starting to regard him as someone close.
E4. Hae Won reflexively becoming so defensive of Eun Seob, and questioning why everyone just expects him to be able to go up the mountain on his own, without worrying for his safety, is a big indication that she’s started to care about him quite a bit. Plus, she’s getting reflexively defensive too, when it comes to other women asking to see Eun Seob, even if it’s the person that he’d saved asking to see him to thank him. Hae Won may not realize it yet, but she wants Eun Seob for herself, heh.
E4. It’s sweet of Eun Seob to get Hae Won snow shoes. He’d seen the unsuitable shoes that Min Jeong (Park Ji Won) had been wearing, and clearly, he’s worried that something might happen to Hae Won too, and so he gets her proper snow shoes, to keep her safe. Aw.
E5. Hae Won is understandably shocked to see her mother (Jin Hee Kyung), even though they barely speak. And it’s notable, that the moment she sees Eun Seob, she wastes no time telling him that her mother is here, and sharing more about her relationship with her mother, and he asks questions, and they discuss it together. How telling, that she doesn’t hold back the information, and instead volunteers the information, and then muses about it all, out loud, with him. I do love that she’s so comfortable with Eun Seob, and wants to share things with him.
E5. Aw. Hae Won looks quite crestfallen that Eun Seob isn’t done, when she’s done with the family lunch, and therefore she won’t be meeting him to go back to the house together. She’d spoken to him normally, with familiarity and some warmth in her voice, but when Aunt and Mom casually tell her goodbye, the contrast is stark; the company she’d been in, with them, had been frosty and distant; the company she enjoyed with Eun Seob, familiar and warm. No wonder she’s gravitating towards him.
E5. I’m glad that Hae Won tells Eun Seob about seeing him in town with Bo Young (Im Se Mi), and feeling unhappy about it. That’s way better than bottling it up, and I like that they talk about it honestly, him telling her what Bo Young had requested, and her telling him how she feels about that.
E6. He does it again. It’s quite clear that Eun Seob doesn’t want Hae Won to leave, and Hae Won is a little wistful at leaving too, but it’s what was agreed, and neither of them is going to say anything about it. But when she leaves, it isn’t long before he appears in front of her in the darkness, again, offering to be her light in the darkness. Aw. And she completely lights up too, the moment she notices the ray of light at her feet.
E6. I like that Hae Won is completely disinterested in Yeong Woo’s (Kim Young Dae) advances, even though he’s clear that he still likes her. She’s not at all fazed by his presumably impressive specs; she is focused only on the fresh realization – literally only when Yeong Woo asks her if there’s someone she likes – that she likes Eun Seob. And I love that she wastes no time in seeking Eun Seob out, and then telling him that she likes him.
That’s such a brave thing to do, and I can only imagine what a big thing it must be for her in particular, since she’s usually so reserved, keeping her thoughts and feelings to herself. But I think, because it’s Eun Seob, with whom she feels comfortable enough to share her personal thoughts, she’s comfortable enough to tell him, and right away too. I don’t even think she stops to realize that this is taking courage. With Eun Seob, she feels the ease and comfort to let the words flow. I like that.
E8. All this time, the warmth that he’s shown Hae Won, had made me feel like Eun Seob was a wounded healer, and that’s not untrue; it’s just that Eun Seob is a lot more wounded than we knew, and now that his wounds are starting to be unearthed, when he doesn’t have the presence of mind – the buffer – to be the ideal self that he’s been practicing to be all these years, Hae Won is confronted with a raw, brusque, scared, battered Eun Seob who is too afraid to admit his feelings for her, for fear of losing her. It’s heartbreaking, to think about this, and watching them wade through mud, as it were, feels like watching someone who’s lost the use of his legs, learn to walk all over again. It’s a painful process that is slow, but it’s a worthy undertaking, and the painful process is worthwhile, in the end.
The truth is, Eun Seob’s liked Hae Won long before Hae Won realized he existed. But he’s so devastated by loss and rejection in his life, that even though Hae Won is now telling him that she likes him, he’s too paralyzed to embrace it.
Bearing in mind that Hae Won is a very reserved individual who’s lived with the hurt of being an outcast, and has never sunk deep roots with people, even her own family, it’s a huge step that she takes, to tell Eun Seob that she likes him. I felt that in that moment, she’d felt buoyed by the warmth that Eun Seob brought to her life. So to be effectively rejected, is a huge blow to her. For Hae Won to still lean in and take the opportunity to request a formal response to her confession, was very courageous, even though it came across a touch cold, in its delivery.
That moment of vulnerability and honesty at the summit is quite lovely. Hae Won’s quietly emotional, as she confesses that she can’t look Eun Seob in the eyes because she can’t do the simple thing and just accept that he doesn’t like her. Her tears, burgeoning in her eyes, as she brightly promises that she will accept it, from now on, cause her vulnerability to really shine through, and I’m not surprised that Eun Seob’s resolve breaks, as he pulls her into an embrace and kisses her, and then kisses her some more. Aw.
E8. I love Eun Seob’s blog entry this episode.
“There are things you can see more clearly when you’re alone. And it’s not so bad to learn from loneliness. The less you expect, the calmer your days are. It’s painful to genuinely want something. But I’m not without desires. I kissed Irene in the mountains. I almost fainted. I can’t joke about it anymore, which means it’s serious. She now lives behind my eyes.”
Tee hee. How cute, that he felt like he was about to faint. And how poetic, that she lives behind his eyes; I think he means that she’s a part of him now.
E9. There is something very sexy about a shy guy who kisses like he means it. Eun Seob is usually so reticent and reserved, and yet, when he’s kissing Hae Won, once he actually moves to kiss her, there’s no stiffness or hesitation; just a savor and a wonder, that is both melty and sensuous. I likey.
The fact that he becomes reserved again, afterwards, as they descend the mountain, is somehow very endearing to me, like he’s shy.
E9. Given Eun Seob’s past, I get why he’s so hesitant around Hae Won; he likes her even more than other shiny, warm, lovely things he’s liked in the past, and lost, so he’s even more terrified of losing her. I can rationalize his paralysis and I can understand why he’d be absorbed in thought, and not even remember telling Hae Won that he’d call her when he got to Seoul.
I can also understand Hae Won’s evolving mood, from deliriously happy, to anxious, to downright sullen. The confidence she’d had, had been worn down by the act of waiting fruitlessly for the assurance in the shape of a phone call, that never came.
I can also understand Hae Won going right over, when Eun Seob returns, only to passive-aggressively pick a fight; she’s not looking for a fight; she’s looking for assurance, but doesn’t want to appear needy or weak, in asking for it. She still wants her dignity.
I love that Eun Seob smiles at her and shows her nothing but patience. I love his gentle tone, when he says, “Come here,” and “Why are you picking a fight?” He’s not going to quarrel with her, and he’s not going to respond with annoyance or irritation at her passive-aggressive behavior. I just melt at his gentleness, as he tells her that what happened in the mountains wasn’t a mistake, and to prove it, they can just do it again, before he leans down and kisses her. Aw. Sweet.
E9. I do like the role reversal, when Hae Won learns the truth that Eun Seob’s been living all this time. She thinks back on everything that he’s said, pieces it all together, and then goes to him, to tell him that she knows he’s the boy in the story about the wolf with the silver eyelash, and that he’s wrong, because he does find the happy village with real people, and that he’ll live there happily ever after. And then she hugs him and holds him close. I love that when he’d been the one to comfort her and encourage her before, that she’s now the one comforting him and encouraging him. The healer role has changed in this moment, and I love the idea that these two people, in their own wounded ways, are bringing healing to each other, by putting the other person above themselves.
E10. I like seeing Eun Seob and Hae Won together as a newly minted couple. They’re cozy together, and there’s teasing, and there’s tenderness, and a touch of shyness, and it’s so very endearing. The way she holds onto him, like he’s the fuzziest, coziest thing in the world, and the way he leans into her, like that’s the most comfortable, appealing place in the world, is just quite lovely. Pity they got interrupted so suddenly by Hwi and nearly jumped out of their skins, hur, but it was very sweet to witness, if just for a while.
E10. It’s great to see Eun Seob come back, and I am tentatively relieved that he’s back, but I also feel a great deal of uncertainty over what’s going to happen next. He could still leave, possibly. And now, things with Hae Won are suddenly taking a tentative turn. When Hae Won asks if he’s going to leave, he counters that Hae Won had said she was going to leave too, in the Spring.
It’s time for some honest and serious decision-making up in here, so that both Eun Seob and Hae Won can have a greater sense of certainty, as they give of their hearts to each other. It’s true that even as they’ve embraced their feelings for each other, they’ve existed in a happy bubble of pure “right now” with no indication of what might happen in the future. From our vantage point, it appears that Hae Won’s been quietly entertaining thoughts of staying on long-term, but she’s not told anyone about this, and I can’t blame Eun Seob for falling back on her previous statement of leaving in the Spring, because I can imagine that Eun Seob wouldn’t want to be the one holding her back.
E11. I like that Hae Won is opening up to Eun Seob. The way she relates her suicide attempt in high school, is gentle and open, yet matter-of-fact. She doesn’t gloss over things; she narrates it like it is, and it’s pretty huge, I think, that she’s allowing Eun Seob to see this corner of her memories. I’m certain she hasn’t told anyone else about this, and only Aunt knows, because Aunt was there.
E11. It’s understandable that reserved Eun Seob needs some prodding, and I do appreciate that Hae Won is stepping out of her shell to do that prodding, asking him if this is love, between them. And I like that Eun Seob says yes.
E11. It’s also quite bold of Hae Won, to casually inform Eun Seob that she wants to sleep with him, when they get back to the bookstore. Eun Seob dropping the books in his hands in discombobulated shock is too cute. I would’ve never guessed that reticent Hae Won would ever do that. But that shows just how comfortable she is with Eun Seob. And, I think it also shows that she understands that Eun Seob’s going to be the more reserved one between them, and so if she wants things to happen faster than they are, that she’ll have to nudge him along. It’s quite an unexpected but not unwelcome sight, to see Hae Won lead Eun Seob in matters of the heart, and even in the bedroom.
E12. So we see that Eun Seob had followed Hae Won the day that she’d wanted to kill herself, and that he’d been the one to call Aunt. Ok, so I’m glad Show cleared up how Aunt managed to appear on the scene and talk sense into Hae Won. But.. I’m struggling somewhat, with why Eun Seob didn’t tell Hae Won the truth, when she told him about that day. Given the state of their relationship, where they’re getting along well, and opening up to each other, it would seem the perfect time to share that with her.
I can rationalize why he wouldn’t; maybe he was afraid that she wouldn’t like the idea that he’d followed her; maybe he’s just so reticent that he couldn’t summon the words. Either way, I would like Show to give me an indication of why Eun Seob didn’t say anything. Otherwise, it just seems like Show withheld the information not because of Eun Seob as a character, but just to weave another layer of meaning into the story for us, in the form of a delayed reveal.
E13. I appreciate that Eun Seob doesn’t withhold information from Hae Won, and tells her right away, that Bo Young had called, and for what reason. Good on Hae Won for taking the bull by the horns, and just going to get Bo Young herself, rather than allow Bo Young to guilt-trip Eun Seob into saving her. And good on Eun Seob, for trusting Hae Won to go up the mountain without him, even though he’s at least a little bit worried for her.
E13. I’ve come across viewers who say that they’re really upset that Hae Won read Eun Seob’s diary entries. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I recognize that it’s an invasion of privacy, but at the same time, neither she or Eun Seob seems to see it as an act of malice. She chanced on it while looking at the bookstore’s web page (a perfectly innocent thing to do, since who would guess that a private diary would be linked on the bookstore’s web page), and given her relationship with Eun Seob, she probably felt it was ok to read what she’d found. And aside from feeling very embarrassed about it, Eun Seob doesn’t seem to blame her for reading what she found. Since the reaction from them both, as a couple, seems to be a combination of embarrassment and amusement, and Eun Seob doesn’t seem to be offended, I don’t feel like I need to be offended for him, if that makes sense.
I do think that Hae Won and Eun Seob should talk about some of the stuff she found out from reading the diary entries, though. Especially about what they each think, about the future. On a related note, I think it’s important to note that just as Eun Seob doesn’t seem offended at Hae Won reading the entries, Hae Won doesn’t seem offended by the fact that Eun Seob hadn’t told her about having followed her the day she’d run away determined to die. Like I mentioned previously, when she’d told him about that day, that would’ve been the perfect time for Eun Seob to come clean with his side of the story, but he didn’t. I find it significant that both Hae Won and Eun Seob are laughing (well, and cringing too, on Eun Seob’s part), rather than getting upset.
The book club
I found myself growing very fond of the book club, whose meetings are held at Eun Seob’s bookstore, and are sprinkled through our episodes.
The book club doesn’t operate like other book clubs I know of. People don’t read the same book and discuss specific chapters when they meet. In this book club, it’s almost like a show-and-tell session, where the members collect stories or poems and share them with one another, and talk about what they like. I love that they all get so excited about it, and I love that they go through their daily lives collecting these literary nuggets, and storing them away so that they can share it with one another, like little precious treasures. It feels so pure.
I found it endearing that the book club members get so excited about the book club meeting, and each eagerly prepares something to share, whether it’s the reading of a poem, or a snack of roasted tangerines. It’s more like a warm family gathering with deeper thoughts sprinkled in, and it’s heartwarming stuff that infuses each episode with a coziness that I really liked.
E10. The flea market held by the book club looks like so much wholesome, good-hearted fun; I love the idea of each member of the book club bringing their own brand of talent to share, and creating an eclectic mix of fun things for people to do.
E14. I love how the book club members band together to welcome Seung Ho’s grandpa (Han Chang Min and Lee Young Suk) home from the hospital. They all distribute the tasks and chores among themselves, to make sure that Grandpa comes back home to a warm meal, loving friends, and a spruced-up home. It is the warmest, sweetest thing.
The small town-ness of it all
I love the small town vibe of our drama setting. It’s warm, welcoming and altogether quite delightful, even though the residents themselves sometimes chafe at how inconvenient all the intimacy can get. I found this a lovely community though, and every time the small town charm reared its head in our story, it made me smile.
E7. It’s quite charming that all Eun Seob has to do to cancel the book club meeting that night, is make one phone call, and the message gets passed along so organically, with hardly any need for phone calls. Each member calling across or down the street to the next, is such a small town thing. I like it.
E11. Jang Woo (Lee Jae Wook) going on his inadvertent blind date, getting spotted and blackmailed by Hwi (Kim Hwan Hee), and then being teased by colleagues, is so awkwardly cute. It’s surely annoying that everyone knows what you’re up to, when you live in a small town, but from where I’m sitting, it’s rather charming that everyone is so intimately involved.
E14. The small town community warmth is a bright spot for me, this episode. The sight of people coming together, and working and celebrating together, smiling, cooking, eating, serving one another; it’s all so very welcoming, cozy and homey, that it makes me kinda-sorta want to live in a small town just like this, too.
E14. Once again, the extent and detail of the small town gossip blowing Jang Woo’s mind is amusing to me. I love how discombobulated it makes him, to hear that Eun Sil’s (Yang Hye Ji) broken up with her boyfriend. Eun Sil’s startled reaction, when she hears, through the same grapevine, that Jang Woo went on a blind date and will be getting married soon, also says a lot about how she sees him, too. These two would make a very cute couple.
Lee Jae Wook as Jang Woo
Even though Jang Woo is a secondary character who doesn’t get a great deal of screen time, Lee Jae Wook makes him pop, and I found myself perking up every time Jang Woo appeared on my screen.
The way Jang Woo tends to rattles on about one thing, then switch topics and ramble in run-on sentences at full speed, is quite amusing. Even though I found the introduction of Jang Woo’s crush on Eun Sil rather sudden, I found this little potential loveline very cute and amusing, especially with Jang Woo being such a nervous dork about it; I had no objections whatsoever, against watching him sputter and flounder in the presence of his crush, heh.
[MINOR SPOILER] Also, in episode 12, Jang Woo gazing happily at Eun Sil’s photos during his spare moments as he drinks banana milk, or as he nurses a beer, is such a small, cute boi. ❤ [END SPOILER]
Particularly when Show became heavier in its focus in our late stretch, any and all diversions to Jang Woo and his crush were very welcome indeed.
Eun Seob’s parents
I have to say, I liked Eun Seob’s family right away, from the moment I laid eyes on them in episode 1. There’s so much noisy warmth among them, and their affection is expressed loudly, both in words and actions.
As Show gives us glimpses into the deeper emotions in this household, my affection for them never flagged; if anything, understanding their angst endeared them to me even more.
E1. Eun Seob’s family seems really pleasant, right away. Dad’s obsessed with his walkie-talkie and is embarrassing in his insistence that Eun Seob use it, even though they’re near enough to each other to hear each other just fine. Mom is loving and caring, in the way that she makes sure Eun Seob gets to eat the best morsels of food, and I think it’s sweet that she’s curious about Eun Seob’s potential hypothetical girlfriend, but also says that she’s not ready to marry him off just yet. Little Sister is as nosy and annoying as any little sister can be expected to be, and the whole family chattering noisily together at the breakfast table just adds up to a very warm sort of scene.
E8. The way Eun Seob’s mom cries at how Eun Seob went into the mountains, is so raw and real; I really feel her fear and worry and her pain, as a mother who wants so dearly to be truly close to her son. But, like she says in exasperation, Eun Seob only addresses her as “Mom” as opposed to his usual more formal “Mother” when he wants something; that’s so telling of what their relationship is really like, despite her regular displays of affection, and of what she wishes their relationship would be like. Poor Mom.
On a related tangent, I wanted to talk about some viewer dissatisfaction I came across, about Mom favoring Eun Seob over Hwi. Basically, I understand that some viewers feel that it’s unfair of Mom to favor Eun Seob over Hwi, and be so obvious about it.
I’m not a parent, but I’m told that parents love all their children, but can’t help looking out for the weaker or more incapacitated child. In this case, I feel that Mom sees Eun Seob as the weaker child, who therefore needs more care. I don’t think that she literally loves Hwi less, because she’s watching more carefully over Eun Seob.
The thing with Uncle
E10. Did the uncle (Kang Jin Hwi) just demand that Eun Seob go somewhere far away with him, without telling him where or why, and just insist that it be done, in the name of blood ties? And Eun Seob just goes with him? Noooo.
I can see why this would be confusing for Eun Seob. He does care about his adoptive family, but it’s also clear that he doesn’t feel like he’s truly one of them. And, he does have that reticent quality, where he entertains thoughts of being the kind of person destined to never share his loneliness with another, who embraces that loneliness as a retreat. So when Uncle so emphatically tells him that this is a quality that runs in their blood, and they’re both fated to live alone, I can see why Eun Seob might be persuaded, or confused. Unless he has a strong conviction otherwise, or doesn’t have the fatalistic outlook that Uncle is pushing, it’s a pretty persuasive argument.
Mom and Dad’s complicated emotions about what to do, is so poignant. They want to give Eun Seob the room to choose, but they are also fearful and anxious, and wistful, and worried, and it’s expressed so acutely, in Mom’s stifled tears. Watching them angst over this, and hearing the anxiety and worry in their voices, my heart can’t help but pinch for them.
In the midst of this all, is the idea that Eun Seob should be given the room to choose.
I feel like Eun Seob is somewhat paralyzed, in this situation. He has deep feelings for his family, that he finds himself unable to articulate, and he has deep feelings too, for Hae Won, which he likewise finds himself unable to articulate. It makes me think of this episode’s epilogue, where Eun Seob talks about the flea market, and how, looking at the photos of the book club members, he feels almost envious.
I feel like that sense of quiet envy – a kind of wistfulness – is how he seems to look at the world around him. When he looks upon the warmth of others, he appreciates it, but doesn’t seem to think it a possibility for himself. Hwi is so expressive around him, telling him that she loves him, and that she hates him, because he’s her brother and has always been. And looking at her, I feel like, in the midst of the affection in his eyes, I also see a wistfulness, as he wonders why he can’t just simply tell her that he’s not going anywhere.
How very sweet and thoughtful of Eun Seob, though, to get Hwi the bike saddle of her dreams. He can’t articulate his love for her, but he’s definitely showing it, in his own way, and I totally teared up, as he smiled at Hwi as she rejoiced at her new saddle, her tears forgotten. Aw.
Kim Hwan Hee as Hwi
I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed Hwi, as a teenaged character. I find Hwi very natural and expressive; she strikes me not as a drama teen, but as a teen that I might meet in real life. She’s so bubbly, that her words often spill out in a rush, while her facial expressions contort elastically and her hands gesticulate wildly, to try to fully express what she wants to say. I love her.
Sometimes she can be a little annoying, but she’s got a good heart, and I found that even when she said things that sounded selfish or ignorant, she was never malicious.
[SPOILER] I especially love the way Hwi cheerily seeks Hae Won out in episode 7, and coaches her through being rejected, because she has experience and therefore “know-how” in being rejected; it really is the cutest thing. Plus, I do love how she blithely informs her ex-crush that she’s stopped liking him two days ago. Tee hee. I love it. [END SPOILER]
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Park Min Young as Hae Won
I don’t know if it was writer-nim’s intention, but I felt quite conflicted about Hae Won as a character, overall.
On first impression, I found Hae Won very cold and austere, with little interest to connect with other people, including her own family members. To my eyes, Park Min Young’s visuals in this role really help to support that. I feel like she looks a bit gaunt in the face in this outing, like her features are overly sharp. I personally think it’s a bit unnatural looking, but the look fits the role.
For a good stretch, I was encouraged to see Hae Won warm up, bit by bit, and show more warmth. However, I also realize that this change is Hae Won is basically brought out when she’s with Eun Seob. It’s like he brings it out in her, but.. I’m not sure that I see her manage to sustain it, on her own.
When Show turns a corner in episode 14 (which is when I started to get upset, and also, when I started to question Hae Won’s actual healing and growth over the course of our story), I found Hae Won quite unlikable, to be brutally honest, and that feeling only intensified in episode 15. I found Hae Won self-centered and lacking in empathy, and.. I don’t know if that’s writer-nim’s intention.
I can accept that not every protagonist needs to be likable; I just find that it really helps me to connect with a character, if I can like them. And while there were times when I found myself enjoying Hae Won quite nicely (see OTP section above), that feeling was definitely much dampened, by the time I got to the end of the show.
E1. Hae Won appears so mysterious, and then she seems to be such a great handywoman, buying supplies so confidently and fixing things around the house with gusto – until all her handiwork falls apart, and I realize she’s more bluster than substance, ha.
E1. Hae Won does strike me as someone who’s feeling lost, and who isn’t even quite sure of what she’s searching for, now that she’s removed herself from her dilemma. I do think she’s not suited to her cello teaching job at the music academy. Her skills might be a fit, but her personality does seem rather more serious and straightforward than what they’re looking for, and forcing herself to fit in there isn’t going to make her or her employer happy, I’m sure. I do think she needs a fresh start. The question is, what, where and how, which is what she’s trying to figure out now.
E2. That moment when Hae Won watches Eun Seob with his warm, noisy family at the skating rink and smiles to herself, I feel like is the moment she falls in love with his family. She seems unconsciously appreciative and wistful, like she’d love to be a part of that noisy caring bunch that feeds one another raw chestnuts out of the bag, just coz.
E2. Hae Won is vehement in her explanation of why she hates the word “misunderstanding,” and I get where she’s coming from, but.. that leaves no room for true misunderstandings, which do exist. It seems that she never tried to find out whether Bo Young really talked about her family matters that time in school; never asked Bo Young about that incident, even though they were supposed to be close friends. I think that’s indicative of how damaged Hae Won is.
E3. We get a lot of insight into Hae Won’s backstory, and it’s true that her mother murdered her father. We still don’t know why and what actually happened, but we do know that Hae Won was bullied for it in school, and mercilessly too. It’s no wonder that she holds such a deep grudge against Bo Young, who supposedly leaked her secret.
E3. It’s so sad and cruel that not just the kids, but the adults too, look upon Hae Won as if she’s a monster, when she is actually a victim. People can be so heartless. It’s no wonder that Hae Won attempted to drown herself.
E5. This outburst of questions that Hae Won is asking Mom, is actually startlingly healthy. She’s finally asking all the questions that she’s kept in her heart all these years, and even though Mom keeps being evasive, Hae Won keeps giving the questions voice. She gives her feelings voice, too. It feels cathartic to my ears, and I feel like this time that she’s spent with Eun Seob, has warmed her enough, and healed her enough, to finally allow those questions out of her heart and into the world. I think that the fact that Mom can’t deal with the questions says more about Mom’s incapacitated heart, than about their relationship or lack of it.
E7. In Hae Won’s defense, while it may look like she’s overreacting after being rejected, with moping in bed and lashing out at Aunt, it IS a big deal, for her. She’s always been so reserved and wary of people, and afraid of being betrayed, that she’s withdrawn into herself in a pretty extreme way. And now that she’s felt safe enough, and brave enough, to tell Eun Seob that she likes him – a brave move for even an average person – she’s hit a wall, without explanation or proper reaction, even. It’s understandable that she’s confused and mortified.
E14. I realize that I find Hae Won rather unlikable in this episode.
When Eun Seob sends Hae Won home with the manuscript and makes it clear that he feels it’s important that she read it, I didn’t like that she left the manuscript on the table, untouched, for the entire day. There was no hint of conflict or uncertainty in her expression as she left it; just a stony expression that looked, well, dismissive. And then when she does finally reach for the manuscript, again, we don’t see anything but that stony expression. Perhaps that’s supposed to represent her protective outer shell, but this did not help me feel engaged with her.
I can understand Hae Won’s upset reaction at finding out the truth, on a mental level, but I can’t seem to engage with it on a heart level. I get that she feels betrayed by the one person who had been there for her, after Mom went to jail, and that because of this, she feels like so much of her life was a lie that she doesn’t know who she can trust anymore. But, I think her suffering pales in comparison to what Aunt and Mom went through, and so I’m automatically categorizing her pain as smaller in scale, like her emotional pain is disproportionately bigger than the suffering she went through.
I also feel like Hae Won’s reaction is too self-focused. We don’t see empathy from her at all, for what Mom and Aunt went through. She shows more sympathy for Aunt before she finds out the truth. Once she finds out the truth, she starts lashing out, and whatever sympathy she’d shown for Aunt prior, seems to be gone. And, it disturbs me quite a bit, that Hae Won doesn’t express any sympathy for Mom, who got beaten up so much by her husband. Instead, all Hae Won says is that he was a good dad to her. This bugs me, because I want Hae Won to be more empathetic.
That said, I concede that Show might be making the point, that often, the ripple effects of a tragedy get overlooked. Aunt and Mom are the main players in this family tragedy, and Hae Won is emerging relatively unscathed, in comparison. But, that doesn’t make her pain not real. That doesn’t make her growing up years not difficult. And it’s not fair or right, to brush her pain aside because it looks less terrible than the pain of Mom and Aunt. For the record, I still think Hae Won needs to be more empathetic.
The thing with Aunt
From the moment we meet her in episode 1, I wondered what the deal was, with Aunt. I had so many questions. Why is she wearing sunglasses all the time; why is she as pessimistic as she is; why is she so exhausted by her age? She’s consistently blunt and brusque when she talks to Hae Won. Why? Is that just her nature, or is there something between her and Hae Won that we don’t know yet?
Show remains relatively coy about Aunt’s backstory, but it’s not hard to guess that there’s a lot more behind Aunt’s general dark outlook on life, thanks to Moon Jeong Hee’s delivery of Aunt. Even though you can’t see her eyes much of the time, you can hear the deadness in her voice, and the defeated tiredness in the droop of her posture. You can just feel that there’s something she refuses to talk about, and that something is big and complicated.
[VAGUE HIGH LEVEL SPOILER] Show does bring Aunt’s story to the forefront in its second half, and while I feel that it’s important for Aunt to get to tell her story, it also felt like a large shift in narrative focus. Suddenly, it felt like our main characters were taking a backseat, in order to give Aunt the spotlight, and that was.. a little weird, for me.
Essentially, I find it rather strange, that Hae Won is our protagonist, when Aunt’s story and suffering are so much larger, in comparison. It’s like, when Show whips out Aunt’s story, all of Hae Won’s suffering seems small in comparison. Also, I feel like Aunt’s story doesn’t get as much resolution as Hae Won’s story, and so that feels rather uneven and unbalanced, as well. In a weird way, it feels like Show decided to focus on a side character in Aunt’s tragedy, and make that its main story. But it’s impossible to tell Hae Won’s story without tellings Aunt’s story.. but once you tell Aunt’s story, it dwarfs Hae Won’s story.. does that make sense?
In the end, I feel like in telling Aunt’s story, Show kind of lost its grip somewhat, on Hae Won’s story – which is supposed to be our primary focus. [END SPOILER]
E11. I have mixed feelings about the flashbacks to Aunt’s relationship with now-Editor (Hwang Gun). On the one hand, I feel sorry for Aunt because she’d used to be the pretty and popular one, and now, look what her life has become. That’s quite a way to fall, and she must’ve imagined a very different life for herself, back then.
On the other hand, I hate how, in the flashback, she repeatedly tells now-Editor that she wants to break up with him, over the pettiest of reasons. That’s so flippant and casual, and it makes her look terrible, like she doesn’t care about him at all. And yet, the one time that she had no reason at all to tell him, was the final break-up that was actually for real. There’s some irony there.
Aunt’s gruff and everything, but the way she reveals her blindness in one eye that she’d been fiercely hiding heretofore, in an effort to relieve her old friend’s pain of suffering from terminal cancer, shows that she does care, beneath the prickly surface.
And what a reveal, of the events that fateful day that Hae Won’s father died. It was awful to see him railing on Hae Won’s mom, and it’s crazy that he would even turn violent against Aunt, since – in my mind, anyway – these abusive men usually don’t have the guts to hit anyone other than their wives. The insanity of the moment is palpable, as both Mom and Aunt scramble to protect each other and survive. There’s literally no time to think, and the women react instinctively; Mom pushes Dad away from Aunt as he raises an iron to hit Aunt, and he tumbles down the stairs. And then like a video game character that just keeps popping back up, he leaps at them while they’re in the car, and starts smashing the car with a golf club, over and over and over again – until the car runs him into the metal gate, and we see that it was Aunt at the wheel, and not Mom.
Woah. What a whirlwind of events, that leaves my brain swirling. This means that Mom took the fall to protect Aunt. It explains why Aunt broke up with now-Editor, because her whole life had changed in an instant. And it also explains why Aunt’s been so reclusive all these years. The truth must have been hanging over her so heavily, all this time.
Editor’s request for her to write her memoirs – now with the clause that allows her to mix fact with fiction – is her chance to process all of it, through writing. Does Editor have any clue or inkling about this? He keeps saying that he needs to publish her book, because there’s something he needs to find out.
It somehow makes it so much worse, knowing that the abusive men in this episode – Hae Won’s dad, and Aunt’s classmate’s husband – are otherwise picture-perfect husbands who say and do nice things for their wives. Ugh. It’s awful to follow the train of thought that Aunt and Editor muse over, that the wives put up with the beatings, because that’s their husbands’ only flaw.
E12. Now that we know what really happened that day, it’s not hard to understand the path that Aunt went down. She felt too paralyzed with guilt to live her life well, the way her sister had instructed her to; she felt the need to punish herself for what she’d done. And so, she put a stop to everything that was good in her life; her relationship with Editor, her writing, everything. She became an almost hermit; she became joyless and cynical; she just couldn’t see herself as deserving of anything good, and that’s really tragic. It’s tragic that the guilt ate away at her, until there’s barely anything left but bitterness and disenchantment. Will Aunt find the liberty she needs, through writing this book?
E12. The way Aunt wails during her friend’s wake, as she sees the parallel between her friend’s daughter and Hae Won, and as she thinks back on everything that’s happened, is just heart-chilling stuff. How much anguish has she bottled up all these years, and how painful it must be, to allow that anguish a voice now, after it’s been festering all this time?
E13. Aunt’s refusal to say anything to clear her name with reference to the malicious rumors, says a lot about how she still feels the need to punish herself. I hope Editor sees through her facade, because he does care about her.
E14. Aunt takes centerstage this episode, as she finally writes her truth and starts to share it. I do like that Editor beelines to see her right away, and just offers her a hug, without questioning her about the truth of her story. That was heartwarming to see, and the single tear that escapes Aunt’s eye, tells us how much this means to her, underneath the gruff surface.
The idea that it’s worse to let guilt eat away at you, than it is, to pay for your sins. Aunt’s deep and long-running misery only seems to get worse over time, the longer she tries to keep it all bottled up, and keep the status quo the way Mom wants her to. Mom took the fall out of good intentions, but those good intentions inadvertently made Aunt’s life even worse, than if she hadn’t done anything. Plus, there’s the tragedy that this pair of sisters, who used to be so close, are now effectively estranged, because of what happened.
It is admittedly inappropriate for Aunt to ask Eun Seob to share the manuscript with Hae Won, but I rationalize that this was the most that Aunt, repressed and dysfunctional as she is, was able to convince herself to do. Eun Seob handles the situation well, wisely telling Aunt that he can’t do more than pass the manuscript to Hae Won, and I appreciate the empathy that he expresses, that it must have been difficult for Aunt to have kept it all to herself all this time.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
The thing with Bo Young
I’ve seen a fair bit of hate for Bo Young’s character, and while I did find Bo Young annoying, I found that I did not hate her. As a neutral third party observer, I actually found that I kind of pitied her, for her misguided obsession.
I can’t say I enjoyed Bo Young as a character, but I was able to rationalize what Show did with her character, and I’m reasonably satisfied with how Show wraps up her arc with Hae Won as well.
E4. I’m with Hae Won on the incident regarding Bo Young. Bo Young had promised not to tell anyone, and she’d broken that promise. Sure, in mitigation, she’s saying that she’d done it to protect Hae Won’s reputation, but that wasn’t her story to tell. She should’ve checked with Hae Won first, to ask her what she wanted to do. Because Bo Young broke her promise, regardless of her intentions, Hae Won suffered ridicule and bullying for the rest of her high school years. Bo Young expecting to be forgiven because she’s explained herself, is quite shortsighted. Can’t she see how much suffering she caused Hae Won with her decision? Hae Won is right in saying that Bo Young can only see herself as the victim.
E5. Bo Young just wants to be forgiven and told that she did nothing wrong, but she’s not acknowledged the terrible effect that her actions had on Hae Won’s life, and that’s just not ok.
E7. In typical kdrama fashion, Bo Young is still nursing a crush on Eun Seob, all these years later. I wonder why she’s only trying to woo him now, though? Bo Young’s been here the whole time that Eun Seob’s been here. Is she only doing something now, to get his attention, because Hae Won is back in town?
Also, she’s still playing the victim card, telling Eun Seob that she’s glad that Hae Won doesn’t work at the bookstore on Sundays, because it’d be awkward to see her because Hae Won hates her so much.
E12. Bo Young’s choice to put herself in danger in order to get Eun Seob’s attention is very extreme, but I can rationalize this as an obsession that’s so deep-seated that it’s taken hold of her. I don’t think of her as evil; I think in this moment, she’s not thinking straight. When people are desperate, they can do very stupid things. And I do think that she’s blinded right now, by her obsession, and also, her desperation to be seen and heard, rather than relegated to the sidelines. In my eyes, she’s pretty much a crazy person right now, who can’t be held accountable for her actions.
As for why Bo Young would nurse a crush on Eun Seob for so long, I can rationalize that in such a small town, where many of the young people leave for bigger cities to pursue their careers, that there aren’t many other eligible men to distract her.
E13. I’m glad that Bo Young and Hae Won had a talk about things, and Bo Young finally says she’s sorry for not thinking of how things would’ve looked from Hae Won’s point of view, but.. essentially, Bo Young is still trapped in her victim mentality. She still thinks that she deserves forgiveness from Hae Won, and she’s determined to wait it out, so that Hae Won looks cold and petty for not forgiving her, even if that makes her a miserable, pitiful person.
SUCH a victim mentality, even in the face of evidence that she’d ruined high school for Hae Won. Plus, she has a defeatist attitude too. She bemoans the fact that no matter what she did, Eun Seob never liked her or paid her any attention. The truth is, she didn’t do very much, in all the time that Hae Won wasn’t around. Bo Young genuinely believes her own thoughts, so it’s not like she’s being vicious. But her victim mentality and her defeatist mindset make her pretty darn toxic, not only to others, but to herself as well.
Thinking from Bo Young’s perspective for a bit, it seems that she fell for Eun Seob after he 1, helped her close the window without being asked, and 2, offered her his umbrella and then went without, himself. While those are kind actions in themselves, I can’t help wondering what kind of existence Bo Young had, if that was such a huge deal in her life, for someone to show her kindness, to the extent that she would fall into an obsessive one-sided love because of it.
The thing with Mom [SPOILERS]
Because of the weird balancing act that Show attempts to do, between Aunt’s story and Hae Won’s, Mom ends up in a weird in-between space where I feel like we don’t spend enough time learning about her story, and yet, also, we are spending too much time on her story.
I was curious about Mom for sure, with her being so non-committal, distant and quasi-dismissive. And it hits me like a ton of bricks, when we learn in episode 5, that Mom had been so widely admired, and had married the man who’d been most devoted to her. It’s so sobering, to realize that the man who’d hit her regularly, had been the most devoted to her.
Mom harbors a lot of pain and bitterness, as to be expected. In episode 5, the fact that she comes all this way, just to bring camellias to her dead husband’s grave on his birthday, and yet says that she hates him and hates the day, because it’s when all her misfortunes began, shows how complicated it all is, for her. There’s resentment, but there’s still a familial bond.
The thing is, kind of like in Aunt’s case, Mom doesn’t get enough screen time for Show to truly explore her journey towards healing, and so, by the time we reach the final credits, I only have a vague notion that Mom must have made some progress, to be able to write Hae Won a letter, and also, sell the marital home that she’d been holding onto, all these years.
Maybe what we needed was a drama to first tell Aunt’s story, along with Mom’s, then a spin-off to tell Hae Won’s story, so that each character would get a proportionate amount of focus and attention. I’m not sure. I just know that for me, it feels like Show tried to do too much, and that’s why the final stretch felt so different from the initial stretch, and felt kind of forced, to me.
THEMES / IDEAS / MOTIFS [SPOILERS]
E3. There’s a recurring motif of Eun Seob accompanying Hae Won even though she doesn’t expect it of him, and when she remarks that he doesn’t have to, he says that it’s because it’s dark. And he’s always there, to be her light source. Literally, he’s holding a torch for her, but metaphorically, this is so meaningful too. She doesn’t ask it of him, but he keeps wanting to be there for her, and he’s her source of light, in the midst of her darkness.
E3. There’s another recurring motif, of Eun Seob and Hae Won drinking hot coffee or tea together, in the winter. I feel like this is metaphor for how they’re warming themselves up, together. They’re both in the midst of their own cold winter of loneliness, and together, while making small conversations, they’re warming up, side by side. That’s sweet.
E4. In the dark, scary mountain, Eun Seob hears Hae Won and goes towards her (though admittedly he doesn’t know it’s her). And she clings to him, in her fear, in the darkness. When she lets go momentarily, and he suggests they leave and turns to walk away, she reaches for him again. I feel like this is a metaphor for how they’re finding each other in the darkness.
E4. Eun Seob leads her out of the woods by the hand, but with this metaphor of the dark mountains representing loneliness in my mind, it feels like Eun Seob is a wounded healer. He’s hurt and lonely himself, but he’ll lead Hae Won out of her loneliness.
E6. It’s true that you only realize what you lost, when you lose it. Hae Won didn’t realize how much warmth Eun Seob brought her, until she went back home and was faced with the cold there. It’s only then that she realizes that she’d been cold – and that he’d been warming her, gently, and consistently.
E7. The idea that people who love, become stupid and do stupid things, even if it means leaping to their deaths. It fits with what Hae Won does at the end of the episode, putting on her boots and going into the mountains when she doesn’t know the area, and in the night, no less. All for the love of Eun Seob. Thanks to that flashback to her tossing the book aside in a fit of pique, we know that she hates that she’s doing this, but she can’t help herself, because she cares that much, about Eun Seob.
E7. The idea that happiness and misery are two sides of the same coin. It’s a sad truth that Eun Seob articulates in response to Hae Won’s initial fit of pique:
“They can stop liking something.” … “They can stop offering their hearts. They can give up on the happiness… they’ll gain from liking something. Since happiness and misery… are like two sides of a coin. If you don’t become happy, you won’t become miserable either. If you don’t have something in the first place, you won’t lose it either.”
It brings us back to the classic question: Is it better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all? What is crippling Eun Seob so much, that he would rather not have anything or anyone, for fear of losing them?
E8. There’s this idea that happiness is right where we are, even if we embark on a long journey to seek it elsewhere. It’s telling that Hae Won says, in such a deadpan way, that she doesn’t believe in happiness, and that perhaps this saying is just something that people make up, to make themselves feel better. That’s a pretty sad way to live, and this is Hae Won’s reality. That’s.. sad.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Not gonna lie; I am quite upset with this episode.
First, let me talk about the minor silver linings I found in this episode.
At first, I was rather perplexed at Bo Young’s words that implied that the big chasm in her relationship with Hae Won, caused by her actions, was just a small crack in an otherwise perfect “table.” But, I was mollified when Bo Young acknowledged that she’d hurt Hae Won immensely, and expressed that she was willing to wait until Hae Won was more ready to engage. That sounded a whole lot better to me, and I think I’m finally pacified, regarding this arc.
Also, Jang Woo and Eun Sil feeling awkward about the whole town knowing the minutiae of their love lives is mildly amusing, and served as a muted silver lining this episode as well.
But now, for my big beef this episode: Does writer-nim set out to make Hae Won selfish and unlikable? Because if so, that’s going swimmingly well, right now.
When Hae Won continues on the same pity party as where we left off the previous episode, focusing only on why nobody told her, and how her whole life is a lie, and Eun Seob tells Hae Won that he believes Aunt didn’t tell her the truth and chose to suffer alone, so that Hae Won wouldn’t have to suffer, I thought that Eun Seob was teaching Hae Won empathy.
But no. Hae Won tells Aunt that despite what Aunt says, she still can’t understand her. Worse, she instructs Aunt not to turn herself in, and live another 10 years like this, for Hae Won’s sake, since Aunt had lived 10 years in this situation, for Mom’s sake. That’s honestly really selfish of Hae Won. I get that she’s blinded by her own pain, but can she not see that Aunt is doing this to finally assuage her conscience?
And then, Hae Won tells Eun Seob that she has to leave, because she can’t look Aunt in the eye anymore. And so, Eun Seob smiles and hugs her, but grieves on his own.
I just can’t, with how self-centered this is. Hae Won won’t let Aunt do what Aunt feels she needs to do, but Hae Won gets to do what she feels she needs to do, never mind what Aunt or Eun Seob feel about it? Why does Hae Won get to do what she needs to do, and why doesn’t Aunt get to do what she needs to do? That’s unfair and messed up. If Aunt doesn’t get to do what she needs to do, then Hae Won shouldn’t get to either; if Hae Won gets to do what she needs to do, then Aunt should get to, too. Hae Won is in a situation where she understands what it means to feel like she needs to do something, and yet, she fails to empathize that Aunt feels the same way, about turning herself in.
Also, I’m upset that Eun Seob is hurting, and I’m upset that Show scores all of this, with beautiful, melodious music, as if this is supposed to not be messed up.
What gives, seriously? What does Show want me to feel right now? I’m fairly certain Show didn’t intend for this episode to result in an upset, angry reaction, but if Show was intending this episode to be thoughtful and healing in some way, it really didn’t work for me.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
To be perfectly honest, I felt rather underwhelmed by this finale, BUT, Show manages to wrap things up on a warm enough note, that I’m coming away feeling reasonably mollified. That’s quite an achievement, considering (a) how upset I’d felt at Show’s penultimate episode, and (b) how perfunctory and slow I found most of this finale episode.
The episode starts out – and then intersperses key events through the rest of the episode – with everyone pottering around and welcoming spring, and repeatedly remarking to the people around them about just how nice the weather is. I found this very heavy-handed and far from subtle, honestly. I mean, I get it, Show wants to clue me in on the fact that THIS is when all the relationships will heal, because it’s been something that’s been said at various points of our story, like Hae Won telling Bo Young that she’d be in a better space to be friends, when the weather is nice. I think, though, that maybe having a character or two say it, rather than five or six (or more?) characters say it, would’ve felt more in keeping with Show’s earlier general tone of restraint.
I found that I enjoyed Show’s lighter moments this episode. Hwi finding a new crush in a new transfer student who shares her name, and promptly throwing her crush on Young Soo out the window, was nicely amusing.
Eun Seob embroiders a scarf for Mom, with heartfelt words that she’s been yearning to hear, but which he can’t articulate: “To the Mom whom I love.” Aw. It’s no wonder that Mom breaks down in tears (though I wish she hadn’t hurriedly sent Eun Seob away; I feel that he would’ve understood her tears), and then proceeds to wear the scarf proudly and show it off to her friends.
Jang Woo and Eun Sil finally become a couple, when Eun Sil cutely realizes that Jang Woo is cool for knowing himself so well that he has no doubt about what he needs in order to be happy, and declares in wonder, that she likes him now. Jang Woo seizes the moment and plants a kiss on her lips, before bumbling back to his nervous chatter, but it’s official now: they’re going to be lovey-dovey from this day forward. Cute.
On a more serious note, Aunt gets Mom to write a letter to Hae Won, saying that there are some things that people just won’t understand unless you tell them. And so Mom finally writes, awkwardly explaining that she’d been so preoccupied dealing with her messed up life that she’d been cold to Hae Won as a result, but that she’d always loved Hae Won. Mom also tells Hae Won that Aunt plans to leave for a faraway place soon, and asks that Hae Won come back before Aunt leaves.
And so Hae Won comes back, and the way she, Mom and Aunt interact stays largely the same; they’re gruff and somewhat distant, but there are little hints of the earlier frost thawing, as questions are asked, and answers are given, as they sit around the table at the same Chinese restaurant where they’d last eaten together.
Aunt leaves, with Editor coming to (presumably) drive her to the airport, and Hae Won, Mom and Aunt say non-committal, nonchalant goodbyes, even in the face of Aunt saying that she has no intention of coming back. I.. find this kinda weird, but I guess this family’s been so cold and so dysfunctional for so long, that this is already considered progress?
We don’t learn where Aunt intends to go, and only know that it’s someplace far away, and she has absolutely no plans to come back, even for a visit. I have to admit, I’m not too keen on this ending for Aunt. She doesn’t get to assuage her conscience the way she’d wanted to, and now, she’s decided on a Plan B that involves self-exile. Honestly, I don’t believe this Plan B actually can do anything to ease her conscience; the most it can do, is give her some temporary distance and relief. We all know that guilt on the conscience is something that stays and eats away at you, if it’s left undealt with. It festers. I feel like that’s what Aunt is in for, even as she leaves, and I’m not happy at all, at how Show wraps up her arc. Aunt deserves better.
Hae Won goes to look for Eun Seob, and finds him just as he’s leaving the bookstore with flowers for his mom’s death anniversary. Things are awkward and Eun Seob drives off after a polite, distant few words. Hae Won runs after the car, though, and when Eun Seob stops the car in response, Hae Won leaps on him in a big hug. As she begins to walk away, Eun Seob hesitantly asks how long she’ll be staying for this time, and Hae Won breaks into a big smile.
That’s when we get a montage of Eun Seob and Hae Won being lovey-dovey and sweet together, with Eun Seob musing in voiceover about what Hae Won had said before, about happiness being hard to notice, and requiring a lot of effort and care to make it yours, and adds, “Happiness.. is hard to get hold of.. and does not stay with you for a long time.” … “But.. no one can predict our future.”
Amid shots of Eun Seob and Hae Won being cozy together, we see that Eun Seob’s published his book, finally, and it’s titled, “Goodnight, Irene.” Ahh. I’m heartened to know that he actually did it, after demurring for so long. That’s a sign of personal progress, and I’m happy for him.
The final shot, of Eun Seob and Hae Won smiling at each other from across the yard, is coupled with a voiceover of them talking about how, if you keep moving forward endlessly, and keep trying, [happiness] will come, like this. I.. didn’t love this part, because it makes happiness seem like something that’s so elusive and so hard to achieve. I don’t think that’s very uplifting or encouraging at all, really.
HOWEVER. Show manages to lift my mood significantly, via Eun Seob’s final blog posting, and then with Show’s own final words to us, as an audience.
Eun Seob writes:
“I met Irene again after a long time. I waited and longed to see her again so much. But I tried to hide my feelings and stupidly turned away from her. When she ran towards me and came into my arms, she melted my frozen heart yet again. I spent days and nights blankly without being able to sleep. But I can’t believe I’m back in the past now. It’s late at night, and she has fallen asleep on my arm. She is light, and smells like the grass from a spring breeze. Guys, the scent of acacia is filling up this place again. Roger.
PS. She woke up from her sleep and kissed me on my nose.. and fell asleep again with her head buried in my chest. I didn’t know kissing was such a nice thing.”
Aw. I thought this made the entire reunion come alive in a way that it didn’t quite manage to, earlier. Before, their reunion had felt kind of disconnected, distant and philosophical to me, but this feels personal, emotional and sweet, and it makes me feel, so much more. I like this.
And then, Show gives us its final benediction:
“That’s what happiness is like. It’s a difficult thing. But even when you.. open your eyes in the morning to begin your day, and quietly live your life today, you may be achieving that difficult thing.. and making someone.. happy at this moment. To some, you are someone to be thankful for. You may not realize it, but just by living like this, you should know you’ve done a great job. We feel thankful to you. And we wish you a good night. And we wish you a good night.”
It’s really quite late in the game, I feel, to put a spin on what seems to be the concept of Difficult Happiness, but this last parting shot does work to acknowledge, lift up and encourage, and we could all use some of that, I think.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Much stronger in its initial episodes than in its later ones, but Show manages to wrap things up nicely, despite its late-stretch wobbles.
FINAL GRADE: B