Review: My Unfamiliar Family

THE SHORT VERDICT:

My Unfamiliar Family is a drama that feels familiar and yet fresh at the same time, to my eyes.

It feels like a lot of the things I like in family dramas, condensed into a more efficient 16 episodes rather than a sprawling 54 episodes, presented with more polish, and sprinkled with a harder dash of reality, than the average family drama. Show has more surprises up its sleeve than the average kdrama, which makes this almost (but not quite) feel like a soapy watch experience. Yet, at the same time, there is a solid amount to unpack with this show, which makes it feel meaty and serious.

Altogether, Show feels kind of spicy and interesting, while managing to remain raw, heart-hitting and thought-provoking, at the same time.

An unusual combination of drama flavors that makes for a refreshing watch.

THE LONG VERDICT:

I’ve heard My Unfamiliar Family being referred to as makjang, and while I can understand why people might call it makjang, I also feel like the label doesn’t do this show justice.

The plot points in this show do edge into makjang territory, but I think it’s important to note that the treatment of this story, is far from makjang. It’s not hyped up or stylized or theatrical (all things that I usually associate with makjang); instead, everything is deliberate and down-to-earth and taken seriously.

They say that truth can be stranger than fiction. This feels like that. Our characters are experiencing things that we don’t expect to encounter in our daily lives, but sometimes these things happen to regular people, and then the regular people have to find a way to deal and cope, and sometimes, in the process of that, regular people do lose their legs from under them and break down and hyperventilate and faint.

This show feels like I’m watching regular people going through some of their worst and most challenging seasons, and because I feel like they’re regular people, sometimes it hurts to watch them. Because I wouldn’t wish this kind of heartache on a real person.

Essentially, My Unfamiliar Family feels like a grittier take on the typical family drama. There’s friction and familiarity baked into the relationships among the family members, and there are also multiple relationship threads, with the odd birth secret thrown in, for good measure. And Show treats it all with seriousness and respect, making for a thoughtful watch that feels real, organic and raw.

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

Here’s the OST album playlist, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.

My absolute favorite track is an instrumental one titled You & Me, which features a cello melody. It gives me strong Goong vibes, and that’s very nostalgic, for me. I also like the track Today, just because it features that rich, beautiful, slightly melancholic cello.

STUFF I LIKED

CHARACTERS

In this drama world, all our characters are painted in very human shades of gray, in that no one is perfect, but no one is a bad person either. I sometimes found myself feeling very different emotions about the same character – sometimes proud, sometimes disappointed – depending on what said character had done that episode.

In the end, though, they’re all decent people doing their best to live good lives, and that’s why I’ve mostly parked all our characters here.

Jung Jin Young as Dad

Jung Jin Young is really, really good as Dad. In the course of our story, Dad shows us very different facets of his personality, and Jung Jin Young is completely believable, no matter where we happen to be, on the spectrum of Dad’s temperament. I thought that was very impressive.

When we first meet Dad, he’s all angry glares and raging bluster, and while I’d fully expected Show to peel back Dad’s layers to make him more sympathetic, I didn’t expect to feel so acutely for his disillusionment and his struggle.

Here’s a small peak at my Dad-related thoughts, which I’ll talk more about later, in his section with Mom (Won Mi Kyung).

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. Eun Joo (Choo Ja Hyun) has a point; even though Dad wasn’t found with sedatives in his system, he’d gone up the mountain with the bottle of pills, which indicates that he was at least thinking of taking them and dying on the mountain, like he’d been known to say. It’s so sad to think that he might’ve felt like his life was over, because Mom decided that she wanted to graduate from their marriage.

E5.We’ve been seeing Dad in his 22-year-old mind-space for so long, that I was quite startled by the flashback to when he’d been grumpy, angry and touchy. He’s completely believable in either space, and I am suitably impressed.

I also think that Dad doesn’t remember everything, like he claims he does at the end of the episode. His eyes are still clear and his aura is still open and loving, even as he thanks Mom for all the years that she’s lived with him, and tells her that they can graduate from marriage now. I’d wager that he heard about Mom’s desire to graduate from marriage from his friend Man Ho, and then decided to let Mom go, as a gesture of love. Aw. That’s sweet and sad at the same time.

E9. This new version of Dad is an interesting mix of his old, brusque pre-amnesia self, and his nicer, earnest 22-year-old self. I find that a nice way to marry the two, now that Dad’s got his memory back. The more polite, yet still awkward way that Dad speaks with Grocer Yoo (Seo Sang Won), is a great amalgamation of Dad’s various facets, showcased in a relatively small scene.

[END SPOILER]

Won Mi Kyung as Mom

I believe this is my introduction to Won Mi Kyung, and I must say, I think she does a wonderful job of playing Mom.

Mom is a reticent, painfully reserved character, who hides a lot of emotional scars, wounds and baggage. Yet, despite Mom’s restrained, private persona, we get an acute sense of the hurt that she’s hiding, via the melancholy in her gaze, and the small twitches in body language. I thought this was really well done.

On a related tangent, I also wanted to say that I think Present Mom and Young Mom (Jo Ah Young) are perfectly cast. They may not look that much alike, but they give off very similar vibes, of awkward shyness, unspoken inner turmoil and overlaying all of that, a genteel and modest nature. I could easily believe that Present Mom and Young Mom were the same person. Very nice.

Mom’s journey isn’t an easy one, but I did find watching her find her way from silence, to expression, to freedom, a gratifying one to witness.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. The fact that Mom admits that she’d thought of aborting Ji Woo (Shin Jae Ha) says a lot about how she’d felt at the time, in her marriage. It’s literally as bad as it would’ve been, if she’d killed Eun Joo, and then killed herself, which was what Eun Joo had assumed the trip to the beach was for. Either way, she would’ve killed her child. What dark times it must’ve been for her, since no mother ever actually wants to kill her own child?

E8. Eun Joo giving Mom the bankbook and telling her about how Dad had saved the money over seven years, to pay her back for what she’d done for the family when he’d been unable to work, is such an interesting scene. My first reaction was that maybe this is why Dad had only given Mom half his paycheck for years, rather than using the other half to sustain another family. It made me wonder if this whole second family thing was a misunderstanding.

But Mom’s reaction is not that at all. Mom is hurt that Eun Joo puts so much importance on the bankbook that Dad gave her, and doesn’t seem to acknowledge Mom’s own time and sacrifice. This, I feel, speaks of what a deep wound and tender nerve this is, for Mom, after years of feeling invisible and taken for granted.

E11. I feel for Mom. She seems so lonely. With Ji Woo rebelling and refusing to talk much, and both Eun Joo and Eun Hee (Han Ye Ri) checking in only from time to time, and Dad out of the house, we keep seeing Mom on her own in the house. She looks lonely, even as she does things like prepare food and sort through food containers. Also, she doesn’t look happy, even though she’s technically gotten the marriage graduation that she’d asked for. After all these years of tamping down her own feelings and desires, I’d really like to see Mom be happier.

[END SPOILER]

Choo Ja Hyun as Eun Joo

To be honest, out of all of our characters, I found Eun Joo the most perplexing, because she feels so cold, almost all the time.

Through most of our story, Eun Joo is distant and coldly logical to the point of being abrasive, to almost everyone. The glimpses of warmth that she shows, are few and far between. Because of this, I found her a hard-sell. I often could see the truth in her words, but I still found her overly harsh, especially to her family members.

Eun Joo is a complex character with complicated thoughts, and I do think that Show does a nice job of making her journey believable. She achieves a measure of self-awareness and liberation, and does warm up somewhat, but her core character does not change. To the end, she remains sharply incisive in her insights and observations about people, but just becomes a little more empathetic and understanding, in how she wields that ability.

To Show’s credit, I did find Eun Joo growing on me in small degrees, in spite of my initial aversion to her.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. In that flashback when Eun Hee seeks her out to tell her about how her boyfriend Jong Min (Choi Woong) had been cheating on her, Eun Joo shows no sympathy whatsoever. Eun Hee makes excuses for Eun Joo in retrospect, saying that she hadn’t known then, that Eun Joo had been dealing with a miscarriage. But.. there’s no rule that says you can’t show some kindness when you’re having a difficult time yourself. In fact, when Eun Joo and Eun Hee talk about it in the present, Eun Joo claims that it had nothing to do with the miscarriage; that Eun Hee had always blamed others for things. Eun Joo also says that she’d told Eun Hee that Jong Min wasn’t a good guy all along, but Eun Hee hadn’t listened.

And, Eun Joo might be right about those things. But.. it still strikes me as especially hardhearted and cold, to basically go on an “I told you so” rant about how bad an impression Jong Min had left on her, and tell Eun Hee not to cry if she hasn’t even decided what to do about the cheating boyfriend, when she could’ve shown some sympathy instead. I feel like I can’t rationalize away Eun Joo’s behavior as part of her prickly personality, when it seems to me like she basically kicked Eun Hee when she was already down.

To that end, Eun Joo seems cold to Mom as well, and doesn’t show a shred of sympathy for the emotions that Mom must be feeling, to even broach the subject of graduating from marriage. I can’t say I feel kindly to Eun Joo, so far.

E4. It now becomes clearer, why Eun Joo has been so cold to Mom, all these years. She’d thought that Mom had intended to kill her. That’s a terrible misunderstanding to carry for most of your life, and I’m sure it’s colored the way Eun Joo sees not only Mom, but herself, as well. It has to mess with your self-worth, to believe that your parent intended to kill you. Maybe that’s why Eun Joo makes it such a point to be so perfect at everything.

E5. It’s interesting to see that with the revelation that Tae Hyung (Kim Tae Hoon) is gay, Eun Joo actually feels vindicated rather than betrayed. She’d assumed that Tae Hyung’s unhappiness was her fault, and this tells her that it wasn’t. The fact that she reacts this way – focusing on something more positive, rather than the negative of him lying to her – does say a lot about her character.

E7. Eun Joo’s default defense mode is to be cold and calculating, and it results in a pretty awful conversation with Hyo Seok (Lee Jong Won). It feels like whatever friendship they’d had is now gone, and she calmly says some pretty hurtful things, in the name of being honest.

I honestly don’t like this about her. I get that she’s going through a lot, but asking someone who’s suffered marginalization all his life, if he always has to be the victim, and if she should apologize, since he believes that Tae Hyung is the reason that his lover ran away with his money. I get that this is probably a coping mechanism, as well as a defense mechanism, ie, “if I hurt others, they’ll leave me alone,” but it really is not cool.

E8. As much as I don’t care for Eun Joo’s coldness, I have to concede that she doesn’t shy away from giving tough messages. When Eun Joo told Eun Hee to make sure Mom doesn’t sell the apartment, Eun Hee immediately demurs. But Eun Joo doesn’t appear to hesitate, to say the hard things.

It does add another layer of perspective, though, when Tae Hyung finds Eun Joo crying alone at home, and she says that it’s because she’d been to see Mom and had been nasty to her because she didn’t want her parents to separate. Eun Joo’s perfectly cognizant that she was hurting Mom with her words, and she said everything anyway. That.. is so heartless and cold. Is it because she’s in so much pain herself that she doesn’t have the bandwidth to be kind to anyone?

E10. Eun Joo is scathingly sharp in her ability to see through to people’s motivations and way of thinking. At the same time, I notice that she mostly shows her softer, more gentle side to people who aren’t actually family. With family, she wears no kid gloves and unleashes the full force of her incisive observations without mercy, like the way she states to Dad that he’d chosen to be a coward and had decided on the cheapest way to deal with the accident. Ouch.

On the other hand, the way she tells Chan Hyuk about Eun Hee’s insecurities and coping mechanisms, is kind and even a little bit affectionate. I put this down to typical Asian family norms, where in quite a few families, niceties are reserved for non-family members. But, watching how Eun Joo interacts with her family, I do wish that she would step outside her comfort zone more, and try being nicer to them.

I do appreciate Eun Joo’s role in triggering Chan Hyuk to see Eun Hee’s behavior differently. These two clearly like each other, but are both holding back. Eun Joo’s interference is welcome, in this case, because Chan Hyuk finally understands why Eun Hee’s held him at arm’s length all these years; as per Eun Joo’s description, her self-esteem is so challenged that she simply writes off any decent guy as someone that she can’t be with anyway.

E11. Eun Joo saying that she doesn’t think she can simply continue to act the same way with her family, now that she knows about her biological father, is an uncomfortable truth. It’s unhealthy – not to mention admittedly impossible, given Eun Joo’s character – to just pretend that everything is the same as before. It’s uncomfortable to hear Eun Joo state it upfront, but perhaps it’s actually healthier for her to let Eun Hee and Ji Woo know ahead of time, so that everyone is on the same page and prepared.

E12. Eun Joo’s conversation with Tae Hyung’s mother (Lee Ji Ha) shows us a lot about Eun Joo’s true nature. Even though she appears cold and prickly on the outside, and even though she is the one who suffers the most from Tae Hyung coming out as gay, she is the first person to accept him for who he is, and defend him to his own mother. She has a lot more compassion than one might expect.

[END SPOILER]

Han Ye Ri as Eun Hee

Out of the three siblings, I found myself gravitating to Eun Hee the most.

Even though I didn’t always understand her, nor approve her choices, there’s something very approachable and relatable about Eun Hee, that I found her most comfortable to be with, in my head. Her mistakes and foibles just made her feel all the more real and human, to my eyes.

Eun Hee works through her own issues too, during the course of our story, but I appreciated that even while she did so, she demonstrated care and concern for the people around her. She may not have it all together, but that doesn’t stop her from helping other people, and I liked that a lot.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. Eun Hee is far more likable, in that at least she apologizes, when she feels that she’s in the wrong. It took her a long time to do it, but once the memories had been re-surfaced and re-examined, she was open enough and humble enough to acknowledge where she’d been wrong, and apologize to both people for her wrong, even though when it comes down to it, both were situations wherein both parties should apologize.

E3. I’m rather disappointed at Eun Hee’s decision to continue to see her boss Gun Joo (Shin Dong Wook), even after he’s told her that he has a long-term girlfriend. This, plus the fact that both Eun Joo and Chan Hyuk (Kim Ji Suk) have said things as her voices of reason. And yet, she wavers when he tells her not to drink, so that he can spend time counseling her that night – which basically translates into them getting hot and heavy on his bed.

I’m disappointed at her choice, but I’ve seen people in real life make this choice, so it’s believable. We can be swayed into making all kinds of bad decisions, when our feelings are involved. And while Eun Hee isn’t knee-deep in feelings for her boss, she does like him, as Chan Hyuk points out. And he obviously makes her feel things, and when you’re feeling those things, it can be very hard to turn down the person who’s making you feel those things, or think straight at all.

E4. I have to say, I’m struggling to understand Eun Hee’s rationale for continuing to date Gun Joo. If she’d also been in a 9-year relationship, and knows what it feels like, to have your longtime boyfriend cheat on you while the two of you drift apart, then.. why would she agree to date Gun Joo, and be part of the same scenario, in his life?

The thing I don’t understand even more, is why, when Gun Joo says that he has no intention of having her stay hidden, Eun Hee literally volunteers to stay hidden, anyway. Why would she want to do that? And then she coats it all as her being independent and choosing what she wants to do. It sounds hollow to my ears, honestly. Kinda like that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts’ character tries to express how strong and empowered she is, as a prostitute, when she doesn’t actually believe it herself.

I would have found Eun Hee easier to understand, if she hadn’t thought things through, and was simply acting on her impulsive desire for Gun Joo. The way this is playing out, though, it seems that she’s trying to convince herself that she has the right to be this independent woman who puts herself first and does what she wants, but she really does feel that she has something to be ashamed of (and perhaps that’s why she chooses to stay hidden), as we see from the way she panics at the sound of someone working the keypad to Gun Joo’s apartment. I like Eun Hee, but I find it hard to support her decision to date Gun Joo.

E5. I’m very glad that Eun Hee tells Gun Joo that she’s more comfortable just being friends. I never thought it was a good idea for her to date her boss anyway. This drama world is more realistic than, say, What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim, and so it feels unwise to be sleeping with the boss.

E6. I can understand the pressure that Eun Hee feels, to be the problem-solver in her family. Like Gun Joo observes, she’s the middle child stuck in between everyone else in her family. Her intentions are all good, but I agree with Chan Hyuk that she needs to stop trying to solve everyone’s problems. It’s too much of a burden for her, and it’s exhausting her.

E6. I appreciate what Eun Hee says to Hyo Seok, that she feels lighter now because she doesn’t have to hate Tae Hyung anymore, and that, even though she’d hated him before, now that she knows he was trying to lie to himself, she can understand why he was the way he was. That’s very good-hearted of her, considering how much Tae Hyung’s behavior has hurt her family.

E7. Ah, the ending of the last episode was a bit of a fake-out, but it’s one that I can accept. Eun Hee’s instincts told her that it was Chan Hyuk in the car with Eun Joo, and that makes sense, since the last Eun Hee knew, Chan Hyuk was waiting for Eun Joo to come back to Seoul together. And so, since Eun Hee’s instincts told her that, her mind played a trick on her, causing her to see Chan Hyuk exiting the car – until she registered that it was really Ji Woo.

Eun Hee’s inappropriate laugh, in that moment, says quite a bit about her. She isn’t a very measured or controlled person; that laugh was likely her way of expressing nervous relief, and she doesn’t have the presence of mind or self-control to recognize how inappropriate it is, and swallow it.

E9. I am pleased that Eun Hee breaks things off with Gun Joo this episode. The way he just disappeared without a word, after his ex-girlfriend’s crazed phone call to Eun Hee, is unacceptable. His claim that he couldn’t call or text holds no water with me; he could’ve managed a text, if Eun Hee really was a priority. But instead, he turns the blame on her too, and asks why she didn’t contact him first. The gall. Ugh. I’m glad she calls him out on everything, and shakes off his attempt to reconcile. Yes, girl. You don’t need any of this nonsense.

E11. Watching Eun Hee take care of everyone around her this episode, makes me think that Eun Joo was spot on, in her analysis of Eun Hee’s middle child coping mechanism. But it’s that very thing that makes her gather children’s books and color markers, to take to Young Shik and his son (Jo Wan Ki and Kim Woo Bin). And, that’s really such a nice thing to do.

No one else in the family has thought to show kindness to Young Shik and his son. And in this moment, I’m grateful for Eun Hee having that reflex, of taking care of others. Now, if only she’d also learn to take care of herself too, while she’s at it.

E11. This episode, Eun Hee keeps saying that things are bothersome. Chan Hyuk observes that she just wants to cut everything away, because it’s all so bothersome. On one hand, that echoes the idea of how complicated and exhausting tangled relationships can be. At the same time, it makes me wonder if Eun Hee’s getting tired from taking care of everyone around her, and that’s why it all feels bothersome now.

E13. I like that Eun Hee understands Gun Joo’s behavior in spending so much time with Kyung Ok (Ga Deuk Hee). She doesn’t misconstrue it as him flirting with Kyung Ok; she instinctively knows that he’s concerned about how much Kyung Ok knows about his relationship with Eun Hee. And she proceeds to put him out of his misery, by telling him that Kyung Ok knows, but will not tell anyone, because she’s just not that kind of person.

I also respect that Eun Hee says that she won’t mind even if there are rumors about her; that if she’d been bold enough to do the deed, she should be bold enough to bear the rumors. That’s courage, and I admire that determination to take responsibility for her own actions.

E14. It might feel like a waste for Eun Hee to get rid of all her little half-done writing projects, since she’d spent so much time and emotion in creating them. But this also feels like a spring-cleaning sort of moment, where she takes a critical look at stuff that is basically nothing but mental and emotional clutter, grits her teeth, rips off the bandaid, and refuses to have that clutter in her life anymore, so that she can start afresh, with a clean slate.

I like that idea, that it’s ok to leave behind a dream that you once dreamed; it doesn’t have to define your life, and it’s never too late to dream a new dream.

And even though Eun Hee’s motivation to move out on her own was a misguided attempt to get away from her own family, and the move had made her even more lonely, it’s clear that she’s now pretty content and happy living on her own. Starting off the wrong foot may have caused her to suffer loneliness for a season, but she recovered from it, and that’s important.

E14. Eun Hee choosing to give herself a ring to signify that she loves herself, is pretty great, I think. Eun Joo’s estimation that Eun Hee already loves herself so much that it’s hard to believe she could love herself even more, is misguided, I think. Even though Eun Hee indulges her whims and fancies and appears carefree and jovial, she does carry a measure of self-disdain in her. And, I thought that Eun Joo, who’d been so sharp in analyzing Eun Hee’s behavior as a middle child, to deprecate herself in order to keep others cheerful, would be able to see that. I personally think Eun Hee ought to rock that ring and remind herself of her self-acceptance.

[END SPOILER]

Shin Jae Ha as Ji Woo

By design, we get the least insight into sweet maknae Ji Woo, among the three siblings.

While this does feel somewhat like a missed opportunity, because we get to know so little of Ji Woo, I do think that this is true to life. Often, the most quiet, unassuming family member gets overlooked &/or taken for granted, and sometimes, that oversight is realized only too late.

To Show’s credit, Ji Woo still manages to chart some important growth, despite the late spotlight on his character.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Around the episode 4 mark, Ji Woo makes mention of the fact that he has a girlfriend, but it’s only in episode 14, that the situation around his relationship becomes clearer.

Ji Woo choosing to run away, to get away from his family, is really quite heartbreaking. It echoes what Tae Hyung said, about getting married to get away from family. It’s really sad that he felt that he couldn’t tell his family, but felt the need to leave anyway.

That’s.. an act of cowardice, honestly. He knew that it would be a difficult thing to tell them, and he knew in his gut that they’d probably talk him out of leaving, so he leaves without doing the basic courtesy of at least letting them know about it. And what bad timing, that he leaves, just as Dad is getting brain surgery. Ack.

To Ji Woo’s credit, he does attempt to show his love for his family, by buying matching heart necklaces for his mother and sisters. And, when he comes to realize how much he’s hurt everyone, especially his mother, he’s quick to feel the pain and quick to apologize. Even though they come a little late, Ji Woo learns some hard lessons, and does some important growing up, by the time our final credits roll.

[END SPOILER]

Kim Ji Suk as Chan Hyuk

I really like Kim Ji Suk, and I was very glad to see him tap into the down-to-earth, perfect boyfriend vibe that he gave us in 2017’s 20th Century Boy And Girl.

Chan Hyuk is that non-judgmental, supportive, wise and loyal friend that everyone would love to have in their corner, and he is exactly that, for just about everyone in our main family. He’s so patient and giving, but also, not without his limits, and Show does a nice job of making Chan Hyuk feel real and relatable, yet quite (almost) perfect, at the same time.

I appreciate that Show also gives Chan Hyuk some time in the spotlight, where we learn more about his backstory, so that he’s not just the token best friend-cum-love interest. Show teaches us that he’s a full person who has his own struggles and baggage too, and I liked that very much.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. Chan Hyuk really seems like a good guy, in that he takes the time and trouble to understand the people around him. He knows that when Ji Woo is stressed, his leg can’t stop shaking. And he clearly knows what’s going on with Seo Young (Shin Hye Jung) and her mom (Woo Mi Hwa) as well.

E5. Poor Chan Hyuk. He’s become the official secret-keeper of the Kim family, what with Ji Woo drunkenly telling him about Eun Joo not being their dad’s biological daughter, and then being tasked with relaying the news to Eun Hee, and Eun Hee telling him about her hang-ups with Eun Joo, and how she’d hated her in the past, and now feels bad for it. He’s really good-natured about it even though he has his own problems, which I appreciate; right now, he feels like a much-needed, down-to-earth anchor, for both Ji Woo and Eun Hee.

E6. I really like Chan Hyuk. Even when Eun Hee drags him all the way to Sorokdo and yet only circles around instead of going to where Tae Hyung is, he doesn’t put pressure on her and just follows her around, because he believes that she has her reasons for doing so.

That’s typical Chan Hyuk, and I really respect that about him. He does it too, with Eun Joo. He just waits for her, and watches over her, until she’s ready to talk, and ready to go back home. And, when she does come to him and talk with him, he’s such a kind, welcoming sort of presence. I would want him on my side, for sure.

E13. We finally know the truth about what happened between Chan Hyuk and Jong Min, back when he and Eun Hee broke up. So it wasn’t true at all, that Chan Hyuk had hung out with Jong Min’s other girlfriend; he’d even wanted to kick her out. And he’d punched Jong Min in defense of Eun Hee too. No wonder he’s felt wronged all these years, after Eun Hee had cut him out of her life.

E13. We also finally find out why Chan Hyuk’s avoided getting a driver’s license all these years. My heart goes out to him as he tells Eun Hee about how he’d lost his older brother to a traffic accident, just as his mother had passed her driving test.

It also strikes me how down-to-earth it all is. Chan Hyuk’s experienced a big loss in his life, not only of his brother, but of the small joys of life and a happy relationship with his mother, but it’s not hyped up as some huge tragedy. It’s presented as one of those things that can happen in life, and we see how a family picks itself up and carries on, while muffling the pain. It’s what a lot of people do.

[END SPOILER]

Kim Tae Hoon as Tae Hyung

As Eun Joo’s estranged husband, Tae Hyung is perhaps the character who’s kept most opaque to us, after Ji Woo.

Given that some of Tae Hyung’s actions are really awful (arguably despicable, even), Show does a very solid job of humanizing him and helping us to understand his struggle and his frame of mind. For the record, and credit to Show, I did become more sympathetic towards him by Show’s end.

I will share more of my thoughts about Tae Hyung in his section with Eun Joo, but for now, here’s a quick snippet.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E13. It seems to help put Tae Hyung in the right frame of mind to go see his mother, and tell her calmly that he’s sorry for acting out, and that he’s going to close down the hospital, and also, that he will sort out the alimony according to Eun Joo’s wishes. He’s not swayed by his mother’s disapproval, and it’s clear from his manner, that his decision is final and not up for discussion. That feels like a good step forward for Tae Hyung.

I find Tae Hyung’s statement quite thought-provoking; that after coming out, people tend to either get uncomfortable and grow distant, or try harder to be nice. That.. seems about right, in my own observations and experiences.

[END SPOILER]

RELATIONSHIPS

The relationships in this drama all feel very true to life. I feel like these family members know one another so well, and yet, don’t know one another at all, sometimes.

There’s so much built-up tension through various hurts and grudges, that it feels like they might be stuck in these relationship patterns forever, if something doesn’t happen – and of course, that’s why we’re here, so that Stuff can happen, and throw these unhealthy dynamics into disarray.

Mom & Dad

The relationship between Mom and Dad is, I think, the most delicate and tangled one that Show tackles, in our story.

Theirs is a classic example of how misunderstandings, left unattended, can fester and snowball into much bigger and more serious issues. It’s heartbreaking to revisit all the hurt and misconceptions between Mom and Dad, but it’s also gratifying to see them work through their misunderstandings, one small, slow step at a time.

This wasn’t an easy journey to follow, but ultimately, Mom and Dad’s arc gives us hope that even a badly damaged and knotted relationship can be salvaged, given time, patience and love, and is, absolutely, worth the effort.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. It’s quite sad to see the state of Mom and Dad’s marriage. It doesn’t look like Dad did anything specifically huge or bad; it just seems like they grew apart after years of marriage, and Mom’s goodwill basically ran dry, after being taken for granted by both husband and children all these years, which we observe in all of the little moments this episode.

E2. I wasn’t expecting Dad’s amnesia, where he only remembers up to the age of 22. It’s so poignant and thought-provoking that he’s so different now, compared to when he had his more recent memories. It really begs the question of what happened between then and now, since he’d been so happy and adoring when he’d asked for Mom’s hand in marriage.

Mom had looked as uncomfortable and unhappy then, and she does now, and with the reveal that Eun Joo isn’t Dad’s biological daughter, it appears that Dad had adored Mom, and when Mom had gotten pregnant by someone else, he’d stepped in to give her and the baby a family. That would certainly explain why Dad’s always seemed partial to Eun Joo; he must’ve been working extra hard to make sure that he loved her as much as – if not more – than the other kids, and overcompensated, in the process.

E3. When I’d realized that Dad was back in his 22-year-old frame of mind, I’d imagined that he’d win Mom back, with his earnest, young, romantic ways, with their years of emotional baggage erased out of the picture. But, Show has a much more realistic take on this.

Mom’s feelings and emotional state have taken a long and sustained beating, via the distant and sometimes hostile tone of their marriage. And now that Dad’s all earnest and sincere and sweet, Mom can’t suddenly forget all the years of emotional neglect and abuse that’s gone on between them.

E4. The history between Mom and Dad thickens – way more than I’d expected it to. With how adoring Dad had seemed in the flashbacks, it’s hard to imagine that the same person would, not that many years later, be having an affair. I fully expect Show to throw us for another loop, by revealing, perhaps, how alienated Dad might have felt in the marriage, or perhaps how Dad might have felt inferior to Mom, because of her education and his lack of it. Not to say that Dad was at all justified in having the affair; only that it’s never an easy, straightforward answer, and every marriage is a tale of two parties.

E6. I feel bad for Dad and Mom. They’re both hurting so much, and they both feel so stuck. Dad’s anguish and horror, at realizing that he’s been hurtful and violent as a husband, is painful to watch, especially in the context of him being in his 22-year-old state of mind, where he’s full of love and optimism.

It’s so hard to watch him trying to act tough and let Mom go, when he’s only pretending, and really doesn’t want to break up the marriage. That flashback to a memory fragment, of him writing in his journal that he wanted to die, is so sad as well. And then there’s Mom’s pain, at everything that’s happened in the past, now confronted by the adoration and love that she’d forgotten once existed, and feeling torn.

E7. How ironic, that Mom claims that the letter that Dad is looking for doesn’t exist, but it’s actually Dad’s recollection of it, that triggers Mom to remember it too. I feel bad for Dad, for all the things that he’s learning about his life from other people’s accounts, when all he has to go on, are mere fragments of memory. He’s horrified at the kind of husband he was, and now that Mom has blurted out how awful it was to know that he had another family on the side, I’m really curious to know what happened to cause Dad to go from such an adoring, loving husband, to a cheating, distant one.

The way Dad is heartbroken to hear of how he made Mom suffer, and the way he squares his shoulders to move out and graduate from marriage, as a way to make amends, is difficult to watch. Here is a man who is doing penance out of love for his wife, where he has no memory of how or why he hurt her. His bewilderment makes my heart ache, because, if someone is going to pay for their wrongs, it makes sense that they should remember those wrongs. On some level, Current Dad feels almost like an innocent man, because he doesn’t have the memories of the offense.

E9. The way Dad concludes that he did something to make Mom leave, and makes a promise to himself that if she came back, he’d live only as a father to their kids and nothing more, is tragic and heartbreaking. Yet, his emotional distance seems to be one of the triggers for Mom’s unhappiness. It appears that talking things out was never a Thing between Mom and Dad, and that lack of honest communication led to a spiraling misunderstanding that just amplified and distorted itself over the years.

E10. The story behind Dad’s “other son” Young Shik is as surprising as it is tragic. Surprising, because I really didn’t see the twist coming; that Young Shik isn’t his son at all, but is the victim of an accident that Dad had caused while driving, whom Dad has been taking care of all these years since.

When I first heard Dad explain the truth, I felt a sense of relief, because it means that Dad hadn’t had an affair or fathered a child outside his marriage. But when that initial relief wore off, I saw the tragedy of Dad’s decision to withhold this information from his family.

Because he felt that this was punishment that he had to bear alone, and likely because he was afraid to tell the truth because he was technically shirking legal responsibility, Mom spent literal decades believing that he was having an affair and keeping a second family. The terrible damage that did to their relationship is awful to think about, particularly in the context of what an adoring husband and father Dad was, when that pivotal accident happened. The decisions we choose to make can have such serous ripple effects in our lives.

Mom didn’t help matters with how reticent she was with Dad. The fact that she couldn’t muster up the courage to even give him the note that she’d written, confessing her love for him, tells us just how deep the lack of communication on her part runs as well. Over time, that could only erode how Dad felt about their relationship.

Combined, Mom and Dad’s choices not to communicate spiraled into a vicious cycle of destructive conclusions, and the slow but sure breakdown of the marriage relationship. It’s heartbreaking to think that things could have been so different, if they’d just chosen to tell each other what was on their minds.

E11. It’s heartbreaking to watch Mom and Dad talk through their misunderstandings and get to the truth. Dad had believed all these years, that Mom had kept in touch with Eun Joo’s biological father, and that single misinterpretation of a single moment – driven by years of insecurity and low self esteem – resulted in many years of deterioration of their marriage.

That belief had festered in Dad’s heart and poisoned his thoughts, and his behavior had been poisoned as well. He’d lashed out at Mom more and more over the years, believing himself to be the victim, and Mom had endured it year after year, believing that that was the best thing she could do for her children. Now, decades later, with so many wounds inflicted between them, is it too late to save the relationship?

E11. Dad being so torn up over the misunderstanding, to the extent that he seems to want to hurt himself, is hard to watch. It is tragic, that a single wrong assumption basically made his and Mom’s lives so much worse, but it’s even more tragic, for him to pour all of that guilt on himself now. How could he bear it? Dad, who’d adored Mom so much, realizing that he’d made them miserable for decades, with his single mistaken assumption. It must be too much to bear.

E11. Dad trying to have a date with Mom is quite cute, and it’s nice that they have some honest conversation, despite the awkwardness of being at the cafe together. It’s not easy talking about these things, but if they want to salvage their relationship, these conversations are a necessary part of the process.

E12. It’s mindboggling and heartbreaking to realize that Dad’s spent decades planted in a misunderstanding – from an underlined sentence in a book, no less – and that that’s driven him to a destructive cycle of anger and violence, which then eroded the marriage to the point where he and Mom were barely speaking to each other. For literal decades. Wow. It makes one wonder how they’d allowed things to get so bad without attempting to talking things through. But that’s what happens when misunderstandings beget more misunderstandings, and people assume the worst of each other. Even love can turn to hate and resentment.

E12. Mom and Dad starting to rekindle their relationship over several dates, is really heartwarming to see. Dad is so cute, buying Mom flowers, and making up excuses to see her. And they both look so happy in each other’s company. Mom is actually smiling, which shows that she does actually still love Dad, after everything that’s happened. And Dad has more of that 22-year-old innocence and earnestness in his gaze, and I really like that he’s applying that his present. But ack, just as they’re really embracing this change and getting ready to enjoy their first proper date (that’s made without excuses), Dad collapses and passes out. Oh dear. I hope this isn’t serious, but.. it feels like it will be. Don’t kill Dad, Show! He’s just starting to get his lost years back!

E13. Sometimes it takes a confronting sort of event to galvanize people into looking at things differently. This time, Dad’s dizzy spell brings important thoughts and emotions to the fore. Their thoughts are no longer on the thrill of dating, but the sobering topic of Dad’s health.

I like how, with Dad’s health in question, what comes to the surface are things that show that they care about each other. Dad putting food on Mom’s plate; Mom feeding Dad a wrap that she’d made. It’s understated and very nice. Mom advises Dad to get checked out at a big hospital and not worry too much, and Dad teases her about marrying a troublemaker.

Mom finally tells Dad that she’d never thought of Eun Joo’s biological father all these years, and that Dad had been fighting a ghost, and Dad finally acknowledges (in voiceover, so, to himself?) that he was not fighting a ghost, but the loser in himself. Such important truths and realizations, finally acknowledged properly, after all these years.

E14. I don’t quite agree with the idea of Mom selling Dad’s truck without his knowledge, but I appreciate that this gives her the opportunity to see for herself, the things that he kept near to him. His long list of guests because he’d been so proud, that he never invited to Eun Joo’s wedding, and the therapy workbook, where he’d recorded his happy, sad and angry things. How heartbreaking, that his angry thing was consistently himself. And how important, that Mom gets to know it, even now.

[END SPOILER]

Parent-child stuff

Some of the most important relationships in our drama world, are the ones between the parents and the kids.

Show presents the parent-child dynamic in pretty much all of its various iterations; the frustrated parent with a troubled child; the remorseful parent with an affected child; the hurt child trying to communicate with a parent; the well-meaning parent doing what they think is best for their child. We see it all play out in crisscrossing fashion, in our complicated family, and it all feels very raw and true to life. Sometimes, there is so much hurt buried beneath the surface, that even the most well-meaning gesture touches a raw nerve.

Our parent-child relationships do experience varying measures of healing and restoration over the course of our story, and I found it all very thought-provoking and poignant.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E7. Eun Joo asking Mom why Mom didn’t thank her for working so hard for the family in her twenties, again, seems rather cold. She insists on an answer in such a businesslike fashion, that it makes me uncomfortable. Mom’s tearful answer, that she couldn’t say it, because words were cheap, and couldn’t change anything, says a lot about how much guilt Mom carried in her heart, about this. I hope this is the start of some healing, in Eun Joo’s relationship with Mom.

On the other hand, could Mom’s answer be an excuse for not saying anything? Is Mom being evasive with her words? On the other other hand, I can absolutely believe that an Asian mom might not say anything, even though she felt grateful to her daughter. Some Asian families might be open in communicating, but it’s not a strong Asian family trait, I feel.

E9. The way Mom’s single decision to take Eun Joo to the beach with her and leave Eun Hee behind, which ended up scarring Eun Hee for life, making her insecure and timid and overly cautious henceforth, is heartbreaking. There’s nothing Mom can do to undo the damage, and that damage has endured and shaped Eun Hee’s entire way of being. How sad, that one single decision can have such lasting ramifications.

E9. The way Mom tells Eun Joo the truth is quite beautifully handled, I thought. As deeply uncomfortable as it makes Mom to have this conversation, she does her best to find the right environment with which to break the news. I love the little detail, that Mom takes Eun Joo by the hand, to find that suitable spot. The entire scene is quiet yet full of long held-back emotion, slowly burgeoning to the surface. Mom explains her context as best as she can, and tells Eun Joo what I feel are the most important words: “I chose you.”

The fact that Eun Joo is shown watching a vision of Young Mom in her mind’s eye, choosing to walk away from the family that had rejected her and her unborn baby, indicates that Eun Joo does feel empathy for Mom. Plus, there’s that moment where Eun Joo reaches out and holds Mom’s hand, which I thought was a rather beautiful way of expressing understanding, comfort and empathy. But Eun Joo’s still hurt by the unexpected, world-tilting revelation, and her prickly spikes – her defense mechanism – show themselves, in the way that she talks with Mom.

Much as I feel sorry for Mom who feels worried and uncertain for it, I appreciate that Eun Joo excuses herself and doesn’t linger with Mom, only because if she’d stayed, she would have likely lashed out at Mom, in the end. That’s her coping mechanism, and as we see, she does end up lashing out at Eun Hee eventually.

E12. Eun Joo’s tears at Dad’s attempt to return the bankbook to her, feel really raw. I can feel her hurt so clearly, in this moment. Her assumption – again, built on non-communication – is that if it had been with Eun Hee, ie, his biological child, Dad wouldn’t have felt the need to pay back the money.

E13. I really like the parent-child relationships all seem to be improving this episode. Mom writing “I love you” on the note that she leaves for Ji Woo; Ji Woo getting over his misunderstanding about Mom; Ji Woo seeking Dad out at work and spending some quality time; Eun Joo and Eun Hee hanging out with Mom and drinking beer and asking Mom what her dreams are; Mom telling her daughters about her favorite actor and cutely blissing out at how handsome he is. It’s all very heartwarming, really.

E14. Mom really knows her daughters best. Despite Eun Joo’s reserved nature, Mom knows immediately that Eun Joo really does love Tae Hyung, and that there’s some other reason for the divorce, other than the vague generic explanation of them not getting along anymore.

Mom looks so hurt and saddened at the thought that Eun Joo might have gotten married to get away from her family, but it’s comforting to hear Tae Hyung say that Eun Joo actually cares for her family a lot, and (I paraphrase) the reason she got married wasn’t to get away from them, but to gain a husband. I love the new perspective that Eun Joo brings to her conversation with Mom later; that Mom had been so courageous to keep her even though she’d faced so much opposition, it’d be a waste for her to live a fake and forced life. Aw. I do love that.

And, I appreciate that Mom asks if Eun Joo wants to live together with her now; it’s sweet of Mom to ask, so that Eun Joo can feel like she has a place to belong. And I appreciate that Eun Joo declines gently, choosing what’s right for her. I also appreciate that Eun Joo decides to tell Dad directly, instead of relying on Mom to do it for her. It’s partly her showing consideration for Mom, which is a big change from when we started our story, and it’s also her choosing to relate to Dad, whom she feels alienated from, from the recent revelation that he’s not her biological father. It’s an uncomfortable choice for her, but she makes it, and I think that’s worth a pat on the back.

E14. I do appreciate the nuggets of wisdom that Dad imparts to his various children, before the surgery. His advice to Young Shik, to stop being nasty to his wife because he feels inferior about his leg, is such a direct mirror of what Dad himself went through with Mom. And his suggestion to Eun Joo, to look for her biological father, shows how well he understands her. Even though she says that she doesn’t plan to, he knows that it’s in her character to want to know things. It’s so poignant, that Dad knows her so well, even though he’s not her bio dad.

[END SPOILER]

Eun Joo & Eun Hee

Eun Joo and Eun Hee are as different as chalk and cheese, and when we begin our story, they’ve even been estranged for years.

The journey towards better understanding and a better relationship between these two really resonated with me; I have sisters too, and we three are all very different from one another. This sisterly journey that Eun Joo and Eun Hee take, of learning to dig deep to appreciate their differences, and demonstrate the care and concern that’s already rooted in their hearts, was a viscerally satisfying one to witness, for me.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. Even though the sisters have been estranged for literal years, they can read each other like an open book. Eun Joo doesn’t even need to be told, and she’s hit the nail on the head, that Eun Hee’s got something going on, in the romance department.

E4. Despite the uncomfortable relationship between Eun Joo and Eun Hee, it’s notable that Eun Hee’s instinct is to protect Eun Joo from the truth, once she realizes what that truth is. This is so typical and so true, of families. They may not get along, but they’ll still protect each other fiercely, if the need arises.

E5. When I observe the relationship between Eun Joo and Eun Hee, the words “fierce” and “tenacious” come to mind. When they are picking on each other, and when they are standing on opposite sides, their words are sharp, and there is little mercy. And when they were estranged, they stuck to their guns and didn’t even speak for years. And yet, when in crisis, that fierceness and tenacity shows up too.

When Eun Joo finds out that Tae Hyung is gay and has been lying to her through their entire marriage, she tries to force Eun Hee away from her, but Eun Hee stays. Eun Hee’s tenacious in her insistence on staying around Eun Joo, even though Eun Joo repeatedly tries to rebuff her and get her to leave. When it comes down to it, Eun Hee doesn’t want any harm to come to Eun Joo, and she does everything in her power, to ensure that Eun Joo is safe.

She even takes a day off from work, to drive Eun Joo to work and keep her company. This, even though Eun Joo remains prickly and distant. There’s a loyalty here that I appreciate viscerally. It feels like such an Asian family sort of thing (or maybe it’s quite a universal family sort of thing?).. you may not get along with your siblings, but you’d defend them with your life, if you needed to.

E5. I really appreciate that moment when Eun Joo tells Mom to stop saying that Eun Hee is inadequate, because Eun Hee is plenty adequate. As much as she bickers with Eun Hee and uses a condescending tone when doing so, Eun Joo does see Eun Hee’s worth, and she feels strongly enough about Eun Hee, to stand up for her.

E6. When Eun Joo lashes out at Eun Hee upon her arrival, I feel bad for both of them. It’s true that Eun Hee should have told Eun Joo about Tae Hyung’s location, even if she wasn’t 100% sure, and it’s also true that Eun Joo is lashing out at Eun Hee because Eun Hee’s the easy target.

That’s so true of so many families, I feel like. We try to help, but sometimes, in our good intentions, we muck things up further. And also, when we’re feeling low and angry, it’s our loved ones that tend to bear the brunt of our frustration. Both of those things are happening here, and I feel sorry for both of them.

E12. I like that Eun Hee seeks Eun Joo out, in the midst of her own heartache, and basically worms her way into Eun Joo’s personal space, in spite of Eun Joo’s protests. I love the visual of them snuggled up in bed together, asleep after a whole lot of sisterly conversation. Even though Eun Joo keeps saying that she and Eun Hee just don’t fit together, this sisterly bond is stronger than she’d like to admit. And, I appreciate that Eun Hee is cognizant of how helpful Eun Joo’s sharp analysis can be, even though it provides no comfort in the sorrow of the moment.

[END SPOILER]

Eun Joo & Tae Hyung

While most of our relationships in this drama world are focused on dealing with issues and working towards reconciliation, Eun Joo’s relationship with Tae Hyung explores the other side of things: what happens when there are things that you cannot resolve, and you need to end a relationship? How do you do that with dignity and fairness and compassion, in the midst of your own pain? And, on top of that, how do you deal with your own pain, and heal yourself, after the wounds have cut so deep?

This arc isn’t an easy one to watch, but I do want to acknowledge Show’s unflinching gaze on the difficult and messy parts of resolving a broken relationship. Show doesn’t try to sugarcoat things, neither does it take advantage of the drama; every painful nuance is treated with a mix of respect and a matter-of-fact sort of sensibility.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E4. I’d had a hunch that Tae Hyung is gay; that was one of the things that I thought would explain so much. Why Tae Hyung and Eun Joo are so distant with each other; why they both look uncomfortable in their wedding photos; why they live such separate lives.

E6. Although I can rationalize Tae Hyung’s resentment towards Eun Joo – he feels suffocated by her very existence, and her desire to have a child amplified everything that was wrong with their situation – I have to agree with Eun Hee, that he’s a self-centered, selfish prick.

After all he’s done to lie to Eun Joo, marrying her, knowing that she liked him and had no idea about his truth, he doesn’t even say or show that he’s sorry; all he can say is that he detested her. It’s all about how he feels, and he demonstrates no cognizance of her pain. And what about how he pins her down and throttles her? I get that he doesn’t actually obstruct her breathing since she’s still able to talk, but that’s still physical intimidation. That’s so wrong, on any level. Ugh. That’s so low and so awful. I want to reach into my screen and throttle him right back. UGH.

E7. I am quite pleasantly surprised that Eun Joo tells Tae Hyung that they should be friends. Despite all that’s happened, she seems to have compassion for him. Also, I’m mollified that Tae Hyung apologizes to Eun Joo, and tells her that he didn’t mean all the terrible things he’d said to her. That helps.

E8. How illuminating, that Eun Joo tells Tae Hyung that if Eun Hee hadn’t slept over at their apartment and therefore been present when she’d learned Tae Hyung’s secret, she would’ve worked to hide everything. Wow. Eun Joo would rather live a lie, so as to preserve that appearance of a happy and successful marriage? Does she care about appearances that much? Or is this perhaps because she likes Tae Hyung, as she admits later?

E8. The backstory of how Tae Hyung’s mother handpicked Eun Joo to be her daughter-in-law, specifically because she believed Eun Joo had what it takes to endure a sham marriage with a gay husband, is really awful. She literally went out of her way to ruin Eun Joo’s life, and now, she has the gall to blame Eun Joo and be condescending? I really dislike Tae Hyung’s mother.

E10. The way Eun Joo breaks down crying in front of Tae Hyung, admitting that she sometimes thinks that their child would be 5 years old, if she hadn’t had the miscarriage, is heartbreaking to see. She admits that she needs to stop acting like she’s ok because she’s not ok. I completely agree. This armor that she wears is wearing her out, and it’s wearing out her family too.

I think she’s making the right choice, in deciding to divorce Tae Hyung. That’s a measure of progress on her part too, since she’d seriously considered continuing in their marriage, if only to keep up appearances. In her own way, she’s choosing to put down pretenses, and own her reality.

E13. I like how Eun Joo is matter-of-fact and firm, yet without malice, when she speaks with Tae Hyung and asks him to clean up the mess that his violent outburst created. It sounds like she’d perhaps babied him the past (possibly cleaning up his messes?), and now will no longer do so, because, as she says, he needs to feel the violence of his actions, and clean it up. That feels like a healthy growing up experience for Tae Hyung, actually.

[END SPOILER]

Eun Hee & Chan Hyuk

The rom-com lover in me couldn’t help but single out Eun Hee’s arc with Chan Hyuk as a personal favorite, even though this is, on the whole, a family drama.

The more we see these two together, the clearer it becomes, that they are quite literally perfect for each other. The only trouble is, they are firmly in the friend zone, and neither of them wants to rock that boat. I wanted them to rock that boat. Dearly.

Watching Eun Hee and Chan Hyuk find their way to romance sometimes felt like watching baby sloths flirt; it’s all very slow-going, and any progress is best measured in tiny baby steps. But, they are very cute together, and I enjoyed their chemistry so much, even as friends, that I lapped it all up eagerly, even during the stretches where I wanted to yell at them to get together already.

For the record, I found the chemistry between Kim Ji Suk and Ha Ye Ri very natural and sparky, and the skinship that we do get, by the end, feels very natural, as if they’ve hugged and touched a lot before. Mmm. 🥰

[SPOILER ALERT]

E2. The frank way in which Eun Hee talks about her tryst with her boss to Chan Hyuk is a little unexpected to me, since, based on how Show’s set up, I kind of expect Chan Hyuk and Eun Hee to have a loveline.

I’m quite charmed that Chan Hyuk’s kept Eun Hee’s photos with him all this time; he’s obviously fond of her. At the same time, he also seems somewhat resigned to being in the friend zone, since he doesn’t attempt to make more of the reconnection when it happened last episode, and he also readily talks to Eun Hee about her relationships with other men.

E2. I do like how comfortable Chan Hyun and Eun Hee are in speaking their minds with each other, even though they’ve only just reconnected after years of being estranged. It’s like they fall back into their friendship, almost without missing a beat. There are some indications in their conversations that they’ve been apart for quite some time, but at the heart of it, the trust and ease is fully intact.

Also, from the way Chan Hyuk responds to Eun Hee, when she texts him in a panic about what to do, now that her boss is approaching her in the parking lot, shows just how well he knows her. I already feel like Chan Hyuk’s good for Eun Hee; he seems so down-to-earth and grounded, at least in his emotions and how he sees her.

E3. I am really enjoying the dynamic between Eun Hee and Chan Hyuk. They speak so easily and honestly with each other, it’s hard to believe they’d been out of touch for 5 years. And when she needs someone to talk to, it’s him that she reaches for. When he’s about to get on the bus, she holds him back, because she needs to talk with someone about her dad. And when he’s stressed about not getting paid by their mutual client, he looks her up.

These two are such a good pair already. But Eun Hee’s heart is so distracted right now. I wouldn’t mind their relationship staying a platonic one, but it would be cute to see this dynamic translated into a romantic context.

E6. Chan Hyuk asking Eun Hee why she brought him along to look for Tae Hyung, is a great example of just how well he knows her. When she tries to come up with a reasonable explanation, he can tell immediately that she’s not telling him her real reason. And when he hears that reason for real – that she doesn’t know anyone else who knows her family as well, and she hopes that he can share the work of watching over Eun Joo – he understands immediately where she’s coming from, and chooses to stay behind.

It’s like, once he’s in, he’s in. He’s proactively, properly involved, with ownership of his part in the situation; he’s not there just to be a helper that Eun Hee can call on when she can’t handle stuff on her own. I like that. I also suspect that Eun Hee just really wanted the moral support and emotional safety that his presence would provide, but I don’t know if she’s even cognizant enough of that, to articulate it to him.

E6. There’ve been some earlier hints towards Eun Hee being much more aware of Chan Hyuk, like when she hangs around in the cafe and doesn’t leave, just in case Chan Hyuk changes his mind about waiting for Eun Joo, and also, when she hears from Chan Hyuk that he’s coming back with Eun Joo, and her first instinct is to reply, “Just the two of you?” But this instinctive recoiling from Gun Joo’s kiss, when she realizes (or thinks) that Chan Hyuk is there, seems to be the most definitive indication that she feels more for Chan Hyuk than she’d like to admit.

E7. Chan Hyuk screening Eun Hee’s calls, and then admitting that he’s exhausted by her, is understandable and even relatable. Since they’ve reconnected, Eun Hee’s dived deep into leaning on Chan Hyuk, while he hasn’t expected or asked anything of her. But every time Eun Hee has a problem, whether it’s her own or her family’s, she instinctively reaches out to Chan Hyuk. This kind of thing drains the best of us, and I can understand Chan Hyuk needing a break from her.

E8. That’s interesting, that Eun Hee is actually cognizant of her feelings for Chan Hyuk. She feels her heart beating for him, and so hides it, and sets out to squash the feelings, so that her heart is toughened up, and won’t get hurt? And, this is the second time she’s done that? How intriguing. Is this a “I can’t date you coz I can’t afford to lose you as my friend if we broke up” sort of thing?

Just as interesting, is the fact that Chan Hyuk’s liked Eun Hee before as well. What was his reason for not acting on his feelings? Timing, because she was seeing someone else? Or, the same reason I hypothesize for Eun Hee? Now that I know they’ve liked each other romantically at some point, I would really like to see this connection find its way to romance.

E9. Show seems to be shifting gears and hinting at a potential romantic connection between Chan Hyuk and Eun Hee.

For one thing, I like how Chan Hyuk – kindly but firmly and without malice – tells Ji Woo that he was wrong to tell Eun Hee not to contact Chan Hyuk. I like how Chan Hyuk then fixes it by seeking out Eun Hee by pretending to be early for his meeting and asking her to hang out with him to kill time. I like the way they fall naturally into companionship with each other and talk about things like they’d done before. I especially like that Chan Hyuk comforts and encourages Eun Hee in his matter-of-fact way, about something fundamentally important to Eun Hee: that she’s a good person who puts in effort for others, and shouldn’t blame herself for everything. Aw.

Also, I like what Chan Hyuk says that he’s learned from Eun Hee, that even though you might know your family well, you still need to put in effort. That feels like the overarching theme of this entire drama.

That mutual moment of uncertainty, when Chan Hyuk says that he’d sought her out on purpose, and Eun Hee “jokes” that her heart had fluttered and she’d considered asking him to date her, carries more truth than joke, I’m sure. And then there’s how they each look back wistfully and thoughtfully at the other, after saying goodbye.

On top of that, there’s the incident later in the episode, when Chan Hyuk’s ex-schoolmates-now-clients tease him about the letter Eun Hee had written when Chan Hyuk had been in the army, pretending to be his girlfriend. The mention that the details in the letter were too real to have been something she’d made up, to the extent that then-boyfriend Jong Min had gotten really jealous, hint heavily at the hidden feelings Eun Hee had had for Chan Hyuk, and I’m pleased to see that this gives Chan Hyuk pause for thought.

E10. Up till now, we’ve seen both Eun Hee and Chan Hyuk occasionally test the waters, with teasing mock confessions and the like, but now, Eun Joo’s certainty and confidence in her analysis of Eun Hee’s insecurities, provides the kick in the pants that allows Chan Hyuk to start to move forward. Finally!

E11. For much of this episode, Chan Hyuk and Eun Hee appear to be on the cusp of possibly acknowledging their feelings for each other, and while that is going on, it feels tantalizing. This is totally the kind of stuff that makes so many kdramas cracky.

Chan Hyuk’s voiceover that he wants to start now, with Eun Hee; Eun Hee’s confession that she’d used to steal glances at him and memorize beautiful pictures of him to think about before she’d go to sleep; Chan Hyuk seeming to almost tell her what’s on his mind – but changing his mind (urgh!); Chan Hyuk later telling her that he’d like to try taking beautiful mental pictures of her too (squee!), and giving Eun Hee pause for thought; it all adds up to this tantalizing sort of dance.

Will he tell her? Will the secret feelings come to light? Will she admit to it, if he tells her? All those questions keep leaping around in my head, as I watch them. I literally urge Chan Hyuk out loud, “Come on, you can do it!” ..But, he doesn’t. Ack.

With the turn that things take at the end, when Chan Hyuk decides to cut ties with Eun Hee, I feel immediately blindsided, but soon enough, I realize that it’s likely the same thing from when she’d cut ties with him, stirred up all over again. She’d assumed something about him which I guess wasn’t true, though that hasn’t yet been clarified, and cut ties with him. Now, she’s assuming something about him again, and doubting his character in a similar way, and I think all the old hurt is back, and he’s deciding to cut her off first, before she does it to him.

E12. Chan Hyuk and Eun Hee never did clear up the misunderstanding from years ago, when Eun Hee had cut Chan Hyuk off, and then had swept everything under the carpet after an all-encompassing apology from Eun Hee that conveniently didn’t go into the details. Now, everything falls apart all over again, because that misunderstanding had been left to fester. Because of that, old wounds are cut open at the same time that current actions inflict new wounds, and the overall hurt is too much, so much so that Chan Hyuk chooses to cut Eun Hee off.

There are multiple occasions this episode, when I wish that Chan Hyuk and Eun Hee would just have an honest conversation and clear things up already, but each time, they decide against talking about actual details.

In particular, I wanted Chan Hyuk to just tell Eun Hee the truth and defend himself already, but he doesn’t. I think that it’s because he wants her to know him well enough, and believe in him enough, that she would not think so badly of him, and understand that there’s an explanation for things.

I kinda get that, but that’s also an unrealistic expectation. Even in the best relationships, you can’t expect the other person to just know stuff or accept stuff without explanation. Even though I get that he feels tired by Eun Hee’s general imposition on him, I think Chan Hyuk should’ve been more forthcoming about what really happened. If you’re going to cut ties, do it after achieving clarity in the relationship, I say.

I am disappointed with Eun Hee as well. When Chan Hyuk tells her that he’s cutting her off, her first instinct is to lash back. She pretends that it’s no big deal, and that he didn’t have to come all this way, just to tell her something so inconsequential. Talk about being passive-aggressive. I rationalize that it’s a natural instinct to fight back when you perceive that you’re being attacked, but that really didn’t help. Eun Hee does go after Chan Hyuk and press him for a reason for him cutting ties with her, but – sigh – Chan Hyuk remains mum.

They make up when Eun Hee seeks Chan Hyuk out to apologize, but again, lack of communication gets in the way, and they end up as firmly in the friend zone as before, with Eun Hee admitting that she’d told Chan Hyuk about sleeping with Gun Joo, to ensure that she wouldn’t be able to date Chan Hyuk. Sigh. These two need to take some courage and be vulnerable with each other, and be honest about their feelings, and have some proper, honest conversations. It’s worth the risk, you two!

E13. I love that Eun Hee cries with Chan Hyuk, and holds him to comfort him, when he tells her about the death of his brother. In voiceover, we hear her say, “I’m sorry I’m comforting the 10-year-old you so late,” and in this, I feel like she’s not just saying that she feels his pain, but also, that she’s sorry for not sharing his pain, all this time. It feels like an important breakthrough moment for Chan Hyuk, and for their relationship too.

E13. I love how Chan Hyuk basically throws it out there, that he’d like to be more than just friends with Eun Hee. “I promised myself that I will only tell that story to that one person who would stay by my side forever. But you already promised me that… you would stay by my side.”

When Eun Hee protests that he left out the word “friend,” I love how Chan Hyuk just tosses out, “Isn’t that too cowardly? What’s the point of being friends forever at our age?” … “You can be friends with me. We’ll see each other forever anyway, so I’m sure you’ll get bored and change your mind at some point.”

Tee hee! I love how nonchalant he is about the whole thing, and how he smirks a cheeky mischievous smirk as he walks away from her car. I kinda love that it doesn’t even really matter to him what label their relationship has, as long as they are together always. Aw.

E14. I actually kind of like how honest and transparent and proactive yet carefree Chan Hyuk is being, about their not-quite-a-relationship. He accepts that Eun Hee might need some time, but that doesn’t stop him from testing the waters and nudging her along with outright expressions of how he feels, along with the odd handhold, even.

Usually, it’s awkward to have romantic intentions be out in the open between two people, if they aren’t actually acting on it, or it it’s not explicitly reciprocated. But here, Chan Hyuk is now blithely open about his feelings for Eun Hee, while keeping things kinda casual, but almost romantic, and it’s quite amusing, because it makes Eun Hee kind of uncomfortable, but she also clearly likes it. It’s like he knows her well enough, to understand that she needs some nudging along.

[END SPOILER]

STUFF THAT WAS OK

Shin Dong Wook as Gun Joo

Gun Joo’s not a bad person, and there are things that I appreciate about him, but there are also things about his behavior that made me distinctly uncomfortable, which is why I’ve put him in this section.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Things that made me uncomfortable

1. As Eun Hee’s new boss, he flirts with and beds an employee whom he’s just met. What kind of boss flirts with and beds an employee he’s just met? Or at all?

2. Kyung Ok claims that he’d tried to get handsy with her when she was drunk, and had tried to get into the cab with her. This is never confirmed nor denied, but it doesn’t help.

3. He allegedly has a fiancée that he’s due to marry, who turns out to be a long-time girlfriend that he’s still not properly or fully broken up with. The remaining entanglement is messy and dysfunctional, and that’s not great.

4. According to ex-girlfriend Ha Ra (Bae Yoon Kyung), Gun Joo had a habit of cheating on her a little bit, during their time together in the last 9 years. This, also, is not confirmed nor denied, but this is the second bad testimonial he’s gotten.

5. It’s not cool that he kept the fact that he’d been the person Eun Hee had been writing to all along, from Eun Hee.

Things that mollified me

1. He’s honest that he will only wait for Eun Hee for one season and no more.

2. He’s honest about his feelings for Eun Hee.

3. He does back off, when she tells him with finality, that she’s not interested in being romantically involved with him.

4. I am quite amused that Gun Joo basically asks Chan Hyuk out on a date, in episode 13.

5. He’s not too proud to admit when he’s wrong. In episode 13, he readily admits that he’d misjudged Kyung Ok, and that he needs to restart his study of people. I thought that was a nice turnaround from the other time when he’d been so sure of his ability to read people and had made presumptuous statements about Eun Hee.

6. He does give Eun Hee sincere advice about self-publishing, which she’s interested to explore.

[END SPOILER]

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

Bae Yoon Kyung as Ha Ra

I did not like Ha Ra, as a character. The more we see of her, the more toxic she appears to be. So here, for the record, as her behaviors that I found highly dysfunctional and overall, just unacceptable.

[SPOILER ALERT]

1. Ha Ra comes across as really passive-aggressive, pretending to be all nice, friendly and polite, while throwing backhanded compliments and barely disguised insults at Eun Hee. And she even goes so far as to arrange for Gun Joo to meet them at the restaurant, pretending that he’s there to have dinner with her. She’s not just a mess; she’s a manipulative, vindictive mess. Shudder.

2. The way Ha Ra calls Eun Hee using Gun Joo’s phone, and then screams at her, is just way out of line. .

3. Ha Ra literally confiscates Gun Joo’s phone and holds onto it for the entire week that they  spend together. Controlling, much? And they aren’t even still dating, at this point.

4. She lies to Eun Hee that Gun Joo slept with her that week, and then waits in anticipation for the fallout to come. When it doesn’t come, she’s disappointed and actually seeks out Gun Joo, to tell him about it.

Let’s just say that I was glad and relieved, when she returned to the US.

[END SPOILER]

THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]

Show is very rich in themes, ideas and insights, particularly to do with family relationships. Here’s a collection of the ones that stood out to me, that haven’t already been touched on in the earlier sections in this review.

We lash out at and hurt the ones closest to us

E2. That dynamic, of people getting snapped at, and then snapping at others in turn, is so true to life. I couldn’t help but chuckle at how Tae Hyung snaps at Eun Joo, who then snaps at Ji Woo, who then snaps at Eun Hee, all about the exact same thing. It’s like that classic passing of the fruitcake nobody wants to eat, except this is them passing on a bit of a lashing out, just like families are wont to do.

E9. We lash out at the ones we love because we can. The way Eun Joo goes to Eun Hee’s apartment to wait for her, only to blame her for making Mom face Eun Joo alone with her secret, is painful to watch. Eun Joo is in a lot of pain, and being as proper as she is, she doesn’t take it out on Mom or Tae Hyung; instead, she takes it out on Eun Hee, lashing out at her and deliberating touching on nerves which she knows are raw. And Eun Hee, in return, does the same, to defend herself and to fight back. In the heat of the moment, they both say some awful things which hit home, because they know each other that well. It’s kinda scary to think that the people who are closest to you have in their possession the means to hurt you the most, and vice versa.

We don’t know the ones closest to us

E3. Eun Hee realizing that she doesn’t know whether her dad enjoys night hikes, and then thinking that she’s weird for not knowing her family better, is so relatable to me. Maybe it’s an Asian family thing. I do like what Chan Hyuk says in reply, that families are the same as people knowing more about the solar system than Earth, because this is where we live and therefore, there’s no need to seek to know more about it. He’s quite down-to-earth and wise. I like that.

E4. This show is aptly named; there’s a strong theme of knowing your family members well, and yet not knowing them at all. We see this again and again in our unfamiliar family. The siblings can read each other’s body language like an open book – Eun Hee knows Ji Woo’s troubled, and Eun Joo can tell Eun Hee’s probably dating someone – but they know so little about what’s actually going on, in terms of the specifics.

E6. There’s a strong theme this episode, that our families don’t know anything unless we tell them. Dad lies about having regained his memories, and even though his behavior mostly says otherwise, Ji Woo takes what Dad says at face value. It’s like we can see all the signs and context when it comes to other people, but become blind, when it has to do with our family members.

Memories can be unreliable

E5. There’s a strong theme this episode, of memories being a lot less accurate than we might think. Eun Joo and Eun Hee have conflicting memories of the same moment in time. And Dad has “memories” of things that didn’t actually happen. I’ve heard before, that memories aren’t as trustworthy as we think, and this episode really brings that out.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

Eun Joo says something this episode which I find perfectly perfect: that their family situation is like they’ve haphazardly tossed things in a closet, and now everything’s all falling out at once. That is exactly what is happening.

This family’s bumbled along for the longest time, trying to keep family harmony on the surface, but so many things have been swept under the carpet, and so many assumptions and presumptions made, all of it not dealt with properly, that it was just a matter of time that things would start to disintegrate. It’s just that everything’s coming to a head at the same time, and it really does feel like an avalanche of sorts.

We’ve got Dad’s brain tumor and surgery going on, with Dad even flatlining (ack), Ji Woo basically running away from home, and we also have Eun Joo’s divorce, which Dad isn’t aware of. Each of these things are of the world-tilting caliber, for this family, and to have everything colliding at once, is a lot for our characters to handle.

First of all, I’m very relieved that Dad is revived after flatlining last episode (so much phew), and I’m also glad that Ji Woo manages to come home about halfway through our episode. I was rather afraid that his absence would be dragged out, and that we wouldn’t have enough time to deal with the more important thing: the fallout.

Even as a viewer, I find it heartbreaking that quiet Ji Woo, who’s been the most undramatic of our family members, would actually yearn to leave his family and live somewhere else, where he’s free to do whatever he wants. How much more heartbreaking and gutting it must be for his family members, to realize that the quiet maknae whom they’d thought was content, was actually so unhappy that he’d run away. It hurts everyone to realize this, and I’d actually hoped that Mom in particular would be spared the heartache, but Mom discovers it for herself, and is as hurt and heartbroken as I’d imagined. Poor Mom.

I think, under different circumstances, ie, if everything had been pretty normal, and Ji Woo running away had been the one piece of drama in this family, that Mom might have had more emotional fortitude to show him grace. But, given all the stress and the emotional whirlwind that Mom’s been through, I feel like Mom’s kind of reached the end of her rope. She’s hurt and discouraged and exhausted, and I believe that’s why she’s being cold to Ji Woo. She just doesn’t have it in her anymore, to deal with one more blow.

As a small silver lining, Dad’s firmly on Mom’s side now, as he firmly tells the kids that he wants Mom to just quit them, immediately. Sure, that’s not a healthy resolution to anything, and I’m not advocating it at all, but it is significant that Dad and Mom are now on the same side, where they’d been on opposite sides when we’d first met them. They have come a long way, in sorting through their relationship.

I’m glad that we see Mom and Dad slowly clearing up their misunderstandings, even though most are incidents long past. Even if it’s rather late in the game, I do think it’s important that Dad knows why Mom kept the fruit in the cupboard (for the nursing home where she’d volunteered), and that Mom knows why Dad had collected sleeping pills (to get her attention, because he’d believed she’d find them one day). Even through all the angst and anger, Mom and Dad have always been important to each other, and affected each other deeply.

It’s good to see them finally tell each other their thoughts and feelings so honestly and openly, and actually dance around the idea of spending their future together, even though at this point it’s kind of tangential and vague.

In terms of other upsides this episode, I was glad to see Eun Hee and Eun Joo finally be overtly united. There’s no blowup between them, despite their different personalities and their different ways of coping with stressful situations. Now, Eun Hee tells Eun Joo immediately, if there’s something to tell; no more secrets. And, when Eun Hee cries because she’s overwhelmed by the news of Dad having to have brain surgery, Eun Joo doesn’t berate her; instead, she quietly tells Eun Hee not to cry too much, because they need to face their parents. Also, I think it’s so heartwarming, that they wear the matching necklaces that Ji Woo sent them, even though they both remark that the necklace really isn’t their style. Sisterly bonds rock. 🥰

Not gonna lie; my personal highlight this episode, is the romance finally taking off between Eun Hee and Chan Hyuk.

I really like how Chan Hyuk’s been more overt and transparent about his feelings for Eun Hee, and I like how he’s been confidently showing her more affection, from showing up at the hospital when he thought she might need support, to going to the supermarket with her so that he could spend more time with her. They’ve been in this in-between space between friends and lovers, and he’s been pushing the boundaries, little by little, like the way he encases her in an almost embrace, as they push the supermarket cart together.

Ordinarily, I’d chafe at this because it can come across as an invasion of personal space, but somehow, with these two, it doesn’t feel like an invasion of space. It feels like he knows that she likes him, and he knows that she knows that he knows, and he’s teasing her even as he shows her that the romantic things beyond the boundaries of friendship aren’t as scary as she imagines them to  be.

This episode, I really appreciate that they both overtly draw the line between friendship and romance, and then consciously cross that line. I just like that there’s a point where they make a clear agreement to date, rather than just sort of blurrily fall into a relationship, because they’ve been spending so much time together in close proximity.

I like that Eun Hee makes a decision to be honest with Chan Hyuk, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so; I like that Chan Hyuk doesn’t just assume that he’s her boyfriend and even advises her to think about things carefully; I like that Eun Hee is the one who reaches for him by initiating a backhug, and tells him that she’d like for them to give it a try – and I love that Chan Hyuk, with his heart full, simply agrees, and then pulls her into a full-on piggyback twirl, as they laugh together. Sweet. 😍

I also really like how Eun Joo looks to be on the road to being healthier and happier. She’s gentler with her family; she’s taking care of herself and eating well; she’s matter-of-fact about Tae Hyung leaving; she’s setting up her own office – and she’s even smiling a bit, around Min Woo (Kwon Yool).

Importantly, I’m glad – and tickled – that the reason she’s smiling, is not because she’s taken by Min Woo’s attention in any way, but because she’s amused at his phone conversation with his gregarious mother, which he has on speakerphone, in the car. I think that’s really healthy, that she’s able to appreciate the cuteness of his mom, and I think it’s also very healthy, that she’s able to loosen up a bit around Min Woo. I don’t really care whether he actually becomes a romantic interest for her, though he does seem quite enamored of her. I just like the idea that she’s opening up and not being as closed off as before. And, a bit of laughter surely doesn’t hurt either.

I feel kind of bad for the siblings, when Dad tells Ji Woo to get out, that they as kids have done enough to their mom, and he’ll make sure she quits them. I mean, I feel for Mom, and I get that Dad wants to protect her, but breaking up the family is not the way to make things better. And, this action effectively negates all the progress that we’ve seen, like Eun Hee and Eun Joo mending bridges and becoming closer. I hope the finale turns things around nicely.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

Show manages a finale that feels unrushed and true to character, and that feels satisfying to watch, even though it utilizes the altogether way too overused final stretch time-skip. That’s skillz.

Thankfully, Mom stops Dad from kicking Ji Woo out, and it’s extra poignant that she says it’s because she knows what that’s like, and she won’t do it to Ji Woo. Aw, Mom. Mom tearfully talks about how her family had emigrated, and how she’d felt like she’d had nowhere to go and no one to turn to, when life got hard. Eun Hee says in voiceover that she’d forgotten that Mom had had a mom and a family too.

I think the most important step forward this episode, is Mom reclaiming her sense of self, and her family realizing that she’s not just Mom, but a person with needs and dreams too. It feels incongruous yet liberating, for both Mom and Dad to pursue what they each feel the need to pursue, all while keeping in touch via video calls and being supportive of each other. It’s far from what most people would consider a normal marriage, but it feels distinctly healthy, that they’re able to support each other while not being intrusive or suffocating.

It’s also heartwarming to see how the other family members band together in Mom’s absence, to warm up and liven up the home, and basically keep the family going.

The fact that Mom eventually comes home of her own accord, looking radiant and emanating health and contentment, speaks volumes about how we each need to take care of ourselves and ensure we don’t lose ourselves while caring for others. Mom had poured out so much of herself for her family, that this time away to rest and heal, has been crucial for her, and for the family too. Just as you can’t rush healing in the body, neither can you rush healing for your heart, soul and mind. Mom needed that time away, and I’m glad that she took it, and I’m glad that Dad, in particular, was so accepting and supportive of her, through it all.

Eun Joo visits Tae Hyung where he’s running a clinic in a seaside small town, and it’s really nice to see them talking cordially and openly with each other. I find it quite cute, that despite Eun Joo’s protests, Tae Hyung proves that he does know her rather well, after all. For all of Eun Joo’s incisive observations about other people, she might not know herself so well after all. (So true of people in general, by the way.)

I also like how Eun Joo handles her brief meeting with her biological father. She’s polite and upfront, and doesn’t allow his reluctance for relationship faze her. In fact, it feels like she’s the one setting down the possibility of connection, as she wishes him well, and then leaves. So calm and regal. Eun Joo’s friendship with Min Woo continues to grow comfortably, and while it’s unclear whether things will ever turn romantic between them, it’s just nice to know that she has a friend with whom she feels comfortable, and who makes her smile.

Not gonna lie; my personal highlight this finale, is seeing Eun Hee and Chan Hyuk grow into their relationship. The process, of each of them coming to realize that they truly love each other, was sweet to witness, and when they both confessed it – so aptly, at the walkway where they’d taken their first heart-to-heart walk together – it felt like their relationship was taken up a notch properly. No longer are they dancing around being newly romantic with each other; this is full-on I-love-you smooching, and it makes me happy.

Eun Hee also quits her job at the publishing company, and becomes an independent publisher. She’s not super successful to start with, but Gun Joo tells her that his first project was a flop too. He suggests that she work with a topic that she knows very well, and indirectly hints at the topic of family. And we know Eun Hee’s got lots of experience with that. I’m surprised Show doesn’t hint that Eun Hee wrote this entire show, heh.

Ji Woo goes back to work at his old job, and with time and space, gets over the entire running away debacle. It’s very telling, that when Seo Young asks him if it hurts to think about all the money that he’d lost, he says that it bothers him more, that he’d caused his family so much hurt. Aw. Maknae’s grown up.

With Mom home again, and happy now, our family is brighter and their family chat group lights up with regular picture sharing from Mom and Dad, which is sweet.

When Dad asks in the chat group if they should go on a family trip together, I’d actually expected everyone to say yes, but instead, the kids hedge, asking one another (in a separate siblings chat group, naturally) what to say, until Mom texts Dad separately to say they should just go on their own, just the two of them. Aw. The way Dad’s face lights up in a delighted smile is so heartwarming and precious.

As we get to the end of our finale, I think Eun Hee’s closing voiceover is quite perfect: “As complicated as I am – as we are  – there is family.”

This family will probably continue to be unconventional and peppered with personal drama, but their family bond is now strengthened where before it had been weak, and I’m sure that, in their own way, they will be happy.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Raw, tender and thought-provoking, even in its imperfection.

FINAL GRADE: B++

TEASER:

MV:

And my favorite track again, just coz I love that Goong-esque cello so much:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of My Unfamiliar Family, is Do You Like Brahms?. I’ve heard lots of positive buzz on this one, which naturally piqued my interest. I’ve also taken an initial peek, and it seems very promising!

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️

10 thoughts on “Review: My Unfamiliar Family

  1. Simeon

    Your review for this show has got me INTRIGUED. Definitely on my next-to-watch list now. Huge sucker for slice-of-life, hardcore melodramas that tackle difficult life issues. Also I love Han Ye Ri ever since Age of Youth! I noticed you gave the show a B+ ranking though. I avoided the spoilers haha but just curious why a B not an A 😅

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Well it was close to an A for me, since I gave it a B++, but I think I just didn’t find it as affecting as many other fans.. I found certain bits a bit heavy to get through, but it is very, very good, and I do think you’d like it, based on everything you said! 😋

      Reply
      1. Simeon

        Ah….sounds fair! What’s an A+ drama for you? I know theres quite a few but it seems it’s been getting rare these days 😂😂😂

        Reply
        1. kfangurl Post author

          A+ dramas suck me in and make me care with a passion, and on top of that, the drama has very few flaws. My last A+ drama was My Mister, which I consider a legit masterpiece. 🤩🤩🤩

          Reply
  2. Lehar

    Hi Thank you for the review.
    I loved this show. Despite its dramatic twists , it was so real and characters were refreshingly natural.
    Maybe I am also middle child , have an older sister who likes to nag and a younger brother though quite different.
    I kept thinking about my family while watching this show.
    I agree with you regarding mother’s younger and older version. They are very pretty too <3.
    I loved that mother and father got on same side at the end. Even if they are wrong or not, just being on same side leaves children with happiness because they are together and finally agreeing .

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      That’s so great, that you found this show so relatable, Lehar! 😊 And you’re right, it was such a positive thing, that Mom and Dad ended our story being on the same side, after all that they’d been through. ❤️

      Reply
  3. Snow Flower

    Hi Kfangurl,

    Thank you for the review! For me, this drama was like a cross between the familiar setting of a typical family drama and the raw yet sensitive vibes of Dear My Friends. I agree that the makjang elements were not treated in a makjang-y way, and that felt very refreshing. The emotions were very real and relatable, yet never over the top. Almost all of the characters were flawed, yet I could not help but root for them. My favorite one was Dad. There is always a Dad in the family dramas, and he is always well meaning but a little clueless. I kind of expected a similar Dad in this drama, but I was so happy to be wrong! Jung Jin Young was absolutely fantastic in this role. I found the story of Dad and Mom very moving. I was happy that they found a way back to each other and their marriage got stronger as a result.

    I also liked the loveline between Eun Hee and Chan Hyuk. It was good to see them acknowledge their own feelings after years of misunderstanding.

    I agree with you that often the people close to us are the one we know the least. The show did a great job of exploring the delicate relationships within a family, with emphasis on the devastating consequences of misunderstanding and lack of communication. I thought that the ending was very satisfying and hopeful.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Hi dear Snow Flower, thanks for enjoying the review! ❤️ That’s a great observation about Dad.. you’re so right that Dad characters in family dramas mostly tend to be relegated to the sidelines or background, with relatively less attention paid to their character development. In this show, however, Dad is front-and-center, and his arc affects every other arc in our story. In a similar vein, usually the relationship between the Mom and Dad in a family drama are also relegated to a secondary sort of place, whereas in this show, the relationship between Mom and Dad is so key, and becomes a driving force for a lot of other events in our story. That alone makes it different and refreshing. 😊

      Yes, I found the ending of this one satisfying and hopeful too, which is so great, considering how raw and relatable the rest of the show is. By extension, we can find vicarious hope too, in our real-life relationships. 🥰

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