THE SHORT VERDICT:
Show is warm and well-intentioned at its core, and does deliver a good amount of poignance and feels, when it leans into this aspect of its personality.
At the same time, Show also has a melodramatic side, and while it is relevant to the story, and therefore necessary for Show to give it time in the spotlight, I do feel like Show goes a bit ham with it, especially in its late stretch.
That said, Show manages to end on a poignant, feel-good, thought-provoking note, despite some treacly tendencies, which is a solid accomplishment on its own.
Your mileage is likely to vary, given Show’s mixed reputation. (Hopefully, this review will help you figure out whether this one’s for you.)
THE LONG VERDICT:
To be very honest with you guys, I hadn’t been super sure about checking out this show, because of the very mixed reactions I’d heard about this one.
Some people love this one a lot, while others find it pretty “meh” in general.
Now that I’ve emerged on the other side, I guess I’m kinda somewhere in the middle?
Meaning, there were definitely stretches where I felt rather perplexed about the direction in which Show seemed to be going. But, at the same time, I do ultimately see why fans of this drama love it so much.
All in all, while I didn’t love all of this show (more on that in a bit), I don’t actually regret spending the drama hours on it, which is definitely a positive, yes?
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
I have to admit that the music didn’t make a very strong impression on me during my watch.
What I mean is, the music wasn’t inappropriate or intrusive in any way, but at the same time, no single track truly grabbed me and triggered extra feels for me, if you know what I mean.
That said, I did like the airy, rather ethereal chorus of Track 1, Loner. Here it is as well, in case you’d prefer to just listen to that on repeat. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
Also! Shout-out to Track 5, Halo, because it’s sung by Park Jin Joo. 😍
Please enjoy. ❤️
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. This is not primarily a romance.
What I mean is, there is a romance in this, but it’s not Show’s Main Event, so it’s best if you dial back your expectations for how much screen time this loveline gets, as well as how this loveline is treated.
2. Yes, Show does deal with patients’ final wishes
..And that means that yes, people die in this show. However, Show handles it all with a tender sort of touch, which lands as reassuring and gentle.
I just thought it would be helpful to mention, especially for those of you might be wary of the subject matter.
3. Show’s got a feel-good sheen to it
..Which is not unlike some of the warmer family dramas out there, in the vein of Father Is Strange (review here).
This can lean treacly at times, however (which, again, is not unlike some family dramas out there), so knowing to expect it, and also, being willing to see things with a slightly blurry logical lens, helps.
4. Show’s got a melodramatic bent
And that shows up more, in Show’s later stretch. This can make the watch experience feel a little whiplashy, especially if you didn’t know to expect it.
..Which is why I’m telling you now. 😁 Also, Show does end on a firmly warm note, so hang in there.
5. Trigger warning: Suicide ideation
It may not come as a huge surprise, given Show’s key theme of death, but there is suicide ideation in our story, and I thought I ought to mention that, because that might be triggering for some viewers.
STUFF I LIKED
I’ll be doing a broad overview of the things I liked and didn’t like so much, in this show, before doing a selective spotlight on characters and relationships.
Woori Hospice’s brand of quirk
Woori Hospice’s brand of warm quirk generally hits the right notes for me, which I find really important.
Sometimes, dramas’ efforts to deliver this kind of warm, quirky feel don’t actually work for me, like in the case of the hospice featured in The One And Only. In that show, the hospice’s brand of quirk had come off as strange and try-hard to me, and I’d found it highly distracting.
In this hospice, however, I find that brand of quirky a lot gentler and restrained, comparatively speaking, which I find much more appealing.
The staff seem warmhearted and kind, and I find their various quirks to still be on the believable side of things.
For example, I can buy the idea that Sung Dong Il’s character Tae Sik would sleep in the ambulance on a regular basis, because he’s actually homeless otherwise.
And, even though we don’t know yet why Tae Sik’s spending his time volunteering at the hospice, there definitely seems to be a story there, that I’m sure we’ll find out in due time.
For now, I find it quite touching that he’s basically found a family at the hospice, where he feels important and needed, and who all sincerely care about him and love having him around.
Show’s treatment of the various cases
I can’t say that I loved this 100% across the board, but more often than not, I found Show’s treatment of the various final wishes to be gentle, warm and touching.
I feel this is important, because just the idea that Show’s focus is largely on terminally ill patients and their final wishes, could scare away potential viewers.
I’m here to tell you that despite the somber topic of death, Show manages to also infuse a lot of hope and meaning into the various narrative arcs, so that it ends up landing with peace and closure, rather than sadness and sorrow.
Here are a few highlights on some of the arcs that left a deeper impression on me.
E1. The depth of relationship that Tae Sik’s (Sung Dong Il) built with Team Genie’s founder, Mr. Yoon (Jeong Dong Hwan), feels deep and touching.
As the team readies to grant Mr. Yoon’s final wish, it feels like an emotionally difficult moment for Tae Sik.
I kinda feel more sad for him than Mr. Yoon, actually, because at least it looks like Mr. Yoon’s emotionally and mentally at peace, and ready to go, whereas Tae Sik looks like he’s pretty torn up about having to say goodbye.
I’m glad that in the end, the team gets to help Mr. Yoon fulfill his final wish, of visiting his wife’s grave.
That final scene where he sees himself holding her hand and saying that they’ll be together now, feels touching and poignant, so much so that I’m not even really sad to see him go, since it looks like he’s happy to be going to his wife. 🥲
E3. I think that Show does a lovely job of showing us Mr. Pyeon’s (Jeon Mu Song) passing.
He not only passes peacefully; it’s almost like he passes joyfully, because he knows that he’s going to his wife, whom he’s missed for a long time.
Not gonna lie; I did shed a tear, watching Mr. Pyeon walk out that door, and morph into his younger self, before he walks off into the bright beyond, hand in hand with his wife. 🥲
E3. I’m glad to have more of Park Jin Joo on my screen, because she’s always awesome – but, I have to admit that it was hard to watch her as a terminally ill patient.
That scene where her character Se Hee is in so much pain that she cannot help shouting and screaming at the nurses and doctors, was really hard to watch.
That’s largely to do with how believably Park Jin Joo delivers Se Hee’s pain; I literally felt like her agony was palpable through my screen.
Her joy and gratitude, that Team Genie would work to grant her final wish, is so poignant as well.
Because, we know that as bright and talented as she is, her prognosis is terminal, and she doesn’t actually have a bright future on stage, even if she does manage to perform with her idol, Pyo Gyu Tae (Min Wook Hyuk). Sniffle.
And to make things worse, it turns out that Pyo Gyu Tae is quite the jerk, and completely undeserving of her adoration.
Grr. I kind of wish they’d tell her that he’s a jerk, so that she’ll change her final wish to something or someone more worthy, but.. that’s not where we’re going, at least right now.
I do really appreciate the way Yeon Joo (Sooyoung) tells Se Hee that it’s important to let people know when she’s in pain, so that they can help her, because she’s obviously saying that for Gyeo Rye’s (Ji Chang Wook) benefit as well.
And that’s the reason I appreciate the thought so much; because it’s applicable not only for physical pain, but also, mental and emotional pain.
E5. Although I found some of the scenes around the preparation for the musical on the hokey side of things (more on that later), I have to admit that I really did enjoy the musical scenes, this episode.
First of all, I love that Park Jin Joo gets to showcase her lovely singing voice, which is truly as clear as a bell. 🤩 I need more people to know that Park Jin Joo’s got an amazing voice, so props to Show, for shining the spotlight on that.
And, it’s really nice to see Se Hee looking all glowy and lit-from-within, from the joy that this musical is giving her.
It’s actually really sad to learn the details of Se Hee’s backstory.
I’m quite stunned that it turns out that she’d checked herself into Woori Hospice, without telling anyone.
Her parents have been under the impression that Se Hee’s been busy at a gig in the countryside. Gosh, what a huge shock it must be for them, to realize that instead of being busy with a gig, Se Hee’s been at a hospice, all this time, with not much time left to live.
Gah. I can only imagine how hard the truth must have hit her parents, when they received Se Hee’s invitation, to attend the musical.
And, it looks like Se Hee hadn’t told her boyfriend (Kim Nam Ho) either, so what a shock it must be for him, too, to realize that his lovely Se Hee is dying, and this is the last performance she’ll be able to give, in the time that she has left.
I’m so glad that Pyo Gyu Tae instinctively knows the right thing to do, and ushers Boyfriend onto the stage, to sing with Se Hee.
Guh. That feels so very precious, because it’s their first and last performance together. 😭❤️
And, as they perform, it’s so poignant to see, from the flashbacks, that he’d actually co-written the musical with her, as they’d chased their musical dreams together, before everything had changed. 😭❤️
It also feels fitting, that Se Hee would decide to go home, to spend her final moments surrounded by the people whom she loves, and who love her.
In that way, it feels like Se Hee’s finally come to terms with her condition, and is ready to just be herself, with her parents and her boyfriend, without trying to hide anything from them anymore.
I’m glad that Se Hee gets to spend a bit of time with them, and even manages to write a letter to her friends at Woori Hospice, before her time is up.
I hate that Se Hee had to die at such a young age, and I hate that her dreams and talent never got a chance to fully shine, but I do take comfort in the fact that she did the best with the time and strength that she had left, and thereby gained a sense of peace and satisfaction in her heart.
Song Chang Woo
E11. In terms of Song Chang Woo’s (Kim Gui Seon) final wish, I’d actually thought, when Show had first showing us those fragments of flashbacks, that Chang Woo had been the detective forcing the confession out of Lee Gil Yong.
However, as it turns out, Chang Woo had been the witness, not the detective, and his testimony – which had been forced and threatened out of him – had been the thing to put Lee Gil Yong in jail.
That’s somehow worse than Chang Woo being the detective, in a way, because he’s lived with all this guilt for so many years, and he’d been a fellow victim, in this whole thing, not the perpetrator.
I get why Gyeo Rye’s upset, because he identifies with Lee Gil Yong, who, as an orphan, hadn’t had anyone to help him or support him.
But, I do still stand by the opinion, that Chang Woo had been a victim too. He’d been so young and impressionable, and that detective had been so violent and intimidating. I’m pretty sure almost any young man in Chang Woo’s position would have caved, in the end.
I feel terrible for both Chang Woo and Gil Yong, who had suffered so much, all because of shady detectives eager to close the case by any means necessary.
But I’m glad that Team Genie has helped Chang Woo to ease his conscience, at least a little bit, on this side of eternity. 🥲
The way Show pulls its narrative threads together
As you may have gathered by now, Show’s got a few different narrative threads going in its story, and those threads have pretty contrasting tones.
Overall, I do think that Show does a good job of pulling the narrative threads together, so that they intersect when needed, in a way that makes sense, despite how different they each appear to be.
For example, in episode 1, the arc featuring Gyeo Rye’s release from prison seems completely removed from Woori Hospice, and their immediate focus, which was Mr. Yoon’s final wish.
I felt that Show toggled the contrasting tones of these two threads of story quite nicely, and then brought it all together in a way that makes narrative sense.
Sure, there’s a lot of coincidence at play, but because this is par for the course in most dramas, and because fact is often as strange as fiction, I’ll buy it.
And, I can buy the idea that Tae Sik would drag Gyeo Rye out of the car to take over driving the ambulance, because there really isn’t any time to spare, with Mr. Yoon showing signs of distress, and a likelihood of passing very soon.
Show giving us insights into everyone’s backstories
One of the things I like about this show, is how it gives us getting glimpses of everyone’s backstories, as we get deeper into the episodes.
Even side characters whom I hadn’t paid much attention to, when they’d first graced my screen, got their time in the spotlight, and I found this a very nice touch, like Show is saying that everyone’s important and worthy of being the protagonist in their own story.
Here, I’m shining the spotlight on the backstory that took me most by surprise, and which I thought was handled and executed in a particularly interesting way.
E7. This episode we learn more about Deok Ja, whom I hadn’t quite given a second thought to, while watching.
The fact that she’s played by Gil Hae Yeon should have clued me in to the fact that there would be more to Deok Ja’s story than meets the eye, but with the way Deok Ja’s always just been a secondary smiling face in Team Genie, lulled me into making the false conclusion, that that’s all she would be.
This episode, I found it incredibly poignant to learn about her context, and Show pulls it off in a very thought-provoking manner, I feel.
First, we see Cha Yong (Yoo Soon Woong) giving her longing looks at the hospital, which made me feel like perhaps he was sweet on her and wanted to woo her.
And then, we see her being followed on her way home. And then, we see her have a conversation with a neighbor, where she and Neighbor disagree on the last time she allegedly visited Neighbor’s salon, and what she’d said.
And then, after she gets into her apartment, we see someone unlock the door and enter, which made me think that perhaps Deok Ja had a stalker, and said stalker was following her into the apartment.
So, what a world-tilting thing it was, to realize that the so-called intruder was actually Cha Yong, who turns out to be Deok Ja’s husband of many years.
And, just as it’s world-tilting for us to realize this, it’s just as world-tilting (probably even more so!) for Deok Ja to realize it, and learn that she’s forgotten her husband, and that he’s been reminding her everyday, that they’re married.
Oof. What a poignant hit to the gut that was, for me.
It’s kinda crazy to think that Deok Ja isn’t actually working at Woori Hospice, but only thinks she’s working there, while volunteering, and it’s heartbreaking, really, to think that her husband is volunteering there too, in order to be there for his wife – who doesn’t even remember him. 😭
I have a newfound respect for Cha Yong.
Up till this point in our story, he’d just been another warm secondary character in the background, but now, knowing what I know, I feel like he’s such a patient, tender, loving man, to continue to be there for his wife daily, even though she forgets him, daily. 😭
This is literally the melo, old-age version of that 2004 movie, Fifty First Dates, with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, isn’t it? 😅
STUFF THAT WAS OK
The existence of the gangster arc
As you may know, there’s a gangster arc in our story, that runs parallel to, and intersects with, the stuff that goes on in Woori Hospice.
This does add a layer of stress and potential danger to our story, which I don’t typically proactively look for, but which I concede does add dramatic tension, which is a good thing, almost always.
And, so I’m fine with this narrative arc existing in our story, but, as you’ll see in later sections, I felt that Show sometimes leaned into this more than I felt was necessary or helpful.
When Show is better in concept than execution
Not gonna lie; after a nicely strong start, Show worked out to be a rather uneven watch for me, and I think that a big part of the reason for that, is that at times, Show’s just better in concept than in execution.
Here, I break down why episode 6, in particular, felt more than a little patchy, to my eyes.
E6. I think a big part of the reason for this episode feeling less satisfying than other episodes, is because Show goes off on a tangent, with Seo Jin’s boyfriend Hyung Joon (Jeon Chae Eun and Yeo One) being a victim of a hit-and-run, and Seo Jin asking Team Genie to grant his wish for revenge.
Uh. That is just not what Team Genie is about, and so, even though Team Genie denies her request, we still do spend the episode focused on the accident, and well, it all feels a little forced to my eyes, if I’m being honest.
(Also, the way Show was focusing on Hyung Joon crossing the road, my drama instincts were just screeeaming, that he was going to get mowed down, in the process.)
The turnaround of the driver, going from determined avoidance, to getting on his knees to apologize to Hyung Joon’s parents, feels quite unnatural to me as well.
I’m rationalizing that:
1, This show is designed to have a feel-good sheen about it, and sometimes, that feel-good sheen will come at the price of speedy character turnarounds like this, because Show focuses on one case per episode (ish), and therefore needs to wrap things up on a set timeline, more or less, and
2, I think that Show is very likely kinda like Extraordinary Attorney Woo (review here), in that our cases of the week are selected more for the purpose of supporting our protagonist’s growth journey, more than for their own merit.
And, this episode, the whole idea that children are the victims when adults behave badly, is the central idea that Show wants to shine the spotlight on.
We see it primarily in the hit-and-run case, where the driver’s daughter is deeply affected by her father’s decision to flee the scene, and then to try to shirk responsibility.
Secondarily – and, I would argue, more importantly to our story – this gives Show a chance to shine the spotlight on how this same dynamic has shaped Gyeo Rye’s life.
That, I think, is the key thing here, and because I do feel sorry for Gyeo Rye as I see those snippets of his growing up years, I’m more willing to just roll with this episode’s case, even though I don’t actually find the case that organically part of Show’s stated theme, of exploring the final wishes of patients who are near the end of their lives.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
When Show gets unnaturally treacly, sometimes
This didn’t happen all the time, but I have to confess that there were times when Show leaned into the treacly just a bit too much for my taste, and instead of leaving me with a feel-good sheen, those moments made me cringe. Oops. 😅
Here’s the spotlight on just one example of when I felt that Show laid on the treacly a little too thick.
E4. This was a rather uneven episode for me. Mainly, I feel like certain bits are a bit hokey-treacly and quite unnatural, like the rehearsals for the hospice musical.
I feel like a lot of stuff that has to do with Pyo Gyu Tae &/or the musical was handled a little too.. awkwardly? It just all felt rather unnatural and try-hard to my eyes. 😅
The rehearsals landed that way for me. And the whole way Pyo Gyu Tae suddenly appears to develop romantic feelings for Se Hee, also feels rather weird and forced, to be honest.
However, this arc isn’t without its moments, which I’ll talk more about later.
When Show leans too heavily into the melodrama
From about the episode 10 mark onwards, Show dips into the melodramatic quite a lot more, than at first, and it honestly wasn’t my favorite thing that Show does.
I actually kinda wish Show wouldn’t lean into the melodramatic side of things so much, because I personally don’t feel that melodrama is where Show shines best.
In my opinion, I think Show shines best, when it’s delving into the feel-good of the everyday, where a group of regular folks strives to make the world a better place, one wish at a time.
But I do get the point that Show is making with this melodramatic stuff, that these regular folks have experienced their own drama and trauma in their various journeys, and are wounded healers, so to speak.
They don’t have perfect lives, but they have good hearts and are willing to do their best to improve the lives of others, as much as circumstances allow.
Which is why, like I mentioned earlier, I’m ok with this melodramatic side of things existing in our drama world; I just don’t care so much for how hard Show leans into it, sometimes.
I feel this way about the childhood connection between Seok Joon (Nam Tae Hoon) and Gyeo Rye, as well as Seok Joon and Joon Kyung (Won Ji An).
Honestly, I feel like just one childhood connection is more than enough, and we already have the childhood connection between Gyeo Rye and Joon Kyung.
Did we really also need Seok Joon to have been at the same orphanage, and therefore having emotional baggage and angst around both Gyeo Rye and Joon Kyung too? 😅
I also feel that Tae Sik’s backstory is more melodramatic than is really necessary, for this drama world, but what I’ll focus most on, in this section, is the whole thing, where Patient 403 (Nam Kyung Joo) turns out to be not only Tae Sik’s ex-business partner-cum-creditor AND Gyeo Rye’s BIO DAD. 🤯
I spent the whole of episode 13 trying to make up my mind about how I feel about Show’s melodramatic side.
It’s certainly not what I signed up for; I signed up for the warm, poignant feels that have to do with Team Genie and their work to help patients fulfill their final wishes.
But, I rationalize that the whole gangster arc is part of Gyeo Rye’s backstory, and that’s why we need to deal with it, otherwise he will never be free from it.
Despite my rationalization, however, I am not loving the trajectory that we seem to be on, because, based on where we end the episode, and based on the preview for the next episode, it looks like things are going to get even more angsty and dramatic, and maybe people might die – and not because they’re patients at the hospice. 😅
That isn’t something that I’m looking forward to, to be honest, and I’m just hoping that Show manages to wrap up this arc sooner rather than later, to leave us more time with the warmth of the Team Genie found family.
I think the key thing, this episode, that throws me somewhat, is the reveal that Gyeo Rye’s dad actually has his memories, and while we don’t know for sure if he’d been faking the whole personality change all along, it’s clear that he’s faking it now.
That honestly feels so out of character for this show, which strikes me as being more about second chances.
But.. maybe they didn’t want to give Dad a cheap out, where we didn’t know whether to hold him accountable for things that he’d done, since he didn’t remember doing them and seemed so lost and sorry?
Maybe this is to make sure that we do hold him accountable, because it’s somehow so much worse that he’s pretending to be innocent and lost, when he’s really being callous and manipulative?
The scenes revealing that Dad’s been completely clear of what he’s been doing, and the way he’s made out to have likely started Deok Ja on the hair cutting thing, which she’d then taken over (which is why he says, “You can do it well on your own too”) just leave me with a really bad aftertaste, honestly.
And of course, there’s the thing where Dad reveals to the camera, that he intends to toy with Gyeo Rye and have some fun with it, which makes him all the more repulsive to me.
Instead of being glad to be reunited with his son, he’s now looking for ways to use his son. And I haven’t even factored in the way he’s apparently taken Gyeo Rye’s money bag, angry that Gyeo Rye had been planning to give away the money to Team Genie, instead of to him.
UGH. How unrepentantly toxic can a person be?
ALSO. I’m intrigued that the way Show splices the scenes, it appears like Dad might be the Big Boss of Seok Joon’s gang?
If that’s true, then I wonder how Dad would treat the whole thing where Seok Joon’s been tasked to destroy Gyeo Rye, pretty much, while getting back as much of the money as possible.
Would Dad protect Gyeo Rye in any way, I wonder?
(Honestly, at this point, I don’t expect much from Dad at all, but I’m just thinking that perhaps he has some humanity in him, that would cause him to spare his son?)
By episode 14, the whole Dysfunctional Dad thing is just taking on a life of its own, and everything coming together to potentially implode on my screen, is just feeling a like a bit too much for me, personally.
I hate – like, really hate – that social worker Gu (Park Jung Pyo) gets stabbed by Yoon Ki Chun, as part of Yoon Ki Chun’s game of baiting Gyeo Rye.
Seriously, all Gu does is stop to help Yoon Ki Chun, who appears to be passed out on the ground, and he gets stabbed in return, while supposedly assisting Yoon Ki Chun back to his room.
Gah. I’m just glad that Gu doesn’t die, honestly.
Altogether, this is just WAY. TOO. MUCH. MELODRAMA. (and violence!) for this show, that’s supposed to be about a hospice helping patients to fulfill their final wishes, y’know? 😅
When Show toys with darkness
Occasionally, Show feints towards darkness, and it’s not my favorite thing. I just.. don’t know why Show likes to take these dark turns, that really have nothing to do with its core nature.
It’s weird and feels out of place.
Here’s the spotlight on the scene where Show really leans heard into toying with a dark sort of vibe, at the end of episode 11, where we have that rather bizarre change in Show’s general tone, where it almost feels like we’re suddenly in a horror movie.
The way Show presents that moment when Gyeo Rye goes to Room 403, and the patient wakes up, is horror movie-esque, as is that moment, when Gyeo Rye runs out of the room panting, only to come face to face with.. his bloodied younger self?
In episode 12, that vision of his younger self turns out to be a false alarm, and who Gyeo Rye really sees, is a young boy, who’s there for his ailing grandma.
Huh. I suppose Show pulling that whole horror movie thing was an attempt to show us what’s going on in Gyeo Rye’s head?
Still weird, from my point of view, but that’s the most reasonable explanation I’ve got so far, for Show’s weird quirk.
When Show demonstrates questionable logic
Because Show’s main bent is a forgiving, warm sort of vibe, I can understand its propensity to reach for explanations for people’s poor behavior, so that forgiveness can follow.
However, there were a couple of times when Show’s way of rationalizing and explaining-justifying someone’s behavior just landed kind of weird and unnatural – and also, not very logical – to me.
Here they are, for the record.
E14. I can understand why Gyeo Rye loses his composure and gets so panicky at the chicken restaurant.
It’s because he knows just how badly adults can mistreat kids, and he’s just wild with fear, that something bad’s happened to those two kids.
That said, I don’t know how I feel about what the aunt (Choi Min Kyung) says to him afterwards, that it’s because of his threats, that she’s paying more attention to the kids, and so, he’s doing the right thing.
Uh. That doesn’t sound terribly right, either?
This idea that people need to be threatened, so that they’ll be sure to do the right thing, isn’t an exactly healthy concept, so it kind of bothers me, actually, that Show is presenting this as a positive thing. 😅
E14. I hate that Yoon Ki Chun blackmails Yeon Joo, and tells her to turn Tae Sik in, in order to protect the other members of Team Genie that had worked together to confine him at the hospital.
I have a hard time with this too, because even though it’s true that they should have reported the matter instead of secretly treating him at the hospital, they did save his life.
And as for confinement, is it truly confinement, if he’s able to get up out of bed and wander around the hospice at will?
Like, he’s literally been free to leave, for as long as he’s been awake, hasn’t he? So terming it confinement somehow doesn’t seem right to me.
The way Tae Sik terms all of Yoon Ki Chun’s behavior as him acting out because he’s lonely, doesn’t sit right with me, either.
I mean, it’s true that he’s likely lonely, but that doesn’t excuse a single bad thing that he’s done, especially things like stabbing someone who only tried to help him.
Show’s treatment of Sonny boy, sometimes [MINOR HIGH LEVEL SPOILER]
I know this is a relatively minor thing, but because this did niggle at me, here it is, for the record.
Sonny boy, Gyeo Rye’s dog, is supposed to be really ill, but Show keeps him in that carrier bag for hours on end, as a matter of routine.
I wouldn’t wish that on a healthy dog, let alone a pup that’s suffering from a terminal illness, gosh. 😝
I was so relieved when Show gave Sonny his own little kennel, so that he was no longer being confined in that carrier all the time. 😅
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Ji Chang Wook as Gyeo Rye
If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’d probably know that my favorite role of Ji Chang Wook’s, is Healer (review is here, Open Threads are here, and Pure Pretty post is here!).
I dunno, everything else that I’ve seen him in after, just hasn’t hooked me the same way.
That said, this might be my second favorite role that I’ve seen Ji Chang Wook in (with the caveat that I haven’t seen everything he’s done), and I count that a big plus, in this watch experience.
First of all, it’s Ji Chang Wook in a space that I think suits him particularly well.
Meaning, he’s lean, and angsty, and rather lost – which are, fundamentally, some of the things that made his Healer so compelling to me.
Add on the tattoos, the shorter hair, the cute dog, and the glimmers of backstory, and I’m very much intrigued right away, thank you very much.
What grabs me right from the get-go, is the fact that underneath the smart alecky bluster, there is a distinct layer of sadness and pathos, that ultimately makes my heart go out to this dude, who’s clearly dancing on the wrong side of the law.
Through my watch, one of the main hooks, for me, was the growth and development of Gyeo Rye’s character.
Even though he’s rough and tough on the outside, Show makes sure to give us glimpses of the layers underneath, where we can see that there’s a wounded heart, that can be tender and kind, given the right encouragement.
I was interested to know more about what makes him tick, and also, I found it heartwarming to see him be affected by the hospice folks and the Team Genie experience, in spite of himself.
Here’s a collection of Gyeo Rye highlights, from my watch.
E1. I’m curious to know why Gyeo Rye stole that money, particularly since he appears to have plans to die without even really using it. There’s gotta be a story – or several – around that, yes?
I mean, if you stole it, then why die without using it? And, if you were going to die anyway, then why not give the money back? This situation, where his actions seem at odds with themselves, intrigues me a great deal.
Plus, I do love how attached he is, to his pup, whom he refers to as his son. Aww. Who doesn’t love a devoted dog dad, right?
I’m gutted to learn that sonny boy is terminally ill, right off the bat. That feels a bit like a punch below the belt, honestly.
Like, isn’t it hard enough, that this show is about terminally ill people? Did we need a terminally ill dog as well, to ensure that every single last one of my tears ends up being shed, for this show? 😩
I do very much appreciate Gyeo Rye’s heart for his dog son, in that, he clearly doesn’t know what to do for his pup, but he tries to give his dog the best experiences, while he can.
Like the way he takes the dog to the fancy hotel and shows it the fancy statue, and like the way he buys a fancy sports car, so that he can take sonny boy to the beach, to see the sea.
I half wonder whether he only decided to die, since sonny boy’s going to die too, and he’s got nothing else to live for anyway..?
E2. Gyeo Rye’s got a good heart, but he’s definitely still rough around the edges, like when he casually talks about how it doesn’t really matter if he drives carelessly, since Mr. Pyeon’s on the verge of death anyway.
That really was rather insensitive, although, from Gyeo Rye’s tone, it seems to me that he doesn’t mean to be especially rude.
E2. It’s really heartwarming to think that Gyeo Rye is goodhearted at his core, because, as much as he might act tough or say blunt, insensitive things, his heart is affected by what he sees and hears.
And the way he makes those fake persimmons out of styrofoam, and puts them up in the tree, because Mr. Pyeon mentions that the tree had used to bear lots of persimmons, is really sweet.
I mean, yes, I do think that he does it in order to make up for what he’d said about Mr. Pyeon going to die soon anyway, but at the same time, I do believe that he’s genuinely touched by the Team Genie experience, and that his actions come from the heart.
And of course, there’s also the thing where, when he thinks no one is looking, Gyeo Rye is unguarded and sincere in his conversation with Mr. Pyeon. We can see that Mr. Pyeon’s sincere thanks to Gyeo Rye, for bringing him home, almost moves Gyeo Rye to tears.
That’s really such a moving, heartwarming sort of moment; I feel like this moment really speaks to the core of who Gyeo Rye is – even if he doesn’t know it yet.
E3. The thing that I find heartwarming, is, Gyeo Rye’s trying, even though he’s all gruff about it, and definitely feels awkward about it all.
The way he flashes that awkward smile at Mr. Pyeon, whenever Mr. Pyeon smiles at him, is already so out of his comfort zone, that I can’t even blame Gyeo Rye for not managing a more relaxed, natural smile.
He’s completely out of his element, but he’s trying anyway, because he doesn’t want to disappoint Mr. Pyeon, and that’s very sweet, isn’t it?
Of course, he’s still very awkward and uncomfortable around the others, and therefore still turns down their invitation to eat with them, but.. he’s still making progress, in his own way, right?
E3. We find out that Gyeo Rye had been the first person to save the suicidal mother’s (Kim Shin Rok) life, by confronting her in his rough-peptalk way, over the intercom, after seeing her contemplate hanging herself – and that’s also very heartwarming stuff.
If Gyeo Rye hadn’t thought to say something, perhaps Mom would have really gone through with it, and that would have ruined her family all over again, and in worse ways than she could have imagined.
Which is why it makes it so gratifying to see Gyeo Rye make headway in his Team Genie journey, in spite of himself.
There’s something good, caring and decent in him, despite his prickly exterior, and I am very much looking forward to seeing more of his warm inner core come to the fore.
I’m not surprised that Gyeo Rye takes it hard, when Mr. Pyeon passes; after all, Mr. Pyeon is the first person he’s helped, to fulfill his final wish.
E3. There’s something about the way Gyeo Rye grumbles to Sonny about how the Team Genie folks nag him like crazy, and keep ordering him around, that makes me think that Gyeo Rye doesn’t hate it, or find it all that annoying or horrible, actually.
I do love that glimpse of a smile that crosses Gyeo Rye’s face, as he talks about this. But, the thoughtful pathos that that gives way to, when he talks about how, if you’re really sick in the future, these people would probably help ease the pain, is sobering.
I don’t know whether Gyeo Rye’s talking about Sonny or about himself, but either way, it gives me a wistful sort of feeling, like, why can’t we have a future where neither Sonny nor Gyeo Rye would actually be in a lot of pain?
E4. It’s nice to see Gyeo Rye getting settled into Woori Hospice, and getting into the swing of things.
He grumbles, as always, about how they’re working him too hard, and how they should pay him, but he can’t hide the smile that leaks out, as he thinks about it all.
That moment when the convenience store owner gives Gyeo Rye a lollipop because he’s a volunteer at the hospice, is so precious. Gyeo Rye looks like he’s proud to be a volunteer, for the first time, and I love it.
The fact that Gyeo Rye throws out his cigarettes says, in favor of the lollipop, says a lot, I feel. It seems to me that the cigarettes have been a way for him to cope with his sad life, and now, he feels like he doesn’t need them anymore – because he’s got his gig at the hospice. Aw.
E6. It does seem like Gyeo Rye doesn’t think he’s long for this world, judging from that note that he leaves with the money.
That’s essentially a will, where he’s bequeathing the money to Team Genie, and asking for them to take care of Sonny too, if he dies.
Gah. So many mixed feelings about this.
For one thing, Aw, that’s nice, isn’t it, that Team Genie’s now got a place in his heart, so that he’d think to give them his money upon his death, so that they can continue to do what they do?
But the other thing is, Wait, why does Gyeo Rye think that he might not live for very long?
Is he still thinking about suicide? Or does he think that Seok Joon &/or Joon Kyung are going to come for him, and kill him, especially now that his community service at Woori Hospice is almost done, and therefore he expects to leave it as a safe haven, soon?
Either way, that’s not good. 😬
I don’t actually want Gyeo Rye’s time at Woori Hospice to end, because he’s starting to find meaning in the work he does there, and he’s also starting to enjoy the connections that he’s forming with the people there as well.
It’s so clear that he’s unwilling for the time to end, but he doesn’t have an excuse to stay, either.
E8. It’s rather out there, that Gyeo Rye tracks down the influencer couple who had abandoned Sonny, to take revenge on them, but I rationalize that Gyeo Rye’s got a lot of rage against those who make the powerless suffer, and he doesn’t know what to do with that rage, particularly in the light of Sonny’s impending passing.
And, it does shine the spotlight on the unfortunate truth: there are people who buy puppies because they’re cute, only to dump them when they get sick, or are no longer cute and can’t get as many likes on social media.
In the wake of Sonny’s departure, it is a little odd for me, that Gyeo Rye manages to appear so normal so quickly, but I rationalize that you don’t have to look sad, to actually be grieving on the inside.
And, we do get that scene of Gyeo Rye talking to Sonny, and gaining closure, while musing that perhaps he should live a little longer, since, when he’s at Woori Hospice, he feels like he can be happy like other people. That’s very meaningful, and I’m glad that Gyeo Rye’s able to articulate that.
I also think that the anticipation of losing Sonny was worse for Gyeo Rye, than actually losing him, and it does look like Gyeo Rye’s taking comfort in the thought that he and Sonny will be reunited one day, in the great beyond.
E9. It’s nice to see how his time at Woori Hospice has worked to change and shape Gyeo Rye, despite his misgivings.
The fact that he makes it a point to attend Mr. Jang’s wedding, even though he’s officially left the hospice, says a lot about how this has become a heart thing for him, and not just a thing that he has to do, in order to fulfill his community service hours.
He’s there at the wedding because it’s important to him personally, and that’s really pretty heartwarming and gratifying in itself.
E12. I found it quite heartwarming to see Gyeo Rye bond with that brother and sister pair.
He’s like a big brother to them, in a way, and you can see him feel all chuffed, every time they look up to him for something. That’s cute. 😁
Sooyoung as Yeon Joo
I enjoy Sooyoung as an actress, and I’m happy to say that I liked her outing as Yeon Joo very well, even though there were times when I thought the writing choices around her character were a little.. odd (which I’ll talk about in the spoiler section below).
I really liked Yeon Joo as a general rule, because even though her passion does come off on the rather extreme end of things sometimes, she remains consistently likable and good-hearted, through it all.
Here are just a couple of thoughts around Yeon Joo.
E2. Yeon Joo’s quick to act on her feelings, like in the way she kicks off the side mirror from Gyeo Rye’s car, but also, she doesn’t try to shirk responsibility, when Gyeo Rye asks her to pay for the repair costs.
Even when Gyeo Rye tells her an amount that’s almost the entirety of the deposit on her apartment, she doesn’t try to get out of it, and instead starts thinking of how to live her life on the amount that she would have left, after deducting the repair fee.
That endears her to me, in that she’s unapologetic about her feelings, but she also dares to take responsibility for her actions.
E4. I really appreciated learning more about Yeon Joo’s backstory, this episode.
Her reason for exercising, so that she can be strong for the patients, is so poignant.
The idea that she hadn’t been able to get her mom to a hospital when Mom had been in so much pain, because she hadn’t been strong enough to carry mom down the stairs, is just so poignant and heartbreaking.
And the fact that Yeon Joo channels that regret into something positive and oriented to the present and the future, instead of fixating on the past, is so admirable to me.
I have to wonder how much it must have taken for her to process that, and heal from that, in order to be in that positive space where she is now.
I also now understand why she has such a great passion for Team Genie’s work; in some small way, she probably feels like she’s doing something for her mom, even she’s doing all these things, for her patients.
Gosh, I suddenly feel so protective of Yeon Joo, now that I know this about her. ❤️
E9. I feel sorry for Yeon Joo, who’s left to deal with Gyeo Rye’s sudden and rather bizarre disappearance, all on her own.
And yet, because Yeon Joo’s generally such a level-headed, grounded sort of person, that I don’t worry for her as much as I worry for Gyeo Rye, who literally looks thisclose to losing his mind, thanks to Joon Kyung’s clingy tantrums.
Plus, this episode, we see Dr. Yang girding himself up to court Yeon Joo all over again, which does provide Yeon Joo with a bit of a distraction, even though we know that her heart is with Gyeo Rye.
E9. I’m glad for Tae Sik, who gives Yeon Joo the push that she needs, in order to go and get Gyeo Rye back, but I have to say, I’m not sure how to feel about the whole thing, when Yeon Joo confronts Joon Kyung.
I mean, I like badass Yeon Joo, I really do.
But.. when badass Yeon Joo pits herself against a very mentally ill Joon Kyung, who literally walks off a building because Yeon Joo takes Gyeo Rye away, I feel like I can’t root for those actions, in good conscience.
And while I understand that Yeon Joo’s not a psychiatric nurse, it still niggles at me that Yeon Joo would act like that towards someone who’s essentially a psychiatric patient.
What I mean is, shouldn’t Yeon Joo understand the risks better than the average person, of driving someone like Joon Kyung, to the edge?
I found this writing decision rather odd, honestly.
Sung Dong Il as Tae Sik
I have a big soft spot for Sung Dong Il, and for that reason alone, I was glad to have him on my screen as Tae Sik.
Better yet, Tae Sik turns out to be such a warm and kind presence in our story world, in all his gruff, cheeky, big-hearted glory.
I love how his presence works out to be a blessing, not only to the patients at Woori Hospice, but also, to everyone who works with him – and even random people who cross his path.
He’s almost got a fairy godfather vibe, in a manner of speaking? Team Genie wouldn’t have been the same, without him.
E2. I have no idea what’s happened in Tae Sik’s life, and how he’s ended up estranged from his family and homeless, and what’s led him to Woori Hospice, but he definitely strikes me as a decent, goodhearted person, and I like him already.
E5. I’m gutted to realize that Tae Sik’s cancer is back, and that he doesn’t expect to live for very long – which is the piece of information he uses, to get Dr. Yang to help Se Hee with morphine, to support her in achieving her final wish.
So I was right, that Tae Sik had survived a condition which had been classified as terminal, which is how he’d ended up at Woori Hospice.
But, how cruel, that he’s had a relapse, and now doesn’t have long to live. Dang. I wonder if he’d be able to beat the cancer a second time? Is that too much to hope for..? 😭
E10. It’s rather poignant to see Tae Sik come face to face with his past, via that meeting with his old friends.
There’s a certain pathos to how Tae Sik just smiles and takes it all in, admitting his mistakes and apologizing, as his old friends lash out a little bit, because of old wounds.
On the one hand, I feel sorry for Tae Sik, that he’s on the receiving end of such sore feelings, but on the other hand, I feel relieved, that he seems to have risen above all of that, and is happier and more peaceful now, than he’d ever been, in the past.
It’s also pretty poignant, to think that Tae Sik only reached out to his old friends, because of someone’s final wish.
Meaning, he wouldn’t have had to face that treatment, if not for that wish – and yet, he says that it’s set his heart at ease, to face his old friends, and he regrets not doing so earlier.
Our Tae Sik really does sound like someone who’s at peace with his life and himself, doesn’t he?
E11. This episode, Show opens with a flashback to how Tae Sik had lost his family, and it’s sad, tragic stuff.
Of course Tae Sik would blame himself for going to that “meeting,” because if he’d chosen to decline, he would’ve driven his wife and son home, and they wouldn’t have met that Truck Of Doom, and died in that accident.
I can see why Tae Sik ended up punishing himself by becoming homeless, and now, I can also see why he might decline treatment for his cancer.
It’s partly his way of punishing himself, but it’s also him deciding that he’s lived enough, and that it’s time for him to be reunited with his wife and son.
That said, I’m glad that Gyeo Rye insists that Tae Sik get treatment for his cancer, as a condition for allowing Tae Sik to assist with Song Chang Woo’s final wish, and that Tae Sik agrees.
Gyeo Rye and Tae Sik
The relationship between Gyeo Rye and Tae Sik was one that grabbed my attention right from the beginning, perhaps even more than the central loveline had grabbed me, at first.
That’s saying a lot, because as a long-time kdrama fan who cut my teeth on all of the romance, my fangirl brain had been pretty much trained to home in on the main loveline, in just about any drama. 😅
And yet, I can honestly say that there were times when I was more invested in this relationship than in the main loveline.
All that said, I thought I should summarize my initial thoughts around the connection between Gyeo Rye and Tae Sik.
(If you haven’t seen the show and don’t want to be spoiled, I’d strong suggest looking away right about now. 😉)
My years of drama watching had trained my drama senses to zoom in on details that the drama in front of me points out, and then make connections for my characters, based on a rather melodramatic paradigm.
Which means that when Show gives us that flashback of young Gyeo Rye being waved back into his room by a younger Tae Sik, I’d assumed them to be father and son.
The fact that Tae Sik would do that, made me feel like Tae Sik was looking out for Gyeo Rye’s safety, which, again, father and son conclusion.
Plus, I guess I just assumed that the person who was being threatened, would be the resident of the house, and not the visitor. Like, creditors come to harass debtors, and debtors don’t seek out their creditors, that kind of thing, y’know?
On top of that, there’s the way Tae Sik recognizes the burn mark on Gyeo Rye’s neck, and also, the way Tae Sik later mutters to himself, that he’d recognized Gyeo Rye right away.
All of those things put together had me thinking that Tae Sik and Gyeo Rye were father and son, and that their arc would be one of reconciliation, after having spent years estranged and apart.
But no. That is not actually the case, and it was only at about Show’s halfway point, that I felt confident of the opposite conclusion: that Gyeo Rye and Tae Sik are NOT, in fact, father and son. 😅
To be fair to Show, there were indications of this, like glimpses of the photograph of Tae Sik’s young son, which I might have been able to figure out wasn’t Gyeo Rye, if I’d paid more attention to the kid actors’ faces. 😅
And there was also the fact that Gyeo Rye hadn’t been that little, when he’d gone to the orphanage, and therefore, he should have been able to remember his own father’s face, or at least, his own face, if the people in the photo had indeed been him and his father.
But, I was so fixated on the hints that they were father and son – and I probably wanted them to be father and son bad enough – that I ignored all the signs to the contrary.
My bad. 🙈
ANYWAY. I still very enjoyed the surrogate father and son dynamic that we eventually get, and it was a heartening journey, to see Gyeo Rye and Tae Sik grow closer, in spite of Gyeo Rye’s reservations.
Here are a handful of my favorite Gyeo Rye-Tae Sik highlights, during my watch.
E7. Tae Sik finally tells Gyeo Rye about his journey to Woori Hospice; how he’d tried to kill himself; how the team had saved him; how he’d survived the cancer; how the cancer’s come back.
He makes it all sound to compact and matter-of-fact, but there’s so much poignance in his story, and I can only imagine how much he’s endured, emotionally, physically and mentally, to get to where he is today – only to be in a position to tell Gyeo Rye, that he’s basically losing the battle. Sob. 😭
I do like that Tae Sik’s opening up to Gyeo Rye.
E8. I really like that moment in the car, where Tae Sik tells Gyeo Rye that if Sonny had never met him, he’d never have learned that the world’s not such a bad place after all – and Gyeo Rye tells him that it’s the same with him and Tae Sik; that if he’d never met Tae Sik, he’d never have learned that exact same thing, that the world’s not such a bad place after all.
Aw. That is very sweet and heartwarming, and I’m happily shocked, actually, that Gyeo Rye would be able to even say that out loud to Tae Sik, given how he tends to keep a gruff front.
E10. It’s heartwarming and cute and also rather cringey (heh), to see how Gyeo Rye shows up at the restaurant to pick him up in the ambulance, and makes a big show of addressing him as “Boss,” ha.
How sweet, though, that Gyeo Rye’s gone and bought Tae Sik a new pair of dress shoes, because he’d realized that Tae Sik doesn’t have a pair.
Gosh, these two. They are already functioning like a surrogate father and son pair, and man, I wish Tae Sik wasn’t terminally ill, so that they’d have more time together. 😭
E12. It does warm my heart to see how much Gyeo Rye misses Tae Sik, now that Tae Sik’s checked himself into hospital for chemotherapy.
His peevishness, when he realizes that just about everyone else on Team Genie had had a chance to say goodbye, and he’s the only one who slept through Tae Sik’s departure, becomes quite the running gag, this episode, heh.
But that just shows how much this bothers Gyeo Rye, and the way Gyeo Rye calls Tae Sik to complain about this, and just nag in general, is quite cute and heartwarming. He’s totally a baby chick clinging to the mother hen who found him, isn’t he? 😁
Gyeo Rye and Yeon Joo
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, this loveline between Gyeo Rye and Yeon Joo is not Show’s Main Event at all, and as a result, its presence in our story world is pretty low-key.
I thought Ji Chang Wook and Sooyoung share a good amount of chemistry, from the initial bickering of maybe-enemies, to the eventual softening and friendship, and then the minting of the OTP relationship.
I will also say that while I instinctively rooted for the OTP relationship almost as a default, there were times when I felt that Yeon Joo was having to deal with so much of Gyeo Rye’s emotional baggage, that it kinda seemed unfair to her. 😅
Overall, though, I still found this relationship a nice addition to our story world.
Here’s a quick look at some of the OTP moments that stood out to me, during my watch.
E2. I can’t help but notice that Yeon Joo’s approach to managing Gyeo Rye isn’t that different from Tae Sik’s approach. She mostly acts gruff and casual with Gyeo Rye, like she’s expecting him to do the needful already, and to hurry up and not waste time.
I feel like with Gyeo Rye, this is most likely the best approach, right now anyway. It gives him an easy way to move away from the awkward moment that he’s created, by saying no, or saying something insensitive. It gives him an easy way out, basically.
That makes me think that Yeon Joo recognizes Gyeo Rye’s type, and understands what he’s about, and what he needs, without having to be specifically told. I do like that.
E4. Even though the loveline between Gyeo Rye and Yeon Joo in the musical does lean shoehorned in, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the spots of hyperawareness between Gyeo Rye and Yeon Joo, as they try to make their roles work.
In fact, Show seems to be serving up as many hyper-proximity and hyper-awareness moments as possible, this episode, between the two of them, like it’s a show on a mission and has no time to lose.
It all feels rather sudden to me, but because I feel like Ji Chang Wook and Sooyoung do share a nice chemistry, I’m quite happy to roll with it.
Like that moment when Yeon Joo goes to the kitchen when Gyeo Rye’s helping Soon Ja season vegetables, and Soon Ja asks Yeon Joo to have a taste – which is Gyeo Rye’s cue to feed Yeon Joo, ha.
It’s unbelievable to me that Gyeo Rye would even know to feed someone else, since he’s positioning himself as such a loner, but the sudden hyper-awareness and awkwardness on Yeon Joo’s part, is quite cute, hee. 😁
E4. I also really like the warm, matter-of-fact, simple way she talks about her painful past with Gyeo Rye.
This is the first time I feel like they’re relating to each other without any awkwardness or pretense standing in the way, where their conversation is honest and warm, and I hafta say, I like it a lot.
E5. I’m glad to see Yeon Joo and Gyeo Rye have that moment of quiet conversation, over yogurt drinks.
That’s quite possibly the most philosophical, open-hearted conversation I’ve seen them have, like, ever, and I like this indication that they’re growing more comfortable with each other, enough to open up about personal things, a little bit.
E5. I like the glimmers of connection that Show continues to give us, between Gyeo Rye and Yeon Joo.
Like the way they talk about why Se Hee doesn’t look like she’s sick, during the musical.
The vibe between them is open and thoughtful, and the old bickery tone is gone. I like that.
I also really like the look of happiness on Gyeo Rye’s face, as he watches the goings-on. He tries to hide it, but it’s so clear to see, that this is all giving him some very positive feels. I like that too.
I wasn’t so into the accidental kiss itself, because I’d rather my OTP kiss when they actually want to, and not because someone pushed their lips together. But, I do like the subsequent hyper-awareness that this creates, in both of them.
What I did like, is how Yeon Joo’s able to reach out and talk to Gyeo Rye, when he gets overwhelmed by Se Hee’s passing.
That feels important and precious, that at a time when he’s most likely to push people away, he allows her in, even for a bit.
And of course, there’s the thing where Yeon Joo articulates a dream for Gyeo Rye, to be happy, and that’s exactly what he’d said himself, almost absentmindedly, at the vet’s, when Jin Gu had asked what Sonny’s final wish might be.
PLUS, there’s the way Yeon Joo softens at the sight of Gyeo Rye cuddling up to Sonny. Aw. I do think we’re catching glimpses of feelings, yes?
E6. I’m pleasantly surprised by Yeon Joo’s spur-of-the-moment confession to Gyeo Rye.
Their conversation just feels so natural and so unguarded, of late, and I really like that a lot.
Perhaps it’s because of that, that Yeon Joo’s confession feels so natural, like it just flowed out, as an extension of the conversation?
I love how Gyeo Rye thinks to ask Yeon Joo what her joys in life are, and I love Yeon Joo’s answers, which are so small and everyday, and yet, help me to see that she’s living a life that makes her feel fulfilled.
And then I love how she adds, like she’s only just realizing it, that one more joy, that she’s just discovered, is the man who wants to know about her joy in life.
Ahhh! I love how naturally she says that, like there’s nothing to feel embarrassed about.
I love how she just thoughtfully continues to talk, as if she’s chewing on the idea out loud, about how she’d like to become stronger, and make him laugh more, because he’s got a beautiful smile.
Oh my gosh. I think I love her. She’s so unabashed and low-key about it, at the same time. That’s so cool, honestly. 🤩
Gyeo Rye doesn’t give her a direct answer, but there’s a sense of quiet pleasure in his face, in the wake of her confession, that I find quite delightful to see. 🤩
It’s just too bad that Yeon Joo inadvertently upsets Gyeo Rye by washing his carrier without permission.
I’m guessing that Gyeo Rye’s being extra sensitive because that’s where he keeps those wads of cash that he’d stolen, but it’s also possible that this is Gyeo Rye’s loner tendencies coming to the surface.
He’s not used to living with people, and that’s why he’s so weirded out be someone else touching his things, perhaps?
I’m glad, though, that Gyeo Rye apologizes the next day, by leaving that apple-flavored yogurt drink for Yeon Joo (because “apple” and “apology” are both 사과 “sagwa” in Korean).
And I’m also glad, that Yeon Joo readily smiles to herself and drinks the yogurt, even though Gyeo Rye’s labeled the bottle “For Seo Yeon Joo’s constipation,” ha.
E7. I really like seeing how Gyeo Rye and Yeon Joo are on such comfortable talking-teasing-trolling terms now.
That level of comfort makes me think that they’re on very close terms – which is exactly the impression that Dr. Yang gets, every time he sees them together.
Backing up a bit, I did like the scene where Gyeo Rye goes up into the mountain to look for Yeon Joo, because he’s worried about her.
The way Gyeo Rye blusters at her in consternation, when he sees her and realizes that she’s ok, is really quite endearing, because it’s clear to see that he cares about her, and worries for her, even though he doesn’t want to admit it.
Which is why it’s so great that Yeon Joo see beyond the bluster, and reacts to his care, rather than his grumpy words.
This is why they’re able to get along, I do think, because if Yeon Joo reacted to his grumpy words instead, they’d be bickering all day long.
Instead, she teases him about crying out of worry for her, and it’s just really cute, how he keeps denying it so vehemently, and yet, that does nothing to convince her that he didn’t cry out of worry for her. Cute! 😁
And then, the way they bury that dead baby boar together (so sad 🙁), feels like a precious, personal sort of moment too, especially since they continue to talk about life and death, even as they bury the baby.
E7. Yeon Joo’s already made her confession to Gyeo Rye, and this episode, we also get a half-conscious confession from Gyeo Rye, just before he falls into a feverish sleep, while Yeon Joo’s tending to him.
(Gosh, I do like the low-key, comfortable vibe of the air between them, in this scene. 🥰)
Plus, I do love the fact that Gyeo Rye tells Yeon Joo about the thing that’s been bothering him, in the last couple of days; that a patient had asked him to kill him, because the patient had assumed that Gyeo Rye would have experience in killing people.
That’s such a personal thing, and Gyeo Rye appears to be sharing it so easily with Yeon Joo. That’s the biggest clue of all, that he’s comfortable with her, and trusts her, and likes her.
And I do love Yeon Joo’s compassionate answer, where she demonstrates understanding for both Gyeo Rye and the patient.
The way she apologizes to Gyeo Rye on the patient’s behalf, then explains what it’s like for the patients, feels like the wisest, most sensitive thing she could have done. I love her. ❤️
And importantly, there’s the way Gyeo Rye’s leaking smiles around Yeon Joo now, which just makes me smile too. It makes me happy to see him happy, and Yeon Joo clearly makes him happy, just by being around him, and being herself. I love that.
Despite Gyeo Rye and Yeon Joo having mutually fond feelings for each other, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be an easy thing, for them to actually have a relationship.
First, there’s the thing where Gyeo Rye’s due to leave Woori Hospice, because he’s completed his community service hours.
If he does leave, particularly if he leaves without acknowledging his feelings for Yeon Joo while actually fully awake, I suppose that could put Dr. Yang back in the game, maybe?
After all, Yeon Joo’s brother – whom Gyeo Rye accidentally gets on the wrong side of, oops – seems very partial to Dr. Yang as a potential brother-in-law.
Secondly, there’s Joon Kyung, who’s actively searching for Gyeo Rye, and seems to be making headway in her search.
E8. The highlight of this episode, for me, was seeing Gyeo Rye and Yeon Joo finally get their feelings out in the open, and go on a date. YESSS.
First of all, YAY that Gyeo Rye totally remembers telling Yeon Joo that he likes her, and DOUBLE YAY that he brings it up and acknowledges it, instead of pretending that it had never happened.
It’s cute how Yeon Joo does that roundabout teasing thing that she always does with him, before she offers to plan their date.
And – ha! – of COURSE the date that Yeon Joo plans, is nothing like the kind of date that Gyeo Rye had in mind.
Practicing CPR, volunteering at an animal shelter and rock-wall climbing are just the sort of unconventional activities that I can see Yeon Joo enjoying, but all poor Gyeo Rye wants to do, is dress up and go to the movies, and maybe coffee afterwards.
Tee hee. Poor Gyeo Rye.
It is cute, though, to see them go through the various date activities together, with Gyeo Rye protesting all the way, while Yeon Joo doesn’t even try very hard, to hide her amused grins.
My favorite part of the date, of course, is when they get turned away from the cafe, and walk in the courtyard together, and Gyeo Rye muses over how amazing it is, that they’ve ended up walking together like this.
The ensuing gentle teasing, about who seduced whom first, is cute, but the moment I love the most, is when Gyeo Rye tells Yeon Joo, seriously, that he likes her, and likes her even more now, than before.
The whole air between them changes, and I love how he pushes through the awkwardness, to kiss her on the lips.
It’s so cute how Yeon Joo teases him about whether someone had pushed him, like on the night of the musical, and Gyeo Rye answers, gently and seriously, that he’d done it because he wanted to. Aw! 😍
I love how Yeon Joo then leans in, and, holding him by the back of his head, kisses him properly, with feeling, and without hurry. Rawr. 🔥 Very nice indeed.
And it’s so great, that when Gyeo Rye turns the question back on her, to ask if someone had pushed her from behind, her answer is that it was he, who had pulled her in, from the front.
Ahhhh. That’s a pretty good pun, and I do love the metaphorical meaning of it, that it was Gyeo Rye would had drawn her to him, to begin with. Very nice. 🤩
And then, it’s just really quite lovely, to see Gyeo Rye and Yeon Joo walk hand in hand, out of that courtyard, and head back to the hospice. 🥰
E12. This episode, I’m actually rather exasperated with Gyeo Rye, for not telling Yeon Joo that the patient in Room 403 has woken up.
I mean, I know that he’s trying to be considerate of her being so tired and all, but the the thing is, Yeon Joo has specifically told him – multiple times! – that if the patient were to wake up, to tell her right away.
Gyeo Rye deciding to override that and make his own decisions around what to do with the information, rather rubs me the wrong way, because this is outright going against Yeon Joo’s very specific request.
Of course, intentions count for a good chunk, and I’m mollified that the reason Gyeo Rye’s not telling Yeon Joo, is more because he doesn’t want to add to her burdens, than anything else.
E14. I’m glad that Gyeo Rye has Yeon Joo by his side, to comfort him and affirm him, and point out the great things about him, so that he can see them too.
Having said that, I have to also admit that I felt bad for Yeon Joo this episode, to be dealing with a boyfriend who’s so emotionally damaged, that when he feels threatened, he won’t even respond to her, when she calls his name.
I think that Yeon Joo is good for Gyeo Rye, but I don’t know how good Gyeo Rye is for Yeon Joo, y’know? As in, it feels like she’s consistently the one who’s steady and giving, and working to help and heal Gyeo Rye.
I can’t help thinking that while that’s all good for now, it doesn’t feel like a really healthy long-term dynamic?
Tae Sik and Yeon Joo
I don’t have a great deal to say about Tae Sik’s connection with Yeon Joo, but I just really wanted to give this relationship a shout-out, because I love how they are surrogate family to each other.
I love how Tae Sik refers Yeon Joo as his daughter, and how Yeon Joo treats him like a father. Seeing them together always gave me a bit of the warm fuzzies. 🥰
Won Ji An as Joon Kyung
I have to admit that I struggled with Joon Kyung as a character, for a good chunk of our story’s run, due to her characterization, and her tendency for disturbing &/or destructive behavior.
Credit to Won Ji An, because her delivery of Joon Kyung’s dysfunction felt on-point and believable. She made Joon Kyung seem both tough and fragile, at the same time, and that made me curious to know more about her.
I do think that Show’s resolution of Joon Kyung’s arc leans a touch convenient, but overall, I’m pretty satisfied with Show’s handling of her journey.
Here’s a sampling of Joon Kyung highlights, that I hope will create a decently wholistic picture of her character.
E8. I’m really quite horrified by the flashback we get at the end of the episode, where we see what living with Joon Kyung had been like, for Gyeo Rye.
Joon Kyung was – and still is – the most toxic kind of person on the planet, with the way she’s so self-destructive, and insists that Gyeo Rye needs to be with her, even as she continues in her toxic, destructive behavior.
She basically is insistent on being the most miserable version possible, of herself, and she wants Gyeo Rye to be miserable with her, too.
It’s just awful, and I feel so bad for Gyeo Rye, because his life is hard enough, without Joon Kyung making it even harder.
And now, just as Gyeo Rye’s starting to find a way to be happy, here is Joon Kyung, ready to dive into his life again.
Gah. No wonder Gyeo Rye looks so cornered, and so horrified, at the same time.
E9. Coming away from this episode, my biggest thought is: Gah, Joon Kyung is very possibly the most realistically toxic person I’ve ever had on my screen.
What I mean is, I’ve seen other toxic characters in other dramas, but generally speaking, they mostly land as caricatures, regardless of the genre of drama in which they appear.
But Joon Kyung’s different. The reason she’s so scary, is because I can believe that she – or someone like her – exists.
And part of the reason that I can believe that, is because I’ve come across people kinda-sorta like her.
Not only that, I’ve heard of an actual case where a friend of a friend was tragically widowed, when his wife threatened suicide during a fight, and he couldn’t catch her in time, before she threw herself over the apartment balcony.
Yes, that’s a horrible and tragic story, and the thing that’s most tragic about it, is that it’s a true story.
And so, watching the whole thing with Joon Kyung unfold on my screen, felt so real, y’know?
And while I absolutely hate the way Joon Kyung’s behaving, because it’s so clearly destroying Gyeo Rye’s very soul, I also understand that she’s basically mentally ill.
She can’t just decide to stop her destructive ways; rather, she’s at the mercy of her destructive ways.
On that note, I also just wanted to say that both Ji Chang Wook and Won Ji An give excellent, nuanced deliveries, that made me believe how trapped both Joon Kyung and Gyeo Rye feel, in their own ways.
Joon Kyung is utterly miserable and trapped in her own obsession, while Gyeo Rye is trapped by Joon Kyung’s threats to kill herself, if he doesn’t choose her.
Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot that I think Gyeo Rye could have done differently, given that he’s a decent guy who can’t in good conscience allow someone to kill themselves, if he can stop it from happening.
I do think that it would have been better, if Gyeo Rye could have told Yeon Joo what was going on, instead of leaving her to guess, or think the worst, before leaving.
I think he owed her that much, particularly after taking their relationship into kissing territory, which implies that they’re starting to date.
Aside from that, though, I can understand Gyeo Rye’s decision.
It’s just horrible to see that after some time has passed, he’s so drained by the exhausting dynamic of being around Joon Kyung, that he gives Seok Joon his location – because being beaten to a pulp by Seok Joon is apparently better than being held hostage by Joon Kyung’s mood swings.
E11. I’m pretty disturbed by Joon Kyung’s request of Seok Joon, that he kill her and Gyeo Rye, without them knowing about it.
Gah. It’s bad enough that Joon Kyung’s on a death mission for herself, but she knows that Gyeo Rye doesn’t want to die, and yet, she’s asking Seok Joon to kill Gyeo Rye too?
That’s literal murder.
E14. I do like the breakthrough that we get, with Joon Kyung.
I can believe that beyond her apparent obsession with Gyeo Rye, is her deep abandonment issues, because she believes that her family had thrown her away.
And, I can believe that the adults around her felt that it was in her best interest to not know that her mother had died saving her in a fire. That can lead to a lot of its own trauma, after all.
At the same time, I can see how finding out the truth could have a liberating effect on Joon Kyung, because the truth is that she’d never been abandoned. Quite the opposite, in fact, since her mother had given up her life, in order to save Joon Kyung.
I can believe that in taking in this information, Joon Kyung could and would have a change of mindset around life and the living of it, and decide to live instead of die, because her life had been bought at such great price.
Nam Tae Hoon as Seok Joon
First of all, I think that Nam Tae Hoon, who plays Seok Joon, has an interesting face and vibe. I feel like his personal charisma accounts for a large chunk of my interest in Seok Joon as a character.
And, I think I’d like to see more of him on my screen, actually. 😁
Aside from this, I do think that Show does a solid job of making Seok Joon intriguing as a character, giving us tiny glimpses at a time, of what might be possibly going on in his mind, underneath his surface gangstery gruffness.
I do think that Show does a good job of making Seok Joon a sympathetic character, despite some of his more questionable behavior.
In particular, I found myself feeling quite sorry for him, when Show reveals his backstory, in episode 13.
E13. That flashback to how Seok Joon’s parents had killed themselves, and how he’d woken up after having drunk the poisoned juice that then failed to kill him, really makes my heart go out to Seok Joon.
Honestly, if this had never happened to him, it’s unlikely that Seok Joon would have ended up living as a gangster, and getting beaten up for not doing what he’s told.
Team Genie as a whole
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, I actually enjoyed the overall sense of warmth, and the gentle quirks of Team Genie.
Together, they really do form the heart of our story, and that’s why I felt I just had to give them a shout-out.
Here are just a small handful of moments that I feel bring out that special quality of Team Genie.
E3. I love how inclusive the Team Genie folks are, as a general rule.
Not only do they keep asking Gyeo Rye to eat with them, they also act like it’s the most natural thing in the world, to also invite Dong Ho (Kang Chae Min) to join them, even though Dong Ho’s just there to get his charging cable for his phone.
And, what an eye-opening turning point that turns out to be, for Dong Ho.
That feels like some kind of bonus miracle, on top of Mr, Pyeon getting to fulfill his final wish, to have a hearty meal at his old house, surrounded by friends and family.
I’m so glad that, as a bonus arc this heartwarming and poignant arc, we also get to see Dong Ho make up with his mom, who’d been so desperately lonely, that she’d contemplated suicide, not so long ago.
I feel like this has inadvertently saved her life, in a way, and that’s just very life-affirming, comforting stuff.
E10. It’s sweet and heartwarming to see how the Team Genie welcome Gyeo Rye back into their midst, with affectionate ribbing and noisy warmth.
And, it’s really nice to see how Gyeo Rye now responds to that, with a smile, instead of the rough prickliness of before.
He really has settled down here, now, and it feels fitting, that Yeon Joo tells him, “Welcome back home.”
Yang Hee Kyeong as Soon Ja
I wanted to give Soon Ja a shout-out, for being such a warm, kind, generous presence in Team Genie.
I appreciated her generous and empathetic spirit even more, once Show gave us insight into her backstory, in episode 3.
E3. Soon Ja’s always been so bright and kind, that it really surprised me to learn that she’d lost her daughter at Woori Hospice, and continues to cook for others, to honor her memory.
Guh. That’s so poignant and sad. 😭
But, we do see that as she shares her pain, it touches the caregivers, who are all going through their own pain, and as they eat, they are comforted, that someone understands.
I thought that was very touching, even though the execution does lean a touch treacly. 😅
I just wanted to say that I had a great deal of affection for Sonny boy, who thankfully never actually looked like a sick pup, even though he was supposed to be one. 😅
Such a cute, happy and healthy-looking little dude. ❤️
THEMES / IDEAS
To Show’s credit, there are quite a lot of themes and ideas that get surfaced over the course of our story.
Here’s a collection of the ones that stood out to me the most.
Sharing and overcoming your pain
E3. That’s a thought-provoking, liberating thought right there, for all of us; that it’s sharing our pain with others, that allows us to overcome the pain, rather than have the pain control us.
Perhaps that’s why Show gives us that little tangent, where Soon Ja, the brilliant chef, shares her pain with the patients’ caregivers, over that lovingly prepared meal.
Can love overcome differences is values and philosophy?
E4. It’s an interesting question that Dr. Yang (Shin Joo Hwan) raises: can you love someone who disagrees with your values and philosophy?
It might be something that Dramaland is wont to gloss over, especially if we were in a rom-com, but I do consider it a valid question that’s relevant to real life.
What does it mean, to act in someone’s best interests?
E4. As we close out the episode, we have Yeon Joo stuck between Dr. Yang and Gyeo Rye, as Gyeo Rye challenges Dr. Yang’s decision not to allow Se Hee to perform in her musical, because the strain would be too much for her body.
There are no easy answers, because from where I’m sitting, both sides have valid points.
It’s true that Se Hee derives a great deal of joy and meaning from her musical, but it’s also true that going through with her performance, might well kill her.
As a medical professional, what do you do, in your patient’s best interests?
I find it an interesting and valid conundrum, and I hope that Show will explore it well, next episode.
The idea of living to the fullest, vs. living for as long as possible
E5. We explore the conundrum of what truly counts as the patient’s best interest, when the patient is terminally ill, and desires to do something that would ultimately shorten the time that they have left.
While watching this episode, and seeing Se Hee fight to fulfill her dream, it occurred to me, that these stories are hard for us to watch, because it’s hard to see someone die.
But, just because someone is dying, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get to choose how to spend their remaining days, and their remaining strength, right?
It feels like each person is like a battery, with a limited remaining charge left.
Do they do as little as possible, to make their remaining time last as long as possible, or do they choose to do something that means something to them – even though it means using up a good chunk of the remaining charge of their personal battery.
The answer would be different for every person, I do think, and I think that each person should be allowed the agency to make that decision for themselves.
Although Dr. Yang means well, and although I can understand his concern that Se Hee’s physical condition is deteriorating rapidly because of how she’s pushing herself, it does also feel wrong, when he insists that Se Hee not be allowed to continue with the musical.
That stance implies that the doctor knows better than the patient, even though the patient isn’t incapacitated in her thinking or decision-making abilities.
Also, as to Dr. Yang’s point, that this granting of final wishes actually reminds the patients that they’re dying, I don’t know about that. I mean, I’ve never been in such a position before, but, if you’re a patient in a hospice, is it actually possible to ever forget, that you’re dying..?
All in all, it’s a delicate topic, and I appreciate that Show gives us both sides of the coin, with the conversation between Dr. Yang and Yeon Joo.
The idea that we all can’t see so well, when we’re young
E8. It’s sad-poignant, to see Tae Sik talk to Soon Ja about his regrets, and how he’s only now realized that what he’d had, had been more than enough, and that it had been pointless to keep wanting more, and chasing after more.
It is mildly comforting, though, to hear Soon Ja say that he’s not the only one who realizes this later in life; that we all can’t see so well, when we’re young.
It somehow makes it feel a little less sad, to consider that this is a fairly normal realization that many people have, later in life.
The idea of accountability and what it means
E12. Gyeo Rye’s interactions with the patient in Room 403 become surprisingly pleasant, with them even sort of sharing conversations, and the man telling Gyeo Rye about his son, and how he’d cried with joy when his son had been born.
It’s an interesting situation, where this man, who’d been purportedly evil incarnate (or thereabouts) before his accident, is now so mild and thoughtful, now that he’s lost his memories.
It’s an intriguing situation, honestly. Can you hold someone accountable for things that he doesn’t even remember doing? I mean, it’s true that he did do those things, but.. can he be truly sorry, if he only hears about the things he’d done?
I suppose it’s possible to feel sorry, when you’re told you did bad things to good people, but.. wouldn’t there be a deeper layer of regret, if he actually remembered doing those things?
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Well. There’s quite a bit of melodrama in this penultimate episode, which is more than I ever wanted from this show, BUT, I rationalize that with a good chunk of the melodramatic stuff out of the way via this epispode, that ought to pave the way for a smoother landing, in our finale?
A lot happens in just the first few minutes, with Gyeo Rye making to leave Woori Hospice, making a big show out of finally having a rich parent to depend on, and he also supposedly calls the cops on Tae Sik, and.. well, none of that turns out to be true.
Because, firstly, while Dad enjoys the big show and plays along for a bit, he isn’t above letting his men beat up Gyeo Rye, to teach him a lesson.
And, Gyeo Rye does intend to leave the hospice for good – just, not in the way he pretends. In reality, he’s counting on Seok Joon to kill him at an appointed time and place, and he even tries to take Dad with him.
BUT! Tae Sik shows up in time to ram his ambulance into Seok Joon’s car, so that Gyeo Rye and Dad aren’t mowed down as planned.
HOWEVER. Dad gets stabbed in the gut Pyo Cheol Woo instead, for a personal grudge – and ends up dying in hospital.
..But not before we get an extended flashback reel of how Tae Sik and Ki Chun had once been friends and partners, despite Ki Chun’s dubious approach to things, until Tae Sik had reported Ki Chun for essentially slavery, with the way he had all those live-streamers captive.
In the present, though, at least Tae Sik mends bridges with Ki Chun, in his voiceover, where he asks of Ki Chun, that they become friends in the afterlife, instead of enemies.
Like, can we say, woahhh. 🤪
It’s A LOT, honestly, and although I’d accepted fairly early on, that melodramatics to do with the gangster backstory would be part of this journey, I had not anticipated that things would get this.. much.
Like I alluded to earlier, it was the thought of clearing all this baggage out of the way, so that we could have a more uncluttered, feel-good finale, that helped me get through this episode.
In the wake of all this, I’m comforted by how the Team Genie folks come out in full force to be Gyeo Rye’s network of support, AND, I’m also glad for the conversation that we get between Joon Kyung and Gyeo Rye.
It still feels like a bit of a stretch, that Joon Kyung would be doing so much better, so soon, but I’m not about to quibble with that, because I’d much rather she be better, than not.
And, while it’s a little cheesy, the idea of their relationship coming full circle is quite nice.
She’s now finally ready to relate with Gyeo Rye in any capacity that he would like, and Gyeo Rye now makes the same request that he’d made all those years ago, that they be family to each other, where he’s the Oppa, and she’s his younger sister.
Aw. I rather like it, actually.
It’s also nice to see that Social Worker Gu gets a new lease of life, and a new sense of boldness, after his brush with death, and that he wastes no time in confessing his feelings for Nurse Lee, who, taking his carpe diem cue, promptly accepts, because she likes him too.
Heh. This might be the quickest road to romance I’ve seen in a drama, but y’know, I rather liked this little tidbit.
It’s comforting to see Tae Sik back at Woori Hospice, surrounded by the people who care for him, but it is still admittedly sobering to hear that he doesn’t have a lot of time left.
I’m pretty sure that we’re going to spend the last episode on his final days, as well as his final wish, which we now see him share with Seo Jin.
Guh. I’d known that this was coming, but it still feels hard, y’know? 🥺
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
I’m honestly kinda blown away by how cohesive and satisfying this finale felt, especially thematically, after the unevenness that I’d been feeling perplexed about, in Show’s late stretch.
As I watched this finale, it became clear to me that this finale – this entire drama, really – is about meaningful endings, fresh beginnings, and how these together make up a cycle of life.
Not only that, in this cycle of life, you aren’t afraid of moving between stages, because you have the assurance that you’ll be equipped for each stage when the time comes, and you’ll also be supported by a loving community, all the way to the end.
I feel that that’s the picture that this finale works to pull together, and I have to say, I’m very pleasantly surprised at how well it all converges meaningfully, in the end.
Basically, Show spends the hour flitting from character to character, tying up loose ends and minting new beginnings, and this is honestly much more in the vein of what I’d imagined Show would be like, in the beginning.
A little treacly, but essentially warm and uplifting, at its core.
We get a down-to-earth proposal from Gyeo Rye to Yeon Joo, and it feels perfectly understated, because 1, their relationship’s always been on the practical, understated side of things, and 2, this loveline was never Show’s Main Event, to begin with.
I also do like the symbolism of both Gyeo Rye and Seok Joon using tattoos of what they hold close to their heart – Sonny-boy for Gyeo Rye, and Taekwon V for Seok Joon – to cover up the scars of their childhood.
It feels like an important step, that they’re choosing to focus on what has made them happy, and has given them strength, rather than on what has hurt them. That feels like a deliberate closing of a chapter, and the beginning of a new chapter, at the same time. I like that.
It’s also good to see Joon Kyung start to embrace fitness on her streaming platform, with the boxing gloves that Yeon Joo had once given her, and, it’s also good to see Joon Kyung refuse to give up on Seok Joon, just because he asks her to.
This feels important to me, because Seok Joon had lost so much, and almost died, because of Joon Kyung. It feels fitting, that she’s there for him, the way he’d been there for her, now that he’s going through what must be a difficult transitive time in his life.
This episode’s sudden focus on the wrap-up of the magazine “A Joyful Day” did feel a tiny bit whiplashy, because Show had spent so much time on the gangster arc recently, that I’d thought it was done with showing us the business of granting last wishes.
However, I do appreciate Show going back to the core of what made it appealing in the first place; its poignant treatment of necessary goodbyes, while infusing it all with warmth and good feelings.
In the end, what strikes me the most, this finale, is how things come full circle, in so many little ways.
In the beginning of our story, we’d seen Tae Sik give Mr. Yoon his final bath, and then we’d seen Mr. Yoon give his watch to Tae Sik. And then, we’d seen Tae Sik essentially take over the reins at Team Genie, in Mr. Yoon’s stead.
And now, we see that same dynamic, except in this moment, it’s Tae Sik receiving his bath from Gyeo Rye, and Tae Sik handing that same watch to Gyeo Rye, and saying the same words of encouragement to Gyeo Rye, that Mr. Yoon had once said to him.
It’s all very Circle Of Life, particularly when the beach party turns out to be Gyeo Rye’s first official birthday party. Doesn’t this come together in a way that makes it feel like Gyeo Rye’s reborn, into this new life and purpose, where he’s the Captain of Team Genie, in Tae Sik’s place?
AND, because I’d always thought that Tae Sik and Gyeo Rye should be surrogate father and son (well, ever since Show confirmed that they aren’t actually father and son anyway), I thought it was a very nice, poignant touch, that Tae Sik addresses Gyeo Rye as “Son,” during that beach moment.
We don’t get to see Tae Sik’s actual final moments, which I’m grateful for, because my gut says that that would’ve been too hard, but we do get to see, one-year time skip later, the legacy that he leaves behind.
Not only do we see Gyeo Rye going through the same paces that Tae Sik had used to do, each morning, from waking up in the ambulance, to greeting everyone while getting all the little things sorted out, we also see that Tae Sik’s money (which he apparently had a bunch of) has gone towards creating a Hogeweyk Village of their own.
Here, patients like Deok Ja can live a life of normalcy, while carefully supervised by staff who also role-play everyday service providers, like hairdressers, florists and bus drivers.
That really is a dream come true for patients like Deok Ja, and it’s perfectly fitting, that Tae Sik would make this his legacy, through Team Genie.
And then, just in case we missed the memo, that we are in a Circle Of Life moment here, we even get a closing scene, of Gyeo Rye welcoming a new volunteer (cameo by Lee Yoo Mi), who shows up late, and with a pet in tow, just like Gyeo Rye had, all those months ago.
It’s a little bit treacly and obvious in the execution, but I have to confess that this idea of the Circle Of Life, where we all go through stages of growing, and our roles in the community continue to evolve, as we grow, is a very comforting and assuring one.
It’s a very feel-good, warm, edifying idea, that we take turns to nurture and be nurtured, and that as we do so, we all grow together, in this journey that we call Life. ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Ultimately poignant and satisfying, despite an uneven run.
FINAL GRADE: B+
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of If You Wish Upon Me, is New Life Begins [China]. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I like it very well so far! My E1-2 and E3-4 notes on New Life Begins can be found here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Entertainment tidbits + the first set notes of all shows covered on Patreon (that’s 2 episodes for kdramas and 4 episodes for cdramas)
Early Access (US$5): +Under The Queen’s Umbrella
Early Access Plus (US$10): +Love Is For Suckers
VIP (US$15): +Love In Contract
I loved If You Wish Upon Me and count it as one of my all-time favorites. I was in a place where I really needed a warm-hearted found family healing drama. I hadn’t read anything about this drama prior to watching so had no preconceptions. Loved that this is a show about wounded healers and hope that Park Jin Joo will get a lead role soon – she’s so great in everything she does. I too thought the father arc was too violent but it shed light on our hero’s journey. Happy that Ji Chang Wook finally had a role that showcased his acting abilities. I loved Gyeo Rye’s emotional journey and the OTP dynamic. I haven’t cried this much during a drama finale since Chuno. Just reading the review made me cry all over again!
Excellent review! Your observations articulated my reactions to the show, KFG. I totally agree with you B+ rating.
I loved the Genie plots but the gangster arc was OTT and unnecessary. I felt tricked and resented the show for leading me to believe that Tae-Sik was father to Gyeo-Rye–shame on the writer’s. One of the most poignant relationships was the Doek-Ja’s dementia and Cha-Yong’s tender, loving care; it was a highlight of the show.
This show was a patchwork quilt of ideas, some “pieced” and well-placed and others that should have remained in the scrap pile. The show shined with the Genie plots and stunk with the gangster arcs. Kudos for the actors and actresses for pulling off believable executions of the writer’s ideas. In a word, UNEVEN! Like Dr. Romantic, the romance was not the main arc, but could have carried the show. The cases and the hospice staff should have always remained the focus, as they were the heart and soul of the show.
I admit that I’m in the camp that liked this drama. Because I watched this as it aired, the distance between episodes made it easier for me to put up with the detours to “gangsterland” to get on with the Genies and the romance arc.
Show was very good until episode 8. In episode 9 the rooftop scence happened and I dropped the show.
The idea was good. But the gangster arc and crazy ex girlfriend felt so unnecessary and frankly annoying.
FL was unlikable. Sooyoung should go back to singing. She had her moments but those were rare. Also the backstory was so plain. ML was mediocre compared to his other works.
Most of the side characters made the show watchable. Lunch lady, Janitor, Janitors wife, schoolgirl, Tae Sik (sorry I suck with names) were all of the charts good.
We liked it very much, too. Loved that the show did not depend on JCW’s pretty and was an ensemble piece, not a star vehicle. I don’t think he has the broadest range as an actor but seems willing to try interesting projects now which I really appreciate. For me it’s also his second strongest outing. He does well with a strong leading lady. Sooyoung has a very warm, lively and natural presence and is perfect for the role. But everybody did so well! Agree that Nam Tae Hoon is someone to watch.
The first few episodes really got to me, was crying every episode before we hit the crazy gangster-centric eps so was happy the tone stabilized enough for the final episode for me to feel feels again.
Happy you reviewed this, I watched it realtime and it wasn’t super popular so there was very few reviews online so thank you for a debrief!
For my mind, one of the shows of the year ☺️