THE SHORT VERDICT:
Even though Show’s premise centers around a character who’s terminally ill, I would say that Show is as much about love and life, as it is about death and loss.
Show’s got an extremely gentle, warm and soothing touch, even as it delves into the various challenges that our characters face, and doesn’t shy away from the hard topics.
In the end, what we get feels akin to gentle, wise lessons on life, perhaps told by a doting, tender grandmother, as she cradles you in her lap, and serenely rubs your back, while assuring you that it’s all not as hard as it sounds, and that you’ll be strong enough for the hard parts, and that everything will be ok in the end.
Thoughtful and worthwhile.
THE LONG VERDICT:
You know how sometimes, people say that they wish that they’d learned certain important, practical adulting things in school?
This show.. kinda feels like an important lesson in adulting; in particular, it feels like a big and unavoidable chapter on learning to love in the face of pain, learning to deal with loss, and learning to live with grief.
It’s a lesson that no one wants to learn, certainly, but at the same time, it’s a lesson that we could all benefit from, so much, if we would learn it.
Importantly, Show maps out the lesson and conducts it, in a manner that is gentle, loving and non-judgmental, and that makes this story, which centers on pain, loss and grief, as accessible and non-scary, and well, enjoyable, as possible.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s a playlist of the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
While I can’t say any of the tracks became an earworm for me, I do feel that the music is quiet and lovely, and added an important layer of feels to my watch.
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. Show is about death
It’s built into the premise, so perhaps it goes without saying, that Show deals with a lot of difficult things to do with terminal illness and death. Being prepared for it, helps.
2. Show shouldn’t be rushed
Even though Show is only 12 episodes of 30 minutes each, and therefore is technically bingeable, I personally wouldn’t recommend binge-watching this one.
Show is rich with thought and feeling, and the experience of watching it, really shouldn’t be rushed.
I feel like rushing through this one, would impair our ability to absorb the thoughts, ideas and lessons that Show would like to share with us. Savor this one, is my advice.
3. Show is about life too
As much as Show is about death, it is also about life, and its approach is consistently tender and hopeful.
Keeping that in mind helps, especially when approaching the tougher parts of our characters’ journeys. Show will be gentle with them – and with us – all the way through to the end.
STUFF I LIKED
Show’s thoughtful vibe
Show’s got a distinctly thoughtful vibe about it, from the get-go, which I enjoyed very much.
That’s definitely enhanced, and, to some extent, driven, by the voiceovers that we regularly get from Chang Wook (Han Seok Kyu), as he muses over the events in our story.
Speaking of which, I just wanted to mention that right from the beginning, this show low-key gave me slice-of-life J-dorama vibes.
E1. I felt it in the way we do that cold open, and only find out, in subsequent fragments of information, that Chang Wook and Da Jung (Kim Seo Hyung) aren’t actually married anymore, and that she’s terminally ill, and he’s there to help take care of her meals, while she’s well enough to be an outpatient.
Of course, this doesn’t come as a surprise or anything, since Show’s promos and synopsis have stated this clearly from the start.
Despite that, I still found it a pleasantly engaging exercise, to piece the picture together, from what Show actually serves up onscreen, versus what I already knew, coming into this watch.
There’s such a thoughtful, almost serene vibe to the opening, with Chang Wook’s voiceover about food and how he’s preparing it, that it feels quite dissonant, really, to realize that the only reason he’s even there, is because Da Jung is dying.
Show’s calming vibe
Show has an unhurried, low-key, warm and comforting approach to life – and death – and I find myself nicely calmed by just watching an episode.
Not that I actually felt that I needed calming, to be clear; but whatever calm I already had going on, feels deepened and amplified, by this show. That’s a very pleasant feeling, really.
Show manages to feel like a breath of fresh, comforting air with each episode, and I really marvel at that, because of the subject matter.
Show’s got a life-affirming, comforting way of dealing with the topic of death, and those life-affirming, comforting feels are welcome, even outside of Show’s context.
Show doesn’t flinch away from the hard stuff
Given our premise, that Da Jung is terminally ill, there is a lot of potential for pain for our characters, whether physical, emotional or mental, and I appreciate that Show faces it all head-on, even while maintaining its thoughtful, comforting vibe.
On this note, Show made me think and feel, through all the poignant stuff, while still managing to feel assuring, overall.
I found it quite remarkable, really.
Show is meaty and full of themes and ideas
It probably comes as no surprise, that Show is chock-full of themes and ideas, even though it’s just 12 short episodes of 30 minutes each.
I found the themes thoughtful and easy to pick up and chew on, and I appreciate the way Show makes it so accessible, in that way.
I will elaborate more on the themes and ideas in a separate section, later in this review. I will also be sprinkling some of them into the various character and relationship sections, where I feel it’s relevant.
Show has a wholistic approach
What I mean is, even though Da Jung is our terminally ill patient in this story world, Show does also shine the spotlight on how her illness also affects the people around her.
By and large, this takes the form of examining their mental and emotional responses, but I appreciate that, in episode 10, there’s also a quick acknowledgment of the physical toll that such a situation can have, on caretakers.
E10. Although it’s an almost throwaway sort of moment, I appreciate the quick spotlight that Show shines, on the fact that it’s trying and stressful for caregivers of patients too, which is why Chang Wook is experiencing digestive issues, which he hadn’t experienced before.
And, again, even though it’s an almost throwaway sort of moment, it’s very telling, actually, that Chang Wook thinks that he hears Da Jung calling for him, when she’s really sound asleep.
He’s tired and stressed, and his dedication to Da Jung’s care is starting to take a toll, not only physically, but also, mentally and emotionally as well.
So yes, caregivers need care too, and that’s why Chang Wook needs to have his own digestive prescription.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Show is sometimes a bit of an emotional rollercoaster
I’ve got this in this section, not because it wasn’t well done, but because, well, it was a little trying for my nerves, given where I was, in my watch.
Basically, there is this one time when Show takes us on an emotional rollercoaster, and while I appreciate how this helps us to appreciate vicariously, how much of an emotional rollercoaster it must be, for families of terminally ill patients, I just.. found it rather difficult to watch.
But.. all’s well that ends well, in this mini arc, so that’s good.
E8. When both Chang Wook and Da Jung assumed that the short operation time indicated the worst-case scenario, that nothing could be done, and that they’d opened her up and closed her right back up without doing anything, my heart sank again.
Ack. It just felt all too cruel, y’know?
Plus, that dream of Da Jung that Chang Wook has, just gave me strong foreboding vibes. Coz, in dramas, doesn’t this mostly mean that the patient has died in surgery? 🙈
BUT THEN. When the doc comes in and says that the surgery was simpler than expected, and that Da Jung would be able to eat again, wow, my heart soared.
Gosh, what a rollercoaster, honestly! 😅
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
Han Seok Kyu as Chang Wook
I really enjoyed Han Seok Kyu as Chang Wook.
There’s something very measured, steady and thoughtful about the way he plays Chang Wook, which I found very appealing.
Chang Wook is the voice of our story, and many of Show’s themes and ideas are couched in Chang Wook’s thoughts and realizations, which, as I mentioned earlier, I’ll talk about more, in a later section in this review.
A lot of Chang Wook’s journey has to do with Da Jung as well, so I will also talk more about Chang Wook, in the section touching on his relationship with Da Jung.
For now, here’s a quick glimpse at my first impressions of Chang Wook, from episode 1.
E1. Right away, I find myself gravitating towards Chang Wook. I just really like his philosophy about how delicious food comes from the heart, and that only food made with love and care can actually fill your belly.
Ooh. I like him already, just based on his attitude alone, and so, it does come as a rather record-scratching moment, to realize that his food isn’t actually very delicious at all, heh.
I still like him, though, because he doesn’t let that stop him from trying, and he doesn’t let that keep him from thinking of ways to make the food better and more delicious for Da Jung.
And, I like him too, because he doesn’t even seem to mind, or be at all offended, when Da Jung ends up spitting out the one mouthful of food that she tries to eat. Instead, he sits himself down, and eats the food in her stead, without ruffling a single feather.
I don’t know much about Chang Wook at all, at this point, but I am very drawn to his unflustered, unhurried, leading-from-the-heart sort of quality that we see on display.
Kim Seo Hyung as Da Jung
Even though Da Jung is literally at the center of our narrative, we spend a good chunk of our story without full insight into her thoughts and emotions.
This makes narrative sense, because this story is being told from Chang Wook’s point of view, and, in the beginning, especially, he can’t really see what Da Jung’s thinking or feeling, largely because she keeps it all under wraps and out of sight.
As we progress through our story, though, we do get more glimpses into Da Jung’s emotional and mental state, and I just wanted to say, Kim Seo Hyung does an absolutely fantastic job, of conveying all of Da Jung’s complicated thoughts and feelings, as well as her frailty.
E1. Da Jung is so successful at maintaining an appearance of businesslike normalcy, that it’s not possible to tell, at first glance, that she’s even sick.
But, as our episode wears on, we do see the frailty in her, and I can only imagine how hard she’s pushing herself, in order to keep it together. I mean, she’s dying, after all. It’s just not possible that she has no feelings about that.
E2. This episode, Da Jung’s refusal to look up the answer to the question that keeps niggling at her – the name of the beach that she’d gone to, on Jeju Island – feels a little random at first glance, but on further thought, I do believe that it’s representative of something deeper.
And that is, I think, Da Jung’s desire to retain control over her body and her mind, and demonstrate the health of her faculties, even as her body continues to deteriorate, as it fights the cancer.
It might feel like a small and silly thing to the casual observer, and I know that I’ve googled stuff before (and often!), when I couldn’t remember something.
But I do think that with her life basically spinning out of her control, with her illness, being able to demonstrate that she’s still “got it,” in this one small thing, can feel like a true moment of victory, for Da Jung.
E4. I like how much quiet satisfaction Da Jung derives from watching the little positive interactions between Jae Ho and Chang Wook.
E4. The way Da Jung specifically requests that Chang Wook make it exactly the way his mother had used to make it, tells me that she wants to relive memories of the past.
And the way she asks that she be allowed to eat exactly the same soup as Chang Wook and Jae Ho, tells me that she wants to be able to share the exact same memory of this New Year’s, with them, down to the exact taste of the soup.
That’s a meaningful and poignant thought, isn’t it?
E5. This episode, we finally get a good look at Da Jung’s emotional landscape, as she goes for her chemotherapy session on her own, and then stops by a cemetery, to look at burial plots.
The way she stops in her tracks and cries those big heaving sobs, it feels like this might be the first time that she’s really facing the reality of her prognosis, and also, the first time that she’s allowing herself to respond, without holding herself back.
As hard as it was to watch Da Jung cry like that, I do think that it was needful, for her to process it all, and let it all out. 💔
Chang Wook and Da Jung
Show is not a romance by any stretch of the imagination, but, I must say that it does a really excellent job of teasing out the relationship between Chang Wook and Da Jung, so that we really come to understand and appreciate the bond between them.
Broadly speaking, I found Show’s treatment of their relationship to be tender and hopeful, with many demonstrations of love, which I found touching and thought-provoking.
Here’s a look at my thoughts at their evolving relationship, over the course of our story.
E1. I do appreciate the flashbacks that Show is sprinkling throughout the episode, to show us how Chang Wook and Da Jung end up living together again.
I’m guessing that the reason Chang Wook is there at her doctor’s appointment in the first place, isn’t because they’re that close to begin with; it’s more likely because Da Jung had needed a guardian to be present, and she didn’t have anyone else to ask, besides Chang Wook.
That said, I’m guessing that at least part of Da Jung’s reason for asking Chang Wook to come and live with her and Jae Ho, and take care of her meals, is so that his relationship with Jae Ho will have a chance to heal.
I’m guessing that as a mother, one of her key concerns, for after she passes, is what will happen to Jae Ho.
Although I don’t think that Da Jung’s relationship with Chang Wook is particularly close, I don’t think it’s particularly bad either, since she’s able to ask him to be her guardian at the hospital, and is able to ask for help, even though it means putting his own life on hold for a while.
And so, I’m actually hoping that these two will be able to attain some sense of reconciliation and closure, even as Da Jung prepares for the inevitable.
As it is, I like that the meal time provides a time for conversation and shared experiences, like we see with the japchae, this episode.
It’s because they’re sitting down to eat together, that Da Jung feels she can ask Chang Wook why he’d agreed to help her, and it feels like a significant moment, when Chang Wook answers that it’s because she would have done the same for him.
And then, the shared experience of burning their mouths off, while eating the overly spicy japchae, is something precious too.
At least in this moment, all other reservations are forgotten, and they’re just tearing up, and sharing iced water, and chuckling and laughing together, and that feels very life-affirming, to me.
E2. It feels so vicariously rewarding, to see that Chang Wook’s efforts to give Da Jung that taste of Dombe noodles that she’s been wanting, actually help Da Jung to achieve that moment of victory.
How priceless, and how precious.
E3. I feel like Chang Wook is make Da Jung food that he believes will help to strengthen and possibly heal her.
That’s the vibe I’m getting, from the food that he’s making, and the heart that he pours into making that food.
I love the scene of him making vegetable broth for Da Jung, not because it’s an exciting dish or anything, but because there’s so much thought and heart and hope, that goes into the cooking of that dish.
He’s putting as many nutrient-dense vegetables into that broth as he can, and preparing it so carefully and gently, in order to give Da Jung the most digestible, nutritious meal possible, so that she will gain strength to fight the cancer.
So much heart, y’all. 🥲
And so, it gives me a real stab of satisfaction, when Da Jung, who’s feeling very unwell, and very lacking in the appetite department, actually finds it tasty, and says that she feels like she’d be able to eat a lot of it.
I somehow feel vicariously vindicated, on Chang Wook’s behalf.
E3. Food as a language of love is a common theme in Asian dramas, and it really comes through, in this show.
While Chang Wook says to Jae Ho, this episode, that he’s not doing this for Da Jung because he’s so in love with her, I’d say that he might not be in love with her, but, I’m convinced that he is absolutely doing this out of love – familial love.
E5. I actually really like how Show is leaning into the idea that it served up earlier, that food is love.
This episode, we see that idea sink in for Da Jung, as she browses Chang Wook’s blog entries. I’m so sure that she can see the love and care that he puts into every dish that he prepares for her, and honestly, how can one not be unaffected by that?
Importantly, I also think that Da Jung could feel Chang Wook’s love and care, even before she browsed his blog.
I mean, the first time she invites him to sleep in the master bedroom again, is when he serves her that apple carrot juice.
That’s the time Chang Wook does a double take, and Da Jung laughs it off as a joke. Yes, I can imagine that this is an awkward time for them, since they had been officially separated, when Da Jung had asked for Chang Wook to move back in to help her with her meals.
And now, she’s suddenly asking him to come sleep in the master bedroom with her?
I can see why Chang Wook would do a double take, and not actually take her seriously. This is definitely a situation where I think Chang Wook chooses wisely, to tread cautiously.
My take, though, is that Da Jung might have once felt neglected and unimportant in Chang Wook’s life, because he’d been absorbed in work. Maybe that’s why they’d ended up separating.
But now, she’s convinced that underneath it all, Chang Wook does love and care for her, and he’s demonstrating it everyday, over and over again, even when she doesn’t have the appetite to actually eat the meals that he prepares.
I believe that’s why she invites him that second time, to come back to the master bedroom – and that’s when Chang Wook finally gets the message, and acts on it.
I have to say, I came into this show with zero expectation of seeing Han Seok Kyu and Kim Seo Hyung in any kind of sexy situation, especially given the premise of our story, but I also have to say, I thought this was very well managed.
In the spirit of comfort and life-affirming things, Da Jung and Chang Wook sleeping together, is a very life-affirming thing, and I absolutely believe that not just the act of sleeping together, but this shift in the dynamic of their relationship, is going to buoy Da Jung’s spirits in a whole new way.
ALSO. Isn’t it so sweet, that despite telling Da Jung that tangsuyuk (sweet and sour pork) isn’t something that she should be eating, Chang Wook had gone out and bought the ingredients anyway, and that’s why we get that shot of all the ingredients already in the fridge, the same night that Da Jung requests it again?
I just find that really sweet and understanding of Chang Wook.
He recognizes that this is part of the comfort and consolation that Da Jung’s seeking, and is willing to bend the dietary rules a little bit, to make her happy. I like that. 🥰
E6. At first, I was really taken with Chang Wook’s efforts to make the best tangsuyuk possible, for Da Jung.
With the way he was being so careful with everything, from selecting the right wok, to the right knife, to getting the right technique and recipe, it really turns into a multi-day affair.
And it’s true; it is very endearing, because of all the heart and love that he pours into it.
BUT. Show has an evolving message for us, this episode, and it’s a heart-hitting, sobering, poignant one. Augh.
Show serves up the reminder this episode, that we shouldn’t be so hung up on perfection, that we miss the opportunity to live in the moment.
It’s a bummer that Da Jung’s condition takes a bad turn this episode, such that she needs to be admitted to the hospital, and for a long stay, at that.
This means that Chang Wook won’t be able to cook that tangsuyuk for her, perhaps ever. 😭
However, it’s not all a lost cause, in that, I can see that there are positives that come out of the process of Chang Wook working to prepare the best tangsuyuk possible.
One of the things that sticks in my mind, is the laughter that he and Da Jung share, all evening, as he practices his wok moves.
It’s not just entertaining in and of itself; his perseverance and determination is also a clear sign of his love, and I’m sure that that did not go unnoticed, on Da Jung’s part.
And when it comes down to it, I do think that Da Jung knowing that Chang Wook cares so much for her, is more important than being able to eat the tangsuyuk itself, isn’t it?
E7. At the top of the episode, we get a flashback to when Chang Wook and Da Jung had been in the midst of getting divorced, and I feel like I detect a sense of exasperation about Da Jung.
The vibe that I get, is that she does care about Chang Wook, but is too exasperated to keep trying, in their relationship.
After all, she tries to remind him to eat properly, but he insists that he’s happy eating bread, and she basically concedes that it’s not her business to mind how he eats, anymore.
It seems to me that this mismatch in the everyday things, and Chang Wook’s casual obstinacy in being stuck in his ways, could be one of the foundational reasons for their separation.
Putting this conversation into the fabric of our story’s context, I’m going back to my gut feeling that I’d had, upon watching Show’s trailer, that Da Jung asking Chang Wook to cook her meals, is likely more for his sake (and Jae Ho’s), than her own.
In this flashback, we see that Chang Wook doesn’t really care about his diet, and doesn’t know how to cook.
With Da Jung’s request, though, he’s not only cooking, but researching recipes with dedication and determination, and taking pride in doing his best, to make the best food possible for Da Jung.
Da Jung’s request has changed Chang Wook’s relationship with food, I feel like, and so, my gut says that Da Jung had asked this of him, to better his life, even as it also betters hers.
Watching them now, having reconciled in the midst of her illness, makes me think of how we often let the nitty-gritty of life negatively impact our relationships.
It looks like that’s what had happened with Chang Wook and Da Jung, but with her illness and mortality changing the perspective on, well, everything, they’ve managed to reconcile.
Which just brings us to that wise adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” doesn’t it?
It also makes me mourn the time that Chang Wook and Da Jung could have had together, if they’d managed to overcome their differences in the smaller things, so that they’d have been able to stay together, for longer.
It’s a cautionary tale of sorts, put in that perspective.
At the same time, it’s also a healing tale, because the silver lining to this very sad situation, is that Chang Wook and Da Jung have come to see each other in a refreshed light, and learned all over again, that they really do care about each other.
There’s also the idea that you start to understand someone, when you’ve walked in their shoes.
That flashback, to how Chang Wook had used to get all impatient with Da Jung for leaving dirty dishes in the kitchen, comes rushing back to him, now that he’s the one who’s short on time and leaving dirty dishes in the sink.
It’s a great little reminder, that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge the people around us; they’re often already doing the best they can, even as they fail us in ways that frustrate us.
E9. I was struck by how content Chang Wook and Da Jung appear to be, in the midst of a difficult and dark situation.
Even though Da Jung is dying and has limited time left, and limited capacity to enjoy life in the time that she does have left, they approach what they do have, with a distinct sense of gratitude, and it’s really quite moving to witness.
The way Da Jung savors the everyday things, like sunshine in her living room; the way Chang Wook speaks to her in that muted, warm, gentle tone at all times; the way they affirm each other and encourage each other, with each step that they take.
It’s very lovely, honestly, and I only wish that Da Jung could have more time, so that this couple would have the chance to stay in this very beautiful, mutually appreciative, mutually supportive space, for longer.
Honestly, how wonderful would life be, if we could all treat our loved ones like this, and approach life like this, without needing a catalyst like a terminal illness to nudge us towards it?
I find that very thought-provoking, honestly.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, they say. This is exactly what Da Jung and Chang Wook are doing, and it’s a wonderful example of how we could all live our lives with more grace and gratitude.
Jin Ho Eun as Jae Ho
I have to admit that I didn’t like Jae Ho very much, in the beginning of our story.
I’d found him too self-absorbed and therefore, annoying, but Show does a great job turning that around, such that I found myself feeling a lot more positive towards Jae Ho, as we got deeper into our story.
E2. I feel that if Jae Ho knew about his mother’s condition, he wouldn’t be so quick to ask to move out on his own.
And so, perhaps Da Jung collapsing in pain (which sucks, to be clear) might give us that silver lining, of Jae Ho gaining time to be with, love and appreciate his mom, while he still has the time. *tear*
E3. This episode, I’m glad that Jae Ho finally learns the truth about Da Jung’s situation, because, with the context of Da Jung not having very long to live, he was starting to get on my nerves, a little bit, with the typical self-absorbed, somewhat entitled teenagery behavior that he was showing.
Not that I begrudge him the right to do what most teenagers do, at his age, but.. we just don’t have the time, with Da Jung being terminally ill, y’know?
It’s much better that he wakes up and smells the coffee, and reconsider his priorities, so that he doesn’t come to regret this season of his life, later on.
Even though Jae Ho doesn’t yet know the full truth – that Da Jung is actually dying from the cancer, and therefore not going to actually get better – what he does know, is enough to drive him to recalibrate his thinking and actions, and that’s good enough for now, I suppose.
It’s just.. I do think that he deserves to know that his mother is dying.
I think that that would affect his decision even more, than simply knowing that she is very sick, because at least then he would know that he truly has limited time, to spend with his mother, and I feel that he deserves the right to prioritize, with that in mind.
That said, it’s still very much a step in the right direction, that Da Jung tell him that she’s sick, because that changes a lot of things, this episode.
For one thing, Jae Ho finally understands why Chang Wook is back in the house with him and Da Jung, even though they were planning on getting divorced. And, he’s no longer blaming Chang Wook for making Da Jung sick with his food either.
I feel that’s important, even though Chang Wook’s been extremely patient and understanding, in the face of Jae Ho’s misguided accusations.
I mean, Chang Wook’s only human, right, so I’m sure it feels better for him, not to be misunderstood by his son, even as he does his best to support Da Jung.
Chang Wook and Jae Ho
When we begin our story, the relationship between Chang Wook and Jae Ho is very strained and awkward, and, rather painful to watch, honestly.
Show does a great job of unpacking the relationship, and healing it, even in the midst of the challenging time, that is Da Jung’s battle with cancer.
Basically, I perked up at every tiny indication that things were improving between this father and son pair. It just felt like all these small victories would add up to something much bigger, y’know?
Here’s an overview of my thoughts on this relationship, during my watch.
E1. I’m hoping that the relationship between Jae Ho and Chang Wook will be healed, in the time that we have left. Because, when Da Jung eventually passes, won’t Chang Wook be all that he has left? 😭
E2. I appreciate the flashback at the top of the episode, because it shows us that things hadn’t always been like this, between Chang Wook and Jae Ho.
There had been a time when Jae Ho had actually wanted Chang Wook to go along with him and Da Jung, to Jeju Island. What a contrast, to how it is now, 5 years later, where Jae Ho would rather sit outside and wait for Da Jung to come home, because he feels uncomfortable being around Chang Wook on his own.
That’s bittersweet, because on the one hand, it’s a hopeful thing, I feel like, to see that it’s not impossible for Jae Ho to feel comfortable around Chang Wook, because we see that he’d actually liked being around Chang Wook, as recently as 5 years ago.
On the other hand, however, it’s also sad to see how things have changed so drastically in just 5 years.
E4. I’m glad to see that things between Chang Wook and Jae Ho are now more cordial, with a sense of openness about Jae Ho, where before there had only been a sense of him being closed off.
I really liked all the little indications of that increased openness, this episode, from Jae Ho helping Chang Wook to stir the barley tea, to checking to see if Chang Wook’s ok when he burns his hand on the pot, to voluntarily asking Chang Wook, on New Year’s morning, if there was anything that he could do to help.
It might seem like small little everyday things to other families, but here, it feels like a big step forward, in their relationship.
E5. I really like the moments of bonding that we see between Chang Wook and Jae Ho, this episode.
First, there’s how they share that bibimbap, from the same big bowl. That food-related thing is so indicative of a closer bond, and I love it.
I’m so heartened, really, that with Jae Ho being told by that professor, that he should leave his mother’s treatment to the doctors, it’s Chang Wook who turns out to be the only person who seems to fully understand Jae Ho’s concern.
I love that Chang Wook apologizes so gently, that he and Da Jung had tried to manage her illness on their own, without telling him, and I love that Chang Wook acknowledges that Jae Ho would be extremely concerned about Da Jung.
And it’s so great, honestly, that when Jae Ho brings up those lizard tails which he’d read are good for Da Jung’s condition, Chang Wook shows that he’s already bought all those helpful ingredients, and has been cooking it in their meals.
In this moment, I really feel like Chang Wook’s managed to show Jae Ho that he absolutely gets where Jae Ho is coming from, and that’s just so great.
I also love how Chang Wook is so comforting, as he asks Jae Ho to take care of the comforting component of Da Jung’s treatment plan.
E6. I’m glad that Jae Ho’s also come around to the idea that Chang Wook being around Da Jung at this time, is a very good and assuring thing.
E7. This episode, I keep appreciating the gestures of concern among our little family, like Jae Ho receiving the lunchbox from Chang Wook, then immediately asking about Chang Wook himself, like, where’s his lunchbox?
All this is possible because Jae Ho’s now put aside his past unhappiness with Chang Wook, to focus on Da Jung’s needs in the moment.
And again, how nice would it have been, if Jae Ho could have embraced Chang Wook earlier, rather than kept him at arm’s length, and even stayed out later, in order to avoid him?
Ahh.. the victories and regrets of life, eh?
Da Jung and Hae Ho
Although Jae Ho feels much closer to Da Jung than Chang Wook, we don’t actually get a great deal of insight into their relationship, and I think that that’s most likely because this story is mainly told from Chang Wook’s point of view.
I did appreciate the way Show shone the spotlight on Da Jung’s difficulties, in deciding how much to tell Jae Ho about her illness, and when.
I think that’s a very real struggle for patients with children, and I do reckon that Show manages to highlight this struggle, without being judgey about it.
Here are just a few of my thoughts on this arc.
E1. From what I can tell, Da Jung’s holding it together, so that she can complete her project at work instead of leaving everyone hanging, and more importantly, so that she can give their son Jae Ho as normal of a life as possible, for long as possible.
After all, Jae Ho doesn’t even know the real reason why his father is back in the house, even though his parents have separated. So of course he doesn’t know that Mom is sick either.
I understand the good intentions that Da Jung has, but I feel like if Jae Ho only finds out much later, he’s going to be upset, that he didn’t have more time, to make the most of the time that’s available to him and his mother.
In fact, I feel like having his context corrected, so that he knows that he has limited time left with his mother, would change Jae Ho’s attitude and decisions by a great deal.
Right now, I feel like it’s such a waste, that he’s using his energy to drown in self-pity, because he’s uncomfortable around his father, and using his time to avoid going home, instead of going home early, because that would maximize his time with his mother.
But, I suppose that will come with time, and that’s probably what his growth trajectory will be about.
E10. The scene that got me choking up, is the one where Da Jung talks with Jae Ho about her decision to move to the hospice.
Jae Ho bawling like a baby in his mother’s arms, and Da Jung, crying as much as her baby, is such a raw, vulnerable sort of moment; as precious as it is poignant. 😭💔
Chang Wook, Da Jung and Jae Ho as a family
One of the silver linings of the terrible thing that is Da Jung’s illness, is how their little family comes together again, after being broken up by Chang Wook and Da Jung’s separation.
We don’t see this really take root until our later episodes, but the glimpses of shared love and joy, were worth waiting for.
E8. I love how Da Jung’s request for pork belly triggers this whole chain of events, where Jae Ho goes to the supermarket to get it for her, and ends up showing up at the hospital with an entire case of equipment, so that they can grill the pork belly at the hospital’s open air carpark. 😁
It works out to be such a great shared adventure for Da Jung, Chang Wook and Jae Ho, as they sneak that makeshift pork belly barbecue experience, at the hospital.
Augh. The feels, y’all. 🤩🥰
That bond, that I can practically feel crackling through my screen, feels so very precious, and this memory, is such a treasure.
The joy and contentment, and the purity of just living in the moment, is just beautiful. ❤️
We know from Chang Wook’s voiceover, that there are harder times ahead of them, but for now, I’m just so glad that our characters get this reprieve, of life-affirming hope, and joy in the little things.
E10. When I signed up for this show, I knew that it would make me cry, and it happened, this episode.
With the way things are getting so sharply, deeply poignant, it was basically inevitable, that Show would make me shed tears. 😭
This episode, Da Jung tells Chang Wook and (separately) Jae Ho that she’d like to be admitted to a hospice, and I can see why that would hit them both like a ton of bricks.
I mean, from their perspective, I can see how this would feel like Da Jung’s making it even harder for them to spend time with her, when she has such limited time left.
I would be really reluctant to let her go to the hospice, too, if I were in their shoes.
E10. The pictures that Jae Ho takes of his family, at the end of the episode, are beautiful, and filled with warmth and smiles, but it’s still so poignant to witness, knowing that this will be the last time that they will be able to take pictures like these, together. 🥲💔
And yet, it’s heartening to see that, in the face of adversity and with so little time left, they are choosing to hold onto one another, and love, and laugh, while they still can. 🥲❤️
Jae Ho and Yeo Jin
I’ll admit that I wasn’t very invested in Jae Ho’s relationship with Yeo Jin (Jo Yoo Jung), generally speaking.
However, I did think that their relationship proved to be a good foil, for our other couple relationship, which is that between Chang Wook and Da Jung.
I personally thought that the contrast between the way this young couple handled things, and the way our more mature couple handled things, was good food for thought.
E4. I’m glad that Jae Ho tells Yeo Jin about Da Jung’s illness, and there’s a certain symbolism and poetry about how he starts to cry, when Yeo Jin remarks, “There must be someone
who watches the last sun going down too.”
Augh. Put in the context of Da Jung’s illness, which is terminal, this sentence feels like such a poignant statement about her loved ones, who should be with her, until the very end. 😭
And sure, Jae Ho doesn’t yet know that Da Jung’s terminally ill, but because cancer is such a serious illness, I’m sure that he nonetheless has fears that Da Jung won’t survive it.
Plus, the fact that he can’t help but start sobbing at Yeo Jin’s words about the last sun, tells me that he’s likely been struggling with thoughts of his mother’s mortality.
E9. In contrast to the relationship between Chang Wook and Da Jung, things between Jae Ho and Yeo Jin aren’t going so well.
The main rub, I do think, is that each of them is more focused on their own situation, and unable to truly empathize with each other.
It’s like, they know in their heads, that the other person is struggling, but in reality, they are too consumed by their own struggles, to truly give a selfless, empathetic ear to the other person.
Jae Ho knows that Yeo Jin is struggling with retaking her final year of high school, and that her exams are looming, but he can’t put aside the thoughts around Da Jung and her limited time to live.
At the same time, Yeo Jin knows that Jae Ho is torn up about Da Jung’s impending passing, but she’s too consumed by her own struggles, to put her own needs aside for the length of time that Jae Ho actually needs.
It’s a tough situation to be in, and given their limited capacity to be there for each other, it does seem like their decision to take some time apart might be the better and more practical choice, even though it hurts them both.
Jeon Yeo Jin as Da Sol
At around the episode 9 mark, Da Sol, Da Jung’s sister, arrives to visit, and I really welcomed her presence, in our drama world.
I thought she was a good representation of what it’s like for a patient’s family members (other than the patient’s own nuclear family), to deal with the onslaught of a terminal illness.
Da Sol’s family too, and has her heartache too, but because she’s not part of Da Jung’s own nuclear family, she’s able to provide perspective, where it’s sometimes lacking, for our main characters.
I appreciated that.
E9. Da Sol is heartbroken that her only sister is dying, but makes the choice to send her off with as big of a smile as possible, so that her sister would remember her smiling, instead of crying.
It is a little jarring, to see Da Sol being all bright and cheery, and there is a hint of forced-ness about that brightness, but it’s enough for me, that Da Jung seems to welcome it, and even be somewhat comforted by it.
I do believe that this is what Da Jung prefers, since she’d opted to keep her illness from Da Sol for as long as possible, precisely because she hadn’t wanted Da Sol’s visit to be a sad and weepy one.
E10. I’m glad that Da Sol is there to mediate the disagreement between Chang Wook and Da Jung, because, she cuts right to the heart of things for them, at a time when they’re too upset in their own emotions to be able to see it for themselves.
“Da Jung, if he sells the car, will you take the pills no matter how much it costs?”
“Chang Wook. As long as she can digest food, we don’t care about that stupid car, do we?”
It’s efficient, non-judgey, and perfect.
Da Sol really is helpful, in terms of giving both Chang Wook and Jae Ho perspective that they might not otherwise have arrived at, on their own.
With Chang Wook, it’s the perspective around selling the car, if it makes Da Jung more open to taking expensive medicine.
And with Jae Ho, it’s the perspective around using his photography skills to capture precious moments of Da Jung with the family, while they still have the time.
Yang Kyung Won as Supermarket Dude
I have had a soft spot for Yang Kyung Won since seeing him in Crash Landing on You, so I was quite delighted, to see him pop up here, as our resident Supermarket Dude.
He doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but I do like the idea of a supermarket dude being a regular cast member of our drama world.
It adds a personal dimension to the process of Chang Wook shopping for ingredients, and, Supermarket Dude is quick to give suggestions too, so he’s actively contributing to Chang Wook’s menu, in a sense.
By far, though, my favorite bit that has to do with Supermarket Dude, is this beat in episode 10.
E10. I’m so glad for Supermarket Dude, who comes through, not only with a practical solution, but with a much-needed touch of kindness, empathy and solidarity.
He hadn’t let on before, but it’s clear that he’d managed to piece it together, that Da Jung’s ill, and Chang Wook and Jae Ho are doing their best to help her, in buying and cooking healthy ingredients for her.
It’s so precious, honestly, that because of Supermarket Dude’s sensitivity, resourceful and kindness, Da Jung’s able to enjoy that sea cucumber dish, one last time.
THEMES / IDEAS
As I mentioned earlier in this review, Show is rich with themes and ideas, many of which I found thought-provoking.
Here’s the spotlight on the ones that jumped out at me, though I’m sure there are others that you could tease out as well, if you were so inclined.
The idea that growth is possible for everyone
E2. The flashback also demonstrates growth, and that’s something hopeful.
Specifically, I’m thinking of how Da Jung leaves all these prepared foods and instructions for Chang Wook when she leaves for Jeju Island, and reminds him not to just eat instant ramyun.
That’s a huge contrast to the present day, where Chang Wook’s preparing food from scratch, for the whole family.
He may not be a very skillful cook, judging from the modest success rate of his dishes, but he knows his way around the kitchen, isn’t afraid to try new things, and puts heart and care into every step of the cooking process.
That’s a huge deal, in terms of growth, and that growth gives me hope that there can and will be growth in other areas, for our characters and their relationships.
Food as an expression of love
E2. It’s becoming clear, in our story, that food is an expression of love. Not romantic love, necessarily; just.. love, and care, from one human to another.
Chang Wook puts heart into preparing meals for Da Jung, in hopes that her body will be nourished, strengthened and perhaps healed; that’s one.
The other thing is, how he asks her if there’s anything she’d like to eat, and then goes to great lengths to make her wish come true, even though he has no knowledge or experience of the dish that she names, Dombe noodles from Jeju Island.
His desire to grant her wish, and his willingness to step into unfamiliar waters to try to recreate those noodles for her, and his readiness to go the extra mile, in order to make it a success, is also an expression of love.
E3. This episode, this idea of food as love is perpetuated in several ways.
First, there’s Chang Wook’s students remembering his teachings, and gifting him dried corvina, and encouraging him to “do gulbi,” ie, to refuse to give in. They’re speaking the language of food to him, even as they cheer him on, to have always have courage.
And then, there’s how Da Jung takes joy from watching Jae Ho eat, and therefore asks Chang Wook to cook the corvina, even though she herself can’t eat it at the moment. To her, watching her son enjoy good food, is one of the ways that she feels and demonstrates love.
The way Da Jung puts on those gloves and debones the fish for Jae Ho – and then for Chang Wook too – is also an expression of love.
Jae Ho asking Da Jung about corvina for Chang Wook is, in essence, his way of showing care and love towards Chang Wook too.
And of course, there’s Chang Wook, who lovingly and carefully prepares the food, so that Da Jung and Jae Ho can eat. He might not express his care and love in other ways, but that care and love comes through so clearly, in the tender care that he puts into every meal.
E9. Through it all, food remains an expression of care and love.
It’s in the way Chang Wook prepares breakfast for Da Jung; it’s in the way Jae Ho goes to the minimart and looks for the best melons; it’s in the way Chang Wook prepares food for Da Sol and Tae Oh, to make them feel at home.
And, it’s also in the way food is received and consumed, because food as an expression of love flows both ways. It’s in how it’s given, and it’s also in how it’s received. And what’s love if it’s only given and not received, right?
Within this context, it’s actually a nice idea, that Chang Wook enjoys the food that he cooks, this episode. Can we then say that he’s also beginning to love himself more?
Compromise and consideration as expressions of love
E3. At the same time, Show explores other ways to demonstrate love, namely, communication.
When Jae Ho realizes that Da Jung is sick, one of the things that he seems to feel a measure of disappointment around, is that Da Jung had told Chang Wook about her illness, but hadn’t told him.
And when Jae Ho withdraws into himself, while processing Da Jung’s illness, his girlfriend Yeo Jin feels upset when he says that he doesn’t need to tell her everything.
Show is saying that letting people in and sharing your pain, is a way to demonstrate love.
And Jae Ho does learn that lesson, this episode, in that, I feel that he goes over to see Yeo Jin, wanting to tell her about Da Jung, but decides to delay it at the last minute, when he realizes that Yeo Jin’s upset about not making it to college.
That’s consideration, and that’s love too.
This tension between consideration and communication of pain, is something that Show is gently pushing to the forefront, for our reflection.
There’s a fine balance that needs to be achieved here, doesn’t it?
While I approve Jae Ho’s choice to temporarily delay telling Yeo Jin about Da Jung, out of consideration for her own pain, I don’t think Da Jung herself has been doing the right thing, in keeping her illness from the people who care about her.
First, she’d kept it from Jae Ho out of consideration for his exams, which, ok, I get it; but she should’ve told him once his exams were over.
And then, she’s still keeping the truth from her sister, out of consideration for her, which I don’t think is a good idea at all, because this is taking away precious time that they’d be able to spend together, if Da Jung would just come out and tell her sister that she’s ill.
I’m glad to see Chang Wook and Jae Ho communicating more, this episode; this is also evidence to me, that there is a measure of healing going on in their relationship. Because sharing and communication is love.
Jae Ho taking the gulbi lesson to heart, and wanting to pass that encouragement on to Yeo Jin, and share it (along with some actual gulbi) with her, is love too.
The value of compromise
E2. I do think that it’s about time that Da Jung’s condition become more known among her friends and family.
I find it troubling, that Da Jung doesn’t have much time left, and yet, doesn’t tell her sister about her condition, even though she dearly wishes to see her sister, while she still can.
I get that Da Jung wants a visit with her sister that feels normal and carefree, rather than a visit where her sister’s crying and heartbroken, but.. honestly, it looks like if she doesn’t tell her sister the truth, her sister might not come to Korea this year after all, and then where does that leave Da Jung, who has less than a year to live?
In a situation like this, it feels like having a sad visit is better than having no visit at all?
The idea that food contains our memories
E4. This episode, Show shines the spotlight on how food tends to contain our memories, which is something that it’s touched on, with the way Da Jung was able to remember the name of the beach on Jeju Island, after eating the Dombe noodles again, which she’d eaten there.
At the top of the episode, Chang Wook talks in voiceover about how he’d used barley tea to help Jae Ho get better, when he’d been sick as a little kid, and that’s the inspiration for how he’s cooking the same concoction now, to help Da Jung.
It sucks that Da Jung’s sick, but I also can’t help thinking that if not for the fact that Chang Wook’s trying to figure out ways to help Da Jung regain her appetite, he might not have revisited that memory of Jae Ho, from so long ago.
And that is a precious memory, no doubt about it. So I’m glad that he does revisit it.
And then there’s how Da Jung asks Chang Wook to eat the same seasoned kalguksu that they’d once had, when they drive to Namyangju, to deliver the books.
It’s interesting to me, that even when she’s unable to eat certain foods herself, Da Jung still associates food with memories, and asks for others to eat, in her stead. It’s like she’s vicariously reliving her memories, through someone else’s tastebuds.
It’s interesting how, in this way, food helps to make our lives richer, not only by the love that it communicates, like last episode focused on, but also, in the memories that it contains.
The helpfulness of gaining a bit of perspective
E4. This episode, there’s also the idea of perspective.
Sometimes we might feel like we’re being crushed by our problems, but when we put things in perspective, we often realize that our problems are small when compared to other people’s problems.
I feel like that’s the purpose, of juxtaposing Yeo Jin’s problem, of not making it into college, with Da Jung’s illness.
On its own, it might feel like the end of the world, but really, when you compare it to someone fighting for their lives, it just seems like a much smaller issue, after all.
Sure, it’s frustrating and difficult, to repeat a year of school, but when you realize that you still have time and health on your side, it doesn’t look so bad anymore.
Food helps you to forget
E4. I like how food helps people to forget, even as it helps people to remember their memories.
As Chang Wook, Da Jung and Jae Ho get lost in the flavors of their rice cake soup, seasoned exactly the same, so that they share the exact same memory of this day, they’re able to forget all their other troubles and worries, if only for this moment.
It’s honestly quite beautiful. 🥰
Our human need to feel like we’re doing something
E5. This episode, one of the ideas that Show touches on, is how we almost always feel like we need to do something, so that we can feel like we’re contributing to bettering the situation.
Like the way Chang Wook makes that New Year’s resolution to climb the mountain everyday, in the hope that it would help Da Jung overcome her illness, even though the process is hard for both him and Da Jung.
And the way Jae Ho keeps googling potential treatments for Da Jung’s illness, even though he knows that these are not that likely to work.
I think as humans, we often feel that we need to do something, and that feeling that we’re at least doing something, gives us comfort.
E7. This episode, Show also touches on the delicate topic of coming to terms with reality.
We see it in how Da Jung’s staff member refuses to accept the offer to take over the publishing house, because that means she’s accepting the reality of Da Jung’s prognosis.
And we also see it in how Chang Wook assures her that Da Jung’s getting better, only for him to break down later in the episode, when he finally confronts the truth, that Da Jung isn’t getting better. 😭
I think, often, in difficult situations like this, we crave the feeling that we’re doing something useful, and I think that’s where Chang Wook is at, when he’s making all those juices for Da Jung, when she’d only asked for mango juice.
It might be a small thing, but at least he feels like he’s doing something for Da Jung.
But when Da Jung becomes unable to eat or drink because of her deteriorating condition, it feels like Chang Wook is robbed of this thing, where he at least feels like he’s contributing something towards making Da Jung feel better, and it’s quite heartbreaking, honestly.
All in all, it’s really bittersweet to think about our characters and their situation.
It’s sad that Da Jung is deteriorating and therefore might not have much time left, but it is a silver lining, that she and her family are sharing love, while they still have the time. 💔🥲
The importance of emotional comfort
E5. Beyond the physical treatments that Da Jung undergoes, emotional comfort is the other big half of the equation, and I take Show’s message, that Da Jung needs both of these things, without necessarily prioritizing one as more important than the other.
Yes, that yakgwa (honey biscuit) isn’t the healthiest thing for her (as Jae Ho points out in our episode’s opening minutes, even fruit isn’t necessarily the best for her, because of the sugar in them), but in the end, it was the half yakgwa that Chang Wook handed her, that gave her the morale boost that she needed, in order to get to the top of the mountain that day.
Sometimes it’s important to persist
E8. My heart really sank, when Da Jung talked about her final wish being to not have the surgery, and just live out her days quietly at home, just enjoying ordinary life.
I don’t think it’s a bad wish, to be clear. It’s just that my heart didn’t want this to be the end of her hopeful days.
So I was really glad when Da Jung agrees to the surgery, after Chang Wook’s gentle persuasion over a week.
That’s a lesson in itself, isn’t it, that sometimes, it’s important to persist – gently and sensitively – rather than just take no for an answer?
The importance of hope
E8. This episode, the idea of how hope is so essential to us, is really brought home, I feel.
I mean, I feel it too, as a viewer. Like, if Da Jung doesn’t have any sort of hope, even in terms of quality of life, if not in terms of her prognosis, then that would be such a blow to the watch experience, I imagine.
Which is why it’s such a good thing that Da Jung’s surgery goes well, enabling her to eat. I mean, Da Jung is still terminally ill, but, as Chang Wook indicates, the fact that she’s able to eat, is such a hopeful thing.
There’s hope for giving her good, quality nutrients that would boost her health, and there’s also hope for her to be able to enjoy meals with her family, and savor the joy that food can bring.
It’s really sweet, how Da Jung’s renewed ability to eat, seems to give Chang Wook renewed purpose as well, as he prepares food that he feels will appeal to her. Aw.
The idea of choices
E9. The motif that comes to my mind, as I watch this episode, is the idea of choices.
In the face of the situation – most of all, Da Jung’s condition – all our characters are faced with choices; most notably, the choice of how they deal with the situation.
The difference between how Chang Wook and Da Jung deal with the situation, is markedly different from how Jae Ho and Yeo Jin deal with the situation, and I can’t help putting that down to a difference in maturity, between the two couples.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Death is never, ever, an easy topic, but Show makes it as comforting and as tender as possible, given the circumstances.
And so it is, that as I watch Da Jung, Chang Wook and Jae Ho navigate this late stage of her illness, I feel both sad and consoled, at the same time.
It’s a poignant, heart-in-my-throat sort of feeling, where my heart feels both full, and close to breaking, at the same time.
It’s a time of thoughtful musings, what feels like final goodbyes, and savoring the moments, as they come.
I find it so poignant, to hear Da Jung say in voiceover, that one of her favorite ways to manage the pain, is to use her imagination, to relive the times and places where she’d felt happy.
I love that, because that approach to her situation, feels like such a grateful one.
That gratitude is touching and just wonderful, and I’m glad that Da Jung’s found a way to tap into her imagination to chew on the cud of life, so to speak, and make her days more enjoyable and beautiful.
It’s also touching to see how Chang Wook does his best to give Da Jung a taste of food, even when her condition makes it impossible for her to actually eat.
The way he strains those juices over and over again, to remove all the fiber in it, so that Da Jung can safely drink it, is truly a labor of love.
That last outing, where Chang Wook takes Da Jung so that she can feed her nearest and dearest friends with food, one last time, is so poignant as well.
The joy that Da Jung derives from ordering food for everyone, and dishing out food for them, even though she is weak and can’t do too much, is bittersweet and beautiful.
But even more bittersweet, is the goodbye afterwards, where Writer Lim and Editor Choi say, as a matter of habit and hope, that they’ll see her again, and Da Jung muses afterwards, that as time passes, “see you again” becomes a harder and harder promise to keep. 😭💔
Most touching of all, though, are the final scenes that we see Da Jung share with Jae Ho and Chang Wook.
The gentle advice that she gives Jae Ho feels like just the thing that he needs, to make the first move to reconcile with Yeo Jin.
Even more moving, I feel, is the bedtime conversation that she shares with Chang Wook, where she tells him the various things on her heart.
That Jae Ho will grow up to be a great person, if Chang Wook leads him well; that Chang Wook can do anything, with the effort that he put into learning to cook; that people reading his blog posts, would know that she was happy.
That the kimchi rice that he loves, should be cooked on a pot on the stove, so that the rice scorches, and then drizzled with perilla leaf oil, instead of sesame oil.
Her regret at not being able to cook it for him one last time, combined with the desperate earnestness with which she presses these details on him, so that he’ll be able to cook it for himself, is so affecting, truly. 😭
And then, she tells him that she thinks she’s finally ready.
Oof. What a moment. 😭
Chang Wook’s response is just as affecting, with the involuntary sobs that he swallows, so that he can tell her what a brave and inspiring woman she is. 😭😭
This feels like a significant milestone that they’ve achieved together; a peaceful yet heartfelt goodbye, where they will hold onto each other for as long as humanly possible, and then, when they run out of time, they’ll release each other, towards the paths that they must take separately.
Da Jung’s final wish, spoken in voiceover, that Chang Wook would filter out all the sadness in his life, just like he’d filtered out all the fiber in the juice, and keep only the happy memories, is sad, but also, selfless and beautiful, in how gentle and generous it is, in spirit.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Guh. Saying goodbye is hard, and Show stays in character, and shines the firm but tender spotlight on the grief that follows, when a beloved one passes.
I’m honestly relieved, that Da Jung passes off-screen, because I feel like witnessing her passing would have been too hard. 😭
Instead, we open this finale at her funeral, and witness the grieving process of her loved ones, who are left behind.
Grief is an integral part of loss, and I’m glad that Show acknowledges that, by dedicating this finale to documenting how our characters process their loss, and carry on with their lives, in the face of their heartbreak and loss.
Da Sol’s been so strong and resolute in being there for Da Jung, that it’s a little startling to see her break down in huge, heaving sobs at Da Jung’s grave, but that really brings out just how much Da Sol’s been holding it in, in order to be there for Da Jung with a cheerful face, doesn’t it?
At the same time, Show is spot-on in documenting how we tend to sometimes distract ourselves with the minutiae of the mundane, when we are faced with loss and grief.
Like Chang Wook worrying about feeding everyone after the funeral, and then worrying about the beef stew not being any good.
“I can’t believe… my worry on the day of my wife’s passing is the bad beef rib stew. I don’t know how to process that. I felt embarrassed… for still eating all my meals… on a day like this.”
It’s perplexing in the moment, and I can see why Chang Wook would feel rather mortified at his own reaction, but honestly, that’s how we deal, isn’t it? That’s how many of us deal, when things get too much and too overwhelming; we distract ourselves with the small things that we know.
But then, our grief then creeps us on us, and breaks through our sheen of normalcy, sometimes at the most unexpected times, like when Chang Wook starts crying in the plane, on his way to Jeju Island.
I’m glad that he gets invited to Jeju Island to give that talk, though, because I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t have gone otherwise.
I do love the conversation that Chang Wook and Jae Ho have in the car, at the airport, where Jae Ho asks what had made Chang Wook decide to come back, and Chang Wook’s answer, essentially, is that it’s because he really did love Da Jung very, very much. Aw. Sniffle. 🥲
It’s beautiful that Chang Wook’s come to this realization, and it’s also beautiful that Jae Ho’s comfortable enough now, to even ask Chang Wook the question.
Later, it feels like such a healing moment, when he sits down to eat those Dombe noodles, which Da Jung had once requested that he make, and envisions Da Jung sitting down with him, and assuring him that all the food he’d made had been delicious, while he assures her that he’s doing just fine.
Of course, he’s not actually fine-fine, but he’s sufficiently fine, while still processing his grief, and that’s as much as one could possibly ask or expect, given the situation.
The way Chang Wook slumps over his noodles, after his conversation with the vision of Da Jung ends, tells us that.
Chang Wook’s musings, as he hikes alone on Jeju Island, filled with thoughts of Da Jung, indicate that he’s arriving at a measure of closure, which is poignant and heartening, at the same time.
“We went through so much together. After getting old… and a whole 25 years later, we finally felt like we connected, only to have one of us leave. This is how humans… begin and end their relationships. We loved each other, but it was hard. Even so, I’d say we had a good farewell.”
“Now, I must get used to something I’m not used to, but I’m not too scared of it.”
I’m so glad to see Jae Ho and Chang Wook continue to get along well, in the wake of Da Jung’s passing.
That had been one of Da Jung’s main concerns, and it’s just very comforting to see Jae Ho look out for Chang Wook, even as Chang Wook continues to cook for him.
And, it’s also good to see Yeo Jin being welcomed into Jae Ho’s home, with Chang Wook basically fulfilling the role that Da Jung would have played, if she’d been there, as well as his own, in cooking for her, and receiving her with parental warmth.
It’s such a nice, nostalgic touch, too, to see that Chang Wook’s still using a lot of chillies in his cooking; I feel like that will always remind him of Da Jung and his super spicy japchae.
And what a nice, offhanded touch, to let us see that Supermarket Dude is finally opening his own pork cutlet restaurant. I guess he’s not Supermarket Dude anymore, eh? 🥲
I’m glad that Da Jung thinks to give Chang Wook that homework assignment, of turning the recipes that he’d created for her, into a book.
Not only does this give him something to focus on, it helps to keep their memories alive, AND it helps him to direct his thoughts towards the happy times, during their challenging and difficult journey.
It’s perfect. 🥲❤️
And then, as Chang Wook sends off his draft of his book – which, surely, will be titled “Recipe For Farewell,” right? – it’s also perfect, that the dish he cooks, to celebrate, is the kimchi rice, that Da Jung had so earnestly stressed, had to be cooked in a pot on the stove, and drizzled with perilla leaf oil.
It’s both poignant and heartening to see, that even as life goes on for Chang Wook, it goes on in ways where Da Jung’s memory is kept very much alive. 🥲❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Gentle and comforting, yet raw and unflinching. Very good.
FINAL GRADE: B++
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Recipe For Farewell, is The Glory. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m suitably intrigued by the story that Show is weaving. My E1 & 2 notes on The Glory 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 of notes of all shows covered on Patreon (2 eps for kdramas, 4 eps for cdramas)
Early Access (US$5): The Glory [Korea]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House [Japan]
VIP (US$15): +Meet Yourself [China]
VVIP (US$20): +New Life Begins [China]
Ultimate (US$25): +Crash Course In Love [Korea]