If you’ve been able to catch up or start new dramas this week, what have you been watching? Did you love Mystic Pop-Up Bar as much as we did? Are you enjoying Kim Soo-hyun’s return in It’s Okay Not to Be Okay?
Here’s what we started, finished, dropped, or kept watching this week.
(Note: We’ll mention some plot details, but major spoilers will have warnings.)
Mystic Pop-Up Bar [6-12]
It’s over! I’m so sad to see this little family go. I may write a full spoiler review of this, so I’ll just give my immediate reactions to the show here. (I just finished it and my eyes are still a bit swollen from crying.)
At this point I’ve become notorious around here for advocating for the twelve-episode drama, and even though I’d have loved to see more of these characters, I feel like I’ve once again been vindicated. Twelve episodes was exactly enough to have a satisfying exploration of every major plot point, character arc, and philosophical conundrum that this show wanted to tackle, and they were all handled beautifully. The cast all pulled off their roles wonderfully, but the writing and directing really created the magic here.
We got to see a full explanation of Weol-ju and Hon’s tragic backstory, which was slowly revealed to us over several episodes, each time with an additional wrinkle that kept giving us new information to chew on as we began to understand how the past was still affecting the present. When we got the full reveal of who these three actually are to each other, and saw how all that played out, I was bawling my eyes out. I loved the themes of redemption and punishment, healing and companionship, sadness and forgiveness. And most of all: that all you need to get through life is just one person to pour your heart out to, a single person to trust—and that’s the biggest miracle of all. ❤︎
My Unfamiliar Family [6.5-8]
This might be the only family K-drama I’ve ever seen that explores the relationship of the parents independently of their kids–as whole people and not just Mom and Dad. I love how this show just quietly throws out the most devastating truths, which hit all the harder for how they arrive without fanfare and take my breath away. Eun-hee’s refrain of “We’re family, but we don’t know anything. If we don’t talk, we can’t know” really sums up My Unfamiliar Family‘s overarching message. These people have been holding onto their pain and secrets instead of sharing them with each other, and that’s what has driven them apart.
I have a feeling that much of the anger and hurt between Jin-sook and Sang-shik is due to this lack of communication. A lot of what they know about each other seems to be born of misunderstanding and silence, and Sang-shik’s amnesia is the perfect vehicle for all of that to be forced to the surface. I can’t believe I’m actually praising using that tired trope as a premise, but here the amnesia works like time travel. It’s as though 22-year-old Sang-shik has glimpsed his future and found that he’s lived a life very different from the one he’d dreamed of. Except there is a sadness underlying all this, because those years are behind him even if he can’t remember them, and the pain and hurt in his marriage isn’t something he can undo. The silver lining is that there’s one key difference in memory-loss Sang-shik: he loves his wife, and that seems to be penetrating Jin-sook’s deep anger a bit. His memory is back now, but maybe this period was the catalyst she needed to let go of some of her hurt, and for them to attempt to actually talk to each other for the first time in decades.
As far as Eun-hee goes… this girl keeps making all these wrong choices and yet somehow I am still emphatically on her side. Geon-joo is literally a stalker (and that apartment is too good for him). Why on earth is Eun-hee forgiving him so easily? I cannot imagine the betrayal I would feel if a woman pen pal I’d shared so many secrets with turned out to be my new boss who is now consistently, and with no respect for boundaries, hitting on me. Is she really so starved for affection?! I get why she’s forcing down her feelings for Chan-hyuk once more, but gah I love them together so much that it’s painful to see him wince as she repeatedly emphasizes how she wants to be FRIENDS FOREVER. And why go shopping with the passive aggressive ex-who-is-not-an-ex?! But I love her straightforward awkwardness, her loyalty, her inability to stay mad at people. Really, Han Ye-ri is just so good that I am ride or die for Eun-hee no matter what she does.
I could write for another ten paragraphs for every single scene I loved, but here are a few examples:
Basically whenever Eun-joo is onscreen, talking to anyone, because this woman is someone I know and feel for viscerally even though she drives me crazy. Big props to Joo Ja-hyun for her performance. That scene with Tae-hyung and her mother-in-law in their living room, and that “saddest and most useless confession of love in the world” afterward, were devastating.
Jin-sook is such an interesting and sympathetic character. It’s refreshing to see a woman her age given a role that so deeply explores the sacrifices that an “ordinary” wife and mother is called to make, often with no recognition and no thanks. I died on the inside when Eun-joo threw that bank book in her face, and she stifled her cries, all the while thinking, “Is my life and my time worth so little?” It brought home so brutally the way that women’s labour is devalued in the face of the money that men traditionally bring to the household, especially in Jin-sook’s generation. And how much more painful coming from Eun-joo.
Any scene with Chan-hyuk. I will happily watch this man breathe.
Suffice to say, I’m savouring this one.