I liked Tae-san from the beginning. He started out in such a low place and I was totally invested in seeing him rise to the challenge and become a better man. I’m always up for seeing a (relatively) dark-soul redeemed.
Only, with these last two episodes, we see that it’s not that Tae-san had a dark soul. He had a sad and lonely soul, crying sad and lonely tears in its sad and lonely world. And now my heart totally aches for him and I want to wrap him in blankets and feed him that awesome looking chicken soup, with ginseng and an entire chicken, that’s still boiling while you eat it that gets featured in just about every Korean travel show ever. And want him to end with all the happiness! Not just learn a lesson, not just fulfill a purpose — I want him to earn true, complete, soul-satisfying happiness. Or I will be most upset.
Two things tipped me over into this big bucket of sympathy. First, we get a flashback to In-hye’s and Tae-san’s second meeting when she coerces him into speeding her from her ballet studio to her university. (Not that he took that much arm twisting. He was there because he totally had a crush and had taken to driving by her studio. Because he’s that adorable.) After she races off with his helmet still on her head, he laughs at her antics and catches a glimpse of himself laughing.
And it surprises him. Like laughing is unusual and maybe not allowed.
Which gave me a moment of heart-squeeze.
Then there was the conversation with Boss Moon. In one of those twisty scenes that happen in these kind of stories where the amoral gangster talks some surprising sense, Boss Moon chides Tae-san for not fighting for the woman he loved. And I realized how little Tae-san valued himself. Which was why Boss Moon tagged him as a patsy — but also why Tae-san thought In-hye would be better off without him. I’m not sure he realized his absence would hurt her. Because who could be hurt by not having Tae-san around?
I mean, it was kind of cute and sweet that Tae-san ate all that shrimp rather than telling In-hye he was allergic. But she was right that it was also stupidly dangerous. He automatically placed her surface pleasure above his actual health.
Which made me realize that it wasn’t that Tae-san was doing well and then things went downhill. I think he was already in a dark place and In-hye brought him some momentary sunshine. But it was something so unlooked for he didn’t see it as truly his. And that’s why he didn’t fight for it.
Which means! I think it’s doubly good that Tae-san is forced to take care of himself so he’ll be healthy when its time for him to donate his bone-marrow. Even if he’s thinking physically — he’s seeing something of value in himself and that’s got to be a good thing. It also adds poignancy to his father-daughter moments with imaginary Su-jin.
Imaginary Su-jin is not real Su-jin — the drama’s very clear that she represents a part of Tae-san. So now I’ve decided that, in interacting with her, speaking kindly to her, he’s being kind to himself — maybe for the first time. Telling himself not to be seen as stupid anymore because he’s not stupid, telling himself to keep going, congratulating himself on thinking through clues. Basically he’s seeing worth in himself for the first time ever.
(Which — oh, my heart! You combine a guy going through hell with a guy who’s finally leaning to value himself? That’s a classic woobie right there. It’s a trope, but boy is it working.)
In other news: The movie-as-inspiration clips are back! This time as a suggestion of what not to do. Which, considering the usual level of “realism” in most action-films, is probably a good thing.
And I love that the good will Tae-san built up with his various “hostages” is finally bearing fruit. And in an unexpected way! I’d thought it’d be Jae-kyung speaking to them. But that it’s the press is even more awesome. For one, it makes sense that the press would have the time for, and interest in, speaking to the hostages. (It’s a hot news item so they’re going to milk it for all its worth.) For another, I’m betting it’s going to change the nation’s view of Tae-san, from monstrous murderer to wrongly accused folk-hero. He could end up having people lined up to help him.
Also — Jae-kyung is a badass! It seems like I’m seeing more badass women in my k-dramas. Is this a new thing or am I just noticing it now? Either way, I like it and would like the trend to continue please and thank you.
And I loved that she schooled Seung-woo and basically challenged him to be a detective and figure out for himself why she’s suspecting a frame-up. (Which he’s apparently taken to heart, which surprised me.)
And, oh my gosh that cliff-hanger! Accusation of team work before the team’s even had a chance to form? Diabolical, creator-team, diabolical. (Also — totally working!)