Wow – if there’s such a thing as a perfect hour of television, this would be it. Where do I even begin? Words fail to convey how good this episode is, but I’ll try.
Within the span of one hour, we have emotional revelations, highly charged confrontations, growing affection, heartfelt conversations and suspenseful engagements. It’s beautiful to see how the show juggles all the different storylines as well as past and present so skilfully, bringing everything together so coherently and satisfyingly. I really love how the scenes concurrently advance several storylines, giving the show a good sense of energy and pace. For example, the early scene with Young Shin pitching to Moon-ho to explore the suicide of President Hwang builds on the storyline of her growing confidence as a reporter, yet also adds to the growing romance between Young-Shin and Healer and the narrative of Moon-ho protecting her from danger (both physical and emotional).
I really love how the interactions are so layered because we know one or more characters are hiding something from the other. Yet beyond the secrecy, there’s also something very raw and heartfelt about all the interactions. The most memorable ones in this episode were those between Myung-Hee and Jung-hoo and subsequently Jung-hoo and Moon-ho. Myung-Hee generally wears her heart on her sleeve and she’s never one for hiding her emotions and while she tries to act calm when Moon-shik first introduces her to Jung-hoo, she gradually breaks down once he goes straight for the jugular and asks about his father’s murder. It’s touching to see how she tries to hold herself together for Jung-hoo, but eventually can’t and goes into a panic attack. What’s also great is that while Jung-hoo is not told that Ji-Ahn is still alive, he pieces things together after seeing some photographs and the truth dawns upon him devastatingly.
I really, really enjoyed the interactions between Moon-ho and Jung-hoo in the previous episode, particularly at the junk yard, but this episode just takes it up several notches – big props to both actors for conveying their emotions so powerfully. Ji Chang Wook is really amazing in the confrontation scene, where he simultaneously displays bravado and vulnerability. While putting on a strong front, we see it crumbling as he holds back his tears and heart-breakingly tells Moon-ho not to interfere in his life with Ji-Ahn. There’s a mix of betrayal, anger, disappointment and pain in his portrayal. Yo Ji-tae also puts up an impressive performance and his face just tells it all. Moon-ho doesn’t fight back, even opening his arms to Jung-hoo, because he knows immediately what has happened. He has no satisfactory answer for Jung-hoo, yet he also knows that he has to do what’s necessary to protect both him and Young Shin/Ji Ahn.
And this leads us nicely to the scenes between Bong Soo and Young Shin, which are always so delightful and fun and provide us with much needed levity in the midst of a heavy-going episode. Loved so many things here – how Young Shin kicked Bong So away when he tries to go in for another hug, how she ridiculed him for his fear of bugs and said he’s not a man, her tricking him into touching his eyes and him pretending that her food is terrible. In the midst of these, we have a moment of affection where Young-Shin wipes the foam off Bong So’s mouth and also an all-too-familiar feeling when their hands brush against each other. Underlying all the romance is also Jung-Hoo’s realisation of who Young Shin really is and while him seeking her out is certainly because he likes her, it’s also about him seeking his past and attempting to be close to her because he knows she’s in possible danger.
I could go on and on about all the scenes in this episode, but I’ll just mention one final scene which was unexpectedly heartfelt and touching. While Jung-hoo’s pursuit of truth regarding his dad has left him even more pained, he finds comfort and parental love in Min-Ja, who is somewhat like a father-like figure to him – protecting him, managing his finances, giving him advice. It was so moving to hear him confess to her “I like Chae Young-Shin” and while she’s been trying her utmost best to keep them apart, she finally gives her stamp of approval the end of the episode and calls upon Young-Shin to rescue Jung-Hoo/Healer/Bong So.
In the midst of handling these big pieces, the episode still manages to advance the smaller storylines like Young Shin’s growing confidence as a journalist, the emerging reputation of Some Day, Detective Yoon’s pursuit of Healer and Moon-shik being nominated as the next mayoral candidate. I said I’ll stop talking about the scenes in the episode, but I certainly can’t end off the review without at least mentioning the interactions between Moon-Shik and Moon-Ho in this episode which were so intense. Moon-Ho displays such contempt for Moon-Shik, yet his contempt also leads to a sense of self-loathing as he realises he’s no better than Moon-Shik.
At the end of the episode, all the storylines have progressed signficantly yet we’re left intrigued by what’s going to happen next. Will Young Shin find out Healer’s true identity and more importantly, how will she respond when she realises that everyone’s been hiding the truth from her? What exactly happened to Myung-Hee and what role did Moon-shik have to play? How did Jung-Hoo’s father get accused of murder? What does Moon-ho mean when he says that Ji-Ahn/Young Shin will truly lose her mother if she realises the truth?
At the heart of it all, Healer is a masterful piece of storytelling. It does not rely on any gimmicks – no over-the-top action sequences (yes, I am thinking of the K2 here), no mind-blowing plot twists and no bewildering supernatural elements. What it does is simply tell the stories of three intertwined lives in such a competent, compelling and compassionate manner. No doubt, Healer is a show in a league of its own and this episode is a truly a classic.