If I had to point out a key strength of Healer (which I seem to be doing every review so far), it would be its pacing – which is something that very, very few dramas do well. For many dramas, they either end up having too little plot to last for 16 episodes, such that they need to have “filler” episodes or repetitive plot-structures (e.g. Descendants of the Sun, Queen In-Hyun’s Man); or they have too many loose ends such that they have to rush through the plot towards the end. Even my other all-time favourite drama W Two Worlds suffered from weaknesses in pacing – I felt it went too fast in the first half and lost steam towards the end.
While Episode 15 wasn’t the strongest episode of the series, it pointed towards the masterful pacing of the series. In the midst of providing plenty of sweetness and cuteness (though I was surprised by the hints at pre-marital sex, rarely seen in k-dramas), the episode also moves forward the Moon-shik vs. Moon-ho storyline, while leveraging the progress in the relationship between Jung Hoo and Young Shin. The tone throughout was mostly light-hearted and fun with Jung Hoo and Moon-ho finally experience victory by implicating Moon-Shik in Teacher’s death. I really appreciated how the consequences and impact of Teacher’s death were so fully explored, with the previous episode extensively exploring the emotions felt by the characters and this episode focusing on the actions taken to avenge him, thus bringing the whole Teacher arc to a satisfying close. We see growth for both Jung Hoo and Moon-Ho, with Jung Hoo confronting the question of who he is and Moon-Ho no longer being a coward and declaring war on Moon-Shik. It was certainly entertaining to see Moon-Ho brilliantly orchestrate the whole news story with footage pulled together from different sources. Moon-Ho’s delivery as a news anchor is so eloquent and charismatic – it’s not hard to see why Young Shin idolised him.
Besides meaningful plot developments, this episode also had strong thematic coherence through exploring the theme of identity. Early in the episode, Jung Hoo asks Min-Ja, “But the real me? Who is that? Does that exist?”. While Min Ja dismisses the question, it’s certainly one worth exploring further. As Healer, his only interaction with the outside world was through a facade. When he decided to get closer to Young Shin, he made himself more visible through adopting the identity of the awkward, bumbling Bong Soo when interacting with her on personal level, but still revert to Healer when he needed to rescue her. Now that he’s revealed himself, he will need to find to reconcile both identities. While I’m sure many found the kissy/touchy scenes very sweet, the highlight of their interaction for me was the scene where Jung Hoo meets Young Shin and introduces himself as “Seo Jung Hoo” and apologises for taking so long to introduce himself to her. That felt to me like a significant step ahead for their relationship. When Young Shin says cheekily in the car that she misses Bong Soo, it’s a moment of ironic humour as we witness Jung Hoo being jealous of “himself”.
The sequence of Jung Hoo and Young Shin infiltrating the police station together was really good fun – Young Shin even gets her own earpiece! Detective Yoon and the entire police force unfortunately get the short end of the stick here, being portrayed as incompetent and gullible. However, I’m willing to overlook that for the scene where Young Shin gleefully and victoriously expresses how fun it was and Jung Hoo basks in the joy of being called her “boyfriend”. There were certainly some Bong Soo vibes there when he smiled to himself and kept repeating “boyfriend” in a silly manner. I really wonder how much Bong Soo represented the “real” Jung Hoo, since he seemed to play that role so well and for so long. Honestly, I do miss Bong Soo and hope we get to see more of the Bong-Soo side of Jung Hoo in subsequent episodes.
Besides Jung Hoo, the episode also explored the theme of identity through Moon-Shik. Every scene with Moon-Shik was so intriguing. While handling the cremation of Teacher, he looks genuinely grieved and we see him wiping his tears in the car. Given that he’s with Secretary Oh, who is his closest ally, there is no reason why he should be putting up any pretence, which makes me wonder if he was really responsible for Teacher’s death or whether it was Elder’s instructions. We learn through Moon-Ho that it sometimes seems like Moon-Shik believes he has done no wrong, as if he can’t remember what he has done. This is certainly true based on this episode, where we see him refer to Jung Hoo and Young Shin as “those kids”, taking it upon himself to help them socialise. He is genuinely convinced that he’s carrying out his responsibility to them. While Jung Hoo is on a mission to discover the “real” him, Moon-Shik has completely gone into self-denial by numbing himself from his evil acts and believing he is part of something greater. This is exactly what he tells Moon-ho too, that his side is united and will fight together for their survival. At the end of the episode, Young Shin enters his car and we wonder what devious plan he has up his sleeves. While Moon-shik is the villain of the series, he’s certainly being portrayed in also complex and compelling manner, which makes us want to know him more. The simmering tension between him as Myung-hee is also exciting to watch to watch and I am looking forward to their confrontation.
As we enter the last five episodes of the series, there’s so much to look forward to as the dynamics of the characters are gradually shifting and we have more people now entering the “good side” to battle Moon-Shik. War has certainly been declared and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds!