After the victory of the good guys in Episode 17, Elder and his forces strike back with a vengeance, putting our key protagonists’ reputation and lives in jeopardy. It’s always satisfying when the good and bad guys are equally matched, keeping us as viewers on our edge as they continue to outwit and outsmart each other. We know that the good guys will eventually emerge victorious, but the characters of Elder and Moon Shik have been sufficiently built up such that we know they are forces to be reckoned with.
Several episodes earlier, I spoke about how Moon Shik seems to be numbed to the evil that he does when he cremates Teacher’s ashes and talks about how he needs to help Jung-hoo and Young-Shin socialise. In this episode, we witness the process of his downfall, which starts off with an unfortunate incident with The Farmers, that results in Gil-han being murdered by them. Following that, Moon-Shik falls into the hands of Elder’s men and they gradually brainwash him into accusing Joon-seok of the murder. The sequence of him gradually being brainwashed is brilliantly acted by Son Seong-won. He initially starts off trembling and afraid, then becomes compliant and listless, but by the end, he’s alert and sharp, falsely accusing Joon-seok of the murder with such conviction and clarity. This is even more brilliantly juxtaposed with a scene of Moon-shik reading a book as he remembers what happened, completely unshaken by that memory as he picks up a biscuit crumb. It’s such a brief scene, but so chilling and scary as we see how far Moon-shik has fallen. When he lies to Myung-Hee about suspecting Joon-seok all this while and being glad that Moon-ho’s broadcast clarified it all, he says it without even batting an eye-lid. His soul has become so corrupt and perverted that he can no longer distinguish truth from lies.
When he later on decides to change the script completely for the broadcast with Min-jae, it completely throws Moon-ho off his game because Someday will no longer be able to counter his responses through their broadcast. Moon-shik manages to twist the whole story of the illegal broadcast station to his benefit and honestly, it’s such an intelligent and cunning move because it manages to portray himself as a defender of free press while also completely discrediting everything that Moon-ho and Someday has claimed. With all the tapes in Moon-Shik’s hands, Moon-ho is also left without any counter-attack and can only express his rage and frustration.
All the intensity and excitement of the battle between Moon-ho and Moon-shik is nicely contrasted with the light-hearted and fun storyline of Jung-hoo’s adjustment to living as a “normal person”. This leads to many funny scenes that are too numerous to list, the best ones being his encounter with Young-Shin in her room where she tells him what a normal boyfriend will do, and his subsequent encounter with Young-Shin’s dad which Young Shin listens on to while eating ice-cream. I loved also how the whole Someday team rallied around Jung-hoo and cheered him on for a job well done, because it represents the first time he’s ever had a community affirming his work. Having personally loved Bong-Soo’s character, I was glad to see the return of “Bong-Soo” in this episode too as he awkwardly responds to all the warmth shown by the Someday team and also cowers in fear in response to Young-Shin’s dad.
Underlying all the humour and fun is a serious exploration of identity, which began in episode 15 when he asked Min-ja who the real him was and whether it even exists. When observing Bong-soo’s acceptance by the Someday team, Moon-ho tells Young-shin that living like a normal person is hard, to which Young-shin responses that “I think living like other people means not knowing what you’re doing. What’s so great about that?”, which is so true. Previously as Healer, Jung-hoo’s life was clear and straightforward – all he needed to do was to take instructions from Min-ja, with the ultimate goal to earn enough money to buy himself an island. As a “normal person”, he now needs to understand the rules of society and live by them. It means getting able to win people over not just by completing missions, but by being savvy in human relationships and engaging people.
Jung-Hoo reverts to “Healer” mode when he sees Moon-ho’s reaction to Moon-shik’s broadcast, proposing to steal the tapes for him, but Moon-ho tells him instead that he has so much more to tell him and Young Shin and just have beer together. Jung-hoo may have given up the job of Healer, but the Healer instincts still remain in him and cannot be ignored. At the end of the episode, when he sees the camera in the carpark of Moon Ho’s place, he immediately swings into action, switching into “Healer” mode with such ease and comfort. I foresee the eventual path that Young Shin and Jung-hoo settle down on has to be a balance between the “normal life” and “Healer life” because truly, being “Healer” has been Jung Hoo’s “normal” mode for so long already. More importantly, Young Shin was also initially drawn to both Jung Hoo’s “Bong-soo” and “Healer” identity, hence he will need to find a balance between both.
While Jung-hoo’s juggling of multiple identities is a more extreme case, it certainly isn’t unrealistic and is a common challenge that all of us face in real life. We all hold multiple identities as well, whether it’s at work, at home, or in other settings. At some point in our lives, most of us would have asked ourselves which of these identities are our “real selves”, or perhaps it’s something deeper that underlies all these different “selves”. Jung Hoo’s journey is thus something that we all can relate to.
Beyond all that has already been mentioned, I also enjoyed very much the Jung-hoo and Moon-ho scenes in this episode because it shows the growing camaraderie and relationship between them. I hope we get more scenes between Moon-Ho, Jung-hoo and Young Shin in the final two episodes, especially them sharing beers and Moon-ho relating childhood stories to them. I also liked that Myung-Hee and Young Shin have such an natural chemistry, even without knowing Myung-Hee knowing that Young Shin is her daughter. Nonetheless, I hope that Myung-Hee comes to know the truth next episode (oh my, we only have 2 more episodes!), so that we’ll have more time in the series to see her genuinely happy because she’s really been so miserable and downcast for most of the series.
What a ride it has been and we’re moving in nicely towards our finale with just the right amounts of delight, excitement and warmth.