Beautiful World Review: Episodes 3 & 4

This entry is part 2 of 14 in the post series Beautiful World Review

Beautiful World Review: Episode 3

In the aftermath of the bullying video’s revelation, Sun-ho’s every word, action, and friendship assumes a sinister meaning for his parents. There’s some top-notch editing going on in the scenes of Kang In-ha (Sun-ho’s mom) watching the video of her son getting mercilessly beat up, her desperate crying interwoven with happier moments from his childhood. Strung together, these contrasting narratives make for a gut-wrenching scene. Man, this show really likes to make you turn on the waterworks within the first ten minutes.

Park Moo-jin (Sun-ho’s dad) falls apart silently as he realizes how dearly ignoring Sun-ho’s call that day has cost him. Flashbacks to the bullying video provide a glimpse into exactly how teenagers can be cruel to each other. Sun-ho’s parents rack their brains for signs of their son’s distress that they could have missed, and Mom remembers Sun-ho brushing off the bruises on his face as a friendly soccer match.

In perhaps the most non-surprising reveal, the moms of the other boys who beat up Sun-ho reduce the incident to a boys-will-be-boys thing. In-ha’s confrontation with Young-cheol’s mom—despite them being friends and the latter being the first one to see the bullying video—was quite telling of the hypocritical lengths parents go to defend their children. For the most part, Sun-ho’s parents seem more baffled than angry. How unfathomable it must be for a parent whose child is on the brink of death to have the events around it be reduced to a game. One of the moms even has the nerve to resent In-ha for encouraging investigation and messing with her son’s future. Does empathy exist in this word? I’m not so sure.

Three of the four boys involved—Jun-seok, Sung-jae, and Ki-chan—belong to influential and wealthy families and seem well aware of how their privileges will protect them. None of them show concern for Sun-ho or any awareness of being in the wrong, instead they are confident their parents will bail them out of whatever mess they land into in order to protect their families’ reputation—which is exactly what the parents do by hiring expensive lawyers. Only Young-cheol, who is raised by a single mother and seems to belong to a middle class household, is without a lawyer.

The hopes of Sun-ho’s parents for a re-investigation are dashed again when the detectives defer Sun-ho’s case to a school committee that is already looking shady by trying to spin a suicide angle. I found the scene with Sun-ho’s dad helplessly standing in the middle of the busy road to be especially heartbreaking. His brawl with the angry driver was reckless, but also signified that he’s decided to let go of his peace-loving days in favor of anger. I also like that the show isn’t trying to keep up a perfect family facade with Sun-ho’s family by allowing us glimpses into moments when they demanded better grades from Sun-ho.

The little bonding moment Joon-seok and Oh Jin-pyo (his father) shared as they concocted a story that would help clear Joon-seok’s name from the mess can only be described as horrifying. The jubilant smile that spreads across Joon-seok’s face when he realizes he’ll get away with lying felt almost obscene, it’s as if his dad just gave him a toy he really wanted. At least Seo Eun-joo (Joon-seok’s mom) has the good sense to look nervous. Already, their family is setting up meetings with police chiefs to prevent the case from escalating. This is shaping up to be a clear picture of how kids from wealthy families learn that the system is below them from a young age and grow up to be dangerous men who commit even bigger crimes.

Still, Sun-ho’s school is bias toward the three boys from affluent families, going so far as to label them “non-problematic” and painting kids like Sun-ho and Young-cheol as emotionally unstable. The school’s management worry more about its reputation than the life of one of their students and although that is predictable, I still felt a pang of disgust and anger. At least Sun-ho’s homeroom teacher seems sympathetic.

Su-ho continues to be the only pure and sunshine-filled corner in the darkness of this drama. The way she doesn’t let her emotions show after watching the disturbing video of her brother being bullied—she’s made of steel, this girl. The relationship between Su-ho and her parents particularly warms my heart because Su-ho is never asked to tone down her anger and recklessness; all her parents ask is for her to keep them in the loop. She also proves how perceptive she is when she notes that Dong-hee was the only person in school who asked about Sun-ho out of concern rather than curiosity. Someone give this kid a hug.

As we get closer to unraveling the events that led to Sun-ho’s fall, interesting new leads pop up, including the connection between Dong-hee’s brother and Sun-ho’s dad and the odd manner in which Da-hee’s mother spoke of Sun-ho. I can’t help but mull on the possibility that Da-hee may be another victim of the boys’ bullying (or worse), but so far, I like the pace the show has set. Sun-ho’s family have a lengthy struggle ahead of them, and as much as I hate them going through it, I’m rooting for them.

Beautiful World Review: Episode 4

With the entire school being investigated, we get a glimpse into what the other kids at Sun-ho’s school think about the incident. Their reactions range from disinterested to defensive, with some kids calling it a game gone wrong and some wanting to speak up for Sun-ho. The general attitude, however, is very let-me-mind-my-own-business.

Police investigation loses steam after CCTVs confirm that Sun-ho was the only one seen entering the school that day. All the other boys have an alibi, and despite Sun-ho’s mom making valid points about his missing phone, the mysterious sender of the video and the strangeness of Da-hee’s situation, police declare that they’ve hit a dead end. Sun-ho’s dad seems to be buying into the narrative that Sun-ho attempted suicide, but thankfully, Mom stands her ground. Dad bumps into the sympathetic-looking guard at the school gates, and for a moment, it seems as if the guard knows something and wants to tell him.

The show gives us plenty of examples of people from affluent families getting away with almost anything—one of them being Ki-chan’s dad turning up at his kid’s school drunk out of his mind. This guy gets to treat everyone horribly, most of all Sun-ho’s homeroom teacher. I feel bad for Teacher Lee—who feels guilty about what happened to Sun-ho—watching his superiors cover up for the other boys while also shouldering blame for the incident.

Su-ho has been on her best behavior at school since the brawl with her classmate, but her poise breaks when she happens to be on the scene during Ki-chan’s dad’s outburst. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to constantly hear her ailing brother be blamed for landing himself in the hospital. She also confronts Sung-jae and Ki-chan at school, and I must say I did derive a little pleasure out of her kicking Ki-chan. What a feisty little girl.

All the moms are busy making provisions to protect their sons, with Sung-jae’s mom trying to suck up to Joon-seok’s and Ki-chan’s hiring lawyers. Only Young-cheol’s mom spares a thought for Sun-ho’s family, and as guilty as her son is, I feel a pang of worry about this mother-son duo because of their lack of connections or wealth. As director of the board, Joon-seok’s father basically dictates how the school violence committee will wrap up their investigations. How he’s even allowed to be a part of these investigations when his kid is involved, I have no idea. It’s outrageous how Sun-ho is being treated as a pesky nuisance in these discussions, with the authorities focusing solely on protecting the school’s reputation and the futures of the four boys.

Su-ho finally decides to visit her brother in the hospital and we get the sweetest glimpse into their sibling dynamics. She’s not the most expressive girl so she just thinks very loudly at him, asking him to get better. Can Sun-ho wake up and let us have some adorable sibling bickering please? In-ha has a run-in with the other moms when they visit her bakery to ask her to de-escalate the investigations. Good on Dad for kicking these ridiculous women out and making the effort to comfort his distraught wife. Even amidst their tragic circumstances, this family manages to have their sweet moments. It’s heartening to see their relationships deepen despite everything they’re going through.

Every attempt is being made to keep Joon-seok’s name out of investigations, and I had a feeling that one of the boys would crack and spill everything like Ki-chan did. What he reveals about the “game”—that Joon-seok was the one who gave them roles and asked them to make the beating real—sounds like Joon-seok was trying to vent his anger on Sun-ho. With the other two boys shielding him, however, I can’t see just Ki-chan’s testimony making much of a difference.

Young-cheol reveals an important detail about the night that could land Joon-seok in serious trouble, but instead of reporting it he uses it to win Joon-seok’s favor. Young-cheol comes off as insecure and with a need to please everyone, all of which Joon-seok catches onto and exploits for his benefit. It’s sad that Young-cheol’s mom is the only parent who asked her son to be honest during interrogations because her son’s loyalties have already been bought.

There are some really spooky, almost jump-scare-y moments in this episode that provided a change of pace which I really enjoyed. Joon-seok’s mom’s dreams seem to be getting creepier, perhaps a direct reflection of how guilty she feels, and I’m dying to find out what has her so on the edge. The episode ends on a cliffhanger with Sun-ho’s mom realizing something she hadn’t earlier and I’m inclined to believe that we’ll have our answers sooner rather than later.

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Indoor Enthusiast

Indoor Enthusiast (Esha) is a staff writer at Kdramapal. You are likely to find her going on rants about how Ji Hae-soo from It's Okay That's Love and Sung Bora from Reply 1988 are the best heroines to grace our screens. Thrillers like Secret Forest, shows about female friendships, a la Age of Youth, and rom-coms with sprinklings of feminism, like Because This Life Is My First, hold a special place in her heart. She lives in India and spends all her free time reading books. Indoor Enthusiast can be reached at [email protected]