After the first week of intense first meetings, It’s Okay To Not Be Okay takes our leads straight to their hometown of Seongjin City where they met as children. Here, Kang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun) and Moon-young (Seo Ye-ji) begin to confront the mysterious connection they share with each other and come face-to-face with their own complicated pasts. We get to know them a bit more and the ways in which they affect each other, and are taken on a wild ride (literally) by a patient at OK Hospital.
The episode begins with Moon-young cornering a baffled Kang-tae at OK Hospital, where he now works. She compares her obsession with Kang-tae to the fairytale The Red Shoes, whose protagonist is vain and controlled by her fancy red shoes. Especially now that she knows he is the boy from her childhood, she can’t seem to stop following him around. What remains to be seen, however, is whether her obsession is frivolous and temporary or if it will turn into genuine attachment. She begins to insert herself into his life at the hospital by sneaking up on him. She pursues Kang-tae aggressively, calling him pretty at every chance, and in doing so, subverts the usual K-drama dynamics of the overconfident male lead pursuing the lady.
For Moon-young’s scenes, especially those of her past, the show adopts a spooky feel reminiscent of horror movies like A Tale Of Two Sisters and Ring, which I love. Moon-young’s return to her childhood home, which Manager Lee (Kim Joo-hun) calls “The Cursed Castle,” looks straight out of a dark fantasy, complete with creepy music and after-effects. This is the house that Moon-young’s architect father made for her novelist mother, where tragedy struck the family. And sure enough, Moon-young is plagued by hallucinations of her mother as soon as she enters the place. I’m not sure if the presence in the house is an actual ghost or simply the memory of Moon-young’s mother haunting her, but it’s terrifying. Think footsteps and unexplained noises, straight out of The Haunting Of The Hill House.
As we get to know Moon-young better, her unfazed and emotionless personality gives way to loneliness and hurt that she only reveals when alone. In front of Kang-tae, she acts as if his refusal to have dinner with her doesn’t affect her but alone, she hurts and goes to bed hungry. When she sees the ghostly form of her mother floating above her head, she breaks down in terror. I can’t tell if these things are actually happening to her or if she’s being hit by her past trauma, but it’s difficult to watch the usually stoic and brash Moon-young break down as her mother’s ghost recounts the story of Sleeping Beauty and says, “You can’t ignore your destiny. Maybe a prince will save you, but I will kill the prince.” A flashback from her childhood tells us that her mother may have drowned herself.
What’s sweet is, however, that when she finds herself overwhelmed, Moon-young thinks of Kang-tae and uses the exercise he taught her to calm down. This is telling me that Kang-tae has already become a comfort to her. Back at his house, Kang-tae is also thinking of her. Her words seem to cut deep into his soul, especially when she calls him a hypocrite for repressing his desires. It’s like she’s an amalgamation of all that is selfish and dark about the world but instead of trying to hide these emotions, she thrives in them. This is a terrifying prospect for the sacrificial Kang-tae, who lives his life without forming any personal relationships or engaging in fun, instead preferring to fully dedicate himself to caring for his brother.
At the biggest case at the hospital is Kwon Gi-do (an impressive cameo by Kwak Dong-yeon), the youngest son of a politician who seems to be suffering from an illness that makes him prone to hyperactivity and flashing people. Moon-young takes up the teaching job and proceeds to go about it in her characteristic dismissive and creepy style. Her dark takes on classic, feel-good fairytales are one of my favorite parts of the show. “A fairytale isn’t for hopes and dreams, but to teach children to face reality,” she says. Throughout the class, Moon-young and Kang-tae are engaged in the most intense staring contest as she attempts to fluster him, finally managing it by asking if he wants to sleep with her in the middle of the hospital bustle. Hahaha, I love her!
The episode concludes with an epic car chase between Moon-young, Kang-tae, and eventually, the police. It starts off hilarious, when Gi-do flashes Moon-young, and she takes a long look at him before pronouncing him “teeny-weeny” and taking off with him in her car. They land up a political event for Gi-do’s father, and Gi-do gatecrashes the event to tell his story. Gi-do was the last person who I was expecting to make me cry. But as he spoke of being rendered invisible by his father simply because he was not as bright as his siblings, and how he went crazy just trying to make his family look at him, I found it difficult to hold back tears.
As Kang-tae watches Gi-do jump around in joy after unburdening himself, he imagines himself similarly unrestrained, and we get another glimpse at his innermost desires that he doesn’t admit to himself. Through Gi-do’s story, the show makes a case for not repressing the ugly, perverse, and selfish desires inside us. I find that a radical idea in a world where psychiatric therapy is focused on repressing the unpleasant symptoms of illnesses. I’m not sure how practical it is from a medical and real-life point of view, but watching Gi-do’s joy at being allowed to tell his story gave me the warmest feeling. And maybe that’s what the show is trying to do—showing us the perspectives of those we are quick to dismiss and demonize in order to make them humanize them.