In the previous episodes, the show provided us glimpses into Moon-young’s (Seo Ye-ji) messed-up childhood. This time, we look at Kang-tae’s (Kim Soo-hyun) equally messed-up childhood. Our leads seem to have an inexplicable connection and can’t help but be drawn to each other, but the attraction comes with a lot of baggage and resistance that is going to take a while to get over. The more they open up, the more they have to confront the uncomfortable parts of each other. Will Kang-tae and Moon-young be able to make the leap of faith?
Gi-do’s (Kwak Dong-yeon) arc made me emotional in this episode as well. Through him, we get a clear look into the psyche of neglected children. So much so that when his mom slaps him hard, he isn’t even mortified or angry—just happy that his mom acknowledged him, at least. As much as I’m liking these episode-specific arcs, I hope they are not used exclusively to advance the dynamics between the leads. It certainly came across that way in this episode, when Moon-young gets Kang-tae to pay attention to her because of Gi-do. It was just a tad uncomfortable.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate the gorgeous long drive montage we got. It was probably the first time we saw Moon-young and Kang-tae have a proper conversation about their interests and beliefs. They are as different as chalk and cheese, the mood between them fluctuating from tenderness to annoyance, but their chemistry is amazing. The dynamics are laced with sexual and romantic undertones, but there is also a childlike tendency of wanting to comfort each other. After this, the scene of Moon-young suddenly confessing to Kang-tae when he tries to leave in exasperation is both hilarious and unpredictable. Well, at least we know they will never be bored with each other.
The flashbacks into Kang-tae’s childhood paint a disturbing picture of parental neglect. In order to care for Sang-tae, his mother had drilled several toxic messages into her younger son. “This is why I gave birth to you. You have to take care of hyung,” she says, and we see Kang-tae’s delight at being hugged by his mother turn into disappointment. This explains why Kang-tae has no sense of self beyond caring for his hyung. As much as this show aims to shed light on the many ways in which mentally ill people are neglected, it also depicts the sacrifices their caregivers have to make.
If Kang-tae’s mother was neglectful, Gi-do’s politician father, who shows up at OK Hospital to with a tantrum, is worse. He’s mad that his son ruined his rally and only wants to keep him locked away for convenience’s sake. This hits too close to home for Kang-tae, who must have had to confront this mindset while caring for his autistic brother. He speaks up: “Do children exist to be useful to their parents and serve a purpose?” This is immediately followed by a montage of Sang-tae going around the hospital clicking pretty photographs and enjoying a nice day. The show doesn’t say it explicitly, but we have our answer to Kang-tae’s question—people exist to enjoy life and feel joy. Human life doesn’t have to have to serve a purpose in order to be considered valuable. Not going to lie, I was tearing up at this part.
It might seem like the dynamics between the leads, their childhoods, and occasionally, Sang-tae are the only things I ever comment on. But the side characters in this show—Manager Kim, Jae-su, Joo-ri—are bland in comparison. The lack of interesting side characters is probably my only gripe from the show at the moment. But we finally get to see Sang-tae have a mini fan-meeting with his idol Go Moon-young, and it’s all kinds of adorable. The fun bits don’t last long though. The anger from getting slapped by Gi-do’s father makes Kang-tae lash out at Moon-young and say hurtful things. Her hurt is amplified when she sees her father, who proceeds to ask why she’s still alive and tries to strangle her the same way as in her childhood. What the hell, old man? Moon-young doesn’t even protest—she just lays on the ground and takes it. It’s heartbreaking.
I have to say, the fairytales Moon-young writes are so wonderful and unsettling. From “The Boy Who Fed On Nightmares” in the first episode to “Zombie Kid” in this episode, her stories offer unique perspectives. She doesn’t draw life lessons out of princesses and fairies. Instead, she wades into the dark and ugly emotions of the human psyche that most people are quick to demonize and humanizes them. The story of the “Zombie Kid” maps out common threads between their childhoods—both grew up emotionally neglected and were taught to place others before their own selves. As adults, they have developed different coping mechanisms—Kang-tae represses himself while Moon-young doesn’t allow herself to feel.
Every romance K-drama has to have an epic shot of the first hug or kiss between the leads with gorgeous cinematography, and this one is no different. I wasn’t expecting it so soon, but it happens in the rain, at night, near the sea, and it’s so cinematic and emotional that I was satisfied. Already affected after reading Moon-young’s book, Kang-tae hears what transpired with her dad at the hospital and rushes to find her. She’s so overwhelmed that she just collapses in his arms. Awww. We are really getting started on the romance now.
I’m sure the push-and-pull between them will go on for a few more episodes, which I’m not complaining about because I love their banter. There is also a long way to go before these two learn how to communicate effectively and open their hearts to each other. But post this hug, their interactions are going to be tinged with the awareness that they care for each other on some level. And I’m getting very invested in the concept of them helping each other heal through childhood traumas while also giving us a healthy dose of classic rom-com humor and romance.