It’s Okay To Not Be Okay Review: Episode 9

From an almost-date in the last episode, our leads go on to have a real date this time and finally take steps towards acknowledging their feelings. Another sweet love story brews parallel to theirs but doesn’t quite get a happy ending. Moon-young (Seo Ye-ji) and Kang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun) take two steps towards a happy future, but find their path blocked as Sang-tae (Oh Jung-se) becomes aware of the divide in his brother’s affections. How far will Moon-young and Kang-tae make it before they have to come back for Sang-tae? Or will they manage to take him along for the ride?

The episode begins with Kang-tae losing all the bravado he had shown in wanting to go on a trip with Moon-young. Moon-young is so angry she impulsively threatens to crash the car and then leaves Kang-tae in the middle of nowhere, but by now, Kang-tae is so charmed that he simply smiles. Finally, after eight episodes, they admit their feelings for each other and how they’ve changed each other’s lives. These moments are tender and lovely, but I love that they are also punctuated with hilarity⁠—like the scene where Moon-young and Kang-tae are about to kiss but a deer’s scream interrupts them, and Moon-young curses at the deer.

There is so much that makes Moon-young and Kang-tae’s relationship complicated and unusual, but I was glad to see the regular stuff this time⁠—the nervousness before a kiss, the staying up all night because you can’t stop thinking about your crush, taking selfies together on their hilarious first date, the sweetest confession scene, the giddy hand-holding. The events at the inn when they are forced to spend the night together was equal amounts of soft and hilarious. In one of their conversations, I spotted a possible prediction about future events when Moon-young announces that letting someone go because you love them too much is a bullshit concept, but I promptly ignored it in favor of replaying the confession scene.  

At the hospital, in-patient lovers Ah-reum (Ji Hye-won) and Jeong-tae (Jeong Jae-kwang) get separated after Ah-reum’s family takes her home. I’ve been missing an episode-specific arc to tug at my heart lately. We get it with these two young lovers who have to battle serious mental illnesses in order to be with each other. We also learn that Joo-ri’s mom (Kim Mi-kyung) and Dr. Oh (Kim Chang-wan) had crushes on each other as kids, which is such an odd revelation that I don’t know what to do with it. Moon-young’s father (Lee Eol) pretty much confesses that he killed his wife, but for some reason, no one questions him further. Dr. Oh is starting to wonder if Moon-young’s mom is truly dead, and frankly, so am I.

In a new development, Manager Lee (Kim Joo-hun) has transformed from comic relief into someone with deep insights on love and relationships. Joo-ri (Park Gyu-young) finds herself opening up to him, and he soothes her through her heartbreak over Kang-tae while also helping her see the loneliness in Moon-young’s life and her connection with Kang-tae. We also get an interesting flashback into Moon-young and Joo-ri’s friendship as kids and what caused it to sour. The two are constantly at each other’s throats, but with Moon-young maturing emotionally and Joo-ri starting to get over Kang-tae, a friendship between the two looks possible in the future.

Moon-young, for her part, tries to get along with Sang-tae by calling him her best friend, which pleases him. Just like with Kang-tae, she sees through Sang-tae as well when she asks him if he’s hated Kang-tae before, and Sang-tae gets flustered. It might seem that Moon-young is creating a rift between the brothers, but in my opinion, she is only bringing to light the resentment they’ve always had and hidden away. We can only hope that this will lead the brothers to a more fulfilling relationship instead of one where Kang-tae has to constantly sacrifice himself. Between Sang-tae drawing the three traveling the world in his campervan and Kang-tae remarking that his hyung and Moon-young are alike, Moon-young, too, looks on the way to carving a permanent place for herself in their lives.

The nature of this show is such that it fluctuates wildly from soft, hopeful moments to traumatic moments that are difficult to watch. In a way, the narrative style mimics the life of someone with a mental disorder⁠—you can be living your life just fine when a traumatic memory suddenly resurfaces and makes it difficult to breathe. And so, after the confession scene, just when we think things are finally moving ahead, Kang-tae is attacked by a traumatic memory and left broken in its aftermath. Sang-tae’s abandonment issues get triggered after hearing rumors about Kang-tae and Moon-young, resulting in a breakdown for both brothers.

Sang-tae’s meltdown is difficult for him, too, especially when he brings up Kang-tae wishing for his death as a child and almost leaving him to drown that one time. If we look at this situation from Sang-tae’s perspective, it makes that he would be hit hard by Kang-tae’s closeness with Moon-young. But in the moment of the breakdown, it is Kang-tae who I felt heartbroken for. Fresh off of allowing himself to be happy and selfish for the first time, he lands into a pit of guilt and misery. Once again, Kim Soo-hyun’s acting is terrific as he breaks down after his brother’s accusations.

The brothers have fought and made up before. Going ahead, however, I can sense that this particular fight won’t be resolved as quickly as the previous ones. Sang-tae’s abandonment issues will take a long time to deal with. Kang-tae now finds himself caught between choosing happiness by being with Moon-young or sacrificing his desires for the sake of his brother, who needs him the most. I’m sure there is a balance between these two choices, but it will take a while for Kang-tae to get there. In the meanwhile, we might have to see all three people involved in this complicated equation get hurt. I’m so not looking forward to that.

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Indoor Enthusiast (Esha) is a staff writer at Kdramapal. She is responsible for bringing all the latest happenings in Kdramaland to the readers of the site. 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]