Mother, Episode 2

TL;DR: Turns out kidnapping a child is more difficult than anticipated.

Soo-jin’s letter to Ye-eun was a great way to kick off this episode. Even though episode one was all about showing us why Hye-na’s home life was so awful, episode two made Soo-jin’s thought process clear: she’s far more worried about Hye-na returning home than her being arrested for kidnapping. And the fact that she took the time to copy the audio recordings and photographs of Hye-na’s injuries means that she is sincerely worried that if she gets caught, Hye-na will be returned to Ja-young. That package also functions as a failsafe for her, that if she has exhausted all hope of escaping the country, Ye-eun will be given the truth of what happened and can decide whether or not to report it all to the police.

(I was particularly fond of the line about how Soo-jin though that she and Ye-eun could have been great friends if they’d met under other circumstances.)

But dropping off the grid to spirit a child away is far more difficult that Soo-jin was prepared for. She dealt with her lease (and possessions), withdrew a ton—if not all—of her cash, canceled her phone, bought a disguise for Hye-na, and made a break for it, but it’s one thing to plot a careful escape and another to actual manage one in the thick of it. I was horrified at how quickly Soo-jin got caught up with literal human traffickers, but then again, this isn’t a crime drama where there’s some loveable morally gray character with black market connections who can make a fake passport appear with a wave of their hand. No, instead someone with experience in noticing who is vulnerable and desperate plays nice with you and then casually mentions selling babies and tries to whisk you away to the Island of No Return. Thank god that other girl warned Soo-jin and Soo-jin decided to cut her losses. I’m worried about what will happen now that she’s lost so much of her money—and even moreso now that the passport forger has a picture of Hye-na (though they don’t know who she really is) and knows she’s with Soo-jin.

(Also, not sure what to do with the revelation that Soo-jin was adopted and has two younger sisters who are in Yeong-sin’s good graces, so. That’s a thing.)

It was much easier to enjoy Hye-na’s happiness in this episode because I knew she was minutes away from escaping her abusive home. I hope it’s a permanent escape for her. It’s very easy to forget just how young she is when she does clever things on her own or follows Soo-jin’s instructions. Was it her idea to rip out the pages about Soo-jin and Hwan Won-hee? How many days did she have to play by the harbor for hours on her own to establish her presence strongly enough that the fishermen would miss her?

(Small shoutout to the kind fisherman who noticed and worried about Hye-na. ;_; I feel bad for him because he now thinks this sweet little girl is dead.)

If this were a child with a normal upbringing, I would praise Hye-na for not complaining despite the uncertainty and difficulty she encountered in this episode. Instead I’m just sad because Hye-na had the not crying lessons beaten into her already, and part of me wishes she would break down and cry more if only because that might be a sign she felt safe enough to do it. As it is, I’m glad that she’s getting all of the loving, motherly attention from Soo-jin: being held, listening to lullabies, enjoying bedtime stories, etc.

The conversation Soo-jin and Hye-na had about their new “names” was lovely. They have to pick their new identities—mother and Yoon-bok—quickly, but maybe, someday, they’ll actually grow into them. I hope that happens during the course of the show, though I’m pessimistic it will stay that way.

Ja-young demonstrated she’s a master at controlling the cycle of abuse with Hye-na in this episode. She tried to do nice things for Hye-na (putting makeup on her, giving her money to buy a new hamster) and then made sure to pile on the guilt to keep Hye-na quiet. But the episode also reiterated the fact that she was an active participant in Hye-na’s abuse and not just an occasional guest star.

And the episode also proved that she cares far more about Seol-ak than she did her own daughter. Which is depressing, but not surprising at this point. Ja-young can muster up a tiny bit of guilt regarding the possibility of Hye-na being dead, and maybe she’s unnerved by the fact that Seol-ak insists it would be better off if Hye-na were dead and never found, but she’s mostly interested in the police not having a reason to investigate them for Hye-na’s abuse.

Seol-ak’s response to this whole situation makes me wonder what he went to jail for before and whether or not he was investigated for Hwan Won-hee’s death. He knew how to stage a scene in front of the detective, deflect answers, and coach Ja-young on what (not) to do if the police come asking questions again. Seol-ak will continue to be dangerous, and if I get nothing else from this show, I want him in jail or dead by the end of it.

I was a bit grumpy with Ye-eun in the last episode, but I’m really happy that she took such careful, detailed notices of Hye-na’s injuries and stories about how she got them. If all else fails, I think it will be Ye-eun’s meticulous records that will keep Hye-na from ever going back to Ja-young and Seol-ak. Ye-eun is angry at the system that failed Hye-na, and I’m glad she’s there to push the detective to uncover the truth (even if that ups the chances of Soo-jin ultimately being caught).

And I would be failing if I did not give a few kudos to Eun-cheol for following up on Hye-na like Soo-jin originally asked him to. I would not have expected him to put a tracker on Seol-ak’s car, but I’m sure that will be helpful later. Also, Chang-geun is starting off on the right foot with me by taking Hye-na’s disappearance and his suspicions of Ja-young seriously. I’m glad he got snarky with the police duo who didn’t investigate the abuse allegations very well and hope that he’ll be able to put the bad guys behind bars. If he can do that, I’ll even forgive him for arresting Soo-jin, should it come to that.

By the Numbers

  • Kind strangers: 3 2
  • Money for a new hamster: 20,000
  • Distance to Iceland (in kilometers): 8,000
  • Bechdel Test: 2 episodes passed

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