TL;DR: It’s always interesting when you run into the borders of your empathy.
I don’t like Ja-young. I think she’s rather vile, considering all the child abuse she engaged in or allowed. There’s no forgiveness for her for that, honestly, and I’m thrilled that this show gave Hye-na the opportunity to face Ja-young and tell her that she didn’t consider herself Ja-young’s child anymore. Hye-na loved her mother dearly and wanted nothing more than to be loved by her in return—and that wasn’t something Ja-young was capable of. I’m glad that Hye-na has made peace with her decision to learn to live without Ja-young.
And yet my heart breaks for who Ja-young used to be. Her boyfriend abandoned her and her newborn daughter to survive all on their own, and though it wasn’t explicit, it looks like Ja-young probably suffered from postpartum depression at some point. Without a safety net or anyone to fall back on, she turned her anger and resentment and despair on the most convenient outlet: her child.
So of course when Seol-ak swooped in to love her (like her ex-boyfriend ultimately failed at) and didn’t seem at all fazed by her having a(n inconvenient, dirty, awkward) child, she latched onto him. He was the perfect predator for someone like her, and I have no doubt he kept his metaphorical knives sheathed until he had Ja-young dependent on him. I’m sure he showered her with affection, took her on trips she never felt she could take/afford as a single working mother, and reassured her whenever she lashed out at Hye-na that it wasn’t Ja-young’s fault, it was Hye-na’s for being [insert excuse here].
But no matter the terrible things that led her to the present time, Ja-young repeatedly chose to be an abusive mother. That crime is squarely on her own shoulders, and her tears do not move me in the least—especially not when she straight out confirmed to Chang-geun that Soo-jin took Hye-na.
The best scenes in this episode involved Yeong-sin. One trope that always gets to me is when a woman has a “getting ready for battle” scene, only instead of literal armor and weapons, she dresses herself up. Yeong-sin knew she was going to do something impossibly hard, and for that she needed to curl her hair, put on makeup, and wear a beautiful gown so she could become an unmoved, powerful matriarch once she went downstairs.
Yet Yeong-sin still took a moment to see Hye-na one final time. Even though she only knew Hye-na for a little while, she loved Hye-na fiercely. Their little scene in Yeong-sin’s dressing room made me cry, and I’m relieved that Yeong-sin still gave Hye-na a token of that love with the necklace. And then she put her ice queen mask back on and went downstairs to deal with the problem Soo-jin brought her.
What an awful, terrible scene. It wasn’t too surprising that Yi-jin and Hyun-jin ended up on different sides while Soo-jin explained the kidnapping, but what did surprise me was that Yi-jin couldn’t believe that Yeong-sin would take legal steps to end Soo-jin’s status as her child. Yi-jin has been petty and jealous and was willing to shove a mound of cash at Ja-young so the problem would go away, but she never imagined that Yeong-sin would legally disown Soo-jin. Soo-jin is family, for all the problems Yi-jin had with her, but wasn’t a step Yi-jin had thought was possible.
On one level, I have to admire Yeong-sin for the move. It’s a calculated maneuver that comes at a ridiculous emotional cost, but it is probably the best decision she could have made to save as much of the family as possible. Yeong-sin had to act in defense of the worst-case scenario (Soo-jin getting arrested for kidnapping), and the most efficient way to do that is to point to a legal document and say my former daughter and I severed our relationship, she hasn’t seen me in ten years, she was written out of my will completely, and she only showed up with her unbeknownst-to-us kidnapped child because she demanded a large sum of cash. It further reinforces her ice queen persona, which she probably doesn’t care about, and it may actually save the rest of her family from any irreversible social/professional repercussions.
Other than a lot of broken hearts and emotional agony, of course.
And poor, sweet Hye-na. I can understand why she would think that Soo-jin’s relationship with her family is worth sacrificing herself for, but it was still painful watching her meticulously prepping to sneak out. After all, Soo-jin told her she could live without a mother—and she just proved she could in her conversation with Ja-young!—so clearly it’s okay if she disappears now. Soo-jin has a family who loves her, so it’s different, and she could keep them if only Hye-na wasn’t there…
At least Seol-ak didn’t see Hye-na leave the house. That means there’s a chance that Soo-jin could find her before him. (Or even Chang-geun! I would totally accept that.) It seems fitting after repeated readings of that kids book about rabbits that it has finally come to life: Hye-na is running away, and Soo-jin must chase after her.
Run fast, Soo-jin. You need to get to her before Seol-ak can.
By the Numbers
- Family heirlooms: 1
- Shakespearean references: 1
- Greek mythology references: 3
- Suspiciously significant trackers: 1
- Bechdel Test: 9 episodes passed