Mother, Episode 15

TL;DR: You’re going to need tissues for this one.

I spent the first half of this episode being horribly confused by the family dynamics. I must have missed some crucial information along the way because I spent all the episodes prior to this assuming that Yeong-sin had adopted all three of her daughters and that they all knew they were adopted. Looks like I guessed at the existence of birth secrets way too soon—and that also means that some of my interpretations about Yi-jin were wildly off-base. Sorry, Yi-jin.

This was an emotionally taxing episode for pretty much all of our characters. With Yeong-sin coming home to die, everyone was varying degrees of upset. Toss two birth secrets on top of that, and there was a great deal of crying and some harsh words to be had. Yi-jin had the roughest time of it, I think. She has been in an awkward spot for most of the drama and often seemed to resent how much attention Soo-jin was getting, so it was lovely to see her reconcile with both Yeong-sin and Soo-jin. I was especially touched by her comments during the family dinner, about how she had wanted and hoped for Soo-jin to come home. My wish for her is that she ends up being the center/head of the family with Yeong-sin’s passing, and that she does keep the house as a place for everyone to gather.

Hyun-jin’s birth secret was a surprise to me, though in retrospect I suppose it’s true that Ja-beom paid additional attention to her, like when he followed her to work for support and let her know where her car was when she was too upset to remember. But that reveal honestly leaves me with more questions, like what happened to his wife/Hyun-jin’s mother? I hope we get that story. (And, also, I suppose this might explain how he had connections to illegal document forgers—did he do something similar for Hyun-jin when Yeong-sin took her in?) Regardless, I am amused that it was once again Hyun-jin’s curiosity that brought this particular pack of lies down. Will she be able to forge a less-awkward relationship with Ja-beom in the next episode?

The scene stealer in this episode was Yeong-sin. Her death has been a long time coming, and I appreciated the care and thought the writer put into wrapping up her story. From declarations of love for her daughters to explaining her one regret in life, Yeong-sin’s goodbye scenes were fantastic. I was so happy that she got to have that big family dinner with everyone who mattered to her (Yi-jin’s husband is never in her house, and that cracks me up), and that she got to preside over them all as a loving matriarch.

I was particularly fond of Yeong-sin’s conversation with Hong-hee. Ever since Hong-hee reappeared in Soo-jin’s life, Yeong-sin has been uneasy, jealous, insecure. In her final days, she tried to take care of Soo-jin—the one daughter she felt was still frozen in childhood—by reminding her that she would still have a mother after she was gone. It was so sweet that first Soo-jin and then Hong-hee insisted that Yeong-sin was Soo-jin’s mother and that Hong-hee couldn’t just sweep in and reclaim that title. I bawled when Hong-hee gave Yeong-sin some childhood mementos of Soo-jin’s life before she was adopted, so Yeong-sin could have a glimpse of that portion of Soo-jin’s life.

Of course, the sweetest moments where when Yeong-sin got to see Hye-na a final time. Kicking Hye-na out of her home was her only regret, so it was touching that she got to have a reunion with her at the end. The story of her early career and then her stage fright after her mother’s death was a lovely way to further break down Yeong-sin’s ice queen persona, especially when coupled with her role as Emily in Our Town. I’m grateful she got to use that play and Hye-na to say her final farewell.

Hye-na’s determination to return to Soo-jin was heartbreaking. With Soo-jin unable to legally make contact with her for the next two years, of course that has to be remarkably difficult. For all her experience, Hye-na is still a child, and two years undoubtedly seems like an eternity to her. She was excellent at planning to run away a few episodes ago, so it wasn’t that big of a deal for her to pull the same stunt again, though I’m sure it gave the social workers a small heart attack once they realized she was missing.

Once of the things I appreciated most about Hye-na’s reunion with Soo-jin was the difficult conversation they had in the bedroom. Being reminded of someone because of passing birds or curry rice isn’t the same as having that person beside you. They’re lies designed to comfort, but they’re still lies. After all the heartache and literal danger Hye-na went through, it feels remarkably unfair that she can’t stay with the mother she has chosen.

Soo-jin’s frankness about their situation was admirable. I’m grateful that she has always been age-appropriately honest with Hye-na, and her relationship with Yeong-sin provided her with the experience she needed to comfort Hye-na. Perhaps Hye-na will end up with many mothers like Soo-jin, but Hye-na won’t ever be replaced in Soo-jin’s heart.

We’ve got one episode left to create a worthy happy ending. Don’t let me down, show.

By the Numbers

  • Maps: 1
  • Books/Plays: 3
  • Birth secrets: 2
  • Childhood photos: 4
  • Price of a train ticket: ₩29,000
  • Bechdel Test: 15 episodes passed

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