Tuesday, May 30, 2023
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Episodes 3-4 » Dramabeans Korean drama recaps

by Amber Simmons

Finland Papa: Episodes 3-4

Setup out of the way and all our characters gathered on the stage? Let the healing begin! And also, let the mysteries unfold, because this little drama is surprisingly good at establishing and holding tension as it goes.


Our little Yuri is already looking better this week. She might be brimming over with bittersweet memories of her beloved grandma, but Yuri also seems to recognize she’s in the middle of the grieving process. And a process it is. She goes from being unable to pack up her grandmother’s clothing, to being able to do it lovingly. (Oh, this drama. It’s so simple, but everything is so strong — I can smell the scent on the clothes, taste the curry, and see so many stories in the characters’ eyes!)

Working at Finland Papa cafe, though, there’s never a dull moment for Yuri, and the first of many moments there this week is when Yuri discovers that Kaka, Mari, and Toto are not a family at all. In fact, they’re flabbergasted that she even thought so (well, they fooled us both!). The crew explains that they’re a “fake family” and that it’s a concept for the cafe… but yeah, our episodes this week make it clear that “fake” should be replaced with “found.” Because not only does everyone there needs to be found, but as the time passes, they become more and more like actual family.

First we hear a bit of Kaka’s story — he’s deep in gambling debt, estranged from his wife and child, and everything in his life is basically in shambles. He can’t open a bank account so he hides his cash earnings around the cafe. But the debt that’s really crushing Kaka isn’t what’s owed to the gangsters, but the guilt he feels towards his family. His son is terminally ill and OH BOY let the tears flow.

The Finland Papa crew encourage him to go visit them, with Yuri in the lead, and she’s proven right: his son is more happy to see Kaka than angry for anything he’s done. And now that the hardest part is over, Kaka is on his way to healing his relationships.

Meanwhile, our heroine — when not encouraging the members of her newfound family — is trying to suss out who “Papa” is, since it’s getting more obvious that it’s someone she knows. The family members have never met the person — it’s text and email only — but they warn Yuri that Papa’s eyes are everywhere (a.k.a. that CCTV we saw everywhere last week). No one seems to mind, though: it’s proof of their hard work and of every time they scratch something off the Family Harmony checklist or engage in a “bonus” activity. Yuri is determined to solve the mystery, though, and even directly addresses the CCTV camera to tell them so.

Yuri thinks hard to all the people who might know all this information about her, and her first stop is Yong-joon… who spittakes at the idea. Next she goes to visit a super cute chef she knows, and we’re told in quick voiceover that he was her sunbae in school and chased after her for a while. (This drama is so good at giving us little glimmers of detail for just enough context.) Cute Italian chef doesn’t know anything about Finland, though, so the next Papa suspect is the cute cake delivery guy, since he brags about having been to Finland. However, Kaka tells her he’s just a player and it’s definitely not him.

Next up on the healing train is our porcupine Toto. His real family turns up — mother, father, and little sister — asking him to come live with them again. He’s all prickles and anger for being passed off as a child when they were in hard times, but all it takes to start the crack in his armor is the innocent sweetness of his little sister, who passes him a bracelet. *Dead*

Another beautiful healing theme comes up through Toto’s story, and that’s around forgiveness. As Toto is encouraged to forgive his parents, Mari tells us that forgiveness becomes harder the more you postpone it, and that perhaps the one with the unforgiveness is the one who suffers the most.

This theme has its genesis with Toto, but it stretches into Yuri’s story too, and here’s where the drama really surprised me. We see Yuri thinking back to her own experiences with unforgiveness as she sits in mourning clothes on her bed. A text from Woo-hyun pops up that he’s outside and he wants to talk. (OMG he’s alive, yesssss!)

But Yuri doesn’t budge, even when her grandma pokes her head in and urges her to (making it clear in the timeline that this is her father’s death before her grandma got sick). The drama does a great job of being subtle as usual, and all we know is that Yuri snaps at her grandma that she can’t see Woo-hyun since it’s his dad’s fault. We don’t know the details yet, but Yuri! That’s Woo-hyun outside in the rain like a sad puppy waiting for you. If you could see the way he looks at you (like we do through these beautiful flashbacks), you wouldn’t leave him standing there like that.

Based on the drama’s basic structure thus far, I’m expecting more of Mari’s story in Episode 5 and then the conclusion of the Papa/Yuri/Woo-hyun mystery in Episode 6 — and that’s nothing but a good idea. I love the drama’s quiet pace and the cadence of these little arcs has been perfect.

The episode end this week is a mega cliffhanger, which seems impossible for such a tiny drama of gentle moments, but is nevertheless true. Yuri stays behind to finish clearing off the outside tables, and some gangsters turn up looking for Kaka. Poor Yuri hasn’t learned a thing from her father’s own experiences (for better or worse), and tells them a little too much. Luckily, there’s that kind and mysterious figure who’s been watching over her via CCTV since she arrived. He (okay, I’m just assuming it’s Woo-hyun) jumps up when he smells trouble, rushes onto a bike, and rides over to her rescue. And that’s where we end the episode: at the cafe, with the unknown Papa/CCTV moderator running over to protect her. *Clutches heart*

I’m going to need this to be resolved ASAP, Show! You can’t leave me hanging with a possible Woo-hyun reveal like that. I can’t imagine a reveal that’s not Woo-hyun, actually, because it does and says everything I want this story to do and say. But since the drama has used its limited space with not a wasted glance or word or scene, I’m fully confident that our final week will deliver. I just need to know for sure that Woo-hyun is okay and that he wins the object of his affection back — and gets to keep all those promises about taking care of her for real.


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