The Good Bad Mother: Episodes 5-6
Old faces return to the village one by one, but not all reunions are embraced with open arms. While some have forgotten the past, others have these memories carved into their soul, and the clash between those who have wronged and the those who have been wronged causes anger and resentment to bubble up. As our hero slowly learns more about his past, he may have to reconcile what he wishes to become and what he once was.
Mi-joo is back in town for good, and while Kang-ho is immediately smitten, the same cannot be said for her. Though she once shared happy memories with him, he dumped her without a proper explanation, which left her with a lot of unresolved feelings. Thus, she tries to distance herself and her kids from Kang-ho, but the task proves ineffective in their small, tight-knit village.
As for Kang-ho, grabbing Mi-joo’s attention becomes his number one priority, so he sets off on getting a dog to impress her. He ends up with a pig instead, but like father like son, Kang-ho manages to lose it before getting a chance to show it to Mi-joo. With the twins joining the chase, the three troublemakers run around town to rescue the pig, and along the way, their annoying neighbor crashes his car to avoid them.
While the pig serves its purpose in reuniting the two lovers briefly, the annoying neighbor strikes again and takes Kang-ho and Young-soon to the police station. Thankfully, the officers are sympathetic to Young-soon, and Kang-ho seals the deal when he recalls details from the accident and recites laws the neighbor broke.
After their trip to the police station, Kang-ho returns home first and finds their living room trashed and filled with poop. He blames his pet pig, Lion, for the mess, but in actuality, Woo-byeok’s men broke into their house to recover the blackmail material on Tae-soo.
While Woo-byeok’s men hide and film their own rom-com moment in the closet, a third intruder enters the scene. Things turn chaotic as the new stranger tries to murder Kang-ho, and Woo-byeok’s men fly out to save him. By the time Young-soon arrives, all three intruders have vanished, and Kang-ho’s description of the night’s event sounds like a far-fetched lie.
Meanwhile, Woo-byeok’s men lose the hired killer, and both Woo-byeok and Tae-soo are seething at their lackeys’ incompetence. With one side needing him dead and the other needing him alive, it’s clear that Kang-ho holds the key to this war, and his enemies are willing to do anything in order to win.
Back in the village, Mi-joo tries to relaunch her career with support from her mom, and heads off to town to look for potential spaces to rent. On her way, she drops her wallet, and Kang-ho happens to pick it up. He follows her to the marketplace to return it, but he misses her by seconds every time their paths almost cross.
Despite being in the countryside, the rent is much too high for Mi-joo, and her dreams to open a shop seem futile until a little errand for her mom turns into a fortuitous opportunity. After helping an older lady with nail troubles, Mi-joo tells them about her search, and the older ladies take no time in finding her a place to rent for free.
As Mi-joo leaves in high spirits, she spots Kang-ho in the streets being accosted by shopkeepers. Just moments before, a pickpocket tried to steal her wallet while Kang-ho was eye-shopping, and in order to catch the thief, he threw a vendor’s apple at him. As a result, the shopkeepers call him a thief, so Mi-joo intervenes on his behalf, breaking her own rule to stay away.
With Kang-ho and Mi-joo back in the village, the only one left still wandering outside is Sam-shik. Try as he might to turn a new leaf, Sam-shik never catches a break and ends up in trouble after causing a scene at the illegal gambling den. His boss wants an absurd amount of money as compensation, so with nowhere else to go, Sam-shik comes home as well.
Much like Mi-joo, Sam-shik is surprised to find Kang-ho in the village, but unlike her, he only has bad memories of Kang-ho. Back when he was in trouble for the stolen ring, he begged Kang-ho for help, but Kang-ho told him that they were not friends and kicked him out. Now in the present, Sam-shik yells at Kang-ho for what he did, and Kang-ho threatens to tattle on him for cursing.
However, since Young-soon is busy with the farm, Kang-ho turns to the twins for help. Though Mi-joo tries to send him away, the twins invite him to dinner, and the four of them sit around the table looking like a family. Noticing her discomfort, Kang-ho asks if he was a bad person to her, too, and her silence answers his question.
In the midst of all this, the annoying neighbor continues rearing his ugly head, and he uses his old connection with the villagers to rally them against Young-soon. Promising to build a concert hall and provide their kids with jobs, the annoying neighbor manages to convince most of them to join his cause, but on the day of the protest, no one shows up.
After seeing Sam-shik come home covered in bruises, his parents realize that they could never do something so cruel to Young-soon. Meanwhile, Mi-joo’s mom recalls the time Young-soon comforted her after her husband died, and sides with her friend instead. As for the village chief, he calls the annoying neighbor out on his lies, and hopefully with that, the pest gets the hint and skedaddles.
Since their first attempt failed, Woo-byeok’s men return to find the evidence against Tae-soo, but with their bad luck, they come on the day Young-soon is working late. She finds them poking around her farm and believes their haphazard lies about being farmers who recently bought a plot of land in the area. As they leave empty-handed, they hear Young-soon cry out in pain and fall unconscious.
In a flashback, we see Young-soon wave at her family as they drive away to go on a picnic, but then a truck crashes into them. The moment of impact jolts Young-soon awake from her nightmare, and she finds herself lying in a hospital bed. As she goes to meet with the doctor, more terrible news falls into her lap: she has stage four stomach cancer.
Still dazed by the diagnosis, Young-soon stumbles out into the hallway and doesn’t notice Kang-ho until he calls out to her. Having heard from a nurse that she was in the hospital, Kang-ho came to see her, but in his excitement, he falls out of his wheelchair. Instinctively, Young-soon rushes to help him up, but then, she suddenly stops. She orders him to get up and leaves him behind.
I’ll be frank; I am not a fan of this new cancer plot. It feels slightly shoehorned, and I don’t think the story needs it. There are already so many plot points the show could develop instead, and I’m worried that her sickness will be used to garner sympathy and gloss over her past sins. Rather than give her a meaningful character arc where she is held accountable for her actions, this new trajectory feels like an easy way out for her to earn Kang-ho’s forgiveness. Hopefully, the show proves me wrong and weaves a compelling mother-son story about healing from trauma, but with the show nearly reaching its halfway mark, I’m starting to wonder if the creators might have been too ambitious.
While I enjoyed the ending of the annoying neighbor story, the bulk of the plot showed how much I’m not invested in the villagers. The annoying neighbor dragged on for too long, and most of his scenes could be cut without hurting the show. In fact, I think the pacing would be faster without the annoying neighbor, and the story would have been more meaningful if they spent it on the villagers and their relationship with Young-soon. The flashback to the funeral was poignant with the juxtaposition of their kids’ birth as well as the reflection between the adults and the children. It revealed a softer side to Young-soon and also explained why Mi-joo probably fell in love with Kang-ho in the first place. Those are the moments I enjoy and wish the show would spend more time on them rather than a plagiarizing composer singing weird renditions of existing songs.
Though Young-soon and Kang-ho are the stars of the show, Mi-joo is becoming my favorite. Her past scenes with Kang-ho are adorable, and I like the relationships she has with her family as well as the other leads. She is compassionate and generous; and even though I think she has every right to be mad at other people (e.g., Kang-ho, her ex-business partner), she doesn’t let past failures dictate her path forward. What I also like about Mi-joo is that she doesn’t treat Kang-ho cruelly or even with pity. Though she keeps her distance — probably to hide a secret — she does not see Kang-ho’s condition as a “shame” like the others have. Instead, she interacts with him as an adult, which is a rare quality in a world that is quick to judge him.
Based off Mi-joo’s reaction, Kang-ho is most likely the twins’ father, which wouldn’t be a surprise since he makes sense timeline-wise as well as narratively. I do wonder, though, what happened afterwards and if Kang-ho knew about the pregnancy. I can’t imagine him abandoning her and their children because the show has made it clear that she used to be his everything even if revenge became his magnum opus later in life. Presently, it feels like Mi-joo has kept the twins’ parentage a secret from everyone, including Kang-ho, because she has residual guilt over “ruining” his life. It’s another unintended consequence of Young-soon’s actions, and I wonder if she will ever learn how much she impacted those around her.