Come Here and Hug Me: Episodes 1-16
Thank Drama Gods for pre-emptions, allowing us to catch up to Come Here and Hug Me. It’s the newish Parent Angst drama from MBC with a twist: It doesn’t focus on revenge or digging for the truth. The past is fixed, leaving us free to explore the fallout of one man’s crimes and how people, even the innocent, deal with their guilt. The show isn’t saying anything new in terms of “the sins of the father are not the sins of the son,” but what if the son is a bottomless pit of remorse who refuses to forgive himself? We’d better stock up on hugs because these characters are in for a world of hurt.
EPISODES 1-16 WEECAP
We first meet the protagonist, CHAE DO-JIN (Jang Ki-yong), in 2011 during his police university admissions interview. His reason for joining the force is “personal atonement,” making the panel wonder if he ever had a brush with the law in the past. In lieu of Do-jin’s answer, we get a short flashback to five years ago when a younger Do-jin (played by Nam Da-reum) huddled in the snow and shakily told two officers that he knows the murderer: his own father.
Outside the interview room, fellow applicants avoid Do-jin when word spreads that he’s the son of famous psychopath serial killer, YOON HEE-JAE (Heo Jun-ho). Do-jin catches some guys gossiping about the case but makes no attempt to defend himself or his dad. Rather, he dispels the rumors that the victims willingly went with the good-looking psychopath in a fancy car. He then smiles and asks them to help stop misinformation as it hurts the victims’ families. He’s unnervingly sweet about it, making the guys uncomfortable even when he assures them that they won’t catch psychopathy by sitting next to him.
Elsewhere, aspiring actress HAN JAE-YI (Jin Ki-joo) stutters through a script about a family murdered by their neighbor. The audition judges lose interest in her except for one. That panel member approaches Jae-yi afterwards to let her know of an acting opportunity. He recognized her as the daughter of famous actress GIL HYE-WON. The PD recalls how great her mom was and how unfortunate that she was murdered. Jae-yi smiles through her tears, admitting that she uses a stage name now to avoid being recognized. Her real name is GIL NAK-WON.
And if we had any doubts as to Jae-yi’s and Do-jin’s connection, Do-jin watches Jae-yi’s TV ad and imagines himself as the guy she’s smiling at. He hears the younger Jae-yi’s promise to like him forever and he calls her by her secret name, Nak-won (also meaning paradise).
We jump back to the events leading up to the murder circa 2006.
Nak-won’s family is on their way to their new house in the countryside, passing by a boy carrying his little sister on his back. The family’s dog Lucky barks out the car window and spooks the little girl. Nak-won leans out to apologize, only to be stunned by the pretty boy. Heh.
This is the young Do-jin, called YOON NA-MOO in this timeline. The little girl is his step-sister SO-JIN. Na-moo is So-jin’s favorite step-oppa. She wants them to be a family forever. Well, half a family. So-jin doesn’t care for their older brother YOON HYUN-MOO because he beats up Na-moo, while she’s scared of her stepdad whom she describes as “a ghost with no emotions.” At this point, we have yet to see actual proof of Yoon Hee-jae’s crimes, though we get suspicious circumstances, creepy looks, and hammer-gripping scenes.
Yoon Hee-jae and CHAE OK-HEE (So-jin’s mom, played by SEO JUNG-YEON) have only been married for two years, but Ok-hee grumpily fusses over the boys as if they’re her own. You’d think she’ll only be upset by the older Hyun-moo who gets into fights at school, but she also worries about the kind, stoic Na-moo who never complains or asks for help when he’s hurt. This is on top of her worries that her new husband is the charming town flirt, as some ajummas report seeing him driving around with a different lady.
Meanwhile, Nak-won’s family seems pretty much untroubled with a tenderhearted actress mom and a goofy lawyer dad. Her oppa GIL MOO-WON is adopted, a survivor of a family murdered six years ago. He seems well-adjusted apart from a slight over-protectiveness when it comes to Nak-won who is wont to get into harmless scrapes at school, like getting punishment laps on her first day and doggedly trying to befriend the unsociable Na-moo. Most of the actual trouble comes from Lucky who runs away one rainy night and is picked up by Yoon Hee-jae.
Nak-won follows Lucky’s trail right into Hee-jae’s creepy basement, off-limits even to his sons. She finds Na-moo there, hammer in hand, trying to bust the lock on Lucky’s cage. Hee-jae catches both kids trespassing and lets everyone go (including Lucky, whew). His words are friendly as he apologizes for not finding Lucky’s owners sooner, but it’s telling that Na-moo keeps putting himself between his dad and Nak-won even when Dad is just complimenting her. Na-moo takes Nak-won’s hand and pointedly tells Dad that she’s a friend and he knows where she lives, so he’ll walk her home now.
Meanwhile, in school, Moo-won calls an ambulance and stops Hyun-moo from further beating up a classmate. Hyun-moo blusters that he doesn’t care if he kills someone, but Moo-won gives him pause by describing the disgusting feeling of knowing that a person died because of you. That’s dark, coming from a well-adjusted boy.
Nak-won makes Na-moo stop during their walk home to bandage the wound he got from saving Lucky. True to his habit, Na-moo refuses help, claiming it doesn’t hurt. Nak-won launches into a tirade about his martyr complex—from the way he put the umbrella on her side, to taking punishment with her at school, to getting wounded while helping Lucky. She tells him to speak up if he’s hurt. Then she follows it up with an apology for trespassing and being scared of his seemingly nice dad. Upon hearing this, Na-moo asks her to do three things: forget what happened tonight, stay away from his house, and pretend not to know him forever.
Nak-won agrees to the first two but refuses the last because she’s decided that she likes Na-moo. She likens him to a tree. It’s the literal translation of Na-moo’s name, also used to describe someone steadfast who makes you feel safe and comfortable. Na-moo finds such sweet unpretentiousness a revelation. He meets her family which is more of the same: trusting and friendly and normal. Only Moo-won doesn’t take kindly to this new guy for keeping Nak-won out late and making them worry.
Na-moo comes home to find Dad waiting in his room. He reminds Na-moo of his lessons as a kid: humans are animals who prey on each other, you must be strong to survive, you can only trust your own blood. He coos over his favorite son and leaves him with a gift. As Na-moo opens it, he recalls Dad’s promise that came with the lesson: to get rid of any “weakness” in his son’s way. And by weakness, he means emotional attachments. Is it too much to hope that the hammer Na-moo unwraps is a promise of carpentry lessons?
The next day at school, Na-moo is standoffish, still unused to Nak-won’s brand of in-your-face friendship. She holds his hand to check the wound and he’s shocked that a girl would do that in view of everyone during lunch hour, heh. But we know he’s keeping an eye out for her because he swipes the glass of water someone was planning to throw in her face and drinks it all in one shot.
Tired of the rumors of Dad having other women, Mom decides to check on his workplace. It’s an isolated shed where he farms dogs. She couldn’t have picked a worse time to spy on him. Earlier that night, Dad knocked out a woman and dragged her to his car. It’s the first time we see him actively harming someone, though we know from the 2011 intro that he’s a serial killer. Too bad Mom didn’t get the memo. She spots Dad with blood on his face, throwing the woman’s clothes and purse in a furnace. Mom barely escapes from being caught and legs it home, packing her and So-jin’s things to leave. The sight of Na-moo’s books gives her pause but the sight of her husband’s jacket scares the regret out of her.
Due to Moo-won’s statement, Hyun-moo is locked up for beating his classmate the other night. Na-moo brings him a change of clothes (this is the night Mom was spying on Dad). Na-moo sees his strong hyung looking small and scared inside the detention cell beside tougher-looking ajusshis and it makes him reevaluate the definition of strength. He comes to the conclusion that Dad’s lessons are wrong. Humans aren’t animals. Having people you care for isn’t a weakness, it’s a source of strength. He sees Nak-won in the morning being bullied for refusing to steal from her mom and thinks that he found it. The first person he wants to protect. He vows to be strong for the people he wants to protect.
That new resolve is tested immediately when Na-moo finds Mom running away from home. He looks lost as she begs him to let her and So-jin go. She doesn’t want her daughter growing up related to a murderer. When Mom collapses in fear after a truck looking similar to Dad’s drives by, Na-moo snaps into action and promises to stall Dad so she and So-jin can escape to where Dad can’t find them. Mom can barely meet his eyes from guilt as he thanks her for being a good mother and assures her that she’s doing the right thing. I don’t know where she gets the strength to pull So-jin away and leave a tearfully waving Na-moo behind.
There’s a gap in our knowledge of the past after Mom left, aside from Hyun-moo being sentenced to two years of prison labor for violence towards his classmate. The next we know is part of the events of Christmas Eve 2006. Nak-won’s parents are dead on the floor. The house is dark except for the lights on the tree. Hee-jae surveys the blood-spattered family portrait as Nak-won cries on the floor nearby. He shushes her and promises to send her to her parents soon. Na-moo arrives just as Dad raises the hammer. He shields Nak-won with his body and tells Dad he called the police, giving it ten minutes before they arrive. “I’ve had a lot of practice getting hit. I’m sure I can last that long. Want to try me?” *chills*
Thankfully, we’re spared the details of the fight for now. We only see a glimpse of Dad moments later, blood dripping from his temple, looking oddly proud that he got hit. He compliments Na-moo for being “Yoon Hee-jae’s son.”
The next thing we know, Na-moo is huddled in the snow, telling the cops that his dad is the murderer. Nak-won stops the police car driving her and Moo-won to the station and walks over to Na-moo. She hugs him and tells him it’s not his fault. She then makes him promise not to blame himself and to endure things and survive.
Yoon Hee-jae is eventually caught after a car chase. He laughs as the officers cuff him because “You didn’t catch me, my son did.” You sure pick weird things to be proud about, Dad. Are spelling bees too mainstream for you?
Dad is incarcerated for twelve counts of murder, with Na-moo bravely testifying for that of Nak-won’s parents.
We have one more pit stop before we catch up to the present. It’s 2015. Do-jin is about to graduate police university with top honors. Jae-yi landed a side character role in a popular drama. Moo-won is on track to be a prosecutor while Hyun-moo is still in prison, the same one as Dad’s.
Dad has just released an autobiography titled “I’m Not Unlike You” which is as controversial as you can imagine, coming from a famous psychopath. His agent announces that part of the proceeds from the book will go to his and the victims’ families, stirring even more controversy around the book.
One particular reporter manages to track down Mom and So-jin who have been living quietly in an island with their tiny restaurant. Mom throws the reporter out but the damage has been done. Neighbors and strangers alike start harassing them about their relation to Dad despite Mom not having any contact with him and refusing proceeds from the book. Mom and So-jin decide to leave the village and move to Seoul.
News of Yoon Hee-jae’s cop son leaks as reporters try unsuccessfully to get photos of the good-looking Chae Do-jin to feed the public’s morbid interest. The school does a great job of blocking the reporters, but Do-jin himself wades into a group of reporters when he sees Jae-yi in trouble. She was holding a harmless press conference about her show when the reporter who was trying to stalk Do-jin recognized her as Gil Nak-won. The reporter kept questioning Jae-yi despite the latter’s discomfort until she started having a panic attack. Do-jin catches her before she faints and surprisingly (for dramaland), Jae-yi recognizes him as Na-moo right before she loses consciousness. Do-jin leaves Jae-yi in the infirmary after hearing the fainting is psychological, triggered by memories of her parents’ murder.
Do-jin agrees to give the reporter a statement to get rid of her. She wants to know his thoughts on his father’s book, specifically the part where he exhibits a rare emotional attachment to his son. Do-jin maintains that his father is a monster and they should stop humanizing him. When pressed to consider his father’s troubled past, Do-jin makes them consider his troubled past as he looms over the crew and turns their logic on them: with half his childhood spent under a psychopathic Dad and the rest hiding from the mercenary media, will he be justified for doing “something terrible” to them right now? The reporter puts down her recorder, speechless, as Do-jin walks away after making his point. It’s so much win in one short speech. I bet Yoon Hee-jae is wiping proud dad tears in prison right now.
Jae-yi wakes up and runs around campus looking for this Chae Do-jin guy. A student tells her to wait in the cafeteria where Do-jin usually hangs out. Jae-yi sits there and finds a vending machine with her face on it—the same one that Do-jin talks to sometimes. She waits as long as she can, until the media is literally on her heels after finding out that she’s Gil Nak-won. Do-jin who knew where she was all along throws himself in front of the speeding cars to stop them from catching up to hers. She sees him from afar but can’t turn back, though she’s now sure that Do-jin is Na-moo. Do-jin goes back to his dorm and stares at Jae-yi’s vending machine, remembering his promise with Nak-won to live well no matter what happened and to find each other in the future.
The next day, Do-jin marches into Dad’s publisher’s office and offers another interview. This time, he tells everyone that the book is full of lies. Dad’s goal is attention, not atonement. Buying the book is tantamount to contributing to the suffering of his victims. Meanwhile, Jae-yi gets sick of hiding too and agrees to her own interview. She addresses Yoon Hee-jae who claims to be cheering her on and the reporter who says the publicity will be good for her. She basically tells them to stuff their support where the sun don’t shine cause she’s going to be famous without their help.
The media frenzy doesn’t die down by the time Do-jin’s graduation rolls around. Unable to get at Yoon Hee-jae in prison, the other victims’ families crash Do-jin’s graduation in a group protest. Do-jin bows to them in apology even as they grab him and pelt him with eggs. Jae-yi watches from afar, in tears as reporters watch and take pictures of Do-jin silently accepting the insults. Ok-hee and So-jin arrive, having been late to Do-jin’s graduation, and scold the families for venting their anger on him when he’s a victim of Yoon Hee-jae too. (I’m just glad we got confirmation that Do-jin is still in contact with Mom!)
Jae-yi catches Do-jin alone and hugs him for comfort, which is how reporter PARK HEE-YOUNG (Kim Seo-hyung) finds them. I suppose we should talk about her for a bit.
Park Hee-young is both agent and publisher for Yoon Hee-jae’s book. She’s a reporter who specializes in showing the criminal’s side of the story. She wrote a sympathetic article about Dad’s fatherly love for his sons that garnered attention during the trial in 2006. Combined with the 2011 book, it painted Dad in such a different light that some people even formed a Yoon Hee-jae fanclub. (Yes, humans can be disappointing, even in dramaland.)
Her stake in chasing the “other side” of the story is purely professional. Personally, she has no sympathetic bone in her body. Once, when Yoon Hee-jae pressed for her opinion on his actions, she admitted with a smirk that “Some people shouldn’t have been born.” She also told Do-jin in one of their confrontations that “You knew your dad was a monster but you still chose to make friends with Nak-won. You have no conscience like your Dad. Nak-won’s parents’ murder is your fault.” That alone should tell you what kind of person she is.
For now, she fails to write about Jae-yi and Do-jin’s tragic love story because Moo-won (played by Yoon Jong-hoon now) catches her taking pictures, breaks her camera, and compensates for it on the spot. I like him. He then punches Do-jin for daring to show up in front of his family. Okay, I don’t like him anymore. He takes Jae-yi back to the group of protesting families. The sight of their parents’ faces in a banner is enough to remind Jae-yi that hugging Do-jin is a bad idea. And with that, our leads are now back in guilt-landia.
When we catch up to 2018, Jae-yi is a larger star and Do-jin the ace detective of the Violent Crimes Unit under the wing of jaded ajusshi CHIEF GO (Jung In-gi). Chief claims that working as a cop has put him off people (and marriage) forever, but we all know he fell in love with Mom after watching the heartfelt way she came back for Na-moo during Dad’s trial. She begged forgiveness for running away and promised Na-moo that she’ll be his real mother. Na-moo noble idiot-ly drove her away but she knows his M.O. so she just clung to him and hugged him until he cried and called her omma for the first time. (He’s always called her the more formal omoni in the past. It’s like the difference between mom and mother.)
In the present, Chief Go regularly drops by Mom’s new shop in a market in Seoul. Mom scolds him every time Do-jin is injured on the job. Do-jin shushes him when something dangerous happens at work. So-jin swears him to secrecy so her job woes won’t bother Mom. Basically, Chief Go is henpecked by the whole family and he’s happy to oblige. You know who isn’t happy in 2018? Hyun-moo.
Hyun-moo has just been released from prison. Mom kept in contact with him but he never answered her letters. Now that he’s out, he stalks her shop often and notes this ajusshi hanging around, being chummy with Mom and So-jin. Hyun-moo has always exhibited this yearning to be part of their family in the past but never gave in to it. It’s the same in the present. He doesn’t approach them after being released. Instead, he gets busy being Dad 2.0, bashing random people’s heads in with a hammer and angry-watching Jae-yi on television in his free time.
Do-jin is on stakeout for this same Hammer Attack case when he gets stabbed by a different perp one night. Do-jin being Do-jin, he ignores the wound and keeps coming at the perp like a terminator. Only until the perp is caught does Do-jin take himself to the E.R. and pass out.
He wakes up in his hospital bed and discovers that his dream of Jae-yi being in the adjacent bed was true. He watches news of Jae-yi collapsing backstage after receiving an award. Thinking of Nak-won’s promise to be famous so he can reunite with her in the future, he races around the hospital and finds her besieged by reporters trying to figure out the reason for her collapse. Do-jin steps in like he did three years ago and shields her from the media. Only Park Hee-young looks like a very satisfied cat as she recognizes Yoon Hee-jae’s son. To everyone else, Do-jin acts like he’s just Jae-yi’s fan.
The real reason for Jae-yi’s collapse is a box sent to her dressing room. It contained a bloody hammer similar to the one used to murder her parents years ago. Do-jin asks to be assigned to the case to protect Jae-yi. His words are businesslike as he takes her statement but their eyes speak happiness at seeing each other again and worry at how much it’ll hurt the other to be dragged back into the past.
Do-jin traces the hammer back to Hyun-moo. He tells his team to investigate his own hyung and gives Jae-yi a traceable watch with an emergency button linked to his own phone.
Meanwhile, Hyun-moo finally drops by Mom’s shop and shows himself to her and So-jin. Mom nags him for not contacting her right after his release but he’s just here to deliver a message from Dad: “Regards to my darling Ok-hee and my youngest Princess So-jin.” I’m not sure if it’s Dad’s message or just Hyun-moo trying to step into Dad’s wicked shoes. In any case, there’s no message for Na-moo, just the promise of death for dating the younger sister of the guy who put Hyun-moo in jail and being so “in love” with Nak-won that he reported his own Dad to the cops. Mom defends Na-moo for doing the right thing but it only makes Hyun-moo angrier. In his eyes, Mom abandoned him and Dad but took Na-moo back, like she’s cherry-picking the good parts of his family.
He kicks down a chair and Mom notices blood on his sneakers. She grabs his hand like she did back in high school, worried that he’s in trouble. Hyun-moo looks shaken at how much ajumma still acts like his mom. He makes a twisted joke about her being too nice and ending up dead just like Nak-won’s parents. Mom slaps him for making fun of such a topic and you can see that 0.001% of humanity in Hyun-moo’s eyes flicker out. He proceeds to trash the shop until So-jin holds on to him and begs Oppa to leave her and Mom alone. Miraculously, he does.
Jae-yi is shooting a sweet Christmas scene (with Do-jin on guard duty unable to look during the kiss, ha!) when the lights fail on set. The dark room with Christmas decor reminds her of the night her parents were murdered. She panics, gripping her co-star tightly even with the lights turning back on. They send her home to film another day, but she receives a message to go to the filming site that night.
She arrives to find the place dark except for the Christmas set. When she steps inside, someone locks the door behind her. She enters the set to look for a staff member and freezes when she hears Rockin Around the Christmas Tree. It’s the same song playing the night her parents died. As if that’s not cruel enough, her family’s portrait is now hanging on the wall. The same portrait Yoon Hee-jae was looking at before he promised to send her to them. A guy in a cap and mask similar to Yoon Hee-jae’s enters the set, carrying a hammer. Jae-yi is unable to run as she’s assaulted by horrible memories. Just like in 2006, she can only watch helplessly as the stranger takes his time walking towards her. As the guy gets within striking distance, Do-jin’s car crashes through the set walls and floods the room with light.
Do-jin was examining the CCTV earlier and found Hyun-moo hanging around the site. He checked Jae-yi’s tracker and saw her en route back to the site. When Jae-yi’s manager confirmed filming was cancelled, Do-jin drove like a madman to the site. He got the alarm that Jae-yi pressed the help button and unable to find a way in, he drove straight through the walls.
Now he runs in to find Jae-yi curled up all alone. It takes some time before she can even register that she’s safe. Jae-yi dreams a different version of that night twelve years ago, one where Na-moo died too. She “wakes up” in the present to find she’s talking to the younger Na-moo and realizes that this is another dream. One where she’s free to show how scared and unhappy she is and ask a hug from Na-moo. It’s partly a dream as the camera pans around to show that she was talking to Do-jin. His team shows up to find a dead-eyed Do-jin hugging a sleeping Jae-yi. They look like kids still trapped in a horrible nightmare. He barely responds when her manager gingerly suggests taking Jae-yi home. Do-jin’s team vows to find the culprit before he does. For whose safety, we’re not sure.
Jae-yi regains full consciousness at home and asks Do-jin if he’s protecting her out of guilt. He says it’s not that, it’s because she asked him to. “Then what about your promise to come find me?” she asks. He says he’s too guilty to come find her, but we see a flashback of him spending a whole day looking at one of her posters at a bus stop. Awww, he’s been “finding” her all these years in all sorts of places! Jae-yi, angel that she is, knows Do-jin is wallowing in guilt again and tells him “Even if your brother is responsible for what’s happening, I’m still glad that I got to meet you again.” Girl, no wonder the boy loves you. Only your bottomless reassurances might cure his bottomless guilt.
Moo-won arrives and tells Do-jin out of Jae-yi’s earshot that he’ll transfer the case to someone else since the primary suspect is Hyun-moo. Do-jin refuses since he’s what Jae-yi needs right now—someone who can be a Do-jin or a Na-moo, or even a Yoon Hee-jae when the situation calls for it. Why is that reassuring and sad and terrifying all at the same time?
Hyun-moo calls Do-jin and promises to kill him, just after he makes Nak-won and Hyun-moo suffer. The threat of hurting Nak-won makes Do-jin put on his Yoon Hee-jae face as he vows to stop Hyun-moo at all costs. Hyun-moo looks thrilled at the chance to prove who’s better, and we see him jealously eavesdropping years ago as Dad taught all his grand lessons on strength and ruthlessness to Na-moo alone. See? This is what happens when your dad isn’t content with spelling bees.
It’s still uncertain if Hyun-moo is behind all of this. A short flashback shows him receiving an anonymous letter with pictures of the hammer sent to Jae-yi and the recreated set of her parents’ murder. Do-jin assumes it’s Hyun-moo because only Nak-won, Na-moo, and Yoon Hee-jae knew what record was playing that night and Dad could’ve only told Hyun-moo. Do-jin doesn’t know that someone else is visiting Dad in prison and a guy dressed like Na-moo with a copy of Dad’s book visited Mom’s shop. It doesn’t help that when Do-jin and his hoobae raid Hyun-moo’s apartment, he left behind his hammer and Jae-yi’s mangled pictures.
Park Hee-young is excited to hear that Hyun-moo could be behind Jae-yi’s current problems. It will create more buzz for the documentary she’s producing about the hazy parts of Yoon Hee-jae’s book. But she’s not interested in Hyun-moo. Her focus is on how Yoon Hee-jae was caught. It seems no one, not even Dad, wants to talk about his injuries that night, though Park Hee-young has a pretty good idea who did it. Oh no, is she going to paint Do-jin as a ruthless monster like Dad?
Do-jin watches over Jae-yi’s house and remembers Nak-won confessing to him in the rain. Jae-yi catches him being rained on outside her house and she shares her umbrella, making small talk about him being tired and waiting for the rain to stop. Jae-yi’s actress sunbae SE-KYUNG arrives and assumes they’re dating in secret. She scolds the “rude model hoobae” for not greeting her, heh. When Jae-yi introduces Detective Chae Do-jin, Se-kyung recognizes him as the son of Yoon Hee-jae and the guy who always saves Jae-yi.
Se-kyung (and anyone with eyes) can tell that these two still like each other. She tells Jae-yi that just like how she pursued acting to find happiness, she should go on pursuing what makes her happy. Se-kyung also tells Do-jin that everyone gets hurt in relationships anyway… the implication being if he and Jae-yi are going to get hurt, they might as well be hurt together.
Se-kyung has no idea how quickly prophetic those words are. As soon as she leaves, Hyun-moo tries to bash in Do-jin’s head with a hammer. Do-jin easily stops Hyung as the latter struggles to gain the upper hand. In voiceover, we hear another one of Dad’s lessons. “Once humans’ hands and feet are tied, they’re out of answers. But us, we have another way. When our hands and feet are tied, we bite. That’s what makes us animals.”
Do-jin will hate me for saying this but isn’t Hyun-moo a pitiful character? He works so hard to gain Dad’s approval when Dad is a murdering psychopath who doesn’t care about him. It’s like the more he struggles, the more Dad scorns him for wanting to be liked. Even after spending time in prison with him, Hyun-moo is still just an afterthought. And if it’s true that Dad can’t even trust him with the revenge on Jae-yi… that makes Hyun-moo the most pathetic character in this universe. It would be great if he can develop his own set of morals like Na-moo did and break away from Dad, but that takes a certain amount of strength you can only get by accepting people like Mom and Jae-yi into your life. Too bad following Dad’s lessons isolates him from such people.
One thing that I keep thinking about is how much did Na-moo and Hyun-moo know about their father’s crimes before he was “outed?”
Hyun-moo took note of Dad’s toolbag and the news that a couple was murdered while he was visiting Seoul. He also reacted jealously when he found out Dad gave Na-moo his hammer. Na-moo is always extra wary of Dad, going as far as isolating himself at school so there’s no “weakness” for Dad to get rid of. But the most telling clue that he knows Dad is a monster is he didn’t even ask Mom for details when she called him a murderer.
Now here comes the hard part. If they knew, and Na-moo at least certainly did after Mom told him, why didn’t they turn him in? Mom ran away around spring and Na-moo reported Dad in winter, only when Nak-won was in danger. Was it fear of Dad that stopped him from doing it sooner or did he just not care about anyone else outside his small circle of protection? That sounds a bit ruthless, if you think about it.
I know he was just a kid and it’s hard to break free from years of Dad’s horrible lessons. Plus Do-jin is probably beating himself up about it already. I just hate that it gives Park Hee-young’s narrative a ring of truth to it. That they’re just a family of monsters in their own way.
Speaking of monsters, I’m not sure where I stand between Do-jin and Park Hee-young. Is she correct that monstrosity is in the blood and some people shouldn’t have been born? But not all psychopaths are murderers and not all murderers are psychopaths. How can you tell who doesn’t deserve to live until they actually commit murder? Then there’s Do-jin’s stand that anyone who kills someone doesn’t deserve to be called human. What does that make of Moo-won then? We still lack details but he either killed his own parents or (most probably) the guy who murdered his parents. By Do-jin’s definition, he’s less human than Hyun-moo who hasn’t killed anyone (that we know of).
What I’m sure of is Jae-yi is an angel. How can a person have so much love and forgiveness after suffering all that? I love that she isn’t nice to the point of stupidity either. There’s understanding mixed in with her kindness, allowing her to differentiate between Na-moo’s guilt and Dad’s fake remorse. That will come in handy in not dying later when Yoon Hee-jae starts being more active, because you just know he and Do-jin are not yet finished with their, uhm… philosophical debate.
If it were up to Jae-yi, I’m sure she’d happily ignore everything to be with Do-jin. But I think she knows that he’s crippled with guilt every time he looks at her, and it’s impossible for him to move on when his family is, y’know, actively trying to kill her. All she can do for now is not let him vanish again and stop him from feeling too sorry. You have to feel bad for her though. Her parents were murdered, the murderer’s son is out to get her, and her not-a-boyfriend only hugs her when she’s in grave danger. Maybe the writer is the real monster here.