Memorials: Episode 2
Rounding off its premiere week, Memorials continues to be a pleasantly surprising breath of fresh air. While our heroine starts to navigate the campaign waters, she finds it to be rougher sailing than anticipated. Lack of support, not only from voters, but even her own personal circle only makes matters worse and as she struggles to keep her campaign boat afloat, she’s thrown a lifeline from the last person she expected.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
As news warning against illegal campaigning plays in the background of the bar, Han-bi and Ja-ryong watch Se-ra and Gong-myung stare each other down. Gong-myung slides candidate materials across the table and Se-ra huffs that he withheld it from her. Gong-myung retorts that she caused a commotion by applying last minute with her 50 recommendations in tow. Se-ra shrugs and asks him to leave if he has nothing else to say. Gong-myung asks if she’s running because he’d mentioned the salary and Se-ra nods cheerfully.
Se-ra points out he’d said people don’t care about the elections, so she’s cornering a niche community. Sighing, Gong-myung points out there’s other people in the running and the fewer the voters, the easier it is for the candidates backed by an organization. Se-ra blinks she also has an organization and introduces judo champ Han-bi and top student Woo-young (although she quickly denies involvement). Shaking it off, Se-ra says they’re hopeful and Han-bi and Ja-ryong return her cheer. Unimpressed, Gong-myung mutters her recklessness hasn’t changed. Aloud, he tells Se-ra hope and potential are different things and takes his leave.
Answering a call from Min-jae with a cheeky “who’s this?” Se-ra winces when he demands if she’s lost her mind: “Is entering the by-election a joke? I told you to find a job, not to fool around!” Se-ra argues she wouldn’t joke with 2,000 dollars, wondering if he’s upset because Chairman Jo didn’t nominate him as promised. She points out she was able to become a candidate by simply submitting the paperwork and he falls silent. Suggesting they just worry about themselves, Se-ra hangs up. Atta girl!
The Aeguk Conservative Party Rep slides Oh Byung-min’s profile to Chairman Jo and says to support him in the upcoming bi-election. In exchange for getting Byung-min elected, he promises Chairman Jo a position on the Seoul city council. Chairman Jo says he’d prefer the National Assembly and the Aeguk Rep agrees to issue a nomination once Byung-min becomes a district rep. Leaving the meeting, Chairman Jo muses he’ll be moving to Yeouido if they succeed and Min-jae can take his place. Min-jae’s expression is strained as he agrees and Chairman Jo orders him to get the personal details of the remaining candidates.
YOON HEE-SOO (Yoo Da-in) struts into another candidate’s press conference as a representative of the Progressive Party, wondering why there’s such a fuss over a district rep election. Meanwhile, Woo-young returns to the bar and sighs at notices on the door declaring it Se-ra’s campaign HQ. She finds Se-ra and Han-bi watching a video that promises to help master public speaking. Se-ra explains she needs to talk to get votes and says she’ll study pledges next. Woo-young points out promises mean nothing, as she should know from all the job interviews that nix people who simply promise they’ll do their best.
Han-bi argues voters are less scrupulous than hiring managers, but Woo-young agrees that’s the problem – voters don’t care enough to look past the first two candidates… and Se-ra is independent candidate 5! The next day, Dad greets elementary students under an election banner as we’re told there’s 13 days left until polling day. Candidate 1 is the Aeguk Conservative Party nominee, Byung-min and is that Mom I see dancing in his campaign party? Next is the Progressive Party’s nominee, Son Eun-sil. Unlike the crowds surrounding the first two, the independent third candidate leads his campaign through the market, while candidate 4 is a monk.
Finally, we see Se-ra with a cute headband declaring her Queen of Complaints, staring mournfully up at the opposing 4 candidates banners. She wonders if they woke up at dawn to hang them as she gathers up her own banner. Gong-myung walks up and reminds her banners hung on private property without permission are illegal and removed. Se-ra rolls her eyes and Gong-myung asks how her parents feel with their only daughter running for office. Defensive, Se-ra says it’s a secret and Gong-myung sighs. Se-ra mutters she should’ve headbutted him before leaving the office and he barks at her to pick up her poster, warning he’ll be checking back later.
As he walks off, she motions angrily behind him, turning away innocently when he glances over his shoulder. Se-ra and Han-bi head to the market to campaign and are immediately turned away by annoyed vendors. Eating dango in defeat, the friends agree that tomorrow they’ll buy first and then campaign. Passing a group of elderly men, Se-ra attempts to appeal to them… only for Han-bi to drag Se-ra away when the men grumble Se-ra should focus on getting married. Meanwhile, Woo-young tracks their “progress” on social media at work and sighs over a baby bag that as a mother she can’t play with them.
Unfortunately, Woo-young is fired upon returning to the office. Her boss claims it’s cutbacks but Woo-young asks why she’s the only one leaving, adding she barely used her maternity leave. Her boss argues he can’t fire the father with two kids or the man getting married next year, tutting she shouldn’t have gone to the bathroom so often. Woo-young barks she has to use the bathroom to pump breastmilk since there’s no company lounge for female employees. Her boss balks and she demands why she should be polite while being fired… only for her to snap out of the fantasy and leave the office dejected.
That evening, Se-ra fumes over Woo-young’s firing. Drying her eyes, Woo-young sighs she couldn’t fight back because a bad reputation makes it harder to find a new job. She sniffs she’s at a disadvantage as a wife and mother. Se-ra declares her boss crazy, insisting she recognizes talent – and suggests Woo-young join the campaign. Ha! Woo-young isn’t amused and says they should just focus on finding work. Woo-young thinks Se-ra is just getting revenge on Min-jae and says no one will vote for idiots – not even her.
Her words only invigorate Se-ra and by morning, she presents Han-bi with the math on how many votes she needs to be elected (6,000 – 9,000). Han-bi points out they’d struggled to even get 50 people to support her application and Se-ra says that’s why they’ll target the campaign at female voters between 20 and 40 like Woo-young (which totals 10,000 voters). So the ladies head over to the kindergarten and Se-ra shouts promises to support the moms as Han-bi (dressed as Wonder Woman) waves a banner at moms dropping their kids off to school.
They’re largely ignored, so they change locations to a street corner– and Han-bi changes outfits to Cinderella. Just inside the café behind them, Woo-young rolls her eyes as she eats with her fellow moms. Every phone in the establishment gives a 2pm alert to fetch their kids and the campaign ladies cheer at the moms bustling past. The café owner barks at Se-ra to stop disrupting business and Woo-young averts her eyes as she rushes past her friends.
Gong-myung finds the posters outside the elementary school have been vandalized (with Se-ra’s the most unrecognizably altered) and asks Dad if he saw who did it. Dad sheepishly says the kids did and unfurling a fresh poster, Gong-myung tuts at Se-ra for not listening to him. Seeing the clean poster, Dad’s eyes bulge and he demands why his daughter is running. Elsewhere, Se-ran and Han-bi continue their campaign in the park and Se-ra ignores a call from Dad, sighing she’s been keeping her distance since bombing the job interview Dad got her.
Godzilla-like footsteps thunder from their left and Se-ra turns to see a red-faced Dad charging her. She runs and he gives chase as Han-bi sees Gong-myung wheezing their way as well. Dad is eventually forced to stop to catch his breath and Se-ra stops when she sees Gong-myung holding him up. At home, Se-ra sits repentantly and finally asks if Dad trusts her. He immediately says no and says after losing over 10 jobs since graduation, she has no business in politics. He points out she has no money and Se-ra says that’s exactly why she’s running, likening to applying for a job.
Dad orders her to stop, but Se-ra refuses and he growls she’s tearing him apart. She easily avoids a pillow lobbed in her direction but when she criticizes his aim, Dad launches a second into her face. Mom arrives home in her Candidate 1 garb and Dad explodes, storming off to his room in annoyance. Mom chastises Se-ra for campaigning when she could’ve used that money to pay off “their” debt and Se-ra retorts she could stop putting them in debt in the first place.
Mom promises to do her best to repay their debt if Se-ra gets a job. Hearing her refusal from his room, Dad barks at Se-ra to get out of his house if she won’t quit and Se-ra mutters the house actually belongs to the bank. All the same, she’s left hauling her suitcase up a hill, grumbling about the lack of familial support. She sees Gong-myung refreshing the candidate posters and tries to sneak past. Unfortunately, her bag has come open and is leaking her belongings. Against Se-ra’s throaty protests, Gong-myung starts helping and snorts when he picks up her candidate cards and realizes it’s Se-ra.
They finish repacking the bag and Gong-myung walks with her (although he refuses to help carry her suitcase). He guesses she got kicked out and isn’t fooled by her lie she’s moving with a friend to avoid disturbing the family. Gong-myung tentatively asks if Min-jae put her up to the election to divert voters and help Chairman Jo. Se-ra scoffs her boyfriend isn’t that terrible. Gong-myung suggests she give up, as advice from a former colleague. Rounding on him, Se-ra offers her own – she tells him that people at the office gossip he’ll never get his old job back.
“But I don’t agree,” Se-ra says, “You can’t live the life people expect you to live.” She vows to get elected and says he should do his best, too. Gong-myung snorts he’ll be reinstated before she’s elected and Se-ra proposes a bet. Taking his hand, she slaps her candidate card in it and shakes, saying voting has nothing to do with math, but the heart. Watching her disappear inside, Gong-myung calls her romantic and heads home. The next morning at school, Ja-ryong sees construction beginning on the distribution center next to his school.
Pushing her stroller, Woo-young runs down the street and bursts into the bar. Han-bi, Se-ra, and Ja-ryong look up from their meal as she clicks on the news announcing the outrage over the new distribution center and mentioning an unknown part-timer who was fired for speaking out at the meeting. The Progressive Party calls for the current officials to be held responsible and Woo-young proudly announces this is Se-ra’s opportunity to gain support. Se-ra crankily points out Woo-young ignored them just yesterday but Woo-young waves it off, arguing Se-ra should channel the moms’ rage into votes.
Se-ra whispers into Han-bi’s ear – knowing it gets under Woo-young’s skin – and Han-bi translates Se-ra feels uncomfortable acting as a champion of justice when she became a candidate for the money. Woo-young groans that she’s not lying and says this issue Se-ra’s only chance. Meanwhile, Gong-myung is plagued with calls from reporters trying to contact Se-ra and Dae-cheol worries their office will be blamed. To Gong-myung’s surprise, Se-ra’s dismissal came as a direct order from Chairman Jo.
That evening, Se-ra stares despondently out the van window until Han-bi slides papers into her lap. Woo-young tells her to memorize it and when Se-ra notices it’s a speech and they’re headed towards the Mawon District Office, she screeches at her friends to pull over. They manage to drag Se-ra to the rally but are forced to release her to retrieve the speech from the van. No sooner do they leave than the spokesman calls Se-ra to the stage as the wrongfully dismissed part-timer. Gong-myung is surprised to see Se-ra while Hee-soo of the Progressive Party is equally stunned when her candidate explains Se-ra is an opposing candidate.
As Se-ra takes the mic, Woo-young and Han-bi frantically wave her speech in the air but it’s too late. Deciding to wing it, Se-ra energetically introduces herself as the fifth candidate… and is met with deafening silence. Luckily, she swallows her embarrassment and recounts how at the controversial meeting, half the District Assembly seats were empty, several of the reps present were asleep, and the rest were trying to commit fraud. Se-ra adds that while she was upset, the thing to focus on isn’t losing her job, but the fact that a distribution center with heavy truck traffic is being built near a school.
Quoting a “cranky colleague,” Se-ra says he’d told her hope and potential are two different things: “He’s right. I’m a candidate that will never be elected. However, if we don’t have hope, what future is there for us?” She continues that of the 564.1 million dollar Mawon District Office budget, she only wants her salary, vowing to listen to the people and ensure the budget is distributed properly. “I know this day has been full of lies,” Se-ra concludes, “but I really mean this, so long as you choose me.”
The applause returns and even Candidate 2 joins in. At the back, Gong-myung can’t help a small smile as Se-ra beams at the crowd cheering her name. On the flipside, Gong-myung’s former boss, Chief Won, calls Chairman Jo to suggest placing the blame on the district reps. Slamming his phone down, Chairman Jo listens to the cheers for Se-ra outside and assures Min-jae that despite the bad press, this will blow over. Min-jae offers to talk to Se-ra but Chairman Jo waves him off. Instead, he wants Gong-myung brought to him. When he starts to mention a death anniversary, Chairman Jo simply nods and says he needs to meet someone.
That someone is Dad and he nervously accepts a drink from Chairman Jo as well as a box of red ginseng for Mom. Dad tentatively asks why he’d wanted to meet and Chairman Jo tsks he should’ve found Se-ra a better position, agreeing she wouldn’t be satisfied with the company that fired her – no wonder she’s running in the election. Dad quickly assures Chairman Jo that Se-ra is just acting out and hopes she’ll get married soon. Chairman Jo tuts that even if she were elected, the position only lasts a year… she should focus on finding a stable job and husband. He mentions an opening for a level 10 civil service position, thinking it better suited for a woman. Looking uncomfortable, Dad says nothing.
At a bus stop filled with bouquets, Gong-myung sits somberly on the bench. He places a banana milk on the sidewalk and blinks back tears. Min-jae pulls up and introduces himself as Chairman Jo’s secretary. He says he came to fetch Gong-myung and is told to leave, but at the mention of his brother, Gong-myung gets in the car. They drive off just as Se-ra walks up to the bus stop, drinking her own banana milk. Noticing the milk on the sidewalk and the bouquets, she jumps up and looks around… and sees the bus stop sign she’d reported is still broken. Irritated, Se-ra takes pictures and before Gong-myung can follow Min-jae inside the house, his phone buzzes.
Skipping pleasantries, Se-ra says she texted him photos of her unresolved complaint and Gong-myung sighs he’d thought she called to apologize for quoting him out of context. “Apologies are for when you feel bad,” Se-ra retorts, “and I don’t feel bad.” Gong-myung tells her to contact the service center and hangs up before Se-ra can argue. Still, he checks her photo and scoffs before heading inside to find Chairman Jo sitting before the altar of a young boy. He says Gong-myung should attend the memorial as the boy’s brother and then introduces Min-jae as his right hand, adding he’s like a son… while Gong-myung is the person who hates him most in the world – his eldest son, Jo Gong-myung.
At home, Se-ra asks why Dad called her back after kicking her out. Dad grumbles she could pretend to listen to him, snapping she didn’t even let him finish talking before refusing. “This is why you got him in trouble,” Dad mumbles, but doesn’t explain who he’s referring to. Instead, he tells her if she wants to serve the country, she should be a civil servant – not a politician – and says if she withdraws from the election, the position is hers. Mom shushes Se-ra’s suspicions by sticking a red ginseng packet in her mouth, growling at her to take the offer. Se-ra wants to know where the ginseng came from. Dad tells her if she doesn’t accept the job, he’ll disown her. Se-ra insists on knowing who gave him ginseng, but he won’t answer, and Mom doesn’t know.
Chairman Jo tells Gong-myung to come home, quit being a civil servant, and learn while working under Chairman Jo. Gong-myung firmly refuses and Chairman Jo warns that Chief Won will never take Gong-myung back after he upset her, adding if she’s reelected next year, Gong-myung will be stuck in the service center. Gong-myung asks if Chairman Jo has been observing Jong-dae’s (his little brother’s) death anniversary and Chairman Jo just sighs. Eavesdropping in the hallway, Min-jae is startled by the doorbell and walks over to see Se-ra at the gate. He buzzes her in and steps out to demand what she’s doing there. Holding up the box of red ginseng, she says she came to return something.
Chairman Jo joins them and Se-ra says she came to return his gift, adding Mom opened two packets not knowing it was a bribe, so Se-ra added a five dollar bill. Chairman Jo feigns confusion over the word “bribe” and Se-ra quips, “I believe monetary or material gifts with a purpose are a bribe.” When asked if she’s refusing his offer, Se-ra nods. Chairman Jo tuts he was doing Dad a favor but Se-ra won’t take a job through connections. Gong-myung listens as Se-ra assures Chairma Jo she’ll campaign to the end – and get elected. Chairman Jo muses she’s a romantic and takes the gift from her. They politely bid each other goodnight and Se-ra sees Gong-myung… and realizes he’s Jo Gong-myung.
Flashback to summer, 2001: The kids sit outside and split an ice cream, but it doesn’t break even. Gong-myung celebrates the larger half, but seeing Se-ra’s disappointed pout, he offers to let her bite off the extra to make them even. Se-ra gleefully takes a huge bite and when Gong-myung argues, she holds their ice creams together to show they’re now even. Ha! He wails over his ice cream, demanding it back as Se-ra watches blankly. In the present, Gong-myung leaves Chairman Jo’s… and tips over Se-ra’s outstretched foot.
She greets him familiarly, and Gong-myung snaps he’s Seo Gong-myung now. At his harsh tone, Se-ra argues they were close friends but Gong-myung says he can’t recall, and he stalks off. Freezing when she tentatively asks if he always comes home on this day, Gong-myung spits that whether he comes home, or the bus stop sign is broken, it’s not her concern. He tells her to stop daydreaming and get on with her life: “I’m ignoring you because of the way you carry yourself.”
Se-ra is still fuming the next morning as she cracks eggs into a glass. Woo-young and Han-bi exchange a look as Se-ra declares war and downs the Rocky special. Campaigning with a new vigor, Se-ra now has a small smattering of supporters. As she poses for pictures with them, the Aeguk Conservative Party candidate, Byung-min, watches her with interest from his float… as Mom dances in his campaign party.
Arriving at work, Gong-myung learns from Dae-cheol that Se-ra succeeded in making the company that owns the distribution center back down and decide against building by the school. The same news reaches Chairman Jo and Min-jae says there will be an announcement the following morning. As the protests against the distribution center continue that evening, everyone’s surprised when Chairman Jo joins them and takes the stage. He points to his office in the building behind him and says that while working late addressing the citizens concerns, he’s heard their protests and was touched.
He calls Se-ra to the stage and neither Gong-myung or Woo-young are able to stop her in time. Chairman Jo says Se-ra reminds him of when he’d started as a politician and then both her and Gong-myung’s eyes widen when he announces his youngest son also went to the school in question. Se-ra looks to Gong-myung and he scoffs in disbelief as Chairman Jo bemoans the loss of his child in an accident. He declares his wish for children’s safety brought him to decide all plans for the distribution center have been canceled.
Cheers erupt from the crowd while the Progressive Party, Woo-young, and Gong-myung grimace. Chairman Jo calls for a round of applause for Se-ra and Chief Won snorts in annoyance. Assemblyman Heo tuts if only she’d announced first – and Chief Won snaps that she gave him his position to spy on Chairman Jo, not get in trouble! Afterwards, Gong-myung catches Chairman Jo and angrily demands why he used his dead son. Chairman Jo says cherishing his reputation won’t bring him back when even his living son can stand him: “You’ll understand me one day.”
Woo-young smacks Se-ra for going onstage and Han-bi defends she was called by name. Se-ra pouts that Chairman Jo didn’t even refer to her as a candidate and Woo-young cries he was mocking her. Se-ra’s equally upset and matters only get worse when Han-bi sees an online post calling Se-ra unfit for office because she got a job with connections. Her friends roll their eyes at the lies but Se-ra says Dad’s friend got her an interview at her old company. Before long, a video makes it to the office and Gong-myung asks if they should catch the poster. Sighing, Dae-cheol says the election will be long over by the time they do, so these incidents always result with the candidate resigning.
Office maknae Young-kyu wonders who Dad’s connection could be and Gong-myung rushes out of the office. Steeling herself, Se-ra grabs an envelope and bids her friends goodbye. She barely makes it out the door before Gong-myung catches her and snatches the candidate resignation form out of her hand, imploring her not to quit. Se-ra snaps he was the one telling her to quit from the beginning but Gong-myung just rips up the form and as the pieces fall around them like snow, the pair stare at each other.
Epilogue As young Gong-myung sobs over his ice cream, Se-ra slings his backpack over her shoulder and reaches out for him: “Let’s go, crybaby.” Pouting, Gong-myung holds out his hand, declaring: “Back at you. I reflect it.” Without missing a beat, Se-ra intertwines their fingers and giggles.
Y’all, I’m nervous by how charmed I am already with this story and these characters. I honestly don’t mind clichés when they’re used well, and Memorials continues to do just that. There was a palpable tension between Gong-myung and Chairman Jo last episode and it makes perfect sense now that we know they share a tumultuous relationship. I love that this was revealed so early, not just to us, but Se-ra as well as the pieces clicked, and she remembered Gong-myung. I had wondered why she hadn’t recognized him, and it makes sense now that we not only know Gong-myung changed his name… but also experienced a personality shift. It’s understandable after the trauma of his younger brother’s death and I wonder if that was the event that separated him and Se-ra in the first place.
Se-ra also seems aware of the incident and I suspect there’s more to learn from it. Now that we’ve actually seen glimpses of the snake behind Chairman Jo’s politician mask, I can’t help but wonder if he had something to do with Jung-dae’s death – even if it was simply negligence. Regardless, his lack of compassion is disgusting, and I am happily routing for our heroes to bring about his downfall. I also can’t wait to see more of Se-ra telling Min-jae to piss off. From the looks of things, he checked out of their relationship long ago and now that they’re broken up, the fact that he still thinks he has a say in what she does or that her actions are somehow directed towards his life makes my blood boil. He may have succeeded in taking Gong-myung’s place as Chairman Jo’s “son,” but he gave up Se-ra in exchange and Gong-myung is clearly getting the better end of the deal.
When it comes to support, Se-ra is really struggling against the tide. She broke up with Min-jae over it, and I was a little disappointed by Woo-young’s continual pessimism… until we saw that she holds a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. As the first of her friends to get married and have a child, she feels the need to be the “adult.” It was infuriating to watch her get fired over blatant office sexism, but seeing her throw herself into Se-ra’s campaign was so fun and who doesn’t love great female bonds? Se-ra’s parents are another matter. I love Dad, I really do, and not just because Ahn Kil-kang is amazing. He loves Se-ra and is doing his best to take care of her with his gruff affection. It kills me to see him groveling to Chairman Jo when not only do we know the man is garbage, but we can see how much pride Dad swallows in order to ask for help for Se-ra.
It’s gonna be all the harder to stomach when Se-ra and Chairman Jo go head-to-head, but I’m hoping Dad won’t be fooled by Chairman Jo’s false pleasantries much longer and will come to realize Se-ra is doing just fine. Perhaps Gong-myung’s influence will help? The men interacted only briefly, but I’m already itching for bonding between them! Especially after witnessing Gong-myung’s strained relationship with his biological father, I’d love for him to get some positive father-son moments with Dad, possibly bonding over their shared exasperation towards Se-ra. All throughout this episode I was waiting for Gong-myung to give in and support Se-ra and I was finally rewarded with that end scene. The pacing of the first two episodes was perfect and if that continues throughout, I will be a very happy camper. There was a lot of information to get through and yet I didn’t feel overwhelmed which is always a plus. If anything, I’m left with lots of questions and a burning excitement to see what messes our spunky heroine gets her hero into next!