The School Nurse Files: Series review, part 2
In the second half of The School Nurse Files we learn that the world that seemed exclusive to our heroine is actually part of a much broader and deeper story — and so is the school she’s been stationed at. Before she can resolve the issues at the school, though, our nurse has to face the burden of her powers and what they mean for her future.
EPISODE 4-6 REVIEW
When we left Eun-young at the end of Episode 3, it was with the sense of mounting danger at the school. While the tension still exists, and there are clues pointing to important reveals we’ll learn about later, for the most part Episodes 4 and 5 are quiet, slow, and almost mournful.
Both In-pyo and Eun-young meet people from their past, and it has interesting effects on the plot and on their relationship. For In-pyo, it’s meeting his old school friend Ga-young, which gives us insight on his own story, his relationship with his grandfather, and the accident that permanently injured his leg. Eun-young is hilariously put out by the mentions of Ga-young, and asks sarcastically if they can still hold hands. We get the sense of Eun-young’s jealousy and territorialism around all things In-pyo, but soon, she gets pulled deep into her own backstory.
Kang-sun, an old friend from Eun-young’s own grade school days turns up — as a ghost — and follows her around for a while. Through the hints we get of their history, we learn how tortured Eun-young’s school days were, and how her friendship with Kang-sun helped her cope. It’s an interesting section of the drama, mostly because it is about mourning the loss of an old friend.
Eun-young experiences Kang-sun’s tragic death in an out-of-body vision of sorts, and it shakes her deeply. She’s not only mourning for her friend, but remembering how he encouraged her as a kid — all of these beautiful, affirmative words that guided her: “Be someone that is loved by others,” or, “Instead of letting your life be dark and gloomy, you should make it an adventure.”
This section of the drama feels a bit like a side story, but it’s actually crucial to Eun-young, who she is, and where she’ll land at the end of the drama. The same can be said for the other plot arc of HYE-MIN (Song Hee-jun), the mite-eater that pops up as a new student at the school. Eun-young’s firm intention to change this being’s fate is quite interesting and takes up a lot of our screen time.
At first this arc feels tangential. While we do learn some crucial things from Hye-min about the school’s founding (that the Apji Stone is covering a breathing hole, that the strong energy there feeds on the laughter of the students, and that the area has long been fought over), there’s actually a lot more to the storyline than the facts Eun-young and In-pyo gather.
Thematically, the Hye-min plot arc is a lot about the burden (or maybe even dharma) of being a person with a supernatural job to carry out, and people to protect. Hye-min must wander around the school grounds and eat/destroy the dangerous mites. Similarly, Eun-young must see and fight off the jellies no matter where she is — even though it seems like she’d rather be doing anything else.
This odd little look at guje (“saving others from trouble”) versus freedom turns out to be an important theme of the story — because a world without her powers is exactly what Eun-young soon experiences.
The School Nurse Files is definitely the sort of drama that you either attach to as a viewer, or don’t – and for me, it’s the former. Despite the weirdness, there is something about the world of this story that drew me in. From the execution, to the content and tone, there’s nothing here that feels like good old dramaland — instead, The School Nurse Files feels like something else entirely. But it’s a good something, and I think it works for me the most because buried under all the bizarre happenings, there’s a deep and layered story going on. Whether you look at it as an allegory, social satire, or just an incredibly strange fantasy, there’s no lack of thematic substance.
While it goes without saying that it’s the story and plot that make The School Nurse Files so unique, the execution of those things are what bring the drama to life on the screen. It’s almost as if the mechanics of the storytelling are what make it stand out.
That the direction is fantastic almost goes without saying, but it’s actually the music and sound editing that kept catching my attention in every episode. Whether it’s the crazy ducks quacking by, the strangely satisfying *bop* when Eun-young hits a student with her plastic sword, the whale-like warble of the jellies, or the awesome soundtrack — the use of sound in this drama was pretty remarkable.
With only six episodes in total, there’s a lot of plot that comes together in Episode 6. Converging plot lines and the sense of disparate details coming together is one of my favorite feelings in any kind of storytelling, so I almost wish that The School Nurse Files lingered here a little longer. There are a lot of great reveals that, even though they still packed a nice punch, would have been even more enjoyable with a little more time to see them unpacked.
One of these elements is the nefarious mark that’s been slowly growing on the back on Eun-young’s neck during the second half of the drama — it becomes a signifier of one of our important twists: that Eun-young loses her supernatural vision. Though it seems like this is what she’s always wanted, we also see Eun-young withdraw from life for a bit of a consequence. She resigns as the school nurse, and distances herself from not only her friend Hwa-soo, but In-pyo as well.
Is it an identity crisis, or a period of rest for Eun-young? We don’t sit very long with this question, and instead, see that even though Eun-young might not be able to see the jellies anymore, she still feels responsible for what’s happening at the school.
As hinted before, the swirl of dangerous activity is only getting more so, and Mok-ryun High School without Eun-young there to keep it in check, is a seriously scary place. Even though In-pyo and Eun-young have temporarily parted ways, they both continue investigating the strange organizations that are behind the school basement.
The details and side characters are really nicely pulled together, so I won’t spoil the plot points here, but what’s clear is that both Eun-young and In-pyo — without realizing it — have played a part in a long-running territory battle that’s been going on for generations. And the part that they’ll play once they realize it is the climax of the drama.
A drama as unique as The School Nurse Files is as hard to summarize as it is to explain, but if there’s a note we end on, it’s that Eun-young’s crazy, colorful, and complicated world is a special one. Eun-young might not have a choice when it comes to regaining her powers, but in the conclusion of our story, we see Eun-young reach a point of acceptance with her world.
Though I would have liked a little more time for our story’s final battle and conclusion to play out, it was still satisfying to see the story come together and our couple join forces (and hands) for keeps.
There’s an exchange between Eun-young and In-pyo near the end of the drama that seems to sum up essence of The School Nurse Files as a production, and as a story. Eun-young is bragging about how great it is to live a normal life without powers, but In-pyo isn’t impressed — in fact, he’s even a little disappointed. Rather than being like everyone else, he says: “I think it’s better to be weird than to be ordinary.”
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