Rating:
Average user rating 4.7
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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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“I think it’s better to be weird than to be ordinary.”

One more reason to like this show.

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"It's better to be weird than to be ordinary"

Thanks @missvictrix for a great review. You've really captured what I loved about this show. It was something that resonated with me.

There's a really strong theme running through this whole thing about
the siren call of conformity, fitting-in, being a part of the herd and whether you can have the courage to embrace the parts of yourself that make you different. Not just from people around you but from what society tells you you're supposed to be. Watching Eun-young sink into 'normality' like a hot bath was so understandable but at the same time you know that's not an option for her. She is who she is and she has people who love her for who she is.

Eun-young's fight against the Jellies literally drains her emotional energy and you could feel her exhaustion as the endless fight at the school coupled with grief at her friend's death drained her to the point where she lost her ability to fight altogether. When Mackenzie said to her that she would "end up dead and not even know that she was dead", I think this is what he was referring to. Complete emotional burnout. And the show dealt with all of this with such deftness and in only six episodes. In that respect, even if parts were a bit rushed and even handwaved, the show was a masterpiece. It's one of my favourites for this year.

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Hear Hear!

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Can I just say that the Hye-min storyline was particularly poignant and important. This character successfully transitioned from being trapped within the structural confines and expectations imposed on them to become freely the person they wanted to be. And then, to have a relationship with the pop idol? I may have cheered.

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I agree and the parallels between her and Eun-young were profound in multiple ways.

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Also the Hye-mi thing highlighted how society - not as a concept but as a group of people - try to keep everyone in their place. And that terrible scene with everyone judging Hye-min and Gadi's relationship and that awful cruel laughter. It was aligned nicely with the idea of 'Safe Happiness'. Be happy but do it within these parameters. And the school motto being 'laughter brings luck' (or something similar). That laughter can be cruel and vicious and judgmental and directed at you if you don't fit within the box you've been given. These bottom-feeding emotion creatures eat laughter but that laughter doesn't have to be due to happiness. It can be due to bullying and conformity instead.

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That scene... it was so grotesque but really quite necessary to peel back the facade.

When it was first revealed that Hye-mi was a mite eater my gut reaction was revulsion, but then to learn more, the oppressiveness of their recurring fate was so sad. There is not enough antacid in the world to make that better.

The 5.38 km radius was so specific, I wonder if there is some significance to that number.

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Hair
Cushions
5.38km

The list of things that probably mean something to a domestic audience but are a complete mystery to me starts here.

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oh gosh..that reminds me... I can't even begin to imagine how the heck they knotted all those armpit hair!

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Yes. I wondered about cushion part too!

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And the way they cheated on the exam was fucking brilliant. Never would’ve I thought of such a thing ever.

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That scene felt way too familiar and close to the bone. Yuk.
But I found it really interesting that drama associates that feverish manic state to meanness - people weren't in their right mind, they were bounding over being awful and were kind of possessed by that bad energy... That characterization reminded me of real life destructive collective frenzy situations (there are loads of examples, I'll just mention witch hunts and public executions, from which we have a safe historical detachment), and I find really suggestive.

*Not trying to excuse them or anything! You need to have that crap somewhere inside of you in order to be able to spew it out, I'm just analysing social dynamics here

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That laughter was even more vicious and cruel when compared with InPyo reaction. He was in shock, as was I.

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I won’t spoil the plot points here

Sigh. I got a little confused as was hoping for a nice explanation.

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Same here!

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Hm. At first I decided I liked the Netflix-y feel of this drama, but in the end I found it vaguely dissatisfying... like a lot of Netflix shows, ultimately more style than substance because there's a whole lotta style and yet the same cheery message as every other Netflix show. It's like a Chinese ministry churning out campus dramas, or Disney in its family values heyday.

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I think if Season 2 will happen, then there was a chances of future or a lot of new battles sees the potential romance of Eun-young and Im-pyo.

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I'm normally a fan of dramas cutting out the fat and going for a shorter episode count, but this was one of the rare cases where I really wanted MORE. Episode 5 was definitely the standout for me in terms of quality and emotional story-telling. It was also when I felt like I was finally getting used to the show's quirks and starting to understand it's lore. So it was a real disappointment that there was only one episode after it that didn't really feel completely conclusive. I find both Eun Young and Im Pyo rich enough characters to explore more of, so I hope a season 2 is not out of the realm of possibility. Jung Yumi and Nam Joo Hyuk were a great pair as well.

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That is a good battle cry as any. “I think it’s better to be weird than to be ordinary.” Ordinary is boring anyway.

I want moooorree! Please tell me they are considering a season 2!

I want to see more of Eun Young and In-pyo battle out the jellies and other supernatural forces at the school.

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I found the scenario confusing, some characters suddenly peep out and disapear... It let me the impression that the story was rushed.

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Liked this drama a lot, but also got the feeling that it wasn't complete. And some things were just elliptical - like they just jumped from the destruction of the school to a new identical school with different staff and healthy students? But who rebuilt it? Why would Eunyoung and Inpyo agree to keep a bunch of teenagers hanging out near such a charged place? That felt jarring toe me.
Got the feeling that the drama was made with the intention of developing some threads on a second season. I'd love to see Grandad's story, how the organisation came to be and Hwasu's role in it, how Inpyo came to his shield (is it natural or did he get it when he went fishing at the other magic pond with Grandad?), ... I hope they get to make a second season, I really want to spend more time in this world!

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This one is a definite rewatch for me! Still wrapping my mind around the different ways it can be interpreted 💚

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Yes. I first got scared by the first episode, but I got used to its weird style of storytelling when time passed. I also think it’s loaded with many things to interpret. Might watch it again.

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This drama I feel and would agree with other beanies ultimately comes down to conformity. It is one of those really interesting things because from the format, to the length of the episodes, to the number of episodes itself, it tried to go against the grain. The disgusting aspects I think were meant to symbolize the rather disgusting and messy aspects of life that are frankly quite normal, but we as a society Korean or otherwise have made to seem abnormal. In the same token the show recognizes that while it is okay to be disgusted at some things other things just make you cruel and inhumane. Thst was my takeaway anyway. I enjoyed every piece of this lovely and odd drama and I hope to see more like it.

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@missvictrix Thank you for another recap. I truly believe that this drama would've benefited from being a little longer. I feel as if certain plot elements were rushed or not even addressed ( example: What made In-pyo believe Eun-young and start working with her?). Still, I did really enjoy watching The School Nurse Files.

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Umm..what was the point in destroying the school if they rebuild it at the same place? Did they destroy the creature (if it was one) or they let it out so that it could wreak havoc over a much larger area?

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It's all pretty handwavey but the way I understood it, Eun-young and In-pyo felt it was best to destroy the school because they weren't in a position to protect the school without Eun-young's abilities. But then she got them back so with In-pyo as a battery she's able to return to cleaning up jellies. Plus with In-pyo's position they were then able to just get rid of the Safe Happiness employees and remove the laughing exercises (which were partly fueling the problem).

I've also seen some people say the offscreen Big Boss fight (if it was one) might have helped make the school safer to return to. Unless they decided it wasn't going to hurt anybody since it just looked like a giant heart gummy? They probably didn't just let it go walkabout though lol

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I've interpreted it differently. For me this was about Eun-young dealing with her own feelings about being different, crazy and 'weird'.

When Eun-young ran around the school collecting the mites for Hye-mi she was helping her to fulfil her responsibilities so she could go through with the surgery and embrace ordinary without guilt. The reason Eun-young went back to the school was to try to do the same thing for herself - deal with the pond once and for all so she could embrace ordinary without guilt.

Once she got there she realised it wasn't possible. Unlike Hye-mi, her task was eternal because helping children grow up is not a set defined task, it's an ongoing process.

Ultimately the pond creature only grew that big because it was being fed the repressed emotions of the students being forced into 'Safe Happiness'. Once you give them permission to be themselves and run the school as a more free institution then the emotions generated are something she can deal with herself.

To me, the giant heart gummy was HER heart. When she looked into the pond what she also saw was her own repressed emotions that had led her to repress her own abilities. What she let out was her own feelings, giving herself permission to be different, to be weird and accepting the responsibility of caring for people for the rest of her life.

Anyway, that's what the ending meant to me so them rebuilding the school didn't seem unusual to me.

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Oh wow, that's a really poetic interpretation, I love it!

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Thank you for the review! One thing I noticed that I really found a cool worldbuilding choice is how usually a ghost-seeing protagonist is isolated *because* of their abilities but Nurse Files made it rather clear that there are plenty of people running around with the same ability. And Eun-young knows a fair number of them but still ends up relatively isolated. Which isn't to say jelly-vision doesn't make for a terrible childhood and a lot of trauma, so of course Eun-young would rather not have it tyvm but when she does lose them, she actually just ends up isolating herself even further from the people who liked her for who she is. Eun-young's choice to continue researching the basement anyways and the eventual (even if somewhat unwanted) return of her powers and relationship with In-pyo really ends up contributing nicely to the "it's better to be weird" theme

I feel like there are a lot pieces in the main narrative I'd have like expanded on (Safe Happiness vs Ilgwang, how Il-pyo's grandfather plays into those organizations, the last fight(?) that was skipped past, exactly how old is Hwa-su???, how was Eun-young involved with Safe Happiness, and so much more) but at the same time, I love the messy slice-of-life structure and I think that's really a big part of the show's charm. It kinda takes you for a ride and you either love it or leave with a fear of cgi slime.

(Most of all though, I want that OST)

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I loved this second half, got terribly emotional with Kang Sun death and learning about the special bond he and Eun Young shared. It made me realize how lonely had Eun Young's life has been. It made it even more hurtful when she discovered her one friend (besides InPyo) was not a true friend. Keeping the world a safe place shouldn't have to feel this lonely.

I kept loving students this second half )specially Jellyfish mainly living in infirmary) and the way they assume things just because: "hey, Nurse Ahn, help us with our friend that was turned to life a couple of days ago and will die when she's 20 only after she eats all the mites". I loved, loved, loved this. Every single assumption of something weird as an ordinary thing. Yes!

I also felt like things and people were left unexplained, and the action rushed. I would have wanted some more answers to my questions, but I accept the weirdness of not knowing, and I will embrace a second season if we are gifted with one.

P.S. I hope ducks survived.

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“I think it’s better to be weird than to be ordinary" summed up how I felt about The School Nurse Files. If the first half was weirdly fun then the second was profoundly weird.

The Hye-min arc may have been my favorite of the show with all of the symbolism about breaking out of the box that society puts people in. The scene where In-pyo and Eun-Young drive Hye-min past the 5.38km radius was lovely.

Another moment I loved was in Episode 6 when Eun-Young points to the open cabinet with all of her jellie-fighting paraphernalia and calls them eerie and In-pyo relies that they are, but he loves them. Is that a confession, or what. I may have swooned.

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This show introduced me to Yoo Teo. A German born Korean multicultural actor. And now I'm intrigued to know more lol! Glad and super excited to see him be the main lead with Soo Ae in the next SBS show (Misty writer) and all. Also his look in this show is oddly quite attractive ha!

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He was pretty hot as a villain in Money Game

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Yay! Congrats for discovering Yoo Teo! He's great and I'm excited he finally got a drama lead role! Wohooo 🥳

Rise Yoo Teo Rise!!!!

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The thing I realized in my short K-drama watch time is how many attractive and talented actors there are, but how many are undiscovered, untapped potential, or second leads rn.

Good on him for landing his first drama lead role with a big/respected FL/Crew!! Hope its a good drama/role!

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He was in the early episodes of Chocolate. Loved him in it! I didn't recognize him in this. Only realized it was him when I noticed how good-looking this Mackenzie is and had to look him up!

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He has an interesting heritage/background. Very multicultural guy, lived/born in Germany, lived in NYC, London, and Korea. His wife is super cool, and it speaks very highly of him b/c she's a respected artist.

Plus this video he made for his fans haha: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqvEVCAZIIc

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I didn’t recognize him at first , but then he started speaking English and I was wowed by it; not many Korean actors speak English that well. I had looked him up once when he was in Chocolate and realized back then that he is actually very talented at least in terms of languages, so I began to recognize him here. He looks different but he is still our dear Min-seong!

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I felt this weird chemistry between the lead guy and his female friend in his room... I was ready to see where it could lead...

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Hey! First of all I would like to say that this show was magnificent and so is this review which captures the essence of the show. There are a few things that I am a bit confused about so I was hoping may be you guys could do a recap of sorts, if it's not much of a trouble. I would be really grateful. :)

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Hellllo! We're reviewing instead of recapping this (awesome) drama, but as for your questions, ask away! The Open Thread posts are also a good place to chat (with spoilers!) ;)

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