Twenty Five Twenty One: Episodes 11-12 Open Thread
Part of growing up means learning to choose what’s most important to you – to identify what you’re willing to give up versus what you won’t ever compromise on, no matter what. And while sometimes it’s important to dig your heels in and endure, other times it takes far more courage and maturity to let go and walk away.
EPISODES 11-12 WEECAP
We get lots of change and growth this week, starting with an entire episode dedicated (mostly) to Hee-do and her mom. But here’s where one of my only frustrations with this show comes into play, because more than ever, this episode made me feel like the very same growth that was happening in the past storyline was happening again in the present. But there’s no specific reason for it to be happening again right now, as opposed to any time during the past decade or so.
Maybe you could argue that it’s because we’re seeing the present through Min-chae’s eyes instead of Hee-do’s, and that Min-chae was simply unaware of certain dynamics until she read about them from Hee-do’s point of view. But I wonder if it would have been a better choice to have Hee-do be the one to find her own diary and revisit her youth as she navigates parenting a teen. Then the present-day story would carry more weight.
In any case, the main conflict that Hee-do and her mom face this week has to do with Hee-do’s dad and how Hee-do’s mom has dealt with that loss. Or, more accurately, how she hasn’t really dealt with it. Desperate to succeed as a newscaster, Hee-do’s mom has pushed all of her emotions aside time and time again, sacrificing family for professionalism.
She even missed her own husband’s funeral because she volunteered to report on breaking news instead, to prove herself after being chewed out for not performing well enough. Though they haven’t spoken of it, Hee-do’s never forgiven her.
In the 1999 timeline, as Dad’s memorial date approaches, Hee-do notices that the wooden chairs he made for the family have fallen into disrepair. Mom promises to take them to the carpenter and get them fixed, but – wouldn’t you know it – on the promised day, breaking news crops up again. And, again, Mom chooses going the extra mile at work over her promise to Hee-do.
Mom expects Hee-do to understand her choices just because Hee-do is almost an adult now. But Hee-do retorts that she’s still emotionally stuck at 13 from the impact of losing her father and essentially being abandoned by her mother on the same day.
That finally gets through to Mom – though she takes her time showing it. She does get the chairs repaired, but she still doesn’t say anything and lets Hee-do think she’s thrown them out. Hee-do only finds out the truth when she takes the initiative to ask the carpenter for lessons so she can make new chairs and happens to see the originals in his workshop.
Still, Mom is trying. She takes Hee-do to visit Dad’s grave for what appears to be the first time since his passing. There, Mom completely breaks down, sobbing in Hee-do’s arms and admitting she does miss him desperately (a fact she’d earlier denied).
To hammer home this turning point in their relationship, present-day Mom promises Hee-do that she won’t abandon her, because she was absent for so much of Hee-do’s youth.
Then we put the past behind us for now as our high schoolers start looking to the not-so-distant future. They’re entering their senior year, and that means some pretty big choices will need to be made.
To start, Ji-woong cooks up a plan to confess to Yoo-rim and make their relationship official. He wants to do it onstage at his band’s concert, but extra fencing training gets scheduled for that same day. Ji-woong goes to Yi-jin for advice… and Yi-jin fibs to Coach Yang that he needs Yoo-rim and Hee-do for a last-minute interview and takes them to the concert instead.
It’s a lovely night all around. Instead of the big, showy gesture he’d imagined, Ji-woong confesses silently, mouthing the words as he and Yoo-rim lock eyes across the crowd, which is honestly far more intimate and moving.
Meanwhile, Yi-jin fills in for the band’s guitarist, flashing back to his carefree high school days as he does. Inspired, Hee-do convinces him to re-record a particularly encouraging script from the broadcast club, which Seung-wan plays over the speakers to reassure all the students stressing over upcoming exams.
That stress of impending graduation mounts by the day, impacting each student differently. One fencer, for example, has lost her love for the sport and wants to try a different path in life. Coach Yang, however, refuses to let her quit. Hee-do and Yoo-rim stand up for their teammate by walking out of practice in protest, and finally, after taking them all to task, Coach Yang relents on one condition: the girl must advance to the quarterfinals in the next competition.
With extra coaching from Hee-do and Yoo-rim, she does exactly that. Coach Yang tries to convince her to finish this competition since she’s made it this far, but the girl sticks to her decision: she’s done with fencing and free to choose what she does want to do with the next stage of her life.
And that brings me to Seung-wan. She’s witnessed a teacher beating Ji-woong – and other students – on multiple occasions, and finally snaps. Instead of distracting the teacher, she confronts him. And when he dares her to call the police, she looks him dead in the eyes and does.
Infuriatingly, the police side with the teacher and superintendent, who don’t even try to deny the use of corporal punishment (which has only recently been “banned” and is fully up to individual schools to interpret as they see fit).
All Seung-wan can do is call the teacher out on her pirate radio broadcast, and naturally he finds out. He orders her to apologize in front of the entire school, but Seung-wan won’t be cowed. Rather than act as though she did something wrong, she instead chooses to drop out of school.
It’s not an easy decision, but it’s the only one that gives her any sort of peace. Her mom, being awesome, first confirms Seung-wan understands what she’s doing and lets her cry, and then marches into school to make sure everyone knows exactly why she’s pulling her daughter out, demanding an apology for Ji-woong while they’re at it.
Seung-wan puts on a heartbreakingly cheerful face as she says her goodbyes. She and the former fencer meet on their way out of school, and they literally climb over the gate together to freedom.
With all these chapters closing, the end of a millennium arrives, along with Y2K fears. The friends gather on New Year’s Eve, and though none of them really believes the world is about to end, Seung-wan, Ji-woong, and Yoo-rim decide to spend the final minutes of 1999 with their families. Just in case.
That leaves Hee-do and Yi-jin alone together. As the clock counts down, Hee-do makes a split-second decision and leans in to kiss Yi-jin, just as one year ends and a new one begins.
- Premiere Watch: Forecasting Love and Weather, Twenty Five Twenty One
- Watching dramas with Kim Tae-ri in new promos for Twenty Five Twenty One
- Kim Tae-ri and Nam Joo-hyuk reminisce about summer in Twenty Five Twenty One
- Looking back on 1998 with Kim Tae-ri and Nam Joo-hyuk in Twenty-Five Twenty-One
- Casting lineup complete for youth drama Twenty-Five, Twenty-One