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My Liberation Notes: Episodes 15-16 (Final)

We’ve reached the end of our story, but our characters’ stories are far from over. Although it’s not the type of drama to give us happily-ever-afters, we do end on a hopeful note. Some character arcs felt more resolved than others which might’ve been intentional. This is a drama that’s all about the journey, not the destination. And what a memorable journey it’s been.

 
EPISODES 15-16 WEECAP

We pick back up with Mi-jung and Gu rediscovering the comfort they shared, falling back into their habit of sharing whatever’s on their minds. Mi-jung and Gu continue seeing each other regularly, although Gu hopes to part ways before he sinks further and shows her the worst of himself. No matter who he becomes and how far he falls, he wants Mi-jung to know that he really, truly likes her.

Gu’s alcoholism is getting so bad that even Chairman Shin talks to him about it, noting that it’s now impacting his work. He urges Gu to get help before it ruins him. Rather than going to rehab or getting more therapy – it seems like he half-heartedly tried that before but didn’t make much progress – Gu talks to Mi-jung.

He tells her that he drinks to quiet the voices of those from his past who haunt him when he’s sober. His anger consumes and exhausts him, so he starts and ends the day drinking. It’s also a form of punishment, never allowing himself to be happy.

Mi-jung can relate to his anger, understanding what it’s like to exhaust yourself by hating others. She’s spent so long hating her ex that she now doesn’t even want him to pay her back – she’d rather keep having someone to blame and direct her anger toward.

She’d even planned on ruining his wedding, but before she could do anything, Gu called and asked to meet. Mi-jung says it’s like he was stopping her from hitting rock bottom, protecting her.

Gu does eventually ask about Chang-hee, which is kind of sweet. I love the begrudging relationship he has with him, like he’s an annoying little brother who he can’t help but kind of like. It seems Chang-hee has been doing quite well for himself. He’s now the owner of a convenience store after trying and failing to start a business.

He even managed to pay off his father’s debt. Chang-hee didn’t want it to affect his dad’s relationship with his new wife, so he worked hard to repay the loan. That leads to Chang-hee finally getting to hear his father compliment him and acknowledge his hard work. Je-ho is still stoic, but he’s more sensitive and forthcoming with his family now.

Things are going less well for the siblings on the relationship front. Chang-hee and Hyun-ah recently had a hard breakup. Chang-hee attributed their relationship struggles to the fact that he’s doing well – Hyun-ah needs someone she can fix. Chang-hee ends it with the promise that, if she ever wants to come back and he’s single, they can try again.

As for Ki-jung, she’s struggling in her relationship with Tae-hoon. Sun-kyung and Yu-rim still haven’t accepted her, and the tension is infecting everything. The couple decided to marry when Yu-rim is 20, but it’s hard to say if they’ll be able to hold out until then. Although they love each other, it’s clear they both feel like a burden to the other. Despite that, they keep pressing forward.

Tae-hoon, especially, seems unhappy and even depressed. He’s still feeling trapped, and the family tension is weighing on him. On the bright side, the Liberation Club is back in business! They meet up again after a long time and reflect on what they accomplished.

While the club lady feels more liberated, Tae-hoon doesn’t – nothing really changed. Mi-jung argues that, even if not much has changed, enlightening themselves about their own issues is progress. They decide to keep meeting and continue striving for liberation. Yay! I love this little group.

Mi-jung may not be fully liberated yet, but she’s on her way. After reading her old diaries from childhood, she realizes that she’s always had more passion than she gave herself credit for. She looks so much more content with her new job and her life in general. She even manages to be civil when running into her ex who finally apologizes and promises to pay her back.

Meanwhile, Chang-hee continues to help take care of Hyun-ah’s ex Hyuk-soo who is barely holding on. In Hyuk-soo’s final moments, it’s not his mom or Hyun-ah but Chang-hee who is by his side. Chang-hee notes that it’s always like this – he was there for his grandparents and his mother in the end, too. He holds Hyuk-soo’s hand and offers comforting words, sitting with him until he passes.

Chang-hee has observed multiple times that he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. That once again holds true when he goes to attend an art history lecture but ends up in the wrong room. He chuckles when he realizes it’s a class for people preparing for a funeral director license. Chang-hee smiles and stays for the lecture, looking like he’s just maybe found his purpose.

Elsewhere, Gu deals with trouble at the club. His work hyung has racked up quite the gambling debt, and his debtors come to the club to collect. Gu barely manages to fight them off, but his hyung takes the money and runs.

Gu puts into practice Mi-jung’s advice to welcome those who have wronged him rather than holding onto anger. He calls his hyung and admits he’s now one of the people he curses when he’s sober, but he’ll welcome him back when they meet again. Gu then takes his personal stash of cash and heads out (to repay his hyung’s debt?).

In voiceover, Mi-jung reveals that she wrote in her Liberation Notes that her life is divided into before and after meeting Gu. (He agrees). As Gu walks along the street, he again takes Mi-jung’s advice and notes the little things that make him momentarily happy, trudging forward step-by-step with a smile. Mi-jung continues she feels lovable now, and her heart is only filled with love. We end on Mi-jung smiling brightly.

That’s the end?! I expected an open ending, but I’d hoped for more resolution. Gu’s life is still a toxic mess, and he never got the help he needed. One thing that bothered me was how lightly the drama treated his alcoholism. Gu had a serious and dangerous problem that required therapy or rehab, not just a shift in perspective. While I loved his and Mi-jung’s connection, she shouldn’t have to be his therapy. It’s not fair, healthy, or sustainable.

I also felt Ki-jung’s arc fell a little flat. Where was her growth? She still made thoughtless, prejudiced remarks and seemed to judge her worth by her relationship status. Don’t even get me started on that unhealthy relationship with Tae-hoon where no one looked happy yet, for some reason, the drama seemed to expect me to root for them. I wanted more for both Ki-jung and Tae-hoon’s characters.

On the other hand, I really liked where we left Chang-hee. I loved the unexpected move of him studying to become a funeral director, which is a great fit for him. He seemed the most adrift of the siblings, and I’m happy he found direction.

And then, there’s Mi-jung who I loved from start to finish. Watching her blossom into a happier, more confident version of herself was so satisfying. By the end, she’d let go of a lot of her anger and made room for more love in her life. And how great is it that her Liberation Club lives on, giving her and each of them the support to continue on their journeys?

While I can’t say I loved each of our characters’ endings, I did love spending the past eight weeks with all of them. It wasn’t always an easy watch, but there was a raw beauty to witnessing these imperfect characters navigate the messiness of life and find their own version of liberation.

 
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I spent the last few episodes of this show holding my breath. As the end approached, I began to worry. Where is this writer taking us? Is she taking us anywhere at all? I so wanted to have faith in her, but I also didn’t want to get my hopes up.

But that finale, and the way it brought everything together in my mind and in my heart, was… wonderful.

Is this an unpopular opinion? I’m not sure. I’m writing this completely free of anyone else’s thoughts. I’ve let myself ruminate over the show for about a day now. I knew how I felt the minute we saw the last frame, but I wanted to be sure. I went on a walk this morning, letting my mind wander, letting myself see the story from multiple different angles.

And I love it.

I love the idea that liberation is a long-term, even life-long process. It is not something that happens magically, without putting in real work. It is not a single moment, or a single person, that makes us change for good. No matter what we are liberating ourselves from–addiction, depression, self-hatred, hatred of others, anything–perhaps the most we can ask of ourselves is to try to find those few seconds of happiness and freedom at a time. When we find ourselves falling again, for days or months or years, perhaps the most we can do is be kind to ourselves and get back up and start over again.

When this show began, I never felt that the writer was building a world, but rather that the world had already been built and we were plopped down right in the middle of these characters’ lives. We leave their lives in a similar fashion, knowing that these characters have their entire lives ahead of them. We won’t be able to witness it, but we do have the hope that, little by little, they are all working their ways towards liberation.

The hardest thing for me to connect to in this drama was Gu, and his relationship with Mi-jeong. This I know is an unpopular opinion, because I watched as the show gained the popularity it deserved and they were the hottest topic of conversation. But when I saw them, I didn’t feel particularly happy or unhappy. It was the weak point of a show with a tapestry of characters with full, rich inner lives… but watching the finale was revelatory to me. Gu and Mi-jeong, despite their vastly different lives and their different issues, are kindred spirits. They understand each other on a foundational level, even with their differences.

I’m glad that this show has called Gu’s alcoholism for what it is. I also noticed multiple points in the story where characters make a point to say not to drink and drive, and it makes me wonder if the writer has personal experience with alcoholism–either first or second-hand. The show doesn’t romanticize his drinking, and it was good to see that his colleagues confronted him about it. I think this show’s discussions about therapy are interesting. I don’t think the writer is saying that therapy doesn’t work. Many people seem to think of therapy as a cure-all...

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Everyone will magically be better if they go to a therapist, right? But no, that’s not always how it works. While some people make great gains just from seeing a therapist, there are too many factors into play for it to magically work for everyone. Not every therapist is good. Not everyone is ready to see the benefits of therapy when they do go. When Gu told his ex to get therapy in an earlier episode, I cringed. A few years ago, when I was at my absolute lowest point, a friend of mine told me that I needed therapy. All that did was throw me further into despair. I was not in a state of mind where therapy would have helped me. I can perfectly envision how him saying that pushed her over the edge, and I can see how he would be unwilling to make therapy work for himself as well. Seeking professional help is important, but there are so many facets of our lives that are also important in our journey towards liberation that therapy alone can’t always fix, and sometimes the benefits therapy gives us aren’t apparent until much later.

And I don’t think the show is saying that Mi-jeong is Gu’s magical fix, either. She has given him some useful tools to use on his journey towards liberation, but only he can enact the change needed to break free. This writer does a great job at showing how important the people around us are for our journeys without saying that one particular person can fix all of our woes. They are each other's support, but not their final solution. Someone can help us from stepping off that ledge, but walking away from it completely is a longer, more complex process.

Speaking of Mi-jeong, I love how we were shown that the Mi-jeong in the past few episodes wasn’t her “liberated” self. She didn’t fall apart when Gu left, but I think her journey had stagnated a bit. She made some respectable changes in her life, and I think she honestly does feel more fulfilled at her new job, but she is still on her journey towards liberation. When she told Gu about almost hoping that Chan-hyeok wouldn’t pay her back because then she couldn’t hate him as much, I felt it in my soul. Mi-jeong has a self-victimizing streak that I see in myself, and seeing her overcome that, even for a little bit, made me feel liberated. And I think that’s the joy in watching this show, right? I see myself, even just small pieces of myself, in all of the characters, and seeing their little gains makes them feel like my gains. Seeing the Liberation Club start back up again made me SO happy, and it really brought home the idea that our “liberation” is something that we constantly need to strive towards, need to fight for. It’s easy for us to lose sight of our goals and to return to what is familiar, but what matters is that we always have the opportunity to start again.

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While there is a lot to love about all of the character journeys, I think the most well-written of all is Chang-hee’s. I was surprised to realize these past few weeks that the man who I thought was the definition of an extrovert wasn’t that at all. A common mistake many people make, including myself, is thinking that someone being talkative and bright means that they are extroverted, that they love being around people. But that’s not how it works. Chang-hee is a very compassionate person, which we’ve seen from the beginning with how much effort he puts into his job and helping the store owners. But it’s also a huge drain on him having to deal with these people all of the time. I thought it was brilliant where the writer took his character, and I think becoming a funeral director fits him like a glove, as macabre as it may seem. Helping other people pass is something that comes to him naturally. Dealing with the problems of the living is taxing for him, and his compassionate energy is better channeled towards aiding the families of those who have already gone. It might seem cheesy, but I loved how he was bathed in a golden light when he was holding Hyeok-su’s hand. Actual angel Yeom Chang-hee. He spent so much time worrying about how people viewed him, and it was such a relief to see him embrace something other than the material. I love how he manages to be both abrasive and soft. Even at his most annoying, even when he is crossing lines by intruding on Gu, moving his bottles, etc., he has good intentions. He may complain about Gi-jeong and they may fight often, but he turns out to have a deep understanding and love for his family. I just love how the writer took me in a direction I didn’t expect at all with him, but one that ended up being surprisingly perfect.

For the longest time I was shipping him and Hyeon-a and was so happy when the show seemed to be headed towards making them a couple. I think it’s a testament to how well this writer established these characters that I perfectly understand how their relationship ended. We were only given a few scenes, but they were enough. Chang-hee was so understanding of Hyeon-a that it hurt, and I could see how that could scare someone like her. But their story isn’t completely finished yet, and I like that they left it open-ended. Just because they are not right for each other right now doesn’t mean that they won’t be in the future.

Also, a quick aside, I laughed so much I had to pause the episode when Mi-jeong was in Gu’s arms, her eyes closed, and Gu says, “How is Chang-hee doing?” and her eyes fly open like “You are embracing me and you’re asking about my BROTHER”. Okay, maybe that’s not what she was thinking, but it’s what I was thinking, and it made me laugh. I wish we had seen Gu and Chang-hee’s reunion!

As for Gi-jeong, I’m so proud of her for not running away. Gi-jeong always seemed to be such a fragile person. She made me laugh the most out of all the siblings, but in a way that...

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She made me laugh the most out of all the siblings, but in a way that sometimes made me feel bad for her. She always seemed to be taking the “easy” way out. Even when she sets up these ludicrously complex plans, like having Chang-hee and Du-hwan push her over after her love confession, it’s the easiest way out in her mind because she doesn’t have the courage to face the rejection. I became worried at the whole tone of her relationship with Tae-hun towards the end and was bracing myself for a break-up, but I love that they instead want to make it work. I love that Gi-jeong finally got the opportunity to be the “pick-up girl” she always knew she would be. Seriously, that scene was PERFECT and had me howling with laughter. There were so many great callbacks to earlier episodes, and I loved this one the most.

And what I love the most about all of this is that I never felt like the show was beating me over the head with what I should think. I really feel that the writer wanted to give the audience room to think, and feel, and spend time with her show and her characters. People often comment about how so many shows seem to treat their audiences as idiots, and this is a great example of a show that actually trusted its audience (and because of that, it might not seem perfectly neat or tidy). I think some find the monologues pretentious, and I’ve seen that same thought leveled at some of my other favorite dramas, like this writer’s My Ajusshi, or my beloved Because This Life is Our First, but I love them. Lee Min-ki said in an interview recently that he was unsure of how well some of the writing would resonate with audiences, because his experience reading the script was so different from what people would experience watching it live. He had the time to really pour over the lines, making notes of his favorites, but you don’t necessarily get that luxury when watching something live… unless you’re like me and take 3 hours to watch one episode because you keep pausing to jot down the timecodes of your favorite lines which you will inevitably revisit and want to write down in your own Liberation Diary. Yes, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. Thank you, writer Park Hae-young.

I’ve seen such a wide variety of opinions about this show before the finale, and so many different takeaways, that I’m sure my interpretation of the story will vary wildly from everyone else’s. To be honest, part of me doesn’t want to read any other opinions. There is something precious about feeling like a piece of art is wholly yours. That only your experience matters, and nothing else can tarnish it. But I am sure I will gather up the courage to read what others think anyway, because I know there is too much richness here for me to be satisfied with only seeing everything from my own perspective. Park Hae-young’s writing deserves more than that, and I’m trying to prepare myself to hear what others have to say about it. Maybe that’ll be in an hour. Maybe in a day...

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Maybe in a day. Maybe in a year. I’m not sure when I’ll be ready yet.

There are many different emotions that dramas elicit from me, but there’s one particular one that I don’t know how to describe that I’m always chasing. I guess the closest word I can find for it is “awe”. It’s the very special feeling that I get when experiencing meaningful art. Some shows make me feel it fleetingly. Some make me feel it at the beginning, but not at the end. Some at the end, but not the beginning. I think I was so worried about how this show would end up that I didn’t let myself feel that way about it all the time, because when I felt it I got scared. But by the time we reached the second half of episode 16, I kind of just… let it wash all over me. And I’m glad I did. Maybe it’s making me look at certain things through rose-tinted glasses, I’m not sure, but it’s still the feeling that is elicited when I listen to the OST and think about these characters. And I hope it continues to make me feel this way. After all, the ability to make your audience feel that sense of awe is worthy of praise, isn’t it?

I’m so pleased for this cast and crew. It struggled a bit in the ratings game at first, but seeing its popularity steadily grow and watching as it consistently ranks as the most talked about drama online in Korea, and seeing all of the celebrities embracing the show, really warms my heart. Son Seok-koo has had such a unique career for an actor in the K-drama industry, and I’m so happy it seems to be paying off for him. Lee El has been one of those actors I’ve been begging to see in more things ever since Liar Game and I’m so happy to see her in a role like this. And of course, I’ve waited for five years for both Lee Min-ki and Kim Ji-won to finally do something good again, something worthy of their skills, because both of their 2017 projects were their last really good outings in my opinion. They’re both so talented, and just do not get the types of roles I really want for them. I’m so happy they signed on to this show, and I hope they get plenty of good offerings in the future as well. I’m glad that the whole production was able to finish before it aired, not affected at all by ratings or public opinion. I hope they felt as proud of this project while filming as I did while watching, and I hope to see even more greatness from everyone involved in the future.

And yes this is VERY LONG I apologize to the DB servers.

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@mindy: Don’t you dare apologise! I loved your comments. I have a head cold which has made me feel like a dead person walking but I couldn’t stop reading. Wow. May your ‘pen’ always stays truthful.

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I really lurve your expose.
Your dissertation on the characters and interpretations beats me. It is its own experience. And I ask myself why I couldn't find the words and thoughts to express it in like manner. Surely I enjoyed MLN as much as you did. And again I enjoyed your disecction of the drama.

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Thank you for your long essay, Mindy. A thoughtful take on the ending of this show, and also MLN as a whole. I'm also in awe with the drama. It's a unique watching experience and one that (I agree with you) I also wanted to hoard all for myself.

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Thanks @mindy for sharing your thoughts! I’m so glad that you have found the right word for me and also others who love My Liberation Notes - we are all IN AWE!!!!!

Having watched Kdrama since 2005, I can’t quite find another equatable experience as watching MLN (especially when I have already watched four other works of Park Hae-young). I like it without a storyline so to speak but part of a journey of those characters whom I can relate to and empathise with.

Still refusing to say goodbye but just coming in here to read the Beanies’ insight.

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Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and analysis! Don't apologize for the long post, as I quite enjoyed reading it, so thank YOU for taking the time to write and share. :) TBH - I've been reading the MLN reddit threads/subs for each episode as the community of MLN viewers there shared many insightful, deep analysis, and close readings of each episode. I feel like your comments here also reflect a deep appreciation of what this writer, cast, crew has done with this show. You might want to check out the MLN sub, or at least the final episode one and get enjoyment with reading some of close readings there too!

I'm rambling now, just wanted to say thank you for sharing your thoughts! I appreciate reading it. :D

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I’ve gotten into the habit of rating dramas once I’ve finished watching them. However, this drama feels like one that is beyond rating. I can’t give it a grade. It’s just… there. With its characters and its moments and its liberations. And though some may feel like they want a more conclusive ending, this drama was never about that. We saw a snippet of their journey, and were witness to every single character changing and improving themselves, and ultimately finding a sense of purpose, even lovability within themselves. And so show, I bid thee farewell. A standing ovation to all the actors and actresses: never has there been a more perfect example of casting and character. This would not have worked without them.

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You just perfectly said everything I was trying to say but in 2200 words less. Thank you!

This is truly a unique drama, and I applaud Park Hae-young for doing something a little less conventional with her storytelling. She (and the whole team) pulled it off beautifully.

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Haha I enjoyed reading all your posts as well! It was a very thoughtful essay that helped grow my own affection for each character as yours was so apparent, so thank YOU for that.

Also thank you @quirkycase for your prompt and lovely recaps! They were always a great read and your hard work is appreciated!! Glad we were all able to go on this 8 week journey together.

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... 👀

ah, screw it...

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I have struggled and continue to struggle personally with some of the concepts brought up in this show; the feeling of being stuck in a deep mental pit and unable to get out, the fact that getting out is an excruciatingly slow process with many ups and downs and backtracks that make it feel like any forward or upward progression is non-existent. I understand that theme and that feeling very, very well.

But only a few times throughout the show, and increasingly less and less as it went on, did the show's attempt at this subject matter actually resonate with me, or make me genuinely feel something.

I did not feel comforted or seen or emotionally connected to the show. I did not enjoy it as any exploration of anything otherwise. I did not get anything out of it. I did not truly relate to the characters I on paper have much in common with.

I felt alienated, unnerved, disconcerted even, consistently for 16 episodes. I found the characters immensely inaccessible. And frequently, I wondered what this show was actually about or trying to say because it too often seemed to be saying nothing at all, despite all attempts at otherwise.

Because you see, those pieces that did or could have resonated with me, and those lines that every so often were said that at very least were almost true, were just that; pieces. Moments. Slices. Out of context and out of place, floating ideas, individual and independent impressions.

They were not pieces in a collective and cohesive whole, woven together to form an intricate narrative or induce an emotional catharsis in resolution. In fact, they had no resolution because they were not a whole.

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The final idea that liberation is an ongoing process, that seeking and finding happiness or a contentment to carry on, is made of tiny, miniscule attempts every day- sir, I cannot express to you how much I understand this concept, I KNOW this idea very deeply in my soul- though I would not describe it in those words, thus probably altering or expanding their meaning- but nonetheless I KNOW this idea. The statement in and of itself is not bad either.

But I did not feel a... a release when this idea was announced in the final episode.
For 16 episodes I was constantly asking myself “what is happening, and why? Where is it going?.”
But when we got to the end, I did not feel that this statement had actually ANSWERED that.
Or rather, I didn’t feel that this conclusionary statement was actually a satisfying result of everything that had gone before.
There was no "ah yes so THAT'S what this was all about". Instead, I felt a contempt for how that result was played out, and, more importantly, for how we got there.

I don’t think this show truly justified that being its final statement, in its execution and in how it told any of its story.

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A fantastic example of this and why it bothers me so much, is Changhee’s narrative...

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... “conclusion.”

Changhee starts monologuing (out of nowhere and with no prior contextual set up) about a movie he’s watched that he somehow relates to or finds a particular sense of profoundness in.
The only reason this monologue is in here is to set up Hyeon Ah’s ex’s final moments and death, wherein Changhee once again plays the Last Post Angel for the Nearly Departed.

Changhee’s connection to the dead, this… ability as it were, to show up at the exact right moment to be there for someone at the end of their life, is introduced to us for the first time, in episode 14, after his mother’s death, where he tells us that this actually happened with his grandmother too. In Episode 16, we also learn that it happened with his grandfather as well, along with now his Hyung.
The show then ends his arc by him mistaking lecture rooms, ending up in an introductory course for funeral directors and deciding to stay, content that this is finally “where he is supposed to be”.

- I kid you not, I called that. As soon as he said “why does this keep happening”, I went “maybe you should go into funeral services then.” And then the show actually did … that.

My issue with this is- why is that a thing that he has to tell us HIMSELF, in EPISODE 14, and tacked onto the end of the show, the last four episodes even?
If we want to learn that that is a quality he has, and you want to make it INTO something, to juxtapose it against him always ending up magnetically attached to convenience stores or going bankrupt, or even to his sisters’ conversations about death, why isn't that WOVEN into the story throughout the whole show? And instead of us just being told, show it instead so that we put the pieces together ourselves and therefore the payoff is actually satisfying and makes sense, instead of it just being a cluster of disjointed events and dialogues.

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Another such example is, Why does the Liberation Club only have like 4 scenes in 16 hrs?
Why did we not see them for what felt like half the show, and then jump forward two years, and then get preached the supposed final message of the show? Why isn't that slowly explored and integrated better into everything else. Or, why wasn’t the club used as a background point to structure the whole show off? To draw more parallels between the familial relationships that had the most screen time and explore their personal journeys?

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Or yet another example:
The dialogue is frequently just a string of expositionary and often nonsensical monologues and voice overs.
Instead of exploring the ideas espoused in these monologues within the context of the show- characters just say stuff, and often- although not always- at random. And if *when* they say it is not random, then the thread that parses out within the dialogue itself, the *what* is random; starting off with a decent point perhaps, a point I would agree with, only to contradict itself twice within the next few sentences, and then...

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About Chang Hee, I agree with Mindy's comment above. His ability is associated with his compassion. And, they did show his compassion in random situations e.g. the very evasive clean-out of Gu's alcohol bottle shrine or the one with the ahjusshi at the ATM where anyone else in that situation might not have agreed to it. And, when he explains the whole situation he does refer to this ability of knowing exactly 'when' to back off. But, you are right it's not very cohesive. So, I can't recall any other moment to add weight because every happening is so segmented that the memory trail is disjointed. Anyway, the moments I did mention happened very early on.

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Thank you very much blue for your thoughtful consideration. ❤

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... unravelling to an illogical conclusion that I genuinely don’t know how was reached by where we started from, and leaving me with an unpleasant taste of half truth in my mouth.

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And I feel like this really sums up the show in its entirety, and the incompleteness I talked about at the beginning.

The characters are just pieces floating through a series of ambiguous philosophical ideas, and then they themselves are only made up of vague thought pieces as well.

The story threads are not tied to each other or to the characters.

Nobody and nothing is part of a whole, or connected in a way that both makes sense and is satisfying narratively.

The worldview behind this show is scattered, inconsistent, and so the product itself is incohesive.

The effect that this has is that everything feels faux deep, wannabe deep, without actually saying anything at all.

This show thinks it is justified in its story, however, in what it says and how it says it, in its form. But for me… it has no true form. It is just a vague collection of philosophical musings, that do not in fact make up a story just by stringing them all together.

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Ah- maybe this isn't a story. Maybe this is just an arbitrary collection of thoughts and feelings and philosophies. Maybe that is what it is supposed to be, and thus maybe it is just that I am unsympathetic to this approach to media.

But you see. I am.
I am very unsympathetic to this quite clearly intentional approach to the medium. That’s the problem.

Because I want genuine stories, intricately and heartfeltly crafted to engage in ideas and emotions through that wonderful and powerful and ancient tradition and medium of storytelling. Where all the pieces are properly CONNECTED and work together, and you can see the weave and the pattern, and the reasoning behind the pattern.

I don't want just a list of contradictory thoughts and feelings, oblique, ersatz and tumblr-esque attempts at depth and character writing.
I don’t want nothings and nobodies, and no discernible pattern.
Anyone, and I'm not joking about this, anyone can make a collection of vague philosophical musings.

That is not storytelling. That is not craft.

You haven’t crafted anything!
You just went “oh look dissociative Ghibli-but-oh-so-definitely-not-Ghibli aesthetics (that WEREN’T my doing because I’m not the director) slapped on post-modernist enlightenment theatre student’s footnotes! Behold! A Play!”
What am I, Diogenes? (Well… actually…)
Kill me now.

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*ANNNNNND now I shall run away before I get lynched BYE*

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exactly what i feel and think. it's just that i cannot convey it in words as eloquently as you are. the show simply feel choppy to me, if that is possible to say like that. hehe.

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correction
*as eloquently as you can/did/do in your post above

but i am sure, you *are*, too ;p

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You are also very eloquent ijulz, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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No lynching from me! I agree and really hoped show would make sense by the end but I’m left with more question marks as to what writer was trying to say. Is she being sincere really? Or was this show just being ironic? The main leads did not have a good resolution to their stories, and if anybody says Mijeong did, I say NO, if Gu left her again I think she would feel unlovable again. And I really think he made off with the cash and started a new life again like what he did in Sanpo. And possibly find another girl he can have therapy sessions with.

In my personal opinion, show would be better off if it ended in episode 14. My husband defended the show until then and thought the writer would actually end it well like My Ahjussi but sadly, by then he had more gripes about it than I did.

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I, on the other hand, was fully convinced that by the time Mijeong met Mr.Gu again she was already doing great and he was just bonus to her new founded confidence. She was working a job she liked, the long road didn't take much of her energy, she was smiling more, and in some way she even came to terms with her ex stealing her money. Now I read your opinion and wonder whether all her new founded happiness was due to Mr. Gu's appearance.

I am not necessarily writing that to argue. We were not shown how MiJeong was doing after a time skip & before meeting Mr.Gu. Any of the options could be right. One more problem with the show, I guess... we will never know how and when the main steps to liberation were made.

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Thank you for this wonderful and thoughtful non-argumentive comment

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All bots are welcomed and loved by SBE. I approve this comment.

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I really thought you became a bot yourself, Trin xD

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It's why all bots are welcomed and loved! SupportBot! 🥰

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Thank you for this. I had similar thoughts rumbling around in my head but never could have put them in words like you did.

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Thank you for supporting SBE miss h

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@sicarius Thank you for taking to the time to express what a few of us felt about this show. (Okay, a very few!)

But after watching the ending, I had a thought, which will be about as popular as my relatively indifferent opinion of the show. This would have been a great 2 to 2/12 hour movie. A shorter time frame could have contained the same character arcs, the same suggestive rather than structured narration, the great acting, beautiful cinematography, and the fragmentary/open to interpretation themes. These all might have seemed less floating, as you aptly describe them, and more cohesive, in part because two hours would have required a greater focus on the part of the writer and director, as to what scenes, dialogue and plot points were central to conveying the show's mood and message.

Certainly, the way to liberation is long and winding, but it doesn't necessarily need to be 16 hours long!

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You're opinion is popular with me!

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I loved the show, but I agree that it would have made an excellent 2-1/2 movie. Having to condense the action and quiet moments down to a limited run time would have still resulted in a satisfying story. I would also want to see these characters for 16+ hours, so I can't say I would want a movie to replace the drama, but as a complement to the drama, a film would be really fun to watch.

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I agree with pretty much everything you said here - I felt consistently disconnected from the characters, the storytelling was amorphous and unfocused, and unlike Park Hae Young's earlier shows I never found a compelling theme tying everything together, and certainly very little liberation, even if you want to argue that that's a process. And if it is a process, show more of it rather than just discussing it. Also like you, I have little patience for word salad disguised as profundity, or disconnected anecdotes masquerading as depth.

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You may have felt disconnected from the drama but I feel connected to you and your comment. ❤

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😂 You are giving the bots on DB's fan wall a run for their money.

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I wondered what this show was actually about or trying to say because it too often seemed to be saying nothing at all, despite all attempts at otherwise.

I definitely agree with this part. Nothing was happening at all. It was like watching a documentary of ones life and while it is filled with events, it actually fizzes off more and you can't really hold on to this part or that part. As the movie got to its mid episode I noticed that ' Oh! I'm enjoying watching nothing happen for the bulk of this episodes. All I'm doing is watching this people live thier lives on a screen.' Except this is a very introspective reality show and I totally enjoyed and was drawn into the lives of this people. I might not remember quite much that happened in this show as per its conversations which were very rich by the way, but I'll remember being drawn to it's nothingness for the most of 16 hours. To me as a viewer, MLN gave meaning to seeing nothing happen in my personal life. No pause, just the play button and everything just brezzes by, clear or unclear, or even hazy.

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Thank you Jerry for your consideration

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Very well written. And I definitely understood every word you said 😉

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Thank you for leaving a comment on Sic’s baby essay, Trin!

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Fams really knows how to spot a gem of a comment. Trust Fams.

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Great support Trin 💜

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Thank you for leaving a lovely remark on Trin’s comment, Jen! 🧡

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Thank you Fams for supporting Jen who supported me 🥰

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Thank you Trin for supporting me who supported Jen who supported you who supported Sic! Through thicc and thin! 😭😭😭

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Family sticks together! For Sic and her amazing dissertation!! 🥺🥺

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where were y'all on the ACTUAL dissertation then tsk tsk

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We're here now for all future dissertations! 😘

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as long as you promise to read all ten thousand words xox

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What a thoughtful comment, Trin. Sic will truly appreciate it.

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Thank you Pickle! She appreciates it just as much as I appreciate her essay!

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Thank you Sic for your baby essay 🥲

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Thank you for your well thought out comment Fams 🙌🏻

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Thank you for your humbled thanks, Trin! Much appreciated!

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The best baby essay to date 😢

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Thank you for saying that, Jen! I agree it’s the best baby essay to date from Sic! 🥲

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So Jen has a sad sniffle and Fams has a happy one. I am now curious about your reasons for the sniffles. Are you sad or happy or something else about the Sic Baby Essay (aka SBE)

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@pickleddragon
A Rare SBE found in the wild... unusually small for its species, and a rare sight, this member of the sicarius essaius is.
lmfao.

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The emoji has me confused - are you sniffling because you're so deeply moved?, or because it's only a baby essay?

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We are at a lost with the peasant emojis. 😂

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I find myself agreeing to a lot of your points!

I’ve never related to any of the characters. I tried to, but I didn’t feel them as much as I would like to. For MA, while I couldn’t relate, but the feelings were there when I saw Jian and her grandmother. The emotional connection is just not there for MLN.

On the last ep, when we see the Liberation Club gathering 2 years later and how they talked about their diaries getting published as a book, I thought it would be a good ep 1 instead. 2 years later, they gather and talk about their stories and how it would be adapted into a book, then we go back to 2 years ago to their each individual stories and branch out to the Yeom siblings and Gu from there. That would make the “liberation” more meaningful and more value to the drama.

Come to think of it, the most satisfying character was actually the lady from Joy Card who kept pressuring people to join clubs. Her whole rationale for joining the liberation club was really sweet and I would have liked if we saw more of her.

Lastly to end off with another unpopular opinion, I disliked Chang Hee for bulk of the show. He did lots of things that were plain rude and immature - clearing Gu’s bottles when he’s not at home is equivalent of trespassing and then running away when the car had a scratch and he didn’t want to take responsibility. I guess it’s good that he matured by the end of the show

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Very well written baby baby essay Stage. 😍

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I second this very very well written comment

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Thank you for putting in words what I felt, after watching those last two episodes. I didn't know how to say it, but this is exactly it. I feel drained at the end of the show, but not in a good way. I feel exhausted, but I don't know what I am supposed to take away from this. I feel completely confused. I am not sure what the writer wanted us to take away from this. And I agree about the monologues: they felt disjointed. And sometimes, I would understand what they said at the beginning but I'd be completely lost toward the end and when watching the scene the monologue was with. My liberation notes was a weird experience for me. I am sincerely confused at the point of the drama as a whole and this really disappoints me.

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One of your finest essays Sic. Well done 👍 👏

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Thank you for complimenting Sic’s baby essay, Jen! You’re truly one of a kind! 🥰

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Very well said Jen. It really was a well done essay that you definitely read! 😄

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And just to add to your note, this is to clarify that Jen did not speed read at 10x. No she doesn't do that.

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You know if Jen had been speed reading my essays at 10x all this time, I wouldn't be at all surprised.

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on a more serious note - thanks for the note, sic. I think you've put down very eloquently what some of us felt about the show. Speaking for myself, I was super hyped about this show for the fact that its scriptwriter was Park Hae-young, whose My Ahjusshi will forever remain seared in my brain as one of the greatest dramas ever, but came away deeply disappointed.

The script was mostly a meandering mess. There were many opportunities that the story left unexplored - the absurdist/ existentialist angle, for example, which is what the title and theme lend themselves to. The script could also have taken a step back and laughed at itself, pondering on what it means to desire liberation in the first place.

If the show wanted / intended to be serious, then I was a little annoyed with the superficial use of religion and spirituality as a device. For a buddhist/christian society like SK, I'd have expected a more thoughtful engagement with the question / idea of liberation, but all we were given were some visits to church, a poster containing a quote from the Bible, and some token death rituals.

The good thing about the show was being able to see SSK on screen every weekend, at his smexy best as the resident alcoholic. The show didn't demand much from him as an actor, so he didn't really get to showcase his strengths, but he could have stayed on screen without uttering a word, and I'd have given him full marks for his performance.

I also thought that eps 13-16 were the strongest in the show, in that they tried to say something, and IMO, they would have made for a good opening set of episodes of a drama/ any drama. But overall, this show promised much (terrific title AND theme), but delivered little. I feel the cast really saved the show, and it would have been even more disappointing with a less competent set of actors.

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Thank you for your wonderful essay Pickle, you are such a dill-light 🥰

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I'm pickled tink at this comment!

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Oh but that wasn't all about the Christianity metaphors.

There was also that scene when MJ says she would have liked to hold Mr Gu as a baby (a scene that made me roll my eyes). The writer basically called MJ Mary, the mother of Jesus, to clarify her role as Mr Gu's caretaker/saviour.

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I hate the concept of open ending. But this one... I can accept but I still dont like it.

One of the best dramas of this year.
I will save this one together with My Unfamiliar Family and Misaeng.

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@avazilla if you enjoyed Misaeng, I highly recommend watchingBlack Dog. It's the same concept except set in Korea's education sector (teachers at a private high school).

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I didn't love My Liberation Notes like everyone else. Gu was the only character I cared about because of swoony Son Suk-ku, but his gangster life was overdramatic for a slice-of-life genre, and his high-functioning alcoholism was unrealistic. He drank from the time he woke up to the time he went to bed filling his house with soju bottles to the point Chairman Shin had to stage an intervention, yet he could still run through the streets of Seoul and have coherent conversations with Mi-jung.

It would've been more realistic for Mi-jung to have dated someone boring like Tae-hoon or a loser like Chang-hee and friends. She still knows nothing about Gu, so the only way for her to find out would be when his hyung kidnaps her until Gu pays his gambling debt since hyung knows about Mi-jung after visiting their house. Did they not do anything besides hug and spoon with his place all to themselves?

Ki-jung and Tae-hoon's relationship is still as wrong as it was when it first started. Despite her I love you's and overly cheery texts, none of them look happy -- not Ki-jung, Tae-hoon, Yu-rim, and obviously Kyung-sun.

I was confused during Chang-hee and Hyun-ah's timeskipped flashback breakup. When did they even get together? Is Chang-hee going to sell his convenience store to become a funeral director? If he were taking out a loan to start a business, I wish he had taken over the convenience store in the first place. Even his part-timer knew sweet potato ovens would fail.

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After a strong set of episodes last week the final two fell flat for me. Overall, I appreciated the acting and much of the dialogue in MLN but had issues with the storytelling throughout. It’s one of those dramas that I admire but don’t really like.

Last week I said that I wished the drama would address Gu’s drinking. Well, they did, but I don’t know how I feel about it. I know the whole worshipping thing was about listening and acceptance, but I can’t believe Mi-jung could listen to Gu’s tales of alcoholism and not react and still keep buying alcohol. I found their relationship so unhealthy. The ending was supposed to be hopeful with the coin not falling into the sewer grate and Gu leaving the bottle behind, but they made him such a misanthropic drunk that I just don’t believe he will actually change.

I’m so disappointed Gi-jung didn’t break up with Tae-hoon. She's the character I really didn't see grow at all. Liberation for her, in my opinion, would have been being okay with being alone. I’m relieved they didn’t rush into marriage after Gi-jung’s impulsive proposal but Tae-hoon wanting to wait until Yu-rim turned 20 just signaled to Yu-rim that Gi-jung doesn’t really matter. I know Gi-jung’s the “pick-up girl” but Yu-rim will never accept her, the sister will always be hostile to her, and Tae-hoon will never really put her first. How depressing.

I never rooted for Gi-jung to end up with her boss, but I liked their friendship and am disappointed he just disappeared. I was disappointed Mi-jung and Hyun-ah stopped interacting too. At least Chang-hee had a final conversation with his friends.

The new stepmom seemed nice. I liked her moment with Gi-jung watching the snow and when she told Chang-hee “You did well.” I’m glad the siblings seem to have a decent relationship with her.

I did like that the dad obviously paid enough attention over the years to know that Gi-jung cutting her hair meant man problems, and he tried to tell her that living alone was okay.

Chang-hee started as my least favorite character and ended as my favorite. I thought his arc was satisfying, albeit very random and underdeveloped. Most dramas don’t handle time jumps well and MLN was no exception. I was never invested in Chang-hee and Hyun-ah but having their relationship and breakup happen offscreen was poor writing. Everything to do with the business he started and failed at offscreen didn’t really land for me either. How did he even get the money to start it and how did he get the convenience store after that? I did think he had the best and most interesting growth arc though, and I liked that he finally found the right path for himself.

I liked see the Liberation Club again.

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The scene with the coin falling and Mr Gu leaving the bottle seems pretty important to me. Any interpretation of that? (I have my own, but don't want to influence!)

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check out the other post of MLN taking on coin vs mr. gu special 😄

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I found it and went commenting there! :)

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I loved episodes 1-15. But episode 16 felt like attending an academic lecture on the author's 10 step program to liberation. In the earlier episodes, the characters didn't talk much, but we felt their emotions through their actions, their body language, looks in their eyes, there was a more organic emotional resonance and forward movement of the story. In ep 16, the characters talked so much, all mostly sitting down and staring at each other. It's like watching a series of therapy sessions. The viewers have worked hard to distill the liberation process eps 1-15, and we get it there is no fairy tale ending and life will be a continued process of overcoming obstacles. There really is no need to summarize everything and have the characters recite back to us in detail. I would have been perfectly content watching the characters' everyday life. The Yeom Family + Gu have completed a liberation cycle, it would have been nice to circle back to the first episode, them living everyday life, with its natural ups and downs. Instead, we get a gang fight the last ten minutes. And it's like Mr. Gu, if Goddess MJ cannot inspire you to get medical treatment for alcoholism, you are really hopeless. And MJ's character felt hollow the last episode, she lost her fierceness, edgy-ness, like this aura that's uniquely MJ is gone. After liberation, she became super sweet, somewhat bland, Saint MJ, like a different person.

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Thank you for the recaps!
I was anxious throughout the last episode I thought something might happen to Mr Gu. I'm so glad the Writer didn't take that direction. I feel so proud of MJ for the way she handled her ex. In the past, MJ tried to convince herself she was the bigger person than those who abandoned her to make herself feel better but by the end of the drama it was clear that she has become a better person by overcoming her resentment. Mr Gu might not to quit his job and alcohol anytime soon but with MJ's support I believe he's already making better choices and taking small steps in the right direction.

Yay for the Liberation Club keeping in touch and starting up again. I like that the ending is realistic rather than the wrapped up prettily. Even if our characters have not quite achieved the liberation they set out to but they're closer than they were initially and better equipped with newfound self-realization to continue on their journey.

I thought when KJ cut her own hair she was getting ready to be on her own. At the beginning of the drama, I didn't understand why KJ was so desperate for a partner, as if that would be the answer to all her happiness. But then as the drama went on I realised her biggest source of unhappiness is her loneliness and crave for companionship. Realistically, rather than attaining happiness and liberation, issues formed as a result of her relationship with TH. But despite that KJ remained true to her aspiration to be a "pick up girl" and stayed with him. I think KJ has grown to be more acceptable of the idea that it's okay to be alone. Even though her initial motivation was to date anyone so she wouldn't be single, she chose to stick with TH despite the obstacles because she loves him, not because of her fear.

I'm happy for CH, his psychic feeling led him to a new path this time, one that'll likely bring new meaning and purpose to his life. I truly hope he finds someone who'll be there for him unconditionally. Going through loss and grief also changed Dad; he looked powerless and pitiful. I'm glad to see Dad's relationship with his children have improved and his current wife seemed to take comfort in her new life. What's considered burdensome and imprisonment to some might be comfort and security to another. How easy it was for her to pat CH on the shoulder and compliment him for doing well, something his own parents never did readily.

Kudos to the Writer for a truly wonderful, realistic portrayal of the monotony daily life and struggles we can all relate to. I love the cast and think they were all amazing in their roles. In our characters' words, some days you feel liberated, some days you're back to square one but I hope you'll find five minutes of peace each day and keep trudging on.

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'My Liberation Notes' gave me a greater appreciation for the U.S. series 'The Sopranos' That had the good sense to simply cut to black and not attempt a wrap-up finale.

The key takeaway from this finale: Mi-jeong is a morbid personality. Not only does she casually describe frogs being run over by cars, she takes a morbid pleasure in watching her sometine-boyfriend drink himself to death.

Her brother Chang-hee is equally morbid, finding his self worth in watching others die.

His sometime girlfriend Hyun-ah is equally morbid, dating a string of damaged abusive men because being with stable men bores her.

What was Gu's job? A pimp at a brothel? Drinking himself to death because he's haunted by the people he's (apparently) murdered.

I thought for a moment there was a glimmer of hope for Ki-jeong but her haircut wasn't an act of rebellion, it was just a haircut.

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As peaceful and quiet as it enters, it ends. No fanfare whatsoever. This show uses no shocking effect to catch viewers' attention, it just slowly and slowly stole the heart. I love the juxtaposition, the irony, the quirky sense of humor, the symbolism, the characters's growth and characterization. Even Papa Yeom shows some growth 🥲 Perfect assemble cast, writing, and directing. I wish more drama writers and directors make drama this serious, it isn't just thing to fill the time slot.
My only complaint is... I know I complaint a lot 😅.... Where's Changhee and Mr. Gu reunion, writer ssi? I think he misses Mr. Gu as much as Mi jeong.
I am so relate to him when he says that he stopped saying what already on the tips of his tongue makes him feeling like he is a better person. Gawd, how many times I've been going through something like this, I wanted so much to talk trash my senior and boss who doesn't deserve any respect, I stopped my self because hey I'm better person so I move along and treat my junior better and become better senior. Hah.
Changhee is ❤❤ so wise

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First off. What the hell is this kind of ending. Where is the closure? Where is the confrontation that was supposed to happen between Mi-jung and Gu? Why didn’t Chang-hee meet Gu as the series concluded? The guy could really use even his presence. He was broken, literally in all sense of it. He is dealing with a lot. He had really gotten so drawn to Gu so why, show? Why didn’t he meet his hyung, MLN? I have many unanswered questions and vexations and it ain’t fair. Still, I’ll vote this into my list of best dramas of the year.

That said. As Tae-hoon and Ki-jung unfolded this two episodes I was so happy I wasn’t too much in Tae-hoon’s ship. Man, she needs to leave that guy. It is too toxic for her. She has a heart of gold, a heart full of love and she doesn’t resist displaying this love. However, it both makes and mars her because Tae-hoon is too passive once his family comes into the picture. And the more Ki-jung made excuses for him the more I was sure they are not fit for each other at all. A significant nudge from him to keep his sister and daughter in check would have been nice. But no, he left her alone to fend herself against those two. This thing called relationship is a full two way street man. Even gentle lovers knows when they need to be active. He wasn’t at all. He might understand her love philosophy and all but he is totally underserving and unworthy of it. Even his second sister knows it is toxic at the moment and is trying to salvage it for him.
Seeing the Liberation Club once again is…nice closing. And Mr Park Sang-Min’s new look is…I like the new minted change.
And where is Boss Jin-woo? Not even a mention. I am waited for him to come sweep Ki-jung outta Tae-hoon’s hands but no, nothing of such. MLN you didn’t do me right.
I can’t tolerate a Mr. Gu phase-in phase-out IRL, but the portrayal here, I can’t remain angry for too long. I like the character q too much already, but not Chang-hee level. I would have loved some more stronger accountability, even if it is a civil conversation let the blades clang in the air. How she let him off the hook so easily because she understood him perfectly is unfair. Side note, when she called him adorable, I melted.
I really hope to come across a Mi-jung. There is no need for a façade or thick wall cause it’ll be broken or seen through. Just living the moment, be it enjoyment or not.
MLN is a show where even without worded scripts, you’ll still shine and make viewers feel for you. Chun Ho-jin and Lee Kyung Sung are vivid examples of that.
I’ll willingly give another 16 hours of my time as many times as possible for a re-watch. And if there is a second season, I will watch it, definitely and wholeheartedly. Anything for this well rounded cast. Anything for this liberating piece of art.

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I appreciate how MLN dealt with ep15's time skip and ep16's ending. After 3 years, we don't find the siblings magically all well after moving to Seoul. They're still struggling, with some faring better and some faring worst. This is very true-to-life. Relocation isn't a magical elixir, and you cannot physically run away from your problems. Likewise, the ending wasn't really an ending to the story, but just a point where the cameras stopped on the characters while they continued on living.

The highlight of both episodes was during ep16's Liberation Club reunion, when the HR lady said that on some days she felt liberated, but some days felt like she was back to square one, but looking back she feels like she's been liberated a little bit. THIS tiny exchange captured the essence of the show. Self-liberation is the journey of a lifetime, and the sum total of the work you do on a daily basis. It might not seem like you're getting anywhere, but when time compounds and you look back, you will feel like you've gotten somewhere.

Changhee: Changhee had the most beautiful and fulfilling character arc. Lee Minki's acting has been good throughout MLN, but he really knocked it out of the park in the last 2 episodes. When Changhee came on screen in ep15, you could just tell he had changed. You could sense the weariness and disenchantment in his eyes. He looked different and held himself differently. In ep16, he achieved a certain grace that reminded me of a priest. I'm glad that Changhee landed on his life's calling. You could do a whole spin-off on his new journey as a funeral director.

Gijeong: By far the most disappointing character development, bordering on infuriating. I was hoping that after her father's remarks, she would finally get the guts and dump Taehun, but she is so desperate to be in a relationship that she's willing to continue being a second-class citizen and give up parenthood to stay with that wet mop of a bf.

Mijeong: She was the sibling that ended up much better after the move to Seoul. She got a new job, found confidence in herself, made friends, gave up her grudge against her ex, etc. I think she will be fine no matter what.

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Mijeong x Gu: My reaction to this relationship can be summed up with the word "YIKES". The writer and viewers romanticized them. I previously thought Mijeong was too unstable to hold a relationship, but by the end she was in a much better place, and Gu was the hugely unstable one. I get that the writer wanted to end the story on a hopeful note, but realistically a relationship between these two would be extremely difficult. Gu is a depressed and violent alcoholic. Sure, right now he's only beating up other gangsters, but who knows when he'll turn his anger on Mijeong, and we've seen hints of him lashing out in the past. He's been an alcoholic for years, and the journey for him to resolve his alcoholism (and whole host of other issues) will take years and be a very turbulent one.

I see people applauding Mijeong and Gu for their "unconditional love" and for worshipping each other with no judgement. I don't think this is aspirational at all, especially not when it involves worshipping someone's alcoholism. It makes Mijeong look like a self-sacrificial doormat and free therapist. Relationships require compromise from both parties, and you're allowed to make demands of your partner.

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Frankly, I have been justifying the relationship in the first few episodes saying that it is not the healthy way of coping but it is the one the characters can afford. Besides, MJ was benefitting from that relationship as much as Mr Gu was. After the time skip, we find out that MJ is doing well for herself and Mr. Gu has money to afford a therapist. Him showing on a date drunk and setting the condition for 10 talking sessions smoothly moved the relationship from questionable but ok, to downright unhealthy territory.

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Overall: MLN is a rarity in kdramaland. It doesn't feel like an entertainment piece, but more like a series of Park Haeyoung's personal writings that got dramatized (think kdrama adaptation of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius). She's imparting her own wisdom to us, raising questions she herself has asked about life, and leaving many of these questions unresolved because she hasn't found the answers yet and may never.

The lessons and questions MLN brought up will linger on in my mind and I will think about them every now and then through the years.

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kdrama adaptation of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Even if I hadn’t loved the show, it would have been worth 16 hours of watching for this phrase, which deserves a prize for being the most unexpected description of a kdrama ever.

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Self-liberation is the journey of a lifetime, and the sum total of the work you do on a daily basis.
That's the best summary of the essence of this show. It isn't magical transformation or character arc but rather a lifetime of practice.

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But what do we want to be liberated from, exactly? I would like to be liberated from the aches and pains of age, but the alternative doesn't really appeal to me. I don't think I'm going to be practicing any self-liberation if I can help it.

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Social expectations and one's own ego.

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@songxrising Responding to your thoughtful interpretation--I agree with you about the writers inchoate philosophy. The aesthetic virtues of the show are considerable, but they, I have to point out, stem as much from the acting, directing, cinematography and sound engineering as from the writing (here I am in total agreement with @sicarius as I say above.)

So I personally will carry no lessons from this show, more some memorable images and characters--but to my mind, this drama wasn't a philosophical discourse, so it would be unfair to expect that. If others take a life lesson from it, that's wonderful. In my opinion, that would be a tribute more to the viewer than to the writer, but one thing I've always enjoyed about Dramabeans is examples of how shows of all types can serve as vehicles for all sorts of emotional and intellectual responses.

To the degree that I found a strong theme in the writing of this show, though, I don't think it was stoicism, but rather a need for connection with others, whether it was with fellow introverts, alcoholic gangsters, someone with a hostile family, or even the bereaved. I suppose that is liberation from one's own ego, but its not based on those aspects of Aurelius that stress self-control, self-discipline, and self-reliance. Rather it is based on admitting emotional dependence.

If that is a theme of the show, and again, I'm not myself clear that it was, because the story and dialogue really could have been more coherent--I could get behind that. Liberation of the truly oppressed comes most frequently from social solidarity.

However, I know I'm sounding really pompous here, something that I have continually tried to avoid in my journey through life, so that's enough from me!

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No, Stoicism was not a theme of MLN. I used Meditations as an example because it is the first text I could think of that is a series of private notes to oneself on life philosophy. MLN feels like Park Haeyoung's Meditations. Its a series of her own disjointed notes on life.

I interpreted liberation to mean emancipation, transcendence, figuring out your authentic life purpose, how to come to peace with the world. It is a deeply spiritual journey that's probably the hardest and longest work an individual can undertake. A lot of people try to "hack" their way to liberation nowadays via silent retreats and ayahuasca ceremonies.

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“Meditations by Marcus Aurelius”

Just slayed me! Read it in Latin in college so I sooo get it. I was having flashbacks to “Waiting for Godot” and “The Bald Soprano “ because the absurdist monologues and conversations had me rewinding 3x to try and understand the subs.

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I don't mind an open ending but for some reason I'm still to put my finger on, the last 2 episodes didn't grasp me as much as the previous ones.

Overall, it was a lovely drama that would no doubt make the list of favourites of 2022

Ps: It's a miracle that Gu didn't die from his alcoholism

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The purpose of Mr. Gu called Mijeong to back together again is so that he can eat Mijeong's liver later on because his failing alcoholic liver.

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😂😂😂😂😂 You are spot on!

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And why Mijeong looked so liberated at the last scene? Because she has been liberated from her liver/heart eventually. Thanks to Mr. Gu-Min-Ho.

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We should hire you to write a spin-off including and pay you in fox beads 😆

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Are you saying Gu wants her to liver life to the fullest?

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Mr. Gu want/needs her liver because he so desperately wants to survive on daily basis. Mr. Gu will need Mijeong 2.0 because he can't stop drinking which resulting his liver keeps falling apart.

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Oh--I thought you were just kidneying!

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LOL 😆

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ah so this isn't a secret zombie drama after-all, but a secret gumiho drama.
mmmm yes. and then we can add it to the JKY Cinematic Universe just because.

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I watched the ending with increasing dismay. Mr. Gu is a violent alcoholic gangster. Yes, he's in love with Mi Jeong and she's in love with him, but is that good? His job apparently includes serious misogyny and beating people in the description! No wonder he preferred to work as a carpenter and harvesting vegetables in the hot sun. Even though all the characters had open endings without resolutions, I wasn't as worried for them as I was for Mi Jeong. Even though I liked his character and thought he had a lot of depth and complexity, getting together with him is a scary open ending for her. But the narrative arc of the show is perfect. At the reunion of the Liberation Club, MJ says that identifying the problem is significant. Everything boils down to being the person who can say out loud, "I am here with you," who can pick up the severed head (of a rose!) who can live for herself and not to show that another person is wrong.

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Contrary to some opinion regarding what the writer wanted to deliver with the 'love line' , I don't see message of 'love cured all problems', instead what I see is the story tells me 'don't ever think that love cured all sickness and problems, don't even think that we know what love is, or how to love or to be loved, it's different to each individual'
, writer-nim, is that your message? I'm fine with that, writernim, so just you know, based on my level of hook-ness (is this even a word?), the best episodes are 1-4, 13-14-15.
ep 16? a bit flat for a final.
Hence I like to think that this drama ends on ep 15 ;)
thanks writernim, cast, crew, bye MLN!

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I liked the ending. I thought it was messy and chaotic. Ki Jung's relationship with Tae Hoon reminded me of OH Hae Young again( I hate that drama, ha) Their relationship doesn't make sense and is incredibly messy, but despite that, they love each other. I hated it in OHY, and now I don't hate it so much. The fact their relationship doesn't make sense to me is irrelevant, so long as it makes sense to them. Which I think it part of the point of the show, the relationships are meant to show that people with issues get together and thrive even when the people are better off alone. The same with Gu and MJ. He is the same kind of asshole as her previous boyfriend, but because she decided he was the one despite the unhealthiness of the relationship, she sticks with him. I think their dad's parting words to them was the reason for the season, it is okay to be alone. None of them except CH have realized that, and that is probably why he had more of a conclusory story than the rest. Thank you drama for being one of my faves.

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Omo, another person who hates OHYA!
I hate that drama too, and it makes me very sad because I love the male lead character! I even rewatched the show resentfully for him!

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I hated OHYA again too. Actually, a lot of the things I disliked about MLN are similar to things I hated about OHYA. At least the MLN thread isn't toxic. I was relatively new to DB at the time OHYA aired and posted my thoughts exactly once, and it put me off posting for quite awhile.

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It introduced me to Seo Hyo Jin and I love, but I still angry thinking about that drama. Ha😅

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I hated OHYA too 😂 Feeling angry thinking about that show is exactly my sentiment 😅

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I dropped OHY around ep 4-5 for reason I forget which means it didn't insult me so that I got so angry but it didn't click with me either.

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A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose...., even decapitated and with no leaves. I love this writer's absurd humour, although I remain unimpressed by Ki-jung and Tae-hoon's relationship as well as his relationship with his sisters. Ki-jung is still her old self with her thoughtless and tactless rants in the restaurant.

Another turn into absurdity is Chang-hee finding his calling as an undertaker - so unexpected, but also a really good decision. He will be just perfect.

I also liked Gu and Mi-jung as a couple and the fact that Gu is fully conscious of his alcoholism and its ugly sides and is clinging on Mi-jung for dear live. She has a unique way of showing him ways to beat his demons, they really are soul mates. Was chairman Shin aware of all the money Gu has stuffed in his wardrobe?

Mi-jung is just a beautiful person. And very lovable.

Best drama I have seen in a long while.

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I think Chairman Shin is aware that most of his underlings are pocketing some of the earnings. As long as he gets to keep most of the earnings, he turns a blind eye to it.

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It's been a while since I posted, but reading the recap made me want to share my thoughts. I was most pleased that Mr. Gu was still on this side of the world , as it were, by the end of the epi. I watched the last few minutes with baited breath bc I fully expected him not to be. His next move is to check into a hospital/rehab center. He needs major help and I fear he would have seizures from alcohol withdrawal if he tried to stop on his own.

Mi-jung is the clear "winner", if there is such a thing. She made the deliberate choice to address what was wrong in her life, reflected on it and set about to solve it. Her methods were unconventional, for sure , but I feel that was needed to get out of the rut in her life.

Chang-hee is gets second place. He did a great job in paying off the debt, making sure his father was able to move on comfortably with this new relationship, etc. He did not actually solve his relationship issues. I felt that pairing him with Hyun-ah was wrong from the get go. They understood each other as friends and helped each other in tight situations, but that doesn't always mean love. They were 2 very different people, seeking very different things. Hyun-ah also has a lot that she needs to work on. I was not expecting it to workout for them. As for his chance to become a funeral director, I see it with a slightly different spin. Idk if Palliative Care exists in Korea (forgive me if it does) but that's where I see him finding the best fit. He provides comfort to those in their final stages of life. He sits with them, helps them feel at peace and not alone. There is a place for him to help those in their final moments, not after.

Ki-jung has learned the least and therefore gets third place. She just rants mindlessly and learns very little. Her best attempt to change her life was to approach Tae-hoon but very little else happened after that. She didn't address the issues with the sister or the daughter, just hid from them. Teenagers are moody AF, but as a parent Tae-hoon needed to take more control of the situation. He was always apologetic to his daughter and sisters , always felt guilty and let them run all over him. At some point, he needed to assert himself more. The relationship with TH and KJ went nowhere because neither of them took actual steps to make it better. Nothing was ever confronted, addressed or discussed.

I was sad that mom died. She loved her family and gave her all for them. It bothered me that dad just remarried "because he's not strong enough to live alone". That's all she was to him, a caretaker . I hate that for women, in general. Dad made them all live a hard life and imposed his rules on everyone. In the end, he was the weakest one. I'm sure I am projecting....oh well.

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My Liberation Notes...

A show that makes me want to try harder to understand other people. A show that makes me be patient.

Just like the Liberation club rules, I don't feel like telling people how to live or comforting them.

I like how dude Gu and Mi Jeong only listened and shared. Mi Jeong never told dude Gu to stop drinking, but she shared with him some of her ways to cup with life "seconds of happiness".

I like how no matter what Chang Hee said, his friends didn't treat him like some crazy dude. He was always talking about his spiritual relationship with time (or life) and they always listen to him. Did they believe him? Who knows. But they didn't judge.

The liberation club could've been a club were people gives you life advices, telling you everything you're doing wrong, everything you need to change, everything you should be grateful about, etc. But instead it was an individual journey where you were you had the question but you also were the only one that could give you the answer. If you're the one that has to live with that answer, I think it's only fair you're the one searching for it, since you'll know which one is the best for you.

Well Ki Jeong... It didn't matter what she said people were always ready to attack her. Like that time she was talking about being 50. Ki Jeong said nothing wrong. Asking yourself what are you going to do at X age is one of the most normal things in the world. She wasn't even talking about other people, she was talking about herself. But everyone looked at her as if she deliberately tried to hurt those women feelings. But she was only being honest about her experience with life.
I like that she kept true to herself and her unique view of the world till the end. Even if she didn't meet the right people (I don't like that family for her), I think she did a great job searching for what she wanted and needed. She was 100% sincere, and that's amazing. I've NEVER seen someone acting like that in a romantic relationship.
Ki Jeong is a character that really makes me reconsider a things I've said and think about relationships.

I also love how Mi Jeong kept learning about herself. Sometimes because of a situation or feeling we get fixed in a particular view of ourselves that isn't actually accurate. I remember when she said she didn't like anyone (especially her siblings) but she was always acting like she cared about them. I can't stop thinking when Ki Jeong amnesia plan failed and she came home crying and Mi Jeong also started crying. That was so sweet. I also like that the show made pretty clear Mi Jeong wasn't alone. We see Mi Jeong asking dude Gu to worship her, when there were many people that supported her and acknowledged her awesomeness. Mi Jeong couldn't recognize who she was and what she had because she was having a hard time and was immersed in that pain. I love how she was so radiant after the time jump. I like how she's accepting herself and her life...

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I LOVED the show. And I find the finale appropriate but:

How can you show Chang Hee only like 15min in the last two episodes? They talked about the debt and about Hyeon Ah but they didn't show us anything? Everyone was like "omg, you're on another level, how did you pay that debt? You're a rockstar" "omg, you suffered so much, poor you", but they didn't show us any real context. Well, at least we got ONE flashback with him and Hyun Ah that explained EVERYTHING that happened between them. They could've give us less dude Gu fighting/drinking and more Chang Hee, tbh. Yes, dude Gu's character was based on the lyrics of "heaven knows I'm miserable now" by the smiths. WE GET IT. So why not give us more Chang Hee? I like dude Gu but I don't need 30 minutes of him fighting and drinking.

Also, there was no reunion between those two. I was hoping for a dramatic scene of CH running to dude Gu, or something. I wanted to see them hug or something.

CH's finale was my favorite but I would've liked more of his story after the time jump.

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I always wanted more of Chang-hee (and Ki-jeong! And Hyeon-ah!) and less of Gu but I am also incredibly biased LOL. I think we got the gist of Gu’s story without having to spend so much time with him.

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Maybe it's because he wasn't that dynamic, but sometimes I just felt like it was the same bar scene on (infinite) repeat. Since episode 13 it felt like that. I skipped the fights but it still felt long.

Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if he were a national athlete like Chang Hee and I thought after seeing him jump 😂

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Yes, I wish more Changhee and Kijeong and less Gu.

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This might be an unpopular opinion, but the relationship between Mi-Jeong and Gu is one of the best romance I have seen in K-drama, just after Chicago Typewriter. Its unique, dangerous(to say the least) and unprecedented and that's why it has such a scorching passion. Not all love stories have happy endings and we don't know if they will have one or not, but what they have is 'LOVE' in its purest form. They enjoy being in each others company and miss each other desperately when not together. 90% of movies/dramas show romance through bland and passionless kisses, but with simple glances and skinship, this drama has shown how love and passion should be. Hat's off to the drama writers. This is most definitely one of the best dramas of this year.

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Agreed this is a love with no strings attached at all. They simply love the company of each other - and not expecting the other party to change for his or her own sake. So many romantic relationships falter because of the naivety in believing love will conquer all.

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I may get flamed for writing this, so let me start by saying I really did enjoy watching MLN. I loved its uniqueness and explorative spirit. Everything about it oozes talent, and it will probably win some awards. However...after taking some time to step back and objectively process what I had seen, I feel rather like I had been (happily) hypnotized for 16 episodes.

Park Hae-yeong’s writing was unique and (at times) brilliant, but with hindsight I cannot shake the analogy to the fable of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. The writing was unique and seductive, but so was the Emperor strutting around naked. His "invisible" clothes were of course insubstantial and non-existent, not unlike a script filled mostly with stream-of-consciousness dialogue that never really changes, only gets repackaged and spoken again. No one dares tell the Emperor
(or each other) that they really don't see his clothes (or a fabulous script); it is much easier to applaud and over-hype what the people pretend to see.

Maybe it was just my poor eyesight.

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I agree with what you're saying. I think people are going into rapture over MLN and declaring this best kdrama evah because kdramas (and Asian dramas in general) don't usually tackle the topic of existentialism. It's very ambitious for MLN to do so, but I don't think Park Haeyoung has full grasp of the subject matter to pull it off perfectly. Like I wrote, MLN feels like a collections of her thoughts that got dramatized, but her thoughts aren't fully baked yet, so it feels like viewers are left wondering what her thesis is.

However, there are enough moments of brilliance in MLN that make the show worth it, and I appreciate the introspection it brought to my life.

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Hpnotized is the right word. Even when I realized I was hpnotized which was quite not late for me, I still stubbornly made a conscious effort week in week out to remain hpnotized to the very end. Why? I can't really say. But I kept trudging in willingly. How the show gave that effect, I do not also know. But it sure attests to how good the writing, directing and total execution of the show was.

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I’m absolutely fine with being hypnotized. It’s television. One of the main reasons I watch is to escape mentally for a little while from my everyday life. If that escape is also thought-provoking, visually striking, and emotionally resonant, all the better. The extraordinary acting of Lee Min-ki and the rest of the cast wouldn’t redeem a bad concept or script, but in this case they were enough to put this in the top rank for me.

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Giving My Liberation Notes a close and happy ending would go against of what if this drama is all about. Life is an endless struggles and those struggles will only end the moment one passes away. In life sometimes your up, sometimes your down. At times you know where your going but stumble down and then veer away of your direction. With these writer Park Hae-young did not give us a conclusive ending but combine different options.

Some characters finally found their purpose thought not what they expected (Changee), some take the step to start a new beginning (Mr. Gu), others are hopeful (Mijeong) while some are uncertain (Gijeong).

These what makes up Life. The uncertainties, the new beginnings, of being hopeful and finding ones purpose.

This drama is beautiful at least for me.

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I wouldn't never expected the most pertinent lines in the finale were people expressing how they had failed to liberate themselves after all.

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Life happened to them. Life didn't spare them, even in fiction.
At least they gained one thing. They noticed the root of their problem. That's one step in whatever direction they take, and face.

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The ultimate liberation that people can find is when they die.
Before that they can only do one step closer.

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Very shortly, because I have to go to sleep. This is one of the weirdest shows I have ever watched.
But hey! Lee Min ki broke my heart in different times and I was mesmerized by his looks and thoughts and rants...
Honestly, the best of this show was Lee Min ki's character.
I would watch again only his scenes...

The Gu's mafia world was boring and stressful for me. I wouldn't enjoy the company of such people in the real life, who would say, I can enjoy them in dramaland???

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Thank you @quirkycase for your timely and succinct recaps. How many times have I smiled and nodded while watching this drama? Too many to count. I am smiling while reading the many wonderful Beanie comments, both for and against. It takes a strong drama to stir up so many varied opinions.
Like My Ahjussi , there was a very strong thread of Buddhist thinking woven into this drama. When characters behaved irrationally I thought, "That's just how people behave in samsara". The rules of the Liberation Club are the same as those of the practice of loving kindness, which begins with the self first. Taking time to acknowledge the little moments of beauty and fleeting seconds of contentment is an actual form of daily practice. Finally, when MJ empties her heart of hatred for her ex-boyfriend, she is actually making room for more peace, happiness and light in her world.
Sincere gratitude to writer Park Hae-young for allowing us to enjoy a real slice-of-life drama with a cast and crew capable of pulling it off.

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Is a surprise for me that nobody noted the cross at mr Gu's neck. Reading that the writer express Buddhist thinking makes me feel that he really doesn't fit in Yeom's world. Maybe this is the reason he isn't reunited with Chan Hee in the last episod.

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Mr Gu being a Christian he see Mi Jung as his Guardian Angel.
He is not totally bad, I remember him suggesting Mr Shin to declare all money to the authorities.

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This drama is just... not it for me.

I really tried, but the show has been off kilter since the beginning and ended just as bumbling as it arrived. The pacing was totally inconsistent; it started off (painfully?) slow to -- I think -- bring us into the countryside pace of life, then sped up in the middle, slowed down, then picked up, and ended somewhere in the middle.

And while the characters each had qualities that I could see in myself or those around me (who hasn't been unsure in life, love, work, friends, and/or family), there was a disconnect in how that plays out in real life.

The time jumps were abrupt, the best parts were glossed over (all the quirky friends and coworkers disappeared in the middle), and things just *happened* that we were supposed to accept with no real explanation.

I'll try to remember the good parts -- there really were some here and there -- but overall, good riddance!

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I took to this show gradually and my increasing appreciation for it benefitted from watching parts of each episode, stopping them to reflect on or do other things and then coming back to them. The emotional crescendos were rewarding as well as at times painful but unforgettable. I wish series like these are seen by a wider foreign audiences who have now arguably come to expect ‘variations on a theme’ approach to Korean shows a la Squid Games. I came to discover Korean films relatively independently of another’s influence a number of years ago but am still a neophyte to KDrama in comparison to many of you who have spent years watching them. Watching KDramas has been a trip as on the one hand, it - inevitably and inherently - is only capable of providing some insights into a vibrant, complex and still traumatised country slowly emerging from a recent history of colonialism, imperialism and brutal authoritarianism. And, on the other hand, like any art form the best of it is capable of encouraging us to engage with the better angels of our nature as well as enriching our imaginations. Just don’t end up believing the Hallyu mythology that Korean men in RL are ridiculously good looking and tall magical creatures with high emotional intelligence and endless capacity for self-sacrifice.

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MiJeong did not liberate, she became an unrealistic saint at the end. Almost like the HR lady who always had the happy face on; no matter how horrific Gu’s condition is, MJ will always have a happy face in the relationship, like nothing bothers her. I get the message of accepting someone for who they are, and they have to voluntarily seek help, but carrying on a romantic relationship with Gu like nothing is wrong, and her heart is filled with love? What has Gu done for MJ? Everything he has done, taking her to eat etc., is just normal boyfriend stuff. He only contacted her when he was on the verge of collapse. MJ risked her life to save him, gave him unconditional love, if that’s not enough to propel him to get help, he is hopeless. He can barely manage to keep himself afloat, and to rekindle a romantic relationship with MJ? What an a-hole.
MLN’s first 15 episodes are some of the best kdrama, or even drama period, I have ever seen. Ep 16? Director, writer, what have you done to our lovely, fierce, uniquely MJ MJ?

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MJ will be okay because, through the Liberation Club she has learned that the only person she can save is herself. Gu ain't there yet, and may not ever be. What did her mom do but work herself to death for a man? MJ will be fine; she won't do that. She has precision AND creativity.

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