Tomorrow: Episodes 11-12
When the team’s next case hits close to home, we learn more about one of our reapers, and take a journey into his past. It’s as heartbreaking as the rest of the side stories Tomorrow has offered, but it’s also filled with hope… and more clues as to what happened in our team leader’s past life.
EPISODES 11-12 WEECAP
Yahoo, it’s time for Yoon Ji-on’s moment in the spotlight, and I’m glad for it, since the drama hasn’t really given him a ton of story up to this point. Nor has his ugly haircut done him any favors, but I digress.
Ryong-koo’s facing disciplinary action for going into vigilante mode during their last case, and it leads to rumors about his past reaching the ears of our teddy bear Jun-woong. In his own words he “badgers” Ryeon until she tells him Ryong-koo’s story, and we take an episode-long dive into the past.
Ryeon confirms that Ryong-koo not only killed four people in his past life, but that she was the reaper (in the Crime Unit at that time) that collected his soul. Their connection makes even more sense now, as does Ryeon’s understanding of Ryong-koo’s need to clock off on time.
Ryong-koo’s most recent life was in the Joseon era, and we see him as a young boy, raised by a poor but loving mother. Little Ryong-koo is smart and hungry to learn, but he’s bullied by the other boys around. Ryong-koo’s mother, LIM YU-HWA (Min Ji-ah), might seem like a peasant, but she’s quite well-educated and teaches her son to read and write. Turns out she’s actually the daughter of a scholar.
That scholar, though, was ruined and sold her to a gisaeng house… which is how little Ryong-koo came into being. Yu-hwa was raped by a disgusting governor, but later left the gisaeng house to raise her son.
But the past comes back to haunt her, and at the same time that the governor — so many years later — finally finds her, Ryong-koo learns about his mother’s “dirty” past from the neighbor boys. It’s a heartbreaking end for this adoring mother and son. The mother is “taught a lesson” by the three henchmen of the governor (omg, Show, please stop with these storylines!), but is even more broken by her son’s horror over her past. She winds up killing herself, and Ryong-koo lives in his anger.
It’s not until years later that he learns the truth about his mother’s past, and — convenient for the plot though it is – he finds the horrible men responsible, and promptly slaughters them. Then, he falls prey to the lure of the opium den that he’s been working as a guard of sorts for, and his life ends in a drug-induced haze. It’s super depressing.
The point, though, is that of the fate between mothers and their children, and we visit this point the same way we visited it a few episodes ago: suicides must be stopped at all costs because they break the red thread of fate. It’s what happened to Ryong-koo and his mother, and – as we might suspect — Ryeon and her beloved, as well.
In the afterlife, rather than be reborn, Ryong-koo chooses to stay with Ryeon and work as a reaper. He knows it’s his only chance to locate his mother again now that their fates are no longer bound — he also knows that the pain of her past life might be in her next life, and he vows to protect her this time, instead of blame her like he did in the past. And that, my friends, is why he’s been clocking off on the hour for a good hundred years: he’s been looking for his mother. And, as we saw last week, he’s finally found her.
It’s to this reincarnation of Yu-hwa that we turn in Episode 12. At first, she seems happy, and both Jun-woong and Ryong-koo watch her going along with her husband, about to birth their first child.
But yeah, this is Tomorrow, and sure enough, sad things are coming. The baby dies during childbirth, and it sends poor Yu-hwa into a very understandable tailspin. Sure enough, the next alarm to pop up on the Red Light app is for Yu-hwa, and the show just has no mercy, as usual, showing us the anguish she’s in.
Interestingly, her levels go into the green zone when she’s sleeping, and Ryeon and Jun-woong quickly piece together that something’s happening in her dreams that is giving her peace. They have to enter her dreams to figure it out… and guess who has recently left the Risk Management team for the Sales Team, who regularly go into people’s dreams to conduct reaper business? Ryong-koo.
In the end, Ryong-koo is able to fulfill his heart’s desire. He’s not only the one that’s able to comfort his mother in her grief and guilt, but later, he even breaks protocol and briefly gives her her memories back, so that the two of them can find closure. It’s sad, it’s lovely, and it might have wrecked me a few weeks ago, but at this point I think I’ve given Tomorrow all the tears I have to spare.
Still, it’s a lovely healing sequence, and I’m glad we got to spend all this time with Ryong-koo, whether it was experiencing the depth of the backstory itself, or finally learning the reason behind his nose-picking tick. But also, this deep dive into a character’s backstory has given me just the hope I need that this is exactly what we’re going to get for Ryeon and Joong-gil, too.
In fact, at this point, I’m willing to predict we’ll be unpacking their story much more next week, and then maybe in our final week, seeing Jun-woong’s fate (will he really be able to return to the Land of the Living so easily?)
I’m not only expecting the backstory because the show has proven it’s willing to devote entire episodes to it now, but also because slowly but surely we’ve been given the breadcrumbs. The red thread of fate that’s broken by a suicidal act. The fact that when a human suffers immense pain, it can stay with them and echo in their subsequent life. (This is illustrated to us by the little girl whose eyes Joong-gil covers, to protect her from a sight that would scar her for her lives to come.)
And also, there’s the hint at the very end of our episodes that the Jade Emperor knows a heck of a lot more about Ryeon and Joong-gil’s past than she’s willing to let on. Joong-gil discovers that both his and Ryeon’s logs are locked past their most recent lives — by the Jade Emperor herself — so maybe we’ll be venturing even deeper than we thought before we get to the bottom of their connection. In the meantime, my inner librarian will enjoy Joong-gil poking around the Jumadeung archives.