Like a sneaky little twerp that this show clearly is, episode 7 began by showing us little Hong Do reading Rapunzel in her little cupboard. The scene showed how swearing had already been a part of Hong Do’s personality and how the child was isolated but did not want to be alone.
The scene transitions to the adult Hong Do in Rapunzel mode and 2 Princes Charming… er, make that 1 Prince Charming and 1 Prince Grumpypants come a-calling. And Rapu-Hong-do chooses Grumpypants, because that’s what her heart wants. Fair enough. Message received, loud and clear.
And this is my lightbulb moment: The Doo Soo we’ve been seeing all the past 6 eps was Prince Charming. He was charming because Hong Do (and the show) was fairytale-ing the shit out of him. She watched him in wonder and we watched her watch him in wonder. She imagined the dance-kiss and we squeed at the … tweeness. She touched his hand like an adorable chipmunk ET and we sighed at the romance.
Romance: a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love, and adventure… Thank you, Merriam Webster. With the stone-blobby river serving as a moat, Hong Do’s small hovel serving as her castle (or tower, if you must), and the gentle cop replacing lightbulbs and standing looking up to the light inside the house… you get the picture.
All this while, Yi Suk was busy being the gruff grumpypants whose baseline MO was to manhandle and drag Hong Do around. Does swooning over naive romance and cringing at all the manhandling make us bad decision makers? I don’t think so.
BUT… and that is a big but, with the ep 7 opener the story switches gear. Rapunzel chooses the Grumpybear because her heart wants what it wants. Till now only her body had betrayed her, but with this episode her heart aligns with her body. Should those rooting for Mr Charming despair? Wait, the show takes care of that too. The pedestal Mr Charming’s been placed on gets knocked and chinks appear on his handsome façade. Now, we have no reason not to stop the heroine from following Grumpybear.
The show does all this subtly and systematically. Look at the picture above: the one that shows Hong Do being led (+/-gently?) and the one in which she’s strangling the bear in rage. If we did not know these people, we’d guess the upper one’s the better choice, right? But in context, the bottom half’s the way to go. A neck strangler is better than a meek lamb for sure. At least in this world. At least till ep 8. (Notice how I don’t trust where the show will go in the coming eps.)
How did the show manage to promote the Grumpy and tumble the Gentle? Well, it’s hinting that there was no gentle. It was all in Hong Do’s head. The Doo Soo we knew till date was a FANTASY. When he starts pursuing Hong Do for real, he becomes worrisome.
This is done so subtly and sneakily. She hates the colour red. He gifts her a red scarf that figuratively ‘chokes’ her. Notice how she keeps repeating ‘she can’t breathe’ with him around. He suffocates her. The once chivalrous-seeming Cop becomes almost an obsessive stalker. He rides that line between sweet and obsessive so creepily!
The man Doo Soo (and not the fantasy version we knew till now) is convinced Hong Do lives only for him. Which is not far from the truth when we first meet the girl. But that girl’s changed. And the cop does not realise this. He thinks he loves her too and is now projecting all his ideas of romance on her. Reverse projection? Because before he started pursuing her, Hong Do was projecting her idea of romance on him.
Just as he gets his Romance on, she switches sides. Ha! Now all she can think about is the assy Doc. She tries to hang on to the status quo, she tries to squelch these new terrifying feelings, but the doc’s siren call won’t be damped by switching off the phone and hiding it under the sofa cushion.
We see Cop Jang (he could have gone by the name Cop Jjang in the past few eps, but now? Nope.) thinking about marrying Hong Do without her input into the decision. He assumes she’ll say yes. His chivalry takes a tinge of patriarchy as he starts making decisions for Hong Do. He even pays her rent WITHOUT asking her.
But the moment my heart just sank was when we see Hong Do slave away the entire night making banchan for the cop. No, he didn’t make her do it. But, it’s her way of penance for daring to have feelings for another guy and for not reciprocating the cop’s feelings when all her life he was The One. It’s a penance for Jang and for her past self.
To make sure we strangle our goodwill for the former Mr. Chivalry and the current Mr. Patriarchy, we keep getting hints of violence from the previously gentle man. I swear, this is such a subtle 180 in a character, and it’s not completely unbelievable. Good writing?
When Hong Do makes it clear that she no longer has feelings for him, he patronises her clear answer into saying she’s WRONG about her feelings! This is what I hate the most in every second leads, male or female, ever. Daring to tell someone else they are wrong about how they feel. And so, ladies and gentlemen, we see the Jang ship sink to the bottom.
The show then starts earning sympathy points for the erstwhile incorrigible Doc. Yi Suk’s family baggage has always been subtly hinted at, but in ep 7 we clearly see how things stand. This guy is his real self with his mom – the part of him that’s without the surface glibness and the inability or maybe the desperate, deliberate need to not care. His mother and her volatile mood swings and her bad life choices have Yi Suk in a vise like hold. He takes on all the guilt and burden of her irresponsibility. That’s not something any child should do. That’s why he’s so messed up.
And the guy is messed up. In ep 1, we almost believed he stabbed his patient. He seems to have alcohol dependency and bad impulse control. He even drove drunk and smashed his car in the first ep. With his girlfriends, he cannot be intimate. Yeah, he has good sex, but cannot share intimacy. Because he’s scared shitless people will leave him. Just like his brother who died. Just like his absentee Dad who seems not to care. Just like his Mom who’s always threatening suicide. Yeah. Man’s got issues.
Hong Do sees him reeling under the drama of his family, and she learns of his less-loved childhood, and she reads his mom’s suicide letter — and something changes in her. I think the letter was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Hong Do carries a lot of guilt and regret about not having been able to attend her gran’s funeral and how abruptly her life with gran had ended. Maybe she could really empathise with how much the letter could hurt Yi Suk had he seen it.
Talking of goodbyes, have you guys noticed how bad Yi Suk’s at it? He clings on to things. And people. Like the way he never cleanly broke off with his ex-girlfriend and always said they were in the process of a breakup. This guy hates goodbyes and endings.
So the entire ep 7 was about Hong Do coming to a decision. It was about her choice. And she chose Yi Suk. I… am guessing there’s a lot of empathy, sympathy, and maybe pity in that choice in addition to the sexual zing they both share and the sibling-like monkey-ing around the two end up doing often also figures in there somewhere.
But, right now, all we know is Hong Do chose Yi Suk and we can only sit and watch where that choice lands her. I still maintain Yi Suk’s wrong for her, but now I can say the Cop’s wrong-er. So, the lesser of the two evils?
Hong Do’s baseline persona is an opinionated, snarky, sweet, sheltered woman. Yi Suk brings out her base traits in an exaggerated manner that I’m not sure is entirely ok, but the show deems it’s the better choice and I have to grudgingly agree because Doo Soo makes her tongue-tied, mousy and doormat-y.
Doo Soo would be okay with the Rapunzel locked in the tower and he could well be her granny surrogate, whereas Yi Suk wants her to come out and play. My fear is she’s gonna get badly hurt. But that’s a chance she’s taking and I should keep my doubtful judgments to myself. Or until the time when I can come and say, ‘I told you so’. Or would that be mean? Let’s hope I don’t get the chance to say that.
Notice how she started ep 7 saying Yi Suk’s a crazy, psychotic bastard (which he is), and how she ends the episode all teary and desperate to hug him because her feelings won’t let her be.
Episode 8 plays out scenes where Grumpybear’s been sweet and good for Hong Do, and Mr. Charming has been Mr. Alarming.
I mean, a combo of ‘Thank you’ and ‘It’s nice’ always beats out ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I understand’ when it’s been made clear that the thanks was sincere, the ‘nice’ genuinely giddy, the ‘sorry’ was said with the remorse of a hundred bent backs, and the ‘understanding’ has a suspicious tinge of a stubborn refusal to understand.
This show is all about people’s choices and how those choices end up hurting others around them. I’m worried about Gramps falling for Young Rae now. But some choices heal, right? How to choose the right choice — is that the drama lesson here? Or is the show just trolling us? I wouldn’t put that past it.
I’m at an interesting crossroads with the show. I’m curious of how it’ll unfold things, though I’m wary of how it can subtly do 180 character turns. I’m not sure I agree with its Rapunzel twist — let me have my fairytales — and I would have respected it more had it made Mr. Charming a genuine contender instead of taking the easy way out.
Will the Helmet Rapunzel find her happiness and need it involve either option A or B? Is there an option C?
PS So, I had this thought as I watched ep7 opener: All these years, K-dramas have been subverting the fairy tale Prince Charming effect by making the girl choose the Grumpybear! And here I thought this show was subverting the usual K-drama staples. Apparently, not. If I want subversion of a subversion, do I really mean I want the fairytale?
PPS Don’t let my code talk make you thing I want Cop Jang in the game. Nuh-uh. My problem is I don’t want the Doc in the game either! Sell it to me, Show.