Anyone in the mood for deep thoughts, self reflection, and long walks from the bus stop? Lee Min Ki, Lee El, and Kim Ji Won play three siblings who live out in the country with their parents, yet all work in Seoul. Their daily commute looks exhausting and wears on their ability to hold relationships and participate in work activities. At first glance, you would think “this show moves at a glacial pace” as we follow each mundane thing the siblings do about their day. But as we continue the journey, I’m finding a quiet peace in their meanderings. They are all in a state of personal growth and I find myself wanting to grow along with them. Let’s see if you too can handle the commute.
The youngest sister works for a company that insists its employees be part of a club, any club. These clubs meet outside of work, and the bus schedule really does make it impossible for her to join any of the clubs without having to pay huge taxi fees every time they meet. This is also an excuse, because her personality really doesn’t lend itself to social gatherings. There are two other employees in the same boat as her. One of them happens to be very sexy Lee Ki Woo playing a single dad who is all sorts of boyfriend material. The three eventually form a club (spoiler, sorry!) and their theme is to liberate themselves from whatever they feel is holding them captive.
Drama Geek: This is the undercurrent of the show and runs through most of the characters. They’re all kind of tied down by various aspects of their lives and seem to plod through each day with a routine that creates the quiet and comforting rhythm of each episode. As each character realizes they want to make a change, you start cheering them on.
Karie the Maknae: I wasn’t sure about Mi Yeong, the younger sister, at first. But she’s willing to reveal her inner thoughts to those who are patient enough to stop and listen, and the Liberation Club is exactly that. The thoughts she has are relatable, especially to introverts, and make me think about how I interact with the people in my own life. Do I exhaust them? Am I finding happiness in what I do? But the best part that’s only a little spoilery is one of the club’s fundamental rules: don’t give advice or comfort. Just listen.
Each child has a job in the city, lives with their parents, and is currently single. They all seem to want love, and yet they can’t find or keep it. The brother sabotages every relationship he’s in and is self-aware enough to realize that he does it, and even seems to know why. He’s also longing for independence and maybe some validation from his dad. Dad is the strong and silent type. He tends to grunt and only speak up when he’s annoyed with the children. The older sister has decided she’s going to love someone no matter what, while the youngest sister decides she wants to be worshiped by the neighborhood drunk.
Drama Geek: It all sounds so messy. It is, and the two older siblings really aren’t the most likeable people, and yet I like sitting next to them, trying to figure their life out. They’re trying to navigate adulthood and become a separate entity that isn’t a part of this family unit. I moved away from home at nineteen and I’ve never lived there again, and yet I still find myself trying to figure out where I fit with my own family, and who I am as a separate person with different life experiences.
Karie the Maknae: One of my favorite traits in a literary character is ironic self-awareness, and that is EXACTLY what the oldest brother, Yeom Chang Hee, has. He’ll be going on and on, ranting about something that annoys him, then stop and say, “Wait. I do that too.” Or he’ll talk about a time that he surprised himself by rising above his knee-jerk reactions. He’s not perfect, and goodness knows he has far too many opinions, but overall, he’s likeable underneath that annoying surface. The older sister, Gi Jeong, is less likeable in my opinion. She’s nearly 40 and STILL hasn’t learned how to relate to the people around her. She sabotages her romantic relationships, comes up with ridiculous ways to get attention, and airs ridiculous opinions. But she’s starting to grow and if she matures enough, I might stop fast forwarding my way through her scenes.
Lost Soul Among Us
Son Seok Koo plays the neighborhood drunk who will only tell the family his name is Gu, and nothing else. I’d argue that everyone else on the show drinks only slightly less than this guy does; he just does it on his porch alone. He works with Dad and is almost as silent as the father. You’d definitely want to bring headphones for your own entertainment if you spent a day with these two. As the show progresses, you get a sense that Gu is running from something and just stumbled upon this rental house as a place to hide.
Drama Geek: I’ve loved Son Seok Koo since he played the detective in Sense8. They’ve styled him in soft and thin shirts and lightweight pants so he almost looks like he’s vacationing on an island. I don’t know that I could handle the very, very silent treatment he gives the youngest sister, but I can tell why she might be drawn to him. She admits very early that she’s never been a happy person, and all she wants is to become whole. The deep thoughts she eventually starts writing down and expressing give the show a density that is hard to explain. In the quiet moments of your life, you listen and nod your head in agreement with her.
Karie the Maknae: I’ve never had the opportunity to pay attention to Son Seok Koo in a drama, but I’m finding his quiet charisma compelling. The way he and Mi Jeong find ways to connect, to “worship” each other, are charming and understated, yet perfectly suit their characters. He’s mysterious, but there seems to be something good about him that has me rooting for him despite his lack of a past.
The main family is dysfunctional but also feels extremely relatable. Mom and Dad work very hard to provide for their children, and their children try to be respectful to their parents. The kids all still feel suffocated in the smaller town, and the travel time they go through each day makes that feeling even more pronounced. There is also a side family, with the single dad played by Lee Ki Woo. He lives with his two sisters and his daughter. They run a family restaurant but also have day jobs. They support one another but also might feel burdened and tied down by certain aspects of the arrangement.
Drama Geek: Single parents are starting to become represented more and more in Korean dramas. It’s a nice thing to see, and watching Ki Woo play this quiet dad who loves his daughter and is trying to do what is best for her is so touching. I want all the best for his character, and I just love seeing him onscreen. He has a possible romance brewing and I’m not sure what I think at the moment, but time will tell.
Karie the Maknae: I really like Lee Ki Woo’s character, and the way he’s doing his best to adapt to parenthood and life in two very different careers, as well as handling the attentions of one strange woman. The club he forms with Mi Jeong and the other manager seem to be helping him express his grief and his hardships more clearly, and his quiet self is showing depths that make him relatable and lovable.
Drama Geek: I am not sure we represented this show in a way that will make you want to watch. It’s a very hard drama to describe. I can’t tell you why the slow walks from the bus, followed by each kid getting ready for bed, makes me want to see what happens next. I think it’s the process of watching these people struggle and then want to grow and change. They aren’t happy and they all know it, but they aren’t quite sure how to make life better. That is 100% relatable to me right now. My favorite part of the drama (I’m on episode 7) is when the Liberation Club meets. They are all introverts, and when they first met, they all sat looking outside instead of each other. I sighed and realized that would be my preferred way of meeting with people I don’t know that well. They all share how they’re feeling and they don’t judge each other or even try to make things better. They just listen. I don’t think we do that enough anymore, and it feels very therapeutic.
Karie the Maknae: I feel like a lot of people have a compelling need to see how other people live their lives, if only to make themselves feel better. And trust me, after watching Gi Jeong and her ridiculousness, I feel MUCH BETTER about my own life. Yes, that might be slightly petty. There’s also something thoughtful about the use of the landscape in the drama — the slow pace and oppressive heat of the country life is used in opposition to the faster pace and controlled climate of Seoul life. Neither is presented as better than the other, but as two very different facets of the children’s lives, pulling them in two directions. Watching them navigate this complicated journey pulls me in every week, and I think it’ll do the same for you.
Until the next commute,
Drama Geek & Karie the Maknae
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi