1/4 Quarter Review: Angry Mom Episodes 1-4
Now i know, as i am four episodes deep in Angry Mom’s world, i know. I should have never started this drama, i was expecting something more lighthearted and i received a bereaved heart pounding with pain, injustice, hatred, anguish and above all, silence. It’s one of these dramas that grab your feels and strike them with full force to the ground with its raw realism, without romanticizing the ongoing threnody. It’s as harsh as reality, under a drama prism as it deals with the fragile topic of bullying. It’s not something that happens at school only, it’s at workplaces, colleges, it can happen anywhere, to anyone for any “reason”, but it’s during school that it appears for the first time in one’s life and it steadily nurtures itself into a societal monster that plagues people’s lives. Angry Mom through its raw contours and fragile core has earned my trust and sometimes i feel like i am watching a South Korean movie through its freedom of expression, setting aside the straitlaced blinders and looking straight to the heart of the problem with a like-minded clean stare and a shocking way. Angry Mom needs to shock, because reality is shocking sometimes, it’s not a road paved with rose’s petals, roses have thorns too and Angry Mom has many thorns. Making bullying appear as something less alarming would be nearly as disastrous as bullying itself, but Angry Mom is here to teach a few lessons, one way or another, not to beautify and eventually lose itself between the lines. Audience, if the truth hurts, prepare for pain.
MBC and tvN are probably my favorite South Korean channels, they have their own way through their productions to snare my feels and they usually succeed in rewarding me in the end. MBC’s Angry Mom is one of these examples and it set the standards to immense heights during its first quarter. I really do hope it will live up to my personal expectations up to the very end and justice will be served. Forgiveness is not for everyone no matter how deep the problem’s core lies, the perpetrators must be punished and the victims must be cleansed, even if they were perpetrators themselves at some point, without avoiding punishment either. And i was wondering which drama would ever be able of living up to the emotional colossus Kill Me, Heal Me used to be on the Wednesday-Thursday drama slot. Now i know, as i am four episodes deep in Angry Mom’s world, i know. And i will see it to the very end.
Bullying is not as simple as it seems, it is carved deep inside the heart of society in the way it is shaped and in the way it progresses. It has become part of its DNA simply because there’s discrimination and eventually various faces of racism pretty much everywhere. Be different as part of a minority at something and you’re automatically stigmatized as someone differential from the representative pattern’s reigning homogeneity. The more you distance yourself from the drove, chances are high the drove will come back at you with not so pure intentions. Bullying has no specific identity or status, once your power is greater that someone else’s in any field, under circumstances and personal ambitions he/she could become a victim. And one of the many reasons this monster gets fed and keeps going on is silence, the silence of the victim due to immense fear. And the need for someone to listen to everything you have to say once you decide to open up your wounds and depict them into words. There are many parameters and i could go on forever. Only once something gross happens society seems to care and then it’s being forgotten until another big news hits the screens.
As for Angry Mom, I like the way the screenwriter deals with the overall topic and captures pretty well the subject reality-wise, scenario-wise there’s a sense of exaggeration but it’s there to present the depth of the problem because chances are high, with the right connections, perpetrators can hide their traces and remain in the shadows keeping up their pace in this abhorrent journey among bodies and souls. And the cinematography compliments the overall attempt with its darkening aesthetic, catching on camera in a representative way the emotional waves that trespass the characters’ facial and internal harmony from one edge to the other.
There are many broken figures in Angry Mom, but many corrupted to the core ones too as the light of truth and cleansing tries to blossom in the vast shadow of injustice with its various faces of violence. Oh Ah Ran (Kim Yoo Jung) and Jin Yi Kyeong (Yoon Ye Joo) are close to each other as friends and they have to bear the burden of systematic bullying from a team of girls from their own class, one of them being Wang Jeong Hee (Lizzy – After School/Orange Caramel). It’s not as simple as it seems and once Ah Ran who is more dynamic than Yi Kyeong tries to protect her friend she finds herself in a more fierce bullying assault, not by the girls this time, but by her classmate who was supposed to like her, Go Bok Dong (Ji Soo). He doesn’t act on his own, he’s one of the underlings of Ahn Dong Chil (Kim Hee Won), who never really grew up and remained a bully throughout the years.
Ah Ran’s mother, Jo Kang Ja (Kim Hee Sun) notices her daughter’s hurt body and eventually finds her lying hurt by a wall in shock. Her attempt to inform the school didn’t have any positive outcome, it worsened the overall situation. A teacher over there, Do Jeong Woo (Kim Tae Hoon) isn’t as innocent and willing to help as he seems, he’s the source of the problem inside the school and works directly with Dong Chil and his underling, Bok Dong. But it’s not only that, there’s a whole shady business going on behind Jeong Woo inside the school’s library and Yi Kyeong knows about it. The problem doesn’t stop there, the whole shady business isn’t as small as it seems since Jeong Woo has connections pretty much everywhere, from the silty world of people “working” at night to the oh so prestigious ministry of education. There’s a whole world of corruption and whitewashing behind the violent mask of bullying.
Ah Ran is not Kang Ja’s real daughter, she’s her deceased sister’s daughter, but Kang Ja loves her like a daughter. Ah Ran lives with Kang Ja, her stepfather Oh Jin Sang (Im Hyung Joon) and Kang Ja’s mother-in-law. I can’t digest these two, i wonder how Kang Ja fell into that family, probably to create a protective environment for Ah Ran, but like mother like son, Jin Sang and his mother expect everything from Kang Ja inside the house as if she was their slave. Kang Ja has more important problems to deal with and her daughter’s life is above everyone and everything. She tried to contact a judge she knows from her school days, Park Jin Ho (Jun Gook Hwan), but she finds herself in front of various events that have to do with bullying. Realizing that the school and/or justice can’t do anything for her daughter, she decides to take the situation in her own hands. Ah Ran stays at the hospital and refuses to talk, it’s one defense mechanism to prevent her mother and her friend from getting hurt even more. But silence isn’t a solution at this point, it can only perpetuate and eventually enlarge the problem.
Kang Ja, who was a bully herself in her school days (known as Beolgoopo’s Sashimi back in the days), finds an old friend, Han Gong Joo (Go Su Hee); was the name coincidental or it resembles to the movie Han Gong Ju because it deals with bullying and the violence that surrounds it as well? Kang Ja with the help of Gong Joo goes to Ah Ran’s school as a newly transferred student under the name Jo Bang Wool. At the same time, a new teacher appears at school, Park No Ah (Ji Hyun Woo) who’s Park Jin Ho’s son. Like father like son, No Ah is a hopeless romantic dwelling in the world of poetry, an idealist that believes in people and that everything can be solved once there’s will. Soon he realizes that he can’t control everything with words of wisdom or poetry. By the time Kang Ja notices Ah Ran’s desk filled with hateful messages she explodes towards the female bullying company to eventually find out about Bok Dong’s relation to the overall matter. Bok Dong senses her fierceness, but teachr No Ah too by the time he tries to separate them.
Kang Ja becomes Bok Dong’s shadow and eventually finds out that he works for Dong Chil, a dreary shade from the past. His brother and Kang Ja were in love and she wanted Dong Chil to let his brother follow his dream and attain the law college class. As a fierce bully, Dong Chil after beating her up he tried to molest her and by the time his brother appears to help Kang Ja an accident occurred with Kang Ja’s knife leading to his brother’s death and Dong Chil’s jail sentence. It’s something Dong Chil never forgot whereas at the same time he never tried to change and eventually became a worse “human” being. Kang Ja realizes that Bok Dong is a victim too, but she doesn’t know that his brother is in Jail and he does everything Dong Chil tells him to in order to help his brother get out sooner. She tries to help Bok Dong and her words have an impact on him, but the turn of events was way ahead of them.
Yi Kyeong tried to talk to her mother, but she was too busy with her own work and duties. It was a crucial point and Yi Kyeong tried to contact the ministry of education through anonymity, but Jeong Woo’s connections managed to solve this problem. After paying one final visit to her beloved friend Ah Ran, the next step for Yi Kyeong was to search on her own for answers at the school’s library, but Jeong Woo was already there waiting for her. Bok Dong was after her too under Dong Chil’s orders, but i don’t think he would harm her that much, he would have threatened her in order to protect her, we had already witnessed his internal battle once Dong Chil was preparing him to become a murderer. Whether Jeong Woo pushed her off the school’s rooftop or she jumped to escape from his murderous plans, Jeong Woo is the murderer.
The morning found Yi Kyeong lying on the ground of the school yard, cold and lifeless. That morning found many figures broken with Kang Ja unable to withstand the sudden loss, teacher No Ah’s ideal world collapsing as he witnessed reality’s bitter face, a mother that couldn’t deal with the pain; if only she had listened to Yi Kyeong that night. Jeong Woo put on the mourning and considerate mask and appeared at the funeral to receive Yi Keyong’s mother’s justified negativity, but it also was that morning when Ah Ran broke her silence and directly blamed him for her friend’s unjust death, something that automatically makes her a target. Because not only did he have an illegal affair with the young student, Yi Kyeong was also pregnant to his child.
The overall ambiance of the drama is darkening and bereaving, but there are also rays of light that lead to immense laughter, like Gong Joo’s long-haired swag peasants who are like Snoop Dogg’s Korean distant relatives and Kang Ja’s most fighting scenes and interactions from the past! Angry Mom definitely needs some grotesque scenes and figures in order to lighten a bit the world of reality with a few but powerful humorous moments.
Except for Bok Dong who is the strong figure of the school in terms of physical power, there’s another strong figure, in terms of mentality and knowledge, Hong Sang Tae (Baro). He’s got a silent crush on Kang Ja, well, her student alter, Bang Wool. We haven’t seen Baro’s figure a lot, but we’ve already explored the contours of his personality. Sang Tae lives in a restrained environment, he’s chairman Hong Sang Bok’s son, a frightening man with wealth and power who systematically erupts his anger towards his physically abused secretary, Joo Ae Yeon (Oh Yoon Ah). The motorcycle in his room and the fact that he turns it on in times of tension within the house depicts his mentally abused world in an environment from which his mother wants to break out and that’s the reason she wants a divorce from the chairman. Secretary Joo steadily leans towards Jeong Woo’s direction while Dong Chil would want her by his side. I’d like to invest more in this woman’s psyche since she always seems to be around ill-natured people with an inclination to hurting others, in various ways, because violence doesn’t have to be physical to be violence.
There are many things going on as we’re only 1/4 in Angry Mom’s scheduled airing episodes and everyone’s doing a wonderful work in depicting their characters, from the naive but violently awakened teacher No Ah to the dynamic mother and undercover student Kang Ja, from the victimized but strengthening Ah Ran to the evil Jeong Woo, from the quirky Gong Joo to the introvert Sang Tae and the dual world of Bok Dong as victim and perpetrator at the same time, among others. And there’s great chemistry between the characters, especially between Kang Ja and Bok Dong, Ah Ran and Kang Ja, Ah Ran and Yi Kyeong, teacher No Ah under his perspective with everyone he interacts, etc. We have yet to find out what’s going on in the background with the shady business and the betrayals among people with wealth and power on an ongoing journey for more power or money, each to his Achilles’ heel. The fourth episode was a crucial moment for everyone, especially the end of it. It announced Yi Kyeong’s violent end of the line and the impact it had on pretty much everyone around her. It’s the moment when Bok Dong was taken away by the police whereas later on Jeong Woo, Ah Ran, Kang Ja and No Ah would find themselves at the same environment. The mourning hall is about to turn into an emotional battlefield because Kang Ja didn’t see this coming, neither Jeong Woo nor No Ah, for different reasons, as for Ah Ran who just lost her precious friend, her previous silence echoes back with the volume of a thousand megaphones of pain and anger. The first four episodes were only the beginning in the traumatized world of Angry Mom and with a clamp asphyxiating my heart, i can say i’m looking forward to the next ones.
“Though the world isn’t always beautiful, it isn’t always cruel either.
Not all poems are always beautiful, but sufficiently moving;
And i hope you find a poem of your own.”
(Park No Ah to Yi Kyeong, through a letter that never reached its recipient)