What a week at One International!
In episodes 11 and 12 of “Misaeng” Manager Oh (Lee Sung Min) is finally promoted, we get another new face on Sales Team 3, and Geu Rae (Im Siwan) makes a bold and radical move on behalf of the team – all of which should be good things. But in the corporate world, you don’t work as an individual, and the consequences of an action or inaction have a ripple effect across the whole company. So even if we celebrated a win for the Team!GoodGuys last week by revealing Section Chief Park’s internal corruption, Sales Team 3 can’t rest easy because the fallout from exposing one of their own has ramifications that I don’t think anyone could have imagined.
Here are the 5 things I loved most about “Misaeng” episodes 11 & 12.
1. Byun Yo Han as Han Suk Yool
I have yet to talk about how much I enjoy watching Han Suk Yool appear on screen every week. I especially like watching Han Suk Yool as played by Byun Yo Han appear on screen every week. Suk Yool is another one of those characters made better by the actor playing the role, as I am not quite sure I would like Suk Yool as much as I do if it wasn’t for how thoughtfully and expressively Byun portrays our resident gossip and center-part-wearing newbie. Suk Yool is, on paper, a little too involved in the business of others, is a little too flattering to the higher ups, is a little too careless in respecting the boundaries others maintain. In short, there’s something a little greasy about him.
In a drama like “Misaeng” Suk Yool’s character provides much needed comedic relief, and the show could easily go for the cheap laughs, make him the running joke of the group of interns, keeping him a relatively shallow character in an already layered and diverse cast.
But no, not so with Byun’s portrayal of Suk Yool! He’s not simply a one-trick pony who provides laughs and signals a moment of light-heartedness in the drama (although he certainly does that too). He has his own struggles, his own lessons to learn, and his own obstacles to overcome. I also really enjoy that although he looks and acts relatively carefree compared to the rest of the newbies, he actually is quite serious about the work that he does. Surprisingly, he’s pretty good at it.
So as opposed to Geu Rae who doesn’t have the qualifications, Young Yi (Kang So Ra) who has the qualifications but has the unfortunate luck to have been born a woman, or Baek Ki (Kang Ha Neul) who only thinks he has the qualifications, Suk Yool is in a position where he can vocalize his displeasure to his supervisor when he feels he’s being taken advantage of. Interestingly, he can act with a sense of confidence that none of the other newbies quite possess.
But more that all of that, I love all the little touches Byun Yo Han gives Suk Yool, starting from that ridiculous haircut, to the way he constantly thinks he’s closer to Geu Rae than he really is, to the way he fights himself over listening in on other’s conversations. And while I think Byun has great subtle (and not so subtle) physical comedy, what I’m most impressed by is the way he can portray Suk Yool as a hurt puppy one second, a raving maniac the next, and a supportive colleague a moment later. He not only makes Suk Yool likable, he gives Suk Yool great depth. I sometimes find myself waiting for the next time Suk Yool appears on screen because he’s just that interesting to watch.
2. Those Pearly Whites!
I know what you’re thinking. I only have 5 slots available to feature my favorite things from a drama practically bursting with recap-worthy moments, so why would I waste a slot on something as frivolous as smiles? I think it is just as important to recognize characters’ joy and happiness as it is to comment on their tears and torment. And I don’t think I have seen an set of episodes for “Misaeng” where there were so many smiles from so many characters! It is refreshing to see our One International employees, especially our newbies, crack a genuine smile every once in a while. They are all the more precious since episodes 11 and 12 were exceptionally heavy with the drama and stress of putting a team, a company really, back together.
I am so invested in these characters and their stories that it is difficult to see them so depressed all the time. I want to see them happy. This is why I enjoyed the scene of Manager Oh with his family, and of the newbies hang out with each other, commiserating. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with all the problems of life and work that we forget there is this other side where everything is not all doom and gloom. And it reminds us that our One International employees have a sense of humor, that they can crack jokes and be silly and childish, and that’s real too.
3. Baek Ki Gains Approval
A lot of the smiles happened between Young Yi and Geu Rae, but I have to say my favorite smiley scene happened when our grumbly Baek Ki finally, finally, got the smallest approval from Team Leader Jang! I really enjoy the subtle changes in their relationship, and the pretense they both keep up – there’s not going to be pats on the back or an easy exchange of praise between these two, but the fact that Team Leader Jang has begun to train Baek Ki, and that Baek Ki worked so hard to complete a task which he initially thought he was trivial and meaningless, well, it speaks such volumes that words of praise and gratitude become unnecessary.
There was a point where I wanted Baek Ki to ditch the Steel Team and join Sales Team 3, but I’m so glad he stayed at One International and remains with his team because his dynamic with Team Leader Jang is just the thing to be the making of him. Baek Ki has been such a haughty character ever since the beginning of the drama, and his pride suffered by being on the Steel Team, but he really is a character that needs to be humbled and re-trained so that he can be as great as he thinks he is–and Team Leader Jang seems to be just the person to do it. Baek Ki has been praised and earned approval a lot in the past, but I have a feeling none of it felt as satisfying or was as hard won as when Jang said his report was “good.”
And Baek Ki’s reaction to doing something right is the most adorable thing ever. He doesn’t even want to let himself feel happy over completing this small task, probably even thinks it is silly how relieved he feels, and yet he can’t help himself and is only just able to repress his smile. Oh, and he even has a little bounce in his step. SO. CUTE.
4. Let’s Hear It for the Girls
I can’t and won’t hide my near embarrassing affection and support of the female characters of this drama. Manager Sun (Shin Eun Jung) and Young Yi are serious forces and remain so despite all the harassment and misogyny prevalent in the workplace dominated with insecure males vying for control. I appreciate that “Misaeng” hasn’t shied away from tackling the treatment of women in the corporate world, I like that we are shown how this attitude toward women is prevalent at all levels of the corporate ladder, and I especially appreciate the sensitivity with which “Misaeng” gives this topic.
Manager Sun, despite having a proven track record of being smart, capable, and successful, has not only stuck up for other female employees in the past, but this week she goes to bat for her male subordinate and doesn’t back down, even when she’s personally and unfairly attacked by words meant to demean her. The verbal lashing she gives acting Department Head Ma, who has his own track record of sexual harassment, was a definite highlight for this week.
And the fact that Young Yi’s supervisor not only scolds another team member for treating Young Yi like an errand-girl, but that he actually seeks out Young Yi’s expertise in Russian for a project, despite being so cold and abusive to her in the past–it’s this sort of gradual development and change of attitude that makes “Misaeng” so satisfying to watch.
Moreover, Manager Sun and Young Yi both know that the many of the conflicts with their peers and superiors aren’t because of them. They don’t internalize the way they’re treated as personal failures, or think of them as an accurate reflection of their skills or worth, as both of them know that it isn’t because of them as individuals (because let’s be honest, if they were men they would be incredibly celebrated–just look at how the Resources team praised and valued Baek Ki over Young Yi when they’re roughly equal in terms of experience) but merely because they’re women.
Even when their confidence is shaken and they’re facing difficult situations, they fall back on the knowledge that they’re they belong in the company, that they’ve worked for their place, that they earned the right to be there.
5. The Other Shoe Drops
The opening 10 minutes of episode 11 blew me away. It hit all the right notes for me emotionally, but more than that, I loved that we really get the impact of not only of Section Chief Park’s scandal, but of Sales Team 3 bringing it to the attention of the higher ups. Sure, we get Manager Oh promoted and Dong Shik and Geu Rae get to enjoy a bonus given by the President himself, but someone must take responsibility for the scandal, and unfortunately, that responsibility landed on Department Head Kim.
It is a heavy price to pay in order to keep one’s ethics, and no one is feeling the loss more than Manager Oh, who bears guilt at having played a hand in Kim’s removal. And even if Sales Team 3 did a great, nay, noble thing in turning in Park, it shakes things up for the rest of the company, where now no one feels quite safe from accusing eyes.
So many times scandals in dramas are nicely wrapped up in an episode or two, to the point where we forget that such a scandal even occurred. That is to say, there’s not a real lasting consequence for the characters or even the rest of the story. Life in these dramas carries on just as it always has. I have to admit that I was slightly surprised that the Park scandal only lasted one week, and I wondered if we would re-focus on our newbies gaining more work experience, having washed our hands of the Park scandal altogether. I should have had more faith in “Misaeng” because the show was not only able to introduce an antagonist and wrap up his storyline concisely but was also able to do it in such a way as to have that antagonist create lasting repercussions. The character no longer needs to be physically present in the drama since his actions act as a catalyst for major changes in several story lines.
Well done, “Misaeng,” well done.
These were the 5 things I loved about episodes 11 and 12. What were yours? Let me know in the comments below!