We are in the penultimate week of episodes and at this point I’m seriously worried for my health and the safety of others once “Misaeng” finishes its run next week. I mean, does anyone else find themselves inching towards their computer and hugging their monitor because of all the feels from this drama? That’s not just me, right?
This week’s episodes are emotionally and dramatically packed and the idea of teamwork is defined, redefined, and put to the ultimate test. Is it possible to remain just co-workers? How do these work relationships change over time? And, critically, just how far is one willing to go for a colleague?
But for now, here are the 5 things I loved about “Misaeng” episodes 17 and 18.
1. The Special Forces
Finally. I have been waiting for our newbies to combine powers for the greater good. And of course, leave it to Manager Oh (Lee Sung Min) to recognize just how talented and capable they actually are. The great thing about Baek Ki (Kang Ha Neul) getting over his Geu Rae (Im Siwan) jealously last week is that he can now fully incorporate himself into the group, and we can enjoy these last few episodes of our newbies being all sorts of adorable together.
What I love is that they each brought something to the project, despite Manager Oh’s teasing comment that “they didn’t need Geu Rae.” I love the mutual respect they have for one another. That they understand each person has a specialization and can contribute to the project, but that they need each other to complete the task at hand. There isn’t room for egos; this isn’t a competition. Rather, they’re open to each other’s suggestions, corrections, and help. And while I wouldn’t want Geu Rae, Baek Ki, Young Yi (Kang So Ra), or Suk Yool (Byun Yo Han) to change their teams, I am so happy that we got to see what things would be like if they worked together here at the end of the drama, especially as it provides a nice contrast to the beginning of “Misaeng,” when they were interns and it was every person for themselves.
It is especially nice to see how relaxed our newbies are in front of Manager Oh (someone calm Han Suk Yool down please), and how he has provided an opportunity for them all to shine without external pressure. It is a gentle reminder of what they’re capable of, why they were chosen from all the interns, and just how far they’ve come since those early episodes.
2. Sleepover Time!
But it wasn’t just our newbies who ended up spending some bonding time together. “Misaeng” has such a wonderful ensemble cast and has really taken the time to flesh out so many of the supporting characters that we leave Sales Team 3 or the newbies, it all still works. And I loved this scene between all the assistant managers because even if I’ve had a love-hate relationship with many of them throughout the run of this drama, I still feel that they deserved a scene just for themselves. And like we saw our newbies coming together and showing just how far they’ve come, this scene between the assistant managers accomplishes the same thing.
And I loved even more that Assistant Manager Sung wasn’t included.
Assistant Manager Ha makes a point of saying that things didn’t always used to be the way they are now; that they didn’t used to care so much about promotions or profits, of performance reports and finding that one big flashy project. That they were once, also, newbies who suffered at the hands of their bosses, who were humbled, who struggled just to survive. It is unexpectedly sentimental and reminiscent, and I love that it parallels the newbies’ scene so well.
They are the generations of One International, and while they are co-workers and colleagues, they also have a bond with each other that can’t, and doesn’t, exist with anyone else outside of their circle. When our (handsome) Assistant Manager Kang protests being dragged out by the rest of them, is there even a question as to why?
Ugh, drama, why do you have to do this to me?
3. A Rock and a Hard Place
I don’t know why I’m always amazed by how great the writing is in “Misaeng,” but just when I think it doesn’t get any better, I’m always sucker punched by a turn of events. The Solar Panel project is, in itself, a complicated project with its own risks and rewards, but it is not simply so. The success or failure of this one project affects so many characters, their story lines, and even One International.
Manager Oh is stuck between a rock and a hard place: he has to team up with Executive Director Choi on this project that seems so incredibly shady that he normally wouldn’t touch it, but if he is able to pull it off, the reward is so much more than just profits; it is Jang Geu Rae. But where there is high reward there is also high risk. If Sales Team 3 isn’t successful, it is the end of their careers at One International.
We want Sales Team 3 to succeed and be recognized, for Manager Oh to be promoted and for Geu Rae to become a full-time employee, but at what cost? Leave it to “Misaeng” to deliver the means by which Geu Rae can fulfill his one desire, to “continue working with Sales Team 3, forever,” by jeopardizing the people – perhaps the person – he cares about the most. Of course this drama would do this, of course it would.
4. The Rooftop Scene to End all Rooftop Scenes
So I’m eating my words from a couple weeks ago when I said that Lee Sung Min delivered the emotional highlight of the drama with the rooftop scene at the end of episode 14, because I didn’t anticipate just how good a Lee Sung Min and Im Siwan rooftop scene could be. I’ve complimented the acting of “Misaeng” on the whole, of Lee Sung Min, and separately of Siwan, and of them together, so I should have known better. Lee Sung Min is great on his own, but add Siwan to the mix and a rooftop scene isn’t just a rooftop scene.
We all know that the greatest “love line” of this drama is between Manager Oh and Jang Geu Rae, and no matter what has happened to them individually or as members of the same team, they have remained the emotional core of the show. And what a core they have been.
Their scene in episode 18 is all about the delivery. Yes, it’s pretty to look at, yes, it is meant to be an emotional highpoint of the week, and it is all of that. But it is also the case where it really comes down to the quality of the actors and how they’re able to work with and against one another to produce a scene of such quality.
Lee Sung Min is better because he’s playing opposite of Im Siwan. Likewise, Siwan is able to be as vulnerable, as forceful, as emotional as he is because he’s sharing the scene with Lee Sung Min. The both of them elevate the dialogue, the scene, the connection between their characters.
And the effect is as devastating as it is beautiful.
5. The Jordan Connection
Way back when, we all marveled at how stunning the Jordan opening scene to “Misaeng” was – how well shot, how gripping, how unexpected of an office drama it all was. I don’t think any of us were quite aware of how crucial that opening would be to the show. Especially in the early episodes, when it seemed that Geu Rae was in over his head, when it was nothing short of painful to watch him stumble through any and every situation, when everyone gave him a hard time about not knowing any languages, about only having a GED, about not being worthy, this opening scene gave us something to look forward to. It has been a subtle but reassuring presence throughout the drama so that, when things looked particularly hopeless, we could have the confidence to not give up, to stick with it, because look, Geu Rae overcomes it all.
And I have loved how the drama has left little bits and pieces for us to chew on throughout the episodes that hint at that first, opening scene in Jordan. So subtle has it been that if you’re not on your toes, these juicy bits will pass right by you. In episode 17, we get the introduction to Mr. Seo as a factory manager in China, and while I knew I didn’t like him, who he was didn’t hit me until he started talking about how he doesn’t like to “stay in luxury hotels.” Gah, it’s the same Mr. Seo that Geu Rae chases down in that opening scene!
He’s a character we haven’t seen in 16 episodes, and I love that we get re-introduced to him now, and how sneakily it was done. “Misaeng” takes great care in building up to emotional and dramatic points, and the payoff is always so striking because nothing is overt, nothing is thrown in our faces. I’m so looking forward to Jordan, so as odd as this may sound, I’m glad Mr. Seo is back.
Looking Forward to the Finale
Now that we have the majority of our conflicts and obstacles resolved, we can focus on the bigger issues at hand: the showdown between the Executive Director and Manager Oh, how does Geu Rae end up in Jordan speaking all that flawless English, and what about Suk Yool and Assistant Manager Sung? Will Baek Ki finally put the moves on Young Yi? And what about our lovely teacher who so adoringly looks after Geu Rae?
What are your predictions for the finale? Let me know in the comments below!
I’m so nervous and anticipating so much for next week’s episodes, but mostly I’m worried for what is going to happen after “Misaeng” ends. Are there support groups for k-drama withdrawals?