Just when I thought the show lost me at the end of episode nine to another round of roller coaster been-there-done-that ride, Discovery of Love gave me the most pitch-perfect and emotionally nuanced episode just yet in its episode ten. My heart was in pieces near the end of episode nine to the uncontrollable sobs of a grown man who at last realized, too little and much too late, the mistakes of his past and worse, the person that he is today.
It’s like looking into the mirror for the first time and hating with every inch of your fibre at the person you’ve turned into because flashes of the people you’ve neglected, trampled, missed, and perhaps even sacrificed are the expenses you’ve paid to arrive at the person you are today. There are no words specific and bountiful enough to capture this emotional loss that goes beyond nostalgia and collection of memories, and the heartbreak has no name because as much as this is about or due to other people, above all this is all you. Only you, yourself is accountable for the person you are.
Kang Tae Ha, you’ve come such a long way in the span of ten episodes and within the show’s timeline, ten years. I can’t remember the last time I watched and felt so deeply and sincerely about the transformational maturity of a character so kudos to Eric Mun for playing this character so pitch-friggin’-perfectly that my heart aches as I watch him mature before my eyes as he tries his darndest to make sense of the past and how it shapes his present.
What I sincerely wish he would not forget and for him to know is that he’s not a bad person. He’s not perfect and yes he was a jerk and is still a jerk to certain people, and yes he’s made questionable moves and have shortcomings, but it’s important to distinguish that it doesn’t make anyone a bad person for being inevitably human. There’s a clear distinction between bad actions and poor judgment, and being inherently unkind.
Which is exactly why I love his character transformation so much; like he said to Yeo Reum in episode nine, foul play isn’t part of his game. In other words Tae Ha’s maturity is organic within the context of happenings that take place in the show and is thankfully not due to the machinations of plot points, writer’s fixation, ratings hit and whatever else that typically happens when a character undergoes growth in a Kdrama. I love that because that is sincerity and a consciousness – a choice – to change for the better (or worse). For this, the writer deserves a hearty applause for breathing to life a character that feels humanly real and thus, so darn relatable.
I thought the ending of episode nine robbed me of the golden moments in the episode because I’d thought that ugh, we’re back to this dance of missteps but just as this show pulled a whiplash on me last week, the happenings in episode ten surprised me and that ending, that ending? Ooof. That ending.
To me, it’s like they’re finally on the same page: no more barking and biting at each other with empty words and overwhelming emotions, rather sitting down to openly talk about their shared past, the way they were …and finally understanding, together, what went wrong and why with an openness and maturity of the learned, rather than the child’s play they’ve been at for the past few months. There are so many things I love about this scene from the key points to the most subtle details; her acceptance and grief, his apology, their regrets over endless strings of ‘if only’…
“Why did you go there [to her father’s grave]?” She had asked him. In my mind I thought, “Because you couldn’t do so yourself, so I went for you.” But of course he gave her a different answer, “Because I wanted to apologize to him for not seeing through the promise I made to him.” The fact that he then held her without a word and even before that, never once forcing the story out of her and later, not demanding for any explanations …these little details of all the unsaid… they speak volume about how much he’s matured and just how much he holds her in his heart – wanting only the best for her.
Then there’s her, who’s finally, at last, opening her heart. “Why don’t you give them a chance?” He’d asked her in an earlier scene, that she allows others to be there for her. Though I understand her stance of not needing everyone to know everything about her like an open secret, he has a valid point by posing that question because like he pointed out, these are people who genuinely love her and want to be there for her. “Why don’t you give them a chance?” He’d asked. That same chance you once gave me which I stupidly never honored totally, I bet was what he internally thought.
When she cried over the death of her father and how it all happened, five years delayed, those tears came from somewhere deep. It came from years of building walls so high that she’s now a fortress, emotions in check, and wise enough on how to play any game to her advantage. When she cried over the death of her father, it was with the grief of a child trapped too long within the bruised heart of a learned woman. The loss was so searingly deep that it resonates beyond anyone’s guess because after all, each person’s well of grief is one’s own. Add together the accumulated years and who’s to say what that has turned into… so for Tae Ha to hold her without a word, expecting nothing, and to do for her what he believes she could not by visiting the grave and then gently asking that she let go of the weight, wishing and wanting only happiness for her… With tears in both of their eyes, they’ve neatly tied the bow.
…of the past, because lest they forget it’s the present that they live in and in this present, this is only the beginning.
It’s this scene that sealed the deal for me with an unflinching conviction: this couple is the end game of the show, period.