“One Absurd Day” adds some clarity to the drama and opens the story all the way up in interesting ways.
This recap of Thirty-Nine season 1, episode 2, “One Absurd Day”, contains spoilers.
In the premiere of Thirty-Nine, it was implied that one of the three main characters was going to die before the season’s end, and “One Absurd Day” reveals the identity of that person already. I was expecting it to be dragged out a while to create some mystery, but as it happens, I think it’s better this way, with the revelation adding some poignancy to scenes that might otherwise lack it, and virtually guaranteeing there will be plenty of emotion to come as we get closer and closer to the funeral flash-forwards we continue to glimpse.
Thirty-Nine season 1, episode 2 recap
Part of the reason why this development works is that Thirty-Nine has done such a good job of establishing these characters. They have an easy rapport that gives the impression of real friendship, which in turn makes the audience feel as if they’re being made privy to a private conversation, not watching a fictional drama. That weight of reality helps to make the early twist more effective; the show’s grounded nature reinforces that such things happen all the time, and might happen to your friend, or even you. For a drama about aging, that’s a bittersweet theme; the loss is sad, but it’s a reminder that life is finite and must be lived as enthusiastically and meaningfully as possible.
“One Absurd Day” also continues some of the subplots kick-started by the premiere, including Seon-u replacing Mi-jo at the clinic, and Chan-young breaking up with Jin-seok. Joo-hee continues to feel a little neglected, but you can feel the beginnings of a personal storyline beginning to develop here with restaurant owner Hyun-joon. As it happens, his girlfriend shows up, but you never know how the story might develop either way, and it’s a good opportunity for more easy-going patter between the leading trio.
Mi-jo’s sabbatical continues to loom as a kind of ticking-clock narrative device hanging over her blossoming relationship with Seon-u, which is full of charm. There’s a childlike sense of giggly excitement to it that stands in stark contrast to the painful, almost obsessive connection between Chan-young and Jin-seok.
I can’t help but feel, though, that the whole show is better when it has nothing to do with the men at all. The women – especially when they’re drunk – can quite easily carry this show on the strength of their chemistry alone, and there’s a part of me that feels as if it might work better as a purely platonic drama rather than a romance. I think, for once, the central coupling is somewhat secondary to the friendship at the show’s core, but it runs the risk of feeling like baggage when Mi-jo, Chan-young, and Joo-hee are all so compelling.
The revelation that it’s Chan-young who will bite the dust will inevitably reshape the show in a very substantial way over the next five weeks and ten episodes. It’s also not how most shows would handle things, and I think the shock and suddenness of the reveal helps it to sting even more. Far from being a late reveal, it’s something that we’re going to have to grapple with for the show’s entire run, right alongside the characters, and that strikes me as a novel dramatic conceit that might produce traumatizing results.