“Choice” finds the lead characters grappling with a crushing revelation, as they begin to navigate a new normal.
This recap of Thirty-Nine season 1, episode 4, “Choice”, contains spoilers.
The hard thing about loss is the change that comes with it. You catch yourself doing things alone that you once did with a friend, or a parent, or a child, and you’re reminded all over again that love is swapping pieces of your soul with someone else, so when you lose them you lose some of yourself, too.
Thirty-Nine season 1, episode 4 recap
This is clearly something that Thirty-Nine has on its mind. “Choice” is obviously about a choice, and an important one, which we’ll get to in a minute, but the undercurrent is that feeling of before and after, the life you lived before the loss that threw it off-course. This, I suspect, is why the reveal about Chan-young came so early, so this feeling could be cultivated more carefully, across a longer period.
Knowing what we now know, seeing the three characters at the show’s core spend quality time together has a feeling of resistance to it, of life and laughter in the face of imminent pain. Speaking of resistance, that’s the matter at hand. Given her life expectancy, Chan-young refuses chemotherapy, since she’s determined not to spend her remaining time in hospital. You don’t continue to live that way, you just die a little slower. Is this selfish? Or is her friends considering their own feelings and choices ahead of hers the selfish act? It’s a worthwhile question.
It’s also a question with no right answer. Much like how yesterday’s episode was about grappling with how to break terrible news to a friend, today’s is about how to process it. Now the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, Mi-jo now has to openly navigate how she feels about Chan-young’s situation, while Chan-young has to navigate her own mortality. It’s bleak. But it’s also important. And it allows rays of light to creep in from unexpected directions. I mentioned in yesterday’s recap that perhaps Mi-jo and Seon-u’s relationship felt ill-fitting alongside a study of grief and loss, but here we see how the time they’re able to share feels like a reprieve from reality.
But reality is always there. Thankfully it’s malleable; it can be shaped and changed. A sabbatical can become a period of extended care, the precious final moments of a friendship with a sudden expiry date. Chan-young must learn to live with dying, and her friends must too, and together they must all manage to enjoy the time she has left together. The strength of “Choice” is in how we feel these ideas coming together and beginning to form through the runtime, one of the few advantages of it being so long. There’s no doubt that this is a drama with terribly heart-breaking things in its future.