“Conviction” once again puts the show’s characters through the wringer, but something’s still missing from the drama.
This recap of Thirty-Nine season 1, episode 6, “Conviction”, contains spoilers.
One of the hardest things to consistently have in life is principles. Pretty much immediately, the sixth episode of Thirty-Nine is about this idea, the idea of conviction – with people, with what’s right, with beliefs and ideas. It’s primarily filtered through the lens of Mi-jo, but you can see it reflected everywhere. When times are the toughest, which they obviously are for the characters in this series, that’s when your convictions are challenged the most.
Thirty-Nine season 1, episode 6 recap
But the stronger theme here is belonging. Since it began, Thirty-Nine has made no secret of Mi-jo’s adoption and how it has affected her life. It isn’t about a family but about friends, people who have developed a sisterly bond across years and see themselves as just as close, if not closer, than a biological family. Using adoption as a nifty tool to reiterate this point persists through Seon-u’s sister So-won and their deeply awful father, whose rambling about orphans draws an obvious line of comparison between So-won and Mi-jo.
There’s also the “what-if” question to consider. What if So-won and Mi-jo hadn’t been adopted, either by an awful man in the case of the former or a loving family in the case of the latter? What if Mi-jo had grown up with a biological mother who, it’s strongly implied, wouldn’t have molded her into such a good person with such strong convictions?
So-won’s attempts at finding some closure are threaded through the usual drama of everyone trying to process and tentatively handle Chan-young’s diagnosis. Once again things begin to feel a bit staid after a while. Once again the idea of combining a broad slice-of-life drama with a narrow study in grief doesn’t seem like the best idea in the world. Sneakily, Joo-hee’s subplot with Hyeon-jun has become the most interesting thread, but it’s also the least developed. We return again and again to Jin-seok and Chan-young, which is one of the weaker elements. It almost reaches a point of confrontation when Sun-joo tries to gatecrash a party at Chan-young’s place that Jin-seok is also attending. That’s where Mi-jo’s convictions really come to the fore, putting her own pride and reputation to the side to beg, literally, that Sun-joo leaves it alone. She relents, but it’s hard to take it as a win more than a temporary reprieve.
As we get deeper into the season, it’s obvious that this is the pattern Thirty-Nine is content with sustaining, so it also seems obvious that the show isn’t going to radically improve in terms of quality over the next couple of weeks. It remains a sad and well-constructed endeavor that just can’t quite – for me, anyway – get its hooks in emotionally, both thanks to its lack of subtlety and being too busy by half.