My Liberation Notes continues to exhibit depth and nuance as a grounded slice-of-life drama.
This recap of My Liberation Notes season 1, episode 5 contains spoilers.
My Liberation Notes is one of two Netflix k-dramas that I cover, the other being Tomorrow, and while they’re very different shows in many ways, I have to consider the possibility that the reason I’m becoming so amenable to this one is that it does so well all of the things that Tomorrow does quite poorly. It’s a grounded drama about characters with real depth, in a world that has consistency. It’s raw and authentic, while Tomorrow is light and fanciful. And you’d think it’d be the other way around, since this isn’t necessarily a show that deals with performatively heavy topics like an eating disorder or perverse exploitation of the suicidal. Perhaps, ironically, that why My Liberation Notes feels so much truer to life.
My Liberation Notes season 1, episode 5 recap
The problems that the characters have here are very similar to the ones you or I might have. We want more money because we believe we need it even when we perhaps don’t; we question our ability to be good romantic partners or parents. We obsess over our looks and how others perceive us. We want to be loved, and find someone who we can love in return, but we question who we fall in love with and why we care for them. And the things we long for are often simple – a way out of our humdrum day-to-day, the chance to pass our responsibilities onto someone else.
My Liberation Notes really seems to understand all this, and it’s wrapping it all up in fitting subplots and character arcs. Mi-jeong’s and Mr Gu’s are particularly compelling in this idea of “worship”, of taking leaps of faith, both literal and figurative. There’s a lot of that overlap here. But when this show deals in metaphor, it isn’t outlandish or preachy or “arty” in that insufferable way. The parallels make sense in context; the loftier ideas are logical extensions of the very real-world circumstances that trigger them. Gi-jeong’s far-fetched idea of a giant robot doing things for her is something that I wish for almost daily – running a company, raising two kids, maintaining a relationship, and trying to live some semblance of a normal life isn’t easy, after all.
Of course, these outlandish ideas aren’t real solutions – they’re not solutions at all, honestly, but symptoms of the problems that need to be addressed. Just like how money doesn’t grow on trees – even though casinos and gambling dens can give that illusion of a miraculous quick fix – happiness isn’t something that just arrives fully-formed, but that has to be nurtured and cultivated. It requires difficult personal decisions and sacrifices to be made. It needs introspection and a sense of the wider world. It requires, I think, us to figure out some kind of purpose.
In many ways My Liberation Notes is about the pursuit of that purpose. It isn’t about escape, per se, but about finding a place to belong, which isn’t the same thing. Sometimes, though, where you belong isn’t where you are, either mentally or geographically. Everyone in this show is relocating in some respect. What’s great about it is that it makes us want to follow along with them.