My Liberation Notes tackles loss and grief in a sensitive, patient, and ultimately poignant way.
This recap of My Liberation Notes season 1, episode 14 contains spoilers.
“Before” and “after” are the two terms always used on either side of a significant event; a reminder that who you were is always a distinct entity from who you will become. Death works this way. It’s a full stop to end one of life’s meandering sentences. You can read back through everything that led to it, but in order to carry on, to cope, you have to emphatically begin writing on a new line, a new page, a new chapter.
My Liberation Notes season 1, episode 14 recap
Sometimes death is sudden. There isn’t any warning or a chance to come to terms with the idea before it happens. One moment a loved one is there, full of life and advice and memories, and the next they’re gone. The previous, excellent episode of My Liberation Notes was ostensibly about time, how it’s a matter of perception, and how so much can happen between someone leaving a place and returning to it later. But it was really about this – about the suddenness of loss and change.
This fourteenth episode is in large part about dealing with that loss and learning how to move on from it. There’s no “right” way. The kids all try and move on following Hye-suk’s funeral, throwing themselves into work or relationships or their own thoughts. Something like an urn full of ashes becomes a symbolic reminder of the pain, and the logistics of what to do with it become paramount. Frayed emotions send sparks flying like live wires.
We know what this is building towards; the present catching up to the future – or the past catching up to the present, depending on how you look at it – and Gu and Mi-jeong being reunited. Yesterday’s episode framed this long period of absence from Gu’s perspective, showing him losing himself in work and the passage of time occurring almost behind his back. Here, with the focus on the kids, we sit in their pain and grief for a while, watching time crawl over them at its own pace.
Gu is mentioned or at least thought about now and again, by Mi-jeong who misses and needs him, trying and failing to contact him, and by Chang-hee, who still bundles so many of his emotions up in that car. Eventually, following on from the previous episode, Gu is able to locate Mi-jeong, and the two meet on a picturesque bridge, most notably calling out the differences in how they look and feel since the two of them last met.
Before, and after. Much of My Liberation Notes has been about Gu and Mi-jeong being together, but now, reunited after the passage of a traumatic period of time, their relationship is different, brought into starker relief by their extended absence and the losses that have occurred during it. This is another lovely little episode about prescient themes, handled with patience, confidence, and power.