The Atypical Family Gets Off To A Mixed Start in Episode 1 & 2

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 6, 2024 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)
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The Atypical Family Episodes 1 & 2 Recap
The Atypical Family (via Netflix)

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

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Summary

The Atypical Family has a very good premise, but as of the first two episodes, it’s a little undermined by wonky writing and some thematic concerns.

Everyone has superpowers these days, don’t they? It’s pretty played out as a hook to hang a TV show on, but The Atypical Family takes a fittingly atypical approach to the premise in Episodes 1 and 2. The Bok family, who’re at the heart of the Netflix series, had superpowers but lost them. The cause? “Modern-day living.” What else?

This isn’t the first recent K-Drama to lean heavily into contemporary ideas of mental health – Doctor Slump was the other and set a high bar – but it is the first to weave the thematic side of things into the machinery of a more overt genre show. It isn’t very good so far, but there’s plenty of time for that to change as things progress.

The Big Leap

Episode 1 of The Atypical Family begins with the matriarch of the family, Man-huem, giving up. Without their powers, who are they? It’s time to fling themselves into the sea, wistful of better times.

This turns out to be one of those obligatory turning point moments. One of the kids, Gwi-joo, takes the idea a bit too literally and dives into the sea. The family at first thinks that his absence means his power – which is to transport them back to a previously happy moment – has returned, but he’s actually just drowning.

Gwi-joo is saved by Do Da-hae. Have the Bok family found their savior? Man-huem thinks so.

With Great Power…

Let’s talk about the powers for a minute.

The Atypical Family Episodes 1 & 2 Recap

The Atypical Family (via Netflix)

We already know about Gwi-joo’s. Man-huem can see the future, but only when sleeping, and Dong-hee can fly. Useful talents, then. But they’re gone now because of modern-day problems like depression, insomnia, and obesity.

This is an interesting idea but some of it skirts a fine line of taste. Dong-hee, for instance, is literally too fat to fly, and her obesity puts off punters at the plastic surgery clinic where she works. On the one hand, it’s important to depict eating disorders in novel ways that can draw attention to their seriousness. On the other hand, even I can see how some people might quibble with this as a character arc.

Da-Hae’s Hidden Agenda

A lot of Episode 1 revolves around the mystery of Da-hae, whom Man-huem immediately assumes is the family’s savior but who is really part of a family – she has a sister, mother, and uncle, though they’re probably not related – who scam well-off people for dough. And despite their obvious eccentricities, the Bok family have a few quid.

This is revealed gradually, though. Da-hae comes across well initially when Man-huem meets her. Her backstory about a cheating first husband and an abusive second seems sympathetic. An orphan girl craving a family makes Da-hae a candidate to bring Gwi-joo, who has been depressed since losing his wife, out of his malaise.

But Da-hae also spikes Man-huem’s tea to knock her out and is scheming to exploit the Bok family. She doesn’t take warnings of their latent powers seriously enough, which will likely give her a shock down the line.

Da-hae Begins To Target Gwi-joo in The Atypical Family Episode 2

The Atypical Family Episodes 1 & 2 Recap

The Atypical Family (via Netflix)

The Atypical Family Episode 2 delves into Da-hae and her family a little more.

It’s a simple setup. They target wealthy families, form close personal bonds with them, and then rip them off. Da-hae’s previous marriages were just targets of this scam.

And the Bok family are the latest marks. But, as mentioned, Da-hae doesn’t believe the claims of superpowers made by Gwi-joo’s daughter, Yi-na. She thinks getting her hooks into the family will just be a case of winning over Yi-na and marrying Gwi-joo.

This targeting really begins in Episode 2, helped along by the fact that Man-huem, for now, wants to achieve the same outcome. So, we get a lot of scenes like Da-hae buying gifts for Yi-na, going for dinner with Gwi-joo at Man-heum’s request, and rushing to Yi-na’s aid when she claims a strange man is following her.

This turns out to be Da-hae’s uncle keeping an eye on things, but she stays quiet about that, obviously.

Do Gwi-joo’s Powers Still Work?

The first two episodes of The Atypical Family end with a bit of welcome ambiguity, and the suggestion that Gwi-joo’s powers may still be working, but perhaps in a weird way.

There’s a slightly grim element to Da-hae’s seduction plot, which is that Yi-na blames herself and her powers for the death of her mother, so another woman – much less a scam artist – using this to position herself as a false replacement is a little tricky to get on board with.

The Atypical Family Episodes 1 & 2 Recap

The Atypical Family (via Netflix)

But the idea is obviously to reiterate the idea of these powers being a curse rather than a blessing. And it’s tricky to get a gauge of how Gwi-joo’s powers still operate. We’re led to believe that he can no longer find any happy moments in his past to return to, but given recent events, he seems to have found one.

Earlier, during a fire alarm at the mall, Gwi-joo held Da-hae’s hand to comfort her. He can’t remember doing so, and she quips that it might have been him from the future. He’s skeptical since he can’t ordinarily touch anyone when he teleports, but lo and behold, at the end of the second episode, he manages to transport himself back to that moment and hold Da-hae’s hand.


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