The One and Only -- Episodes 1 & 2: When You Know Death is Coming for You
Everything about The One and Only is emotionally hard to watch, from the terminally ill to the violence and abuse, but most of all the total disregard for human life. At first, I wasn't sure what to make of Pyo In-Sook (Ahn Eun Jin), working as a scrubber at a sauna. She appeared to be living such a hard empty life, along with her grandmother (Go Doo Shim), which made her connection with physically and emotionally abused young neighbor Ha San Ah (Seo Yeon Woo) that much more relatable. I could see why she seemed so disengaged. Then she gets diagnosed with a terminal illness, and I start thinking this is the end. The fear of death is far greater than death itself, but fear of the unknown, that is the greatest fear of all, and is bound to change even the toughest person out there.
I was excited when In-Sook quit her job and decided to spend her remaining time in a hospice, not because she was dying, but because I thought she needed to be around people like her, people she can relate to and them to her, but also people who would give her the care, attention and love she needed. I wasn't surprised that her first impression of the hospice was scary. I too found them a bit scary, but as quirky, and even a bit strange as they were. I could tell they all meant well, both the hospice managers Sister Veronica (Yoon Bora) and Sister Magdalena (Lee Soo Mi), as well as the residents Moon Young Ji (So Hee Jung), Choi Seong Hae (Lee Hang Na), her daughter Lim Ji Hoo (Kim Soo Hyung), Cha Yeo Wol (Joo In Young), and Oh Cheon Deok (Sung Byung Sook), each with their own eccentricity.
When In Sook meets her two terminally ill roommates, Sung Mi Do (Joy) and Kang Se Yeon (Kang Ye Won), despite them not getting along at first, I could instantly tell they would change each others' lives not because of their diagnosis, but because their pain, loneliness and need for acceptance bonds them together. And when they got emotionally involved about her grandmother and little Ha San Ah, I immediately loved them and their decision to take down a bad person before they died, but they soon learned killing someone is easier said than done.
As for Min Woo Cheon (Kim Kyung Nam), same as In-Sook, I wasn't sure what to make of him. Like her, he came off as aloof and a bit withdrawn to himself, a man with a tortured past. When I realized he was a contract killer, I wanted to know more about him, and finding out his father tried to commit patricide shed a light into his choices. The fact that he only goes after the worst of the worst in humanity made him more of a superhero than an anti-hero to me, but simultaneously raised the ethical question: is killing monsters justified? Morally I think not, but emotionally I say yes, because if that was my child, mother or grandmother, I would want that monster dead too.
I wasn't surprised Mi Do decided to distant herself from both In-Sook and Se Yeon the minute In-Sook hit the abusive father with the golf club. It fit her character perfectly, but rather than disliking her, I found myself liking, because despite her self-preservation and attention seeking instincts, all she wants is acceptance for who she is, not what people perceive her to be. As a matter of fact, I liked all three of them a lot for how different, yet so much alike, they were. In-Sook was the pragmatic, Mi Do the attention seeker, Se Yeon the risk-taker, even Woo Cheon is likeable for his practicality. Mi Do making up an alibi of them being at a party and dressing up for it to refute Woo Cheon as a witness was the best part of the opening week. I love that Se Yeon and In-Sook instinctively stood up for Mi Do. But more I liked the instant chemistry, and curiosity of In-Sook and Woo Cheon for each other, which was conflicting and captivating all at once.
Even the cops in this drama are likeable, from Inspector Cho Shi Young (Do Sang Woo) and his dogged pursuit of Woo Cheon, Shin Tae II (Ahn Chang Hwan) and an organization that targets evil, to Sergeant Oh Jin Gyu (Jang In Sub) and his weariness of the Inspector, and even Team Leader Hwang Ma Jin (Lee Bong Ryun). That San Ah's reaction to her father's murder was that she survived was heartbreaking to hear. The emotional scars, his neglect and abuse, are bound to leave her with long lasting effects throughout life, damaging her sense of self, future relationships, and ability to function as a normal human being.
It's not just the physical abuse that leaves a scar. The mental and emotional ones can be as damaging, if not more. The effects are everlasting and evident in how In-Sook lived her life, believing she wasn't loved to Mi Do, craving acceptance to Se Yeon, wanting to be acknowledged, and the same goes for Woo Cheon until they find each other and life as they know it starts to change. I decided to watch this drama on a whim. I typically try to stay away from emotional dramas, especially ones of terminal illness, and may it was the cast that drew me in. Whatever it was, I found myself drawn to the story, and quickly realized it is true when they say, sickness and healing are in every heart; death in deliverance in every hand. So rather than avoid the story as one of despair, I decided to see it as one of hope. I am glad I decided to watch this miraculous journey into the true meaning of life. Watch episodes 1 & 2 here.