So-yeong has been forced into the choice that makes up the drama's title. She can either do what's right as a woman, and support the victim of a terrible crime, or she can do what's right by her son, which is prevent this incident from ruining his life. So-yeong chooses to do the wrong thing, and while it takes some time for her to face actual repercussions, in the immediate sense, the way she betrays herself as a woman is palpable.
I really like Oh Hyun-kyung's performance here, because it's just so understated. So-yeong spends most of this episode making a conscious decision not to show any emotion whatsoever. This is because she knows that any legitimacy on her part will betray the sheer hypocrisy required for So-yeong to give up everything for her son. Not only does So-yeong give up her feminist ideals, she forces another woman to betray her own bond as a mother. So-yeong does all of this for the sake of a son who she knows full well needs to be punished for what he's done.
The class element also plays a huge role here, as well it should. So-yeong's thought process here is just plain frightening. When her efforts at being nice and considerate fail, she resorts to scams, weakly trying to convince herself that these efforts aren't totally evil, since if nothing else at least Hyeon-ah's family will be in a better financial position to deal with their poverty. All of this really turns on its head the idea that a mother's love is inherently wonderful and good.
The main reason all of this is so effective is that the drama really does powerfully beg the question of what we would do in So-yeong's situation, and that's really not a pleasant topic to think about. None of the characters here are really evil, even if one turns out to be understandably vicious and spiteful. Maternal protection is the conflict here- without that, this would be an open-and-shut case. In this way "Mother's Choice" effectively challenges the idea that were this situation to happen to us, it really would be as unique as we would want to pretend.
As a final note, don't go into "Mother's Choice" expecting the kind of cinematic power you'd get from something like "Mother - 2009". Effective as the performances are, this is definitely a television production. It uses cheap tricks rather than profundity to make its emotional strikes. And that's entirely the point. It's arrogance that causes these tragedies to happen in the first place. Let's not be so daft as to think arrogance is what's going to get us out of it too.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother's Choice" Episode 2"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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