It turns out that there is bullying at Eun-byeol's school- but it's so subtle that even after watching this episode I'm not sure to what extent it technically exists. The story of Yeong-eun (played by Kim Bo-ra) is very instructive in this regard. As it turns out she was the recipient not so much of the explicit bullying that Eun-bi suffered from, but of the rather more crippling loneliness of simply being ignored altogether.
The brief flashbacks between Eun-byeol and Yeong-eun don't seem to tell us a lot about either character. The subtext, though, is pretty unmistakable. Whatever Eun-byeol has been doing to get herself into this current predicament, it does not appear that she has ever set out to make enemies or victims of her fellow classmates. To the contrary- Eun-byeol at times appears to either be genuinely kind or at the very worst offering tough love.
And yet this in itself conveys other serious problems. It's all well and good for us to say don't shoot the messenger. But from Yeong-eun's perspective there just isn't any other direction to go from this. Knowing that Eun-byeol could see right through her didn't do anything to solve Yeong-eun's problems. What's more, by the end of the episode it's pretty clear that Yeong-eun has to resort to drastic measures to turn her life around. She's accepted that anything less just isn't going to work, which clearly sets the tone in the future for the drama not being able to weasel out of huge revelations.
The mystery is especially well-played when taken in context of the teachers. They don't know what happened, so they try to avoid rushing to judgment. What's more, they make well-meaning morally agreeable overtures to avoid offending anyone. And therein lies the problem- the fact that the teachers have to address a moral issue that might or might not actually exist immediately clues the students in to the fact that their instructors don't actually know what's going on.
Careful information management is the order of the day- and it's not so much who you know in "Who Are You - School 2015", but rather whether or not they're willing to tell you what's actually going on. The cliffhanger indicates that, for the moment at least, the conflict is going to jump back to what's happening in the Eun-bi/Eun-byeol dynamic. After this episode, my hopes for that particular plot thread have definitely jumped all the higher.
Review by William Schwartz
"Who Are You - School 2015" is directed by Baek Sang-hoon and Kim Seong-yoon, written by Kim Hyeon-jeong-II and Kim Min-jeong-II, and features Kim So-hyun, Nam Joo-hyuk, Yook Sung-jae, Lee Pil-mo, Lee David, Kim Hee-jung-I and more.
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] "Who Are You - School 2015" Episode 3"
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