While I won’t say Divorce is super good and a must-watch, it is interesting in its discourse on Love. Or more importantly, why we fall in and out of love. Since the 2 protagonists are divorce specialists, we get to see all sorts of reasons, some common and others…weird?, on why couples choose to go separate ways. And ironically, while the bulk of Divorce‘s plot hinges on Love to Hate relationships, our OTP goes the opposite direction — from being sworn enemies to make-your-skin-crawl lovey dovey couple.
Falling Out of Love
Of the dozen or so breakup cases which Divorce uses in its storyline, only 2 are “straightforward”. As in, you’d easily understand why the divorce happened — one is a spousal abuse case, and the other has an adulterous husband. However, the remaining cases fall squarely in the “grey” area.
For examples: in one case, we have a wife who wants a divorce because her husband refuses to kiss her. (but other than a refusal to kiss, he performs his other, ahem, husbandly duties very well) In another, an elderly lady insists on divorcing her husband because she is tired of cooking for him.
While the above reasons to break up a marriage may seem rather frivolous, Divorce doesn’t deal with them heavily handedly or brush them aside as “silly”. And in both cases, the couple did not end up in a divorce.
In the case of the non-kissing husband, the wife complains of feeling “inadequate”, since her husband refuses to tell her why he doesn’t want to kiss her. When he finally owns up that he has a phobia of sharing saliva (cos his dad died via a virus passed through saliva), they decide to mutually seek psychological counselling.
In the second case, the elderly husband insists that his wife prepares a 12-course meal 3x a day for over 50 years (and each dish cannot be repeated in the same week). He is unappreciative of her efforts, and holds on to an outdated ideal that women are only good for cooking, bearing babies and cleaning house. Although they do not end up in a divorce, the elderly lady (with the help of the lawyers) manage to draft a legal agreement which allows her to break free of her husband’s ridiculous demands.
Falling In Love
Besides entertaining us with rather outlandish breakup reasons, each week’s divorce case also serves to highlight to us, and our OTP, important elements of a healthy (and long lasting) relationship.
When we have a case of a woman having to choose between her previous (but still legally married) N Korean husband and her current S Korean husband, it’s a reflection of Jung-woo’s predicament. Even though he may be indebted to Soo-ah and she has a longer standing relationship with him (26 years), it doesn’t mean he has to love her. Similarly, the lady in that case chooses her current S Korean husband (even though her N Korean hub helped her to escape while defecting to S Korea).
As for the non-kissing husband case, the implicit message is physical intimacy is a must in any healthy relationships. That case also heralds the start of Jung-woo and Cheok-kee’s turning point in their warring relationship. Jung-woo kisses Cheok-kee (in a fit of “anger”, as he claimed) and plays off the kiss as a “physical action with no emotions attached”. Of cos he is lying to himself, and the recipient, though shocked, doesn’t reject it. (else i’d advise Cheok-kee to sue him for sexual harassment) Well, as Divorce progresses, the kissings become commonplace. (i am warning you…you will shudder in disgust at their lips locking frequencies and the ensuing mushiness)
The “lesson” from the halmoni-halbae divorce case, imo, occurs later. Much later. At the penultimate episode, Cheok-kee agrees to Jung-woo’s marriage proposal (only after much cajoling). However, she puts her foot down at the need for “wedding trappings”. In other words, a flat “No” to a wedding dress, wedding party and wedding shoot. She even hates wearing a wedding ring (unless it’s a bare minimal type). Her refusal to get married and preference to remain “status quo” plus her resistance to traditional wedding “must-haves” defy the stereotypical bride-to-be image.
If placed side-by-side, the halmoni-halbae case and Cheok-kee’s wedding preference highlight the role of women (bride/ wife) in modern Korean society. We have the Confucian ideal of the dutiful wife (the halmoni), who ends up mentally abused by her husband who over reads into the domestic role of a woman. Versus Cheok-kee, who appears to have no patience with those “showy stuff” in a wedding and ends up irritating Jung-woo, who juz sincerely wants their wedding to be a memorable day.
Other than the discourse about Love and what sours Love, I find Divorce rather patchy at times. It tries to deal with a little too much — having an over arching mystery-revenge storyline that ended with a twist, and 2 side characters (Lawyer Bong Min-gyu and Soo-ah) who are ineffectual competitors in the love triangle. Then there’s also Min-gyu’s own storyline where he tries to escape from a loveless marriage, that really goes nowhere…and imo, wastes quite a bit of screen time.
Maybe that’s why Divorce ends up with 18 instead of 16 eps…