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The Weekend Binge: "The Good Bad Mother"

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

The 14-episode JTBC/Netflix small-town k-drama The Good Bad Mother (2023) is a family-oriented drama-comedy about tiger moms, generational trauma, and healing through the community.

The show stars Ra Mi-ran (Black Dog), Lee Do-hyun (The Glory), and Ahn Eun-jin (Hospital Playlist).

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "The Good Bad Mother" (photo of Ra Mi-ran, Lee Do-hyun, and Ahn Eun-jin)

The Plot

In the heartbreaking k-drama The Good Bad Mother, single mother and pig farmer Jin Young-soon (Ra Mi-ran), raises her son Choi Kang-ho (Lee Do-hyun) with uncompromising discipline.

While Kang-ho achieves his mother’s dreams for him to be a prosecutor and enjoy a better life, his relationship with Young-soon grows strained. Unfortunately, a paralyzing accident leaves him with a child’s mind and brings him back to his childhood home in Jou-ri Village. Could this give the mother and the son a chance to mend their brokenness?

As Kang-ho navigates his new life in the countryside, he encounters his childhood friend Lee Mi-Joo (Ahn Eun-jin), whose warm heart and sense of justice play a significant part in confronting their past and understanding each other. Together with the other villagers, Young-soon, Kang-ho, and Mi-joo embark on a journey of atonement and healing.

The Review

Despite the inconceivable suffering that has befallen Young-soon, her family, and her pigs, the heartwarming small-town k-drama goes beyond tiger parenting as the mother's extreme reaction to her ordeals. It explores generational trauma and healing through the community.

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "The Good Bad Mother" (photo of Ra Mi-ran and Lee Do-hyun)
Ra Mi-ran's stellar performance as Young-soon, the embodiment of tough love (Photo from HanCinema)

While other series tend to depict tiger moms as caricatural side characters, The Good Bad Mother places Young-soon front and center, even fleshing out her origin story. It also shows the most coveted fantasy of the real-life Kang-hos of the world—the tiger mom realizes the heartbreaking impact of her mistakes AND is given a chance to undo them. The question remains, though, if Young-soon has used her second chance well.

Lee Do-hyun's seamless acting as the capable cold prosecutor and the warm-hearted helpless "kid" (Photos from HanCinema)

The drama is not only a tearjerker but also a thought-provoker. It depicts how trauma can affect not only one generation but also the next, and how it can manifest as abuse, abandonment, or neglect. It portrays how hurt people can hurt other people, even the ones they love the most. It does not shy away from showing the harsh realities of life, such as injustice, corruption, and violence, whether because of a politician hungry for power (Jung Woong-in, Idol: The Coup) or a businessman greedy for money (Choi Moo-sung, Prison Playbook). Even Young-soon's pigs do not escape harm from such broken people.

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "The Good Bad Mother" (photo of Lee Do-hyun and Ahn Eun-jin)
Ahn Eun-jin's nuanced portrayal as the hurt but helpful Mi-joo (Photo from HanCinema)

But the k-drama also offers hope and warmth through the inhabitants of Jou-ri Village, Kang-ho's hometown. While the villagers usually bicker and envy each other, they understand and support one another. The village head (Kim Won-hae, Revenant), the masked woman with unfiltered thoughts (Park Bo-kyung, Little Women), the couple (Seo Yi-sook, Queenmaker and Jang Won-young, Because This Is My First Life) embarrassed of their convicted son, the widow (Kang Mal-geum, Military Prosecutor Doberman) with adorable and smart grandkids (Ki So-yu, Our Blues and Park Da-on, The King’s Affection), and two Seoulites who discover the beauty of farming (Choi Sun-jin, Joseon Attorney: A Morality and Park Cheon) all make up the quirky, endearing, and relatable neighborhood. In the same way the villagers help Young-soon at tragic moments in her life, Mi-joo and Bang Sam-shik (Yoo In-soo, Alchemy of Souls) come to the rescue of their childhood friend Kang-ho, albeit with different motivations.

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Binge: "The Good Bad Mother" (photo of Kim Won-hae, Park Bo-kyung, Jang Won-young, Seo Yi-sook, Kang Mal-geum, and Lee Sang-hoon)
Jou-ri villagers on their way to help Young-soon and Kang-ho (Photo from HanCinema)

Combining emotion and insight, The Good Bad Mother is a must-watch for anyone who loves stories that are both moving and inspiring. Its finale is one of the top 25 highest-rated cable dramas of all time, and for good reason.

14 episodes. Available on Netflix.

Stream if you want a unique take on tiger moms in a small-town setting.

Skip if you dislike depictions of animal abuse and traumatized children.

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