Meet Me in Daegu was one of my favorite episodes of Lovecraft Country so far. I loved the Eastern romance subplot get totally upended by the series’ skillful manner in which it subverts expectations.
It’s the fall of 1949 in South Korea and Ji-ah (Jamie Chung) is a devoted Judy Garland fan, escaping in her films played at the local theater. Her mother doesn’t care about her daydream of living a happy, sing-along Western life and wants her to focus on bringing men home. Note the lack of pressure to bring home a nice guy and get married.
Nope, that’s not Ji-Ah’s purpose. It’s to bring men home to sleep with them and then things get hairy, specifically the nine tails that sprout from various orifices including her mouth, ears and even eyes to ensnare and then rip apart her latest conquest.
It’s a nasty business, but one Ji-Ah reluctantly has to carry out. This gives the earlier meet cute moments at the speed dating site a completely different feel. Especially since Ji-Ah retains the memories of her victims including her first victim.
Her mother got pregnant out of wedlock, a shameful act in her culture and married the first guy willing to overlook this “offense.” But he’s far worse as he started raping Ji-Ah. Distraught, Ji-Ah’s mother called on a Shaman to put the kumiho spirit in her daughter’s body presumably in the hopes of eradicating this traumatic and horrific incident.
The catch with the kumiho is it has to kill 100 men for Ji-Ah to find peace. And she’s only got 10 more to go. Business has been good. This also puts a whole new meaning to the phrase getting some tail…
By the summer of 1950, the US has arrived to “fight for South Korea’s freedom.” Working as a nurse at a local hospital tending to injured GIs has helped whittle the numbers down so now she only has two more victims to go.
Unsure of her place and a lack of desire to be a normal human considering all of the horrible thoughts and actions of her victims, Ji-Ah has some solace with her friend Young-Ja (Prisca Kim). Young-Ja encourages Ji-Ah to celebrate what makes her unique and special — after all, everyone is human when it comes down to it. Or in this case, humans inhabited by a fox-like spirit.
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Only problem for Young-Ja is she’s embraced Communism, a no-no when antsy US soldiers are on high alert for Commie spies. One unit lines up a group of nurses to ferret out the spy. An officer kills one nurse to make an example, but his gun jams when he tries a second time so he calls one of his men to shoot her…and it’s Tic.
This is a shocking moment. Tic told Leti he did horrible things in the war that shamed him, but seeing him kill a nurse in cold blood is still extremely shocking. Tic goes to kill Ji-Ah when Young-Ja reveals she is the spy and gets dragged away.
Fast forward to the fall of 1950 and Tic is now a patient at the hospital. Ji-Ah only has one more victim to go and Tic seems like an ideal candidate. Or he was until his recovery allows for her to get to know him better and the two start an unexpected relationship. Ok, maybe Ji-Ah and Young-Ja weren’t as close as I thought?
One fateful night Tic gets brought into the magic room and confesses he’s a virgin. This is enough for Ji-Ah to ignore her own desires and demand he leave, sparing his life. Not much later, Ji-Ah has a confrontation with Tic and tells him about his role in Young-Ja’s death. They talk through it and eventually do have sex with Ji-Ah containing her demonic spirit.
By winter the two are deep in love and Tic wants her to come back to the US with him now that his tour is over. This leads to another passionate lovemaking session, but this time Ji-Ah can’t control herself and the tails come out and start plugging in to Tic. She’s able to see his past, present and eventual future where he’s in bed with another woman, hanging with Leti and eventually strapped up to a machine where he gets killed.
Ji-Ah has enough restraint left to throw Tic off before she kills him. Naturally this kills the mood and Tic wants nothing else to do with her, but Ji-Ah pleads with him not to return home or he’ll die.
In maybe the weirdest segment of the episode, we get a Judy Garland monologue while she’s talking about people judging her life. It’s an interesting exchange, but I’m not totally sold it’s altogether appropriate for Ji-Ah’s conversation with the shaman who refuses to give her a straight answer about Tic’s fate.
All we know for sure now is Tic got good advice that he ignored. How long before he regrets it?
Meet Me in Daegu was a very unusual episode in a good way and showed how layered this series can be as it continues exploring new genres to tackle.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: HBO