The last episodes of Modern Farmer show how even the best laid plans can go awry because of unforeseen forces. But, at the same time, unexpected events can also lead to fortune. It was nice to see that the last four episodes had a similar feeling to the first four, although it still wasn’t nearly as quirky as the beginning. I was just happy the series got past the sudden shift to melodrama and “crying in corners” phase. The cabbage patch that we’ve spent weeks watching grow has survived snails, hungry animals and frost. But suddenly the price for cabbage takes a nose dive, and the hope of releasing an album seems like a pipe dream. They say that hardship brings out people’s true colors, and we see some dramatic changes in the village.
Like the sudden drop in cabbage prices, unexpected obstacles pop up in the various storylines for each band member. Han-chul’s (Lee Shi-un, Reply 1997) “impossible” goal of kissing Soo-yeon (Kwon Min-ah) is the most light-hearted (at first, at least). He is determined to get his first kiss from her before he dies, but his plan backfires because of bad advice and one clumsy grandfather. Nevertheless, we see their relationship really grow in the last episodes. Although they may seem like complete opposites, Han-chul and Soo-yeon are similar in that neither wants to show vulnerability.
Betrayal and disappointment had made Soo-yeon into a very selfish, and sometimes manipulative, person. The innate goodness and kindness of Han-chul have slowly begun to win her over. But what finally cracks Soo-yeon’s emotional defenses is when he shuns her for lying. She finally admits to herself that she likes him and feels ashamed for hurting someone. For Han-chul, telling others about his terminal cancer diagnosis is too painful for him. In fact, only Soo-yeon learns about his illness; even his best friends don’t know how close he comes to death. She ends up being Han-chul’s support system, giving him the strength to fight his cancer. By exposing their deepest secrets, they both clean all the skeletons out of their closets before starting anew as a couple.
A sudden separation becomes Ki-joon’s (Kwak Dong-yeon) test of inner strength. In the final episodes, he graduates from being the most immature about love to having his first major heartbreak. Standing up for Hwa-ran (Han Joo-hyun) to get her unpaid wages, buying her warm pink mittens and holding hands with her changed Ki-joon into a very thoughtful and happy person. Losing her is devastating for him, and we see how he turns his depression and anger into self-punishment. In order to prevent future disappointment, he decides to give up all his dreams, including releasing an album.
But the unexpected reappearance of Hwa-ran forces him to change his attitude. Hwa-ran has always been much more mature, a result of living in poverty and then working as an illegal alien. Just like Soo-yeon pushes Han-chul to face his cancer, Hwa-ran will not let Ki-joon wallow in self-pity. In the nicest way possible she tells him to suck it up and go for his dream anyway. Ki-joon realizes that one misstep doesn’t mean everything is lost, and he quickly becomes a source of optimism for the whole group. He matures enough to see that one failure or disappointment shouldn’t stop him from achieving his goals.
Finally, we have the twisted love square of Min-ki, Yoo-na, Hyuk and Yoon-hee. The cabbage crisis is what finally breaks Min-ki (Lee Hong-ki, FT Island, You’re Beautiful), who always had a trick up his sleeve to save the day. But it also shows Min-ki who will stand by him at his lowest point. Despite the cold and overwhelming work, Yoon- hee (Lee Ha-nui, Pasta) and other members of the village volunteer to help harvest the almost worthless cabbages. We really see how selfless and hardworking Yoon-hee is in a crisis situation. She even researches ways to make money off the cabbages, putting together a binder of ideas.
In contrast, Yoo-na (Han Bo-reum of Dream High) shows her true colors in these last episodes. Up until now, she has been the polite house-guest, an innocent idol hiding in the village. But her jealousy drives her into cutthroat mode. She calls her company president to get the band an audition, but she does it out of jealousy, not friendship. We know this because she never goes out of her way to truly help Min-ki with his dream. For example, even though he needs help harvesting cabbage, Yoo-na doesn’t so much as put on her boots. Behind that angelic face is a fierce determination to get what she wants at any cost. This includes sacrificing Min-ki’s singing career so that she could get ahead. Min-ki is completely unprepared for this secret. But, as a testament to his growth as a character, he does not let it drag him down. He does not let her betrayal break his ability to trust, or love, others. The old Min-ki might have still worshiped Yoo-na no matter what she did, but the new Min-ki knows he has the support of a whole village behind him. The village has taught him what real friends do for each other, so he is not really devastated when Yoo-na leaves.
Hyuk’s (Park Min-woo of Roommate, Flower Boy Ramen Shop) storyline gets a little buried in the last episodes, but he does learn an important lesson from Yoo-na. He’s similar to her in that the person he loves does not love him back. He also gets jealous of his rival, even stooping to stealing food from him. But seeing how Yoo-na’s jealousy turns Min-ki against her and seeing Min-ki experience that betrayal pushes Hyuk in the other direction. He admits to himself that Yoon-hee does not love him, so he chooses to do what he can to make her happy. There never was going to be a romantic ending for everybody, so with Yoo-na and Hyuk we see two different responses to one-sided love.
Through the crazy up and downs of an ex-boyfriend, family pressure and separation, Yoon-hee and Min-ki finally find each other. It took a long time, but it was an interesting journey since many dramas speed through the falling in love phase. Perhaps it’s one of the more realistic portrayals of love because Min-ki didn’t understand what he was feeling for a long time. Dramas usually assume that their characters are extremely self-aware of their feelings, so it’s easy for them to label something love, hate or friendship. But in reality it can be hard to distinguish if something is truly love or not, especially if they’re your own feelings.
Carefully avoiding a clichéd perfect ending, Modern Farmer presents its own version of happiness. One year later, we see how everyone is doing, including the secondary characters. Instead of rolling in money, the band is back in the village doing various jobs — that is, except for Ki-joon, who is now the Bool-ja of China (and an expecting father, no less). It was a bit surprising since you usually expect a “dreams really do come true” ending. But the series shows that people can be happy living simple lives. They may not have the ideal house or job, but the solid relationships they have are more than enough. The band’s first album flopped, but that doesn’t mean everything’s over. Instead, the series tells people to keep chasing their dreams because you never know what might happen. If it wasn’t for Min-ki’s get-rich-quick scheme, would the band members be happy? Probably not. Min-ki would still be playing for empty chairs, Ki-joon would be studying for a job he hated, Hyuk would be friendless, and Han-chul probably would have died. So even though their album didn’t succeed, the journey itself brought them unexpected happiness.
And with the closing scene of our boys becoming fishermen, who knows what treasures lie ahead?
(Images via SBS)