This is one of the best-written and well-thought-of K-dramas this year, hands down. From the introduction of the lead characters, the case studies every week, and up to the build-up of the main plot, everything was carefully laid out. For a dark fantasy drama dealing with taboo topics such as depression, suicide, self-harm, and sexual violence, the story maintained a solid pace that did not overwhelm its audience. The drama is full of red flags and trigger scenes, which makes it not for everyone. But for those who can watch this series, it is highly recommended. It does not romanticize depression. It strikes a good balance between tackling mental health issues and telling the stories about everyone.
The representation of the afterlife in a full-blown corporate set-up amazed me so much! It’s a unique take on the usual fictional backdrop for souls and grim reapers. The reapers are treated like regular employees, clocking in and out of their shift for the day. They are given benefits and generous compensations, too. They even have performance assessments, are assigned to various teams, and report to their respective superiors. There are bureaucracy, minor power struggles, and sanctions as well! I also enjoyed watching Tomorrow because of the Jade Emperor (Kim Hae-sook), the leader of Jumadeung, and her occasional field visits!
Risk Management Team
Koo Ryeon (Kim Hee-sun), Choi Jun-woong (Rowoon), and Lim Ryung-gu (Yoon Ji-on) are the heart of the drama. They are the grim reapers who save lives. What more could we ask for?
The unlikely trio started from being reluctant teammates to genuine colleagues in the end. Ryeon, a soul from Hell, became part of Jumadeung after she was saved by the Jade Emperor from her endless walk of punishment. The Jade Emperor told her that one day, she will meet a person she needed to save and promised her that she will grant any wish in return. Kim Hee-seon’s pink hair is a statement look, too!
Lim Ryung-gu and Choi Jun-woong are the Tom and Jerry of the team. I loved their petty bickering so much. Their bromance provided the much-needed comic relief when things got heavy. Ever since Jun-woong joined the team, Ryung-gu also loosened up little by little. For centuries, he was just the same old broken soul full of yearning and guilt, but because of Jun-woong’s empathy and stubbornness, he slowly faced his unresolved grief.
Together, the Risk Management Team became an unbeatable force that can prevent even the most depressed souls to hope for a better tomorrow.
Different faces of depression
Another point I love about Tomorrow is that it featured mental health patients from different walks of life – heck, they even had an episode about a suicidal dog! Depression hits everyone — young, old, poor, and rich. They also have case studies about accomplished individuals and job seekers. Everyone goes through the same loss of will to live, no matter what phase we are in life.
My favorite side story was the Korean war veteran who died alone but was given a posthumous recognition by all grim reapers. It’s such an emotional moment that also signified how the drama honored the soldiers who fought for their country.
At first, I was reluctant if the story can sustain a full-length series featuring different mental health problems. It started strong with the first story about the bullying, which shows how a victim’s life is scarred forever no matter how many years have passed. It’s always the bullies who grow up unscathed, but the victims live through the trauma of the grave abuse they experienced.
And then the drama keeps getting better by telling different stories of people suffering from depression. Bulimia, loss of loved ones, multiple rejections, sexual assault, and many other reasons may turn a perfectly normal person into a suicidal soul. It also depicts that all of us have different coping mechanisms when it comes to extreme situations, and while some people have the mental and emotional space to handle these triggers, others are built differently, which means no one can judge. Everyone’s feelings are valid.
The love story of the Teamjangs
Since the drama started, there were hints about the ill-fated relationship between Escort Team Lead Park Jung-gil (Lee Soo-hyuk) and Ryeon. At first, Jung-gil already established his character to be tough and hated suicide to the core. He lamented how these people choose the easy way out and that they deserve to go to Hell. As it turns out, he was Ryeon’s husband in a past life, and because of a series of unfortunate events, Ryeon was forced to kill herself to protect Jung-gil. This also caused their string of fate to be cut down, ending all their connections from this disastrous past life. Jung-gil asked the Jade Emperor to lock his old memories, but Ryeon never forgot. All this time, she knew, but she continued with her newfound chance as a grim reaper to leave her past behind. I can’t imagine how Ryeon managed to prevent herself from longing for Jung-gil all this time.
But the former couple’s resolution, in the end, made all the sacrifices worthwhile. Jung-gil has been reincarnated twice already; he is not the same man who loved Ryeon deeply. But despite the loss of time and memories, he cannot neglect Ryeon when she was on the verge of losing herself completely. I really loved the drama’s last case study, Ryeon’s personal maid from her past life. The girl who protected her until death is now the one who needs saving. It’s a full circle for Ryeon’s character.