‘The Atypical Family’ Review: The First Six Episodes

The Atypical Family is a South Korean TV series that is streaming weekly on Netflix. It’s a fantasy romance and tells the story of Bok Gwi-ju (Jang Ki-yong) and his family. They used to have incredible superpowers; however, due to chronic diseases brought about by the modern world, they are starting to lose their abilities. 

The Atypical Family’s Troubles

The story kicks off, and things change for the family when they meet a mysterious woman, Do Da-hae (Chun Woo-hee). The family is led by Bok Man-heum (Ko Du-shim), the matriarch, who can see the future in her dreams but can no longer use her ability due to insomnia. Bok Gwi-ju could go back in time and revisit happy memories, but he can no longer do that because he lost his wife, and his previous memories are no longer happy. Gwi-ju’s older sister, Bok Dong-hee (Claudia Kim), used to be able to fly, but now, due to her struggles with obesity, it’s not possible.

It seems like the problems, including the various diseases, from modern life have hindered their supernatural abilities. Bok Man-heum is desperate to remedy their situation and help their family return to their former glory, supernatural powers and all. Desperate to restore her children’s happiness, she believes Da-hae could be the key to it all and tries to set her son up with her.

The series doesn’t shy away from heavy themes

If you are a fan of K-dramas, you know that they do not hold back when it comes to heavy themes. The Atypical Family is not any different as it does not shy away from portraying how the loss of their powers affects the family’s overall mental health. The show handles difficult subjects such as depression, alcohol abuse, and eating disorders, so I would keep that in mind before starting. 

personally enjoy watching fantastical/supernatural shows, but many K-dramas can introduce an after-school special message in series that tackle heavier topics. The Atypical Family does not have that issue. It does a great job of having a story grounded in a fantastical concept that also covers heavier subject matter without coming down with a heavy hand in terms of life lessons.

In hopes of avoiding spoilers, I don’t want to go too deeply into the family drama, but I will say that watching this family navigate their new normal is fascinating. I also find it hilarious that they are trying to adjust to a life that is normal for most people. It seems like Bok Gwi-ju and his family aren’t interested in saving the world or ending the apocalypse as you usually see in a series focused on a family of superpowers. This family just wants to get through the day. 

If I’m being honest, I find it hard to be interested in family dramas. We know the abilities of three of the family members. Unfortunately, we don’t discover the power that Bok Gwi-ju’s daughter Bok-I-na (Park So-yi) has because they are not very in touch with their emotions. You can deduce that they are so focused on their phone because of the death of their mother and the fact that her father has been emotionally negligent since that incident.

Great acting and drama, but some curious issues

Overall, the drama is incredible, which nicely complements the interesting premise. The acting is intriguing, darkly funny, and grounds the story in the slow-burn romance between Bok Gwi-ju and Do Da-hae. However, I find it hard to believe that Bok Gwi-ju would immediately be more interested in a random woman he just met over caring for his daughter. But many times, people act out of character due to grief, and it can be easier to focus on someone new rather than taking care of someone you know and love, as that is much more difficult. Oftentimes, people will have the least resistance so they can continue on with their day.

One thing I don’t understand about the show is the fact that actor Claudia Kim plays Bok Dong-hee in a fat suit. It’s possible that they plan on having her character lose weight quickly and dramatically so she will regain her powers again. Of course, this plays into a very tired and fatphobic trope that many TV shows turn to, and it doesn’t help that her character is a wet blanket lacking in ambition or any interesting characteristics.

Final thoughts on The Atypical Family

If you are interested in shows that display complicated family dynamics with a hint of romance and fantasy, then I recommend The Atypical Family. It’s got a fresh take on the genre. Rather than a family taking the responsibility to save humanity, as you would see in The Umbrella Academy, you find a family that looks like your typical South Korean family that wants to regain their former glory. The series makes the audience wonder if this family can learn to be more human or will they attain their gifts once more? 

The Atypical Family is now streaming on Netflix.

You can watch the first six episodes on the streamer now, and then catch the rest of the season as it is released weekly.

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