TvN’s new weekend drama starts its 16 episode season with a strong first episode, setting the scene for what’s to come ahead. The drama does a great job at building the world of the ghosts who are living around the humans, which adds an interesting edge to the show. With plenty of intrigue, poignant scenes and likable characters, Hi Bye Mama promises to be quite the enjoyable show to watch as it replaces the very successful Crash Landing On You.
Episode 1 of Hi Bye Mama starts in 2006 with Gang-Hwa and Yu-Ri at the age of 24. Gang-Hwa argues with his friend Geun-Sang about him wanting to go to a party and meeting some girls. He eventually decides to go with him and meets Yu-Ri. It is love at first sight for them as soon as they look at each other across the room. We then see a montage of them dating through college, fights and anniversaries until we jump to 2010 during a world cup where Yu-Ri decides to propose to Gang-Hwa.
After seeing a few touching moments from their wedding, we cut to the present day. We see that they have a daughter called Seo-Woo and as the girl is about to put a wet plug in a socket, Yu-Ri jumps in to stop her but another woman, Min-Jung, picks up the child. This is when we realize that Yu-Ri is now a ghost that humans can’t see. Yu-Ri follows her daughter around as we find out that Min-Jung is now Gang-Hwa’s new wife.
Gang-Hwa is a doctor in a hospital and works with his old friend Geun-Sang. As he meets with his friend, Professor Jang finds him and berates him for not performing any surgeries and only looking after outpatients. Geun-Sang gives him a doctor’s note but Jang sees right through it and demands that he start performing surgeries.
Gang-Hwa returns home and asks her daughter how her day was. Yu-Ri tries to explain what happened during the day but of course it falls on deaf ears. During dinner, we see that Gang-Hwa has become cold-hearted as he scolds his daughter for dropping food while eating.
The next day, we see the funeral of baseball player Gang Sang-Bong, who has committed suicide following rumours of match fixing and homosexuality. We then see him as a ghost sitting down and crying in the funeral house. Suddenly, five other ghosts appear and speak to him about being dead. When they realise that he is a famous athlete, they call on all the other ghosts to arrive and check him out. It’s here multiple ghosts arrive in clouds of smoke to inspect the newcomer.
Suddenly another ghost, Midongdaek, arrives who seems to be in charge. She looks at Sang-Bong then reveals that Mr Cho hasn’t left them as he wasn’t able to say goodbye to his family properly. She tells them she is very upset that her district is the only one with a zero percent accomplishment.
Yu-Ri arrives too and we find out that ghosts have their own rights and democracy, but also have to follow a certain reincarnation policy set by the deities. She tells Midongdaek that they shouldn’t have to go up there as they all have a reason to still be on earth. Midongdaek tells her she knows she is still seeing her child and warns her that she shouldn’t keep visiting her.
The next day, Yu-Ri is really happy as it’s her death anniversary. She heads to a temple where she’s allowed to eat while we see her family pay their respects. After the ceremony, Yu-Ri follows her mum into the toilet where she bursts into tears. As they all walk away, we see that the mother is a little bitter with Gang-Hwa as he is now living a good life.
Yu-Ri sees Seo-Woo again but is soon stopped by Midongdaek, who pulls her out of the way with the help of her bells. She tells her again to stop going after her child but as we see that humans are able to see Midongdaek, the latter notices something about Seo-Woo. It’s also Seo-Woo’s birthday but unable to cope with the day, Gang-Hwa has decided to work all night. As he returns home, he sits by his daughter’s bed for a while before going to sleep.
The next morning, Yu-Ri wakes up to find another ghost who has lost his remains. She tells him not to stay in this flat as he will suck up her daughter’s energy. He replies that she will do the same too, believing that she’s the one who’s the problem. After he leaves, Yu-Ri is shocked to see that her daughter is able to see and hear her. She rushes to see Midongdaek, as she blames herself for it. The former tells her she will now attract ghosts but unfortunately will not be able to tell the difference between the living and the dead, therefore putting her in danger.
In school, Seo-Woo follows a boy ghost and disappears from her teachers’ sight. A frantic search begins for the little girl, leading to Yu-Ri finding her in a freezer. Thankfully, her foot opens the door enabling the teachers to find and rush her over to hospital. Gang-Hwa and his new wife join them too before we see Yu-Ri telling Midongdaek that if she disappears, it might save Seo-Woo. She tearfully explains that she hasn’t been able to leave since she was born. Walking away, she breaks down in tears, asking the deity why she’s not allowed to carry on watching her. This causes a freak storm as hailstones fall on the ground and all around the city.
The next day, Yu-Ri’s parents return home after shopping. Her father, Moo-Poong, is feeling depressed as he misses his daughter and granddaughter after passing her by in the street.
In the evening, Gang-Hwa and his wife walk through the Christmas street with Seo-Woo. As they walk past Yu-Ri, Gang-Hwa looks right at her as he seems to recognise her. We then finally see how she died as we flashback to a car hitting her while she was pregnant. The episode ends as a snow flake lands on Yu-Ri’s shoulder and stays there.
Hi Bye Mama is off to a good start as the new drama gives us a strong first episode with an interesting premise and some very sad scenes, even this early in the show. Kim Tae-Hee returns to the screen with a great performance, portraying a deceased woman unable to leave her daughter’ side. There were quite a few heartbreaking moments as she had to watch her daughter grow up without being seen or really present in her life.
Her determination seems to have paid off as she comes back to life at the end of the episode. However, I have a feeling this will not be easy and will probably come with strings attached. The world created around the ghosts was quite interesting too and reminds me a little of Hotel Del Luna. Hi Bye Mama has some big shoes to fill after Crash Landing on You but for now, the new weekend drama debuts with an engaging and enjoyable first episode, certainly with the potential to be one of the better Korean drama out there.