The Eighth Sense:

A visceral experience

TW: Includes mention of suicide

“What makes you the most happy these days?”

The Eighth Sense

There’s power in telling a human story, especially one that explores an innate need for freedom. 

Created and directed by Werner du Plessis and Inu Baek, the Korean drama The Eighth Sense searches for this freedom by offering viewers a profoundly symbolic, emotional and heart-fluttering story about two boys facing separate fears while falling in love. 

There’s no one way to break down The Eighth Sense, and this is what works so highly in its favor. It’s a nuanced tale about trauma, grief, depression, and love that personally and individually touches its viewers, depending on the experiences of those who tune in. Seeing the response online makes for as beautiful a story as the series itself. For the past five weeks, two very human stories unfolded, the one on screen and the one on social media. 

On-screen, we watched actors Im Ji Sub and Oh Jun Taek step into the roles of the traumatized Jae Won and the fearful Ji Hyun, two college students in two different phases of their lives who find themselves curious about each other. 

On social media, viewers interacted with one other, spilling personal stories of trauma, grief, and growing up that mirrored the emotions on screen, proving that youth and the complex emotions experienced during it are an age-old transition full of a need for personal freedom and the desire to make our own choices. 

While The Eighth Sense is a Korean drama that centers on a desire to break free from the rigid traditionalist expectations that boxes in its leads, especially Jae Won, the drama also breaks boundaries. How it’s told encompasses more than the society it takes place in. It speaks to an entire global community of viewers who feel trapped in their own circumstances and heads, no matter where they live. 

And that’s power. 

This power brings me to why The Eighth Sense stole my soul. It reminded me of how I got to where I am now. 

It took me back to the four walls that trapped me, the small conservative town that sucked the independence from me. It took me back to the sixteen-year-old kid who attempted suicide inside her bedroom and failed. The sixteen-year-old kid whose abusive, alcoholic father had abandoned her family, leaving them stuck between living in the streets and renting a mobile home in a neighborhood inundated by crime. The sixteen-year-old kid who’d lost her first love after being caught kissing a girl whose parents forced her to move because being gay meant going to hell. The sixteen-year-old kid in an era when depression meant being prescribed pills with no context, when talking to someone meant being forced to speak to a preacher who only condemned her for loving and existing outside the box. The sixteen-year-old kid who’d convinced herself that disappearing was better than being. 

The sixteen-year-old kid who didn’t realize that life would get tougher before it got better. The sixteen-year-old kid who didn’t know that her mother would pass away tragically seven years later, that the world she already found to be a bitter, cold place could be much more cruel. The sixteen-year-old kid who didn’t know that years later, she’d be diagnosed with the early stages of the same disease that took the father she had a volatile relationship with.Β 

The sixteen-year-old kid who lived inside the stories and journals she penned. The sixteen-year-old kid who would meet a therapist years later that would not only save her life but convince her to take those stories and give them wings. 

The irony in all of this is that the same world I found to be cold, cruel, and impossible to navigate would also become a world full of color I found myself desperate to capture with a pen. A world I found myself enthralled by. There’s beauty hidden in the bleakness. 

And that’s the story The Eighth Sense hands us.

No matter how bleak a situation feels, no matter how many hits are still headed our way, there’s also hope. Love. Dreams. Change. 

Life hands us lows but also offers opportunity, love, and reasons to fight for freedom. 

The Eighth Sense is told aggressively, using abrupt editing that feels as raw as its characters and filled with colors that speak to the moments it captures. While I spent a lot of time online analyzing what each moment meant for me personally and how Jae Won’s trauma response affected those around him, the beautiful thing about The Eighth Sense is that you don’t need to understand its symbolism or have a traumatic past to feel it.Β 

You simply need to feel. 

This drama opens up a need to communicate. It opens up discussions about depression, trauma, grief, and asking for help in a world that often makes seeking help feel like a weakness. 

All while falling in love. 

While The Eighth Sense is a queer love story, it doesn’t box itself into a label. The love story it tells is as much about breaking out of the box the world keeps itself in as the rest of the story. Because, in the end, love should never be placed inside a box. Who we are and who we love shouldn’t be restricted. Who we feel safe with shouldn’t be barred from us.

It’s like owning a pet that’s kept inside a too-small enclosure. Placing anything inside a space too small to fit leads to physical, behavioral, and emotional problems. People aren’t meant to be bound by the world’s expectations of us. There are infinite possibilities beyond those restraints.  

And that’s the beauty of The Eighth Sense. It’s a liberating series that breaks free of restraint. It confronts itself and then frees itself. 

For the last five weeks, we were all Jae Won and Ji Hyun. We faced their fears with them. We grieved, mourned, and yelled into the abyss. And we fell in love. 

While the series’ title seems focused more on the infinity symbol than on interoception, there is no doubt that we all experienced The Eighth Sense in a very ‘internal’ way, reminding us of our journeys toward accepting ourselves. Whether we’re just starting on that journey, naively stepping into a world we’re afraid of like Ji Hyun, facing the scars the world has left us with like Jae Won, or dealing with an overwhelming amount of obstacles we feel is impossible to overcome, the search for freedom applies. 

Freedom is a universal theme, and the human psyche is an intricate mental and emotional landscape with limitless ways of viewing it. And like the ocean seen so often in the series, the human mind may never be fully understood.Β The mystery of it is why we are as fascinated with the mind as we are drawn to the heart.

While surfing is a backdrop to the love story, it’s also a beautifully symbolic way of showing an infinite space full of danger, curiosity, joy, and fear. We want to ride the wave of life, but trying to do so means getting knocked down more often than standing up. At times, we feel like we’re drowning. Still, the joyful adrenaline that riding it gives us awaits. 

There’s a lot I’d planned to say about the trauma response and symbolism in the series in this review, but I found myself penning a love letter instead. I’ve written several threads on the subtle symbolism and trauma in the series on my Twitter, but I think the greatest treasure The Eighth Sense offers is in its ambiguity. The symbolism is as nuanced as its characters, and no one will find the same truth in it. It’s as colorfully meaningful as its color palette and emotionally deep as its viewers’ personal experiences. How you understand it comes from within. The color palette, in particular, is a personal favorite. Whether the series intended it or not, the colorful filters (and infinity symbol) are as inclusive to its neuro diverse audience as it is to the emotional diversity of its characters and viewers, while also a beautiful nod at pride.

The acting is phenomenal, the cinematography and editing are emotional and raw, and the music buoys rather than overwhelms its plot. It leaves viewers satisfied while also leaving room for more, whether it be additional content or simply our imaginations taking us to the next step in Jae Won and Ji Hyun’s journey. Coming together is only the first step inside a world full of hurdles.

Thank you to everyone involved in this series for the story you gave us. You did it proud.

For a raw, human story that forges its own path, check out The Eighth Sense now on Viki. I highly recommend it. 

You don’t watch this series, you live it.

And while my review may make the series sound heavy, and in many instances it is, it is overall a heart-fluttering love story. Every stare, touch, and intimate moment makes the heart feel like it’s flying, and that feels as special as the rest. Because in order for the heart to fly, it has to be free.

“It’s okay to be colorful”

The Eighth Sense

For those struggling with trauma, grief, and mental illness, it takes a significant amount of courage to reach out. Asking for help is no different than asking for directions when lost. You are not weak. You are brave. You are your own hero. Let’s reach out together. Fly high, my friends. There’s a colorful world full of hope ahead even if it often feels like we’re fighting a war to find it. You are not alone.

Back in my teens when I wrote poetry and songs more often than I did essays and fiction, I penned two during my darkest hours. The first alluded to time and how punishing the past, present, and future seemed to me, even as I hoped for more from the future. The second explains itself. It’s funny that, looking back, the only two poems I remember off the top of my head are the two written when the road was dark. It goes to show that once you discover the light in the darkness, the mind becomes much more free.

Ludicrous is he,
A tyrant that rules the past, you see. 
Smug is she, 
A ruler of now-a-day, forever to be. 
Enchanting will be the child, 
Future's eaves hanging from her hair so wild. 
And though I know them not by name, 
I know their anger, their fire, their flame. 
I walk a milestone so as not to be heard,
Their discreet and haunting chanted words. 
A harp is played, not by talent but by ear. 
As is this legend of a day, week, month, and year. 
~Regina Ryals
I look into the eyes of the world, and what do I see?
I see the eyes of the world looking back at me. 
I see the silence in its dark, forbidding stare,
And the pain I can no longer bear. 
I see my desires in it's tight, unrelenting fist, 
And the fear it controls me with. 
~Regina Ryals

Looking back, I’m glad it’s these verses I remember. Not because I want to think about the pain of the past, but because it reminds me that I broke free. Thank you to The Eighth Sense for also giving viewers the joy of seeing that love, hope, and dreams can break you free. The biggest hope is in seeing yourself step into the light, even if there isn’t a romance that pulls you into it. To all the infinite possibilities and limitless love. ♾️ Let’s dare to dream, Freebirds. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you that you can when it feels like the entire world is telling you that you can’t. You can be who you want to be. You can love who you want to love. You can cry when everything feels like it’s too much. You can scream when you feel like screaming. You can laugh when you feel like laughing.

The world’s voices don’t stop screaming at you when you break free. You simply get better at ignoring them.

People aren’t going to stop hurting you even if they promise not to. Pain, like anything else, is a part of life.

But trying is enough. The final episode of The Eighth Sense is a meaningful look at letting yourself be yourself. It doesn’t remove the fears you had before or the fears you have of the future. It simply lets you be in the moment.

Be the moment. Good or bad, fearful or no.

“Everything will be okay.”

The eighth Sense

Follow The Eighth Sense online at the links below:

Subscribe to The Eighth Sense on YouTube HERE! Check out the international trailer below.

Follow The Eighth Sense on Twitter and Instagram.

Follow the actors and directors on Instagram by clicking on their names: Im Ji Sub, Oh Jun Taek, Werner du Plessis, and Inu Baek.

Thanks to a friend who felt compelled to type up a Twitter thread (found here) I made on Jae Won after episode 7 and 8, you can find it in full below. Thank you for reaching out to me with this. I’m amazed at how well this series connects us all. And for those who have asked, unless you count the philosophy and psychology classes I took in university and the psychology papers I edited for students in that major, I am not a psychologist. I am simply a writer who likes capturing my feelings on paper.