It’s always hard to say goodbye to beloved heroes and deftly portrayed villains. But the season finale of The Glory delivered a deeply satisfying conclusion to the remarkably popular series about getting revenge on high school bullies. Song Hye-gyo won the Best Actress award at the Baeksang Arts Awards for her role as a victim of severe bullying, and her antagonist Lim Ji Yeon won the Best Supporting Actress award.
Centered on several bullying/revenge narratives, the series expanded individual struggles into epic symbols of good and evil. Given the riveting acting and universal themes in the show, it came as no surprise that The Glory became Netflix’s 5th all-time most popular non-English TV series with 436.9 million hours streamed in the first season alone.
There are so many factors that made The Glory so successful like: the exceptional script, the great directing, the extraordinary acting, and the list goes on. What I find so interesting and unique in The Glory is that there are many symbolic metaphors and hidden meanings throughout the drama. You might not have noticed them at first but after multiple viewings, the hidden revelations are almost endless. I hope these many layers of meaning will elevate your enjoyment of The Glory to a whole new level.
Here are 7 things insights that you might have missed from your initial viewing The Glory.
1. Eden Villa’s Owner
She represents “God” in The Glory. She owns an apartment building named Eden Villa which symbolizes the Garden of Eden from the Bible. On the villa’s rooftop, she has a flower garden where there are the angel’s trumpets that look down at the ground while the devil’s trumpets look up at the sky when they bloom.
In first episode, she mentions those flowers’ meaning to Dong-eun. To viewers paying close attention, it’s then possible to see who would be Dong-eun’s helpers or foes. It’s easy to miss these clues on the posters but each character’s gaze is oriented like the rooftop flowers, those who look up are the bullies and those who look down are the helpers of Dong-eun.
We know now that she was the one who always looked over Dong-eun just like God from the beginning til the end. This villa is the best place to observe Yeon-jin’s house in Semyeong City and it is a very necessary element for Dong-eun’s revenge. For some reason, she offered the apartment to Dong-eun for a lot cheaper than the market price. She also told Dong-eun’s mom that Dong-eun didn’t live at her building and kicked her out when she was trying to find where Dong-eun lived in order to break into Dong-eun’s apartment.
In the end, we found out the reason why the old lady was protecting Dong-eun all along. On multiple occasions, the lady and Dong-eun save each other’s lives. And throughout the series, the old lady makes Dong-eun realize there are good people around all along to help her.
2. Names with the letter “O”
In the first episode of the series, Yeon-jin’s mom warned Yeon-jin that she should not hang out with people who have the Korean letter “o” in their name. Throughout the drama, we know that most of the characters have this letter in their name and only Jae-jun and Sa-ra are without an “o”.
We then find out in Part 2 that Yeon-jin’s mom, actually, has multiple “o” in her own name: 홍영애, Hong Young Ae. Chills!
3. Deities in The Glory
Even though Dong-eun believed that God didn’t help her at all, it turns out that belief (or faith) isn’t always needed in order to receive assistance. As noted above, Eden Villa’s owner is one depiction of providence. In addition, there are three different spiritual entities in the drama, Yeon-jin’s shamanism, Sa-ra’s Christian God, and Hye-jeong’s Buddha. Those deities all end up helping Dong-eun’s revenge, directly or indirectly.
Yeon-jin and her mom are solemnly dependent on their shaman throughout The Glory. However, Dong-eun was able to blackmail their shaman into making Yeon-jin lose her composure by the shaman pretending that she was possessed by So-hee’s spirit during the shaman’s ritual. (So-hee was Yeon-jin and the gang’s victim before Dong-eun.)
But the shaman’s corruption takes an unexpected turn when her fake reading becomes all too real. In fact wrapped up in the foreshadowing of the shaman’s own punishment is the revelation that Yeon-jin’s mother will also be punished by a higher power.
Sa-ra’s Christian God
Sa-ra is the daughter of the ordained pastor at a mega-church and enjoys a false halo of devotion to the church. In truth, she is one of the bullies and a drug addict. But Dong-eun manages to reveal that both Sa-ra and her father have used the church to cloak their misdeeds and hypocrisy.
Hye-jeong’s fiance’s mother is a devout Buddhist and Hye-jeong went to the temple diligently to curry favor with her future mother-in-law. But there are hidden dynamics between Dong-eun and Hye-jeong’s engagement (to Do-young). And Hye-jeong’s comeuppance becomes the first revenge domino to fall for Dong-eun.
4. The Game of Go
The game of Go plays a pivotal part in The Glory. Go is very symbolic in this drama. (Go is a game with the objective of surrounding a larger total area of the board with one’s own color/pieces where every turn changes which color is dominant.) Because of Go, Dong-eun got closer to Yeo-jeong by learning the game from him. Also, Dong-eun was able to approach Do-young by playing Go at his Go club.
The drama cleverly illustrates through set pieces how Go reveals an infidelity.
5. Triangle Kimbap
Kimbap is another important metaphor in The Glory. Dong-eun only eats kimbap throughout the drama and she eats it alone without any emotion. It represents that Dong-eun’s only purpose in her life is to get revenge on her bullies. She gets no enjoyment from the common pleasure of eating something delicious. Sure, not every meal can be a feast for the senses but Dong-eun takes the notion of food as only fuel to a dark and lonely extreme.
When Dong-eun offers a triangle kimbap to Do-young at a convenience store, he refuses. This shows how different Dong-eun and Do-young are at this moment. Do-young would never understand what kind of life Dong-eun has lived and he doesn’t want to.
Then at the end of the series, there’s a scene where he is alone at the same convenience store after he commits his own act of revenge. This scene reveals how he can now truly relate to Dong-eun.
6. Double Meaning of 이모님을 구합니다
이모님을 구합니다 has a double meaning in Korean, I will hire you and I will save you. This phrase comes out at the beginning of the drama and at the end of the drama.
When Hyeon-nam, (the housekeeper of the Semyeong elementary school chairman’s home) catches Dong-eun stealing the chairman’s garbage, she doesn’t report her to the police, instead, they become allies. Luckily, Hyeon-nam turns out to be a great spy and she becomes more alive and hopeful for herself and her daughter’s future when she teams with Dong-eun. On multiple occasions this alliance saves both partners from sticky situations.
In big and small ways, Dong-eun and Hyeon-nam encourage and help each other. In one poignant scene, Hyeon-nam’s application of bright, red lipstick shows just how much Dong-eun bolstered her depressed spirits.
7. Good Vs. Evil in The Glory
The Glory is about Good against Evil and how good people can prevail over evil ones. Of course, the main storyline in The Glory is about Dong-eun’s revenge against her bullies. However, there are other relationships among the characters that represent good vs. evil in the drama.
Four Mothers in The Glory
Dong-eun’s alcoholic mother, Mi-hee shows that just being a mother doesn’t automatically make you a good person. She is the first betrayer and the ultimate villain to her daughter, Dong-eun.
Because of her total lack of maternal love, Dong-eun was left to suffer under those who bullied her at her high school and then faced the world alone without protection. She continued to be a great threat to Dong-eun and almost jeopardized Dong-eun’s revenge on her foes. But Mi-hee’s actions and selfishness do catch up to her.
Yeon-jin’s mother, Young-ae is another major villain in The Glory. She is a cold mother to Yeon-jin and only thinks about her social status and how others perceive her family. She goes to great lengths to protect what she values, like being obsessed with shamanism, using corrupt policemen to cover up crimes, and even murder when she thinks can get away with it.
Sun-a’s mother, Hyeon-nam is the good and sacrificial mother that we all wished could have been a mom to Dong-eun. She is fiercely loyal to the people she loves. She protects Sun-a from her violent father even if this means there would be more beatings for herself. She would do anything for Sun-a to make their future hopeful and successful.
She was even able to send her daughter to study abroad in spite of Yeon-jin’s threats.
Yeo-jeong’s mother, Sang-im is the cool mom in The Glory. Even though she too lost her husband to a serial killer, she never lost her composure and did her best to raise her son who was scarred by his father’s death. She is never overpowering and gives complete support to her son even when Yeo-jeong claims that he would help out his girlfriend’s revenge. As a doctor and the head of the hospital, she is greatly respected by her employees as well.
She even plays a pivotal part in episode 16 saving Dong-eun’s and her son’s lives.
Dong-eun’s high school homeroom teacher was an evil teacher. He purposely ignored the violence done against Dong-eun by her bullies, telling her that they were just playing. When Dong-eun challenges him by asking what he would do if his own son was bullied, a vicious slap is the response she gets. Eighteen years after Dong-eun’s student days, that teacher’s son plays a dramatic role in the educator being punished for his allowing the violence against Dong-eun to go unchecked.
There was, however, a great teacher at Dong-eun’s high school. The nursing teacher knew of the violence and tried to do something about it. But she soon got fired because the bullies’ parents were rich and powerful and they forced the school to let her go. Later on, Dong-eun visited the nursing teacher and asked the teacher to help with her revenge. The teacher became a great helper for Dong-eun. After all the revenge was done, Dong-eun repays the teacher’s kindness.
In stark contrast to the nursing instructor, Teacher Chu embodies the worst kind of teacher in The Glory. He bullies his subordinates and is a pedophile who worked as an elementary teacher before joining the staff at Dong-eun’s high school. Dong-eun found out about this and made sure he got what he deserved.
Young-jun is the epitome of the bad cop. His only driving force is money. You name a crime, and he’s probably done it: embezzlement, blackmail, destruction of evidence… even murder. He assisted Yeon-jin’s mom and Yeon-jin’s cover-up. But in the end, it all comes back to bite him.
Detective Choi is the cop who tries to find out the truth of the case. He, initially, lost patience with Dong-eun in his investigations. However, he then realized that there was more to her and her history than a summary of evidence. In fact, an additional 18-year-old murder comes to light as a direct consequence of the unchecked bullying that wasn’t investigated or taken seriously. He wants to make it right even though it might be too late.
Dong-eun said to him, “Thank you for listening to me.” and he answered back “I have to even though it is 18 years too late.” With that, Dong-eun felt touched that she was finally listened to by someone.
Whether the Part 2 finale was a series or season completion is unknown; there are no current plans for more episodes. But, frankly, Detective Choi lending a sympathetic ear and turning a blind eye to Dong-eun’s less than legal tactics pretty neatly ties up her quest for revenge and justice. That, and all the gratifying just desserts for each villain leaves little unresolved for future seasons.
Interesting Facts about The Glory
- The writer, Kim Eun-sook, decided to write the script of The Glory when her daughter asked her whether she would be more hurt if her daughter was beaten severely at high school or if her daughter beat someone severely at school.
- Kim Eun-sook is one of the most prominent TV screenwriters in South Korea. She wrote Lovers in Paris, On Air, Secret Garden, A Gentleman’s Dignity, The Heirs, Descendants of the Sun, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, Mr. Sunshine, The King: Eternal Monarch, and The Glory.
- Some of the events in The Glory are based on real stories like “Cheongju Middle School Girl’s Iron Assault Case” and “Daegu Shaman’s House Prostitution Forced Case”.
- Lee Do-hyun who played Yeo-jeong and Lim Ji-yeon who played Yeon-jin started to date in real life after this drama.
- Yeon-jin is Lim Ji-yeon’s first villain role.
- The Glory is Song Hye-Kyo’s first thriller.
- Unfortunately, The Glory‘s production director Ahn Gil-ho admitted that he was involved in bullying at high school after someone accused him online.