Ins Choi’s Kim’s Convenience provides a lighthearted look into the tribulations of the Korean-Canadian Kim family, consisting of Sang-il and Yong-mi Kim, the traditional immigrant couple who runs the eponymous convenience store; their charismatic estranged son Jung, a former delinquent now working at Handy Car and Truck Rental; and their outspoken daughter Janet, a college student majoring in photography. Kim’s Convenience debuted as a play in 2011, which the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation adapted into a sitcom – with Ins Choi and Kevin White as showrunners – beginning in 2015. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon reprised their respective roles of Mr. and Mrs. Kim for the TV show, which usually focuses on the cultural and generational conflicts the Kims experience both within their family – rounded out by Chinese-Canadian Simu Liu and Andrea Bang as Jung and Janet – and with their diverse array of Toronto friends and neighbors.
Kim’s Convenience’s accolades prompted Netflix to start importing the sitcom to the US in 2018, allowing me to start watching it the following year. As a compelling Asian-American-centric work that could benefit from a larger American fanbase, my favorite episodes from the first two seasons seemed like apt choices for the subjects of my first non-Marvel review.
Note that since the show very rarely refers to Mr. and Mrs. Kim by their first names, my reviews don’t, either. Sometimes, I even follow the Kims’ lead of referring to them by the Korean words for father, “Appa”, and mother, “Umma”.
Airdate: December 6, 2016 (episode #9)
Director: James Genn
Writer: Anita Kapila
After Janet scolds Mr. Kim for selling canned ravioli past the expiration date, he tries to disprove the accuracy of the dates by ingesting some of the unsold ravioli himself, with regrettable results. Janet picks up her nauseous Appa’s slack at the store, but falls ill herself. Meanwhile, Mrs. Kim unexpectedly finds Jung volunteering at the church bazaar.
Many Kim’s Convenience episodes completely separate the A-plot and the B-plot, never letting one’s events influence the other. Compared to those, the connections between the A- and B-plots of “Best Before” – my favorite episode from season one – seem more evident. Both explore issues of pride; some of it justified, some of it misplaced. Despite Janet’s cathartic glee in humbling her Appa, she does show concern for him while promising to cover for him at work. In the B-plot, snobby Mrs. Park increases Mrs. Kim’s shame over Jung’s crimes. Ultimately, the episode has pride connect both generations of the Kim family. Jung gets into trouble multiple times at the bazaar, but Mrs. Kim’s maternal love for him helps him avoid undeserved punishments. While Mr. Kim’s hubris drives him to do something potentially dangerous, a twist directly connecting the A- and B-plots means the only real consequence slightly humbles him in front of a boastful Janet.
Objectively, I don’t have many qualms with this episode. Food poisoning provides gross potential for humor, but this episode fortunately doesn’t deliver any disgusting visuals. Instead, Lee’s and Bang’s comically convincing performances convey their characters’ suffering. The very end of the episode delivers a crude moment, but it feels earned by that point. “Best Before” ultimately provides an entertaining look at the consequences of pride.
Airdate: October 31, 2017 (#19)
Director: Peter Wellington
Writer: Anita Kapila
Mrs. Kim makes an unpleasant discovery, that 20-year-old financial woes resulted in Mr. Kim selling her grave, to one Lois Johnson. She demands that he buy it back, until Lois Johnson makes an offer to buy his grave for her own husband. Meanwhile, Jung loses a mock fight at work to his roommate, Kimchee, while Janet’s nighttime unwinding activities keep up her roommate, Gerald.
This season two highlight makes light of a potentially macabre dilemma, between making money and enforcing marital bonds. The script ultimately sides with the latter, as Mrs. Kim insists on eternally enforcing the bonds while entombed with her husband. However, the episode also makes sure not to make Mr. Kim seem like a completely terrible spouse; he assures her that he would’ve bought back her reservation sooner with more money, and suggests other ways they could remain together beyond death. By keeping the love between Mr. and Mrs. Kim constantly evident, the episode manages to draw humor from the ludicrous alternatives, and from the sight of the couple wheeling and dealing with the surprisingly manipulative Lois Johnson over the land.
The B-plot and C-plot don’t bear much thematic relevance, but still entertain. Ironically, I’ve gone from discussing an episode about the consequences of pride, to discussing one in which the B-plot concerns a bruised ego. Jung’s loss to Kimchee bears relatable results, in which Jung’s fear of embarrassment in front of his co-workers results in him performing further embarrassing incidents. Jung and Kimchee also have believable chemistry, helping justify Vietnamese/Chinese-Canadian Andrew Phung’s co-starring credit in the Kim’s Conveneince intro – treatment also given to Nicole Power, who portrays Jung’s boss/potential love interest Shannon. The C-plot feels like little more than an excuse for innuendo, but it delivers a chuckle-worthy culture clash between Gerald and the Kims. “Resting Place” delivers a darkly comical exploration of marital responsibilities.