You don't wanna end up like Esther Wong...
This episode, called "Grandma & Chill," even addresses why Grandma came to the United States: China's Cultural Revolution.
But in clever and funny ways, so it's still an easy watch.
Obviously, this whole K-drama episode is a thirst trap. But, more deeply, executive producer Teresa Hsiao explained to EW that Garbage Boy and Doc Hottie were very intentional choices:
"Basically, we wanted to have these two studs come on board and again, really showcase like, 'Hey, Asian men are super hot and they are incredible and they never ever get a chance to show this side of them on television.' They're usually just like the nerdy doctor or whatever. And so we really wanted to showcase this hot Asian masculinity."
(Plus, Jennifer Esposito plays Brenda, Wally's love interest, subverting the usual White male/Asian female couple.)
Right off the bat, Asians are not a monolith; there are East Asians, Southeast Asians, and South Asians — and even then, they break down into individual ethnic groups. And guess what, colorism and prejudice and discrimination exist between them too.
Grandma gives us a lighthearted look into this when she and her Chinese friends get into a fight with a group of equally old Korean women who snag the only table with an outlet. The fight escalates when Grandma's iPad dies and her group can't finish watching their subtitled K-drama. When Nora sees Grandma later that night, she reminds her, "You know I'm half-Korean, right?"
Wally, Nora's widowed dad, calls her "princess" and, though frustrated that she's still jobless at 27, is compassionate toward and supportive of her. He apologizes when he snaps at her on his wedding anniversary, explaining he just misses "her" a lot, and Nora hugs him in return.
And, if ya haven't caught on yet, Grandma is also loud, vulgar (in a lovable way), and proud of Nora no matter what. She's always there to remind Nora that she loves her and to help guide her along the way. Then you've got Aunt Sandra, who lives on a commune with her son. She sometimes visits and gets stoned with Nora.
So he hangs out with Nora, Wally, and Grandma instead. Obviously, Nora's family isn't supposed to represent every Asian American family out there. It's supposed to represent one of many, because that's the point; they're not all the same.
Lonely, Nora goes to experience a real Chinese dinner but ends up eating KFC instead. She then meets a group of partying ex-pats, realizing that she relates to them more than the Chinese locals. In an interview with Deadline, Hsiao revealed the storyline was based off of Awkwafina's experiences abroad in Beijing:
"She talked about this idea of being Asian American — it’s hard to place yourself in a specific area. In America, you’re not considered American. Obviously, we’re seeing that a lot now which is really sad. In Asia, you’re not considered Asian because you can’t speak the language, so you’re caught in this limbo. We thought it was interesting.
"We did it on purpose to show what it’s like when Asian Americans go back to Asia. That’s not something a lot of people see or understand until you are in that situation. When we go back to Asia, people recognize us as outsiders. Many Americans look at Asians as all the same because they can’t tell where we’re from. There’s this feeling of alienation when you’re American in Asia even though you look the same as everyone else."