Kim’s Convenience closed up shop last night, its fifth-season finale serving as an unexpected end for the whole thing. CBC had ordered Seasons 5 and 6 together, so the news that the series wouldn’t be returning in 2022 came as a genuine shock.
Every time I write about Kim’s, I feel a little awkward. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee is a dear friend, and it gets weird when you write about your friends, even when said friend is the face of a wonderful television program that is going off the air far too soon. But here we are. (Paul and co-star Andrew Phung discussed the reasons for the show ending early in an interview with the Calgary Herald, if you’re curious.)
And though last night wasn’t intended to be the show’s signoff, it certainly played that way: storylines were concluded, character arcs resolved, and the episode ended with the entire cast sitting down to eat together for the first time as a family, happily going their separate ways at the end of the night. It felt final, but it also felt reassuring: whatever lies ahead for these people, they’ve got each other. It’s going to be okay.
Even before that dinner scene, Ins Choi and Matt Kippen’s script found moments of real growth for Simi Liu’s Jung, Andrea Bang’s Janet, Phung’s Kimchee, and Nicole Power’s Shannon (who’s leaving for a spinoff of her own next year), and wrapped the up with a little moment of Paul’s Appa and Jean Yoon’s Umma alone together in the store, content with the life they’d built for themselves. It might not have been meant as the end, but it left everyone in a good place, and that’s not the worst thing.
As television, Kim’s Convenience was something remarkable, turning Choi’s considerably darker stage play about a Korean-Canadian family struggling with generational expectations, estrangement, and bottled-up anger into a light-hearted sitcom about first-generation parents and assimilated kids, played out in an entirely believable, casually diverse Toronto. The thing that changed the least from the stage version was the relationship between Appa and Umma: a loving, supportive, honest couple who may argue and snipe at one another but still genuinely care for one another.
The Kim kids, Jung and Janet, grew considerably once the writers started leaning into Liu’s self-mocking swagger and Andrea Bang’s knack for awkward frustration, and Phung and Power found endless dimensions in the new characters Kimchee and Shannon, which could have been simple comic-relief parts but became considerably more.
Over five years, the Kim’s Convenience series charted a narrative path away from the play, letting Appa and Jung get over their years of estrangement in a way that acknowledges how hard it can be to let someone back into your life; one of this season’s episodes dealt with the fact that the equilibrium they’ve found is still pretty fragile, giving both actors a chance to demonstrate how much they’ve done to develop those characters.
New plotlines introduced this year for Umma and Janet did the same for Yoon and Bang, and I am genuinely pissed off—as a fan and a friend—that we won’t get to see these characters grow any further.
But the end of Kim’s Convenience just means we get to see what all of these actors do next, and that’s something I’m truly excited about. We don’t even have to wait that long: Liu is starring in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings this summer, and Phung and Power have shows of their own coming to the CBC next year. And if the network isn’t already developing projects for the rest of the cast, they’re squandering a massive opportunity.