Glitch follows a privileged yet troubled woman indulging in alien conspiracies, cult activities, and several therapies while searching for her ex-boyfriend who went missing inexplicably.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Glitch opens with Hong Ji-hyo, who has an almost picture-perfect life — a rich family, a great job (that her father’s connections landed her), and a boyfriend.
However, behind the perfect picture is a termite infestation of a life filled with depression and a surreal story. Ji-hyo frequently sees a grey alien donning a green baseball helmet.
Only visible to her, this alien hasn’t appeared for a while until recently, when she has an inexplicable and life-threatening experience.
She receives a vision of a van in a field of reeds; she is a child in this vision and looking at the bright flash of light in the sky. All of the aforementioned mess is too much for her and she finally breaks up with her boyfriend.
Following the morose turn of events, Si-kook takes a stroll and encounters a bright light hovering above a parking lot.
After that bit of a spooky unfolding, Si-kook disappears and a regretful Ji-hyo begins her search for him. The police are no help as she’s not a relative and Si-kook is an adult.
Meanwhile, Ji-hyo keeps having bizarre experiences with tech where the devices glitch around her; Si-kook’s watch she recovered from the parking lot has a similar effect on other devices too.
Ji-hyo takes matters into her own hands and starts browsing the UFO and alien conspiracy part of the web. She ends up on a specific UFO forum and a profile by the name of “Moonhole”.
She visits the forum’s offline meeting and meets “Moonhole”, who turns out to be her friend from childhood Bo-ra. Together, they begin investigations into the disappearance of Si-kook.
Their investigations lead them to Direct Kim whose daughter similarly went missing; Divine Light Church, a cult that’s behind Si-kook’s disappearance and a whole lot of other deaths; Father and Mother, the progenitors of the entire cult.
During the second half of Glitch, stakes get higher; Bo-ra and Ji-hyo’s investigations land them at the New Hope hospital.
Meanwhile, the “Father” of the church gets his people to kidnap Ji-hyo, following the mentally unwell “Mother” sketches a portrait of her — an indication that Ji-hyo is the new saviour of the cult.
The Father tries to probe into Ji-hyo’s mind and takes the “chip” out of her brain — something he says was put there by the aliens that abducted her during her childhood. Ji-hyo eventually manages to escape her captivity.
Ji-hyo makes up with Bo-ra, her childhood friend she got estranged from after her 72-hour-long disappearance following their casual hangout.
Ji-hyo didn’t remember anything about that incident but memories keep flooding in and now she remembers that it wasn’t Bo-ra’s fault, something she believed all her life up until now.
The Father sets up a funeral for Ji-hyo — the new Messiah. Without many options and wanting to know what happened that day in her childhood, Ji-hyo arrives at the ceremony where the Father intends to make the cult members commit mass suicide to ascend.
Bo-ra, the UFO forum guys, police officer Kim Byung-jo, colleague and friend Sehee, and Si-kook (who has returned) — everyone is at the memorial and the final showdown occurs.
Direct Kim’s daughter Younggi realizes the whole thing was a sham while Ji-hyo manages to prevent everyone from swallowing the fatal pill in the name of ascension.
Younggi goes to kill the Father, but her dad intervenes and does the job himself, later on turning himself into the authorities.
Meanwhile, some of the cult members turn up on Ji-hyo because of the lies and are interrupted by an actual UFO that pulls Ji-hyo and Bo-ra inside.
The two friends float in an all-white environment where a tentacled alien takes a chip out of Ji-hyo’s brain, before dropping the two at a nearby forest.
Glitch comes to an end and Bo-ra, who made a documentary on the whole ordeal, is ready for a new conspiratorial adventure.
Si-kook and Ji-hyo part ways properly and the former can now see the alien that Ji-hyo used to see. Meanwhile, Ji-hyo leads a happier life but devices still glitch when she’s close to them.
Glitch ending explained in detail:
Are the aliens real in Glitch?
As with answers to all the queries this series poses, this one’s also filled with ambiguity and murky waters. Aliens in Glitch are as equally probable as they’re improbable, depending on the viewer’s interpretation.
Inconsistencies aside, Glitch gives probable outcomes for this quandary. One is that the aliens are not real at all. It’s all in the head.
A common theme throughout the series is trauma and the subsequent effects it has on people. Even Bo-ra posits a theory that the grey alien Ji-hyo kept seeing is a “screen image”.
She says that a screen image is a coping mechanism which entails creating a much saner and more familiar image to substitute a really traumatic experience.
However, this theory still implies that Ji-hyo did see aliens that night in her childhood. So was the traumatic incident the aliens arriving and abducting her? Or was it merely symbolic?
It seems as though the real traumatic experience is Ji-hyo’s tumultuous family life, and all the guilt she feels for not questioning his father’s relationship with her stepmom.
Instead, she kept her dislike and frustrations with her parents to herself. The alien experience was probably her retroactive cover-up for the time of her life she felt broken.
Following that night, Ji-hyo wiped all memories of it from her mind. The later visions of the alien with a green helmet might be periodic reminders her subconscious keeps giving her, to deal with her issues.
The second possibility is that she did see the aliens, who are very much real and have a very real and tangible impact on the story and characters, rather than a symbolic one.
However, the latter detracts a lot from a story clearly delving into the therapeutic treatment and explanation of trauma.
However, characters like Bo-ra and Kim Byung-jo witnessing UFOs or crop circles make it harder to dismiss the tangible presence of aliens in the show.
The aforementioned characters and others like them don’t share a traumatic (or as traumatic/emotionally tolling) experience like Ji-hyo, the cultists, or later, Si-kook.
Their witnessing of all these supernatural events can be chalked up to a possible shared hysteria but it does come with several grains of salt.
What is the Divine Light Church?
Divine Light Church is the cult at the centre of Glitch’s plot. It all started with Back Yoonsun, a girl who claimed to have been abducted by aliens in 1978 during the alleged sighting of several UFOs that arrived in a formation.
Yoonsun was soon admitted to a welfare centre due to her mental instability. Many doctors were fascinated by her since the whole UFO and alien spiel surrounded her.
One of these doctors was Moon Hyungtae aka the Father of the cult. The doctor’s fascination with his patient soon turned into romantic feelings (horrendously creepy) and soon they started a new religion.
Yoonsun scribbled on and on over thousands of pages which all later got edited and compiled into a singular scripture for the Divine Light Church.
Bo-ra skims through some parts of it and reveals some of the content written inside of it. Some other scripture wisdom was later elucidated on by Hyungtae himself.
The scripture entails a prophecy that says a Messiah will arrive who will have a chip inside their head. This Messiah will lead humankind to their ascension.
Many members of the church ever since its creation committed mass suicides, hoping to ascend through death while being unable to wait for the saviour/messiah.
Hyungtae’s grand plan was also to make all the members commit mass suicide as part of the ascension when Ji-hyo arrives and leads them to the divine state.
Why does Si-kook see the alien?
During the mid-credits scene of Glitch, Si-kook gets up from the spot he just made peace with Ji-hyo, and starts to walk away.
He’s stopped in his way soon as a colossal grey foot lies in front of him. As he bends himself back to her a better look above, he witnesses the enlarged version of the same grey alien that Ji-hyo used to see.
So what’s with this transmission of hallucinations?
One possible explanation is that only those who have suffered some form of trauma or emotional upheaval in their lives can see the supernatural gobbledygook.
As to why that specific alien with the green helmet — something very personal to and between Ji-hyo and Bo-ra — the answer may lie in the fact that Ji-hyo shared every bit of detail of the entire ordeal with Si-kook.
This means Si-kook now knows about her “screen image” and has probably made it his own, substituting it for the much darker and depressing picture of his breakup with Ji-hyo.