And finally, the end. Which was just as visually beautiful as the beginning. There were some serious storytelling wobbles which came very close to ruining everything. But fortunately (so, so, so fortunately) the further I’ve gotten from the episode, the happier I am about the story as a whole. (Which is the inverse of what happened with Nice Guy — so that’s a good sign.)
Everything gets spoiled below. Everything! (Also, this is my reaction, not my official review.)
We began with awesome. And that is clearly Moo-chul. Who is so badass he makes death wait until he takes care of a loose end. He stopped the knife, y’all! Stopped it with his bare, bloody hand! And then he breaks the boy’s arm, taking him out of gangster game forever (yay for morals, indeed). And then he’s like,”Now.” And coughs up a metric ton of blood and dies.
But even death had to pause for a moment to shake its head at the sheer awesome of the man. Which was very cool because it gave Moo-chul a chance to be loved by Jin-sung scooping him up and running him towards the hospital while calling him hyung. So he doesn’t die alone, uncared for and unmourned. (And it is something that I’d grown to care that much for this character who’d started out as the personification of evil.)
And of course Soo saves Young. And it’s like a catharsis that gets Young out of her self-imposed hopeless isolation. She finally listens to his video (is finally in a place where she can listen) and they have a meal where Soo is adorable…
…and then they have the meaty chat they’ve been needing to have and Young admits that she was more hoping for Soo to come back to her than to die. Which, given her emotional state at the time (she’d basically lost her mother-figure, her brother-figure, her actual brother, and her one-true-love all in one blow — it’s hard to get more orphaned than that) doesn’t strike me as false.
Young finally opens up completely to Soo — has finally reached a point where she trusts him. (She is, honestly, the master of trust falls. Thank goodness Soo is so good at catching.) They tell each other, “I love you,” with Soo sounding so damn raw and open — seriously the man has no protective barriers at all when it comes to Young — that it breaks my heart. And then they have a mutual, everyone’s awake and aware and willing, kiss. And then it’s off to slay their respective demons!
But first we get the curious case of Secretary Wang. This wasn’t really a wobbly story-telling part because it’s been laid out by the story for ages. It’s just the strangest damn relationship in the show. I honestly, truly buy that Wang loves Young as a daughter. That she wants Young to be happy and successful and strong. So that Young sees that too? Sure! Makes sense. But it’s really, really hard for me to untangle all that from Wang purposefully making Young blind.
Was it the stupid, selfish mistake of a young and desperate woman and something Wang has since tried to atone for? Is that the direction we’re supposed to take? There were implications made along those lines (Young pointing out how young Wang was when she first arrived at their house) but I could have done with an explicit explanation. (Like the conversation between Young and Soo.)
I think we’re supposed to see a parallel between Wang and Soo. They both broke Young’s trust and hurt her in an attempt to get nearer to her because they love her. They both recognized the hurt the other was inflicting and so did their best to “protect” Young from the predator they saw in the other. And in the end, they both realized how much the other honestly did love Young and the support they each offered her. So their mutual forgiveness of each other, their mutual effort to get the other back into Young’s life, made them allies in the end. Beautiful and resonating and… I just have a hard time getting past the fact that Wang made Young blind! Maybe it’s just me?
Moving on, Young goes into surgery, newly determined to survive and live. And Soo heads off to settle things with Boss Kim via an epic card game. Jin-sung shows up in a surprise move, with Moo-chul’s Second getting his back (because even dead, Moo-chul rocks). And all seems well and hiesty in Soo-versus-Boss Kim story-land. Especially when Soo forces Boss Kim to join the game and we realize Boss Kim has stretched himself thin in trying to give Soo the smack down.
And that brings us to the wobble. In a plot-stretching, logic-breaking, and frankly confusing turn of events, Jin-sung is persuaded to kill Soo. He stabs him, Soo goes down. There’s this weird camera angle that makes me think we’re supposed to be surprised the stabber is Jin-sung (but… you just told us he was about to do it… why you think you surprise?) and an equally weird set of filming that makes it seem like Jin-sung’s family got killed anyway (and before the stabbing for that matter) because either a truck hits you or it don’t. Soo tries to stumble away, mumbling Young’s name, and then he’s down.
Kim Bum does act the hell out of his “I just betrayed my brother” scene — but I was so out of the story by this point, trying to figure out how this all fit and recognizing what I was supposed to feel, but not feeling it at all — that I was more, “that was well acted” then, “I’m so feeling his pain.”
And then I was all cross-armed and frowny-faced through the next set of scenes. Which is not where you want your audience to be when you’re heading into the conclusion.
But I watched — waiting to see how horrible the wobble actually was. We leap forward to Spring of next year and Young shows up and my frowny-face went down a notch because she’d obviously survived. (In my brief foray around the ‘nets it seems there’s a question of whether or not she lived. But those scenes were very clearly not of heaven or the afterlife. They were waaaay too prosaic.)
Then we get a teaser suggesting Soo’s dead because Jin-sung and Hee-sun are planning to bring him flowers (lambs ear and freesia — which is important). Frowny-face back up a notch.
Then we get a stunningly gorgeous scene that just breathes Spring where Young gets out of a taxi to walk her way through the cherry-blossom dripping trees to a restaurant. The camera’s focus is deliberately weird (I’ve since realized that it’s echoing Young’s sight — she can see, but not clearly and I think her perception is probably off — so she still uses a cane, though she can put it aside at times) and weirdly beautiful. And a guy passes her on a bicycle, wearing Soo’s bell-bracelet, and it’s obviously Soo though we can’t see his face.
My first thought was this was his ghost — or it’s her memory of him. Either way, he’s not really of this world. Frowny-face is a go.
But then we’re in the restaurant and there’s Soo’s tree, now covered in cherry-blossoms, hanging on the wall. And Young goes out to the deck to eat and there’s an arrangement of lambs ear and freesia (and roses, too) on the table. And then there’s Soo. So he didn’t die and my frowny-face full on retreats. Because while I was prepared for either of them to die, I wasn’t prepared for either of them to die stupidly. And Soo’s death would have been stupid, from a story-telling point of view, the way it was set up.
So then they chat and reveal themselves to each other (Young can see, Soo’s been there this whole time, basically waiting for her to be ready to come to him — which is a cool kind of trust fall on his part) and then they kiss and the final scene is of them beneath the cherry-blossoms and it’s like a diorama or an especially beautiful snow-globe (only with cherry-blossoms instead of snow). The end.
So the wobble was a pretty massive one. It was foreshadowed in that we’d been told Boss Kim wanted Jin-sung to strike the killing blow. But it was clumsily foreshadowed in that Boss Kim’s desire was all we got. No real why to Boss Kim’s motive, and no real suspicion that Jin-sung was ever leaning towards that kind of betrayal. So it still felt like it came out of nowhere. Especially since the threat to Jin-sung’s family, what made him do it, was so badly done. The family wasn’t held hostage or anything. It was a truck. And it even seemed like the truck hit them, so why kill Soo afterwards? Why not Boss Kim?
And also, what happened with Boss Kim? Does he think Soo’s dead? Did the game loss actually break him and leave him toothless? He’s set up as this ultimate villain but he wasn’t properly dealt with. And Jin-sung’s betrayal wasn’t dealt with either. We don’t see him struggle or decide or anything outside of the actual, out of the blue act.
Unfortunately, the secondary storyline of Jin-sung and Hee-sun was a fairly consistent weak-link once Soo rejected his original con. When he was done with the con they became disconnected from the main storyline of Soo and Young (unlike Moo-chul or Wang) and so their changes always came with a needle-scratching-across-the-record awkwardness. Like when Hee-sun suddenly decided she liked Jin-sung best. Or how Jin-sung’s presence in Young’s house was dealt with. (It wasn’t really. He wasn’t there until one day he packed his bags and suddenly announced he really wasn’t there. Even though he hadn’t really been there since forever.)
So to suddenly front and center Jin-sung’s loyalty to Soo and have that determine whether Soo lives or dies… it didn’t work. It was awkward. Which is not the way you want your hero to die. The saving grace was that it didn’t kill Soo so the awkward scene is able to sink back into unimportance. Which is why my overall feeling with the episode and the show is a good one.
It’s still too bad though, because if the show had managed to tie Jin-sung and Hee-sun more firmly to the plot, that almost death-scene could have been epic. Which would have made this drama epic. As it is, I’d call it really, really good. But there were these flaws…