Heartless City: Ending

calm photo calm_zpsb34f2d81.jpgI am completely shattered. My heart is still processing what happened. My brain is on hold until my heart gives the all-clear. I am so madly in love with this drama it’s hard for me to let go. The ending was perfect. (It wasn’t, of course — except for in all the important and necessary ways.)

Emotional Spoiler-palooza below! Entire plot ruined!! Beware!!! (With photos even, so skimming is dangerous too!!!!)

Safari is dead.
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He died after telling Jin-sook he loved her. He died sheltering the boy he’d shepherded for as long as he’d felt worthy of leading him. protector photo protector_zpsf7f068d2.jpg(Before the evilest villain in drama history, Chief Min, stole him and twisted him and made Safari into something he’d never wanted to be and trapped him in a world he couldn’t find his way back from.) He died having found the information that would end Chief Min and the twisted drug cabal Chief Min was trying to take over.

And Jin-sook mourned.
jinsookmourns photo jinsookmourns_zps7d7c1d45.jpg
dontgo photo dontgo_zpscd1bc656.jpgThat Safari had asked Shi-hyun to take him home to Jin-sook, that she was home to him… I’d begun to silently cry when Safari said goodbye to Shi-hyun and Shi-hyun begged him, in the youngest sounding voice, to stay. When Jin-sook reacted to Sajari’s death, only realizing what she’d lost after he was gone, I began to weep.

Soo is dead.
soogone photo soogone_zpsf8009763.jpg
He died reaffirming his love for Shi-hyun soopushes photo soopushes_zps8403fc7f.jpgand rebuking Chief Min’s attempt to manipulate him against his best friend. He died doing his best to push Shi-hyun forward into the light. When he cursed himself for still being a burden to Shi-hyun while Shi-hyun begged him to stay… I had to go grab the kleenex box.

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Busan is dead. That part was bitterly satisfying. He’d needed killing for a long, long time. I hated that he managed to keep his promise to Shi-hyun. I am incredibly glad that Shi-hyun didn’t follow his prophecy and become another Busan — evilmin photo evilMin_zps40c2d24b.jpgtwisted by the dark world he’d been pulled into.

Chief Min is dead. He died a failure. In the end, he could not conceive of a love stronger than need, a drive stronger than survival. I hated how he hurt and manipulated and lied to everyone around Shi-hyun and Soo-min in an effort to get them alone and friendless and then, once fully discarded, dead. I loved how both Jin-sook and Soo showed how much greater they were than him and his soulless ways. I loved that his efforts only managed to show Shi-hyun how deeply he was loved.

Shi-hyun is dead.
shihyungone photo shihyungone_zpsef13d17c.jpg
 photo shihyunloved_zps33c29957.jpgHe died in Soo-min’s arms, knowing he was loved by someone who’d seen all of him and hadn’t been frightened. He died having earned the respect of the righteous policeman who’d at first thought him a walking example of all that was dark in the world. He died in the light.

inlight photo inlight_zps0844c0c3.jpg And Soo-min mourned.
soominmourns photo soominmourns_zpse467f8ca.jpg And Jin-sook mourned.
jinsookmourns2 photo jinsookmourns2_zps285073e9.jpg And they mourned together.
mourntogether photo smandjsmourn_zps57b6f048.jpg And Soo-min put her uniform on and stepped forward, into the light, to fill her sister’s shoes and smile at the world so it could smile back.
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At this point, I was crying ugly, chest-hurting tears. The part where Soo-min imagines Shi-hyun tenderly cupping her cheek? So bittersweetly good.
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And when she imagines little Eun-soo and little Shi-hyun happily waving at her? So heart-shattering good.
wavecollage photo wavecollage_zpscf0fb1fb.jpg

I absolutely hate that Shi-hyun and Soo and Safari died. But it fit the story incredibly well. And they died incredibly well. None of them wasted, none of them forgotten, none of them unloved.

There was a bit at the end, when Hyung-min’s Head Prosecutor dad comes to the station to turn himself in so that he can regain his son’s respect, that struck me as a little cheesy. It was a character beat that seemed more forced than earned. However… I can let it go. For one, I figure the information Safari found was condemning enough that giving in gracefully was the best choice to make. (Also, knowing he’s cooperating makes the convicting of the congressman and the cleaning out of whatever’s left of their vile rats’ nest of a drug-cabal, an inevitability. bitter photo bitter_zpscc0030da.jpgSo no vain deaths for our beloveds — which is important.)

Plus, that last shot of Hyung-min — his face shadowed in darkness — tells me this isn’t a happy and easy ending for him. He knows the body count his father helped cause — knows it intimately. So this is a bitter victory for Hyung-min and, since that was the note we ended on, it makes his father’s capitulation a lot less saccharine.

But, other than that (really, really minor) wobble the drama had me in its clutches from start to finish. It did an excellent job of telling the story it was telling — staying true to style and tone. I adored all the characters I was supposed to adore, I despised all the characters I was supposed to despise and, most impressively, I made complete 180 turns on several characters introduced on one end of the scale who then fell (or climbed) to the other.

green photo green_zpse001303e.jpgStylistically, the drama was a pleasure to watch, making use of color and shadow to illustrate the underworld our main characters moved through. Like how Shi-hyun is often shot in dark greenish colors, like he’s under a river. Or the way restaurants would be empty of customers, and even staff, when gangster-world characters went out to dine.

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Just us two…

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Seriously. No one else is there.

Since it was just with them (as compared to say, eating out scenes with Hyung-min and his reporter) it struck me as a deliberate production choice that signaled the characters’ separation from normal society. Which I thought very cool.

The drama was also a pleasure to listen to. The music was gorgeous and stylistically perfect — from a sad, jazzy, Spanish guitar to dangerous and throbbing bass strings — it set the mood and complimented the visuals beautifully.

teamshihyun photo teamshihyun_zpsec2acd77.jpgOh, and the clothes! Pure noir style — glamorous dolls, sharp-dressed guys — I loved it! (It was interesting how both Soo-min and especially Shi-hyun wore black or grey when they dressed down to “blend.” It was like they could either be noir-glamour or shadows. They were forgetting how to be normal.)

And the ladies! Oh my gosh my beautiful, strong, badass, completely not helpless ladies!!! I adored, simply adored the scene where Jin-sook is being taken away by Wooden Stick (probably a more intimidating nickname in Korean?) and Soo-min sees it. She and Jin-sook exchange a look and, I’ll admit, I thought, “Oh good, Soo-min can call for help.” soomin photo soominready_zps60d8d9f6.jpgOnly she goes herself and she and Jin-sook totally take down the goons holding Jin-sook and haul ass out of there. It was awesome!! Girl don’t need to call no man to rescue her sister. She’s got this one, thanks.

(I’m a newly formed fan of Nam Gyu-ri. I’d been neutral before. She’d been fine in 49 Days, but her part didn’t have a ton of emotive heavy lifting to do. This part, however, was highly complex and she impressed me.)

And that’s just one example of many. Eun-soo was a badass cop. The scariest assassin was a woman. jinsook photo jinsook_zps6fe99200.jpgAnd of course, there’s Jin-sook (who actually schooled the badass assassin. To Safari’s amusement.) The women were never damsel-ed. Far from it. Taking them as easy meat was generally a dire, and probably last, mistake.

So yes — Heartless City ripped my heart from my chest but kept it beating. This is a drama that will stay with me for a long, long time. And the characters will be remembered. And loved. Deeply, deeply loved.
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25 thoughts on “Heartless City: Ending

  1. I’ve recovered my composure now but the sadness… it hasn’t left me. I guess my heart still mourns. The funny thing is that I love the drama even more now that a little time has passed and I’ve been able to process some it a little bit more. Yes, this is a story and these are characters that won’t be easily forgotten. If ever.

    I’m even more inclined to agree with MrX now, that Soo Min represented the light in the darkness. There was a moment I wondered if she would be the one to die. That would have been quite valid ending too.

    Apparently the end was cut from some rips. Did you get the end credits, all the way till the end? Because….

    • The best barometer of a story’s worth is how you think about it as time passes. And loving it even more? One of the best results, I think. 🙂 Topped only by stories that improve in the retelling. Which I highly suspect Heartless City will do.

      I agree about Soo-min being a light — or carrying the light, anyway. And that it was light passed from Shi-hyun to Eun-soo and then to Soo-min… In a sense, Soo-min was the last keeper of Shi-hyun’s soul. And, since she put her uniform back on and smiled at the world again, the light he’d passed along stayed burning. (If she’d died, that would have been valid, but bleaker. I’m not sure how well Shi-hyun would have handled her dying in his place.)

      I did see that last shot. 😀 I have two thoughts on it. It’s purely symbolic of Shi-hyun’s rebirth (which is how I take it if this is truly the story’s end). Or he really did survive and is out there continuing the fight but from a better place — Phoenix rising or some such thing. 😉

      Which, if there’s a sequel, I’m totally willing to buy-in to the suggestion that maybe his suit is lined with special fabric (which does, actually, exist and would explain the sniper’s bullet giving him such a shallow wound). I’d need someone powerful in the background of course. One doesn’t easily fake one’s death with interested parties like Jin-sook, Soo-min or Hyung-min involved. They all strike me as people who’d want to see the body — if only to weep over if nothing else.

      • Apparently there was another ending which they actually filmed. One where Shi Hyun survived with Hyung Min giving him new identity (the bits at the end are from that one) but TPTB, after some serious discussing, decided to go with the ending we got. Good for them! The end is somewhat ambiguous so everyone can take it the way they want. Maybe he did survive… or not and that was just sort of symbolic (there are others who continue the work as it’s never done). Be how it may but I think it was fitting and went along with the overall tone of the story.

        I’m hoping they will release the OST in CD format too. Me wants!

        Off topic but for some odd reasong HC made me think about Karei naru Ichizoku, a j-drama. It’s one of the best j-dramas I’ve seen, maybe even the best. The genre is not the same at all (Karei naru is about a dysfunctional banking family in the 60’s Japan) but something about these two…. Maybe it’s the wonderful acting and a gripping, dark story.

        • Hmm… I could see Hyung-min having the ability to pull it off… but yeah, it would have weakened the ending a bit. I like being able to imagine Shi-hyung still alive and doing his thing but I think the powerful hit of that ending would have been weakened with a secondary conspiracy getting setup. (It’d work for a full on second story that had time to deal with its own plots and implications and themes and such, but it would have been an extra confusion for this one.)

          I’ll have to keep Karei naru Ichizoku in mind for when I need some delicious darkness. 🙂 Right now I’m almost a little worried that Two Weeks will suffer because it’s coming so close on the heels of my HC watch. We shall see.

          • Karei naru’s darkness is a bit different, it’s a different genre after all but the story does pack a hefty punch all the same. It’s also very beautifully filmed and the period is lovingly created. Oh, how I’d love to talk about Karei naru but the things I want to say are big ass spoilers and it’s best to watch this one totally unspoiled, so….

          • Hmm… definitely intriguing… And probably a good thing that it’s not too similar to HC. At this point anything too much like HC would probably not sit well with me because I ♥ HC so very, very much and there’d be a built in bias. 😉

    • Hah! I can but warn, the choice is yours. 🙂

      If noir is not your thing, it’s not your thing. But if it is? This is a damn good example of it. Definitely a quality drama.

        • Oh! Oh, poo. 😦 Because this is an excellent example of the genre.

          Well… If you find yourself, someday, with time on your hands and wondering what to watch, I’d say give it a try. I feel like it’s not just the surprises that made the story good. (I’ll have to rewatch to truly test that feeling.) So it might be worth checking out when you have the time. 🙂

  2. This drama will definitely be missed. The story itself had plenty of holes but I actually cared about the characters and their trials and tribulations. I’m sure that had plenty to do with the exceptional acting. Was a fan of Jung Kyung Ho since Ja Myung Go days…but now I’m going to look forward to some of the other cast members next projects also. Thanks for your thoughts 😉

    • You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed. 🙂

      I hadn’t seen Jung Kyung-ho before so I had no idea what goodness I was in for. I could say that about all the cast, really. Even those I recognized were far better than I’d have expected.

      I’m so good at hand-waving things that if the characters pull me in, and the holes aren’t too egregious, I can let it go. 😉 Plus, with the drama being so stylistic it almost felt… not completely detached from reality but enough of a shade off that getting too hung up on plot points (why is Jin-sook always at her office if they’re supposed to be in hiding?) seems almost uncivil. 😉

  3. I am so madly in love with this drama it’s hard for me to let go. The ending was perfect.

    I feel you, Betsy! I sooo love everything about this drama and the ending really was just perfect!

    @ Just sayin’: I also got hooked on Jeong Kyeong Ho because of Ja Myung Go. I thought he was unbelievably brilliant in it and could not stop going on and on and on about it… *sigh* I really look forward to his next project.

    • Finally….someone who shares my sentiment. It truly was an underrated drama. Jung Kyung Ho added so much depth to Prince Hodong’s character that by the time the last scene took place…..I think I died a little too ;( How exceedly sad and poignant was Puku’s last words to him?

      Great to have found someone to share my thoughts with…I know of no one who watched Ja Myung Go.

      • Underrated indeed! I sometimes feel like the drama Ja Myung Go suffered the same fate as Puku/JaMyung: forces beyond its control (ratings issues – i.e. the ka-ching factor) kept undermining its potential for happiness (i.e. being properly developed and offered to audiences that they may love it)… *sigh*

        Well, from one Jeong Kyeong Ho fan to another, some love for Prince Hodong and his heartbreakingly tragic lot… ㅠㅠ

      • Watch ‘Kingdom of the Wind’ first as that is sort of a prequel and gives you an idea why some characters in JMG are they way they are. 😉

        • Great idea, Timescout! I’d go even farther back and start with Jumong, then Kingdom of the Wind and the Ja Myung Go. It’s a tall order, but I think it’s worth it to not only get the historical foundation, but also to experience the narrative shift that takes Goguryeo, the dream of Jumong, his son Yuri and his grandson Daemusin in the first two dramas and transforms it into the big bad in Ja Myung Go.

          However you choose to do it, enjoy!

          • I would say so… Jumong is 82 ep, Kindom of the Wind 36 ep and Ja Myung Go 39 ep… ;P

            KotW lost a lot of the lustre towards the end and it got rather draggy but I really liked it up till that point. I haven’t watched Jumong but I bet it has it’s own problems… long sageuks generally do, unfortunately. I seem to recall that JMG (which I also haven’t seen) was supposed to be 50 epis but got cut.

          • Wow. That’s… a lot of episodes. I’ve not watched a long sageuk yet. All my long dramas have been breezy family comedies or fairly laid-back family dramas. So when I do check out a long, intense (? I assume they’re fairly intense, anyway) sageuk I feel like I need it pick it carefully to not get turned off the entire genre.

            (Of course, I say that. Could be it’s a genre I’ll adore and dive in gleefully to all that’s offered, warts and all. I can never tell. ;))

          • Weeelll, one can be of different minds about the intense…. depends on the sageuk I guess. These three are more actiony so I’d say they would perhaps fall under the ‘intense’ header. E.g Queen Snore Duck was boring as hell, I only stuck it out for UTW (all 62 epis) and he was totally wasted on that role. Never again! 😀

            I’ve realised that the very traditional and formulaic ones, regardless of the length, are those that usually drive me up the wall with all the seesawing, cartoony villains, Good Guys who don’t seem to have half a brain between them and plots that go around in circles. They tend to be awfully preachy too. I’ve sworn off from those now, LOL!

          • So choosing wisely is key. 😉 I’m thinking I might start with “Cruel Palace” — if it continues to get good reports. You know… someday. 😀

  4. Thank you for a really really nice review! Though for those who have not seen this fantastic drama may be annoyed because of the spoilers. But I enjoyed reading your post and share the same thoughts on this one beautiful, unforgettable, heartbreakingly lovable drama. I love JKH and the rest of the characters, truly it will stay in my heart and mine forever, because I put it in my #1 drama of all time. It may not be perfect but for me it is! Love it so much I have read every review there is! ha ha

    • Oh, glad you enjoyed my post, gora! And welcome to the blog! 🙂 HC was so, so good — I totally agree.

      And yes — this is definitely a spoiler-filled reaction post. 😉 At some point I’ll do a non-spoiler review for those who haven’t seen it — because word must be spread — but this was really my emotional reaction to what I’d just seen. (I’m actually rewatching HC with my husband because it was that good.)

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